Game of Thrones: 'The Old Gods and the New' recap and review
Something that Game of Thrones does very well is choose its scenes wisely, which is more necessary than ever now that there are so many characters to juggle. We only have a little bit of time with each of them, so it’s imperative that the time we spend with them is as revealing as possible, or moves the plot forward in a significant way. This was especially evident last week, where each storyline moved forward not only dramatically, but interestingly. This week’s installment, ‘The Old Gods and the New,’ was a little more laid-back in its approach, which is odd considering that it featured both the sack of Winterfell by Theon, and a major riot in King’s Landing. These are big events that I guess I felt weren’t treated with the gravitas they deserved. But hey, Tyrion slapped Joffrey again, so there’s that.
I’m not saying I didn’t like the episode, because there was plenty that I enjoyed. The opening scene, where Bran wakes to Theon seizing Winterfell had a great, weird comic energy to it, which was beautifully undercut by Theon’s sad, ugly, and inefficient murder of Ser Rodrik. It was a great, quick, neat way to show how unsuited Theon is to rule, while also establishing him as a threat. One of the things I really liked about this opening scene was that it was a huge event that didn’t feel or play like one. It was just one scared kid bequeathing control of a castle to another scared kid, and everything about it conveyed the awkwardness and discomfort of that situation. Theon taking Winterfell is a major move in the war, but the show boiled it down to something nice and personal.
I wish I felt the same way about the episodes other big set-piece, the riot in Kings Landing. After Myrcella gets shipped off to Dorne, and we get an ominous bit of sniping between Tyrion and Cersei, where she threatens to take away the one he loves the most (look out, Shae!), Joffrey gets hit with a pile of cowsh*t and immediately orders his guards to start killing people. Sansa almost gets raped before the Hound steps in, and some dude gets his arm ripped off. (And, yes, Tyrion slaps Joffrey.) I didn’t have any issue with the events portrayed in the scene, and I think my problem may have been more with the budget constraints imposed upon it. I wanted a sea of people, pressing in on the King and his posse — a frantic ordeal where it’s hard to tell which way is up and which way is down.
That said, the bit with Sansa and the Hound was very well done, further establishing his weird affection for her with quick, concise little moments. We also had Shae telling Sansa that she can’t talk about Joffrey the way she does, which was nice to see. I hope that’s a relationship we get to see a bit more of. This was actually the episode’s only Tyrion sequence, which was sad for me, but it’s fine. He’s the lead of season 2, so I understand that every now and then other characters need to step in share the spotlight, considering how many of them there are.
Arya and Tywin continue to have some of the best scenes on the show together, possibly because they’re both wonderful actors, but also because their scenes provide a strange chemistry that we don’t really get to see anywhere else on the show. It’s thrilling to see the most powerful man in the world and a little girl take each other’s measure, especially because we know how dangerous both of them are capable of being when they want to be. Arya’s position as Tywin’s cup bearer is both a great place for her, since she gets to be privy to his strategy in regards to her brother, and a terrible one, because the risk of her being found out is always high. This becomes extremely clear when Littlefinger shows up, and Arya is forced to hid her face in a really fun scene. I’m pretty positive that Littlefinger recognized her, but I like that the show plays things like that close to its chest, leaving it to the actors to communicate.
Then Arya gets busted by a guy named Amory Lorch and needs to like in her second murder from Jaqen, like, right the hell now. Jaqen seems annoyed, but a debt is a debt, and Mr. Lorch drops dead just in time. This bit was a lot of fun, and now Arya only has one death left. She’d better use it wisely.