Women Take Center Stage When Brienne And Margaery Join Game of Thrones
By Alex Cranz
Last night might have seen Tyrion achieve his greatest coup yet, and it might have seen Theon twisted to serve a new king, but ultimately it was all about the women. Scene after scene reminded us of the great inequality of power in this fantasy universe and showed us the pathos and the honors that such a deeply patriarchal world could provide a woman.
It also featured scene after scene of acting in which actresses ripped apart the dialogue given and then kind of dared you to say they were anything but awesome.
First Catelyn comes rolling into the camp of the Summer King (Renly’s new name forever) and schools every single person there by politely bragging about how excellent her son is in battle and calling everyone babies. Also by being quite demure when they said she was on her son’s war council. While officially she’s not (because apparently vaginas ruin war councils) we all know she very much is one of Robb’s chief advisors. She’s a smart and savvy operator that knows better than anyone how politics are played. While much of her agency was lost in the first episode of the season here she is in the third being identical to her book counterpart–which is great because this entire affair is a highlight for the character. This is the woman that helped Ned Stark maintain peace in the North for twenty years and this is the woman who once out thought Tyrion Lannister.
And this episode also served to remind us of just how clever Tyrion is. First he takes out the sycophantic Maester Pycelle in a delightful and almost farcical series of scenes and then he gets Shae to spy on the Queen and company by assigning her to a weepy Sansa. The scene between Sansa and Shae, in particular, stood out this episode. I’m a little in awe of how Sophie Turner balances the bitchy little girl with the shell-shocked hostage and the first glimmer of the “clever little bird.” Every tear shed and every action taken in that scene seemed to have two meanings as all the little parts of Sansa fought over how to react to the woman that is clearly no maid and is suddenly assigned to her.
Turner’s TV sister, Maise Williams was also allowed room to act this episode. Chiefly in a standout scene between her and Francis Magee’s Yoren. If you’d seen trailers of the new season you’d already seen the chilling bit where she quietly sharpens her sword and asks, in a voice full of naiveté and darkness, “how do you sleep?” His response–a story about murdering a guy–is horrific, but told in such a gruff and tender manner that it’s easy to forget he was talking about murder and instead see the fellow who went out of his way to make sure a little girl didn’t have to watch her father die.
Arya, like Sansa, is fractured by what she witnessed, but unlike Sansa she is not given private moments to grieve. She most move forward and never quite be allowed to process the ruin her life now is. And that life got a lot more ruinous by episode’s end. Remember those gold cloaks Yoren let go last week even though they promised to return and murder him? Well, the returned and murdered him. But first Yoren took a whole group of them on like a beast while Arya and Gendry watched from the bushes.
In the aftermath Arya broke the sexy evil assassin out of his cage and then watched as the Lannister men ruthlessly took out one of her friends. Then she saved Gendry’s life even though most of the men around them might have given him up. Like her sister and her mother Arya is quick thinking–smart. Where her father nobly died much like Yoren (they both could have survived if they’d played a little dirtier) Arya really has no problem lying. Her sister has no problem with manipulating. Catelyn? Totally okay with playing the few cards she was dealt (widow, noblewoman and mother) to her advantage.
And in this episode we were introduced to another noble woman who will do everything in her power to survive.
I’m not really sure who decided to cast Tudor‘s Anne Boleyn as Margaery but bravo. Natalie Dormer has already played the most notorious queen of antiquity, so why not have her play a virtually identical role in Game of Thrones (only hopefully with less beheadings)? Margaery is smart. Like Catelyn she has an inkling of how to “play the game.” She knows her worth–her value. When she tells her new husband to invite her brother/his boyfriend into their bed it isn’t about kink or furthering the show’s championing of incest. It is about protecting herself. She’s a woman in the world of men. She knows full well that a lack of a child won’t be blamed on him, but on her. She’ll do whatever it takes to have his child and protect herself.
And after the current fiasco going on with Joffrey’s paternity it is unsaid but certain that there can be no question of the paternity of her children. They have to be Renly’s. Margaery was never a major player in the books. She was critical to the plot but an ultimate outsider. A friend or enemy when the plot dictated it. I’m really looking forward to having Dormer flesh out one of the more fascinating and underdeveloped characters of the book.
Just like I’m looking forward to hopefully having Gwendolyn Christie on my television forever as Brienne the Beauty. This woman is just–ugh. I am seriously struggling to think of a female character on television that is as noble, heroic or un-feminine. The short hair, the low voice, even the way she moves. This is a woman fully comfortable in her body and very much okay with not playing by the rules usually prescribed for her gender.
In the book she’s supposedly so ugly Catelyn spends a chapter worrying about her because of her face. This will never be a problem on the show. I’m fully expecting them to make some remarks and call her ugly, but look at that face.
More likely they’ll just equate her embracing of the masculine as queer and unattractive. Are you excited? I know I’m not!
- Lena Headey continued to own this week. Chiefly in the exchange with Tyrion where she grows furious over how he’s using her daughter as chattel. Why are we supposed to hate Cersei again? Because that scene was poignant and ingratiating. I kind of am maybe rooting for her in the long run.
- Very little Jon Snow this week. He rolled in, got yelled at and then realized that the Nights Watch is just as smart as he is but more willing to make hard choices.
- Tyrion this week. Ugh. What a fall from goodness, but Alfie Allen has such a handsome and at the same time weak face. It made sense that he’d abandoned one family for another. Dude is just on a constant journey for acceptance from someone. His family though? Man they are assholes. Trolling Yara turned into awful Yara and her dad wants to compete with Tywin Lannister for worst father of the year.
- Next Week: The most horrific and awful birth you will ever see on your television. Also Daenerys is back! We’ve missed her.