Game of Thrones / Television

Game of Thrones “The Bear and the Maiden Fair” Review

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If this season of Game of Thrones is a series of peaks and valleys, I feel “The Bear and the Maiden Fair” has us still in the valley started by last week’s episode (though on the upswing) and surrounded by the peaks of the really excellent fourth and fifth episodes and the typically insane episode 9 that looms ahead of us (Season 1’s episode 9 was Ned’s death and Season 2’s ep 9 was the Battle of Blackwater, so I’m just kind of assuming). But this was still a quality episode of Game of Thrones.

The best storyline of the week is definitely Jaime’s. The unlikely friendship between him and Brienne has been an easy one to root for this season and it has been fun to see the kind of growth she has helped spur in Jaime. He heads out for King’s Landing, but before long he realizes that he needs to go back and save Brienne from Locke and company. With his physical abilities hampered, he uses his smarts to convince the man escorting him to the capital that they need to go back for her. And him throwing himself into the bear pit shows how much he has grown to care about her. I even liked the little change from the book where they had to scurry up the wall to escape the bear which made for an exciting finish to the episode. Also worth noting from these scenes is that we continue to get little hints about Qyburn’s background during his conversation with Jaime.

After a slow buildup over the first half of this season, Jon has gotten a lot of screentime these past few episodes and the show is definitely better for it. I commented earlier in this year that I didn’t think the Jon-Ygritte relationship had grown the way I’d have liked, but the past two episodes has done a lot to remedy this problem. Ygritte has the ability to really crack me up with some of her comments to Jon, but we also see how important this bond has become to her. Another thing I liked from this section is the time spent showing how different the worlds Jon and Ygritte grew up in were. How impressed Ygritte was by the windmill was particularly humorous.

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The rest of the episode was largely a collection of various one-off scenes of varying quality. A few had some rather nice developments for a single scene though. Daenerys and her army are making camp outside Yunkai. Despite advice to just move on past the city, Dany wants to free the slaves within. She gets to display her badass side when one of the city’s slavemasters comes to meet with her. It’s a fun scene and I especially liked how Dany used the dragons (who seem to be bigger than last time we saw them and still look awesome) to intimidate him. The ending tease has the two sides seemingly headed to war. The slavemaster mentions some powerful friends which Dany asked Ser Jorah to look into, something I assume we should pick up with next week.

Tywin and Joffrey’s scene was another strong one. It gives Charles Dance yet another opportunity to show off in his role as the intimidating patriarch of the Lannister family and even if you weren’t a fan of the way he treated his children in earlier episodes this season, you had to enjoy him making Joff fidget about in the Iron Throne. I especially liked the look of fear in Joff’s eyes as Tywin ascended the steps to his seat. It also acted as a nice history lesson on dragons for the viewer and led in well to the Daenerys scene that followed.

In the Riverlands, Arya isn’t happy with The Brotherhood and decides to make a run for it when they to change course from Riverrun. But during her escape she is snatched up by The Hound. Meanwhile her brother Robb has learned that his wife Talisa is pregnant and her friend Gendry finds out he is the bastard son of King Robert Baratheon. All small scenes, but each still felt significant. Arya continues to not be able to catch a break and regardless of what The Brotherhood did, finding herself in the hands of The Hound can only be a downgrade. I enjoyed the Melisandre-Gendry scene too which gives us a little backstory on Melisandre.

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Some other scenes really didn’t work as well for me though. While Bronn and Tyrion’s conversation was fun (those two are really just a good pairing), Shae was expectedly annoying this week when she confronted Tyrion about his upcoming nuptials. Bran’s scene felt like another one that didn’t accomplish much. And Theon’s scenes are really starting to wear on me. They come off especially odd since they largely happen in the background of the books, something I think the show would probably be better for at times. It’s like we get it with these two. We understand the kind of guy Theon’s captor is. We all have begun to feel bad for Theon after hating him in Season 2. We are just belaboring the point now. Sansa and Margaery’s scene didn’t do a ton for me either which is too bad because Margaery has been largely fantastic this year. She does make a good point in that Sansa could do worse than Tyrion regardless of the way he looks. As far as Lannisters go, he isn’t so bad. And they both know Margaery is headed into a wedding with a much worse member of that family.

As I wrote this review, I realized I liked this episode more than I originally thought. I still think Bran and Theon’s storylines this year have some issues which this episode didn’t help. But a strong week for Jaime’s growth as a character, the further building of the Jon-Ygritte relationship, and a handful of other important well-done scenes made for a great episode. With three episodes left this season, I feel we are headed up again from here though and I’m excited to see what they do in the final stretch of this season.

What did you think of this week’s episode of Game of Thrones? Let me know in the comments below and thanks for reading!


4 thoughts on “Game of Thrones “The Bear and the Maiden Fair” Review

  1. My top three story lines of the week are Dany, Jamie and Jon. The dragons do look bigger to me too when compared with ep 4. I like that the dragons appear to understand what’s going on with the deal Dany rejected and prevented the gold from being taken away.

    I really liked the bear scene. I was hoping Jamie would actually fight the bear a bit. Locke is not a character in the book, but I’m guessing Jamie is going to come back for him in ep. 10. A Lannister always pays his debts. lol.

    I agree with your assessment of the Bran and Theon storylines. One of the problems with the Bran scenes is that I haven’t become invested in the Reeds yet. They should be immediately endearing and bring out the best qualities in Bran. Another problem is that Osha needs to go. I like her character but she’s just causing unnecessary drama for the group at this point.

    I laughed when Ygritte thought the windmill was a palace. And then she tells Jon, was I supposed to swoon and faint? Such a great couple, too bad the early episodes didn’t focus on them.

    I’m looking forward to the Hound and Arya scenes next episode.

    • I guess Locke is supposed to be like the Vargo Hoat of the show? They come off very differently though. Totally different people even though they have done similar things to Jaime. Him getting back at Locke this year would be a good way to wrap up his arc for the year. That is one odd thing about the splitting of the book. Some character’s arcs might feel a little incomplete though that is okay. Much more important to give this book more time on air.

      They introduced the Reeds a lot earlier in the books which I think helped too. By the time they all set out, you already liked both of them due to their time in Winterfell. I also loved the bits about swooning… haha. I had forgotten about those. Jon and Ygritte are a riot together. The Hound and Arya should be fantastic!

  2. Nice summary and review, as always! I actually really liked this episode. It seemed to be more dialogue-heavy than some others, but I enjoyed all the couple chats and stuff. And even though originally I followed Jon’s story closely, now I watch his scenes for Ygritte and would happily follow her story with or without Jon! She’s a fantastic character and really funny.

    I wanted to ask you about Shae in the books, though. I like her, but I know a few people who find her extremely annoying on the show. It makes me wonder whether she’s a likable character in the books or not? Her personality seems like it might go down smoother when read, when you might imagine a softer delivery or something.

    OK, really… I just need to read the rest of the books already. =)

    • Maybe I was being a little harsh on Shae. I guess Tyrion maybe could have handled things better, but I feel like Shae needs to have a better understanding of the world she is living in at times if that makes sense. I will say this, in a show filled with great acting from men to women and even the child actors, the woman who plays Shae is probably the worst so that may not help matters. She may come across better in the book, but I didn’t really like her a ton there either. She’s no Ygritte that is for sure! Glad she has grown on you.

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