Game of Thrones S2E10 review
|REVIEWS - TV|
Winter's coming...to an end.
Shitting on the doorstep of the Throne Room is one hell of an entrance. Only a true boss like Tywin Lannister could pull that off. Joffrey put on his best behaviour for the Tyrells and declared the union of the Tyrells and Lannisters, now making them the strongest united front in the Seven Kingdoms. With Stannis on the run and Robb beginning to lose the North, the Lannisters are very much the ones in control.
Seeing Sansa’s relief as being unshackled from Joffrey should have come as a relief for the audience too, though as Littlefinger pointed out, that just makes her a target without any form of protection. It gave me pause to stop and reflect on just how much Sophie Turner’s acting has improved from the first season. She’s definitely grown into the role.
Varys visiting Roz was a bit out of left-field, and it’s a curious setup for the coming season. Given that Roz generally has very little of significance when it comes to advancing the plot, it seems she might finally have something to offer other than showing off tits and arse.
Jaime and Brienne are becoming one of the show’s increasing number of “power couples”. We’ve had Bronn and Tyrion, Arya and Tywin, and now these two. Their chemistry is just as powerful and evident as it was in the books, thanks to superb casting. My only complaint is that the writers seem to be making Brienne somewhat steel-happy, going against her honourable, chivalrous nature. I think the writers are trying to show how much of a badass she is, but what they’re doing instead is sacrificing her naivety in the name of making her tough. Nonetheless, the interactions between her and Jaime promise to be something to look forward to next season.
It was nice to see Stannis expressing some regret over Renly’s death, entirely absent from the season thus far until now. I enjoy Stephen Dillane as Stannis, but he isn’t the same man as the Stannis of the books. He isn't as angry or bitter, and he’s a great deal more susceptible to manipulation and seduction and compromise. The Stannis of the books, as said by one of the characters, would break before he bends, but here we are witnessing a great deal of bending in order to get the Iron Throne.
Theon’s monologue as he sat before a roaring fire was some of the best acting in the episode, and stands out as Alfie Allen’s crowning achievement in the series to date; accompanying his surprisingly rousing speech to his men. All season he’s been trying very hard, as Maester Luwin points out, to become something he is not. His line about being lucky to be someone’s prisoner was kind of heartbreaking and endeared us to him in ways that he’s failed to the entire season. In these moments you realise that Theon ultimately is still just a boy away from home striving for his family’s approval. I loved his threats against “that horn-blowing c**t”, and his promise to kill him before he fell. As a book reader, this felt like a certain kind of fan service, given that fans of the books know who is out there and what future lies ahead for Theon with him. He’s never been closer to becoming the man he wants to be more than when he tells his men that one day the small-folk will sing songs of their last stand. I was pumped myself and ready to go with him and then whack, Dagmar knocked him out. I don’t think there’s been a moment as anti-climactic as that all season. What’s really gutting is, it doesn’t make any sense with the story, for several reasons...
One, the Ironborn don’t fuck around. The Ironborn of the books would stand and fight, just as Theon encouraged them to do. Two, if they were fleeing and accepting the offer that Robb extended them in surrendering the castle and handing over Theon, why, why would they burn Winterfell to the ground? Are they gonna roll up to the Northerners and say “Hey, we surrender, here’s Theon Greyjoy…oh and we burned the castle, killed the maester and Robb’s brothers"... it doesn’t make sense. In the book, the resolution to this storyline is completely different. What’s truly strange is, if they hadn’t burned Winterfell, it would all have made complete sense even if it didn’t gel with the book’s story, but if we’re supposed to believe that the Ironborn torched the castle and still expected clemency, the writers must have been out to lunch. Three, Dagmar being the one to knock him out completely goes against the role he’s been playing the entire season – he’s the only one who had Theon’s back, in fact invading Winterfell was basically his idea! For him to so easily give it up and betray Theon makes the entire storyline seem a complete waste.
Maester Luwin’s death was emotionally charged, his feigning a lack of pain in front of Bran and Rickon touching; his instructions to Osha to take them North ; Varys once again acknowledging Tyrion being the one who truly saved King’s Landing, not Tywin, was about as much as recognition as he’s ever likely to get. It’s beginning to get hard not to trust Varys, at least from Tyrion’s perspective, as he remains the one most honest with him, and delivers Shae to him. There have been a large number of complaints about Shae in the TV show versus her character in the book, claims that she has been changed – and she has, though for once I can only say it’s a change for the better. Their relationship is far stronger than I ever imagined it to be, and I even felt myself welling up when Shae told Tyrion he had a shit memory.
Robb and Talisa getting married is all well and good except it was done in the light of the seven! Since when did Robb abandon the Old Gods and take up the Seven? Was this just lazy writing? Did they make a mistake and forgot, or were they just trying to cut corners? Either way it comes up as extremely inaccurate, not only for the books but even within the realm of the TV show.
A lot of people were looking forward to the House of The Undying and the prophecies within. Sadly we didn’t get any of those, and while those prophecies would have been both hard to show and also highly spoilerific for future seasons, it was none the less a bit of a loss to find them missing. Getting the vision of the Iron Throne and King’s Landing covered in snow and ruined, though, was a rather excellent visual. Dany walking right up to the Iron Throne and being inches away from touching it only to turn in the direction of her dragons was incredibly telling and highly suggestive of the future of her plot-line. Her appearance at the Wall is equally significant, and her unexpected reunion with Drogo provided a moment of glee to fangirls everywhere. What was disappointing, though, was the complete absence of any of the Warlocks except for Pyat Pree, making the House of The Undying seem little more than a sham after so much build up. And not to be too picky, but you’d think Pyat Pree, after having just kidnapped and held three dragons for about a week, might have had an inclination that they can, uh, you know, breathe fire. Dumb writing.
Dany’s storyline this season has been, let’s face it, less than enthralling. All characters will have lulls, highs and lows, but mercifully she at least ended on a high. Opening Xaro’s vault only to find it empty showed just how wrong she would have been to accept his offer, and just how much she should listen to Ser Jorah. An unexciting storyline it may have been, but it certainly seems like she has learned her lesson now, clearly more composed and harder as she seals Xaro and Doreah inside the vault. Thankfully next season’s story for Dany should be a lot more interesting.
Jaqen saying' valar morghuilis' gave me chills. It’s one of the tiny riddles that creeps at the corners of your mind throughout the series, and when you finally piece together the answer it’s satisfying in a way that only great books can be. I’m sad to see him go, but I would not be in the least bit surprised to see him again in the future. I’m a little gutted Arya’s weasel soup didn’t make an appearance, though it would have been a big, expensive scene to include, so it being cut is at least understandable.
Qhorin and Jon’s fight was well choreographed but otherwise a pretty big disappointment. It doesn’t feel like the writers did nearly enough to establish their relationship, nor make it clear that Qhorin was doing his best to set Jon up as a traitor so he could infiltrate the Wildlings camp, whereas the way it’s written just looks like he’s pissed off with the Halfhand for calling his mother a whore before willingly joining the Wildlings. I’m just not convinced that’s going to be entirely clear to the audience who haven’t read the books. Simon Armstrong gave a great performance as Qhorin, even if his character wasn’t quite as much a hard ass as he should have been. The final shot over the cliffs looking onto the Wildling camp was another jaw-dropping visual moment, and I can’t wait to see what they do with it next season.
And then there’s the final scene. The return of the Others and the White Walkers. They look a lot different to their original incarnation in the pilot, and judging by the general consensus online, I may be going against the grain here, but I found myself disappointed with the way both the Wights and the Others looked. It felt like watching an episode of The Walking Dead, with a fantasy twist. It felt cheap. It felt beneath HBO. The Others especially looked just really old, and put me in mind of the undead army in Return of the King – that is not a good thing. I was expecting something a great deal more menacing, something a lot closer to the original incarnations in the pilot…I’m strongly hoping this was just one “type” of Other, and that there are many more to come. It’s good that we returned to this storyline, though the last thing in the world I want is for Game of Thrones to turn into a zombie drama…here’s hoping they don’t fuck up the next season’s opening episodes, which are Other and Wight heavy, along with a strong focus on the Night’s Watch.
This season, overall, has perhaps not been quite as strong as the first. Deviations have begun to crop up more than previously, the number of characters and storylines continues to multiply while the screen time remains the same. Mercifully, book three is being split across two seasons, as it’s an absolute gargantuan beast with enough drama and narrative turns to fill maybe even three seasons if they wanted. And if George R R Martin continues to write one book per six years or so as he has been, the series will have caught up with the book releases before the final one is released. Then things would get all kinds of ugly, for the show, the fans, HBO and George himself. Here’s hoping George can get the Winds of Winter to us faster than HBO can deliver the next two seasons of Game of Thrones.
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