Well, wow. That was simply an episode that kept me glued to the screen, relishing the many lines of dialogue lifted from the book more or less intact, enjoying the superb acting across the board, and actually 'feeling it' the way many fans of the TV show do. I might be a so-called 'book purist' but I'm also able to understand many of the changes done in the show. This episode was rather good at blending the source material with the necessary adaptations, giving us an hour of quality that felt like ten minutes tops. I'm noticing an increasing focus on themes and other methods to unite the separate story-lines, to help give it a feel of being one single story; the Kissed by Fire - theme this week runs through many of the scenes; Thoros of Myr and Beric Dondarrion, Ygritte and Jon Snow, Daenerys Targaryen (subtly); it brings some cohesion, I guess. There was the music linking Theon's beheading of Rodrick Cassell and Robb Stark's execution of Rickard Stark; and there are the increasing number of scenes ending with the mention of another character, then the scene shifts to said character. I like how they do it, and I think season three is the best so far; of course, it wouldn't have been so great without all the preceding episodes bringing us this far into the story.
I've warmed up to the show's Thoros of Myr; in this episode, he is simply perfect. I still need some time on his boss, Lord Beric Dondarrion. The trial by combat which opens Episode 5 is fantastic, I feel. They pretty much nailed it mood-wise, though of course I'd love to hear more dialogue from the books. That flaming sword is so awesome it rivals the almighty lightsaber. For non-readers it might be a bit confusing - why are they dueling, and why are they putting the Hound on trial in the first place? I had to stop the show to explain those who watched with me, remind them of the scene between Bronn and Ser Vardis Egen in season one. Love Arya's attempt at going for the Hound, and when she screams at him, "Go to hell!" and then you hear Beric's voice, "He will...but not today", that was a goosebump moment for me.
The Jon Snow/Ygritte-scene...I didn't really feel it. Of all the storylines on the show Jon Snow's has been neglected the most I feel; little character development (well, until this episode), but I'm not complaining too hard - after all, Jon's chapters are my least favorite in the books. I am glad they keep Tormund a bit darker and less Tolkienesque dwarf-like than he is in the books. Still, Jon Snow requires a little more space in the show, very evident when Tormund says, "I like you, boy," and the viewer doesn't really have any reason to buy into it. Ygritte & Jon in the cave was a sweet moment, one of few. The actress playing Ygritte has really grown into the role as well, love her voice especially.
Back to the cave of the Brotherhood without Banners (kind of odd placing of scenes in this episode by the way), but just as quick we're sent to Harrenhal. Kingslayer, meet Lord Bolton. Awesome scene! Love the ambiguity surrounding Bolton during this scene, love Jaime asking about "word from the capital" and then Bolton being such a dick about it. Hahaha! I wonder what non-readers make of this Lord Roose Bolton. I still prefer the Bolton of the books, but the actor does a great job with the material he gets. The scene is followed by another great one, between Qyburn (the voice!) and Jaime; a scene almost straight from the book, I love it (and again, proof that scenes close to the book do make the best scenes). I also love the lighting in this scene. I'll scream. I'll scream loudly. Yes, I am happy with this episode if you haven't noticed. Also notice Qyburn's eyes toward the end of the scene. This is clearly a man who isn't entirely healthy...mentally. Oh yeah.
Cersei/Littlefinger-scene...I don't know, it's just a quick setup scene but I must say Lena Headey looks more
Next is Olenna/Tyrion, brilliant scene performed with brilliant actors. Good dialogue. Love Olenna's fluttering eyes. When Tyrion says, "We're at war," and Olenna reponds, "Oh, I had almost forgotten," I admit I thought something like "Yeah, it doesn't really feel like there's a war going on is there?" I mean, there are so many scenes where you don't "feel" that there is a war, mostly because it right now is in stalemate, of course. Doesn't really matter.
One thing I have noticed which irks me a little bit with most King's Landing scenes is that there are seldom guards hanging around. You'd think that in a scene like Tyrion/Olenna you'd see a few Kingsguard or gold cloaks at the doors, or Bronn standing in the shadows.
Maisie Williams really nails it, doesn't she? Fantastic little actress. Whenever she has tears in her eyes, ye olde Slynt almost tears up too. Love the scene between Arya and Gendry. Sad and beautiful. "I can be your family." Sniff. Nice music too, layering it in the right mood.
Time for the Lannister cousins at Riverrun to be murdered at the hands of Karstark. The scene sticks as close to the book as the show allows at this point, and I loved it. Ser Brynden Tully should have been in the show since season one, he is perfect. Love how they kept in the bit about the one who "only looked at" the murder getting hanged last, as per the book. I do think Karstark has a point, though, and I wonder how non-readers feel about Robb Stark's harsh justice which even his nearest allies (Catelyn, Talisa, Edmure) try to hinder. How do the non-readers feel about Robb now?
Execution scene - brilliant, with the rain and the Tully banner; the sad looks, Karstark's a great character in this scene - and reinforcing the idea that Robb now may be known as a kinslayer. Which is bad. Blink and you'll miss Grey Wind. Oh man, the music as Robb drops his sword and stalks off. Shit. Good stuff.
Back to Arya reciting her list, love how she finishes with the Hound; Thoros is once again likable here. He's telling her they'll take her to Riverrun. I wonder if we'll see the Ghost of High Heart on the way there, or if she's been cut. Love Beric's talk about his five - now six - deaths; again, book power is strong. The Mountain is once again mentioned ("two Cleganes" have killed Lord Beric) but I really feel he should've actually been present in a scene or two in this season because non-readers surely must have forgotten who he is (whenever he's mentioned, Lady Slynt asks "who was that again", and I reply, "horse in two", "oh, that guy", "yeah, Sandor's brother", "Sandor?" "The Hound" "Oh").
Stannis is great today, Selyse too but like most fans of the saga I feel that the fetuses was a tad too much. Still, a minor niggle (not for the fetuses). I wish Selyse had been present, even if not talking, in scenes in Season 2 so she doesn't come as a total surprise. Now people believe Stannis keeps his wife locked up, which is a bit off in my opinion. Shireen Baratheon was perfectly cast, love her songs and how they have mixed in Patchface here, love how the scene between her and Stannis shows how little empathy Stannis has; and the scene between Shireen and Davos is pure gold. Beautifully shot, charming little actress and they didn't need to explain the greyscale, much better that it's just there and viewers are like WTF. Stannis will not win any Father of the Year award anytime soon.
Brienne and Jaime in the bath; a fan favorite already judging by Winter is Coming's discussions, and it was indeed a standout scene. The acting is noteworthy from both actors.
Weakest scene of the episode in my opinion is Ser Jorah and Ser Barristan, two exile knights in Essos, bantering, testing the waters between them (interestingly their discussion takes place at water). I like the scene well enough and their dialogue is important, but it fell a little bit flat for me - a bit too obvious as exposition. Daenerys meeting Grey Worm was great, though. Again I'm impressed by the language coaching on this show.
Loras and Oliver - fair enough. No need to elaborate on the plots within plots going on around Sansa, just a few quick scenes to set up what's to come - the scheming around Sansa, with Littlefinger wanting to take her to the Eyrie, Margaery wanting to marry her to Loras, etc. Works nicely.
Sansa Stark is so beautiful in her scenes this episode (well most episodes); finally a scene where I can like Littlefinger; when he talks with Sansa, there's some subtle acting going on that I appreciate. He's trying to find out if there's truth to the gay spy's information (Sansa going to wed Loras), and we already know Cersei was telling Littlefinger to find out this stuff, so it's pretty close in nature to the politicking of the books. Look how Petyr wants Sansa to want to go with him. And that last shot of Sansa. Excellent stuff.
And then we come to the final scene of the show which is simply fantastic from beginning to end. Tywin, Cersei and Tyrion together kind of ensures a great scene. Cersei's sly smiles, Tyrion's surprised looks, and Tywin's pure anger. Brilliant! I cheered when Tyrion realized he is going to wed Sansa - it is, after all, one of my favorite plot twists of A Storm of Swords. Never did I see this one coming, unlike certain other more celebrated plot twists. "That's cruel, even for you!" Tyrion tells his father, echoing the books. Perfect acting in a perfect scene with a perfect twist. Icing on the cake of course is Tywin's ambush on Cersei.
One of the better episodes, then. Now I'm excited about next week in a way I never was during the entire airing of season two.