TV REVIEW: Game of Thrones - Kissed By Fire

This week's dose of Westeros came complete with quiet character developments, daring swordfights and more than a few naked bottoms.

Game of Thrones has always been about the grey area of the characters we follow, the honourable tempered by their own pride or the evil-doers by their compassion. It's what makes the show so compelling because we're never quite sure where we stand with certain people. Kissed By Fire was an excellent exploration of this grey area, the choices that these characters have to make in order to ensure their own survival, no matter what the cost to their own moral standing or their honour. As a result, the episode slowed the pace down from last week's whirlwind of revelations and spent much more time in several places, offering us a glimpse at just how far some characters have travelled since their first appearances.

Perhaps the most obvious example is Jon Snow (Kit Harington); like Ned before him, Jon has a fierce sense of honour and his infiltration of the wildling camp has put that to the test. Harington was finally given something to do this week (as it were), facing two tests to prove that he had broken his vows completely. One is to pass on intelligence about the forces remaining at Castle Black which he passes by threatening violence and insisting on his honesty. The second is a naked Ygritte (Rose Leslie), Naked Bottom Number One, compelling him to prove he is no longer a crow by also getting his kit off, Naked Bottom Number Two. And I can pretty much guarantee that no one will ever take Ygritte's catchphrase seriously again.

We also got to spend more time with Stannis (Stephen Dillane), who so far hasn't really amounted to doing much bar looking a bit gruff and having Davos (Liam Cunningham) arrested. Here, we got introduced properly to his family, Selyse (Tara Fitzgerald - though glimpsed briefly last season played by another actress) and his daughter Shireen (Kerry Ingram). Offering a chance for us to see Stannis in a domestic setting, it also serves to show the audience just how far he has fallen; his wife not only forgives his betrayal with Melisandre (Carice Van Houten), she celebrates it. And keeps dead babies in pickle jars. The woman is not well. It is the scene with his daughter though that was particularly touching as she clearly symbolises this distance for him. It's a touching scene and Shireen's song, both in this scene and the end credits, is particularly haunting.

Family was another important theme of this episode, as evidenced in a particularly heartbreaking scene between Arya (Maisie Williams) and Gendry (Joe Dempsie). When Gendry decides that he wishes to stay with the Brotherhood, he cites that he has never had a family and these could be his. Williams plays the next line with such vulnerability, completely contrasted with her fierceness earlier in the episode, that I am not ashamed to admit, I welled up; "I could be your family". As Gendry mournfully observes, she would be his lady. Both Dempsie and Williams played the scene perfectly, capturing the strangeness of their relationship and their reliance on each other in just a few lines.

Once again, the episode is stolen by the unfolding relationship between Jaime Lannister (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau), Naked Bottom Number Three, and Brienne(Gwendolyn Christie), Naked Bottom Number Four. Full of symbolism (they're both naked, in a bath, which reflects their own images back at them), it's a big revelation scene, the story of how Jaime came by the nickname Kingslayer. It perfectly encapsulates the idea of a character's mix of light and dark and the emphasis on family that runs through the episode. Jaime makes no excuses for what he has done, he simply tells the story of how the Mad King forced him to choose between his oath and his family. Coster-Waldau again proves his worth as do the show's writers; after all, they've managed to make everyone feel sorry for a man who pushed a child out of a window so he could continue having sex with his sister.

These conflicted characters make compelling viewing, but of course, not all characters are so morally mixed up. After all, this is a show which also includes Tywin Lannister (Charles Dance) and Littlefinger (Aiden Gillen). It's been awhile since we saw Littlefinger in full flow, beyond simply manoeuvring to get Sansa (Sophie Turner) out of harm's way. Here however, he is employed by Cersei (Lena Headey) to find out what the Tyrells are up to. He does so, thanks to sending a nicely attractive boy, Naked Bottom Number Five, to seduce Loras (Finn Jones) and discover their plotting. This in turn leads to Tywin reasserting himself as supreme bastard by forcing Cersei to marry Loras and Tyrion (Peter Dinklage) to marry Sansa in order to stop the plot. The Lannister meetings are always entertaining, and this one is no different, particularly Headey's raised eyebrow at the end of the scene.

Director Alex Graves also chose to explore this through the use of light and dark in the visual aspects of the episode; the warm, dangerous glow of the flaming swordfight contrasted sharply with the muted cold tones of Selyse's residence or north of the Wall. It's one of the most beautiful episodes to date and one of the best in terms of advancing the plot. However, for those of us who have read the books, it's becoming torturous. Fear not, I won't reveal any potential spoilers, but I think it is safe to say that big things are on the horizon.

- Becky

You can read Becky's review of previous episode, And Now His Watch Is Ended, here.

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