This post discusses plot points from the May 12 episode of Game of Thrones.
The third novel in George R.R. Martin’s A Song Of Ice And Fire is titled A Storm Of Swords, but through much of this third season of Game of Thrones, the battles have happened off-screen or between the wooden troop markers on Robb Stark’s map and in his mind. Instead, the game of thrones is being played in a more literal sense, as the great lords and ladies of Westeros negotiate who will sit not just in the great chairs of the realm, but beside the people who occupy those chairs—in other words, through marital alliances. It’s only fitting, then, that Game of Thrones should spend an episode grappling with marriage and sex, with the very real difficulties of people who get to choose who they love, as well as with the fears of those who have no choice at all, and with the question of bonds between men and women outside of marriage in a society where friendship across gender lines is almost inconceivable.
The last episode of Game of Thrones, “The Climb,” ended with a transcendently romantic embrace between Jon and Ygritte after they survived a harrowing ascent of the Wall. It was a nasty little tease for a show where no one gets much in the way of happiness, a dare to the audience to continue believing in true love after an episode that brutally eviscerated the possibility of hope. So it’s fitting that their moment of joy immediately comes into question as Jon and Ygritte move from her country beyond the Wall into his in Westeros, and Jon’s choice whether or not to be “loyal to his woman” or to the vows of his that remain to him comes closer and closer.
“Is that how you lot do your fighting? You march down a road banging drums and waving banners?” Ygritte teases him about his country, which seems impossibly civilized to her. “You mean right foot left foot right foot left foot. You lot can’t remember that?” But even though Ygritte pretends not to be impressed by Westeros, her inexperience with civilization is clear. “Is that a palace?” she asks Jon of the first windmill they pass on their trek. “Who built it? Some king?…They must have been great builders, to stack the stones so high.” “If you were impressed by a windmill, you’d be swooning if you saw the great keep at Winterfell,” Jon teases her back. Their banter is a negotiation. Jon is still coming to terms with his liaison with a woman who tells him things like “Why would a girl see blood and collapse?…Girls see more blood than boys.” And Ygritte, for all she sees the wilding in Jon, is still unsure of the solidity of their relationship. “I know that you’re beautiful, and fierce, and wild. I’ll be good to you,” a painfully Jealous Orrell tells her. “You love him? Cause he’s pretty, that it? You like his pretty hair and his pretty eyes? You think pretty’s going to make you happy? You won’t love him so much when you find out what he really is.” And he’s not wrong. “I know it. If you attack the Wall, you’ll die. All of you,” Jon warns Ygritte on the road, unwilling to tell her the full truth of his continued allegiance to the Night’s Watch, but hoping to dissuade her from a mission he sees as suicidal. “All of us,” Ygritte tells him in a declaration that’s also a question. Ultimately, they delay their reckoning. “You’re mine,” Ygritte tells Jon. “And I’m yours. If we die, we die. But first we’ll live.”