Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Game of Thrones Season 2, Episode 8: The Prince of Winterfell

Robb Stark is having a merry conversation with Talisa about his upcoming nuptials to an unnamed Frey daughter and the powerful duties and responsibilities of being a lord. It’s all very pleasant until they get a message – Jaime Lannitser escaped during the night, Catelyn the Spunky freed him in the hope that this would lead to Sansa and Arya being freed. Naturally, Lord Karstark, whose son was killed by Jaime Lannister

Brienne is escorting (well acting as prison warder) Jaime Lannister while he tries to taunt and mock her – not that it gets him very far.

Robb seeks more comfort with Talisa in face of Theon’s betrayal, his mother’s foolishness and all the other stresses of his life, exchanging more small talk and personal history stories. Which leads to Robb and Talisa finally giving in to the sexual tension  in a sex scene where Talisa strips naked and Robb manages to keep his trousers on, uh-huh.

At Harenhal Arya is still playing servant to Lord Tywin while he has a war council. Tywin plans a secret march to get ahead of Robb’s forces – and to leave Arya at Harenhal with Clegane the Mountain.

Arya shows a much craftier side – having lost the chance to name Tywin to Jaqen, she names Jaqen himself as someone Jaqen has to kill. She will un-name him only if he helps her and her friends escape. She secures his help (if not his happiness). It seems the ridiculously stifling Stark sense of honour and Tully lack of sense has skipped Arya at least.

In Kings Landing Tyrion is stressed over the up coming siege and trying to plan defences. For added stress, Varys congratulates Bronn (the new head of the city watch) on the reduction in crime rate – by rounding up all the suspected thieves and killing them. Tyrion isn’t especially thrilled by this tactic but Bronn and Varys believes it’s necessary in a siege when shortage and theft are rampant.

Cersei has dinner with Tyrion and they discuss Joffrey’s intention to fight – Cersei obviously doesn’t want to, he’s only a boy. But, as Tyrion points out, there are boys of the same age in his army fighting for him. She protests his place is not on the battlefield and Tyrion points out it’s not on the throne either (best line of the episode).

But Cersei has her own plan – kidnapping and abusing a prostitute to control Tyrion, relying on his affection and love for her and threatening her to ensure that Joffrey comes to no harm. Except they got the wrong prostitute – the one they have captured and abused is Ros, not Shae. (Ros is, again, disposable). Naturally Tyrion runs to check on Shae and warns her to be more careful.

Later Tryion and Varys have the joyful task of listening to Joffrey who wants to strike against the Starks while they’re distracted (as Tyrion points out, there is a siege approaching in Kings Landing). Neither Tyrion nor Varys are especially impressed by Joffrey’s boasting . This gives Varys and Tyrion chance for some verbal fencing – though their extreme intelligences and natural suspicion makes it difficult. After much discussion and exposition (really well done) we find that Varys is aware of Daenerys and her dragons – though everyone is far too distracted to worry about her.

Stannis is sailing on Kings Landing with his fleet and having some more exposition with Ser Davos, the Onion Knight and declaring that he intends to make Ser Davos his Hand of the King (he has to win it yet). Other than some not very necessary exposition, I’m not sure what the point of this scene was.

Theon Greyjoy is still lurking in Winterfell and is, alas, not dead, when his sister Yara finally comes to see him having received his message. She pours scorn on his excuses for killing Brandon and Rickon Stark – and 2 such valuable hostages. And, no, she hasn’t brought men to help defend Winterfell. As should have been apparent to any fool (so not Theon) the Greyjoys are Iron Islanders, sea farers and reavers – Winterfell is too far from the sea, defending landlocked castles is not their expertise. And after he killed the Stark children the Northerners would slaughter them. In the first moment of actual sibling bonding between Yara and Theon, Yara almost begs him to leave – it’s good to see some actual emotion between them beyond the posturing of the Iron Isles.

Between Theon discussing paying off the farmer whose boys they killed to pretend they were Bran and Rickon (no need, his second in command killed him) and examining the bodies, Maester Luwin gets suspicious – and finds that Osha, Hordor, Bran and Rickon have all been hiding inside Winterfell’s crypt. They try to keep the knowledge of the dead farmer’s boys from Bran but he overhears them

North of the Wall, Jon the Pouty has been taken prisoner by Ygritte and taken to the Lord of Bones (a man with unique fashion sense) but they’ve already taken Qhorin Half-hand prisoner and don’t need him – or wouldn’t if Ygritte didn’t argue for him. Jon also learns that Qhorin’s team is dead – they were ambushed looking for Jon when he decided to play games with Ygritte.  

But Qhorin has a plan – when Mance leads his forces against the Wall, a Nightswatchman on the inside would be better than 1000 on the wall (maybe because they’ll actually wear clothing that has a remote chance of camouflage in the snowy wilderness).  But only if the insider (Jon) could be trusted – and he begins to set up fake antagonism between himself and the confused Jon Snow.

Sam with some other brothers of the Nights Watch engage in some amateur archaeology and discover some obsidian (“dragon glass”) blades. Presumably this will be relevant at some point, or maybe they just want to remind us Sam’s still alive.

Daenerys is running and hiding from Xaros and his eyes – Ser Jorah wants to flee, but Daenerys won’t leave without her dragons and appeals to Ser Jorah for her children – that they have to go find them and rely on her magic (her immunity to flames) to get to them. I’m not entirely sure what the point of this scene was other than to remind us Daenerys is still alive.

Catelyn, oh dear gods Catelyn. She is presented repeatedly as the eternal mother in this series – but she has lost every last damn iota of sense. Time and again – from the capturing of Tyrion onwards (even from the riding down to Kings Landing almost alone onwards), Catelyn Stark has repeatedly shown herself to have less sense than the horse she rides.

Hot Pie joins the ranks of King Robert and Sam in the poor representation of fat people on the show – greedy, cowardly and/or ineffectual. Hot Pie (even his name!)  is obsessed by food – it’s actually all he talks about all episode

Cersei’s comment about Varys being dangerous because he doesn’t think with his penis is telling in a world where female power is constantly restricted. Repeatedly we see women reduced only to their sexuality, the only tool and the only weapon they’re allowed to have. A woman generally only has value in the Game of Thrones based on who she is sleeping with or who her children are – and even the latter is often presented as a weakness or vulnerability (witness Cersei’s lamentations last episode about Joffrey and Catelyn’s freeing of Jaime for the sake of her own children). Cersei’s underlining of a man’s weakness based on his sex life both underscores what she said last episode about love being a weakness .

There were several scenes in this episode – Varys and Tyrion, Stannis and Davros, Daenerys and Jorah that didn’t serve any purpose except for them to talk to each other, maybe disclose some not-very-relevant history, but otherwise not further anything