In terms of huge events, Season 3’s latest episode fails to live up to the previous episode; nonetheless, impressively economic writing, solid structure, and a consistent focus on the characters’ important emotions without distraction, all make “Kissed by Fire” the best episode of the season, and one of the most impressive episodes of the series so far.
I have significantly less to complain about this week, so I’ll try to explain why writer Bryan Cogman’s execution of this episode, essentially another set-up episode, was so impressive. To begin with, purely in terms of numbers, episode 5 is 58 minutes long and consists of 27 scenes. So, each scene is roughly 2 minutes and 8 seconds long. In episode four, with 54 minutes length and 19 scenes, each scene is approximately 2 minutes and 50 seconds long. Episode three averages 2 minutes and 46 seconds length per scene, and episode two averages three minutes per scene. This may not seem like a huge deal, but after all, “Brevity is the soul of wit.” Each scene in episode four is an average 42 seconds longer than each scene in episode 5. The same amount of emotion and information is conveyed in the scenes of each (in fact, more in episode 5) but episode 5 has a third of unnecessary screen time cut off. And that’s ultimately what this show suffers from: unnecessary screen time. Varys and Ros discussing Podrick’s sexual skills is unnecessary screen time. Lady Olana talking about her house words is unnecessary screen time. Bran having a dream about stuff we’ve already seen before is unnecessary screen time. Theon giving us a recap of his feelings about what happened last season is unnecessary screen time. “Kissed by Fire” eliminates the waste and gets down to the bare bones of the show: plot and emotion. No distractions. Total focus. As a result it’s more engaging, more intense, and far less frustrating.
As for specific highlights, the sword fight between Lord Beric and the Hound that launches the episode is thrilling, though something bizarre happens later in the episode that sort of makes the fight’s results inconsequential. Jaime and Brienne’s story continues to impress; Jaime does tell a long story, but his performance is powerful enough and the story interesting enough for me not to take issue with it, and it serves to progress his relationship with Brienne. Arya meets with a disappointing loss, but also a flicker of hope for the future that I’m praying will pan out, but fear will, in typical George R.R. Martin fashion, fall apart. Robb’s story took a fantastic direction with some huge shocks, people vehemently discussing war strategy (always fun), and Robb finally showing signs of pride, hardheadedness, and immaturity. Also Talisa’s existence in this story is finally somewhat justified. Sensa makes a decision that I assume will be disastrous but is perfectly in her character. And finally, the episode ends with a scene between Tywin, Tyrion, and Cersei, featuring a twist of a different nature than the Ned Stark twist, but with extremely compelling and emotionally powerful implications. With Tryion and Cirsei, Arya, and Robb, I cant’ wait to see where the story goes.
And now for my few complaints. I’m going to go ahead and spoil the fact that Jon Snow and Ygritte have sex in this episode, because they showed a clear clip of it in the season’s trailers. Ygritte is totally boring, their relationship is totally boring, I don’t care about what happens to them as a couple, and Game of Thrones continues to have no clue how to do romances. We meet Stannis’ family, but as his wife is apparently also just nuts, and he continues to not show any emotion other than the moodiness he’s been jamming down our throats since the moment we saw him, I couldn’t possibly care less. He’s just an awful one-note character and the less I have to see his pissy face, the better.
My last note is about Tyrion. Tyrion has until this season been my favorite character, and I’m really not sure why the show up to the midpoint of the season hasn’t made any use of him. I think a lot of people feel that way. I understand he’s been battered and crushed, so in a way his sullenness and inactivity makes sense, but I just hope they bring him back as an active character in the plot before the season ends. I’m pretty hopeful they will.
Overall, excellent episode; let’s hope the economic trend continues.