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Game of Thrones Season 3 Episode 7 Review: “The Bear And The Maiden Fair”
As expected, HBO’s series proceeds to relentlessly prove how much better it is than the Game of Thrones novels.
Rather than plodding along and being generally frustrating like the novels, the scenes in the show’s latest episodes feel vital and tense. Be it Jon Snow’s relations with the wildlings (specifically Mackenzie Crook) tautening or discussion in Robb Stark’s camp about his wedding to the Frey daughter, it all feels real and harrowing.
And compelling. A sensation I lost about halfway through the second novel.
But anyway- to the task at hand. As mentioned before, the first big scene in the episode is in Robb’s tent, where Catelyn’s uncle Brynden comments on the folly of Robb’s matched marriage. Incidentally, Brynden’s played by the seminal Clive Russel. Last time I saw him in a show he played the mad Damien Knox in Spaced, seen below. Anyway, despite everyone’s significant glances- Robb keeps getting off (and other things) with Queen Talisa. Who drops a baby-shaped bomb, to much aplomb (boom).
Lots of sexual lol’s abound, as per usual. People being coarse; being “lads.” The Stark children are definitely getting laid a lot, or speculating about getting laid- several of this episode’s scenes rotate around this topic almost exclusively. But as per usual, the politics of sex and family in the story’s fictional era begin getting in the way.
Sansa breaks free and conveys to Lady Margaery about how her fantasies of an idealistic King’s Landing have been destroyed. It’s a nice bit of character development; since day one Sansa is a generally frustrating, not to mention frustrated idealist. Margaery certainly opens her up a bit and they discuss sex- something Sansa assumes daughters are taught about by their mothers. Unsettlingly.
As noted at Westeros.org, this scene never occured in the novels- the same goes for several others in the episode. Martin penned them just for the show. And frankly, the novel-non-existent scenes are some of the strongest on show. Sansa is equally naive and misunderstanding- but her dialogue with Margaery feels relatively tender and heartfelt, adding to effects already seen in previous scenes which are in the novels.
Bronn continues being one of the greatest TV characters in history, and continues providing a no-bullshit counterpoint to Tyrion’s melancholy and wit. Their scenes are definitely my favourites of this, or any of the series. Their riffing leads to such witty gumdrops as, “I don’t pay you to put evil notions in my head. The ones already there don’t need company. ” Followed by: “You pay me to kill people who bother you. Evil notions come free.” I don’t remember it being this well written in the book. It probably was, just bogged down in twenty paragraphs of unnecessary narration.
Joffrey behaves himself to a certain extent while Tywin patronises him about his fear of dragon’s and subsequently walks off with a cheeky smirk.
Daenerys’ crusade against slavery also turns up some interesting situations. As some sort of proto-feminist figure of equality, she tells the emissary dude from Yunkai that the city will only be spared (a pointless battle) if he agrees to free all his slaves. Which he doesn’t. Also, this is Game of Thrones Season 3, yet the CGI dragons still just aren’t right. Considering it’s the highest-budget TV show of all time, I’d rather they have some great high-quality animatronics than this stuff. The detail on the dragons is brilliant, but they look blandly fake. Whenever Daenerys touches them her hand is obviously just brushing some hoisted table lamp or something.
I even found the CGI of a static eagle-eye shot, focusing on Gendry and Melisandre’s galleon as they navigate the shipwrecks of Blackwater Bay, really, really offputting. The ships look like they’re laminated.
Thankfully, the drama on said boat is great. It’s one of those moments in Game of Thrones, few and far between, which are just quintessentially fantasy- Melisandre tells Gendry that his Dad owned the castle of King’s Landing. His dad, always assumed some drifter, was the King. Grand music pipes up, Gendry’s eyes brighten, the mood quickens as we feel a potentially exciting future open up for him. A future of adventure, rags to riches, etc. etc. Although knowing Game of Thrones, that future will probably collapse in a mound of brutal, compelling disappointment.
Some truly horrific things abound in Greyjoy’s next torture scene. Dare I say, the worst things a man could imagine. Iwan Rheon maintains his career-defining quality of “being so creepy he’s hard to watch” in his role as the torturer. I met him in real life once- he’s a nice dude.
The episode does a great job of amping up the thrills until its climax- which is a decent scene, even if some shots of the bear are a bit weak. Odd cuts as they obviously try to keep their actors and stunt doubles safe. To sum it up: a bear fights Brienne. It’s fairly badass. I shan’t spoil any of the other plot developments- but the scenes real purpose is to show that the pace of the series is picking up, and things might get a lot worse before they get better for the season finale.
Episode’s Best Line:
“Is that a palace?”
“… It’s a windmill.”
The series is very good no doubt - but to say it is better than the books is a matter of opinion, not a matter of fact. There are many who would disagree with you - for a variety of reasons. The quality of writing, character and plot development in the first 3 books is almost universally considered to be some of the best the genre has ever seen. The standard admittedly drops slightly in books 4 and 5, but if you lost interest halfway through book 2, maybe you just don't like reading that much... Like I said, it's a matter of OPINION. The tone of your review makes it seem like anyone who disagrees with your view that the series is better is an idiot. The internet is full of Game of Thrones reviewers who are able to compare the books and the series and give their verdict in a manner which does not dismiss the other so arrogantly...
@bonny78 I didn't mean to give that intonation. Obviously everyone's entitled to their own opinion- if you think the books are better, that's totally cool. I'd rather discuss it. I'm glad you commented. In the article I wanted to provide a strong voice- hence the forcible opinion.
I just finished a masters degree in English Literature- so I definitely like reading! I've read the first 5 texts. And I found them almost all very boring. Great story, badly written. We shouldn't have to read 500 pages for plot that could be told, with better writing, in 200. I think that while Martin captures occasional moments of the sublime, 80% of his writing in the series is atrociously mundane and badly edited (all the books could be a third the size they are if they were just edited and drafted properly. The bloated narrative structure of the series is totally unnecessary.)
"The quality of writing, character and plot development in the first 3 books is almost universally considered to be some of the best the genre has ever seen," really? Who says? The plot is pretty good, I'll give you that. I dig how he uses his knowledge of the middle ages to inform his fantasy storylines. And the characterisation is okay- though I'd argue only a handful of characters really bloom at all. Writingwise, it definitely doesn't stand up to classics of the genre. I'd rather re-read The Hobbit or A Wizard of Earthsea or a Garth Nix book, or heck, even something like The Painted Man before I re-read a Song of Ice and Fire book. I don't have a single friend at University- be they science majors, linguistics majors, literature majors, computing majors- who think his writing is very good.
The main thing is I think HBO are distilling the story and making it more vital, more compelling than the long-winded books. Anyway.
@Alex Shedlock @bonny78 I kind of disagree...I find the books to be masterfully written. They're able to tell a massive and expansive story all about political intrigue and world building, but can still manage to connect you to individual characters on a personal level. Granted, I've never seen the show, so I can't make a comparison between the two, but I feel like it's a bit disingenuous to call the books long-winded. They're incredibly ambitious, if anything.
@cmurdurr @Alex Shedlock @bonny78 That's true- you can't deny their ambition. And all said, the universe, scenarios, characters, and plot are all good. It's just the actual prose I think is terribly weak. If you pick up something like The Hobbit, every single sentence is a masterpiece of entertainment. It's all just fun to read, even the darker or more dense bits. The way syntax and imagery and wordplay come together is creative and great.
But the way Martin focalises his narration is wasteful and counter-productive and has almost no creativiy- it's just reportorial. Rather than agonizingly close perpective at personal level (which are fine in small doses) mixed with sweeping movements of plot, he goes only for the personal, which gets tiring and too-intense fast. It feels like nothing significant happens for upwards of a hundred pages. Unfortunately, it's impossible to truly argue the strength or weaknesses of prose without pasting an excerpt and taking it apart at a close analysis level.
You should definitely watch the show. It's excellent, as hopefully comes across in the article above.