Greyjoy Archive

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Television Review/Recap: Game of Thrones Season 2 Episode 6

I’m a wee bit conflicted on this episode. On the one hand, events in King’s Landing are fantastic. I’d be the happiest man in the world if an entire episode was set there. Such an action would also assuage my growing fears that Game of Thrones is going to turn into Heroes, a show which was crippled by its exponential character growth and plot lines that never really connected.

While things north of the Wall felt a bit more interesting this week, the story in Qarth is as tedious as ever. As for Winterfell, well things just don’t make sense there.

*Spoilers Ahead*

North of the Wall

The rangers tell Jon Snow that he can never expect loyalty from his dire wolf as wild things are beyond knowing. Shortly thereafter they take a wilding prisoner at the mouth of some wildling cave/encampment. Jon gets tasked with killing her, that’s right, it’s a woman, but he doesn’t have the stones to go through with it, you know because she’s a woman. After botching the execution she leads Jon on a merry chase, separating him from the other rangers. With the rangers out of sight, Jon and the wildling set up camp for the night. There’s some cuddling for mutual warmth and a knowing grin on the face of the wildling woman.

Winterfell

Let it be known right now that I’m calling shenanigans on this entire story arc. Theon Greyjoy, the new lord of Winterfell, announces before the assembled denizens of Winterfell keep that he took the castle using grappling hooks to climb the walls. So either Bran Stark is an idiot who sent every man he had, including the guards on the walls, to help the other city, or the Stark’s soldiers are so stupid that they didn’t hear iron hooks bouncing off stone walls.

I don’t know who is to blame for this terrible piece of writing but somebody ought to get flogged for it.

So now Theon and his one ship worth of men (laughable) are occupying the whole of Winterfell. To prove that he is serious about things, Theon lops off Ser Rodrik’s head. Nothing punctuates a scene like the death of a minor character.

Skip ahead and the Stark’s resident wildling gets naked for Theon, offering up savage pleasures to her new lord in exchange for freedom. After shagging Theon into a coma, she leaves his bed to free Hodor, Bran, and Rickon Stark.

A cripple, a child, and an idiot escape from a castle…it sounds like the setup to a Marx brothers joke.

The Riverlands

Not much of note happens here. Robb Stark has a chat with that nurse from a few weeks back. In the process he figures out that she is noble born, puppy love eyes soon follow.

Catelyn Stark returns to the camp just in time to cock block Robb. Ma Stark reminds Robb that he’s promised to one of the daughters of that guy from last season who controlled the bridge.

As if being married ever stopped Ned Stark or Robert Baratheon from doing as they pleased.

When a raven arrives with news of Theon Greyjoy’s attack on Winterfell, Robb begrudgingly delegates the counter attack to one of his banner men. The only thing that keeps him from going himself was a reminder that he has the Lannisters on the run.

I’m actually okay with things being a bit slow paced in Robb’s story. I know it’s going to lead up to a huge battle (or some sort of game changer) either at King’s Landing or in Castlerly Rock.

Qarth

It’s time to fire Emilia Clarke. No, I’m serious. Her outrage as Daenerys Targaryen borders on comical. This week she pitched a fit in the home of a Qarthian noble, demanding ships and men to retake Westeros. As she was yelling about her rightful claim to the Iron Throne, it almost looked as if the actress was trying to fight a smile while delivering her lines.

I know that some of the fault lay in the writing – Daenerys’ character is much younger than Emilia Clarke – but her inability to convey a proper range of emotions is only making a bad thing worse.

So what actually happened in Qarth? Daenerys pitched some tantrums, nobody would help her, and then her dragons were stolen.

King’s Landing

Everybody assembles at the beach to see Princess Myrcella Baratheon shipped off to Dorn. Cersei, who refuses to believe that her brother is acting in his niece’s, and the family’s, best interest swears an equal vengeance on Tyrion. Anybody want to place bets on how long it takes Cersei to find out about Shae?

En route to the keep, the Royal party is met with jeers and cat calls from the great unwashed. One person even lobs a pile of shit in Joffrey’s face. Enraged, Joffrey orders his men to kill the poop slinger. With that command, a full blown riot ensues.

This scene was amazing. Sheer unbridled populist outrage takes hold of the city. Lannister guards are torn limb from limb by the mob. Poor Sansa, who Joffrey left to her fate despite Tyrion’s objections, nearly gets gang raped just because she looks to be high born. The only thing that saves her is the Dog’s timely intervention.

Then, the coup de grace, the thing that we’ve all been waiting for: Tyrion slaps Joffrey. The slap came on the heels of the line of the night, also uttered by Tyrion, “We’ve had idiot kings and vicious kings, but you are the first vicious idiot that we have ever seen.”

At this rate, Stannis Baratheon isn’t going to have to attack King’s Landing. He’ll just need to show up and the people of the city will give him the Iron Throne.

Harrenhal

Once again, nothing here was particularly essential to the main plot.

During a strategy meeting we learn that Tywin Lannister’s councillors are idiots – probably why he is losing the war. We’re also treated to a bit of Tywin’s back story. Hearing about how he taught Jamie to read, despite his eldest son’s dyslexia, was enough to make me wonder why his children turned out as they did. In fact, he hardly seems like the same man who orchestrated Tyrion’s tactical heart break.

After that, Arya orders her second kill when one of the Lannister guards catches her with a stolen letter concerning Robb’s troop movements. So who will be the third to get it at the hands of the Ghost? Tywin himself, perhaps?

Later, Little Finger shows up for a planning session with Tywin. He suggests getting House Tyrell on side with the Lannisters, despite the fact that they were recently allied through marriage to Renly Baratheon. All the while, Arya attempts to keep her back turned on Lord Baelish lest he recognize her. I suspect we’re meant to think Arya was successful in remaining anonymous as to heighten the surprise next week if/when Little Finger confronts her.

The Bottom Line

After watching King’s Landing tear itself apart, I continue to lament the fact that the majority of the show’s focus has left that city. I know the source material does little to bring the divergent stories together, but television doesn’t lend itself to that sort of writing. The writers need to start taking liberties with the novels whereby they bring more of the cast together. Otherwise the plots, as well as the character interactions, risk going prematurely stale.


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Television Review/Recap Game of Thrones Season 2 Episode 3

Coming up next on E! "At Home with the Lannisters"

Game of Thrones’ third episode, “What Was Dead Can Never Die” does two things. First, it reminds the audience that women are power players in the Seven Kingdoms. Second, it dares us to ask who is playing whom within Westeros’ various intrigues.

Let’s recap via geography.

*Spoilers Ahead*

The Wall

As foreshadowed last week, Craster ejects the men of the Night’s Watch from his camp. Lord Commander Mormont’s responds to John Snow’s indiscretion as a lesson in the hard nature of life north of the wall. As the men pack up their camp, Sam all but professes his love to Gilly as he gives her his mother’s thimble. I couldn’t help but smile at the naive innocence of the gesture. Yet we shouldn’t forget that this isn’t the sort series where good things happen to nice people.

Winterfell

The episode’s quick stop in Winterfell reaffirmed through denial that which we already know via Daenerys Targaryen’s dragons: magic is returning to the world. No longer a subject for speculation, Bran Stark’s “dreams” are contextualized as a manifestation of some supernatural relationship between him and his dire wolf. Maester Luwin, an accomplished scholar of the arcane and occult, reminds Bran that while there used to be magic in the world, it has long since vanished.

Is it the truth, or does the Maester have an agenda? Perhaps he wants to protect Bran from the power that magic can offer. Imagine for a moment the righteous fury of a crippled wizard whose energy is fueled by frustration and resentment.

The Iron Islands

So, we're cool, right?

Theon Greyjoy wastes no time confronting his sister over their grope fest from the previous episode. Yara responds to his conniption by stating that she wanted to see what sort of man he was. Before Theon has a chance to respond to yet another emasculating comment from his family, their father announces plans to attack the north while the Starks and Lannisters fight in the Riverlands. Yara is given command of 30 ships and the most important targets of the campaign, including Winterfell. Theon is relegated to command of one ship intended to harass fishing villages. In working through this power triad, the episode offers a bit more clarification on the relationship between Theon and Balon Greyjoy. I still think that exposition would have been more useful last week, but at least it happened.

The prodigal Greyjoy then finds himself choosing between his family of blood and his family of circumstance. We’re led to believe that Theon is siding with his father. First he burns a letter he wrote warning Robb Stark about Balon’s plans to attack the north. Then, he bends a knee to his father before a salt water baptism into the faith of the Iron Islands’ patron deity “The Drowned God”. So is this a story about Theon wanting some approval from daddy at any cost? Or is it a set-up for a double cross that will prove Theon’s loyalty to the Starks?

The Stormlands

Catelyn Stark arrives in the court of Renly Baratheon on the heels of a tournament. The final round of this battle sees Brienne of Tarth, a seven foot tall female warrior, triumphant over Loras Tyrell, brother to Margaery Tyrell, who is the new wife of “King” Renly Baratheon. As a reward for her victory, Brienne is named to Renly’s Kingsguard.

Renly then welcomes Catelyn into his court as an emissary of “King” Robb Stark, despite his brother-in-law’s objections. Renly offers Catelyn quarters before going to pray. Prayer, as it happens, is code for gay sex with Loras. That’s right folks, more incest! At least this is only the political sort. Still, my mind was filled with flashbacks to The Tudors as I imagined a season long plot arc that saw Natalie Dormer reprising the role of an ignored queen.

Not that there's anything wrong with that...

Instead, Margaery admits to Renly that she knows about his orientation. She further suggests calling Loris in to the bedroom when their attempt to consummate the marriage fails. “You are a king,” she repeats to Renly. Rather than act as a victim of gender politics a la Cersei Lannister, Margaery is actively working with Renly to retain her new found station. Kudos to the writers for taking this character in a genuinely unexpected direction.

The Kingsroad

While the Watch recruits sleep, Yoren and Arya talk about how death haunts a person through obsession. Arya’s comments on seeing Cersei, Joffrey, and Sansa presiding over her father’s execution evoke a genuine feeling of PTSD from young Maisie Williams. Then the sound of horns and riders, in the form of last week’s promised Lannister reinforcements, shatters the tranquility of the scene.

In the battle that ensues, Yoren as well as a number of Night’s Watch recruits die trying to repel the Lannister guards. Arya and Gendry both survive the ordeal only to be captured. Gendry himself seems ready to confess his identify rather than watch the remaining captives be put to the sword. But it’s Arya who speaks first. She points to one of the dead, who just happens to be in close proximity to Gendry’s bull head helm, naming him as Gendry. At least Arya’s alive, but now the only person who knows she’s the daughter of Ned Stark is the bastard son of Robert Baratheon. Not exactly an actionable position when one is under the watch of Joffrey’s goons.

King’s Landing

Once again, Peter Dinklage and Lena Headey manage to make the Lannisters look as well adjusted as the Kardashians. To ensure he survives his tenure as Hand of the King, Tyrion seeks to test the loyalty of the Small Council. Tyrion constructs three scenarios that involve marrying off Myrcella Baratheon, Cersei’s only daughter, to a different noble house. He tells one story to Pycelle, another to Little Finger, and a third to Varys, swearing all three to secrecy. It’s a scene of deliciously cold served revenge when Cersei confronts Tyrion with the story he told to Pycelle: that Myrcella would be sent to Dorn, just as she was sent to Robert Baratheon. In using his own niece against his sister, Tyrion finally gets to punish Cersei for all the injustices she has heaped upon him.

With Pycelle in a black cell, Varys and Tyrion share a drink. It’s a cordial moment, but not one that should be mistaken for trust. Despite the fact that Varys pulled strings to see Shae assigned to Sansa Stark as a handmaiden, rather than working in the kitchens as Tyrion initially planned, the eunuch still holds that particular leverage over Tyrion. Even if Varys has no ambitions of his own, Tyrion’s lover makes for an impressive insurance policy should the Hand decide to swat the Spider.

The Bottom Line

There’s nothing I love more than intrigue. However, I have it on good authority that people also like action. This is the second episode in a row that’s extensively talked about Robb Stark’s war but shown nothing it. If next week’s focus remains on politics, then Game of Thrones is going to start treading into Battlestar Galactica (the good one) territory. I don’t have a problem with that, and I suppose HBO doesn’t either since the series has already been picked up for a third season. Yet the fact remains, if you want to have a show about war, then from time to time you need to depict that war in concrete terms.


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Television Review/Recap: Game of Thrones Episode 2: The Night Lands

One does not threaten Tyrion Lannister.

Summary Judgement: “The Night Lands” is a strong episode that spends most of its focus on Arya Stark and Tyrion Lannister, with an occasional jaunt to Theon Greyjoy’s old stomping grounds and a trip across the Narrow Sea.

*Spoiler Alert*

Part 1 – Recap

““The Night Lands” begins north of the wall. There’s no real action between the men of the Night’s Watch and the looming wildling/white walker threat. Instead, the audience is treated to an anthropology lesson within Craster’s incestuous/polygamist village. Gilly, one of Craster’s pregnant daughter-wives, approaches Sam and Jon Snow with a request for protection and freedom from her father-husband. The girl hints at some sort of enigmatic fate if her child is born male. Though Sam is sympathetic to her request, Jon refuses to hear anything on the subject. The end of the episode sees Jon investigating a male baby abandoned in the woods only to be found by some sort of white giant monster thing.

Events in King’s Landing focus primarily on Tyrion with a brief appearance by Cersei and Little Finger. Upon returning to his room in the palace, Tyrion finds Shae and Lord Varys having an eerily pleasant conversation. The defacto Hand of the King confronts the spymaster, informing him that unlike Ned Stark he knows how the game is played. For those who don’t recall, Tywin Lannister, the actual Hand of the King and patriarch of the Lannister clan, forbade Tyrion from bringing his whore with him to King’s Landing. The situation is left at an impasse as Varys responds to Tyrion’s threat to have him thrown into the sea with a colourful sailing metaphor.

Exercising his power as Hand of the King, Tyrion then proceeds to fire the previous Lord Commander of the City Guard, much to Cersei’s outrage. In place of the man who betrayed Ned Stark, Tyrion appoints his sell-sword Bronn to the position. During her confrontation with Tyrion over Bronn’s promotion, Cersei reveals that it was not she who ordered the execution of all of King Robert’s bastards, but Joffrey. Cersei and Tyrion also trade a few insults on how the latter’s life was not worth the death of their mother.

Little Finger’s role in this episode is so small as to almost escape notice. Having witnessed the death of a baby at the hands of Joffrey’s thugs, one of his courtesans won’t stop crying (I think it was Ros from up north, but it’s been so long who can remember these passing details). So Lord Baelish tells Ros(?) a story about how his women are “investments” subject to any imaginable depravity of a paying customer. It’s possibly the most creepy straighten up and fly right speech ever.

Maisie Williams: a child actor who can actually act.

On the Kingsroad, two riders from the Kingsguard catch up with the convoy containing Arya Stark and Gendry Baratheon. Arya dives into a ditch, fearful that the men are after her. In doing so she tips her hand to Gendry. Later in the episode Arya reveals to Robert’s bastard that she is in fact Arya Stark. Gendry almost blushes when it occurs to him that he’d pissed in front of a high born lady.

Elsewhere, Theon Greyjoy returns home to the Iron Islands in search of his father’s support for Robb Stark’s war against the Lannisters. After accidentally getting to third base with his sister en route to the castle, Theon gets the verbal equivalent of a bitch slap from his father who sees his son as nothing more than a Stark dandy. Lord Balon then burns Robb’s request for an alliance. Balon then calls upon Yara, Theon’s sister, as the leader of the Iron Island’s military forces; a force that would not be directed against the Lannisters.

Across the Narrow Sea, Daenerys, her dragons, and her followers are still lost in the Red Waste. Hopes are dashed as one of her reconnaissance riders returns headless. Then one of the Dothraki women sounds off about souls and mysticism.

Meanwhile “King” Stannis Baratheon has taken to recruiting pirates into his army via Davos Seaworth. Stannis spends much of his screen time lamenting the fact that his younger brother Renly has filched 100,000 men who would otherwise be under his command. Meanwhile that red haired woman (Her name is Melisandre but I don’t think anybody has actually said it in the show) suggests that Stannis shag her rotten on a giant Settlers of Westeros board give himself over “fully” to the new one true god.

Part 2 – Criticism

Though I’ve never read the Song of Fire and Ice novels, I’ve heard that George R. R. Martin loves adding new characters to the story. This is problematic for a television adaptation. Unlike Heroes, Game of Thrones seems to have a good handle on its sprawling cast. Rather than giving everybody five minutes, the series is being efficient in focusing on the relevant stories. Because, really, do we need to see Caitlin Stark for two minutes while she rides to Renly Baratheon’s fortress? Do we need more of Bran as an underage bureaucrat? I think not.

Let’s talk Lannisters for a moment. There’s little room for doubt that Peter Dinklage and Lena Headey have earned their top billing in the series. Consider that Tyrion Lannister’s exchange with Varys was more important than it seemed. To my recollection, this was the first time that the imp has ever been truly out manoeuvred by another character. Similarly, Queen-Regent Cersei has proven herself adept at being out flanked by the actions of her sadist son: first in his execution of Ned Stark and more recently with his hunt for Baratheon bastards. Yet where outrage and counter plots could well be expected, both characters have leaned more toward vulnerability. Headey and Dinklage seem to have taken that one step farther in conveying, dare I say, a degree frailty through their acting. That said, were I in Westeros, I would not so much as breathe in the wrong direction of Cersei Lannister.

Theon gets -2 on all charisma rolls for being way too smarmy.

Also on the subject of Lannisters, as Cersei and Jamie have made incest a bit of a moot point within the series, I won’t bother waxing poetic on Theon Greyjoy’s advances toward his sister. Well maybe just one thing: nine years might be a long time, but it’s not that long of a time when the object of affection is a sibling. On a positive note, Alfie Allen has always done a marvelous job in playing Theon as an upstart who regularly forgets his place within the world. Watching Patrick Malahide as Balon Greyjoy ruthlessly emasculate his son was a welcome piece of hubristic comeuppance.

My only complaint rests within Daenerys Targaryen’s plot point. It is the exception to the general rule that Game of Thrones is good with efficiency in storytelling. Rather than witnessing a fit of histrionics that did nothing to get the would-be Khalessi out of the Red Waste, I would have preferred to see an extra two minutes spent clarifying the relationship between the Greyjoys and the Starks. Maybe that got explained last season, but it’s been a while and I shouldn’t have to look these things up on a Game of Thrones’ Wikipedia page. Say nothing for the troublesome fact that the series is playing with issues orbiting the Dothraki and race with all the aplomb of Edgar Rice Burroughs and his treatment of the Green Martians vs the Reds.

Bottom line: It’s a mostly good episode with some very strong acting from the principle cast. There’s not a lot of plot movement, but this early on in the season it is still a game of catch-up more than anything else.