How do you follow an episode like last week's? While not out-Dracarys-ing things, "Kissed By Fire" kept the flammable metaphors in play. The title is a wildling expression or redheads (beats "ginger"), but could also refer to Beric's sword in his battle with the Hound or Jaime's tale of the Mad King.
And I'm pretty sure the contract for every main actor in the show includes as "buttocks display" clause, because last night had more ass than a donkey rodeo.
Locations Highlighted in the Opening Titles (* =new): King's Landing, Harrenhal, Riverrun, Winterfell, The Wall, Yunkai*
Ser(s) Not Appearing in This Episode: Joffrey, Theon, Shae, Varys, Sam, Bran, Rickon (have we seen Rickon since the first episode this season?), Osha
The Hound's (Rory McCann) trial by combat begins. Beric Dondarrion (Richard Dormer) produces a flaming sword, the better to scare the shit out of his opponent. It's a savage battle, and one that almost kills several bystanders (including Arya). The Hound deals what should have been a killing blow, but Thoros (Paul Kaye) brings Beric back from the dead. The deed is done, though. Clegane's a free man, though substantially lighter of purse. The matter-of-factness of Anguy's "We're outlaws" is right up there with Captain Jack Sparrow's "Pirate".
Worse (for Arya), Gendry (Joe Dempsie) wants to join the Brotherhood. His "family" comment stings Arya (Maisie Williams), who's lost yet another person close to her. Thoros tells her the Brotherhood plans to deliver her to Robb at Riverrun. Thoros and Beric reminisce about the six(!) times the Red Priest has brought him back to life ("Second time I've been killed by a Clegane"). Arya, in another sad note, asks if the Lord of Light can bring back a man without a head.
North of the Wall, Tormund Giantsbane (Kristofer Hivju) and Orell (Mackenzie Crook) question Jon Snow (Kit Harington) about the Watch's defenses. Jon's own defenses are put to their test, however, when Ygritte (Rose Leslie) plays the temptress. Excellent butt. They do the nasty, then exchange stories of their sexual histories (hers is a little lengthier than his).
Locke delivers Jaime (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau) and Brienne (Gwendoline Christie) to Roose Bolton (Michael McElhatton), where his master (a creepy fucker named Qyburn) wants to remove the Kingslayer's arm, Jaime demurs, so they do it the hard way. And then: a bath. After mutual ass shots, Jaime regales Brienne with the true story of his slaying of the Mad King. He just wants to be understood.
In King's Landing, Cersei (Lena Headey) asks Littlefinger (Aiden Gillen) to snoop on the Tyrells, while Lady Olenna (Diana Rigg) and Tyrion (Peter Dinklage) have a little confab about Joffrey and Margaery's impending wedding. And Loras has a new suitor, who isn't Sansa (Sophie Turner). "Oliver" beds the Knight of Flowers and reports back to Littlefinger of the Tyrells' plans to marry him to Sansa. Tywin (Charles Dance) intends to head them off at the pass by marrying Sansa off first. To Tyrion. Ay caramba. And Cersei's barely gotten her first sneer off when dad informs her she'll be marrying Ser Loras. Tyrion secures the North, while she secures the South, with no regard to their feelings on the matter. That's good parenting.
At Riverrun, Robb's (Richard Madden) got his own problems. Rickard Karstark (John Stahl) and his men have murdered the Lannister kids. Against everyone's (Edmure. Catelyn, Talis) advice, Robb executes Karstark, costing him half his strength when Karstark's men bail. While lamenting his relative weakness, Robb hits upon the idea of taking Casterly Rock, the seat of Lannister power. But he'll need Walder Frey's men, and Frey -- to put it mildly -- probably isn't too keen that King Robb broke his promise to marry his daughter.
On Dragonstone, Stannis (Stephen Dillane) and, uh Mrs. Stannis (Selyse) discuss his past indiscretions, of which she's fully aware. In fact, she's creepily okay with it. Sorry, did I say *that* was creepy. Because SHE KEEPS HER STILLBORN BABIES IN JARS. And then there's Shireen (Kerry Ingram), his previously unseen daughter. He's not very pleasant about informing her of "her friend" Ser Davos' fate (in truth, he's a complete prick about it). Shireen's a sweet kid, greyscale aside, and visits Davos (Liam Cunningham). There's a real LeVar Burton moment when the Onion Knight confesses he can't read. Well, hey, she'll just teach him.
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Across the Narrow Sea, Jorah (Iain Glen) fishes for how much Barristan (Ian McElhinney) knows about that pesky business of his working for King Robert. He doesn't, but the two spar anyway on who's better suited to stand by Daenerys.
There were some good scenes this week: Lady Olenna and Tyrion, Robb learning what being a king really means, but the night belonged to Nikolaj Coster-Waldau, who's made a guy who chucked a little kid out a window more sympathetic than we could've imagined.
Stuff That Will Piss Off Book Purists: Stannis didn't confess to his wife, she didn't keep dead babies in jars, and Shireen never visited Davos in the dungeon; also, I guess we're not seeing Patchface; the Unsullied picked their names daily from a bowl, and the names didn't signify "vermin;" Robb's wife (again, not Talisa in the books) didn't participate in strategy sessions, and Frey's men were already part of his army by this point; Jorah and Barristan were never friendly; is "Ygritte" really pronounced "egret?"
Next week: Jon's going over the Wall, Robb is groveling, Theon is back on the cross, and Arya is learning new, lethal skills.