To those unfamiliar with the book series The Ghost of Harrenhal will feel a little on the heavy side (but not rhinoceros heavy…well maybe a baby rhinoceros), those seeking blood will be disappointed by the lack of violence, and the perverts among us will be sad to see a complete lack of gratuitous nudity, incest, or disturbing birthing sequences.
Having said that the magic of this week’s episode lies in the details so fear not, while some people will be missing the obvious ‘jump out and look at me’ moments the writers are smartly setting up for some jaw dropping reveals. Game of Thrones is the TV version of the Hydra monster from Greek mythology. If you chop off one storyline, two more will grow back in it’s place.
Case in point: Renly’s death. The shadow creature we watched get born with slack jawed shock and awe last week sneaks through King Renly’s (Gethin Anthony) camp and kills him in front of the constantly worried looking Catelyn Stark (Michelle Fairley) and the really, really, really, tall Brienne of Tarth (Gwendoline Christie). Fearing the implication of murder the two ladies run off and the latter pledges her service to the former. Back in the camp people are upset over Renly’s death but not so upset that they want to waste any time grieving and instead immediately join forces with Renly’s enemy and brother, Stannis (Stephen Dillane).
Back in King’s Landing the sibling rivalry between Cersei (Lena Headey) and Tyrion Lannister (Peter Dinklage) continue as the Queen Regent tries to keep secrets from the sneaky dwarf and fails miserably. Tyrion discovers that the pyromancers are making vast quantities of wildfire (like napalm on crack) to help strengthen the defenses of the city. Two major highlights of these scenes: The colorful language of Tyrion’s advisor and bodyguard, Bronn (Jerome Flynn), who for the second week in a row wins the award for the best use of the ‘c’ word in a televised drama. Secondly, Tyrion’s discovery that the people of King’s Landing (who he’s working to protect) refer to him as a ‘demon monkey’.
On the Iron Islands Theon Greyjoy (Alfie Allen) is ready to board his new ship, the Sea Bitch, and command his new crew. Unfortunately his new crew regard him to be a useless pile of fish excrement. Through simple suggestion from his first mate Theon makes another bad decision and decides to disregard his orders and go and invade whatever the hell he wants.
The subject of this episode, as indicated by the title, is the goings on at Harrenhal where Arya Stark (Maisie Williams) remains incognito as Tywin Lannister’s servant. Things take an interesting turn when one of the prisoners she helped free a couple of episodes ago offers to kill three people for her in return for the three lives she helped save. Arya, who is becoming a somewhat sadistic teenager, jumps at the chance to cross some names off her ‘to kill’ list. Her personal assassin, Jaqen H'ghar (Tom Wlaschiha), quickly proves good to his word. One down, three to go.
Finally we get to see the dragons again! Daenerys (Emilia Clarke) shows us the best way to bbq meat with her handy dandy new dragon grill. An exciting episode for the young heir to the iron throne as she is proposed to, showered with gifts, and receives stern advice from her friend and advisor, Ser Jorah (Iain Glen). The highlight here was her introduction to the Warlocks of Qarth. While their name suggests they’re nothing more than a board game played by nerdy virgins, watch for them playing a bigger part in Daenerys’ story very soon.
A couple other highlights of the episode include the introduction of Qorin Halfhand (Simon Armstrong) to Jon Snow as their fates quickly become entwined beyond the Wall, and Bran Stark’s (Isaac Hempstead-Wright) seemingly impossible dream that the sea is about to wash over the walls of Winterfell.
I have to note that Maisie Williams who plays Arya Stark deserves some sort of award or accolade for her portrayal of the character and a consistently solid performance. For a young actress she goes toe to toe with veteran actors each week and blends so nicely that you’d believe she was receiving acting lessons in the womb.
This episode brings us the half way point of the season and there’s still a lot of ground to cover. While this episode was low on action it was high on establishing set ups which will no doubt pay off in the second half of the season.
I give The Ghost of Harrenhal 8 demon monkeys out of 10.
No one can ever accuse this show of not taking risks! Showing gratuitous sex and nudity on HBO isn’t exactly breaking any new ground but when you watch a naked pregnant woman give birth to a demonic shadow creature you can’t help but marvel at the remarkably huge size of the writer’s testicular region. Made more amusing here as the writer of this particular episode is a female. Mass kudos to Vanessa Taylor, a new writer to the show, for one of the most daring and exciting episodes so far this season.
Garden of Bones effectively covered every single storyline with the exception of Jon Snow and his journey beyond The Wall (we can safely assume that he’s still very cold). The reason for being able to cover so many bases is the crossovers that are beginning to appear between different storylines. Let’s take a look…
Robb Stark (Richard Madden) continues his war for the North taking another Lannister camp unawares. He’s then chastised by a nurse who tells him she disapproves of his war mongering, meaning she’ll likely end up married to him at some point. He’d save himself a lot of trouble if he’d just fed her to his dire wolf.
This week the young King Joffrey (Jack Gleeson) is effectively portrayed as a tyrannical little psycho. He publicly humiliates Sansa Stark (Sophie Turner) and has her beaten until his Uncle Tyrion (Peter Dinklage) steps in to save her. Thinking that the King just needs someone to pay attention to his crown jewels the dwarf hires him a couple of prostitutes who, rather than use for their intended purpose, he abuses by making one beat the other. By this point we can’t doubt the young King’s malevolence. Tyrion’s hired sword, Bronn (Jerome Flynn), takes home the best line of the episode and the most apt use of the ‘c’ word in reference to the King: “There’s no cure for being a c**t.” (for readers who are easily offended I apologize for referencing such a word…to everyone else, hilarious right?!)
After four episodes Daenerys (Emilia Clarke) and her dragons finally get out of the desert and into the City of Qarth which is ruled by traders and magicians. At first they make fun of her and deny her entrance but she quickly changes their mind by threatening to burn them all alive. It’d be more convincing if her dragons weren’t the size of a yorkshire terrier but they took the threat seriously regardless.
Arya Stark (Maisie Williams) begins her imprisonment at Harrenhal as she watches her companions get tortured, decapitated and their heads mounted on a spike (presumably for decoration). Lord Tywin Lannister (Charles Dance) finally shows up to put an end to the torture and turns the prisoners into slaves. Arya continues her nightly prayer list of the people she’d like to kill.
And what would Game of Thrones be without a bit of incest? Tyrion uses the knowledge that his cousin Lancel (Eugene Simon) has been sleeping with his sister the Queen to turn him into one of the dwarf’s minions. Lancel agrees to spy on the Queen and we’re left without a doubt that Tyrion remains a force to be reckoned with.
Finally we’re treated to the Barratheon brothers meeting on screen as they both put forth their claims as Kings. The meeting ends quickly with Stannis throwing down the gauntlet. Already alluded to at the beginning of this review it’s the final scene of the episode that leaves audiences in awe of the shows willingness to push the limits. Davos Seaworth is given the task of smuggling Melisandre (Carice van Houten) onto the coast. If there’s any question to the validity of the Red Priestess’ claims of power it’s quickly extinguished in a disturbing turn of events as she quickly gives birth to something that’s definitely not small, cute, and cuddly. I expect we’ll see more of her ‘little bundle of joy’ in next week’s episode along with the return of the brooding and extremely cold, Jon Snow.
I give Garden of Bones a solid 9 yorkshire terrier sized dragons out of 10.
Let’s reflect on what Game of Thrones is all about for a moment: A cunning little dwarf, a sneaky eunuch, bloodshed, incest, a cruel boy king, dragons, walking dead creatures, knights, princesses, whores, more incest, battles, giant wolves, infant sacrifices, more bloodshed, a touch of incest and….seriously, how can you not want to watch this show?
Episode 3, aptly titled What is Dead May Never Die, took the carefully laid groundwork of the previous two episodes and rushed forward with the speed and ferocity of a hungry dire wolf who has spotted a three legged blind deer with a bell around it’s neck. New characters were introduced while others were killed, lies were told, and there’s a severe lack of dragons.
Beyond the Wall the Night’s Watch are finally on the move again after Jon Snow watches their wilding host, Craster (Robert Pugh), sacrifice one of his baby sons to…something. This storyline has been slow moving so it’ll be nice for them to get on with it.
Back at Winterfell we’re given another look at Bran’s wolf dreams. Old Maester Luwin (Donald Sumpter) tells the young Stark that magic and dragons are gone from the world which at this point we know to be untrue. Speaking of dragons they gave Daenerys the week off but we can safely assume that she’s still stuck in the desert.
Somewhere in the middle of Westeros we finally get to see the self appointed King Renly (Gethin Anthony) and his new wife Margaery Tyrell (Natalie Dormer) who turns out to be more than just a low plunging neckline. We’re also introduced to Brienne of Tarth (Gwendoline Christie), the towering female Knight who ironically loves her King so much that she asks to be appointed to his personal guard. The irony not being that Brienne is a female Knight but that Renly has more of a preference to males and is (hilariously) terrified of his wife’s sexual advances.
On the Iron Islands Theon Greyjoy (Alfie Allen) continues to whine and be a constant disappointment to his family. He gives up the opportunity to warn the Starks of the coming threat of his father and instead sides with his family to take over the North while everyone’s away fighting the war.
By far my favorite sequence of the episode was the wonderful cunning of Tyrion Lannister as he continues to clean house by telling three different lies to three of the council members to find out who he can trust. Varys the eunuch (Conleth Hill) deliver a beautifully crafted monologue lifted directly from the book casting dark foreshadowing across the coming adventures of Tyrion the Imp.
Arya Stark, still posing as a boy, and her band of misfits are revisited by the King’s Knights who are still hunting for the last of Robert’s bastard children. Just as Yoren (Francis Magee) is getting interesting he is quickly dispatched by the Knights but not before taking several of them with him in his final act of badassary.
This week we saw nothing of Robb Stark, Daenerys and her dragons, or Stannis Baratheon so expect them to make an appearance in episode 4. With all the story elements developing so quickly be prepared to be left with new questions every week that may not get answered for several episodes. Will Arya escape? What’s Tyrion’s next move? Will Renly ever ‘get it on’ with his wife?
I give What is Dead May Never Die 8.5 cunning little dwarves out of 10 (it lost half a point due to no dragons)
Season 2 of Game of Thrones started with an outright explosion of exposition which was duly required in order for everyone to get re-acquainted. It was like a family reunion only without the awkward questions or the drunken crazy uncle who’s determined to touch distant cousins inappropriately.
As promised by last week’s teasers we were treated to expanding storylines including one not covered last week involving Arya Stark and her journey towards The Wall with Yoren (Francis Magee) of the Night’s Watch. Maisie Williams, who portrays the youngest Stark daughter, plays her part well. For such a young actress her exchanges with the older cast members are consistently flawless. One of the best scenes of the week comes as an exchange between Yoren and the Kings guard. The scene solidified Yoren as a no nonsense badass who you’d much rather have on your side than holding a knife to your groin.
Jon Snow continues to be grumpy and cold as the Night’s Watch remain at the home of a well known Wildling and his thirty wives/daughters. Jon learns what their grouchy host does with his baby sons and we’re given a glimpse of the same walking dead creatures we saw way back at the beginning of the first season.
Tyrion, still the most beloved of the Lannisters due to his sharp wit and lack of interest in sleeping with his siblings, makes his mark in Kings Landing as acting Hand of the King. He begins to remove the chess pieces that his sister has put in place and replace them with his own.
Last week Daenerys was sitting in a desert with three tiny dragons and what remained of her tribe. This week Daenerys sits in the desert with three tiny dragons and what remains of her tribe. While this slice of the story isn’t galloping along at the moment you can expect it to pick up speed mid season.
Theon Greyjoy (Alfie Allen) begins to make his mark after being held as a houseguest/captor of the Starks for nine years when he’s finally released to go visit his father in the fond hope of gaining him as an ally for Robb Stark’s war. Theon proves to be a pathetic, dimwit who is constantly undermined by those around him. This is backed up in one scene where a woman gives him a ride to the castle while he feels her up only to find out in a later scene that it’s his sister. Awkkwaarrddd…
Other high points included the Red Priestess Melisandre seducing Stannis Baratheon (really, who among us can resist a red-head?), Ser Davos Seaworth proving his loyalty to Stannis by gathering him an army, and Littlefinger displays his true pimp style by throwing a thinly veiled threat at one of his hookers.
Something else I noted was that The Night Lands delves head long back into the explicit sexual displays that caught a lot of people’s attention (mostly perverts) in the first season. Something this show does very well is avoids stereotypical beauty whenever it can. The male and female actors alike are not super models or porn stars (ala True Blood) but instead rely on what most of us would refer to as ‘normal looking people.’ It’s a commendable trait of the show that I hope they continue. (I’d like to apologize at this point to any ‘beautiful’ readers out there as this last paragraph probably confused you a little)
While fans of the books are going to be confused, and maybe saddened, by some slight deviations in this episode from the story in the books the essence of the journey remains intact. Fans should take heart that the producers of this show appear to give a damn about the fans which is a rarity in literary to TV translations these days.
I give The Night Lands 8 Seductive Red-headed Priestesses out of 10.
I’m going to try and limit the spoilers but no promises. With such a wide storyline and considerably high character arcs it almost seems impossible to contain myself…if you hear a ‘splat’ while reading, that was me exploding.
I’m a fan of the books and have the highest regard for George R. R. Martin and the world he’s created. If you like the TV show then you’ll love the books. If you happen to be illiterate then you may find it a bit of a slog.
On with the show… Season 2 opens with a bang as exposition and character setups are thrown around to such a degree that if you’re new to the show you’ll definitely want to time travel back to April 2011 and watch season 1…or just watch it online. We’re re-introduced to the main players and the three distinct storylines: the battle for the iron throne, the trouble in the north, and the cute white haired girl with her dragons. While we’re only treated to snippets of each storyline it was more than enough to quench the thirst that’s been building over the last several months.
King Joffrey (Jack Gleeson) is still a tyrannical ass and Tyrion the ‘Imp’ (played by the fantastic Peter Dinklage who devours scenery and defecates an Emmy and a Golden Globe) shows up in a timely fashion to ignore him completely and take over running the Kingdom. Pretty much everyone in Kings Landing is an underhanded liar, especially the Queen Regent, Cersei Lannister (Lena Headey) who’s love of being evil is equaled only by her desire to ‘get it on’ with her family members.
In the north Jon Snow (the unfortunately named Kit Harington) and his brothers of the Nights Watch learn all about Wildlings who, as coincidence would have it, are also on board the incest wagon (it’s crowded). The Lord Commander tries to teach him some manners reinforcing that he means for Snow to lead one day.
Meanwhile Robb Stark (Richard Madden) continues his war against the Lannisters while his overbearing mother still tries to treat him like a child. One of the most beautiful scenes of this episode has an exchange between Robb Stark and his prisoner Jaime Lannister clearly showing the former as a smart, decisive King while allowing us to see just how big and badass the Stark’s dire wolves have become.
Daenerys (Emilia Clarke) and her dragons are stuck in a desert with little food, dying horses and a small, ragtag bunch of followers. While the dragons are still a long way from playing a prominent part in this world it was still good to see how much the show’s producers are willing to invest in CGI to support the story. As more fantasy based and magical elements of the story emerge over the next few seasons it’ll be interesting to see how the show handles the changes.
Other notable pieces include Bran Stark’s ‘wolf dreams’, the introduction of Stannis Baratheon and his Red Witch, Theon Greyjoy’s inception (keep an eye on him), and the final montage of Lannister soldiers hunting and killing all of Robert’s bastard children (of which there are many). The only missing main character is that of Araya Stark who is travelling with one of Robert’s illegitimate kids and a group of scum bound for the Wall. Their presence is hinted at towards the end so it’s likely we’ll see more of them next week.
Overall this was a great opener for the season although I can still scarcely understand how they hope to fit the entirety of the second book into a ten episode arc. However I do look forward to finding out. So far the highlight for me is Peter Dinklage who’s two awards earlier this year were well deserved. Not to mention it’s super-fun to say his name: Dinklage. Go on, try it.
I give this episode 9 Dinklage’s out of 10.