Game of Thrones Season 2, Episode 3 Review

Toby writes today with this epic review/summary of Episode 3 of Season 2! If you haven’t seen the episode this review goes into depth so be sure to watch first and read later. We hope to see more from Toby in the future. Be sure to follow him on Twitter as well!

Maester-Pycell-300x199If there has been some criticism of the opening salvoes of Season 2, it was that perhaps we have seen just a little too much exposition and not enough action. Compared to the first, where we saw a terrifying glimpse of the Others, the dark secret of the Lannisters, the attempted murder of Brann, and his father being fatally lured to the viper’s nest of King’s Landing all in the first two episodes, the hotly anticipated Clash of Kings  has rolled out at an understandably more sedate pace as the likes of Stannis Baratheon, Melisandre and Davos Seaworth had to be introduced.

Anyone who has read the novels will be chomping at the bit to see how these new characters look and integrate into the existing plot, but for those who haven’t, the relentless introduction of both new locations and new people can been a bit disorientating. To his credit,  Alik Sakharov, the director for this episode slows down the rate of scene changes just a little and ups the drama ever so slightly, giving some major screen time to the viper’s nest that is King’s Landing, the salty Greyjoys and the folly that could be Renly Baratheon’s attempt to claim the crown for himself.

The Wildings serve crueller gods than you or I”

Things carry on from they left off in the last episode with a heavily bruised Jon Snow being brutally reprimanded by Craster for spying on his diabolical practice of sacrificing his male offspring to someone mysterious offscreen. The Night’s Watch, having accepted Craster’s rules of hospitality previously, is forced to move on in its search for Snow’s uncle after this . Lord Mormont reminds a truculent and inexperienced Snow of the pragmatism and harsh laws that govern lands north of the Wall, warning him “that monster has been the difference between life and death for us Rangers”. As they prepare to leave, breaking once again their host’s rules, Samwell quietly meets with Gilly, passing on a small gift of a thimble his mother gave him that he wants her to hang onto whilst he’s gone.

Bran-riding-hodor-300x199“The Dragons are gone, the Giants are dead and the Children of the Forest forgotten”

Heading south, we see once again glimpse a sight of Bran’s dreams, as he walks through the grounds of Winterfell in the body of his direwolf Summer. Are these dreams or a hint at something more unusual?  He confides with Maester Luwin, telling him of the physical and animalistic aspects of his visions, tasting blood and howling and recalling old stories told by old Nan of magical people that could live inside creatures. Luwin, with a hint of fatherly wisdom, dismisses them ever so jovially with a piece of advice that all children want magical powers to lift them out of their dull life and into something much more exciting, but that the times of fantastic creatures such as dragons and giants has been and gone.

“My son is fighting a War, not playing at one!”

Swooping south to Bitterbridge and to the encampment of Renly Baratheon’s army as they prepare to march on Kings Landing, two fully armoured and helmeted combatants fight tooth and nail before one of them yields in his presence. Unexpectedly and making a diversion from the original book plot, the defeated is none other than the Knight of Flowers Ser Loras Tyrell, who had angered the Mountain so badly in the first season . His victor is of course Brienne of Tarth, one of the most exciting characters from the novels who makes her onscreen debut.  At 6’ 3”, Brienne was always going to be a challenging role to fill, but Gwendoline Christie looks already like an inspired bit of casting. We also see the proof of the dynastic alliance of Baratheons and Tyrells in the shape of young Queen Margaery alongside him for the first time.

Having bested Ser Loras, Brienne is granted her wish of joining Renly’s elite Kingsguard, an act that provokes derision and surprise from some of the onlookers. Amongst them is Lady Catelyn Stark, who has just arrived bearing counsel from her son and  seeking an alliance. Renly is gracious, advising her with confidence that he will bring her Joffrey’s head once he has taken King’s Landing. She dismisses Loras’s chauvinistic comment about why she came with a withering put down. Having been with Robb as he fights against the Lannisters, she senses a youthful and inexperienced arrogance amongst Renly’s entourage as he is quick to tell her just how many men he has. The scene ends as Catelyn praises Brienne for her valour in the battle.

Game-of-Thrones-Season-2-Theon-300x199“We do not sow. We are Ironborn”

The dark, dank shadows of Pyke are brewing a storm that could prove to be Robb Stark’s doom. Exasperated to find his younger sister Yara now heir and favourite, Theon Greyjoy is then further humiliated as his father Balon lays out a bold plan to take advantage of the Stark’s military endeavours in the Westerlands by ravaging their exposed lands. Leading the attack, Yara is given 30 ships to take Deepwood Motte, leaving Theon with scraps in the shape of fishing villages to assault on the stony shore. Theon’s wisdom and diplomatic counsel in the form of allying with the Starks is firmly rejected by Balon’s cast-iron affirmation that the Greyjoys do not pledge fealty; that they take what is theirs. Grasping at straws to be a prominent part of the plan, Theon emotionally pleads to his father that he was discarded by him after kneeling to Robert Baratheon.

“I shall be as silent as the grave”

Tyrion Lannister juggles his huge responsibilities as the Hand of the King with the problem of keeping Shae occupied, yet also out of sight and away from Cersei, who he senses will use her against him. His idea to get her a job as a kitchen scullion is firmly rebuffed and a comment that he thinks she is a weakness only adds insult to injury.  Meanwhile, Sansa dines awkwardly with the Queen and her younger children Myrcella and Tommen, feeling even more alone after a question by Tommen over the potential fate of a defeated Robb Stark. Afterwards, Shae turns up unexpectedly in Sansa’s bedroom, explaining that she is her new handmaid. Her total lack of skills and etiquette angers the young queen to be, but ultimately Shae’s presence alone gives a crumb of solace to Sansa.

One of the best scenes of the season so far follows. Astutely sensing the historical problems of his role and also wanting to strengthen his chance of keeping it , Tyrion hatches a plan to find out just who on the Council might be a spy for his sister. He details a dynastic arrangement to marry off young Myrcella to another smaller House to Maester Pycelle, Varys and Littlefinger separately, with the identity of the spouse different on each occasion.  Despite the unlikelihood of at least , Tyrion convinces them all that it is worthwhile. The enticement of the cursed Harrenhall is enough for Littlefinger. All endeavour to keep silent over the plan and to not reveal it to Cersei. This sequence is segued seamlessly and with great effect.

Cat-Loren-Season-2-300x168“Save your lies for court. You’re going to need a lot of them”

Heading back to Bitterbridge and the covert relationship between Renly and Loras is fractured by the latter’s wounded pride and jealousy over the appointment of Brienne to the Kingsguard. He refuses his King’s advances, sorely reminding him that he has yet to consummate his marriage to his sister Margaery – a fact that is causing problems amongst his own men. Enshrining the naked ambition of the Tyrells, she offers herself to Renly in an attempt to make the alliance concrete. When his plain lack of enthusiasm for impregnating her is clear, she shocks him by asking whether he’d like to get Loras to help, revealing that she knows all about him and her brother.  She acerbically reminds him that without an heir, as a King he is vulnerable. Although initially hilarious, this scene does two things – it gives the Tyrells much more definition in terms of their place within the framework of Renly’s claim and also gives a bit of shape to his character, something that was missing from the original books.

“What is Dead may never die”

The centrepiece of the episode is Theon’s decision to accept his father’s plans . Having initially written out a letter to Robb Stark warning him of the imminent attack by the Greyjoys on his lands, he then decides to burn it. This is a beautifully shot sequence, with Theon, a desk and a candle wreathed in black serving to amplify the importance of this reversal, him knowing that he cannot go back now. He is then symbolically baptised by a Drowned Priest to affirm himself as a Greyjoy again on the beach outside Pyke, uttering the words “What is Dead may never die, but rises again, harder and stronger.”

varys-tyrion-300x167“A very small man can cast a very large shadow”

Cersei reacts with  rage to Tyrion’s plan to marry Myrcella to House Martell in the southern lands of Dorne, wanting her daughter to avoid the misery she endured when partnered to Robert Baratheon. In doing so, she unwittingly reveals Maester Pycelle to be her spy. Leaping from the frying pan into the fire, Tyrion then astutely deflects Littlefinger’s anger at being deceived by his trickery by offering him a new task – appealing to his emotional attachment to Lady Stark, he convinces Lord Petyr to bargain for the return of Jamie Lannister by offering Sansa and Arya.

Pycelle is caught in flagrante with a prostitute when the trio of Tyrion, Bran and Timett burst into his chambers. Initially denying everything, Tyrion lays bare his deception and then questions how long Pycelle has been subservient to Cersei. Clearly flustered by the threat of imminent violence administered by Timett, Pycelle claims that he has been loyal to the Lannisters since the days of the Targareyens. Tyrion suggests that Pycelle was implicated in the death of previous hand Jon Arryn and accuses him of letting Robert Baratheon die of poisoning. The Maester is then ushered off to the Black Cells. In a clear statement of Tyrion’s relative trust in Varys, the two of them reflect on the events, with the latter subtly reminding him of the danger of his actions with a riddle.

Yoren-arya-300x275“I always hated crossbows”

In what turns out to be a dramatic climax to the episode, the final scene sees Arya speaking to Yoren about the nightmares she has after witnessing her father’s execution. He tells her of his younger brother’s death, stabbed by a good-looking boy called Willem. The only way he could lessen the pain was to speak Willem’s name repeatedly before going to bed. When Willem appeared again, he avenged his murder and sealed his fate as a member of the Black.

Interrupted by the noise of horses outdoors, Yoren wakes everyone to face the possible threat, but warns both Arya and Gendry to stay out of sight. Fatefully, Lommy Greenhands picks up Gendry’s bull helm. Outside is the sinister Ser Amory Lorch with a force of gold cloaks, there to return Gendry to King’s Landing.  Refusing to yield to their demands, Yoren is shot with a crossbow, but manages to kill several men before being dispatched in grisly style by Lorch himself.  The sight of his death empowers Gendry and the others to fight, but it’s clear that it will be a one-sided battle. As flames lick the side of his cage, Jaqen H’ghar appeals to Arya to free him from captivity – she does so by handing him an axe. Yet her fight is over as soon as it starts, being knocked down by the man-at-arms Polliver, who takes Needle from her.  With the skirmish over, Lorch orders all survivors to Harrenhal. A wounded Lommy calls out for help, injured by a crossbow, but is ruthlessly dispatched by Polliver.  When Lorch calls out for Gendry to be identified, Arya points out that he’s already dead, pointing to the bulls helm next to Lommy.

Go inside the episode with HBO’s featurette:

What will happen next week?  Find out this Sunday at 9PM as episode 4 kicks off.

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