'Game Of Thrones' TV Review: 'Walk Of Punishment' Keeps Us Hooked
This week’s Game of Thrones episode, Walk of Punishment, perfectly navigates through the pitfalls of having the slow and deliberate pacing of a novel. It whisks you from character to character, from different ends of Westeros and across the sea to Slaver’s Bay, as smoothly as Salladhor Saan (Lucian Msamati) pirates the oceans. With an episode so plot heavy, Walk of Punishment could fall prey to the inherent dullness of these lulls, but instead it keeps things interesting through powerful imagery and strong acting performances.
Authors are able to mitigate the inherent “boringness” of these moments through their descriptive prose. If readers are still apathetic, they can always skim these chapters without missing integral information. Game of Thrones doesn’t have this luxury as it occurs in real-time on television. So in dialogue heavy scenes, the tone of the words delivered and acting serve to bridge this gap. I could feel the anger flowing through Robb Stark’s Tywin Lannister (Charles Dance)-like passive aggression as he laid into Edmure Tully (Tobias Menzies) for his failure in obeying orders and ridiculing his “win” of a mill. His facial expressions change ever so slightly like when his right cheek lifts up, causing Robb to squint as if he is peering through Edmure’s soul. Edmure’s brash aggressive demeanor at the start of the scene turns into one of subordination, like a whimpering wolf in the face of its pack leader. Lady Stark’s (Michelle Fairley) change from her stoic self as she reminisces about her dead father with her uncle Brynden “Blackfish” Tully (Clive Russell) to a broken down mother who has two dead sons (assumed) reminds us how depressing and unglamorous war is. It’s these emotions and facial expressions that make simple conversational scenes in the show matter.
Walk of Punishment brings a jolt of excitement in other ways as well. New character Blackfish makes a commanding entrance into the series. As his nephew Edmure Tully comically struggles at placing a fire arrow onto the floating funeral pyre of the deceased Hoster Tully, Brynden angrily brushes him aside and does it himself. With a glance at the flag to gauge the wind, Blackfish doesn’t even look after firing the arrow. He is already walking away from the docks, knowing it’s going to light the boat on fire, which had drifted far down the river due to Edmure’s folly. Elsewhere in Westeros, Theon Greyjoy (Alfie Allen) gallops through gorgeous hills and forests as he tries to elude his former captors. It’s a suspenseful and fast paced ride, even without ridiculous explosions (take notes Michael Bay) as arrows whisk past Theon’s face. It’s unfortunate that Theon is eventually saved by the unknown boy who springs his escape in the first place so far, since there’s nothing in his character or storyline that has given me something to become emotionally attached to.
Daenerys Targaryen (Emilia Clarke) returns in Walk of Punishment, continuing her twisted shopping trip for slave warrior Unsullied. She walks upon path that this episode is named after, listening to speeches and advice from her advisors, Jorah Mormont (Iain Glen) and Barristan Selmy (Ian McElhinney). But their words might as well have been silent, as I could only think about the horror show of crucified slaves that lined the Walk of Punishment. I still felt the shock even after the episode prepped me earlier with the spiral of gory horse corpses of the Night’s Guard that Snow (Kit Harington) and wildling company discover. “Always the artists,” Mance (Ciaran Hinds) says with a defeated look, referring to the White Walkers. Just like the White Walkers know how to send a message, the slavers do the same to their new slaves. “Let me die,” as one of the crucified slaves says to Daenerys when she attempts to give him some water. Daenerys’s humanity shows through her every glance at the slaves that inhabit the place to the point where there’s no way she would leave this place without becoming a Game of Thrones-style Abraham Lincoln. That sort of compassion gets characters killed, as we have seen in the past through Ned Stark’s (Sean Bean) execution. “What’s your end game,” I wonder, as Daenerys shockingly exchanges one of her magical fire-breathing dragons for all the city’s unsullied soldiers. Why does it seem like the women always do the most crazy things concerning their children. Lady Stark is attempting to blindly trade Jaimie Lannister for her two daughters and now Daenerys is doing the reverse, swapping one of her dragons for a whole lot of living zombie soldiers.
The world of Game of Thrones is dark and full of misery, which made the plot-heavy Walk of Punishment downright depressing at times. Luckily, the beaten-down-as-of-late Tyrion (Peter Dinklage) returns to his patented wit and charm in the episode. He doesn’t even need to speak to make his presence felt when he rearranges his seat at his father’s meeting with all the advisors in King’s Landing. He lays out his anger like a petulant teenager as he slowly drags his chair to the head of the table opposite his father, making a piercing noise in the process. The double takes and raised eyebrows from the other advisors only add to the comedy of the situation. The fun continues when Tyrion’s squire, Podrick, comes back from the brothel and returns all of the dwarf’s money. Bronn (Jerome Flynn) and Tyrion sit there with incredulous wide-eyed stares as they realize that the whores, whom Tyrion set Podrick (Daniel Portman) up with, were so satisfied by the squire that they refused his money. The scene ends with some bromantic comradery that is too often missing in Westeros. “Sit down, Podrick. We’re going to need details,” Tyrion says as he gathers wine.
Jaime Lannister (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau), the taller version and brother of Tyrion, finds his jests drowning in the misery outside King’s Landing. Perhaps Jaime’s jovial and sarcastic outer appearance is just a way to cope with the grim realities of the world he understands too well. “The things I do for love,” he said lightly, when he pushed little Bran off the ledge in the first episode of the series, depicting a man who only cared about himself. There’s a vast difference between that man and the one in Walk of Punishment. There’s the hint of caring in his voice during his explanation to Brienne about the horror that is about to be inflicted upon her by Roose Bolton’s (Michael McElhatton) men. Jaime’s narcissistic “me-first” attitude has slowly disappeared. As he tries to sweet talk his way into more comfortable lodgings, I wondered if he was actually attempting to prevent Brienne from being raped rather than his own personal gain. Regardless, like Tyrion in the season premiere, all the wit in the world can’t save Jaime from the horrific reality of the real world as his guard unceremoniously chops off his hand. His loud screams are a fitting end to an episode named Walk of Punishment.
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