“The Bear and the Maiden Fair” – Season 3, Episode 7
Reaching this late stage in the game, we viewers were only to expect the slow-burning to continue as this episode moves the pieces to the appropriate places on the board, or at least reiterates the spatial configuration of the characters you need to know. In light of this lengthy war with no fighting, engagements with no marriages, and journeys with no movement, we really can only hope that the finale will be a grand tour-de-force.
Despite a dumping heap of clunky moments – Orell the Warg’s sudden passion for Ygritte, a stumbling pregnancy reveal from Talisa to Robb, another unneeded torture-Theon this time with dream-sequence style prostitutes, oh and by the way Gendry you’re all Baratheon blood… – the episode did manage to throw out two hugely satisfying scenes.
The power struggle between King Joffrey and Tywin Lannister in the throne room was a triumph of script and staging. The large wooden doors of the room creaked open to a throne room smothered in darkness, except for fires burning either side of the iron throne. The camera, sided with Tywin as opposed to Joffrey, followed the undeterred stride of the senior into the ominous gloom. Joffrey sat at the top of the stairs while Tywin, accordingly with his lower status, stood and addressed him from the bottom; “Your Grace.” As the dialogue ensued, the power dynamics quickly swerved towards the Grandfather/Grandson dominance rather than the King/Hand of the King pairing. Whilst Joffrey speaks, his shots are partially blocked by a black, blurred image of Tywin’s back/shoulder, whereas during Tywin’s speech he has the full medium-shot focused on him. As Tywin silently climbed the stairs and towered over Joffrey, the real iron hand here is blatantly Tywin, no matter what official title and status may dictate. Joffrey transforms into a tiny, stuttering mouse in the darkness, muttering, “But I haven’t been counselled,” regarding the dragons in the East. “You are being counselled at this very moment,” is the strict deep reply.
The politics underlying this scene are interesting in terms of Tywin’s value of status over family. His orders for Tyrion to wed Sansa and Cersei to wed Loras in episode 5 are entirely based on the resulting title and the power which they will bring. He expects his children to follow his orders and stay in line with their title and status, yet he himself readily transcends his status in order to keep control of Joffrey and King’s Landing. Based on the example set by their father, it will be exciting for non-book readers (me included) to see the outcome of these arranged marriages.
For sure, looking at Jaime this episode, he took a page out of his father’s book when he demanded to return to Harrenhal for what turned out to be a gutsy, heroic saving of Brienne. Although he did play the ‘daddy card’ again, it was obviously the right move for a change. Transcending his situation as Lord Bolton’s prisoner being pushed towards King’s Landing, he manipulated his captors and successfully switched the power dynamics in his favour. Jumping into the middle of the Bear vs. Maiden Fair pit he narrowly avoided the loss of another limb and saved Brienne, even if she was a little slashed up. He even had his guide firing arrows at the bear because he didn’t want to have a mauled and bloody Jaime to take back to Tywin Lannister. After a sassy snap at Locke, Jaime was back on top (relatively). How do you like dem sapphires?