Fire is an important part of Game of Thrones’ mythology. The book series is called A Song of Ice and Fire, the dragons breathe fire, Sandor Clegane has a fear of fire, Melisandre is obsessed with fire, and Daenarys cannot be harmed by fire. Tonight, we learned that redheaded women, of which we have a few, are considered to have been “kissed by fire” which gave us the name of the episode.
Kissed By Fire is dominated by images of fire. Often when the scene switches to one location from another the camera will linger on a flame before it swirls and we see a flame half a continent away. It’s a smart move as it allows characters whose stories are wildly different to be linked by the same image. The show has used this technique a number of times, most notably, and most effectively until tonight, in the season two premiere when each character looked up at the comet in the sky. It’d be impressive if the show could do this each episode but there’s only so many general images the show can knit together before it starts to appear ridiculous.
Thankfully, Kissed By Fire’s episode’s imagery is far from ridiculous. To me, this was probably the slowest episode so far this season yet it still managed to include a number of incredible scenes. The first came right at the start as we see Ser Gregor duel Benric Dondarrion. Benric, who prays to the same Lord of Light that Melisandre (absent in this episode physically, but consistently around in dialogue and allusion), uses a flaming sword to battle Clegane. Allow me to repeat this. A FLAMING FUCKING SWORD. He just lit that bad boy on fire with his hands. While I try to talk about the overall arc and ideas of Game of Thrones, I cannot deny that this show (and the books) provides some batshit amazing visuals and this is one of them. The moment the sword lit on fire has appeared in multiple trailers for this season and it isn’t hard to figure out why. Using it now was a nice way to start the idea that fire is going to be a powerful element in the story going forward but it was also a nice way to hook the audience in for what was more of an exposition as opposed to character or plot episode (having Jon Snow and Ygritte naked shortly thereafter probably didn’t hurt, either).
The fact that Benric prays to the Lord of Light, and is in fact brought back from the dead by said lord, is interesting because the Brotherhood Without Banners comes across as a decidedly decent group of people. So far the Lord of Light has been mostly represented by Melisandre, a person whom one wouldn’t use the word “decent” about all too regularly. Religion has played a larger role in the books than it has in the show, but the show has certainly played up the religion of the Lord of Light. The religion appears to be playing more and more of a role in the plot, but its fiery element has also allowed the show to play around with fascinating visuals. With this episode now complicating whether or not the religion is a force of good or evil, I can only imagine that we’ll be seeing, and hearing, more about the Lord of Light in the future.
The second key scene in this episode, and most of this is lifted from the book, is Jaime’s monologue to Brienne. I was transfixed during this scene. I was at once eating up every word while also saying, “Holy shit, Nikolaj Coster-Waldau is knocking this out of the park.” In typical Game of Thrones fashion, the show is turning what we saw just a little while ago, a neat battle with fire, on its head. Jaime tells us that the mad king Aerys planned to burn Kings Landing to the ground before Robert Baratheon attacked. Aerys planted wildfyre beneath the city, ready to let it all blow up. According to Jaime, Aerys was even willing to burn himself to death. Aerys’ dying words, with a gaping sword wound in his chest, mind you, were, “Let it all burn.” Until now, Jaime hadn’t spoken of it because he believes Ned Stark judged him immediately as an oathbreaker since he didn’t care for the Lannisters to begin with and figured Jaime simply acted out of self-interest.
It was a fascinating scene. Just after we’d enjoyed a battle with fire, we are now confronted with the reality of how horrific it can be. We were just shown how the Lord of Light brings men back to life, and now we are told just how horrific an instrument of death fire can act as. And not only that! We also hear Jaime explain just how Ned Stark could seem like a bit of an asshole. We’ve seen Ned Stark as one of the few heroes of the show, and he remains that way may he rest with the Old Gods and the New, but here we do see how his stubbornness could end up hurting more than helping. Jaime’s been a despicable character but there’s a slow redemption being played out and his confession as to what really forced his hand at the end of King Aerys’ reign is an important step in that process.
Jaime’s father, who sacked King’s Landing after Aerys was killed, plays a key part in the episode’s final scene. Tyrion learns that he must marry Sansa and is appalled at the idea, shocked that Sansa will have to go through this (which gave me a laugh- he’s so self-aware). I can’t help but think that of all the people Sansa might’ve had to end up with, Tyrion may well be one of the best. He’ll make sure she’s safe more than most and probably won’t have as creepy intentions as Littlefinger.
Cersei learns from her father that she must marry Ser Loras which she views as a punishment since she enjoys her independence and only wants to be with Jaime. Lena Headey has a phenomenal line delivery when she begs her father, “Please, father, not again!” and we realize Tywin Lannister is prostituting his daughter out just as he did when Robert was to be king. Tywin doesn’t give an iota of a shit about what Cersei or anyone else wants.
We end the episode on this scene, our last sight the sigil of House Lannister and the torches burning in the background. Director Alex Graves is careful to keep fire in almost all the shots, reminding us that Westeros is simmering and may soon boil over.
End Note: For those of you who have read the books, what did you think of tonight’s invented scene between Stannis, his wife, and his daughter? I loved it and have always enjoyed the way the show has dealt with what could have been a very difficult character. Stephan Dillane does outstanding work.
Donald McCarthy is a teacher and writer. His fiction has appeared with KZine, Cover of Darkness, and The Washington Pastime. His non-fiction has been featured in The Progressive Populist, Screen Spy, and AOL Patch News. And here, too, but that was probably obvious. His twitter is @donaldtmccarthy and his website is donaldmccarthy.com.