[Warning: Possible spoilers ahead for this episode and any episodes preceding it]
A few words about another addictive installment of Game of Thrones, as I catch up on the show via DVD.
And Then There Were Three
I knew creepy illusion man had Daenerys’ dragons (call it the “evil bald man” stereotype). What I didn’t expect was for him (and his duplicates) to murder twelve of the thirteen rulers of Qarth. Such violent capabilities give way to the question:
Are there other magicians of his kind at the “House of the Undying” tower, where the dragons are being held captive, or are others unnecessary when you can simply multiply yourself into a killing army?
Incidentally, I’ve read some complaints about Emilia Clarke’s acting this season, or more specifically Dany’s whininess, but don’t feel they’re fair. There’s no denying that Daenerys’ storyline (AKA the plot Clarke has to work with) has been seriously hit by the events of “Fire and Blood.” There is a price to be paid for that season finale’s epic closing dragon birth scene and it is being paid now, with season two Dany lacking her expected newborn child, husband Khal Drogo*, and Dothraki kalazaar**.
Daenerys had been fascinating in season one for being dropped into a foreign culture that forced her to acclimate and grow. That foreign culture is gone and she’s floundering a bit at the destruction of her people. Whereas she can’t change the outcomes of those events, she can still retrieve her motherly-void filling dragons. This magician’s provocation is going to force a reaction from her that gives me confidence Dany’s screentime will gain some energy soon. It simply has taken a great blow and had to go through a “dealing with the changes in circumstances” stage. Emilia Clarke is doing just fine as Kahleesi.
* I really thought that death wasn’t going to stick and that he would make one of those magical TV reappearances/recoveries.
** Only Jorah and one Dothraki remain as her protectors after last episode‘s massacre
The Un-Subtle Brewings of Romance
Female love interests have arrived for some of the Stark boys! Of the two new budding couples, I prefer Robb and Talisa, because while it’s outright obvious that the King of the North is smitten with lady nurse, whom he first met coming to the aid of an enemy soldier, he’s holding his own with her. Occasionally awkward, but nothing to the degree of a mess his half-brother turns into while in the presence of his Wildling “prisoner.”
I mean, by Ygritte’s fifth crack at his lack of experience with women we get it- without a balance of snappy comebacks from Jon, these scenes, at least so far, are an overkill display of his being completely out of his depth while in the presence of pretty girls.
If only Sam were there. He could absolutely teach his friend a thing or too about how to act in front of the opposite gender, having been completely charming towards the Wildling he developed a soft spot for in “What is Dead May Never Die.” I also continue to wish that Jon hadn’t gone off on his own in the first place, so eager to prove himself a ranger to the Night’s Watch, when a third wheel during moments like these(being trumped by a girl, being surrounded by Mance Rayder’s men, etc.) would have been quite beneficial to him.
How Not to Escape Imprisonment
While Jon struggles forming words in response to his hostage, Lady Catelyn’s is prepared for everything she throws at him, deflecting and returning her hurtful barbs with stings of his own.
It would seem that Jaime has taken to imprisonment in much the same mouthy fashion as his younger brother, Tyrion.
However, Tyrion used his mind and an ally (Bron) to get out of Lady Lysa’s sky cell at the uncomfortable (but beautifully rendered) location of the Eyrie (season one’s “The Golden Crown“). All of his comments had a purpose beyond letting off steam; rather, by cleverly playing off Stark and Arryn honor he was able to steal his freedom back.
Jaime has no patience for such mind games, and leans on his strength alone to get his freedom back. This means, no matter how flashy his swordplay, he’s stuck in a perpetual state of being outnumbered. His insults are for no endgame beyond the short-term pleasure of infuriating, and only seem to lower his chances of survival. By the end of this episode both he and Cat are aware that, in his present predicament, surrounded by angry drunken soldiers with swords, his likelihood of lasting even the night are slim.
The question remains, as Jaime has to continually accept being thwarted by the Starks in his attempts at freedom, which of his personality traits will take prominence: his will to live, or his pride*** at being stuck in a situation he’s not “suited” for?
*** Can’t wait to have him see Brienne fight, because right now he seems to feel Lady Cat mocks him with a female protector that holds a similar position to the one he held as a member of the King’s Guard.
“It’s A Twin Thing”
As different as Jaime and Tyrion are, there are a lot of similarities to be found between Jaime and Cersei, which are highlighted in this episode’s failed escape sequence. For instance, both twins are capable of transitioning from sincerity to brutality with chilling ease. Jaime genuinely compliments his distant relative squire, yet kills him because, in matters of survival, he’ll always pick the option that equals life. Morality is secondary, justifiably ignored because of the precedence of staying alive.
Where Cersei and Jaime interestingly differ: their degree of loyalty to each other. While Jaime reveals that he has only been intimate with his sister, viewers know that Cersei has felt the need to use their cousin Lancel as a stand-in while her brother is away. With Robert, she was married to the man and had to be with him occasionally. There are no power advantages or social forces that require she be with this boy she has no romantic feelings****.
**** In fact, he’s hurting her by being Tyrion’s (reluctant) spy.
The Queen Gets to Play Nice(r)
No sibling camaraderie of any kind can be said to exist between Tyrion and Cersei, and her constant antagonism against his fan favorite character (particularly throughout season two) has done nothing to help her likability. Yet right when you are ready to sell off a Lannister as completely flawed and despicable (excluding Tyrion, who is always lovable), they appear in a scene that makes you not despise them, that makes them human, rising above the reputation of their house for being purely untrustworthy and self-absorbed.
In season one, such moments took place for Cersei when she revealed how, at first, she did love Robert and wanted to have a proper marriage. The loss of her (black-haired) son, in combination with Robert’s continued torch for Ned Stark’s dead sister, Lyanna, made her turn cold and grow ever closer to her twin sibling, Jaime.
In this episode, though, she lets herself be vulnerable in front of the brother she likes least, and if any doubt exists about the frequency of these revealing conversations between the duo, Tyrion’s expressions of wanting to comfort his sister but not having the faintest clue how proves their rareness. This is a momentously meaningful talk that probably won’t alter their relationship’s status quo of dislike for long, but does reveal even Cersei isn’t blind or excusing of her out of control boy-king son, Joffrey, anymore. Having no one else to talk to where her opinions would not be perceived as weakness or treason, she can at least trust that Tyrion won’t use this particular information against her, because he agrees.
He also understands, without the fact having to be stated directly, that publicly she will continue to stand by her son*****. She makes a more verbal confirmation of this in her advice to future daughter-in-law Sansa, telling her to love only your children. They are an unavoidable attachment, the only people a mother has to protect and, potentially, the only individuals a mother will ever find joy in, whilst everything else in her life turns grim.
Cersei has lived by that creed and will continue to do so, for having revolved her life and happiness around her children, she can’t break habit******. She won’t stop her son’s marriage (it’s in his best interests), only sympathize with his fiancée- relate to her as someone who likewise once dreamed of being queen, only to be hardened by the reality. Personally, her only comfort has ever been her children, and now her daughter’s been sent away for safety purposes and she has a son who is a monster. She’s losing her grip on the people she loves, but in her desperate devotion and lack of anyone else to care about, or care for her*******, she will still never stop protecting and defending them, Joffrey included.
***** It’s bad enough that she recognizes privately that Sansa’s marriage will be worse than hers was with Robert, going so far as to, without hesitation, defend the husband she loathed to Tyrion as a king who at least never enjoyed cruelty, unlike her son, saying that, unlike her son.
****** Not to mention Joffrey has threatened to kill her, his own mother, for less.
******* Outside of her forbidden love towards Jaime, who’s stuck miles away as the Stark’s prisoner of war
~ King’s Landing SIDENOTE ~
I’ve been foggy up to now about my feelings towards Tyrion’s girlfriend (of sorts) Shae, but appreciated her speed to come to Sansa’s aid here in her moment of crisis********, even if it led to naught. Sansa herself has never been the most charming of the Stark children, but Sophie Turner truly makes the role compelling, particularly Sansa’s season two realization that her beloved, adulated royal family is crazy. Everything about the direction her story arc is heading down is scary (her looming marriage to Joffrey, the almost rape scene from the last episode*********) and she has really made King’s Landing a place you want to spend more time in (at least from the safe distance of a sofa, with a television screen in between).
******** “Bleeding” is bad enough without symbolizing “time to get hitched to a mad king and have his kids.”
********* Speaking of: the Hound won’t accept Sansa’s “thanks,” preferring to act like nothing out of the ordinary happened, but in reality he stepped away from his duties as Joffrey’s “dog” to save her from those men. The Hound isn’t exactly known for such heroics (can’t forget Arya’s friend, the butcher boy, from season one’s “The Kingsroad“). He follows orders, and while Joffrey wasn’t in any imminent danger when he stepped away, he left his charge alone during a riot where he was the prime target. The Hound showed a soft spot for another and can’t, or won’t, recognize that after the fact.
Arya (enough said)
To both the credit of the character as written by George R. R. Martin, and the charms of actress, Maisie Williams, every Arya Stark scene is gold. That wonderfulness rubs off on the characters Arya interacts with as well, meaning Gendry and Jaquen are missed this week, but Tywin continues to shine in a new, more flattering light due to his extremely fair treatment of an “unknown servant girl”. Indeed, considering his relationships with his own damaged children, his kindness towards a stranger is extremely suspicious, and unlikely.
After all, he always spots the holes and irregularities in her fake back story and even left his guard down long enough so that Arya could steal a paper containing war information last episode (though her plan to send the information to Robb fell awry). Either he knows her identity********** and finds her lies amusing, or he truly is completely charmed by her aptitude at cleverness and wit***********.
********** …from Littlefinger figuring it out last episode or his own deciphering
*********** The same words could be used to describe his biological son Tyrion, but Tywin hates him for being a dwarf and the “cause” of his wife’s death in childbirth.
I’m almost done the first brilliant book of George R. R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire series (don’t want to read ahead of the show but thought there’d be no harm in reading up to the events I’ve already seen) but please, NO book or television show spoilers in the comments below.
Thoughts on this episode (like how doomed Theon Greyjoy is, or how awesome a runaway party two direwolfs, two Starks, a Wildling, and Hodor make), the episodes preceding it, and anything I’ve said in this review are fair game and welcome!
– Game of Thrones screencaps from here