TV REVIEW: Game of Thrones - The Bear and the Maiden Fair


Last week's episode saw plenty of pairings defined by power and status whilst this week's takes a look at the romantic (ish) relationships that dominate the characters' and affect their motivations. Once again, the episode's title bears more than a little on the ongoing narrative (pun intended) as we see various pairs of mismatched couples defined by their gruffness or their beauty. Another slow-burning episode, we darted to various locations and caught up with all of the usual suspects, the difference being that this time George R.R. Martin is on script duties this week with Breaking Bad's Michelle McLaren in the director's chair.

Again exhibiting the leisurely pace we've come to expect from the last couple of Game of Thrones episodes, it didn't necessarily do The Bear and the Maiden Fair any favours. In fact, of all the episodes of this series, it was this one that felt most like filler, closing the gaps and further establishing the narrative direction for the characters in the rest of the season. Certain scenes were excellently put together, particularly Dany (Emilia Clarke) and her dragons taking on the emissary from Yunkaii which not only showcased the special effects work with the flying menaces, but also Dany's evolution from shrinking violet to the Silver Queen.


Other highlights including the weekly Tywin Lannister (Charles Dance) dressing down of a member of his family and a development in the relationship between Robb Stark (Richard Madden) and Talisa (Oona Chaplin), almost singlehandedly filling this week's episode quota of naked bottoms (yes, we appear to be in a clothes off week once again). The ongoing relationship between Jon Snow (Kit Harington) and Ygritte (Rose Leslie) is perhaps afforded the most screen time. Their scenes together have steadily improved through the season and here, they have their funniest flirtatious conversations so far even as their relationship is undermined by their very different backgrounds. However, they were also punctuated by scenes that slowed the pace even further and served little purpose but to set up directions or remind us of issues gone by. Despite a stirling performance from Natalie Tena as Osha, the scene with Bran (Isaac Hempstead-Wright) deciding to go after the raven was one such example. It seemed included just to let us know where Bran was off to and remind us all of the threat of the White Walkers. Another example was the return of Theon (Alfie Allen), tortured once again and now possibly missing an appendage. This was also the scene in which we saw more nudity. Because just one scene isn't enough. It served little purpose really, other than to check in with Theon's terrible, yet deserved, situation.

One of the episode's strongest points though was the editing and the way we moved through Westeros. Pairings separated by other characters were sort of brought back together; Arya (Maisie Williams) and Gendry (Joe Dempsie) may have been torn apart from each other, but their scenes were connected, reminding us of their relationship whilst facing new challenges of their own. We also had pairings yet to be joined in matrimony; Sansa (Sophie Turner) mourns her impending marriage to Tyrion (Peter Dinklage) and in the very next scene, he does the same in turn with Bronn (a welcome return for Jerome Flynn). It's exemplary stuff and really works to provide a cohesive strand running through an episode which was marked by its internally episodic nature.

Then there were the final scenes which brought back the high quality and spark that seemed missing from a large part of the episode. I've spent a lot of these reviews going on about how much I love the pairing of Jaime (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau) and Brienne (Gwendolyn Christie) and this week does nothing but make me love them more. Jaime, ever the dashing knight, rides back to Harrenhal to rescue Brienne from a situation in a rather literal interpretation of the episode's title. It's a fantastic sequence that cements just how much they have come to rely on each other and has a killer final line from Jaime. Just brilliant.

A mixed bag then this week as we head into the final three episodes of the season. The chess pieces are surely all in place now so let's hope that the pace picks up and we get some moments of sheer shout-at-the-television awesome.

- Becky

You can read Becky's review of the previous episode, The Climb, here.

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