* This story contains spoilers.
Cameron McMillan (a Thrones trainspotter who can always be relied upon for up-to-date statistics and random factoids):
Last week's episode had the shock factor of killing off King Joffrey. Hard to top that right? How about a brother raping his sister in front of their dead son's body? Or a boy witnessing an arrow fired through his father's head before being told his parents will be eaten? Or the Hound beating up a man for his last piece of silver after being given a meal (five star rabbit stew!!) and accommodation. Viewers should have learned when Ned Stark's head was chopped off in season one that anything can and will happen. It does take away the shockability of the show so I take pleasure in the smaller shocks.
What upset me most in episode three was that Podrick could smuggle jailed Tyrion some duck sausage, candles, a quill and parchment but couldn't get him some Dornish Syrah. What's he going to wash that sausage down with? Head down to Steel Street and get your lord a hip flask Pod. "There has never been a more loyal squire," Tyrion told him as they said their goodbyes. Sure but greatest squire of all time? Littlefinger, a former squire to Hoster Tully and mastermind of Joffrey's death surely still holds the title. Not only did he just dethrone the king but it looks like he's gladly taking over Joff's reign as the bad guy. With a shocking new bad guy voice to boot.
Robert Smith (has read every book, watched every episode, owns several T-shirts, and possibly has a George RR Martin shrine in his bedroom):
After taking its time with last week's magnificent act of regicide, this week's episode of Game of Thrones was more scattered, as it bounced around the various plotlines across Westeros. It's all grim up on the wall, with Jon Snow instantly realising the men of the Knight's Watch need to kill their brothers to save their own skins, while the wildlings bring death and cannibalism to local smallfolk. Further south, Arya is learning more lessons about how harsh the world is, courtesy of the ever-charming Hound, while Kings Landing is the usual hotbed of orgies and politics, with the Lannister twins managing to make their incestuous love even more disturbing. And across the Narrow Sea, Danerys and her crew are happy to share the benefits of freedom, even if they have to spill a lot of blood to do so. But even with all these plots cranking along, the real pleasures of this show are often in the quietest moments, and it was pleasantly moving to see Tyrion give his squire the farewell he never could in the books. There are still moments of decency and kindness in all the muck and gore, and young Podrick Payne hearing that he is the finest squire a lord could ask for was one of them.
Bridget Jones (a latecomer, but only because she is incredibly impatient and prefers binge-watching. She'll look at spoilers, but will always deny it):
So let's talk about that rape scene for a minute. Without a doubt, the most disturbing moment in this episode was Jaime, the guy we were all starting to like, forcing himself on Cersi; his sister/lover/mother of his kids right next to the corpse of Joffrey, one of those children. Jaime has gone from number one, child-maiming villain, to actually-maimed good guy, right back down to scum again, and the question is, why? I dislike Cersi as much as the next person, but watching her grieve over Joffrey, and then have Jaime do something so horrific was painful to watch. And sadly, you get the feeling this was an all too common example of rape as a plot device? I haven't read the books, but from all I've seen in the wake of this episode, what happens on paper is not what happened on screen. So, directors of a show that revels in its reputation of surprise and gore and violence - did Jaime rape his sister because it was critical to the story? Maybe it an easy shock point? Or was it because you needed an "easy" way to end that part of their relationship and this was all you could think of? Surely there was a better way of achieving the end result without using rape as a tool? Remember when Jaime did become a "good guy" - oh wait, that was the time he sacrificed himself as Brienne of Tarth was about to be sexually assaulted by Bolton's men...
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Chris Schulz (has watched every episode, is halfway through book one, and has a not-so-secret obsession with Brienne, the Maid of Tarth):
In these times of backstabbing, warmongering, pissing contents and the ugly downfall of a poisonous king, let us take a moment to remember the life of Dontos Hollard. Poor Ser Dontos, a fool if ever there was one. In his mind, he'd done everything right: he juggled for King Joffrey on demand, playing the perfect fool while secretly receiving orders behind his back. He delivered poison-laced jewellery to Sansa by stalking her through some bushes - even if he was wobbling on his feet after a few-too-many ales-for-courage. And he helped Sansa quickly escape from the scene of Joffrey's demise, showing magnificent rowing and navigational skills by finding a boat lost in foggy waters without the help of Google Maps. Next on his mind was the freedom that those gold coins would bring. "Oh Dontos!" he must have thought. "You are made in the shade now! Bring on the celebratory ales; the girls - perhaps two at a time; and the holiday home in the Eastern suburbs of Duskendale with a deck, a BBQ pit and sea breezes! You clever little dickens you!" But Dontos didn't count on one thing: the backstabbing antics of that two-faced slimebag Littlefinger. Trust him at your peril. Without a single wavering moment, Littlefinger ended Dontos' life by ordering an arrow to his face. A fool to the bitter, bloody end. RIP Dontos, you will be missed.
Hayden Donnell (has memorised every word of every book and spends his evenings correcting historical inaccuracies on the Westeros Wikipedia page):
The lesson, as always in Game of Thrones: Never get attached. Just when we started thinking Jaime was turning things around, he raped his sister under the creepy stone eyes of their dead son. Loveable red-headed wildling Ygritte shot a defenseless villager in the head. The Hound was looking almost heroic in his buddy act with Arya, the plucky Stark. Then he was punching a poor farmer in the head and stealing his money. Arya said he was the biggest s*** in Westeros. He shrugged and said that's the way things are. That last point is one Game of Thrones keeps making. There's no extra credit for being righteous, no reward for doing things honourably. The world is ambivalent to your best efforts. Ned Stark found that out the hard way. So did his son. Now his daughters are too. In Westeros, it's not how you play the game, it's whether you win or lose.
Russell Baillie (may possibly be hate-watching the show, we're not entirely sure where his allegiances lie):
So far as I can tell this happened: Not much really. After last week's fatal wedding toast this was a fairly talky episode. Well talky with occasional interruptions of bloody gurgling.
True, there was one funeral pyre incest rape scene. Oh those Lannisters. So full of surprises. Just the sort of thing that makes Game of Thrones such watercooler television. True, a couple of blokes got arrows to the head and a horse got a knife in the eye. And there was an almightly pissing contest as the curtain-raiser to a very Troy-like siege involving Daenerys Targaryen and her eunuch army against the toga-wearing residents of the city of Meereen, whose slave-based economy is about to undergo some upheaval after the dragonlady cleverly catapulted some revolutionary propaganda over the walls. Other than that, food seemed to be a big theme. One arrow victim had just been praising his wife's potato boiling skills to his son before getting skewered and probably later grilled by those cannibals. Arya Stark and The Hound inhaled a hearty rabbit stew given to them by a kindly farmer and daughter before making off with his savings. Loyal squire Podrick (any relation to Baldrick?) seemed to have an entire delicatessen hidden in his pantaloons which he delivered to his master Tyrion, now awaiting his fate in prison after being arrested for poisoning Joffrey. But despite this episode's additions to the Game of Thrones cookbook, it was one to leave both a bitter aftertaste and a bit starved of story.