Well hells you guys. I don’t think this is spoilery but I do allude to things that happen in the books so if you haven’t read at least as far as A Storm Of Swords I want you to take a good, hard look at yourself and then come back later when you have. Or if you’re not bothered about the books, that’s just peachy.
So basically this extremely strong episode was all the trolls trollin’, the bitches bitchin’ and cock blockin’ on a grand old scale. In other words; power, power, power, who’s got it, who wants it, and who’s just lost it.
The most important scene thematically is one between Varys and Tyrion, and it’s a scene I’ve been hungering for since the trailer; a discussion towards the end of the episode all about power, a riddle posed in the book that says everything about the power struggles in Westeros and the various approaches taken by the players of the game. A rich man, a holy man and a king are in a room with a sellsword, and each bid the sellsword kill the other two. Who does the sellsword obey? Who indeed. There’s no answer to this riddle, which is why Tyrion declares that he’s lost his taste for riddles, but it’s a juicy scene acted with delectable skill by two of my favourites. It’s a response to Tyrion’s trolling of the other whisper-mongers and spies in this episode, but it’s really about everyone in every part of the world of Game of Thrones, from Daenerys across the sea (who is understandably benched this episode, seeing as they’re still wading through a desert over there) to Robb (also benched) to Cersei and everyone, really. There’s no easy answer.
Shall I break this response down? Oh yes I do believe I shall.
– “Like it or not, we need men like Craster!” Forced to play nice with a complete asshole of a man because they need his shelter. Mormont’s wrong, they don’t need men like Craster. They need what he can give. Doesn’t feel like Jon Snow really featured in this episode except to round off last week’s cliffhanger. All he had to do was be appalled at an appalling thing. Yawn.
– Now I like Sam, as tedious as his PoVs in the books can sometimes be. Here he’s giving what little comfort is in his power to give, and it’s a thimble. It’s cute. His fantastically happy grin when Gilly takes the thimble is entirely too adorable, it really is.
– Hodor has a connection with Summer, no? It’s almost a greeting when he sees the wolf, as if he knows Bran’s inside him. And check out Maester Luwin’s craving for “hidden powers” as a child – if only he knew Bran’s future! “Maybe magic once was a mighty force in the world, but not any more. The dragons are gone, giants are dead, and the Children of the Forest forgotten.” Dude.
– This whole episode is full of references back to the first episode of this second series, from the bout at Renly’s camp that introduces Brienne to Cersei’s “power is power” confrontation with Littlefinger. Here, in Renly, is a kinder, gentler king than that tremendous little shit Joffrey, as there’s no blood spilled in this match where someone died – and Ser Dontos was nearly killed – at Joffrey’s court. Here we get something closer to the chivalry that Sansa craves. And we also get Margaery, who KICKS ASS. In a non-violent way, obv. I love how into the fighting Margaery is and the gasps as Brienne removes her helm and how dour Cat is at Renly’s host’s frivolities and his sincerity as Renly promises Cat that he’ll avenge Ned’s death.
– Loras’ jealous face. Yeah, boy, you were beaten by a girl. Suck it uuuuppppp.
– Brienne vs Cat: “And you should kneel when you approach the king.” Cat vs Loras: “My son is fighting a war, not playing at one!” Basically, one big Cat fight. Renly: “Our war is just beginning.” Oh, babes, you don’t even know.
– OH BRIENNE. I bow to Gwendoline Christie’s fantastic depiction of one of my favourite characters in fiction. As a 6ft 1 girl the minute Brienne appeared in the series I was enamoured and I can’t wait to see more of her in this role, it was exactly what I wanted. She’s my new hero. A hero playing one of my heroes, I am in such a good fan space now. “And, if it please you, Brienne’s enough. I’m no ‘lady’.”
– Renly’s “praying”. OH, YES?
– Bloody Theon. I even feel sorry for him now, which only happened in the books in A Dance With Dragons. They’re running ahead of themselves but it makes sense on a book scale. Yara’s great but I miss her trolling tendencies; there needs to be more humour in her. That’s more a comment on the writing than the actress. Balon Greyjoy, meanwhile, is far too perfectly cast. I can’t even process it. He’s the Westeros version of Denethor! “You give her thirty and I get one?” “The Sea Bitch. We thought she’d be perfect for you.” It’s curious just how much Balon hates and is frustrated by Theon; he’s a reminder of how he had to bend knee once before. He’s staring his own past failure in the face. “You gave me away, your boy, your last boy!” The Greyjoys are all about pride.
– Shae’s a whiny one this episode. She gets to throw a tantrum! “Every man who’s tasted my cooking has told me what a good whore I am.” She’s a whore, but she’s still got airs as much as any noble born lady. Remember “I am not a kitchen wench!” because this is going to be important for another character coming up right about…
– Oh my poor darling Sansa. You can see her processing her situation, reacting as perfectly as she can. She’s learning from Cersei. Not learning to be Cersei, but learning how to assert herself and how to react to cues and keep as much of herself and her power as possible. Perfect acting. “Is Joffrey going to kill Sansa’s brother?” “He might. Would you like that?” “No. I don’t think so.” “Even if he does, Sansa will do her duty. Won’t you, little dove?” Completely out of her depth, she’s floundering, seeking footing, and almost finding it; she’s got no identity save as a Stark, a daughter of Winterfell, yet she’s far away from anyone and everyone who knows her, and her only power is in her own hands. And Tommen is such a little prince, so soft compared to Joffrey (another one benched, but for very good reason, considering next week’s episode). I love how carefully they’re building up Sansa’s soft, quiet hatred of Cersei. She’s terrified, absolutely beside herself with fear, but that hatred is totally there.
– Sansa staring into her mirror, her face a blur in a reflection of nothing.
– I love this scene with Shae. Shae, as we’ve seen, thinks she’s above everyone else; Sansa knows it, because she’s been brought up to believe it, and so obviously they’re going to clash. It’s marvellous and although it’s a big departure from the book (Lollys is gone) it’s really well thought out. Shae’s so full of attitude for someone supposed to blend in! Sansa’s doing all she can to keep all the power she’s been left with – that over her servants. She’s scrabbling for control over something, someone, and it just so happens that the only person she can assert herself over is Shae, who considers herself better than this situation she’s been put into. Two characters who can’t get themselves out of their current predicaments, and they’re hardly two characters who’d ever get along. Can’t wait for more scenes between them. I loved Sansa here, I bet she’s going to come in for some flack from that distant troglodyte corner of the internet that can’t stand girls being girls. Yes, Sansa’s bitchy, but she’s giving as good as she’s getting, and she’s so close to having a nervous breakdown you can see it in her eyes. “Do you want me to leave?” Sansa may dislike Shae as much as Shae dislikes her, but she’s desperate for company. Just look at those tears in her eyes. JUST LOOK AT THEM.
– If I see even one comment of the “Sansa deserves it” with regard to next episode’s events I am going to get so angry the Hulk will resign from the Avengers and beg them to take me on, I SWEARS.
– Tyrion is so skilled with his epic trolling. I know, I keep saying it, but no other phrase comes close. Brilliantly done.
– Loras and Renly are beeeaaauuutiful together. “You’re jealous!” “Jealous? Of Brienne the Beauty? Don’t make me laugh.” And there goes Loras with his cock blocking, because apparently you aren’t allowed to see men’s dangly bits in Westeros. Oh it’s frustrating. Also I wanted them to be the Rainbow Guard 😦 what happened there, was it too obvious HBO?
– Margaery is wicked, wicked cool, and it’s awesome that they’ve made her a player of the game so early in the series. This is the sort of lady Sansa can learn from. Natalie Dormer is a wonderful bit of casting – this whole series needs to win big time for the casting. “Or I can turn over and you can pretend I’m him?” AWW he’s so embarrassed, I wish he weren’t. “Your enemies aren’t happy about us. They want to tear us apart, and the best way to stop them is to put your baby in my belly.” She’s so into the game she’s not above suggesting a threesome! Totally a force to be reckoned with – she, unlike Cersei, can back up her power with real political acumen, from the look of things so far. It helps having the force of Highgarden behind you.
– Cersei is obsessed with paper. Obsessed. If she’s not ripping it she’s belittling other people for having it to hide behind. She’s so desperate for the upper hand she’s basically just a school bully clutching at every little thing she can hold over someone’s head, which makes her both desperately weak and terribly dangerous; paper is effectively a sign of legality in Westeros and we’ve literally seen her tear through all sorts of writing. Words are wind, is the saying that crops up in later books. In Cersei’s hands, words aren’t even that. “Power is power” indeed. She trusts steel over ink, which is where Tyrion has the edge on her, if only she’d stop fancying herself the femme Tywin and see it. Here, Tyrion’s gone behind her back with regard to marrying Myrcella off, and Cersei is so angry she lashes out at Tyrion because her words fail her. “It’s done, Cers. You can’t stop it.” She has problems both with spoken words and words on paper.
– Speaking of words, Theon burns his words to Robb, warning him of the impending assault on Deepwood Motte, signifying the end of his time as a hostage to the Starks. He burns his connection to the family. It’s so sad. I don’t want to like him because he’s horrible but all he wants is to belong somewhere, but he doesn’t belong anywhere, as he’s going to find out. Poor bb. And what is consumed by fire is signified with water as he’s “drowned” in a baptism to the Drowned God by Aeron Damphair. Oooh clever work there writers. Clever. “What is dead may never die, but rises again, harder, and stronger.” Well, there’s a thought that might give him some comfort in future.
– Hmmm Tyrion. I do wonder if they’re going to make the release of Jaime a Lannister/King’s Landing plot instead of a calculated move by Cat. Interesting, can’t say I’m entirely in favour of it but as ever with this series, it’s not something that can be judged ahead of time.
– Tyrion’s game gives him a victory over hoary old Pycelle. “Cut off his manhood, and feed it to the goats!” “There are no goats, halfman!” “Then make do!” And what a prize he gets, the near-admission that Pycelle stepped aside to let Jon Arryn die. The coins for the prostitute are a nice touch. “For your trouble.”
– “Well played, my lord Hand.” I’d like this as a gif already. Scene made entirely of win and stitched through with genius, I mentioned this above, with the riddle. It’s appalling how good it is. Debate away, my friends. “When Ned Stark lost his head, who was truly responsible?” We have a nice array of violent wielders of power in Westeros, as well as the Five Kings, and such a mess of people who adhere to one side or the other. The religious aspect is far quieter than the rest of it until A Feast For Crows, so I’m not surprised that it’s mostly passed over here. But it’s such a nice little discussion. “Power resides where men believe it resides. It’s a trick. A shadow on the wall. And a very small man can cast a very large shadow.” One wonders how this would play out when Melisandre and Stannis are taken into account. A shadow on the wall indeed.
– “I close my eyes and I see them up there. All of them. Standing there. Joffrey, the queen, and… and my sister.” It eerily echoes Arya’s prayer, which is so beautifully planted by Yoren’s story of revenge. It’s heartbreaking. Maisie is such a sweetheart, her eyes are so expressive. Wonderful scene and so sad. Yoren’s fantastic here. Should have rung alarm bells. How often do you hear something like that from someone who sticks around? Not often.
– Alas, poor Yoren… he kicked ass, at the end. Loved how he died sitting up, and had to be knocked to the ground. Badass of the episode, no doubt. “I’ve always hated crossbows. Take too long TO LOAD!” *YOREN SMASH*
– WHY DIDN’T HOT PIE SHOUT HOT PIE. He yields instead. Okay.
– It’s weird how condensed Arya’s storyline is. They’ve cut out quite a bit, including poor little Weasel, but that’s understandable considering the time and budgetry constraints. MOAR GENDRY PLEASE! Also, hurrah Jaqen! The added grimness of Lommy being killed with Arya’s own Needle is wickedly cruel, I do thoroughly approve of that, and Arya’s quick-thinking when it came to Gendry’s helmet next to Lommy’s corpse. That considering, wary look Gendry shot her when she started speaking was fab.
And next week:
Look! We’re back playing with the kings and queens again!