Learned Fangirls Reflect on Game of Thrones: “Kissed by Fire” (Season 3, Episode 5)

Lots of fun with swords both real and metaphorical filled this week’s episode.

Enjoy the latest installment in TLF’s weekly recap, this week featuring two fans from very different perspectives: Cheryl Collins, a TV show fan who has never read the book series upon which it’s based, and Corrin Bennett-Kill, a hardcore fan of the book and TV series (who has read all the books four times). Miss us last week? Read about Episode 4, “And Now His Watch Has Ended.”
We invite you to join the discussion in comments!

Corrin Bennett-Kill
I loved this episode. For me, the main thematic elements were oaths and the consequences paid for both keeping and breaking those oaths. From the sense of betrayal Arya felt at the freeing of the Hound after he “proved” his innocence in the trial by combat to the illumination of how Jamie Lannister gained his moniker “Kingslayer,” the writers wrestled with different conceptions of honor.

Cheryl Collins
I agree. Much of this season seems to be about whom you serve and why, and with that, the corollary of the distasteful – and questionably necessary – choices people in power make and why. This episode explored the limits of the bonds of oaths – and the sometimes terrible consequences of blindly following them.

There were many examples of good men fighting for unjust causes and kings, such as Jorah Mormont and Barristan Selmy serving Robert, and the Lannister kids all serving their father and his intrigues as he tries to keep the kingdom together– even though his choices are not in their own personal best interest.

However, I did not love this episode. There were great leaps forward of character behavior, but there was a herky-jerky quality to it, as though it was rushing through gobs of material, barely digested. I found myself looking at the clock. A first.

For example, Jon Snow finally got his groove on with Ygritte, but there was no build up to it – it just happened in the show’s first 10 minutes. GoT could have teased us more and drawn that out for an episode, at least. GoT, tease me! But just like Jon Snow, the episode got down to business quickly.

I think that is one of the ways in which I have an advantage and disadvantage from knowing the books. My memory fills in the blanks that the television show writers left in the story. My husband had a similar less-than-satisfied reaction to this week as well.

So much of this episode was laying groundwork for the future (again).

Plus, we get more Lannister family ballyhoo, which is always fun. The further away (sometimes literally) the children are from their father, the more they seem to be able to break free from the proscribed roles that Tywin attempts to enforce. Jaime is slowly being revealed as a man with a deeply held sense of right and wrong, and Tyrion, as a man of compassion and probably the smartest of the Lannister children. And Cersei, well, we are beginning to see what Papa Tywin meant when he accused her of not being as smart as she thinks she is … she did not see her own instruction to marry coming.

Tywin is vastly more interested in preserving the Lannister legacy than he is in actual Lannisters.

Right. And we find deeper reasons for Jaime to hate his father, as it turns out he betrayed the Mad King – and thus forced Jaime to kill him after the king ordered the burning of the city. After Tywin ordered the marriages of Cersei and Tyrion to Sansa and Lorus, Tywin’s children now have more reason to hate their father. Despite their pleas and protestations, he insists that his children do as they are bid, and simultaneously expresses his contempt for them.

The burgeoning relationship between Jamie and Brienne is fascinating.

Brienne is beginning to look beyond her contempt for Jaime’s “oathbreaking” and, frankly, his beauty, and see the man underneath. Jaime, in turn, is learning to trust someone with a strong, sometimes rigid, sense of honor. They’re terrific.

That scene in the bath was weird, but great. Jamie, after confessing his sins, faints – and finally was able to reclaim his own name and reject the hated “Kingslayer.”

It was a baptism, as she held filthy his head above the water. I think he will be reborn now, Jamie v.2.

As an aside, Jaime’s stump sticking out of the water seemed like a wretched comment on his feeling of being half a man – like a broken sword.


What did you think of the opening swordfight scene?

Swords – and penisies – were all over this episode.

As for the swordfight – meh. It left me kind of cold, partly because there was no intro to it. The Hound pushed through his fear of fire to face a flaming sword and burning shield – and win. (Though Beric Dondarrion was resurrected from a mortal wound by the prayers of Thoros.) I thought it interesting that Jorah and Selmy later recalled fighting with Thoros and his burning sword.

The Lord of Light line is growing in importance with each episode.

I thought it was an exciting scene, just in and of itself, but I also knew that the resurrection reveal was coming up so that made it even more exciting for me. I’m glad that Beric and the Brotherhood have finally made it into the show. They’re such an interesting plot device. Yes, the resurrection of Beric shows the increasing importance of the Lord of Light. It is a sanctioning of sorts for the work that the brotherhood is attempting: to bring some justice to the smallfolk.

It seems as if those who are following higher values of justice are being rewarded (such as Beric and his resurrection, Dany and her army’s loyalty).

But at the same time, Arya is seeing her own very strong sense of honor thwarted at every turn. If, in her mind, there were true justice, the Hound would have died, her father’s honor would have been rewarded by life, her friends would never choose to leave her, etc.

Excellent point. But of course, Arya doesn’t yet see the big picture – do any of us? – and know of the Hound’s help to her sister Sansa, and that he is thus worthy of compassion. You have the sense he survived the trial because he performed his bad deeds while under the service to another, picking up that theme again of what happens when you honorably serve bad princes.

Speaking of the Lord of Light: It was true weirdness as we meet Stannis’s wife, Selyse, finally – and she too is praying to the Lord of Light. Stannis – abandoned by Melisandre – seeks out her company, and she quickly tells him that the “red woman” has told her everything. Nothing like your mistress/priestess becoming best buds with your wife. He tries to confess his infidelity to her and is clearly anguished, but she’s having none of it – she tells him that it was all necessary because he’s doing “god’s work.” He seems taken aback, and truly pained by his choices. She urges Stannis not to see his daughter – she seems to be mouthing Melisandre’s words – but he insists.

Holy creepy woman, batman! Selyse is a fanatic convert to the Lord of Light. With the jars of her dead babies, Selyse is giving inappropriate breastfeeder, Lysa Arryn, a run for her money as the nuttiest woman in this series. Yowza.

Am I correct that she and her daughter are held in semi-lockdown?

Sorta. Selyse keeps away pining over her lost male children, but Shireen (Stannis’s daughter) is being kept away because of her disfigurment. (It’s called “greyscale” and it’s a childhood illness.)

I’m surprised that Stannis is still defending his imprisonment of Davos – as he seems to be questioning his ties to Melisandre.

Stannis is an odd fellow. He will make choices that seem contradictory to his rigid sense of honor. But, in actuality, it is all in service of a higher right that he is attempting to enforce. Stannis doesn’t want the Iron Throne so much as it is his by right. And that is what drives him. If Joffrey were actually a legitimate Baratheon, Stannis would go to his grave defending him without ever a thought to attaining the throne himself. So everything he does (including messing around with Melisandre) is in service of doing the “right thing” irregardless of the consequences.

A blind, rigid sense of “honor” and “duty.”

Precisely. Stannis, Ned Stark, and now we’re seeing, Robb Stark are all cut from the same cloth. They want to be personally honorable regardless of the consequences to the greater cause.

This is where I think an adaptation choice isn’t serving the story as well. Robb Stark, in the books, marries a Lannister girl that he has sex with while she’s nursing him back to health from a wound sustained in battle. He marries her because he “dishonored” her. He does this because of his own personal sense of honor and despite the danger that breaking his oath to the Freys places on his cause. Much like how his father’s personal sense of honor led him to give Cersei warning that he knew about her incest with Jaime and which ultimately led to his death.

The beheading of Rickard Karstark is just another decision by Robb that upholds his personal sense of honor at the expense of the cause, or of the big picture. He’s willing to lose the war to win his own personal battles.

And also you have a sense that he feels he has to act “kingly” and put his foot down.

He’s an honorable fool, just like papa. All of the Stark kids are learning just how far honor will (or will not) take them.

Robb (like Ned) has a hard time adapting their sense of honor to ruling. As Jorah and Selmy described the exercise of power and what Dany will have to do once she seizes it, “she’ll have to wade through the muck,” similar to a remark that (I think) Varys made earlier this season, that you have to cultivate a taste for the distasteful. It’s all about the messy exercise of power. Curiously, I was rewatching an episode from Season 1, where the decision was made by Robert to kill Dany and her unborn kid as they were threats deemed to the realm. Ned refused and quit. But in retrospect, could it be that he was wrong? She is a threat to the realm.

She absolutely is a threat!

Back in King’s Landing, Sansa seems mysteriously blind – let’s say innocent – of Loras’s inclinations and can’t wait for a wedding to him. Littlefinger of course is quite aware, and he sends a handsome squire Loras’s way to get the dirt. Do we believe that Littlefinger will let go of Sansa that easily?


Not at all. Sansa is Catelyn Tully reborn for Littlefinger. He won’t let her go because of who she is personally and poltically. Littlefinger was scorned by Cat and the Tullys as being too far below them to marry one of the precious Tully daughters. But now he has Cat’s daughter and the political power to manipulate her.

Speaking of Stark kids, how about Jon Snow getting all up close and personal with Ygritte this episode?

Does Jon’s decision to spend time in Ygritte’s cave mean he has forever turned his back on the Night’s Watch?

Jon is having his own wrestling match with his personal honor and the big picture. He hasn’t turned his back on the Watch. He has however begun to accept that in order to best help his brothers he has to forswear his oaths. He will forever hate himself for doing it, but he recognizes, much like Stannis, that the larger goal is what is most important. The question is whether he can hold on to that big picture as he falls further under Ygritte’s spell. Mance Rayder was faced with the same conundrum and he wasn’t able to come back to the Watch.

But, personally, I’m glad Jon gets a little somethin’ somethin’. I always felt terrible for him that he went to the Wall a maid, as Ygritte put it.

It was nice to see Jon actually smile, for god’s sake, and stop the brow furrowing. They finally did it after she grabbed hs sword and made him chase her. More sword imagery.

Given the sheer volume of naked asses in this episode, my husband started calling it “Game of Asses.”

Let’s pray that we never see Podrick’s ass!

Were you disappointed or thrilled by this episode? Let us know in comments!

Comments (7)

The writing in S3 is disappointing me greatly. Rob Stark has made so many dumb decisions I’d send my troops home too.
Yeah, a King that ignores his betrothal and marries the perfect Talisa gets most viewers on his side, but it’s a dumb King move. I gave GoT one pass on that, but now with the chopping of the head, it’s too much, Rob has to go back to King school, and the writers back to their desks.
There are more examples: The Night Watch so flippantly killing their own leader, the 1960s Star Trek style cavern conveniently located right where Jon Snow does the deed (with flowing body temperature water, north of the Wall), Jaime
keeping a secret all these years for no good reason (so, before he was a jerk, now he’s a jerk who also killed someone for good reason).
Yeah, yeah, it’s all based on the books, but the TV series writing has to stand on its own.

I noticed there were *lots* of upright (dare we say phallic?) boulders in Ygritte’s cave. Very Star Trek.

Water and fire were the elements in play this episode. Water washes away all “sins” — for Jon, Jaime, and last episode, Varys (he washes his hands after opening the crate holding the sorcerer).

Also, did anyone notice that all the shots of Stannis were in shadow? He is not of “light” — now he is in eclipse.

“Upright boulders in Ygritte’s cave” — that is hilarious!

I personally was glad that Ygritte and Jon found someplace away from the sunless arctic waste — every time we head north of the Wall, I feel my Seasonal Affective Disorder kick in. Talk about bleak. It’s a bit too much like an endless Chicago winter for my taste.

Thanks for the background, btw.

The girl Robb Stark married wasn’t a Lannister. She was a Lady from a smaller house that was sort of out of the loop politically. If Robb had married a Lannister, I’m sure news would have travelled quickly to King’s Landing and Tywin wouldn’t have insisted Tyrion marry Sansa.

[…] Miss us last week? Catch up and read “Kissed by Fire.” […]

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