Writer Bryan Cogman knows his stuff. The title of his episode, “Kissed by Fire,” is the Wildling term which describes Ygritte and other Wildlings with red hair. Given their comparative rarity, this is seen as a sort of blessing and therefore those born with it are considered lucky. Apart from the inevitable consumation of her relationship with Jon Snow, however, Ygritte barely contributes to this episode. Instead, luck is the lady this episode, and Cogman explores the ways in which our entire cast of characters, regardless of hair color, may or may not have been “kissed by fire.” In a world so harsh and with as many variables, who is born with a fair share of luck? Who has been blessed by the gods and tapped for success?
Not everyone who deserves it, that’s for sure. For all that Beric charges with the Flaming Sword of the Lord of Light, the Hound is the one truly kissed by fire and he wins his duel, earning his right to walk free of divine judgment (for now). Arya’s rage at this unfairness is painful to watch and can only contribute to this poor girl becoming more and more cynical. Although he loses the battle, Beric himself also enjoys divine (or demonic) blessing, as Thoros, praying to the Lord of Light, resurrects him for something like the fifth time. Is this a blessing, however, or something more sinister? Beric says that he wouldn’t wish his kind of life on anyone; That every time he returns, he comes back a “little bit less.” It’s chilling to realize how desperate and hopeless Aryan has become when she admits that any life is better than no life, and wishes that her father could be summond back by magic as well. “Could you bring back someone without a head?” she asks. Though poor old Ned will not be returning, the show is priming us to begin thinking about whether to be dragged back to life after a physical trauma would indeed be worth it.
The leader of Dany’s new army of Unsullied, a soldier called Grey Worm, also draws the notion of luck to our attention. Dany wrinkles her nose in disgust, both at the horror of the Unsullied being given slave names and the unsavoriness of the name itself, but Grey Worm insists that she (and we) shift our perspective. His name, he explains, is lucky because it was under this name that he was freed by Queen Daenerys Stormborn. To reject that name would be to forsake the circumstances under which deliverance came. Despite the apparently distasteful nature of the name, Grey Worm knows when to trust in fate and his own good fortune. It brings up an interesting question: Can apparent misfortune be blessing in disguise? For anyone wise enough to recognize it, it seems that luck works in unexpected ways.
Of course, our story is lousy with unlucky people, as well. The Baratheon ladies are probably better off without Daddy Stannis, but they’ve got plenty of issues of their own. His wife Selyse keeps her stillborn fetuses pickled, and seems to want nothing more than that he should show his zealous devotion to the Lord of Light by keeping Melisandre as his mistress. Meanwhile his sweet but creepy and criminally neglected daughter Shireen was became disfigured after a childhood illness and was born with these two for parents. Talk about unlucky. Her love for the Onion Knight was touching, and like other unlucky but resourceful characters in the story, she seems determined to make the most of her limited lot in life.
No one, however, can rival the King of Bad Luck that is Tyrion Lannister. He’s been stripped of his role as the King’s Hand, a job for which he was perfect. He’s made to live under the thumb of his awful father and sister. He has to hide his relationship with Shae, which is actually a comparatively loving and healthy one. There are the obvious physical limitations with which he’s lived his whole life. His sister tried to have him assassinated. More recently, he’s been made the treasurer causing him to have to wrestle with Littlefinger’s dirty accounting and find funds for an extravagant and overly-expensive royal wedding. Now, as the crowning jewel, his father plans to wed him to the teenage Sansa Stark to smooth a political wrinkle. The look on his face, when he realizes the latest in a long line of humiliations, was priceless. The beating which Tyrion, the most likable character in story, takes week after week is just incredible, and Dinklage is always fantastic at showing just the right blend of anger and bemusement. He is both outraged at his own mistreatment and completely unsurprised. Even more enjoyable for the audience is Cersei’s transition from smug conspirator, snickering at her brother, to the petulant child she really is. Tyrion and Cersei seeth with rage as their tyrannical father stalks away, and the silent tension is palpable. These scenes where no one speaks their mind, all aware of how carefully they must tread, are what make this show so compulsively watchable.