The One Where: Joffrey asserts his dominance at court, Robb learns the realities of war and Arya gets an unexpected new job.
Verdict: Of all the things that could feasibly pop out of a vagina, a gooey black smoke monster is inarguably the worst possible result. I’d like to see them deal with this on One Born Every Minute . And I can't be certain, but I'm pretty sure Mothercare doesn't do baby grows for malevolent shadow beings.
In a show full of unexpected moments, Melisandre’s smoke-child will take some beating for sheer shock value. A jaw-dropping end to an episode that goes further than ever before in exploring the depths of depravity existent on Westeros, it cements Game Of Thrones ’ unassailable position as the finest fantasy series out there.
It’s becoming increasingly confident as the weeks roll on, too. The opening scene, where two Lannister soldiers gossip about the war, gives us a glimpse into life among the have-nots of Westeros. The likes of The Mountain and the Knight Of The Flowers are revered as rock stars by commoners who are left to bleed the earth claret when the tides of war turn. When Robb slaughters the camp, leaving our amiable foot soldier very dead indeed, the cost of war has never been clearer.
Robb’s battlefield wander with Lord Bolton confirmed that life at the sharp end is far from pretty, although I for one was more interested in the Lord Of The Dreadfort than Robb’s mooning over the pretty battlefield nurse. Bolton’s quiet menace and casual attempt to convince the Robb to skin a few Lannister prisoners had my flesh crawling. Fitting, as flaying sounds like a contender for ‘most harrowing form of torture’ to me, and yet another glimpse of the horrors that are never far from the surface in Westeros.
You need only look to the delightful King Joffrey for proof of that particular pudding. His descent into the arena of the unwell continues at a frightening pace, Jack Gleeson giving another incredible performance as the gleefully wicked monarch. His threats towards Sansa perhaps tell us more about the steely Stark’s growing resilience than Joffrey’s madness, but watching him force Tyrion’s ‘gifts’ to abuse each other made for incredibly uncomfortable viewing. A tense, frightening piece of television that masterfully captured the fractured psychology of the boy King before leaving the worst of the violence to the imagination, it achieved the impossible in making an already loathsome character even more detestable.
While assault with a pointy stick and flaying are undoubtedly cruel and unusual forms of punishment, it was Arya who bore witness to this week’s winner of the ‘Most Bizarre Form Of Torture’ award. Who’d have thought that a hot rat in a bucket could be so effective? Harrenhal is full of surprises for Arya, and not only in the ‘mindless violence’ stakes. I can’t wait to see how she’s going to interact with Tywin, or whether Charles Dance’s imperious Lannister leader will realise who he has selected to pour his wine.
Dany’s arrival at the gates of Quarth hopefully signals more for the wayward Targaryen to do in the coming weeks. Her story has been a little rudderless of late, so it’ll be good to see her get up to something other than slowly starve in a desert. Hopefully Quarth will provide a good opportunity to train those tiny dragons of hers and put a rocket up the backside of her story.
Another deliciously deviant episode down, and Game Of Thrones continues to impress on multiple levels. The performances dazzle, the new locations are breathtaking and it’s as outrageous and committed as ever. Most importantly, the fantasy elements are front and centre, propelling events forward and ensuring nobody forgets that this is a world of dragons and magic. Screwed up sorcery, psychopathic royalty and torture by hot rat – it’s all in a week’s work for Game Of Thrones . If things continue at this rate, we’ll run out of stars to award it before too long.
Best Lines: There’s some fine Westerosi wit on display this week, meaning the battle for best line was tied between Bronn’s hilarious – and accurate – summary of Joffrey, and Renly’s effortless put-down of his stony faced brother Stannis.
Bronn (to Tyrion): “There’s no cure for being a c**t.”
Renly (to Stannis): “Born amid smoke and salt – is he a ham?”