Halfway through Season 3. This season is flying by. After this, things should ratchet up fast for all the characters involved in this tale. This episode pushed the story while giving us various methods of judging others. Judgment speaks to more than just a verdict. It’s about having a keenness; an insight into the truth of things. It’s wisdom gained from both experience and intuition. Think of the Biblical example of Solomon and the two mothers and Solomon’s ability to discern how the real mother would react to his statement. Tonight’s episode gave us various versions of judgment.
Trials by combat are ancient traditions on which the idea that a man’s innocence or guilt would be left in the hands of a divine/superior power which knew the truth of things (We still think of this mindset when we see a fouled basketball player miss a free throw and go “Ball don’t lie.”) Leaving the innocence of one such as The Hound in the hands of the Lord of Light may have seem cruel given what we know of his pyro phobia. His ability to emerge victorious would seem to point to his innocence regarding the murder of Arya’s friend in Season 1. But how can this be if we know he did kill him? Maybe the Lord of Light is a lousy judge. Then again, he did bring back Ser Beric Dondarrion from death and has been doing so on various occasions.
In the Frozen North, Jon Snow’s loyalties to the wildlings were tested by Tormund Giantsbane. His knowledge of The Wall and of the strength of the Night’s Watch guarding it. Questions to which Tormund knows much of the truth. But the point was to see if Jon would speak truth or lie to cover his falsehood. Tormund did not see through Jon’s lies, but Ygritte did. Taking him aside into a cave, she exposes herself and forces him to abandon his vows as a Sworn Brother. Her thinking is that if he breaks his oaths, he will finally choose her side. She also proposes that they stay in that cave and abandon their various causes – the second time a major character in this story has been proposed such an out by a lover. If only they heeded the emergency alarm and bailed out to lives of happiness.
Likewise Arya loses the last of her band when Gendry opts to remain with the Brotherhood Without Banners. Arya, her innocence still present, lacks the intuition to foresee the life that Gendry would have under her brother, King Robb. As Gendry tells her, he’d be another smith under the yoke of another master; who could command him where to go and what to do and who to fight. Arya begins to awaken to the realities of Westeros. Her position and name give her protection, but only as long as people are willing to play by the rules. And in Westeros, rich hostages get ransomed while the poor are slaved, tortured or killed.
It’s a truth that her sister will awaken to shortly. As Sansa dreams of marriage to the fair-haired Ser Loras, he was busy getting busy with a spy for Baelish and spilling the secrets of the Tyrell conspiracy out. As a result, Lord Tywin plots to outmaneuver his new allies by marrying Sansa off to Tyrion. This would make Tyrion the Lord Protector of the North if and when the Lannisters win the war and Robb is deposed. For the usually jovial and self-assured Tyrion, it speaks to his character that he takes this idea sourly. The idea of marrying poor, abused, lonely Sansa Stark is beyond cruel. His father clearly doesn’t care – his demand that Cersei marry the half-her-age and not-interested-in-her-sex Loras Tyrell proves that point. His children fail his judgment. They are a source of disappointment and of contempt.
The one son that Tywin has any care for is his heir, Jaime. He is finally presented before Lord Roose Bolton and has his stump taken care of medically before joining Brienne for a bath. There, in the warm waters of the Harrenhal baths, he finally reveals what happened the night he killed the king he was sworn to defend unto his own death. The Mad King was set to burn King’s Landing with the caches of wildfire he had commanded stored throughout the city. But not in a bid to deny the rebel forces the capital city. It was a mad desperate gamble into turning himself into a dragon – the souls of the people of King’s Landing and the Lannister army sacrificed to the gods in the exchange. Jaime judged rightly that the King should not be allowed to go along with it. So he killed him. And had any other man but Ned Stark come through the doors of the throne room afterwards, he might have been spared his infamous moniker. But it was Ned Stark – the noble, unyielding Ned Stark – and he saw a Knight of the Kingsguard standing over the dead body of the king he had just butchered. Ned judged Jaime on sight of having betrayed his oath and dubbed him “Kingslayer”; a name with which he has lived ever since.
That same hard, unyielding vision of Ned Stark appears to have passed onto his son, Robb. However, it seems as if the King in the North lacked the insight to see the powder keg that he has been sitting on ever since his mother released Jaime Lannister. The rage of Lord Karstark over the murder of his sons and the freeing of their killer finally spills over and he and his men butcher two young Lannister squires. Robb needs the men under the direct command of Lord Karsark – nearly half of his army. But as Lord Karstark so rightfully spits at him, he cannot just scold him and send him back. Nor can he keep him a hostage to force his men to remain. Karstark has just murdered two high-born prisoners that were under his protection as King. If he cannot protect prisoners under his roof, is he a king?
So he’s forced to bring judgment down on Lord Karstark, literally. And just as his father took the head of a condemned man, so now his son does the same. The difference is that the hard judgment of Ned Stark cost him nothing. Robb’s judgment costs him dearly and forces him into considering an alliance with a man he has already wronged: Lord Walder Frey. He needs the army at the Twins to march on Casterly Rock in order to keep his dwindling hopes of victory alive.
Stannis Baratheon could likely sympathize with Robb’s dilemma. He’s stewing about his losses on Dragonstone and seeks out his crazy wife and the stillborns she keeps in pickled jars. (Honestly, if you ever wanted a visual to clue the audience as to a person’s craziness, pickled stillborns is a pretty good one to pick). He also visits his daughter, Shireen, who suffers from greyscale (think leprosy). It was always thought by the ancients that illnesses suffered by children were the recompense the gods would give to the unrighteous. It’s what Tywin has said on several occasions about Tyrion and his stature. This is why Shireen is kept away from everyone save her parents and a few, key confidants, like Ser Davos.
But a child’s judgment is often unclouded by pettiness or the demands to see yourself as something you’re not. She visits Ser Davos upon learning of his imprisonment and brings him something to read. When he reveals his illiteracy, she takes it upon herself to begin the task of teaching him how to read. She sees what her father and mother and even Lady Melissandre cannot – that Davos is a good man and loyal to her father’s cause. If only others had her ability to see truths like she does then they’d have the ability to pass judgment on others in far better fashion.