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GAME OF THRONES Re-Throned: “Walk of Punishment” (S3, EP3)

GAME OF THRONES Re-Throned: “Walk of Punishment” (S3, EP3)

Winter is coming, but not soon enough. So to help pass the time until season seven of Game of Thrones, we’re doing a weekly re-watch of the series, episode-by-episode, with the knowledge of what’s to come and—therefore—more information about the unrevealed rich history of events that took place long before the story began. Be warned, though: that means this series is full of spoilers for every season, even beyond the episode itself. So if you haven’t watched all of the show yet immediately get on that and then come back and join us for Game of Thrones Re-Throned.

Because the next best thing to watching new episodes is re-watching old ones.

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Season 3, Episode 3: “Walk of Punishment”

Original Air Date: April 14th, 2013
Director: David Benioff
Written by: David Benioff & D.B. Weiss

A couple of weeks ago we talked about how few shows in television history have ever played the long game quite as well as Game of Thrones, and the third season’s third episode, the fantastic “Walk of Punishment” (the one that ended with Jaime having his freaking hand chopped off), is also full of those great moments that resonate even more on a re-watch (like after the still un-revealed Ramsay kills the men who recaptured Theon, and one calls him a “little bastard”). However, this installment is also a perfect example of something else the show does so well, something that contributes to it being the most popular television program on earth: trust its audience.

jaime-lannister-hand

For a show that has so many locations, characters, and plot lines—all framed by a backstory that is deeper and more complex than some actual real world countries—showrunners David Benioff and D.B. Weiss (who both co-wrote and co-directed this episode) don’t hold the viewers hand, and they follow the advice all of your English teachers gave you of “show, don’t tell.”

In the opening scene, we meet two new characters at the funeral for Lord Hoster Tully, Catelyn Stark’s father. We see Robb and his mother standing with an older, gruff looking gentleman, and then a younger man steps up, places an arrow into the fire, and shoots it at Hoster Tully’s boat where his body is floating down the river.

edmure-tully

He misses, followed by everyone grimacing. Then he misses again. It’s an uneasy scene. Finally, with the boat almost out of range he misses a third time, and that’s when the older man pushes him aside, takes the measure of the wind, and fires an arrow. The old man throws the bow at the younger man and walks away, all without even seeing if the arrow will hit the boat (it does).

This is our introduction to the Blackfish and his nephew Edmure Tully, and—without a single word being spoken by any character—the show has instantly established their characters, relationship, and how the rest of the characters see them. The Blackfish is a competent, no-nonsense man of action, and Edmure is a disappointment who doesn’t have his uncle’s respect (remember this when Edmure betrays him in season 6). A lesser show would have felt the need to have some comment on what was going on, or to add some pithy insults to further the moment. Instead we get to see it with our own eyes and make our own judgements without being told what to think. When we get to the next scene, where Robb berates his uncle Edmure for not following his orders, it means more because we already have a foundation for who these new characters are.

Soon after, we go to the new Small Council meeting in King’s Landing. Hand of the King Tywin Lannister is standing at the head of the table, waiting while the rest of the chairs are lined up on one side. Baelish, Varys, and Grand Maester Pycelle walk in and pause, unsure of where to sit. Then Baelish rushes ahead and takes the seat closet to Tywin. Varys and Pycelle fall in next.

tywin-lannister

However, Cersei has no intention of sitting that far away, and when she walks in she grabs a chair and takes it all the way to the head of the table on the opposite side to literally sit at the right hand of her father. Only one chair remains, for Tyrion. However, he isn’t going to take an actual back seat either, so he slowly drags the last chair away from the side and to the other end of the table, in direct line with his father.

It’s a quiet power struggle rife with characterization and meaning, and it all happens in virtual silence. No one needs to tell us why anyone is doing what they are doing, and it makes a scene about where people sit at the table entertaining and purposeful.

However, there is yet another way Benioff and Weiss trust their audience, and that’s by not worrying if they remember the specifics of everything that has come before. There’s a perfect example when Arya, now a “guest” of the Brotherhood Without Banners, confronts their prisoner The Hound. They are at the Inn at the Crossroads, and she steps in front of him and asks, “You remember the last time you were here?”

The Hound looks around and answers, “Looks like every other shit inn on the road.”

arya

That’s the entire interaction, with no further explanation, but this is the road where The Hound killed Mycah the Buther’s Boy after Joffrey had been attacked by Arya’s direwolf, Nymeria. This is where Arya’s hatred for Joffrey, the Lannisters, and The Hound was born. But the show doesn’t tell us exactly what Arya means by having her remind him of what he did (and by extension us). It’s a much quieter moment, one that might have been missed by some, but has more impact for those that know what she means. Her anger is real, boiling over from a horrible moment in her life that eats at her with guilt. Yet for The Hound it might as well have never happened. It pays off even more soon enough when they go on their buddy adventure through Westeros.

It’s great and awful, and if the show held our hand during it, it wouldn’t have been as good.

the-hound

Game of Thrones could easily fall into the trap of so many other shows of reexplaining and retelling the same points over and over, or of not letting a moment or scene speak for itself, but it doesn’t, and that’s one of the reasons its so good.

I mean, on this show it’s genuinely better to chop off a hand than to hold one.

But what did you think of this episode? Don’t be quiet, tell us in the comments below.

Images: HBO

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