Game of Thrones Memory Lane 207: A Man Without Honor

A Man Without Honor Jaime Header

For today’s Memory Lane, we’re welcoming another guest writer to Watchers on the Wall. He’s a regular WotW commenter, and you can find him on Twitter at @JKozal. Please give a warm Watchers welcome to Jared Kozal!  -Sue the Fury

Honor in Westeros is more than just personal integrity – it’s a form of social currency. In a feudal system where men and women swear their lives to the service of higher lords and higher causes, houses can rise and fall based on how much someone values his or her word. But how honor is defined – whether it means upholding your vows to others or remaining loyal to a personal code – is a muddy concept, and never more so than when it collides with that other great pillar of human existence – love. Multiple characters struggle with this dichotomy in “A Man Without Honor,” yet like all things in Game of Thrones, the conflict is seldom a simple one.

Few characters better embody that conflict than Jaime Lannister – the titular ‘man without honor’. This episode – brilliantly written by David Benioff & D.B. Weiss, and directed by David Nutter – is a great one for Nikolaj Coster-Waldau, and the actors who populate House Lannister in general.

Jaime killed the Mad King – a decision that could be eminently justified based on what was at stake. Yet he committed the cardinal sin for a Kingsguard, and he has paid a bitter price for falling on his sword (or rather, getting Aerys to fall on it). Jaime has also fallen in another way – he’s deeply in love with his sister, Cersei. The accusations that he has shit for honor trouble him, but for the moment, he remains unrepentant.

A Man Without Honor Jaime 2

Jaime’s all-consuming goal is to return to the woman he loves, and nothing will stand in his way. In the hopes of achieving that end, he breaks yet another taboo – kinslaying. Alton Lannister is only distant kin, but he is kin nonetheless; a boy who worshiped his legendary cousin. Jaime indulges Alton by offering up his admiration for the great Barristan Selmy – a paragon of knightly virtue, and “A painter that only used red.” It’s a riveting monologue (at the time, Coster-Waldau claimed it was his favorite scene that he had ever done). Yet the reverie comes to a merciless end when Jaime beats his cousin to death, strangles Torrhen Karstark, and escapes into the night.

Jaime is recaptured, but the damage is done. Rickard Karstark demands the Kingslayer’s head as vengeance for his slain son. Catelyn intervenes to save Jaime from summary execution, but is unable to conceal her disgust for the man who threw her son from a window to protect his not-so-secret love. She denounces the Kingslayer as a monster who forsook every vow he ever took. Jaime’s response is one of my favorite quotes in the entire series – one that exposes a fundamental conflict at the heart of Westerosi society.

“So many vows … they make you swear and swear. Defend the King, obey the King, obey your father, protect the innocent, defend the weak. But what if your father despises the King? What if the King massacres the innocent? It’s too much. No matter what you do, you’re forsaking one vow or another.”

There’s a lot to consider there! Unfortunately, Lady Stark doesn’t get the chance because Jaime also taunts her about Jon Snow – a stain on Ned’s honor, and a sore spot for Catelyn. She calls for Brienne’s sword, and Jaime smiles. A crucial domino falls, but we’ll have to wait for the next episode to see which way.

Speaking of Jon, his own struggle between honor and love begins here. He and Ygritte are awoken from their subzero snuggle by a predictable guest – one whose presence wickedly delights Ygritte and mortifies Jon. Ygritte needles Jon about his life choices, including the fact that he’s never been with a woman, choosing instead to swear his life to an order whose noble purpose has been lost.  Her flirtatious banter flusters Jon to the point that she’s able to escape. Jon pursues her … and she leads him right to her friends.

Oh, and Ygritte says her catchphrase for the very first time!

A Man Without Honor Ygritte GIF

Love also bedevils Jon’s brother Robb in the Westerlands. When Talisa arrives to petition the Young Wolf for supplies, Robb is pleased to see her, but no one else is. Robb invites Talisa to accompany him to the Crag (a nod to the origins of Talisa’s counterpart in the novels). As the two leave together, his bannermen whisper their discontent. The Young Wolf’s absence from the camp enables the calamity that follows.

In King’s Landing, Cersei Lannister is also struggling with the consequences of the forbidden love she shares with her brother. Unlike Jaime, her struggle is a quieter and more personal one. When Sansa discovers to her horror that she can now bear Joffrey’s children, Cersei imparts some wisdom to the daughter that Ned sacrificed his honor and his life to save.

A Man Without Honor Cersei

“The more people you love, the weaker you are. You’ll do things for them that you know you shouldn’t do. You’ll act the fool to make them happy, to keep them safe. Love no one but your children. On that front, a mother has no choice.”

Yet even when Cersei closes her heart, what love remains still exacts its cost. Later, she tacitly admits Joffrey’s true parentage to Tyrion, and acknowledges that she has lost control of her son. “Sometimes, I wonder if this is the price … for what we’ve done. For our sins.”

Tyrion assures Cersei that she has beaten the odds, and her icy veneer cracks. Cersei so rarely shows vulnerability that to see her break down is a striking image – especially in the presence of the brother that she loathes rather than the one she loves. In that moment, Tyrion approaches his sister as if he wants to comfort her. He gets surprisingly close before Cersei notices and seizes up, and Tyrion has to awkwardly play off his approach. It’s a great moment of acting by Peter Dinklage and Lena Headey.

A Man Without Honor Tywin

One man who seems to be free of the burdens of both honor and love is Tywin – he’s more concerned with legacy. The Lannister patriarch claims that Arya reminds him of his daughter, and yet – free from the burden of molding her in his image – he seems much more at ease with this daughter of his enemy than he is with any of his own children. In a spectacular scene, Tywin and Arya discuss war, legacy, and history, including some wicked Targaryen trivia (Aegon Targaryen burning Harrenhal! Rhaenys and Visenya and Dark Sister!) The old lion and the young wolf girl appear to genuinely enjoy one another’s company, and Arya vacillates between her desire to kill Tywin and taking pleasure in the praise that he offers her. Their rapport is so strong that Arya gets a little cheeky – cheek that Tywin enjoys while warning her not to push her luck. And so the magical scene ends.

By no means is the struggle between love and honor exclusive to the Lannisters and the Starks. It’s often said there’s no honor amongst thieves, and in Qarth, that appears to be the case. Tasked by Dany with finding her missing dragons, Jorah visits Quaithe. The disgraced knight is able to extract the location of the culprit from her by acknowledging his past betrayal of Dany, and the love he hopes will be his redemption.

A Man Without Honor Jorah Dany

Dany’s misadventures in Qarth while searching for her dragons aren’t the most popular storyline that Game of Thrones has ever brought to our screens. However, the mystery sparks this week when the man we call Ducksauce is revealed to be far more nefarious than expected. As Xaro tells a despairing Dany, “a man is who others say he is, and no more.” Xaro is obsessed with changing what others say he is by trading in the title of ‘upstart’ for ‘King of Qarth’. To that end, he betrays his guest and allies with Pyat Pree – an alliance sealed with fire and blood. Xaro turned Dany’s dragons over to the warlock, who fulfills his obligations by slitting the throats of the Thirteen using the world’s worst party trick. As Dany watches in horror, the warlock mockingly informs Dany that her dragons wait for her in the House of the Undying. Unprepared to deal with this strange sorcery, the Khaleesi flees.

Yet it is in Winterfell where the loss of honor has the gravest consequences of all.

Theon Greyjoy wanted nothing more in life than to be a Stark, only to realize that it was never truly possible. Pressure from his birth family convinced him to turn his cloak, yet that decision won him no love either. When Osha tricks him and absconds with the Stark boys, Theon organizes a hunting party, and he pursues his would-be brothers to a farm, where the trail goes cold. But Dagmer has an idea …

A Man Without Honor Theon 1

Theon denounces the residents of Winterfell for abusing his supposed kindness, and reveals the Iron Price of their ‘betrayal’ – two young boys, murdered, mutilated, and burned black. Those who of you who were Unsullied at the time – I’d be curious to hear whether or not you believed that Bran and Rickon had actually been killed. Luwin’s wail of anguish certainly sells that horrifying possibility … but it’s still not as haunting as the look on Theon’s face.

The conflict between honor and love can be agonizing, but when a man discards them both, he’s left with nothing at all. As Rodrik Cassel foretold in the previous episode, Theon Greyjoy is truly lost. The gods help him now.

A Man Without Honor Theon 2

 

Introductions: John Stahl’s Rickard Karstark debuts in this episode, as does his son Torrhen Karstark (briefly).

Deaths: Alton Lannister and Torrhen Karstark are casualties of Jaime’s ill-fated escape attempt. The Spice King and ten other members of the Thirteen are assassinated by Pyat Pree and his creepy clones at Ducksauce’s behest. Finally, the orphan boys Billy and Jack are slain by Dagmer with Theon’s consent, and their corpses are burned so that they can be passed off as Bran and Rickon.

Notable Quotes:

“Did you pull a knife on me in the night?” – Ygritte

“It’s a good thing I am who I am. I’d have been useless at anything else.” – Jaime

“I’m not well-suited for imprisonment. Shocking, I know. Some men are. Ned Stark? I imagine he made an excellent prisoner, right up until the end. Not me, though. My life has left me uniquely unfit for constraint.” – Jaime

“You’ve become a real she-wolf in your later years. There’s not much fish left in you!” – Jaime

“An upstart and a charlatan. Empires have been built by less. Those on the margins often come to control the center. And those in the center make room for them, willingly or otherwise.” – Xaro Xhoan Daxos

“You’re too smart for your own good. Has anyone told you that?” – Tywin /“Yes.” – Arya

Creative Fandom:

Robert Ball’s Beautiful Death poster depicts the assassination of the Thirteen.

Undying

71 responses

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    1. “Have you met many stonemasons, My Lord?”

      One of my favourite moments!

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    2. If ever I meet NCW – highly unlikely I know – I shall offer him a jar of mud to remind him of season 2.

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    3. There was, at the time, considerable controversy around Jaime killing Alton. I personally am not bothered by his cousin-killing, per se (both because kinslaying isn’t really established as a ‘thing’ in the show, and it doesn’t seem like that extends beyond first cousins anyway, whereas Alton seems to be considerably more distant). My problem with the scene is that there is no reason whatsoever for Jaime to kill Alton here. Jaime is ruthless, but generally not gratuitous, and I really don’t see what benefit killing him brings him. Faking a fight would have accomplished the same thing.

      The Jon/Ygritte scenes are still quite funny.

      Bran and Rickon’s fakeout deaths were the sort of storytelling device that was never going to transfer well to the screen (characters on TV shows just don’t die in that manner), so I think the show handled it okay.

      This episode also features the only actual conversation between Sansa and the Hound prior to 209 (and even that is pretty truncated). That mere fact shows you mishandled that whole subplot was.

      Dame of Mercia,

      It can’t have been much fun to film. It’s also quite an outlier for Jaime in terms of screentime. If you look at the total episode counts for the various main actors, Season 2 really tanks NCW’s count. He’s at only 35 episodes for the first five seasons, whereas most of the other remaining main cast from the first season are at or above 40.

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    4. Amazing episode and amazing scene for Jaime. During the last two seasons Jaime and by extension NCW, have been trapped to swallow scenes and stupid justifications of them that most of the people have forgot he had some great scenes and some of the finest acting in the series. I know killing his cousin wasn’t on character but still one of the small faults compared to what came after.
      Amazing scene between Sansa and Cersei and Tywin and Arya as well… the acting in this episode was flawless.

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    5. Great episode for the Lannisters! I enjoyed every scene they were in.

      I don’t know anyone who was tricked by the fake Bran/Rickon deaths.

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    6. This was the episode in which I first started feeling an interest in Jaime (I had not read the books at this point) . His speech to Catelyn about vows is probably my favorite piece of dialogue in the entire series so far. Of course, he still seemed as evil as he ever was, at that point, as he then proceeded to kill his own cousin to try and break out. Only after S3 was he able to gain any sympathy. And watching these scenes again, after knowing the back story, helps to understand his bitterness.

      Regarding Jared’s question about Bran and Rickon, no, I did not think they had truly died as I was fairly sure that Bran would not die without the mystery of the 3eyed raven being solved. Besides, the burning happened off screen, so that was also suspicious. Of course, I had binge watched this season sometime before S3, that was when I started watching, so I did not have to actually wait for the suspense to be revealed.

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    7. Jon Snow's Curling Iron,

      I don’t think there was any real way to make that fakeout work. It doesn’t even work on the page for many people, though I think I was taken in at the time (though if you stop to reflect on it, you’d be able to see it clearly wouldn’t make any sense, otherwise would was the point of anything to do with Bran’s character?). But there are certain conventions around TV. When it’s not even established that the leads are in the area where Theon is, there’s no way they die offscreen in that manner. That just doesn’t happen.

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    8. I think this is one of these titles that can refer to several characters: Jaime, of course, but also Theon and Tywin, and others are debatable. Jorah, who traded slaves and betrayed Dany, Karstark, who wants to go against his king’s orders for a personal revenge.
      I love this episode because it’s really tied together, has some of the best lines in the season and because NCW is just amazing. Everyone is amazing, like you said, Theon’s look is haunting.

      I was unsullied until the end of season 3 and I didn’t believe for a second that the boys were dead. Killing two Starks off screen would be too much, even for GOT. Even after Theon’s and Master Lewin’s great reactions.

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    9. Sean C.,

      True. It was difficult to adapt that part, but I thought the scene turned out well. The point was to make the other characters believe Bran and Rickon were dead, not the viewers/readers. Mission accomplished.

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    10. Excellent guest post Jared- your passion shone through! It really is a great episode, and Theon and Jaime both shine in the episode.

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    11. Nice bit of foreshadowing — Jorah encounters Quaithe painting symbols on a man’s back and she says, “All who travel too close to the doom must be protected; this man must sail past old Valyria.”

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    12. I hated Jaime killing his cousin. It sort of undermines his hidden, noble reasons for killing the mad king (I know very different circumstances…) and makes him a truly repellent, selfish character. If you watch his infamous scene with Brienne in the bath while thinking back to him ruthlessly beating his cousin to death… well, it kinda removes any sympathy. It’s even worse because it’s completely unnecessary – it doesn’t aid his escape at all IIRC. And it’s EVEN worse because it comes after the brilliant “painter who only used red” speech. Ugh, I’ll defend most showrunner decisions, but I really hated this one.

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    13. Oz of Thrones,

      Thanks, Oz! 🙂 It was a lot of fun to write!

      Knight of the Walkers (Formerly Jeb),

      Thank you! This is probably my second-favorite episode of Season 2 after “Blackwater”. I’m a sucker for Lannister-heavy hours, as I find that gloriously messed-up family to be endlessly fascinating. Nikolaj Coster-Waldau does next-level work in his three scenes (two of them while he’s chained to a post). Any Charles Dance scene is gold in my book (especially opposite Maisie Williams), and this is one of his very best. It’s a quieter episode for Lena Headey and Peter Dinklage, but they get their moments to shine as well.

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    14. Lonely Cat,

      Great moment. I wanted to mention it in the article, but decided against it as the piece was running long. There’s no way to know if the showrunners intended it to be foreshadowing at the time (I’m guessing not), but on rewatches, it’s an eerie connection. A fortuitous coincidence, perhaps, but a powerful one.

      Perhaps if Jorah hadn’t been in such a rush, he could have asked Quaithe for a body-painting session. It might have saved him some Greyscale-related grief later. 😉

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    15. Ross,

      Oh no, the attempted child murderer killed his cousin, I guess he’s maybe not some perfect hero now huh? I guess pushing little boys out of windows to cover up your incestuous affair doesn’t qualify as “repellent” or “selfish” to some fans.

      And it clearly did aid his escape, because the guard came in. There was no chance of Alton fucking things up for him if he were killed, during or after his escape.

      Of all the outrage over at Westeros.org and other quarters, the complaints about this scene always baffled me the most during Season 2’s run.

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    16. cosca:
      And it clearly did aid his escape, because the guard came in.

      Which could have been accomplished just as easily by faking a fight. Actually killing him adds nothing.

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    17. Good write up Jared. I’ve always been very found of this episode, both because of the thematic strength and how it spends so much time pairing great actors for well written conversations. I think it’s a strength of both Season 2 and 3 that they had so much time to just let the characters talk, something the other, more plot heavy seasons don’t do quite as much of, as much as I love em. Season 3 in particular is quite intimate as a result, especially thanks to the extra time spent in King’s Landing. I also think it means that seasons 2 and 3 are a bit more formless as a result, but that’s a welcome sacrifice in my book.

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    18. Sean C.,

      It would be best for Jaime if they didn’t know he was gone for as long as possible. Alton is young and wet behind the ears, likely to be captured very quickly. Which means the alarm is sounded sooner and everyone is on the hunt for Jaime that much faster.

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    19. cosca,

      Hmm? Why would Alton’s presence lead to them knowing he was gone sooner? If they’ve recaptured him, they obviously already know he’s gone and are hunting him.

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    20. Sean C.,

      This is an assumption based on nothing. You don’t know he wouldn’t be spotted by someone who recognizes him as a Lannister, or captured by a guard near camp, before they find the empty cage.

      Further, on the fake fight point; if it’s clear to the guard that the fight is fake, then Jaime has lost his chance. If the guard goes and gets more soldiers to break up the fight and separate them, Jaime has lost his chance. Given that there are two people fighting in a cage, it would make sense for the guard to do this as opposed to there being a single man in there.

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    21. cosca,

      Far more people in the army would have seen Jaime than Alton, seeing as they’ve been carting him around for [unspecified period of time].

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    22. Sean C.,

      I don’t see how that’s relevant, he could still be captured, and he’s not an accomplished liar or fighter like Jaime. The point is, it’s really not hard to come up with scenarios where Alton is a liability.

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    23. The Qarth plotting is, for once, interesting. Xaro’s line about those on the margins coming to control the center was an interesting and poetic one – I remember liking it the moment I heard it.

      And I really wish we’d gotten more of Quaithe. She was such an interesting add to the cast. I realize the hyper-real “vision” use of her in the books makes it more difficult, especially to have her wander into Slaver’s Bay after she’d been based in Qarth, but it might have worked. Laura Pradelska did a lot of good work in a brief period of time.

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    24. Sean C.:
      There was, at the time, considerable controversy around Jaime killing Alton.I personally am not bothered by his cousin-killing, per se (both because kinslaying isn’t really established as a ‘thing’ in the show, and it doesn’t seem like that extends beyond first cousins anyway, whereas Alton seems to be considerably more distant).My problem with the scene is that there is no reason whatsoever for Jaime to kill Alton here.Jaime is ruthless, but generally not gratuitous, and I really don’t see what benefit killing him brings him.Faking a fight would have accomplished the same thing.

      Sean C.,

      I’m not sure I believe that faking a fight would have had the desired effect. Jaime was banking on an urgent response from Torrhen to enable his escape. Rather than risk intervening in the chaos of a brawl, Torrhen might have shouted for more guards to help break them up – more than Jaime and Alton could subdue on their own. Alternatively, without the shock of seeing Alton bleeding and twitching on the ground, Torrhen might have let them fight it out for a bit. At the point the noise could have drawn more attention from nearby Northern soldiers. Either way, Jaime would have been out of luck.

      This way was faster, and more importantly, quieter. Having Alton around to use as a decoy might have helped for a split second, but recapturing Jaime is the overriding priority for the Northern forces. Alton is a nobody – Robb even used him as messenger to King’s Landing because if he somehow escaped, it would be of no consequence. Sending so much as a single soldier after him instead of Jaime would have been a waste.

      It’s a moot point, obviously, because the writers obviously wanted Alton to die – both to establish Jaime’s ruthless desire to escape at all costs, and to tie up a loose end. As a show-only character, Alton could be killed with little consequence. His closest book analogue, Cleos Frey, ends up dying during Jaime and Brienne’s journey anyway.

      Whether or not killing a distant cousin who no one is likely to miss does irreparable harm to Jaime’s character (before he loses his hand and bonds with Brienne, I’ll add) is a matter of personal opinion. For me, it doesn’t. If I’m willing to invest in his character after he threw a ten-year old child out of a window with the intent of killing him, this isn’t going to be the straw that breaks the camel’s back.

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    25. cosca:
      Ross,

      Oh no, the attempted child murderer killed his cousin, I guess he’s maybe not some perfect hero now huh? I guess pushing little boys out of windows to cover up your incestuous affair doesn’t qualify as “repellent” or “selfish” to some fans.

      And it clearly did aid his escape, because the guard came in. There was no chance of Alton fucking things up for him if he were killed, during or after his escape.

      Of all the outrage over at Westeros.org and other quarters, the complaints about this scene always baffled me the most during Season 2’s run.

      Calm down fella, it’s just a personal opinion. I’ve never been to westeros.org and I’m certainly not ‘outraged’ by the scene – it just jarred with me.

      Pushing Bran out of the window was of course repellent, but there was a very compelling reason for him to have to do it. I don’t buy that there was any compelling reason for him to kill Alton – it just came across as brutal for brutality’s sake… which, for all his faults, is not how I would describe Jaime. I’m not a huge Jaime fan, I just found this scene unbelievable, inconsistent and frankly a bit silly.

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    26. Balerion The Cat:
      D&D are hyping season 6: http://www.ew.com/article/2016/03/21/game-thrones-season-6-best

      Interesting thanks. This quote:

      “Usually there’s an episode or two we’re kind of nervous about, that didn’t turn out as well as we hoped. This season there is not a weak episode.”

      I wonder which episodes of previous seasons they would include in that description?

      Re this season, I know they are probably hyping the season a bit but I take them at their word on this; very excited for the weeks ahead!

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    27. Sean C.,
      I certainly hope that the lack of scenes between Sansa and the Hound is not ‘mishandling’, but rather a sign that this will be an unimportant plot going forward!

      Yes, I still hate SanSan with the hatred of a thousand burning stars. Heh.

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    28. Ross,

      I understand this point of view, and I won’t dispute it. I can only speak for myself.

      I love Jaime Lannister as a character because I find him to be an endlessly compelling, both in the show and the novels. But I’ve never, at any point, been under the impression that he’s a good dude, not even after his ‘redemption’ arc with Brienne and certainly not at this stage of his life. A richer, more complicated and interesting character, yes, but not anywhere close to a noble man who’s simply misunderstood.

      Jaime had a noble reason to kill the Mad King to save half a million lives, but that certainly doesn’t mean he values all life … especially when he has something clear and obvious to gain, as he did by killing Ser Alton. He’d have killed Brienne as well if he could (and indeed he tries in “Dark Wings, Dark Words”). Later, he reflects and changes and grows. He starts to become more concerned with acting in an honorable fashion. But he starts out in a deep hole, one he still hasn’t climbed out of, even if I find it fascinating to watch him try.

      There are multiple examples of characters across film and literature who have no problem killing other individuals, for selfish reasons or otherwise. But when faced with the prospect of a cataclysmic genocidal event where many, many people will die, those people often find themselves aghast at the sheer scale of such an atrocity, and compelled to intervene. Jaime is one such character, I believe.

      At this point in his life, Jaime is supremely selfish. He really cares only about his sister and to a slightly lesser extent, his brother. Maybe he respects (or fears) Tywin and reveres Barristan, but that’s about the extent of his affections. He has more love for his children in the show than he does in the books (where he doesn’t give a damn about them) but doesn’t really take in interest in them until Joffrey dies. It’s not surprising to me that he wouldn’t value the life of a boy he’d barely met just because Alton looked up to him and they shared a surname.

      As for whether or not killing his cousin makes Jaime less sympathetic, that’s entirely up to the discretion of the viewer, and there’s no wrong answer. Multiple characters in GOT/ASOIAF do absolutely repellent things, yet are still able to cultivate sympathy from me because they’re so well-drawn and I understand the motives behind their actions. As it happens, Jaime got an opportunity to ‘redeem’ himself after trying to kill Bran (who I care about) and killing Alton (who I don’t). Perhaps that colors my opinion of his decision in this moment.

      Others aren’t so lucky. When Stannis burned Shireen (a character that I was deeply invested in) I was appalled and saddened, even though I understood why he did it. As it happens, Stannis died shortly thereafter and will never get a chance to redeem himself. But I would have been willing to watch him try.

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    29. Ross: Interesting thanks.This quote:

      I wonder which episodes of previous seasons they would include in that description?

      Probably the Sansa rape one.

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    30. Jared,

      Hey Jared – it’s a strong argument, well said, and I actually agree with pretty much everything you say (although I am less interested in Jaime as a character as a whole). I guess my main beef with the scene, on reflection, is that while I acknowledge Jaime (certainly season 1/2 Jaime) is an inherently selfish, ruthless character who would kill almost anyone without question given the need to do so, I didn’t buy in this scene that he actually had the need to do so. It just came across as unnecessarily brutal… almost sadistic… which didn’t chime for me with Jaime’s character. Ruthless and selfish yes… brutally sadistic… hmmm, not sure. But as you say, it comes down to a personal reading of the scene. It didn’t work for me. But a lot of the episode did – thanks for the great recap.

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    31. Sue the Fury,

      I meant the nervous part, since that was a departure from Sansa’s storyline and a very controversial scene. The episode, as a whole, has good performances.

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    32. Yaga,

      Regardless of what happens with those characters going forward, it’s supposed to be an important part of Sansa’s arc in this particular book/season (hence why her final scene in episode 9, the climactic moment of her Season 2, is a scene with him), but the cuts reduce it to almost nothing — particularly on her end (e.g., in this episode she talks about how he’s “always so horrible” when we’ve never seen them meaningfully interact before now, and all he’s done this season is show up occasionally to save her from stuff). Hence, when the time comes for them to have their big scene in “Blackwater”, there’s been no real story leading to this point; it’s the lone part of that episode that I don’t think works, because of decisions made previously.

      Unrelatedly, Shae’s trying to help Sansa in this episode is (together with their earlier scene in 206) one of the more effective uses of that relationship. But I wish they had had Shae trying to help her with something before Sansa started to open up, because that would give some reason for it. As it stands, Shae didn’t do anything between 203 and 206 that would warrant Sansa thinking she was a friend.

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    33. – I can’t remember if I believed Bran and Rickon’s deaths back when I was an Unsullied. I think I didn’t because I had read somewhere in the wiki that they would appear in Season 3, but I’m not sure.
      – Tywin taunting the Mountain about being too soft. Classic.
      – Regarding Jaime, I think killing his cousin is not comparable to trying to kill Bran. For starters, throwing Bran out the window was a spur of the moment thing, whereas with Alton he had a lot of time to think about his plan and hear his story. Secondly, if Bran told someone Jaime risked Cersei life, along with his children and his own, not to mention his father and house. Killing Alton just gets him a half-assed escape. Finally, he gets nothing by killing him that he couldn’t have by asking Alton to fake.
      Back when I was an Unsullied I thought “If he hadn’t killed his cousin his redemption would have been easier to buy than if he had”.
      Now, I now that Jaime is no angel, before and after the maiming, but that scene made Jaime look like a sadistic psychopath, which is not a good understanding of Jaime’s character.

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    34. Jared: An excellent in-depth recap of ‘A Man without Honor’. A most enjoyable read… Thanks 🙂

      So much was happening in this episode. I found it difficult to decide which was my most memorable scene, but one certainly being Arya’s interaction with Tywin and the notable quote you mentioned:

      Tywin – “You’re too smart for your own good. Has anyone told you that?”
      Arya – “Yes.”

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    35. Thank you Jared, great piece!

      It is mind-boggling how good this show is. Whenever I think of season 2 I remember it as my least favorite season. However, reading articles like yours remind me of how great some scenes were that season. I actually loved, episodes 3, 6 and 7, and of course 9.

      In this particular episode I loved Tywin’s and Arya’s interaction, loved Jaimie’s transformation, enjoyed Jon’s and Ygritte’s banters, I was dazzled by Alfie Allen’s acting…

      I have to agree with so many others that perhaps what cast a shadow over season 2 was Daeny’s storyline, which made me roll my eyes every time she came in. I read the books and felt exactly the same at that point of her story, so.

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    36. Sue the Fury:
      Jon Snow’s Curling Iron,

      Doubtful. As mad as the rape makes some people, it’s not a bad scene. It’s actually a very good episode. (Unless you were referring to the nervous part, rather than the weak part? Hmm.)

      If it’s me, I’m calling out “The Bear and the Maiden Fair” as a notably weak episode.

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    37. Maybe Jaime just killed Alton because he didn’t like hearing he was worshiped. It’s not always good to hear that sort of thing. And yes, as many of you point out, he had to be sure that his plan would go right. He’s not going to risk anything.

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    38. Greatjon of Slumber,

      I didn’t much care for that episode either. Also Mockingbird had some weird writing and directing. But, who knows. I’ll doubt we’ll ever know the truth. They’ll probably keep this to themselves out of respect for the director.

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    39. Jon Snow’s Curling Iron,

      Outside of that one weird moment with Rorge and Biter (Rorge just kinda stands there?), I can’t think of anything wrong with Mockingbird.

      As for disappointments, I’m willing to bet The Bear and the Maiden Fair as well. A notably clunky hour in a great season. The Nightlands also springs to mind.

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    40. Jared

      I was unsullied until after season 2 and have read the books twice. This is my first rewatch of all of the seasons. It is thrilling to see all of the little things that tie in to later events. I am appreciating the adaptation even more this time. Thanks for sharing your insights!

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    41. Jared,

      It was a pleasure reading your essay on honour and great characters confrontations. Well done! I think this may be my favourite season 2 episode as well – if nothing makes me change my mind during this memory lane stroll.
      I am glad you also like Jaime, one of my favourite characters, and I enjoyed the way you analyzed his complexity. Looking back, I think this must have been the time when I began to shed my hatred for him, well rooted since the pilot! Jaime’s reflection on vows made me discover something I haven’t seen before and in season 3 I began to like him a lot, although not mistaking him with a knight in shining armour.
      I consider that the Arya-Tywin scenes are some of the best in the series and I was glad to be reminded about the quiet Tyrion-Cersei conversation, so different from their usual ones – for a moment I forgot the hatred between them.

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    42. > Later, she tacitly admits Joffrey’s true parentage to Tyrion, and acknowledges that she has lost control of her son.

      Hasn’t Tyrion been aware of the incest for a while?

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    43. Sue the Fury,

      I always thought it was a shared secret between Tyrion, Jaime and Cersei. Otherwise I don’t think she would’ve admitted it just like that, and if she had, Tyrion would probably have at least tried to act somewhat surprised.

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    44. Sue the Fury,

      I’ll have to disagree about the Sansa rape episode. That scene was well done yes, but episode 6 of Season 5 was literally the most boring episode of the entire show, as far as my memory goes. Literally three things happened: Margaery got arrested, that fight in Dorne happened and Sansa got raped. Probably would have been more interesting if they hadn’t moved Barristan’s death to episode 4.

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    45. Jaime isn’t so clever to think of an elaborate plan to spare Alton’s life and escape. He’s selfish by nature and the first thing that pops into his mind is the only way he’s getting out is if he’s kills his cousin and that’s what he goes with. Also, who is to say the Karstark son will fall for it if Alton is merely playing wounded or dead, and there isn’t a great deal of blood all over the place and he doesn’t look wounded.

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    46. One of my favorite episodes. I’m not a book reader and the ending with the two burnt bodies shocked me, but I didn’t believe that it were Bran and Rickon for the following reasons:

      – I felt that Theon really did care for Bran and Rickon and in his heart would not want to hurt them
      – Bran mentions the bakers boys as they get to that little village
      – We didn’t actually see them capture and burn Bran/Rickon. By this stage in the show, I learned that they’re very comfortable showing people dying so if they don’t actually die on screen, they’re probably not dead.

      But that entire scene with the haunting music and Theon’s look on his face is superb.

      Also loved the dialogue between Jaime and Catelyn. See Jaime open up for the first time a little, how ‘honor’ is a bull**** concept, digs at Cat about Ned bringing Jon home from the war etc. Just a great episode

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    47. I want to thank Sullied by Knight, cosca, Ross, Shy Lady Dragon, Black Raven, GhostCR, Lonely Cat, Oz, Knight of the Walkers, Mr Fixit, Molestown bastard, and everyone else who has commented on this article so far for their very kind words about the piece, and for their thoughts on the episode so far! Writing about “A Man Without Honor” was a lot of fun, and discussing it with you all even more so. Hopefully that discussion can continue, both on this post and future Memory Lanes (I won’t be writing any more of them, but I’ll be commenting as often as I can). 🙂

      Also, thank you again to Sue for inviting me to do this! (I’ve already thanked her several times, but I’ll do so again publicly).

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    48. Mr Fixit,

      Fair enough! I must admit that I wondered if I might be able to sway you a tiny bit after our earlier discussion, but no worries. As I said before, reasonable people can disagree about favorite and least favorite episodes, particularly when there are so many great candidates to choose from!

      I have to say that you’ve got me curious as to why this episode ranks so low for you. Perhaps you’ve given your reasons before and I’m just drawing a blank. If you’ve got the time to share your thoughts and have an interest in doing so, I’d be keen to hear. I promise I won’t try to sway you from your position any more than I already have. 😉

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    49. Jared,

      Let me first point out that in my, some might say cheerleading, attitude towards GoT, there isn’t a single episode I would call bad. So when I say that A Man Without Honor is “my least favorite episode”, I still think it’s a fine installment, just not up there with the rest of them.

      For one, it is a bit too “transitory” for my tastes. Every season has had slower episodes that act as a sort of bridge between more plot- and character-intensive periods, which by itself is no automatic demerit as far as I’m concerned. Quite the contrary, I’m a fan of slower, more intimate approach to storytelling. Here, however, we have the peak of S2 “lazy Susan” tendency to check in pretty much everywhere for a couple of minutes without really committing to any storyline in particular, save one — Jaime’s.

      And truth be told, I’m not a fan of how writers chose to approach Jaime’s escape. Not for any of the more commonly cited reasons (e.g. Jaime would never kill his kin, he’s not a remorseless killer, etc.) but because I feel the whole sequence with him killing Alton and waiting for the guard to cluelessly come in feels contrived and poorly written. Honestly, it’s almost like it came straight out of an 80s action movie (And I like 80s action movies! 🙂 ) Next to the Water Gardens fight, this may well be the show’s most cringeworthy scene, in my opinion of course.

      The resolution to Jon’s and Ygritte’s snowy escapades also don’t do this episode any favors in what is probably the weakest arc in all 5 seasons.

      These two things taken together are what push this otherwise solid hour to the bottom of the list of my favorite GoT episodes.

      Of course, there is still a lot to like here: Arya is stellar as ever, I appreciate the strangeness of Qarth and eerie visuals as Ducksauce and Pyat Pree spring their trap on the unsuspecting Thirteen, while Cersei’s sudden breakdown in front of Tyrion is a welcome and surprising beat in their otherwise antagonistic dynamic.

      Finally, no review of the episode is complete without (once more) pointing out the brilliant work by Alfie Allen — and Ramin Djawadi — as Theon unveils the burnt bodies of the “Stark kids”. I know that some viewers didn’t appreciate the ending as it was pretty obvious that some behind the scenes shenanigans were afoot. To them I say: what of it? As much as the nature of the visual medium works against fake-out deaths, in this case I’d say it worked wonderfully because Nutter’s direction and Djawadi’s score make us fully invested in character reactions — Theon’s lost stare, Luwin’s cries of defeat, even Dagmer’s smirk. The entire scene is every bit about character as it is about plot, which is the way to go if you opt for a fake death.

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    50. Andrew:
      But that entire scene with the haunting music and Theon’s look on his face is superb.

      Yes, oh my gods, that music in the final scene is amazing, and Alfie Allen is giving such a wonderful performance. After the original airing, I rewatched that scene so many times, it’s just magnificently chilling.

      It’s one of my very favorite music cues in the series, alongside the fourth season bookends — the cold opening (Tywin in the firelight of the forge, crescendo into opening credits) and the rare hopefulness of the finale (Arya’s voyage to a new world).

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    51. On that front, a mother has no choice.”
      Gods, this is such a stupid statement. Worse, I almost think that GRRM thinks so in reality. That man has some seriously regressive ideas about motherhood (equally as he apparently has daddy issues, viz. Tyrion and especially Sam).

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    52. Greatjon of Slumber,

      I had to look up “Quaithe” to see who she was. How do some of you remember the names of the actors in even the very minor roles? The character didn’t really leave an impression on me. Not that she’s been given a lot of material to impress with yet! Will she be revealed as the Kinvara character that’s due in season 6?

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    53. Mr Fixit,

      Thanks! I fully agree with your assertion, cheerleading or not, that there really aren’t any bad episodes of Game of Thrones … only ones that don’t quite rise as high in our own personal estimations. For me, the ‘transitory’/’lazy Susan’ tendencies that Season 2 sometimes fell prey to don’t really affect this episode as much as they affect the next one, “The Prince of Winterfell”, in which there are a lot of short check-in scenes and almost every storyline feels like it’s treading water before “Blackwater”. That one, for me, is a bottom-five episode (sandwiched between two great ones in “A Man Without Honor” and “Blackwater”). But as always, there is much to love.

      As you might have guessed from all I’ve written about it, I don’t share the problems that you have with Jaime’s story in this episode – I actually like it a great deal! But I do agree with you that the latter half of Jon’s Season 2 arc (perhaps even his full season arc) is subpar by this show’s high standards. I touched on it yesterday in “The Old Gods and the New” Memory Lane, and probably will again.

      Love your comments on Theon’s final scene, especially the score (Ramin Djawdi is a god, and pretty much above reproach). It’s superb.

      Thanks for your sharing your thoughts! 🙂

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    54. Jared:

      Ramin Djawdi is a god, and pretty much above reproach.

      Ramin Djawadi may be a god, but Bear McCreary — check out his work on Battlestar Galactica — is an entire pantheon of gods (all of them of tits and wine!) in one person. 😉

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