Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Game of Thrones, Season 2, Episode 4: And Now His Watch is Ended

  As ever, because there are a gazillion and one characters in this show, HBO has an excellent guide to remind you of who is who that can be found here.

On the Road: Brienne & Jaime
Jaime isn’t a happy chappy, what with having his hand cut off and now being made to carry it. The mockery of everyone around him is probably less painful than the blood loss and infection (everything in Game of Thrones is dirty after all). Brienne is the only one who has any concern for him. He falls of his horse and they continue to torment him until he gets his hand on a sword.

Dear people who are holding Jaime Lannister captive. He is renowned as one of the top swordsmen in the realm – can you please be keeping swords away from him. This is becoming an embarrassing habit.

Of course, outnumbered, one handed, likely infected, thirsty and not very-well-at-all he doesn’t do very well; though Brienne jumps from her horse with her hands tied and does better. The fighting ends very quickly and Jaime is warned not to do it again or he loses his other hand.

As they travel, Brienne becomes more and more worried about Jaime. At night when they stop to camp Brienne heckles and attacks Jaime for giving up and trying to die, berates him as a coward for losing one thing. Jaime protests that it’s his sword hand – who he was. Brienne sneers – this is the real world, where people have real things, important things, taken from them. Having heckled him to eat she also says she knows what Jaime said to the guards to stop them raping her. Tarth is the sapphire isle because of the blue of the water – not gemstones.

Kings Landing: Lotsa people plotting.
Tyrion has a meeting with Varys, concentrating so much cunning in one room that the whole kingdom should beware. Tyrion wants to know what happened at the Blackwater – when one of his men tried to kill him; he thinks it was his sister and wants proof. Varys scoffs a little at the idea of their being a trial and says he only has whispers. Instead Varys tells Tyrion how he was castrated, a story he had been planning to tell him for a while. In the Free City of Myr he was sold to a man who castrated him to use his genitals for black magic, putting them into a fire – and a voice from the fire spoke to the sorcerer.

This is why he helped against Stannis and the sorceress Red Priestess Mellisandre because he hates magic – symbolic revenge. Tyrion wants actual revenge against the actual person who actually tried to kill him. For that he needs influence which he doesn’t have. Varys points out that influence takes patience – as he, thrown out of the sorcerer’s house to die slowly worked his way up from the slums to the Council Chamber. And with his slowly growing influence he reached where he is today - he opens a large crate and inside is the sorcerer, still alive, with his mouth sewn shut.

Let it be known that one does not screw with Varys. Ever.

Later, Varys has a council with Roz about Pod’s surprising prowess confirming that, yes, the 3 prostitutes did give their services for free because Pod was just that skilled. Before talking about Baelish and his probably plans to sneak Sansa to the Vale with him.

Meanwhile Joffrey, Margaery, Olenna and Cersei are taking a tour of the holy place in preparation for Joffrey’s marriage with Cersei and Olenna discussing class divides rather cynically and Joffrey relishing in the horrible ways people in the past died and were buried. Such a nice young man. Margaery continues to gently manipulate Joffrey while Olenna works on Cersei with her harsh criticism of her own son and forming common ground of motherhood, trying to keep their sons from battle and dying. Cersei laments that men – with little sense and a seeming longing for death – rule the world and Olenna openly calls the arrangement foolish.

When the crowd starts to get loud outside, Margaery convinces Joffrey to go see them. Outside the crowds are cheering and celebrating – calling both Joffrey and Margaery’s name. Oh, she’s good.

Cersei goes to see Tywin and, after the obligatory forced wait for his power playing, she wants Tywin to get Jaime back. Tywin is quite dismissive of her request – he already started a war to get Tyrion back from Catelyn and he hated Tyrion so it’s obvious he’s already doing what he can for Jaime. But she hangs around to vent annoyance about being kept in the dark – and maybe she, his daughter, is the child most worthy of his trust and respect; that she may have more to contribute to his “legacy” than his sons. He invites her counsel and she warns him that the Tyrells are a threat, that Margaery can manipulate Joffrey. Tywin thinks that’s a good since Cersei obviously can’t and Joffrey’s unchecked proclivities have caused chaos. He adds that he didn’t dismiss Cersei because she’s a woman but because she’s not nearly as clever as she thinks she is. Cersei invites Tywin to try controlling Joffrey

Cersei, you made me agree with Tywin. I feel unclean now

Lady Olenna is her garden being her amazing, irascible self, this time mocking her own house’s family crest (a golden rose) and words (growing strong) and the habit of putting golden roses on every flat surface. And Varys pays a visit and he may have met his match – if nothing else because Olenna’s blunt language rams through his nuance. They talk about Sansa and how little good the admiration Nedd Stark had did him in the end and how Baelish may be ambitious enough to marry Sansa and hold the North himself, given how quickly he has risen in power. Varys worries Baelish would let the country burn if he could be king of the ashes. Thankfully he has a solution – and so does Olenna

Speaking of devious manipulators, Margaery wants very much to be Sansa’s friend and she does such a very very very excellent job of winning Sansa’s never particularly hard to win trust (Sansa, grow some cynicism! Honestly how many times do you have to burn your fingers before discovering the fire is hot?) And Margaery has a plan, in between sidelining Cersei (the queen regent who she fully intends to replace) – maybe Sansa could marry Loras. Which would pretty much seal the Tyrell control of just about everything everywhere.

The North: Lotsa whiney people freezing their bits off
At Crastor’s Grenn and Pyp are shovelling shot and Rast is talking desertion since there are scary undead out there.

Sam pays a visit to Gilly who has no time for kindness of platitudes – she needs to save her baby’s life since Crastor sacrifices baby boys. The Nights Watch have a funeral for one of their men who died of a broken foot – though Rast accuses Crastor of starving the man. Inside Crastor doesn’t help with this impression by suggesting that the Night Watch wounded won’t get any better and Mormont should just kill them and move on – or leave them for Crastor to kill. The words are the last straw for Pyp and he challenges Crastor, despite Mormont trying to rush them out, he enrages Crastor who threatens the group. Mormont drags Rast outside – but that leaves Pyp to further goad Craster – and then stab him when he attacks.

Mormont comes back in as Pyp is threatening one of Craster’s women for the food he has hidden – Mormont draws his sword and demands Pyp let her go – and Rast stabs Mormont in the back. Mormont’s a might tougher than that and turns to throttle Rast and all hell breaks loose.  A nights Watch civil war breaks out – in which Mormont dies and Sam runs to Gilly, fleeing with her; but Rast shouts threats after them.

Well, that pretty much gutted the Night’s Watch.

In the Wild with the really good hallucinogens
Bran is having another raven dream with Jojen guiding him. he climbs a tree to reach the raven and his mother, Cat the Spunky, appears up the tree to complain at him for climbing. Her demands that he not climb end up pushing him out the tree – to wake up.

In Another Part of the Wild: Theon the useless
Having been rescued, again, Theon is now joined by the stranger in going to his sister, Yara. The stranger saved Theon because he is loyal to Pike and grew up on stories by his father about the last son of Balon Greyjoy. Theon is concerned because his torturers said Balon Greyjoy knew what was happening to him. The stranger dodges the question – but when they reach a keep he is careful to hide form the soldiers – Yara’s men are loyal to her, but some of the men are Balon’s.

Theon decides to unburden himself to the stranger, how he never felt like a Stark but his father never trusted him because he felt Theon was tainted by the Starks, regretting killing innocent children (though not the Stark kids, he assures the stranger) and regretting his terrible choices to try and impress his father – I feel for Theon in a way, but he does come off as awfully whiney.

It seems that all the whining gets him nowhere because the stranger takes him to – a new cross to be tortured on! Yes the Stranger is working for Theon’s torturers. Oh Theon, life just kicks him in the teeth. It’s an inventive form of questioning though.

In the Riverlands: Brotherhood without Banners, Arya
Arya and Gendry are “escorted” hooded to their camp, a cave, along with Ser Sandor Clegane, the Hound. Clegane mocks them as a bunch of peasants – which they were. Clegane mocks that they still are and carrying weapons doesn’t make them soldiers. Up steps the boss of the Brotherhood, Lord Beric Dondarrion to counter that fighting a war does indeed make them soldiers. Clegane accuses him of fighting for ghosts – dead Robert and dead Ned, to hunt Sandor. But Beric has a new task – to hunt those who prey on the weak, be they Lannister and Stark

He’s also converted to the “one true god” as have the whole band. Uh that sounds like the Red God of Messlisandre. That’s not good. They throw accusations at Clegane, atrocities the Lannisters and his house have committed against innocents, women and children. Clegane objects – the crimes of the Lannisters and his brother cannot be blamed on him – kill him if they must but don’t kill him as a murderer for crimes other’s committed.

Arya speaks up for Myka the butcher’s boy, way back in season 1, who was killed by the Hound. Hound objects that Joffrey said Myka attacked him and he can’t question a Prince. Beric says it’s not for them to judge – but the Lord of Light. Yes, that would be Mellisandre’s god: and he gets trial by combat against Lord Beric.

Astropor: White and Delightsome Daenerys in “barbaric” foreign places
Daenerys collects her warrior slaves and Krasni advises Daenerys to sack lots of vulnerable cities on the way to get her new slaves some experience. Also Krasni will buy any healthy captives he takes. Daenerys ignores him (translated through Misandre) and releases the dragon she is giving up, handing its chain to Krasni. She asks if it’s done, are the salves hers and Krasni says it is done. She walks away from Krasni and his insults he thinks she doesn’t understand

And addresses the Unsullied. In their own language. While Krasni struggles with a reluctant dragon, she plays Simon Says with her new army. Krasni complains (insulting Daenerys as a “bitch” again) that the dragon won’t come and Daenerys responds in his own language that a dragon is not a slave

Turns out the language is Valyrian. Which is where the Targaryens came from originally, even before conquering the 7 kingdoms. Of course she speaks Valyrian, it’s her mother tongue. She turns to the Unsullied and orders them to kill the Masters, kill the slavers, kill everyone who holds a whip and spare the children. While Krasni screams at people to kill her she turns to the struggling dragon and says his name, Darkaris – he burns Krasni and the Unsullied attack Astropor. They slaughter the soldiers, helped by the dragon that breathes an absolute inferno, consuming the battlements.

Daenerys looks cool and epic with the fire as a backdrop.

The battle won, Daenerys walks among her Unsullied army, Ser Jorah and Barristan a little stunned behind her. She gets on a horse and addresses the Unsullied, telling them they are free, that no-one is forced to remain and can leave if they wish. She asks if they will fight for her as free men. There is a ringing silence… then one by one men begin hitting the ground with their spears. This seems to be a yes.

Ok, I’m going to call hellishly simplistic on this one. freeing them then asking them to fight for her not a second afterwards, with men who have been raised from birth to a level of obedience where they can have their nipples cut off without flinching? Too simple. Too simple to assume they could grasp freedom straight away, let alone trust it from the woman who just caused a massacre and has a pocket flamethrower. She marches from Astropor with her army, discarding the whip she was given on the way

Brienne and Jaime may be the best storyline in this. And though Jaime has taken a horrendous loss, she’s also right about the insulation of his life – especially with how many lives have been ruined and ended by this many sided civil war. Brienne is just all kinds of awesome.

Almost as much as Varys. And Varys and Olenna together (oh she is beyond awesome) is something we need to see more often.

I love how Cersei points out the very nature of the Lannister family bonds – it’s never about loving family it’s all about Tywin’s legacy, not the children as people. And her frustrated challenge that he is discounting her as a daughter. It would be a wonderful challenge to the sexism of society if it weren’t undermined by Tywin being right. Yes Margaery is manipulating Joffrey, but no-one else has any control over him, Cersei certainly doesn’t, and there’s been a definite sense that Cersei may, indeed, think she is cleverer than she actually is.

And this is a much better Daenerys. Less whining. Less tantrum. More epic. Things are definitely picking up