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Review: ‘Game of Thrones’ episode ‘The Bear and the Maiden Fair’ lacks color, excitement

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Courtesy of HBO

Courtesy of HBO

The seventh episode of “Game of Thrones,” “The Bear and the Maiden Fair,” has some highlights, but overall the episode is much like the fifth, continuing a plot through necessary storytelling that somehow fails to hold the viewer’s appeal.

Jon Snow (Kit Harington) and the wildlings crossed the Wall last episode, but the troubles are only just beginning. Orell (Mackenzie Crook) is jealous, trying to break Ygritte (Rose Leslie) away from Jon by saying he’s still loyal to the Night’s Watch. Ygritte already knows, though, and is more faithful to Jon because of it. Why is Tormund Giantsbane (Kristofer Hivju) even giving Jon  advice about romance?

The scenes with wildlings are visually desaturated, practically black-and-white with accent colors of flesh and leaves. It’s distracting – is there no color in the cold lands of the North?

Farther south, heavy rains keep Robb Stark (Richard Madden) and his army from the Twins, where his bannerman Edmure Tully (Tobias Menzies) is set to marry one of Walder Frey (David Bradley)’s daughters. Talisa (Oona Chaplin) distracts Robb from his war planning in the meantime, teasing him back to their bed and telling him that she is pregnant.

In King’s Landing, preparations continue for the weddings. Sansa (Sophie Turner) is afraid of marrying Tyrion Lannister (Peter Dinklage); queen-to-be Margaery (Natalie Dormer) comforts her. Likewise, Tyrion is reluctant to marry Sansa because he doesn’t want to hurt her. Bronn (Jerome Flynn) advises Tyrion to wed Sansa but bed Shae, Tyrion’s mistress. Shae (Sibel Kekilli), though, thinks Tyrion will leave her once he marries Sansa.

Joffrey (Jack Gleeson) is theoretically king of the Seven Kingdoms, but he’s really just acting at it. He summons his father, Tywin Lannister (Charles Dance), to demand why he hasn’t been informed about things. Tywin tells Joffrey he would be informed if he bothered to attend council meetings. Joffrey is mainly concerned about Daenerys Targaryen (Emilia Clarke)’s dragons, but Tywin dismisses the creatures as tiny and ill-bred. Joffrey asks to be consulted on matters of the kingdom’s business, to which Tywin replies, with only a drop of sarcasm, that Joffrey will be consulted as needed. Tywin, however, doesn’t see a need yet.

Across the Narrow Sea, Daenerys’ dragons do a great job of intimidating an emissary from Yunkai. Dany, as she is also known, has surrounded the city, saying that she has 200,000 reasons to take the city: the 200,000 slaves kept there. The Yunkai emissary offers her free gold and ships, gifts from the generous Yunkish leaders. She thanks him, and asks for the Yunkish slaves’ release. He refuses, so she keeps the gold and lets the emissary leave with his life. Her dragons have grown to the size of large dogs. Only on screen for mere seconds, they’re nevertheless well-rendered.

On a boat outside King’s Landing, Melisandre (Carice van Houten) tells Gendry (Joe Dempsie) he is the bastard son of the deceased King Robert, meaning his blood holds powers that other people don’t have. What does she want with him? And why is this scene so desaturated? Their faces are practically gray.

Arya (Maisie Williams) is still upset with Beric Dondarrion (Richard Dormer) for giving Gendry to Melisandre. Beric says that he didn’t want to give up Gendry, that the red god is the true god and all must obey. Arya replies that her god is death. Beric gives her a long look. The Brotherhood decide to attack some nearby Lannister soldiers, and Arya sees it as betrayal of their promise to her to take her to Riverrun. She runs away from them, straight into then arms of Lannister servant Sandor Clegane, “The Hound” (Rory McCann).

Theon (Alfie Allen) is let down from his cross and ministered to by two playful maidens. Their make-out session is interrupted by the boy torturer (Iwan Rheon), who has plans for Theon’s genitals that involve a large, sharp knife – the scene blurs out before anything happens. I like that they’re explaining what happens to Theon between George R.R. Martin’s original books two and five, but this drawn-out approach is torture itself.

Bran (Isaac Hempstead-Wright) and his band make an appearance, when Bran says that the gods might have a reason behind his being pushed from the tower and was crippled. Osha (Natalia Tena) doesn’t like his plans to continue north beyond the Wall in search of the three-eyed crow, saying that she’s fleeing the undead wights she encountered in the North.

Jaime Lannister (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau) leaves Harrenhal with a small group of Bolton men who will return him to King’s Landing. After learning from the maester, a member of the order of scholars, healers, postmen and scientists trained at the Citadel, tending his stump that Brienne (Gwendoline Christie) was left with Locke (Noah Taylor), the man who cut off Jaime’s hand, he uses threats of his father’s displeasure to get back to Harrenhall and save Brienne from the bear pit. In a tense scene, Jaime threatens to tell his father negative things about the Boltons, which should certainly end with Locke’s unpleasant demise. Jaime’s gotten a bit better at the “my father” argument, now that it’s cost him his hand.

The episode name comes from a song about a bear dancing with a maiden, nothing like Brienne running from a hungry, angry bear. Though so little of the episode focused on this particular plot line, it’s easy to see why it was called out in the title – it’s the best scene in the episode, and serves as a redemption for Jaime. If only it wasn’t shown in muddy, desaturated greyscale.

Rating: C, for lack of color.

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