After the great character development in the last episode, it feels like this episode is getting geared for the season’s finale. The various pieces are moving into place and the various conflicts that our characters are experiencing, whether internal or external, are beginning to bubble up again. They haven’t reached breaking point just yet but if the past seasons are any indication, everything should hit boiling point by next week; usually episode 9 is a so-called ‘wham’ episode where something huge happens, be it Ned Stark’s execution or the battle of Blackwater Bay while episode 10 deals with the fall out of that big moment and sets up the next season. This episode does feel a little lacklustre in that regard since it’s a transition between the character development of the previous episode and a move towards more plot-oriented conflict for the next couple of episodes. This episode ‘The Bear and the Maiden Fair’ tries to do a little of both but doesn’t really pull it off.
Rose Leslie has really grown on me and I don’t think it’s just because I’ve started paying attention to her since the last episode. Her chemistry with Kit Harrington has noticeably improved though I would say that that has more to do with Jon loosening up more around and allowing Harrington to show a less sombre, sulky side of the character. Not sure how I feel about Orell suddenly developing feelings for Ygritte but it is a good way of showing, by contrast if nothing else, what she sees in Jon Snow. Jon’s plea to convince her not to attack the wall was crushing to see but the time to choose is coming soon and they both know it.
In King’s Landing, our scenes fall under the classic categories of the good, bad and ugly or to be fair, the alright, the meh and the ugh. Sansa knows just about as much as Jon Snow about things in general and while Sophie Turner and Natalie Dormer work well together on screen, their scene was cute without being too substantial. The whole Tyrion and Shae melodrama is just disgusting at this point; it isn’t bad acting or bad direction or anything like that either. I just hate the storyline and the sooner we’re done with it the better. Unfortunately, that won’t be for a long, long time so I’m just going to ignore it as much as I can. The best scene from King’s Landing though was either Joffrey trying and failing to intimidate Tywin (I’m going to miss both Jack Gleeson and Charles Dance) or surprisingly, Gendry seeing his father’s house.
The visual spectacle of these last couple of episodes has been on point as well. Last week we saw the magnificence of the Wall and while I didn’t really like the computer-generated view from the top, I felt they captured the enormity of it pretty well. This week, we get some create shots of the throne room, Dany’s army and the King’s Landing from a boat. I especially like the contrast in the last of those (see above): it has a certain, started-from-the-bottom-now-we-here vibe to it, though they are still very much at the bottom so maybe it doesn’t work quite as well. Since we’re talking about visuals though, the whole Bear versus the Maiden not-so-fair didn’t really do it for me. This is probably because I haven’t really seen a bear outside of a zoo before and also because I think it’s really hard to convey the terror of facing a bear that size from a third party perspective. Still, the damned thing looks so fluffy and adorable! This is the problem when your only experience with bears comes from the teddy kind. I didn’t really feel like any of them were in any real danger. I mean, dying to a bear is a pretty lame way to go after all those two characters have been through, right?
I guess I should say something about that one Daenerys scene but it’s just so frustrating to have to watch her pass up a perfectly good opportunity to rejion the Westeros plotline. I think we still need a few really good, above average scenes from Emilia Clarke before I can say that she has pulled out of her slump from last season. As it stands, her scenes don’t really feature her all that much and Dany in general doesn’t get enough character establishing soliloquys so, it’ll be hard for her to really steal the scene. Perhaps the next few episodes will give her more of a chance?