This was a pretty depressing episode, all things considered. We’re midway through the season and most of the plotlines that I was keeping an eye on have been proceeding more or less on schedule but I’ll be damned if knowing what’s going to happen isn’t making this very difficult to watch. I don’t really mean it in a bad way either, not entirely. The Red Wedding is coming and I don’t know if I have the stomach to watch it in live-action. Sansa’s wedding promises to be another bundle of joy and we also have Jon abandoning the Wildlings to look forward to. It’s all just going to make for a very gloomy end to this season. This episode, ‘Kissed By Fire’ was pretty great though, depressing story elements aside. The title ‘Kissed By Fire’ invokes three references – the Fire God and his ability to resurrect as we see in Beric Dondarion’s fight against the Hound, Ygritte and her red hair and Stannis and his adultery (literally kissed by fire, get it?). The fire theme also ties into Jaime’s story which as you might know, I’ve been looking forward to for a long time.
Let’s start with the fight between the Hound and Dondarion. Both actors did really solid work in that scene and the fight was beautifully choreographed. It got a little messy from a camera standpoint but I think that’s almost inevitable given the tight space that they had to work with. What I really appreciated was that there were large portions of the fight which took place within a single cut, meaning that it would have been really tricky to get right since any mistake would mean they would have had to do the whole sequence all over. There were a few surprisingly touching moments in that storyline as well – Arya’s tearful goodbye to Gendry (as well as the shoutout to the ship floating between the two) and her asking if Thoros could resurrect a man without a head. Maisie Williams has been turning in consistently strong performances some time now but I still miss her scenes with Charles Dance from the last season. It feels like she hasn’t had anything to really sink her teeth into just yet in this season.
Speaking of emotionally raw scenes, it looks like Richard Madden is hell-bent on making the most of his last few episodes on this show because he is absolutely killing it. There is both Robb’s dread of inevitable defeat as well as the frustration of his army and realm crumbling around him that Madden is able to capture perfectly. The short scene where he executes Karstark left an impression as well and you got the distinct feeling that the curtains are closing on Robb’s time as king. His desperate last second gambit on Casterly Rock is a red herring and a cruel one at that.
The bathtub scene that I was looking forward to so very much was almost perfect and annoyingly enough I can’t quite put my finger on just what was missing from it. I think Nickolaj Coster-Waldau did a fairly good job but if since I’m being nit-picky anyway, I think he could have been a little more expressive and emotive at some sections of the story. I know that he was supposed to be close to fainting at this point but he seemed a little indifferent about the whole thing. The script also missed some of the better lines from the novel, in my opinion. I distinctly remember there being lines mentioning the conundrum of having vows to obey the gods, obey your king and obey your parents. I thought that was a great point but unfortunately they cut it. Gwendoline Christie’s face for most of that scene was looked hilariously like her mind was being repeatedly blown.
The last great scene was also Lannister oriented. It was shorter than the rest but really powerful. The tensions within the family continue to rise and what starts out being slightly amusing (Tyrion protesting Cersei’s presence) turns rather heavy fairly quickly. I’m going to miss Charles Dance when he eventually leaves though I think he will around at least till the middle of next season. The chemistry between the three actors in that scene is evident from the sheer amount of tension on screen; they all seem to be on the page and it’s great to watch.
A few final notes on the rest of the episode:
- The Jon-Ygritte scene had the right mix of heart-warming and amusing but I’m still not really digging this version of Tormund. He’s too serious and grim where he is supposed to be kind of goofy and full of shit.
- The Loras sex scene was utterly, entirely and totally unnecessary. I guess HBO thought that one sex scene per episode was too little so the shoehorned a random sex scene in. The problem is that Loras now looks like an idiot that blabs secret stuff to whoever he fucks which is an unfortunate complication of the HBO minimum sex scene requirement.
- Still hating Stannis. I feel like at this point Stephen Dilane just can’t win anymore – even when Stannis is trying to do something morally sound like confess his adultery, he appears weak and whatever minor sympathy points he scores are instantly wiped when he tells his adorable daughter that her friend is a traitor and will never see her again. Goddammit, HBO.
- Speaking of the daughter, Shireen is so cute! I’m now more sure than ever that she will be dead sooner or later because we can’t nice, innocent kids coming out of this story unharmed, now can we?
- I am not going to comment on the preserved embryos. Nope, not happening. Nope, nope, nope.