Game of Thrones: 'The Night lands' Recap and Review

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Man, I love it when my concerns about a show are addressed in the very next episode.  After last weeks overstuffed premier, ‘The North Remembers,’ I was worried that every episode this season was going to have that full-to-brimming feel, as it frantically attempted to cover a million storylines at once.  Well, I needn’t have worried, because the follow-up episode, ‘The Night Lands,’ does a great job of picking a few storylines to address, and sticking to them.  There are still a few scenes that feel a bit out of place, but overall the episode felt coherent and engrossing. 

Let’s do the same thing I did last week, and break it down by location, since there are so many at this point.  We start off with Arya and Gendry on the road with the Night’s Watch, where we also get our introduction to Rorge, Biter, and Jaquen, the three prisoners in that cage.  All of these guys were cast brilliant, and Jaquen in particular is going to have a major role to play before the season is over.  Then the Gold-cloaks showed up, and Arya understandably assumes that they are there for her.  However, they’re actually looking for Gendry and his bull-head helmet, but Yoren doesn’t care.  Yoren was so badass in this scene, holding a blade against the artery in one of the Gold-cloak’s legs.  It was great starting the episode off with such a suspenseful and badass moment, and it really set a great tone.

Now everyone in camp knows that people are after Gendry, but no one, including Gendry knows why.  What Gendry does know, however, is that Arry, the little orphan boy, thinks that people are after her.  He surprises Arya by also revealing that he knows she is a girl, which prompts her to tell him exactly who she is.  I really like the relationship between these two, cause it’s rare in this show to have two people who actually really get along.  The other great moment of this scene was the beginning of it, where Lommy and Hot Pie, Arya and Gendry’s companions, argue about what exactly constitutes a ‘battle.’ Is it juts two guys fighting with armor on?  This bit was hilarious, and totally in-character for these two.  I like that the show understands how important it is to inject humor into the proceedings.

Hey, you know what I just realized?  The only stark in this episode was Arya. Bran, Sansa, Robb, and Catelyn all took the week off.  Interesting, especially considering that season one was so Stark heavy.  It really goes to illustrate the expanding scope of the show.

Speaking of ‘expanding scope,’ let’s travel over to Pyke, our new location for the week.  Theon, after bedding the daughter of the captain of the ship that brought him there, is expecting a great welcome that he does not receive.  (The scene between him and the captain’s daughter was pretty hilarious, by the way.  Everyone that Then has sex with seems so bored by it.)  He is quick to proclaim himself Heir to the Iron Islands, but no one seems to care.  He gets a ride from a villager who he immediately begins groping, only to later find out that (oops!) that’s his sister, Yara.  Man, this show loves incest. 

Theon’s father is instantly cold and cruel towards him, accusing him of going soft during his time with Ned Stark.  This scene was great, and wonderfully acted by the guy playing Balon.  Theon is no longer an Ironman in the eyes of his father, who is putting Yara in charge of his troops instead.  She is clearly the favorite child, which irks Theon to no end.  It’s nice to see the Iron Islands and the casual cruelty displayed by its leader.  Well, nice for the viewer, but probably not so much for Theon.  I’m not sure I like the casting of Yara, but besides that, I enjoyed all of the Pyke scenes quite a bit.  The design of the castle is awesome, too.

Let’s go to Dragonstone, shall we?  Ser Davos Seaworth and his son are talking to the pirate Salladhor Saan, (hey, a black guy!)  who is willing to offer up his ships in exchange for the opportunity to fuck Cersei once they take King’s Landing.  Davos says he can’t give him that, but Saan still signs on.  I like Salladhor, and this scene was fun, while also doing a pretty good job of telling us about Davos, who is a pretty important character.  We also go a bit between him and his son, who is a fervent follower of Melisandre’s Lord of LIght, while Davos remains unconvinced.  His loyalty is to Stannis and Stannis alone, he says. 

Speaking of Stannis, we got to spend a bit more time with him this week as well.  After Davos tells him and Melisandre about his meeting with Saan, Stannis asks him to leave the room, so he and his sorceress can ‘talk.’  Melisandre immediately begins seducing him, seemingly for the first time.  Stannis objects, but gives in rather quickly, and the two of them bone on Stannis’s giant map table.  This scene had a nice creepy vibe, and eased some of my concerns about the casting of Melisandre.  However, I have a particular weakness for redheads, so I may be just a bit biased.

Let’s go to King’s Landing, where a good deal of the action took place this week.  Before addressing Tyrion and his ongoing awesomeness, I want to talk about my one big qualm with tonight’s episode:  The Littlefinger scenes.  Now, listen, I love Littlefinger.  He’s conniving, and interesting, and creepy, and a whole bunch of other awesome things.  But if we never get a scene set in his brothel again, I’ll be pretty okay with it.  First there was the surreal bit with the peepholes, where he was watching a guy getting a blowjob who was watching a guy having sex, before wiping erm, some white stuff, off of one prostitutes face and sending her over to another client for a lusty kiss.  Even for Game of Thrones, this bit felt like it was just going for shock value, and didn’t feel especially necessary.  I know the show loves its sex, but this episode had plenty already, and this bit felt like it served no other purpose than to be titillating. 

Then there was that long scene between Littlefinger and Ros (who is the only major character not in the books, which means that every time she’s on screen I just want to know why) who is still upset from watching that baby get killed last week.  Littlefinger gives her the day off, but not before giving a long, threatening speech about what happened to his last prostitute who dared to be depressed.  Like I said, if we never get another scene with Littlefinger and his prostitutes, that will be fine with me.  I understand the desire to show him being creepy and controlling, but I would prefer they did so in his political position as a member of the Small Council.

Hey, no Joffrey in this episode!  Yay! 

Let’s talk about how awesome Tyrion is!  We got three great Tyrion scenes this week (unless I’m forgetting one, which is possible), which I’m hoping is par for the course this season.  I don’t quite remember the order of the scenes, so first I’ll talk about the one between Tyrion, Varys, and Shae.  What was great about this scene is that no one was saying what they actually meant, choosing instead to dispense veiled threats and warnings.  Until, that is, Tyrion calls Varys out, saying that he’s not an idiot like Ned Stark.  It’s nice to see these two on an even playing field, and it was also nice to see that Shae understood the game she has stumbled in on.  Varys knowing about her is bad news bears, but at least Tyrion isn’t going to put up with Varys’s threats. 

We also got another great scene between Tyrion and his sister, where some of Tyrion’s jokes (like the great bit about Cersei’s penchant for tearing up papers) initiate a rant from Cersei about Tyrion’s ‘greatest joke of all:’  the death of their mother, giving birth to him.  This is clearly a low blow from Cersei, who is not going to play nice with her little (heh) brother.  The continued verbal sparring between these two is the thing I’m most looking forward to about this season, and it certainly didn’t disappoint here.  Oh, I actually just remembered what Cerseie was so mad at Tyrion about, which brings me to my favorite Tyrion scene of the episode!

Tyrion invites Janos Slynt, the captain of the Gold Cloaks, over for a nice dinner, before promptly firing him and sending him off to the Wall.  Janos is furious, but there’s nothing he can do about it, despite having friends in high places.  Tyrion is the King’s hand, after all.  Janos’s fury over the situation was great fun to watch, cause seriously, that guy’s a dick.  He killed a baby, which Tyrion is just not going to stand for.  Not to mention, it greatly benefits Tyrion to have the Gold Cloaks in his pocket, rather than those of his sister, which is why he promotes Bronn to captain of the city watch.  Hell yeah.  I just want to see Bronn and Tyrion get drunk together in every episode. 

Off to the land beyond the Wall we go!  After Jon’s warning from Craster last week about leaving his daughters alone, it’s Sam who ends up getting involved when he shouldn’t.  He quickly befriends one of the creepy old man’s daughter-wives, who is pregnant and fears for the life of her possibly-male baby. Jon does the smart (if not necessarily right) thing here, and says that there’s nothing he can do to help, especially without knowing what exactly it is that Craster does to his male offspring.   The scenes between Sam and Jon here were good, and set up the situation Jon found himself in at the end of the episode rather efficiently.  Gilly’s also fairly endearing and adorable, considering that she’s married to her dad. 

This brings us to the last scene of the episode, which isn’t in the books.  Jon sneaks off to find out what happens to Craster’s sons, only to get ambushed by Craster himself. (At least I think that was Craster.  It all happened rather quickly.)  However, before he gets knocked out, he sees the child get spirited away by the White Walkers.  Creepy. 

All in all, a very good episode with only one major misstep.  (And honestly, a forgivable one.  I know how much HBO loves their sex.)  By focusing on a few characters, the show had a clarity and focus that was missing last week, which I hope it continues throughout the season.  Next week will hopefully take us to some new places (like wherever Renly is), and with them, some new faces.  Until then, just remember:  War is coming.  And, uh, so is Winter.

Reader’s Corner:

-What did you guys thing about that Melisandre scene?  We never got to see her and Stannis bone in the books, and it’s exactly as creepy as I always imagined it would be.
-The deviation from the book at the end, with Jon and Craster, was interesting, but it kind of makes sense considering what they set up last week.  For now, I’m curious to see where it goes, but hope that it doesn’t stray too far from the novel.
-Does anyone agree with me about too much of Littlefinger and the Whores?  Like, what is the deal?
-We probably get to meet Margaery and Brienne next week!  AAAAAAHHH!!!!!  That scream is mostly for Brienne, who is AWESOME.

Dont_panic
Eric Zipper Eric Zipper is a writer and comedian living in Los Angeles. When he's not making you laugh, playing video games, or watching movies, he's probably sleeping. Follow him on Twitter @erzip
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