When your entire season is building to a climactic battle, like how season two of Game of Thrones is building towards next week’s sure-to-be-epic Battle of the Blackwater, it’s a given that some of the episodes leading up to it won’t be as action-packed or exciting. Last week, for example, we got an episode that largely consisted of intimate scenes between two people, and it was wonderful. This week we get another hour that consists mostly of quieter scenes, but it doesn’t work nearly as well as last week, partially because it doesn’t feel quite like the impending battle is having enough of an effect on the characters (well, except Tyrion, Bronn, and Varys, but we’ll get to that) or the tone of the show. While still entertaining, and still providing some great character moments, it mostly felt like an hour that was treading water, waiting for the battle to come.
We’ll start at the Wall, as I’m so fond of doing. I may have mentioned before that I don’t like it that much when an episode tries to cram a bunch of the two separated plots (Jon and Dany) into one episode, but it can work if they do it sparingly, as they have the past few weeks. We only got two short scenes north of the Wall this week, and they were both fine, setting up things to come. Quorin, it turns out, has also been captured by the Wildlings, but he has a plan that involves goading Jon into fighting him. Jon, no surprise here, is slow to catch on. I have a feeling this will pay off in the finale.
We may wait a bit longer for the other moment to pay off, but it’s cool to know that Sam and his buddies are now in position of a bunch of Dragonglass, which apart from having an awesome name, is bound to come in handy eventually. So, you know, there’s that to look forward to. Apart from that, there’s not much to say about these bits. Their only real job was to plant seeds that will later grow into plants, and between now and then there’s not much to do but wait.
Speaking of waiting, there’s a lot of it going on over in Qarth, and it’s getting frustrating. I know that they’re probably holding off on having Dany enter the House of the Undying until the season finale, but in lieu of giving her something interesting to do in the meantime, they just keep stalling with unnecessary scenes between her and Jorah. I would have much preferred that the Qarth storyline simply sit out for a couple episodes, so that precious pre-battle screentime could have been distributed to someone else.
Normally I’d suggest that it go to Tyrion, because he is the best, but he actually got a solid chunk of this week’s episode, which made me quite happy. His three or four scenes (which is a lot for one episode in this show) ran a whole gamut of what makes Dinklage’s performance awesome, not to mention what makes Tyrion the best character in a show full of great characters. Him, Bronn, and Varys seem to be the only ones really concerned with protecting King’s Landing, as well as the only ones who seem to be aware of how dire the situation truly is. Joffrey is running around like a lunatic talking about killing Stannis himself, while Tyrion is hunkered down with a stack of books trying to come up with something better.
Watching Tyrion and Bronn bicker here was priceless, and I’ll never get tired of their chemistry. Throwing Varys into the mix just made it even better, because not only are Varys and Tyrion played by two of the best actors on the show, but they are probably the two smartest characters, which makes their interplay really stand out. ‘The God of Tits and Wine’ indeed.
Then we got to see a more somber side of Tyrion, when his sister announces that she ‘has his whore.’ He immediately goes white, assuming that she has captured Shae, only for it to be revealed that she got Roz instead. Tyrion handles the situation very well, never giving away her blunder, while promising Roz that he will do everything he can to help her. Then he gives a withering speech to Cersei that made me cheer, only to run home to Shae on the verge of tears. This is definitely the most vulnerable we’ve seen Tyrion, asking Shae to promise that she’s his and only his. This is sure to end well.
Over at Harrenhal, Tywin rides out to battle Robb, too late for Arya to have Jaquen kill him. Instead, in a brilliant move, she threatens to have him kill himself unless he helps her and her friends escape. He does, in a beautifully creepy sequence where Arya, Hot Pie, and Gendry walk through the gates of Harrenhal, past several still-standing corpses that are quietly dripping blood. This Jaquen fellow does not mess around. Oh, this episode also marked the return of Rorge and Biter, the other two scary dudes that Arya rescued from the cage along with Jaquen. Presumably the show just wants to remind us that those two are still out there, being scary. Duly noted.
No Sansa this episode. Pretty okay with that.
Things were crazy over at Robb’s camp this week, and our King in the North was not at all pleased to find out that his mother had sent the Kingslayer on his merry way, along with Brienne. She maintains that it’s the only way to get Sansa and Arya back (having no idea, of course, that Arya isn’t still in King’s Landing), but Robb quickly lays out what a stupid move it was. Not only is Arnolf Karstark mad because he has been denied his vengeance, but Robb has lost a significant amount of his leverage. Left with no choice, he has Cat put under lock and key. This scene was nicely acted by both Michelle Fairly and Richard Madden, and felt like how the situation would have actually played out.
So now, Robb is stressed. Cue the entrance of his sexy nurse friend, who tells him a long story about her little brother being rescued by a slave, and then proceeds to bone him in his tent, despite the fact that he’s betrothed to a Frey girl (for a bridge). This scene was sexy and all, but I found myself losing some patience during her long, long speech. In fact there were a few moments like that in this episode, which wasn’t a problem I had last week.
It also happened during the scene between Stannis and Davos, although that might just be because I was already aware of Davos’s backstory, which was finally revealed to the audience. It’s a great story, and it was acted very well by both Davos and Stannis, providing the only real scene in which I felt the looming threat of battle in my bones.
Oh, I almost forgot: Brienne and Jaime! These two are finally off on the road together, and it’s sure to be a good time, if not for them, then certainly for the viewers. Jaime’s snarky attitude contrasts so wonderfully with Brienne’s stoic act, and I have a lot of faith in both of these actors to make their relationship as complex and interesting as it is in the books. Also, when they inevitably fight, it’s going to be awesome. Awesome I tell you!
And that just leaves us with Theon. Poor, in-over-his-head Theon. His sister Yara comes to fetch him back to Pyke to speak to his father, who it seems is not quite as proud of his son capturing Winterfell as Theon feels he should be. The two siblings bicker for a while, eventually sharing a nice, small moment of actual sisterly love on the part of Yara, before she rides off and leaves him to his empty victory, although not before calling him a c*nt a few times. (That seemed to be the word of the episode.) Theon and his weird, creepy first-mate are left to watch over their castle, oblivious both to the fact that Roose Bolton’s bastard is coming to take it from them, and the fact that Osha, Bran, Rickon, and Hodor are hiding right under their noses.
I was a little bummed that that’s the reveal that they chose to end the episode on. I doubt anyone really believed that the farmer’s boys were Bran and Rickon, so it felt a bit empty to close on a shot of them hiding beneath Winterfell. I would have much preferred something that led into next week’s episode, like a shot of Stannis’s ships closing in on King’s Landing. Oh well.
So there you have it. A decent episode that I personally feel could have done a better job of leading into next week’s climax, but that was still successful at providing some nice character moments. For now, I’ll take it. Because next week…. well, next week Stannis gets here, and then things are really going to go to hell.
-They just keep putting Roose and Jeyne in a room together, and I will never stop finding it funny.
-Speaking of Jeyne, she IS still Jeyne, right? And have they changed her character so she’s actually from Volantis? I’m very confused by this whole storyline.
-I feel bad for the non book-readers who are convinced that Joffrey is gonna die this season. Those poor souls.
-They also haven’t set up the Chain for the battle, which makes me wonder how Tyrion is gonna win this one.