Game of thrones S2E5 review
|REVIEWS - TV|
Game Of Thrones decides to clean up its act, in an episode with more than one shock for non-readers of the books...
"The Ghost of Harrenhal"
I’m getting déjà vu. Much like in the first season, Game of Thrones took a while to get into its stride, the first half of the season being primarily set up, things only really starting to get interesting around the half-way mark. Season two seems to be doing the same. That said, as good a piece of television as this hour of Game of Thrones was, there were several noticeable discrepancies between the show and the books.
This episode wasted no time, immediately opening with Renly’s death. I have to confess some disappointment with the execution of the scene, though – there was very little subtlety involved here, and as I said last week, the shadow being given human form is a lot more blatant than I’d expected, even more so now that the shadow was in the shape of Stannis. The sound effects and gust of wind that came just before the shadow were dangerously clichéd. Further, in the books Renly’s death is almost instant, as if cleaved in two rather than cored through the heart, choking and sputtering blood. Brienne killing two of the Rainbow Guard was another discrepancy not in the books – it was actually Loras Tyrell who did this in a fit of rage at the guards for failing to capture Brienne. In the books Loras blames Brienne for Renly’s death, even if she were not the one holding the blade, whereas here he is telling us he doesn’t believe Brienne is responsible.
"There was a very welcome lack of nudity this week"
I can’t understand the writers’ reasons for changing these things - small details, for sure, but they definitely felt too obvious in their delivery and against the finer points of the books. On the upside, it was nice to see Gwendoline Christie very capably butchering two of her fellow knights, though again, somewhat out of character and cannon. Her vow to Catelyn was similarly clichéd and cheesy, though not out of sync with Brienne’s idealistic, honour-bound character.
Audiences often conjure images of graphic violence and nudity when they think of Game of Thrones, but that’s never been what makes the series stand out – in fact, there was a very welcome lack of nudity this week. This episode’s best moment came from the same place it does every week – character interaction, and the scene between Tywin and Arya is easily the stand-out moment. I can’t praise Charles Dance enough, but Maisie Williams is doing a hell of a job acting here too and certainly has no problem holding the audience’s attention just as much as Dance in their scene together. Maisie is doing a great job of conveying just how much Arya has changed and matured since witnessing Ned’s death. Her reciting of the stories the Northerners tell about Robb, his moniker The Young Wolf, his supposed ability to warg into a direwolf himself show just how strong Robb has become – the stories may be ridiculous but there’s already an air of legend about her brother that’s threatening to collapse under its own weight. As Arya tells the story you can see something like the childlike belief creeping back into her and the faith she might dare to have in the stories about her brother; then Tywin asks her if she believes the stories and we get one of the most heartbreaking lines in the series so far “No. Anyone can be killed.” Something is broken in Arya now, something that will never be repaired and the dead-eyed way Maisie delivered that line conveyed the extent of her journey brilliantly.
"Dagmer Cleftjaw, played by Chris from The Office. That was a moment to take you out of the show if ever there was one"
The Night’s Watch continue to trudge through leagues and leagues of snow, and while the landscape and cinematography are beautiful to behold, the lack of story is beginning to wear away at Jon’s plotline. Thankfully the introduction of Qhorin Halfhand is the signal we’ve been waiting for that things are about to get interesting for Lord Snow, and much like Dany, the bulk of Jon’s arc this season is yet to come. Speaking of Dany, not a whole lot happened with her – sure, there was a marriage proposal, a Voldemort-lookalike showing parlour tricks, a masked prophet and a confrontational scene between her and Ser Jorah that may make her reassess her relationship with her most trusted advisor, but again, it was all setup. Fans waiting for Dany’s story to climax this season may find themselves wanting, at least until just-mentioned House of the Undying. I’m looking forward to seeing how the writers handle that labyrinth of mind-fuckery.
Theon’s petulant commanding of men actually seasoned in war and battle continues to be his undoing, and only one of his men seems to have any respect for him – Dagmer Cleftjaw, played by Chris from The Office. That was a moment to take you out of the show if ever there was one. I was watching Theon’s confrontation with one of his men literally talking to the screen, willing Theon to just stick a knife in the pirate’s throat and shut him up. THAT would earn him some bloody respect! Meanwhile in Winterfell, Bran channelled creepy-prophetic boy to impressive extremes and the description of his dream delivery was very good, even the music was just right. Moments like that are so often horribly clichéd, but the writers got the nail on the head this time.
Still no Jaime Lannister! I know he had just one scene in the second book, but when the writers said they’d be changing the storyline slightly to allow him more screen time I was expecting him to have a bit more than one season in the first half of the season. I’m not particularly concerned as it could be argued that in many ways the third book in the series belongs to Jaime much the same way the first belonged to Ned and the second to Tyrion. Fans will debate this point (some may say Dany, some Jon), but I digress – Jaime’s absence is definitely being felt.
Roy Dotrice as Pyromancer Hallayne was a wink and nudge addition, as many fans will know him as the voice of all the ASOIAF audio-books. More stooped and harebrained than expected, it felt like a nice bit of fan service to see him present. Tyrion didn’t have a great deal to do this week aside from mentally torture Lancel, which would be mildly amusing if Lancel didn’t have one of those faces that you just want to crack like an egg. I can’t think of a single character on the show who is more annoying – yes, including Joffrey and Sansa.
Arya’s death-list has become one name shorter thanks to Jaqen H’gar. Although her target was different to the books, and this has led me to question what else will change. She’s currently Lord Tywin’s cup-bearer – something that never occurs in the books. As Tywin is Hand of the King and the head of the armies opposing Robb’s conquest, I can think of no good reason for Arya to not have Jaqen off Tywin next. The writers may well have written themselves into a plot-hole corner here, so it’ll be interesting to see how they wriggle out of it. With The Tickler gone, this also removes any chance of us ever seeing a particular rewarding scene in which Arya asks the man a few questions of her own in the third book. Ah, the necessities of an adaptation.
One last point I want to make. Some people reading this may find me prudish, conservative, a bore or snobbish because of my opinions on the nudity on the show. This couldn’t be further from the truth. I am, like any red-blooded male, more than a little partial to the charms of the human form. What I am not, though, is a fan of tits and arse thrown in for seemingly no good reason, where it never advances the plot, atmosphere or world.
A prime example of his would be way back in season one when Littlefinger is instructing two whores on how to please their clients. It’s an excuse for Littlefinger to – very clumsily – monologue and reveal his character’s motivations and intentions. There are far better, more subtle ways of doing this – for one, not doing a monologue in which a character reputed for being a master manipulator spills his guts to two disinterested extras – but the bottom line is, it’s thrown in to show body parts. It doesn’t add anything of substance to the story. It certainly doesn’t fit with Littlefinger’s character – the Littlefinger of the TV show would be eaten, crunched and spat out by the Littlefinger of the books – and above all its become unfortunately characteristic of the show. It isn’t all bad, of course – a few weeks ago when Stannis took Melisandre on the Painted Table was a great example of how sex and nudity should be done in the show, because it advanced the plot. Bottom line: if I wanted porn, I’d watch porn. Rant over, now feel free to troll in the comments.
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