Bart the Bear: Best Acting Credit Ever?
A Television Review by Akash Singh
NOTE: SPOILERS OCCUR!!!!!!!
The Bear and the Maiden Fair is George R. R. Martin’s third writing credit for the series and easily his weakest one. This isn’t a bad episode per say (Thrones doesn’t have those on principle), but compared to The Pointy End and Blackwater, this episode is a bit more scattered and less thunderous. There is, as has been the case with such a strong third season, a thematic unity of love and how it can survive between two people despite such an incredible amount of animosity in this exceedingly cruel world. And in the case of this hour, it doesn’t just relate to romantic love. It also questions camaraderie and loyalty as being equivalent to romantic love and how those can even survive. As often is the case with Thrones, the pairing can be quite odd, as bemusing as a bear and a maiden fair.
The episode opens on an exceedingly beautiful and haunting shot from the wonderful Michelle MacLaren of the broken ghost ships from the Blackwater just simmering in the bay. There’s an eerie and ghostly aura about that watery graveyard as Melisandre makes Gendry look upon the castle at King’s Landing. She quietly reveals that his father was King Robert of the House Baratheon and that means that great things in his future. As far as I’m concerned, it’s still pointing to sacrifice, but maybe there’s a pleasant ending hidden somewhere. Even though I still find that a bit difficult to believe.
Jon Snow and Ygritte get a good chunk of the episode to themselves and the episode actually gets back to them twice, which is almost unheard of considering how packed with characters this series is. The love story between them is a bit more conventional, almost like a Romeo and Juliet sort of set-up with both of them being on opposite sides of the story lines. The two are clearly in love with each other and even get a wonderful little moment where Ygritte mistakes a windmill for a castle and is bemused when Jon mentions that some girls faint at the sight of blood. But Ygritte and Martin make another poignant point about how Jon has to make a choice as the wildlings get closer and closer to Castle Black. He can’t fight for both sides, after all, no matter how much he may want to.
Daenerys is visited by the Yunkai emissary, a quick indication of how far Daenerys has come. The Yunkai emissary makes a seemingly enticing offer of gold and ships if she just leaves Slaver’s Bay and heads for Westeros (I can imagine there’s a certain segment of the fanbase that basically wishes for the exact same thing). But Daenerys disagrees, using her dragons as a powerfully display of power that Yunkai does not possess. MacLaren’s camera is especially sharp here, keeping at least one Yunkai slave in the camera’s sights as if to remind the audience as to what is truly at stake here. She cannily keeps the gold, promising to destroy Yunkai if they don’t bow down to her. She has Jorah look into Yunkai’s powerful friends, her eyes burning with a ferocity as she looks out onto her next conquest.
Theon’s scene this episode was excruciating. It’s not a bad sequence in and of itself and it’s arguably the most excruciating and effective torture scene yet because it takes advantage of Theon’s chief weakness that lies in sex. But it feels that one of the most irritating aspects of Theon’s storyline is that it has literally been clubbed over the head. It is understandable that the showrunners don’t want to abandon his character for an entire season, but giving him torture scenes for basically every episode makes the entire storyline drag. So when he’s castrated at the end of the hour, it feels uncomfortable but you ultimately don’t really give a damn.
Bran’s story is moving along a bit sluggishly, even though Osha gets a nice moment to shine. She relates the horrible tale of how her romantic partner one night became a wight and attempted to kill her. It serves as a nice scene that affirms why Osha is so terrified of traveling to the North. Robb and Talisa get a wonderful little scene that largely seems to focus on both of their asses, especially Talisa’s. She reveals her pregnancy and there’s a deliberate pause in the entire proceedings, make of that what you will. In Arya news, she runs away from the Brotherhood after their betrayal of Gendry and straight into the arms of the Hound. Oh, dear.
S*** goes down in Harrenhal this episode. Jamie realizes that his lie about the sapphire has ironically condemned Brienne. Because Locke and company believed Jamie’s tale about the sapphires, they’re rejecting Brienne’s father’s offer, certain that he will pony up more. Jamie struggles as he sits about the plains with hunan experimenter physician Qyburn. At seemingly long last, Jamie makes the right decision and rides back to Harrenhal. There he finds Brienne literally fighting Bart the Bear (the name of the actor, not the bear in-universe) in a pit. Jamie, knowing that Locke and company wouldn’t risk his life because of how valuable he is, jumps into the pit. The both of them barely make it out alive as Ramin Djawadi’s score swells behind them. Jamie’s redemption and the mutual bond between him and Brienne grows stronger, as rescuing someone from a bear pit ought to do. The bear roars at the heavens and the screen cuts to black.
Title: The Bear and the Maiden Fair
Written By: George R. R. Martin
Director: Michelle MacLaren
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