Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Game of Thrones, Season 2, Episode 2: The Night Lands

I will begin by again linking to HBO’s most excellent guide to the 10,000 characters on this show, to help people keep up with who is who.

After neglecting her last week, we start this episode with Arya, disguised as a boy called Harry, heading north with the recruits (often criminals) of the Nights Watch and joined by one of King Robert’s illegitimate children, Gendry. The gold cloaks, the watch men of Kings Landing, have caught up with their camp with a royal warrant for one of the children. Arya assumes it’s for her. But they’re there for Gendry – to kill him as they have the rest of Robert’s illegitimate children.

But the Nights Watch is sovereign, not under the rule of the crown and the leader of the camp doesn’t see fit to hand him over and forces them to retreat to gather more men.

While washing up we see just how naive most of the boys going to the wall are.  Arya questions why Gendry is wanted by the Goldcloaks, but, of course, Gendry has no idea. All he knows is the Hands of the King were asking him questions – Lord Arryn and Lord Stark – and Gendry also reveals he knows Arya is a girl and Arya reveals who she is to him. I really like how they bounce off each other, it’s almost sibling-like

In Kings Landing, Tyrion the awesome walks in on Varys (and his carefully crafted insinuations) and Shae. Tyrion seems to form some kind of link with Varys, suggesting they both have disadvantages to overcome, while Varys takes steps to make it clear to Tyrion how very well informed he is, how discreet he is and how good a friend he can be. And Tyrion shows that he is his sister’s brother and he will use his power to crush Varys if Varys threatens him – Varys is, however, unimpressed, being rather better at this game than Baelish ever was. On that happy note they join Cersei in council

And Cersei has received Robb’s peace demands which, naturally, she feels rather disinclined to grant – though they send a return message back to check on Jaime. Grand Maester Pycelle, who is playing his own game – has a message from Castle Black and the Nights Watch – the Commander Mormont is asking for more men to man the wall as the “king of the wildlings” has raised a huge army and the dead are walking. Cersei and Pycelle dismiss him, but Tyrion, who has been to the wall, trusts Mormont

Also in Kings Landing we drop on Baelish who is, unsurprisingly, in a brothel (can’t have a Game of Thrones episode without a brothel, now, can we?) where Ros is crying over the baby who was murdered last episode. Baelish starts out comforting then threatens her because her grief is costing him custom – that he would sell her to someone cruel and perverse if necessary to recoup his coin, reminding Ros that she is nothing more than an investment for Baelish, not a person.

Tyrion is hosting the new Lord Lord Slynt to dinner (he was head of the city watch, raised to a lord by Cersei when he supported her rather than Ned Stark) and investigating the murder of the baby in Baelish’s brothel. Tyrion (who is most awesome) makes it rapidly clear that he holds Janos Slynt in high contempt and makes it very clear that he doesn’t trust him, that he has no friends, that he is a useful tool at best. And, of course, he is Cersei’s tool not Tyrion’s so he has Slynt sent off to the Nights Watch instead. He raises Bronn – his tool – to be head of the City Watch instead.

Cersei is most displeased by Tyrion’s actions. He warns her that she’s losing the people – and while she doesn’t care, Tyrion points out just how many people there actually are and how much she has given the people a rallying cry against her – or rather what Joffrey did by giving the order to have the babies murdered. Cersei lashes out by reminding Tyrion that his birth killed their mother

Up to the Nights Watch north of the wall where Sam and several other guards are all talking women and Sam has the chance to reassure one of Craster’s “wives”, Gilly who was scared by Jon’s giant Dire World, Ghost. Gilly is pregnant and wants to run away from Craster and Sam tries to convince Jon the Pouty to back him – against the direct orders of Commander Mormont. Jon obeys his orders and rebukes Sam for getting involved (what, now Jon decides to be obedient?) and pointing out Sam’s plan is so foolish and deeply flawed.

During the night, Jon sees Craster take a baby – a new boy – into the woods and abandon him in the snow where he is picked up by a figure with glowing blue eyes, one of the White Walkers. Before he can do anything, Craster sneaks up on him from behind and hits him over the head

Across the narrow sea we join Daenerys and Ser Jorah in the Red Waste. The horses of one of her bloodriders, Rekharo, who she sent out to scout has returned riderless – with his head in the saddlebag.

Theon Greyjoy is travelling sailing to his father’s home – the Iron Islands (and naturally in the company of a naked woman and a gratuitous sex scene). We have more background on the Iron islanders as rough, dangerous raiders, slavers and rapists which Theon seems highly proud of.

Of course, Theon has a rather romantic ideal of what his people and his land was like. He instantly starts flirting with the first woman who offers him a lift to the castle and starts to grope her on the journey (and orders her to stay at the castle with him. The people of the Iron Isles are hard and his father, Balon Greyjoy doesn’t know him – Ned Stark has raised Theon more than his own family has.  The Greyjoys don’t value the fancy clothing Theon wears, or jewels he buys rather than takes from the corpses of his enemies (paying the Iron Price rather than the Gold Price). Balon hates the Starks as people who killed his other sons – and fears Theon is more a Stark than A Greyjoy

Robb Stark made a proposal to Balon Greyjoy – help him kill the Lannisters with the Greyjoy fleet and he can be King of the Iron Isles again. Then the woman he was flirting with comes into the room – it’s his sister Yara and the new heir to the Greyjoys. While he was captive of the Starks, she was sailing and learning to fight and commanding the forces of the Greyjoys. And Balon will not eb given a crown by Robb Stark, he will pay iron price and claim his own crown.

Meanwhile Davros Seaworth, a smuggler in the service of Stannis is making a deal with Salladhor Saan, a pirate to add his pirate fleet to Stannis’ in exchange for the chance to sack Kings Landing and rape Cersei Lannister. And we learn why Davros is so loyal to Stannis and what Stannis has done for him

Stannis still keeps the Melisandre, the priestess of the Lord of Light around him. Stannis is worried about the sheer numbers Renly commands. Meslisandre says he will win and have the support of the Lord of Light if he gives all of himself over – this giving involves Melisandre stripping naked (yes, of course it does) and her seducing him.

Sam continues to annoy me as a character. They have established the stereotype of the incapable coward with him, but at least they had him as intelligent as well. He’s a good man – but now he’s also foolish and deeply naive with an almost obsession with women.

With the death of Rekharo we have lost the only Dorthraki who was beginning to stand up as anything more than a side character since Drogo died. We’re now down to the pale, very very very VERY blonde Daenerys ruling over her savage brown folks again.

Do I even have to mention Salladhor Saan? The black pirate captain who will sail to war with Stannis so long as he gets to rape the blonde woman? Who wrote this scene, the Aryan Brotherhood?

I’m glad we have the stronger character of Yara among the women, yet at the same time her strength is shown with her imitating the men as much as possible. Other than her even Cersei is reduced to a sex object, a victim and a trophy. And then she seems increasingly incapable, unable to restrain her son and falling back in the face of Tyrion’s influence. Even Melisandre, the terrible and powerful priestess of the Lord of Light with intriguing magic shows her power by stripping naked and trying to seduce Stannis while degrading his wife.

Tyrion is still awesome and understand more about ruling and how to command the kingsdoms than, perhaps, any other noble. His intelligence and wit contrasts well with the confusion, self-interest and short sightedness around him.

Without further development both Jon the Pouty and Daenerys’ storylines are beginning to feel like unnecessary add ons to the plot. The same also applies to Theon Greyjoy and the Iron Isles