Every week in the Game of Thrones TV Club, Rachael Larimore will IM with a different fan of the show about the goings-on in Westeros and across the Narrow Sea. This week she discusses “Dark Wings, Dark Words” with Slate’s Chris Kirk.
Rachael Larimore: Ser Christopher, thank you for joining me in the TV Club. Should we have some lemon cakes?
Christopher Kirk: Oh, lemon cakes are my favorite!
Larimore: So I have been told! Now, I want you to tell me the truth. No harm will come to you. What did you think of the episode? We had a surprise appearance from Theon Greyjoy, an ominous encounter between Joffrey and Margaery, an introduction to the delightful Lady Olenna Redwyne, and some danger for those on the run (both Jaime Lannister and Arya Stark).
Kirk: Theon Geyjoy surprised me most about this episode. Any fan of the book will know that, after A Clash of Kings, Theon Greyjoy is captured by the Boltons, and then he almost completely disappears from the story. His fate is only alluded to by the other characters. So, it’s interesting to see the show be so explicit about what happens to him. To be honest, that’s one of the things I liked most about the books: Characters can disappear rather suddenly from the story, their fates only hinted at, and you can only wonder if they will pop up again later or if their loose end will ever tied up. We’ve already seen that with Barristan Selmy.
Larimore: We’d be heading down a path as long and dangerous as the Kingsroad if we spent too much time on the differences between the books and the shows, but neither can we ignore them. I think the show’s creators have been deft in their handling of source material that is vast and deep and dense. In the case of Theon, there is a scene in Storm of Swords where King Robb gets word that the Boltons have captured Theon and are torturing him, and they send Theon’s finger to Robb. And the show’s treatment was fairly faithful to that, I just wasn’t expecting it so soon. Also, I’m glad I wasn’t a medieval traitor, since they seem to have found a way to combine water-boarding with crucifixion. I will say that I liked the juxtaposition between Theon being tortured and Joffey standing before a mirror whining about his wedding clothes. The thought of maybe having to wear a few flowers is Joffrey’s idea of torture. Theon may be a traitorous jerk, but he’s still more of a man than Joffrey.
Kirk: I always find myself wondering why Joffrey is such a twisted teenager.
Larimore: Think about it. He’s genetically 100 percent Lannister. There was a classic Joffrey moment in this episode: Cersei was picking on Margaery and Joffrey said, “She married Renly Baratheon because she was told to.” And you start to think, for a split second, that maybe there is a hint of compassion in that rotten little soul, and then, before that thought is fully formed, he says. “That is what intelligent women do, what they are told.”
Kirk: Somehow I’m continually shocked by his irreverence toward his mother. There’s no other person in the Seven Kingdoms who would give her the attitude that Joffrey does and live to tell it.
Larimore: Well, Cersei is in an awkward position right now. Remember how nervous she was in the premiere when Tyrion was going to talk to Tywin (as if Tywin hasn’t by now figured out that his grandson ain’t a Baratheon?). Joffrey has the upper hand with his mother, but I wouldn’t say the same about his standing with Margaery. He calls her to his chamber, where he is playing with his sure-to-never-see-battle crossbow, and he starts criticizing Renly to see how far he can push her. Margaery seems to be caught off-guard and recovers, and then she asks to see the crossbow. “It must be so exciting to squeeze your finger here and watch something die over there.” Is Joffrey smart enough to be afraid?
Kirk: There’s a lot of subtext to this exchange between them. It seems a way for Margaery to both warm up to him and intimidate him. I’m not sure he quite gets the intimidation part, though. ” Could you do it? Could you kill something?” Joffrey asks. “I don’t know your Grace. Do you think I could?” Margaery replies. Maybe she hasn’t, but I get the sense that she most certainly could. (Side note: I find it amusing that he appears as nervous as any other teenage boy interacting with Margaery.) While Cersei realizes the Tyrells are a cunning, plotting family and tries to warn Joffrey, Joffrey’s sexism is his weakness: he’s bound to underestimate them.
Larimore: They might be cunning and plotting, but if I could join one of the Great Houses of Westeros, I would pick House Tyrell. If for no other reason than to hang out with Lady Olenna Redwyne. It’s almost cliche that a powerful family have a straight-talking, take-no-prisoners elder with utter impatience for the trappings of nobility. But Margaery’s grandmother is a breath of fresh air. The scene in which Sansa goes to visit Margaery and Lady Olenna and they draw out of her that Joffrey is a monster is almost straight from the book (with a few alterations), but it was a treat to watch it come alive, to see the scorn on Lady Olenna’s face when she talks about her son, the “Lord Oaf of Highgarden” and her resignation that the wedding will happen no matter what. Are you also in Lady Olenna’s fan club?
Kirk: Lady Olenna instantly reminds me of Judi Dench as M in the Bond films. She’s got this strong, no-nonsense personality that stands out amid the useless opulence and pageantry that surround her. She’s a pragmatist: “Once the cow’s been milked, there’s no squirting the cream back up her udder.” But she also seems to have a certain disdain for the men in her life. She calls her son a “ponderous oaf,” says her grandson can’t do much more than knock somebody off his horse with a stick, and explains her husband died in a falconing accident because he wasn’t watching where he was going.
Larimore: You have a point. She’s not the most generous character, but she does lighten the mood, which is nice in an episode in which pretty much everyone is having a bad day. Arya Stark and Gendry are captured by Thoros of Myr and almost escape until the Hound recognizes her in an inn, Brienne and Jaime are captured because she didn’t kill an innocent man who stumbled upon them, and—winning the contest for the absolute worst day in all of Westeros—Robb and Catelyn find out that her father, Lord Tully, has passed at Riverrun and that Theon Grayjoy has burned Winterfell, Oh, and Bran and Rickon are missing.
Kirk: Catelyn is not having a good life right now. She’s the prisoner of her own son, her home has been razed, and all of her children aside from Robb, who’s fighting a war, are missing or captive. I suppose you can’t blame her for wondering if this is divine judgement for breaking her promise and not being an affectionate mother to Jon Snow.
Larimore: I’m glad you brought that up, because I really liked that scene between her and Talisa, as we’ve never seen her address her hostility toward Jon Snow. Catelyn is an admirable woman, but her attitude toward Jon Snow has kept me from warming to her as much as I would like. However, it seems she’s being a bit hard on herself to blame herself for each of the many tragedies that have befallen House Stark since King Robert’s fateful visit to Winterfell. Now, we haven’t even gotten to Jojen and Meera, or Arya and Thoros of Myr. But there will be plenty more to come on those story lines. Any last thoughts?
Kirk: I enjoyed the fight scene between Jaime and Brienne! This episode was very much about female power, and I can think of no better example of that than Brienne slugging Jaime.
Larimore: Who hasn’t wanted to slug Jaime Lannister? A grateful realm thanks her for her service.
Editor’s note: Just a reminder! The comments are a spoiler-free zone. Do not discuss future happenings as described in the Song of Ice and Fire books, for the benefit of those who are only watching the show. Violaters will be turned over to Gregor Clegane and the Tickler.