Game of Thrones Season 2 Episode 2: “The Night Lands”

As with last week, here be spoilers, move at your peril. I’ve tried not to be too spoilery looking forward, so, like, yes, okay. If you’ve not read ahead this should be ABSOLUTELY FINE. If you haven’t seen the episode BACK THE HECK UP.

I’ve always been terrible at reviewing television shows and films so, as with last week, here’s some geeky reaction to Game of Thrones that has no logic to it, just RESPONSE. I didn’t mean for this to be a weekly thing but it might as well be because I have FEELINGS and I must THROW MY FEELINGS around like GEEKY CONFETTI of OMG and WHUT. This will totally be the case next week because omfg did you see that teaser for next week? I had FEELINGS from the teaser alone. I’ve added it at the bottom of this post. Dear god I love all this. Never been a better time to be a geek.*

Let’s get this out of the way; welcome to episode 2 (or 12 if you do things properly), which has much less going on than the season opener. It’s solid and totally above-average television in its own right, but in comparison to other episodes, it feels quite slow and weighty, like an over-filled ship limping along and dragging a lot of meaning along without managing the speed it had earlier. It definitely isn’t bad though – it’s one of those episodes so densely packed it’s easy to dismiss as an hour of tv entertainment but once taken apart and examined it proves the skill of the writers, the directors and (obviously) the actors.

So hey, here’s my reactions to each scene, because I’m ill and can’t craft my response into a cohesive whole. (If you want a cohesive whole just imagine me doing a thumbs up while wearing my GoT jumper, that’s pretty much it.)

– Arya peeing. Being a girl. WELCOME BACK ARYA, O ADORABLE ONE.

– JAQEN I love Jaqen. Let him out of that dang cage. So relaxed, so cool, so calm. And then Gendry. GENDRY. ❤ This plays perfectly, the actors are sublime, and I’m completely fine with how it’s been condensed from the book as needed for the sake of simplification. Yoren is kickass, “I could shave a spider’s arse if I wanted to.” Varys has no hair, I wouldn’t worry.

– SPEAKING OF. I love you Tyrion but Varys is sublime. I never pictured him being even slightly as fantastic as this while reading the books the first time round, and this excellent character has become a favourite in my re-read. Also, FISH PIE. Quite possibly the finest exchange of the entire episode. And get a load of the gentle sinister undertones from the eunuch; Varys is king of that. KING. “I am not Ned Stark. I understand the way this game is played.” My favourite scenes are these talky ones where lines are drawn in the sand, not so much about politics, but about their characters. It’s so skillfuly done, and every sentence is about two or three things at once, especially when Varys or Tyrion are in the room. Together they make the best talky scene cocktail and the conversation is so multilayered it would be bewildering with lesser actors or direction. “The big fish eat the little fish, and I keep on paddling.” Yesssss. Long may you swim, Varys.

“You’ve perfected the art of tearing up papers”. No wonder Cersei hates Tyrion so much – no one else other than Jaime makes fun of her. Even her own son, the king, just bypasses her completely and belittles her otherwise. She clearly hates being laughed at. I suppose she also hates that Tyrion doesn’t even want power and yet has been handed it by their father, of all people, and it’s already clear that he’s better with it than she is. There’s a hint of embarrassment around the Council when Cersei asks about Jaime too – brilliantly played.

– Dolorous Edd owns every scene he’s in. OWNS. “We were having a serious discussion.” So glad they kept him in. Definite highlight of the books.

– Cassie from Skins is cast so well here, though she’s not given much to do. I love the echoes of future tensions in the exchange between Sam and Jon. Sam’s marvellous in the show, though I find him quite frustrating to read in the books. As emo as Jon Snow gets I can’t help but fancy Kit Harington because he’s just lovely. Sorry, I have no insights here. Sharpening his sword, indeed.

– I LOVE YOU IAIN GLEN seriously, I had to watch this scene twice the first time because I wasn’t concentrating due to him and his amazingly sexy voice. I have had a lot of sugar today. But ugh the man could just read the phone book out loud and nine months later there’d be babies everywhere, that’s how good his voice is.

– I am so annoyed about Rakharo, so impressed with the Irri actress, and found this scene actually a bit heartbreaking (yes hello welcome to Game of Thrones where people die in every episode and your heart gets broken a bit every time and so each episode can go from “a little heartbreaking” to “quite heartbreaking” to “NOT THE BABY” to “NEDDDDDD!!!!!“). And Emilia Clarke can’t possibly be this awesome all the time. It’s just unfair.

– I feel like I’m the only person who doesn’t mind Ros, she’s a decent enough creation, but it’s incredibly frustrating that they’re clearly going to have her instead of Chataya and Alayaya, the fabulous Summer Islanders. I understand it on the basis of needing to simplify things for screen but they would have been a lovely addition and would have served to flesh out the world a little more (so to speak). And this scene with Littlefinger is a bit useless given that we know he’s a shady type already. TRUST HIM AT YOUR PERIL. Yes, we get it, we got it at the end of the last season, and we got it last week in his Cersei confrontation, so this… doesn’t do very much.

– HELLO PODRICK!

– Might get a t-shirt printed up that just says “TYRION ROCKS”. Suh. Blime. And then there’s Bronn as well. Egads. Another shortcut I’m fine with, giving Bronn a position – I assume Shae’s going to be Sansa’s maid as well, just to further simplify things. It makes sense. “If I told you to murder an infant girl, say, still at her mother’s breast, would you do it without question?” Bronn cheers me up while still being a complete asshole of a sellsword, it’s quite impressive.

“I say we yield!” says Lommy, first thing. OKAY, LOMMY.

– This whole exchange between Arya, Lommy, Hot Pie and Gendry is brilliant, and my favourite of the episode because it’s funny and light and dark as well and OH GENDRY. “You shouldn’t insult people then are bigger than you.” “Then I wouldn’t get to insult anyone!” I’m not too happy about how much this has been condensed down, but it’s something that would have to be judged in the context of the series. It changes Arya’s established relationship with Gendry and happens only when she knows she can trust him – it’s well done here, so well done, but, but. “Well, that was unladylike!” They’re so charming it provides a nice counterpoint to the politicking and grimness elsewhere. Also, Arya/Gendry in ten years, yes yes yes. I ship that so much.

– UGH THEON *spits* Pyke is perfection though. It’s basically Cornwall but savage. Annoyed that they changed Asha to Yara, but okay; more annoyed that they took the knowing humour from her. Instead of taking the piss out of him it looks a bit like she’s just enjoying it, allowing it. I really enjoyed her trolling in the book. Balon is absolutely pitch perfect and yes, I felt a glimmer of sympathy for Theon for being the fish out of water both in the North and the Iron Islands, but good lord that boy is such a tosser. I just spent this scene admiring Balon’s grit and Yara’s smugface.

“What is the world coming to when smugglers must vouch for the honour of kings?” “Sallador Saan is a good name for songs!” I like you, Sallador Saan.

– Pentoshi cheesemongers! Who COULD Davos be referring to? I WONDER.

“Stannis is my king, but he’s only a man.” “Don’t tell him that!”

– Tyrion vs. Cersei, again – only this time she deploys underhand tactics to win the confrontation. The murder of the bastards wrongfoots her and so she retaliates. “I don’t care what you think!” Cersei shouts, when she clearly does. She’s such a horrible person, and I love to hate her, but the person she’s become is weirdly understandable. I feel sympathetic for her even as I loathe her (and Lena Headey is good, so so good, even in a one-to-one with Dinklage she holds her own).

– Wins a prize for the most uncomfortable sex scene (seriously, if you’ve ever stepped on a lego, can you imagine lying on that table?!). Melisandre is kick-ass, and I dislike her and find her mesmerizing at the same time. Stannis is so excellently repressed as well. OH, ACTORS, I LOVE YOU ALL. Even if I imagined Stannis bigger and Mel younger, they’re so perfect I don’t care.

– It feels like they’re ripping through some storylines and moving at a glacial pace (erm, yes) with others. It’s not entirely mysterious as to what’s happening to Craster’s male children, surely? Feels like an abrupt, weird place to end the episode. And oddly out of character for Jon, actually. Did he not listen to Mormont last week? No, clearly he didn’t. Oh wait. “Learn to follow”. Guess he did, then.

Obviously the over-arching themes would be to do with gender and power but that’s ALWAYS there, so I don’t know how these strands are bound together, especially since Sansa and Cat don’t appear – given their positions, they’d fit into that theme perfectly. If it’s about who’s fit to rule, why aren’t Renly, Joffrey and Robb involved? It’s really an installment episode, there to colour things in a bit more, illustrate the characters some more, back up the politics, fractures and factions some. As usual it’s a strong episode with some brilliant lines but it never really manages to escape the pull of its own gravity; on a character-by-character basis it’s great, looks amazing and it satisfies, but as I said above, it doesn’t make for the most amazing entertainment.

I’m dead eager to get to next week because Renly and Loras are making a return and we get more GENDRY ❤ and omfg WHEN IS IT TIME FOR BRIENNE.

* I typed all this wearing my House Stark “Winter Is Coming” hoody. I wore it earlier this week when someone on another tube platform shouted “A LANNISTER ALWAYS PAYS HIS DEBTS” and we shared a thumbs up before a train pulled in and ruined a fine, fine moment of mutual geekery.

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One thought on “Game of Thrones Season 2 Episode 2: “The Night Lands”

  1. Mary @ Book Swarm

    Fabulous review/synopsis! God, I love this series so flippin’ much and don’t have anyone in real life I can geek out with about it so online I go. LOVE that someone shouted, ‘A Lannister always pays his debts” to you. A definingly geeky moment.

    Hey, GoT, more Arya and Tyrion, please!

    Reply

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