"she would show these northerners how strong a tully of rivverrun could be."
This episode contains my favorite scene (or at least one of my top five) in all of the show and books: Brienne’s vow to serve Catelyn Stark and Catelyn’s acceptance of it.
Brienne of Tarth is an incredible character. While woman warriors in fantasy aren’t terribly uncommon, there aren’t many like Brienne. While Westeros in undeniably a patriarchal society where fighting is generally considered the province of men, Brienne has nonetheless been somewhat accepted into the ranks of male fighters. Certainly she has faced sexism, but she was also accepted enough that she was able to compete against men and even was given a spot in Renly Baratheon’s kingsguard.
It helps, of course, that Brienne is enormous. She’s tall and broad and strong, and she’s clearly unsuited by appearance and interests to the life that would normally be expected of a woman of her status in society. That said, what is most fascinating to me about Brienne is how very like Sansa Stark she is. Both women have been raised on stories of knights and maidens and honor, and they share both their naivete about the world and the trauma of having their worlds shattered when real life doesn’t live up to the stories. Sansa’s prince turns out to be a monster, and Brienne’s shining, gallant young king dies before he even takes his throne. These events force both of these women to learn how to survive on their own in a world of uncertainty and danger.
We start this episode with Renly’s murder by Stannis’s shadow. Brienne’s grief is awful to watch, but Catelyn, quick-thinking and cool-headed even in this crisis, encourages her to flee by promising Brienne the opportunity for vengeance. It’s an interesting role reversal here as Brienne, the stoic warrior, is immobilized by her emotional pain while Catelyn, every inch the proper lady, is clear-thinking and resourceful.
When we see Catelyn and Brienne again, they’ve escaped and ridden north. After having some time to think about things, Brienne is regretting her flight and wishing she had stayed to fight. Practical Catelyn, however, knows what a terrible idea that would have been and tries to convince Brienne to continue north to fight for Robb. Brienne, however, knows nothing about Robb and cares less about his cause than about her own quest for revenge. Brienne isn’t interested in serving a man she doesn’t know, but she will serve Catelyn Stark.
Most stories about woman warriors are heavily focused on how they exist in worlds dominated by men and are primarily concerned with the relationships between the woman warrior and male leaders and comrades. Many woman warriors exist in simple role-reversal stories, where they have to rescue a prince (rather than a princess) or a kingdom (and winning a prince), filling a role normally reserved for a male hero. Here, we get a woman warrior whose motivations and goals really don’t fit into that mold. Brienne’s quest is for revenge and it’s personal, and she is willing to serve Catelyn because she believes that Catelyn respects and understands her, not because Catelyn is a warrior herself.
The exchange of vows here is so simple and so beautiful that it nearly brings me to tears. There’s just something deeply different than the norm going on here, where two women are entering into this agreement in mutual respect and honor. Brienne doesn’t follow Catelyn because Cat is a great warrior or a leader or a king, but because she recognizes in Catelyn qualities that make her worth serving. Catelyn accepts Brienne’s service because she wants to nurture and protect her, to help her grow in wisdom. Catelyn doesn’t want Brienne to rashly ride off into an early death, but she also won’t prevent Brienne’s quest for revenge when the time comes. And this is all just awesome.
Other various thoughts about the episode:
- I kind of think Lancel is great. I missed him in season 3, and I really hope he returns in season 4. Partly because he’s somewhat important to the story and partly because I just like his scenes with Tyrion and want more of them.
- Dany’s season 2 storyline is really going off the rails by this time. Qarth has never been the most interesting time for Dany, even in the books, but this is just awful.
- Shirtless Gendry was nice.
- Arya’s deliver of the line “Anyone can be killed” to Tywin is impeccable.
- Arya’s face at the end of the episode is a great moment. She’s been in terrible danger for so long with no power to do anything about it, but now she has the power of life and death.
" Roslin’s a pretty little thing, hardly stoatish at all. And fond of Edmure, queerly. Perwyn tells me she’s praying for a girl.”
“ Jaime considered that a moment. “Once Edmure’s son is born, Lord Walder will have no more need of Edmure.”
"Mistreatment" is a loaded word. Did Catelyn beat Jon bloody? No. Did she distance herself from him? Yes. Did she verbally abuse and attack him? No. (The instance in Bran’s bedroom was obviously a very special case). But I am sure she was very protective of the rights of her own children, and in that sense always drew the line sharply between bastard and trueborn where issues like seating on the high table for the king’s visit were at issue.
And Jon surely knew that she would have preferred to have him elsewhere.
Old stuff! I think this happened right after we watched The Red Wedding at school on the big screen because we’re nerds. It was my attempt to cope with generally everything - didn’t help much, but I liked the outcome regardless.
Let him go and I swear we will forget this. I swear it, by the old gods and new, we will take no vengeance.
100 Steps of Winter - posts about House Stark [2/100]
I am a creature of grief and dust and bitter longings. There is an empty place within me where my heart was once.
This is beautiful.
Two girls there are : within the house
One sits; the other, without.
Daylong a duet of shade and light
Plays between these