A flaming sword! ‘Kissed by Fire,’ the midway episode of Game of Thrones Season 3 started with this incredible visual. The Brotherhood Without Banners want the Lord of Light to decide the Hound’s fate. Should the Hound win, his life will be spared, if he loses, well…you get the picture. Only problem is, he’s fighting a man with a flaming sword. The opening of “Kissed by Fire” is set deep in a damp cave, with swords clanging and wooden shields splintering, the fight is one of the most memorable of the series. In the end, the Hound wins, killing his assailant, all to Arya Stark’s chagrin. But after the Hound leaves, the once dead man is returned to life, apparently by the Lord of Light. An ominous power that, as a viewer, I know only little about, but assume more will be revealed as this season unfolds.
“Kissed by Fire” is a slower paced episode, heavily plot driven, moving characters into position for the last half of the season. In a romantic interlude in Wildling country, Jon Snow proves he’s forsaken his Night’s Watch oath. He loses his virginity to Ygritte in a somewhat touching scene, hidden away in a bath house cave – the cave and cleaning, perhaps a theme in this episode. Later and much further south in “Kissed by Fire,” Jaime and Brienne have been handed over to the custody of Lord Bolton. After a gruesome scene where Jaime’s severed stump that was once his hand is attended to, he makes his way to the bathhouse. There, he reveals to Brienne the truth behind his nickname: the Kingslayer. In a superbly acted scene, a tearful Jamie tells how the Mad King wanted Jaime to kill his father and burn down everyone in King’s Landing. Unwilling, Jaime turned on his oath and killed the Mad King, only to be found in that moment by Ned Stark. Jaime kept the secret, as he believed no one, especially Ned Stark would believe he did it for nobler intentions. Collapsing with exhaustion, Brienne calls to help the Kingslayer. But he whispers, “My name is Jaime,” a broken man perhaps now ready to rise. In a little aside: is it me, or didn’t it look like Jaime’s stump, poking out of the calm water looked like he was holding an ice cream cone? Sure, the cone would be brown and wrapped, but still…Okay it’s just me.
A scene in “Kissed by Fire” that has held on in my memory longer than expected was between an imprisoned Davos Seaworth and Stannis Baratheon’s daughter, Shireen. Shireen had befriended Davos before the Battle of Blackwater, before Davos was named a traitor. Shireen comes down to his damp, dark cell and brings him a book. Davos refuses it, admitting he cannot read. In a touching moment, Shireen, her face half grayed, looking almost reptilian, pleads with Davos that she can help him. Begrudgingly, he agrees, as she dives into a phonics lesson. It is a soft moment in “Kissed by Fire,” a moment which reminds me that there is humanity left even in the darkest of places. Prior to this, we met Stannis’s wife, who is surprisingly happy he’s cheated on her with the Red Lady, Melisandre. She also shows off the ambiance of her room, which includes her three dead sons, their fetal remains floating individually in creepy yellow cylinders. One thing is certain; Stannis sure picks interesting women.
“Kissed by Fire” ends with its most engaging and enjoyable scene. Here, Tywin Lannister meets with two of his children, Cersei and Tyrion. First, Tywin turns his stern attention to Tyrion and, to Cersei’s deliciously wicked pleasure, tells him he is to marry Sansa Stark, to offset a Tyrell plot against their family. Yet, before Tyrion’s jaw can be picked off the table, Papa Lannister tells smug Cersei that she is to marry Loras Tyrell, something she is most displeased with. After being brutally lectured, both siblings are left sitting, scorned by their father, contemplating their similar forced fates.
“Kissed by Fire” started strong, ended strong, but was slowed with an abundance of plot in the middle. It had some good scenes and touching small moments, but I found myself wandering, wanting for something that wasn’t on screen. Perhaps that waits in Episode 6. One can only hope for a more brutal future, as “the night is dark and full of terrors.”