Game Of Thrones Review: “Walk Of Punishment” (Season 3, Episode 3)

The same cannot be said of the way in which Arya and her blacksmith buddy say goodbye to their portly compatriot. After spending a season being the second-most maligned fat person in Game of Thrones, Hot Pie – as he is lovingly known – is sold off into some kind of bakery slavery by the Brotherhood Without Banners. He shares some kind words with Arya and gives her a loaf of bread made to look like a wolf (which seemed obvious to me, but which escaped Arya and company). On her way out, striking the road with the Brotherhood as their not-quite-a-prisoner, Arya casts a kind word off to Hot Pie.

Speaking of slavery, we are spared more tortured moralizing from Dany this episode, as she decides to buy the Army of the Unsullied from the Astapor slavers – the whole army, including the boys still in training. She does this ostensibly to save innocent lives in the city, give the slaves a good life, and to make sure that the raping and pillaging of her conquered lands will remain at a minimum. It’s all very thoughtful of her, but in order to afford the army she needs to sell one of her dragons, the biggest one.

This idea strikes me as particularly crazy, as it does Dany’s two gentlemen advisors. But she makes the deal, gets a free slave translator out of it, and then dresses down her advisors for disagreeing with her openly. But they really ought to. Aside from one nipple-cutting incident she has no reason to think that these warriors are worth the sacrifice of one of her dragons, especially the biggest of the slow-growing clutch. Maybe she has a plan to get them back, but like the extent of Tyrion’s reward to Pod, this remains shrouded in mystery.

The final scene, and the biggest shock in this episode, comes when Jaime tries to talk his way out of some trouble with the Stark-loyal men who have caught him. He is able to save Brienne from being raped, which was a strangely uncomfortable scene. We’ve already seen Brienne take on numerous men at once, and thus her degradation into just another woman whose virtue we are supposed to fret over felt vaguely insulting. That a captor who had also appeared so intelligent seemed to be falling for Jaime’s obvious lies was also kind of a letdown.

Then the other boot dropped. It seems that his captors were not as stupid as he thought, and to teach him a lesson, after threatening to gouge out an eye and giving him some barbed insults regarding his reliance on his father’s name to save him, they sever Jaime’s right hand. Just clean chop it off. Then we smash cut to black and an anachronistic punk-flavored song over the end credits.

Something about this ending bothered me to no end. For one, who cares if Jaime lost a hand? The guy has been a bargaining chip for well over a season now. He quite cowardly hobbled Ned Stark early on. The interplay between him and Brienne aside, he’s a worthless character to me from a standpoint of interest and empathy. And this is a growing problem in the show. Theon escapes from prison, fails to run away, almost gets raped (oh, twice in one episode with that trope?) and then is saved so he can run some more, but with someone competent this time.

Maybe I shouldn’t have watched the first season again, with its palpable sense of momentum, its winning characters, its grounded storytelling. But now that I have been reminded of what invested me in this story in the first place, I’m beginning to wonder what is keeping me along for the ride. Does anyone out there really have a side they are hoping to see on the Iron Throne? For a while I thought Jon Snow might be my new identification character, but he’s just become another bloody sack of dialogue and scowls and facial hair, glowering as someone else who we barely know tells him what to do.

Ned Stark lost his head in season one, but it has taken me this long to realize what someone on this show should have figured out by now – that as good and shocking as that was, it left an opening too big to be filled with just tiny snippets featuring terrible people. When people get into football they don’t follow every team just to see the grand scope of experience, they have their team, and all the other teams are just there to affect their team’s ranking.

Game of Thrones needs to give us a home team. It needs to consolidate all of these stories. It needs to stop sending people on trips that last forever and feature endless divergences. When Ned Stark went to King’s Landing it took little more than one episode. When Jon first went to the Wall it took little more than one episode.

This show has stopped moving, and has begun treading water, mistaking the splashes of water from its flailing arms for the same kind of waves made by the death of its only likable character. Every single one of these characters could lose a hand, and it wouldn’t be create a spark in my interest compared to the fiery indignation I felt when Ned died.

In closing, I miss Ned Stark, and I miss my focused, interesting, propulsive old Game of Thrones. Have I made that obvious?