Beric Dondarrion told Arya, who wasn't really listening, that he's less each time Thoros brings him back from the dead. Beric's reflective when he speaks those words, possibly wondering is it worth it to come back more broken than before. What will be left at the end? Broken people, whether from multiple deaths, lost limbs, a nasty disease called greyscale, the loss of a parent, or something that's just missing inside, are the focus of "Kissed By Fire." There's a question about how one lives after a tragedy. Arya tearfully asks Thoros if he could bring a man without a head back. Beric fails to comfort her with words about the peace her father has in death. Beric does not want her to wish for it. Arya will wish for it because a dead man's speaking to her in that moment. Moments before Arya's engaged in this discussion, she's reciting the names of the people who caused her pain. The thematic ties between Beric's words about how he's 'less' and what's being expressed to Arya is deliberate.
Jaime Lannister's also a broken man engaged in self-reflection. Locke takes him and Brienne to Harrenhal where Roose Bolton's running the show. Bolton's kinder to Brienne and Jaime. Jaime's injury is treated by Cyman, a maester well worth remembeing for the revelation that he lost his chain. Jaime takes a bath following the painful work done to treat his severed arm. The bath tub scene is one of the most famous passages in the book, and Game of Thrones does it justice. It is the ultimate Jaime moment thus far in the series. Jaime has done bad things, none worse (on screen) than pushing Bran out of the window for witnessing his incestuous relationship with Cersei. Jaime's chats with Catelyn were neither respectful nor honorable. He pushed her to the brink, trying to get her to use the malice he's been reputed to have. After all, he is the Kingslayer, the only man of the Kingsguard to kill his king. Jaime's never told his side of the story. As he sits in the water, he tells his side of the story. His story is utterly captivating. It starts with the end of Aerys reign when he was The Mad King in the correct sense. He burned men alive with wildfyre. The Lannisters and the North moved to take the kingdom from him, save it from ruin--complete ruin. Aerys ordered Jaime to slay his own father and instructed his pyromancer to burn the town, the families in their beds, the crops, the fruits, the very life of King's Landing. Aerys resembles a figure from the bible in Jaime's re-telling, a King Herod so threatened he orders the slaughter of the innocents. Jaime absorbs the magnitude of King Aerys' words. What's worse for a man in Westeros? Regicide or patricide? And to boot the thousands of innocent burning to death. Jaime kills his king. Ned Stark walked in just as Jaime stood over Aerys, his back wound and throat slit. The honorable Ned Stark remembered the scene for years and defined Jaime forever for it. Jaime about passes out at the end of the story, hardly speaking and choking out the words, a few tears running down his cheeks; he spits on the word 'kingslayer' as he speaks, like it's vermin in his mouth. His last words before he passes out are "My name is Jaime. Jaime." It's that whole 'my name is my name' business. It is a striking scene perhaps on par with Dany's triumph over slavery in Astapor. There is a man (or a woman) behind the bloodshed, the carnage, the reputations. Words are wind, remember. A man looks the man he's putting to death in the eye before he does it, as Robb does with Rickard Karstark before he cuts his head off for betraying him, for killing innocent Lannister boys in retaliation for the deaths of his sons and for the release of Jaime. Jaime's story suggests a man undergoing transformation; a man who is prepared to look into the eye of his past to see what's been done and to see what's to be done. Jaime Lannister's story is just beginning.
Stannis' familial life is another portrait of what drives men in Westeros. Melisandre was called to him because she's a priestess of the red god and has promised a true son for the rightful king, the red god's king. Stannis doesn't have sons, but he has a daughter with greyscale, a leprosy-type disease. She's kept away from seeing eyes. Selyse, her mother, is ashamed of her. Stannis doesn't appear to feel ashamed of her. He visits her in her chambers. Shireen is young, innocent, singing a song, asking for Davos. Stannis put Davos in chains for being a traitor, a string of events that began when Melisandre came to Dragonstone. The sweetest scene of the episode happens without Stannis around. Shireen visits Davos, her friend, and promises she'll teach him to read. In a world of swords, wildfyre, red gods, massive armies, etc. reading is among the most dangerous weapons.
Robb Stark, meanwhile, possesses a broken army. The Karstarks leave the Northern army after the beheading of Lord Karstark. Robb won't tolerate betrayals regardless of what the Karstarks represent. Rickard reminds him both families have the blood of the First Men running in their veins, but his last words are a curse upon his king. Robb's sort of screwed until he happens upon an idea to take Casterly Rock, the Lannister home. Casterly Rock can't be taken with half an army, but old Walder Frey has enough men and isn't with the Lannister's. The only issue is that Robb married Talisa over Frey's daughter. So, his new plan is contingent on a man who, last time we saw him, was rancorous.
The Lannisters aren't broken at all. The Tyrells assistance has given them more strength. Tywin intends to strengthen the south further by marrying Tyrion off to Sansa Stark, anticipating the end of Robb's army which leave Sansa as heir to Winterfell. Tyrion objects for moral reasons. Sansa's been treated horribly by his family and deserves peace. She's a child. Tywin does not give a golden shit. He tells her to wed her and to bed her. Tywin orders Cersei to marry Loras for the sake of the south. The finale scene saps all the joy out of Sansa's scene in which she's contemplating two paths to freedom for King's Landing. Sansa hasn't looked so happy since the day she set eyes on Joffrey, which was way before he killed Ned and abused her. Her expression is reminiscent of the day she watched Loras compete in the Tourney of the Hand. Littlefinger's old words should echo: life is not a song. So, yeah, poor Sansa.
Tyrion gets a small victory when he successfully negotiates splitting the costs of the Royal Wedding with the Tyrells.
-Admittedly, that's not the most memorable way to end a review. Alas. I'm working fast this afternoon. Man needs to write HIMYM review in two hours.
-Jon's sexy time with Ygritte in the cave is among my favorite scenes in the books. The scene on the screen is just okay. Cogman's script threw in the "You Know Nothing, Jon Snow" line as a bone to book fans. Ygritte tells Jon he knows nothing CONSTANTLY in the books. Let's hope she says it more and more and more for the rest of the season. Oh yeah, and Jon moves fast. Good gravy, Snow. Sexy time with Ygritte's notable because he broke his Night's Watch celibacy vows. Also, Tormund and Harwen still don't trust him.
-Gendry's not going to follow Arya as she heads North to reunite with her family. It is a testament to Maisie Williams skills as an actress that the scene hits as hard as it does. Arya's story has been cut and condensed so much and in doing so the writers sacrificed time for her to actually bond with Gendry and Hot Pie. "Kissed By Fire" is a great Arya episode, though. I'm satisfied.
-Barristan and Jorah have a scene in which they talk away from Dany about what to do next and express their respective doubts about one another.
-The review is late because I chose to write about Revenge last night. No, I'm not proud of it.
-New character alert: Grey Worm; Lady Selyse, Shireen.
-Bryan Cogman wrote the episode. Alex Graves directed it.