Game of Thrones S2E8 Review
|REVIEWS - TV|
Murder and pillaging. It's common practice now, isn't it?...
"The Prince of Winterfell"
This may have been another episode steeped in exposition and set-up, but there’s certainly no bad thing when you have dialogue and character interaction as strong as it is here. As we near the climax of the season next week in ‘Blackwater’ and the huge battle between Stannis and the Lannisters, it was nice to have an hour of just character development and build.
Theon and Yara’s exchange in Winterfell seems wildly contradictory – Balon Greyjoy proclaims himself King of the Iron Isles and the North, yet when Theon takes the single most significant fortress in the north, he’s met with reprimand and scorn. There’s just no winning for Theon – no matter what he does he’ll never be strong or smart enough for the rest of the Greyjoys and at this point it wouldn’t be hard to imagine his regretting his decision to choose his blood over his adopted family. Bran and Rickon showing up at the end shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone, though it leaves me with questions as to their plot-line’s resolution at the end of the season.
I was glad to see Jon Snow getting faced the fact that Qhorin’s men died because he wasn’t strong enough to kill Ygritte. Jon has always been a whiny little bitch, and his continued pussification is making him hard to sympathize with. He needs to grow up, fast.
Robb and Talisa’s love storyline really came into its own this week. Talisa’s memory of her brother’s near death in Volantis was a solid piece of monologue but what made it work was watching Robb’s facial reaction as she told it. In that moment, you can see him fall in love. When he says in simple words “I don’t want to marry the Frey girl”, you know exactly how badly he’s fallen for her. The nudity that followed didn’t feel tacked on or unnecessary or even exploitative, it felt valid and contributed to the narrative. Also, the inclusion of the line about being brave and being afraid that originally belonged to Bran from the very first chapter of Game of Thrones was a very nice touch.
Jaime’s appearance in this episode was brief but superb and I am loving his interaction with Brienne as his jailer/bodyguard. The humour of the scene shines through again thanks to Jaime and the seriousness of Brienne is the perfect contrast to the Kingslayer’s reckless, devil-may-care approach to life. Although this scene was taken from the very opening of A Strom of Swords, chronologically it matches. The executive producers have said that from this point on, they’re adapting the saga rather than the novels, and it’s beginning to show in the way extra scenes take place as well as events changing time-line.
It was a little anticlimactic and more than a little sad to see the end of the Tywin and Arya partnership, particularly given that Tywin so readily hands her over to Gregor Clegane. Given the relationship that had developed between them over the last few episodes, it wouldn’t have been at all surprising to see Tywin decide to take Arya with her as his squire. Of course, that wouldn’t fit with the story of the books, but it would have been I would have readily accepted if only to see continued interaction between these two.
Tyrion and Bronn are perhaps the only honest men in King’s Landing, and to see them so frankly admit that neither of them knows to defend the city was something between comedy and serious drama. Varys’ joining in the conversation elevated the comedy somewhat when they discussed the topic of the thieves. Tyrion clearly gave Bronn instructions that Bronn ignored, and for him to do it so honestly with the realistic explanation of food supplies being stolen shows the level of trust he and Tyrion have in each other. The codename for wildfire being pig-shit was something that might have gone over the heads of many viewers who weren’t paying attention a few episodes back, but the more astute fans will have caught it.
Sam, Grenn and Dolours Edd getting their own scene is an early development building up the increase of Sam’s significance as the story progresses, and though I’d forgotten about them finding the dragonglass until Grenn struck stone under the snow, it was a great addition to see the writers keep it in. It’s not a huge moment, but the implications of it will have long lasting effects down the road.
I haven’t really offered an opinion on Jaqen H’ghar up until now, for the simple reason that I wanted to give him more screen time before I made up my mind about him. However my verdict is this: he’s awesome. Tom Wlaschiha nails him with every line delivery, maintaining much of the humour from the book that could easily be lost in transition to the screen. “A girl lacks honour” stands out as one of the best lines of the episode.
Any sympathy that the writers might have been trying to garner for Cersei was crushed by her making good on her promise to hurt Tyrion. Of course, once again, Cersei shows just how inept she is at playing the game when she miscalculates and attacks the wrong whore – namely Roz. What’s galling is how fragile Cersei was last week and rather than exploit it, Tyrion gave her silent sympathy in an unusually touching scene between these two siblings who can’t stand each other. But Cersei has crossed a line this time. Tyrion’s line “I will hurt you for this. A day will come when you think you are safe and happy and your joy will turn to ashes in your mouth” was taken straight from the book and it was delivered with chilling perfection by Peter Dinklage. The following scene between Tyrion and Shae felt surprisingly emotional, much more so than in the books but not in negative way – on the contrary it added a level to their relationship that always seemed decidedly one sided in the books.
Davos and Stannis’ exchange shed some light on their history together and explains their devout loyalty to each other. Stannis might be a hard, unbending bastard but you have to admire his respect for the letter of the law, while Davos is unquestioning of Stannis’ sense of justice and balance. Though making Davos his Hand happened here a good deal sooner than it did in the books, it didn’t feel unearned due to the obvious mutual respect and trust they have and while I have a few gripes about Stannis’ character on the screen as compared to the source material, the writers have nailed his relationship with the Onion Knight.
As Stannis and Davos converge on King’s Landing, Tyrion and Varys walk the walls and plan for the attack. Joffrey’s promise of giving Stannis a red smile was just embarrassing and goes to show just how much of a young, mindless fool he really is. Here’s hoping somebody knocks Joffrey on his arse next week in the long awaited ‘Blackwater’ episode, a battle of truly epic proportions in the books – written by George R R Martin himself and directed by Neil Marshal, it promises to be one to remember – let’s just hope it’s for the right reasons.
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