“The Prince of Winterfell” Episode Review

By Charlie Harwood on May 21, 2012 to Game of Thrones

The past two episodes of Game of Thrones have deviated from the books a lot. However, in this episode, those deviations have made a U-Turn and headed right back into what was included in the novels.  My initial reactions to this episode: Yes. Wow. OMG. Yes!

Note: This review contains spoilers for Episode 8 “The Prince of Winterfell” as well as MINOR book spoilers. Book spoilers will be noted as they come up so you can avoid them if you want.

We begin with Robb starting his courtship of Talisa and he finds out that Catelyn, the overwhelming mother figure of the show, freed Jaime. She sent Brienne to escort the Kingslayer to King’s Landing with the hopes that the Lannisters will free Arya and Sansa.  Brienne and Jamie talk about who would win a fight between them before jumping into a canoe and paddling down river. Robb, feeling extremely disappointed and betrayed by his own mother, orders that Cat be held under constant surveillance. Towards the end of the episode, Roose Bolton tells Robb that his bastard is close to Winterfell. Talisa enters the tent, sparks start to fly, and Robb can’t help but declare his love for her. They then proceed to have naughty time on the floor of Robb’s tent. I guess the saying is true. It’s good to be King.

In King’s Landing, the Royal Family is preparing for Stannis’s upcoming attack. Cersei informs Tyrion that she has found the whore that he smuggled into the city against their father’s orders. However, the woman that Cersei captured, as well as beaten, was Ros and not Shae. I could just sense the feeling of relief when Tyrion found out that his sister had the wrong person. Even though it isn’t Shae, Tyrion is very displeased at the sheer cruelness that Cersei displayed, resulting in a threat that is as cold as they come. Tyrion then runs to Shae to find her unharmed.

Over at Harrenhal, Tywin is preparing to strike on Robb’s forces, and Arya overhears. He plans to leave immediately and leave the Mountain in charge of the castle. He even nominates Arya to be his new cupbearer. Are you kidding me? There’s no way Arya is having any of that, right? She goes out in search of Jaqen H’ghar so she can speak Tywin’s name, but can’t find him until its too late. Frustrated at the situation, Arya finally speaks her last name: Jaqen H’ghar. Feeling very perplexed, and for obvious reasons, Jaqen demands that she unsay his name. Arya refuses. The only way she will unsay the name is if he helps her, Gendry, and Hotpie escape. A man agrees and kills the guards outside Harrenhal’s gates, allowing the three companions to walk right through.

In Qarth, Jorah tells Dany that he has found a ship leaving for Astapor and recommends that they flee the city without the dragons. Dany won’t go, obviously. She is the mother of dragons and there is no way she is leaving without them. She tells Jorah to accompany her to the House of the Undying.

North of the Wall, Jon Snow is brought before Rattleshirt, an extremely cool looking wildling who wears clothing made of bones, and he wants to gut Jon on sight. Ygritte saves his life by arguing that Mance Rayder would like to decide for himself what to do with Ned Stark’s bastard. Qhorin Halfhand is also among the captives, but all the other brothers from the Watch are dead. Qhorin tells Jon that their brother’s deaths won’t be in vain if Jon goes undercover to infiltrate Mace Rayder’s army. He pretends to be angry with Jon and throws him down a snowy hill to further convince their wildling captors that he is a traitor. Also north of the wall, Sam, Grenn, and Delorous Edd stumble across a cache of dragon glass spear points and daggers wrapped in a black cloak of the Night’s Watch.

Sailing to King’s Landing, we FINALLY learn the story behind Davos’s nickname, the Onion Knight. Stannis declares that he is the rightful king by all laws in Westeros and promises to make Davos his Hand once the city is taken.

Yara Greyjoy arrives at Winterfell, and gives her brother a nice bit of reaming. Theon is still struggling to find respect amongst the Ironborn, and his sister is not making it any easier. She mocks his siege of Winterfell, and tells her brother that she is heading home. Yara wants Theon to come with her and shares a story about when he was a baby that gives an insight into the close relationship these two siblings once had. In the yard, Maester Luwin notices Osha sneaking around. Bran, Rickon, and the others aren’t dead! They are hiding out in the crypts underneath Winterfell . The two boys hanging above the gates belonged to a local farmer.

“The Prince of Winterfell” was yet another set-up episode, and it seems like we’ve been getting way too many of those this season. I want action, I want more deaths, and I want Theon’s head on a spike. Is that too much to ask? I don’t think it is. The next episode, “Blackwater”, should be an hour-long battle so that should satisfy my needs. The thing is, with only one episode left after next week, it makes me feel like there won’t be enough time to finish the other stories. I hope it’s not a downer.

Likes

Book Deviation U-Turn –Wow. Wow. Wow. Did I say wow already? The last two episodes have had me wondering just where the writers of the show were going with all the book deviations. It turns out, much to my surprise, they weren’t going anywhere but merely setting up the events that took place in the novels a little bit differently. Absolutely brilliant writing! I didn’t see it coming at all. I will cover more about this in my “book deviations” section later in this post, but this stood out to me more than anything else in the episode.

Varys – Is it just me? Or have we not seen Varys for awhile? It was nice to see him back in this episode and his dialogue with Tyrion was as good as ever.

Tyrion – Another great episode for Tyrion and more great acting from Peter Dinklage. The scene with Bronn cleaning his nails? Hilarious. The scene where Cersei tells him she has found his whore? Intense. The scene where he tells Shae his true feelings about her? Perfect. Also, Tyrion is the only character that makes me laugh. I mean really makes me laugh. This character’s arch has really been building up this season and the climax should be coming next week.

Arya Stark and Jaqen H’ghar – How pissed was he when Arya said his name? That was so great and it shows just how cunning Arya really is. I really can’t begin to describe how much I like the deviations from Arya’s story this season. The scenes between her and Tywin have been magnificent.

Wordplay between Jamie and Brienne – “Where did you get this beast?” OK, that was from last week but it’s such a great line. The back and forth insults between these two is so entertaining. I can’t wait to see more next season.

Dislikes

Arya’s Escape – Arya, Gendry, and Hotpie just walk out of Harrenhal that easily? The way Jaqen killed the guards was kick ass, but it was WAY too easy. With all the suspense building up between Arya and Tywin this season, this really disappointed me. The scenes between these two have been my favorite all season long and to have it end to undramatically makes me rather upset. In the books, Arya kills a guard in order to aid their escape. Like we wouldn’t have wanted to see that?  I know the last episode will reunite Arya with Jaqen, I just hope it’s a little more exciting.

Slow Pace – Since this was the third to last episode, I expected a little more um…action! Why have there been so many set-up episodes? Pretty much this week’s episode is what I have disliked most about season two: too much set up and not enough kick ass Game of Thrones stuff. Last season’s eighth episode was the Ned beheading and I think a lot of fans were expecting something dramatic to happen in this one as well. I know I was. What really made me upset about the slow pace is that next week’s episode, “Blackwater”, should be an hour long battle. Of course, that is definitely cool. Even more so that George RR Martin penned this episode himself. But, and this is a BIG but, what about all the other loose ends that need to be tied up in one episode? If there is an entire episode dedicated to Stannis’s attack on King’s Landing, that only leaves one left for Dany to get her dragons back, Arya to have an important scene with Jaqen, Jon to convince the wildlings he’s a traitor, and Theon to finally get what we deserves.

Not Enough Beyond the Wall – There wasn’t enough Jon Snow for my taste. Especially after the great scenes last week between him and Ygritte. I know, I know. Set up, right? Don’t get me started on that again.

Book Deviations (Minor Spoilers From A Clash of Kings)

As I mentioned earlier, book deviations have dominated the last two episodes. However, this one brought it all back into the realm that GRRM created. Considering some of the major shifts from what was in the books, the way it was done seemed simple, brilliant, and exactly what this show needed. Here are the main book deviations from this season and how they have returned back into the sphere of ACoK.

Daenerys ­– There has been quite a bit of deviations for Dany’s storyline all season long. But, the biggest and most interesting was once she arrived in Qarth. In the novel, her dragons were never stolen, Xaro Xoan Daxos doesn’t declare himself King of Qarth, and her bloodriders, along with the rest of her khalassar, are never killed. I’ve read a lot of comments from die hard book lovers who really hated these deviations. In ACoK, Dany’s trip to Qarth was largely uneventful so I have to compliment the writers for adding some scenes that create more drama and interest for the Mother of Dragons. In last night’s episode, Dany’s story is going where it ended in ACoK: a standoff in the House of the Undying. The difference is that Dany went there in order to ask the Warlocks for help procuring a ship, not to get her dragons back. The only real problem I have is that Drogon was on her shoulder as she went into the House. For those who have read the book, you know that Drogon’s presence was a big part of that chapter.

Arya and Tywin – As I’ve stated in previous reviews, Arya and Tywin never had scenes together in the second book. Arya served in various roles while being held captive at Harrenhal, but never as a cupbearer for Tywin. Also, the people Arya has named so far have been different then what was in the books, but that last name she said was the most significant. In the novels, she names Jaqen H’ghar as her third. Honestly, I forgot about this and I got really excited once I remembered what was happening. There still has to be a final scene with Jaqen, where he gives her a coin and Arya says those famous words. Since the last episode is titled “Volar Morghulis”, I’m positive this will still happen.

Winterfell – The drama at Winterfell has had a few changes as well. The way in which Theon took the castle was similar to what GRRM wrote in ACoK and he did kill two other boys to pose as Bran and Rickon. The biggest change came with Bran’s escape. Osha didn’t seduce Theon in order to help the Little Lord’s get away. I don’t want to get too spoilery here, considering some events may still happen this season, but Bran and is companions hide out underneath Winterfell in the midst of a lot of chaos going on inside the castle walls.

Jon Snow – In the novels, Jon couldn’t bring himself to kill Ygritte, but was captured very differently. Qhorin had the idea to pose Jon as a traitor in the books. Again, without getting too spoilery, a fight ensues between the two, further convincing the wildlings that Jon is a traitor. It looks like this will actually happen now. The scene where Sam and the others find the dragonglass was changed. In the books, Jon follows Ghost from the Fist of the First Men and he leads Jon directly to the cache. I think this scene was much better than was transpired in the show last night, but I was really happy it was included.

Favorite Quotes from “The Prince of Winterfell”

“You treated them with honor? By butchering them?” – Yara Greyjoy

“A girl will obey.” – Arya Stark

“We’re even know, Jon Snow.” – Ygritte

“You’re much uglier in daylight.” – Jaime Lannister

“Don’t forget me.” – Ros

“All my life I have been knocking men like you into the dust.” – Brienne of Tarth

“Jaqen H’ghar.” – Arya Stark

“I like to keep me hands clean.” – Bronn

“I’ve taken Winterfell. And I will keep Winterfell.” – Theon Greyjoy

“Help was not promised lovely girl. Only death.” – Jaqen H’ghar

“Get. Out.” – Cersei Lannister

“I will hurt you for this. A day will come when you think you’re safe and happy and your joy will turn to ashes in your mouth. And you will know the debt is paid.” – Tyrion Lannister

“Why are all the Gods vicious cunts? Where is the God of tits and wine?” – Tyrion Lannister

“I’m yours and your mine.” – Shae

“I don’t want to marry the Frey girl.” – Robb Stark

“If my uncle Stannis lands on the shores of King’s Landing, I’ll ride out to greet him.” – Joffrey Baratheon

“What about my magic?” – Daenerys Targaryen

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