Cheese. Now. Or Else. ... Diana Rigg as Lady Olenna, Game of Thrones
What is power for a woman in the Game of Thrones world?
Does it lie in motherhood, as shown by Catelyn Stark and Cersei Lannister?
Does it lie in sexuality and companionship, as provided by Shae and Talisa?
Is it the bravado of Arya, Sansa’s strategic survivalism or Brienne’s brute strength?
Is it as a guardian, like Osha and the newly introduced Lady Olenna and Meera Reed?
Is it the rat-cunning wiles of an Ygritte or Margaery Tyrell?
Or is it in heritage and perceived destiny, like (noticeably absent this episode) Daenerys Stormborn?
Once the cow’s been milked there’s no squirting the cream back up her udders, so here we are to see things through.
Let’s do some theorising in this week’s edition of Raven On, the best Game of Thrones recap this side of the Shivering Sea.
Game of Thrones season 3
Game of Thrones season 3 screen shot.
Reminder: spoilers will be included below. Only read on if you’ve seen the episode. We’re discovering the storyline through the TV series (reading the books after each has finished), so no dropping important plot points in the comments, or we’ll shoot you down faster than Anguy the Archer.
Episode 2: Westerosi Women’s Whip Around
As I predicted last week, this episode gave us the low down on characters we didn’t see in Episode 1.
Arya, Gendry and Hot Pie are on the trudge to Riverrun, but caught out by the Brotherhood without Banners and its charismatic leader Thoros of Myr. Arya once again shows she has the chops of a true leader, but learns a lesson about over-confidence when Thoros detaches her swiftly from her sword. Poor Arya, she’s really lost without Needle.
Then, doggone it, a captured Hound spills the beans about her identity just when she was about to escape back to the forest. Frankly, this is a welcome change-up, and it’ll be fun to see Arya back in play as a hostage. And her sex has nothing to do with her treatment – the same thing would happen with Bran and Rickon should they be captured.
They’re still safe for the moment, hauling cart up the King’s Road, with Bran dreaming of that three-eyed raven and meeting Jojen Reed in a joint trance state.
Bran’s legs are no longer the only broken thing about him – somewhere on the road to the wall his voice cracked as well. It’s rather strange watching this formerly high-pitched little boy break out the Barry White impression to chat with Jojen about being a warg.
But Jojen and Meera – hooray! I loved the introduction of these strange siblings at the end of Book 2 and I’m glad we’ll be seeing more of them. Osha seems intimidated by the cheerful Meera, who shows a wisdom beyond her years when discussing her role as a protector - “Some people will always need help. That doesn’t mean they’re not worth helping.” Osha protects on a day to day basis, but Meera is thinking big picture – she knows her brother has a talent, and rather than be jealous, she chooses to keep him safe for the long haul.
Despite approving the match after the Battle of Blackwater Bay, Cersei’s suspicions about Margaery appear to be mounting, and she tries to get Joffrey to think carefully about his upcoming wedding. Joffrey fobs her off, more evidence of the eventual estrangement that must happen between them. Joffrey knows he’s of rotten stock – his inadequacy drives everything he does, whether it be fussing over the right fabric for his clothes, or buying bigger and better weaponry.
Of course by this point Margaery “Kate Middleton” Tyrell knows for sure that Joffrey is a few bolts short of a crossbow, thanks to an intimate chat with Sansa and her grandmother, the “Queen of Thorns”.
HOW GOOD IS DIANA RIGG? When she was cast I knew she’d be brilliant, but I didn’t know much about the character of Olenna. But it turns out the Tyrell matriarch is possibly Rigg’s most fierce character since Emma Peel. And, by the way, if she wants cheese THEN YOU GET HER THE GODDAMNED CHEESE.
While Olenna might be slightly deceived by the motivations of her granddaughter – for surely
Margaery wants to be Queen as much as her oafish father wants her to be - their obvious similarities and pragmatic natures were just charming to watch. And no, it doesn’t pass the Bechdel Test because they were all talking about a man, but this is a world where an idiot like Joffrey has undeserved privilege, and figuring out coping strategies is what matters most – it’s a political decision as much as a personal one.
Sansa’s closest ally is Shae, but even she has to deal with feelings of envy when Tyrion describes the eldest Stark girl as a “great beauty”. Shae remains a silky cloud of intrigue, only her jealousy is something to count on.
Speaking of which, Catelyn Stark is being tortured by a case of mother guilt so large it puts Mamma Mia’s staff writers to shame. On the way to her father’s funeral, and frightened for the safety of the missing Bran and Rickon, she attributes her family’s tragedies to her betrayal of an infant Jon Snow. We’ve all blamed ourselves for things that were probably not our fault; but Catelyn’s hatred for Jon Snow is a genuine character flaw.
Brienne, meanwhile, is showing admirable strength of character by not punching Jaime Lannister in the balls every time he opens his fat mouth. The pair is still on the buddy road trip from hell towards King’s Landing, with power shifting regularly between the captor and the captive. Brienne’s stubbornness and sense of duty is powerful, but Jaime lands a few blows by exploiting her love of Renly, and later by nicking her sword and engaging in manacled combat.
In the end they’re captured by Stark bannermen (was Noah Taylor meant to be Roose Bolton’s bastard son? Or just a regular bastard?), which means in all likelihood they’ll join forces to slaughter everyone. If that prospect doesn’t bring a bit of drool to your lips, I don’t know what will.
And so to reflect once again on the question – what is power for a woman in the Game of Thrones world? – my suggestion would be that it is much the same as it is for men.
All characters are flawed, all have their triumphs, and all are brought low. There may be different
filters for women – the key one being the threat of sexual violence – but the joy of Game of Thrones is that it gives its female characters the right to be human, and as messed up as all the fellas are.
But of course I could be wrong. Fire your opinions off in the comments.
Yay! (Best Moments)
Jon Snow’s face on discovering what a warg is. He looked like he’d just been slapped with Sam Tarly’s wet underwear. And how awesome was Mormont putting that nasty Crow in charge of keeping Tarly alive?
Finally, Theon Greyjoy’s getting tortured! And played like a sucker! I suspect his sister is responsible for all of this. At least he’s being honest and admitting he invaded Winterfell just to stick it to the Starks.
Zing! (Best Lines)
Olenna on acceptance: “Once the cow’s been milked there’s no squirting the cream back up her udders, so here we are to see things through.”
Anguy the Archer firing off an arrow to get That Chubby Kid moving: “Here’s the thing Fat Boy. When I’m done talking, that arrow’s falling down on your fat head. So I’d advise you move, because I’m done talking.”
Ewww, gross (a skin crawling moment)
Joffrey giving Margaery the full inquisition while quietly holding a giant, f--- off crossbow. I had a terrible feeling of dread that it would misfire, or he’d purposely shoot Margaery, or he’d shoot a peasant that happened to walk by – but no, he just shot a boar’s head on the wall. A bit telling, that.
No nudity. Not even a displaced Astaporean nipple.