Sunday, May 13, 2012

Game of Thrones 2.02: "The Night Lands"

“I’m not Ned Stark. I understand the way this game is played.”

Watching “The Night Lands,” I learned that there are certain wells that George R.R. Martin (and subsequently tv series creators David Bennioff and D.B. Weiss) like to go to quite often in their storytelling. And one of those is incest. This is the first episode that squicked me out on that front as much as the series pilot did. The second is Theon being an ass. He treats women horribly- pretty much as his own personal playthings. It’s rather disgusting. That being said, with a couple scenes excepted, I really enjoyed being back in Westeros again (I’ve taken a few weeks in between watching episodes one and two of this season to catch up on some other blog-related stuff). The show is very immersive overall, and that’s part of what makes it fun to watch. Tyrion continued to show how he’s going to handle King’s Landing with bravado, and we learned a bit more about what makes the messed-up Lannister family dynamic tick. We didn’t see Robb at all in this episode, which was a little disappointing (Jon Snow emo-ing it up can’t quite match the pretty that is Richard Madden), but his presence was very much felt in the episode because many of the characters were reacting to the plans and demands he made in the season premiere. All in all, while I wouldn’t place this episode among the very best of the series, with the exception of a couple scenes, it was an enjoyable watch.

The episode opens with Arya, Gendry, and Yoren and the rest of the soon-to-be Night’s Watch crew on their way to the Wall. The group is stopped by some Goldcloaks, and Arya, who is hanging out with Gendry, immediately assumes that they’re after her. She tries to hide, raising Gendry’s suspicions. It turns out they’re actually after Gendry, though, as part of the “Kill All of Robert’s Bastards Tour,” which makes Arya a little confused. Yoren saves the day by being completely badass and threatening the leader of the Goldcloaks with a knife to the femoral artery. The leader of the Goldcloaks rounds his men up to leave, but he also threatens to return with more soldiers. Later, Arya and Gendry question each other and trade secrets about why the Goldcloaks are after them. It turns out Gendry has no clue why death keeps following him, but he does warn Arya that anybody who asks questions about his background seems to end up dead, including her own father. Gendry’s reaction to finding out that Arya is actually nobility is rather amusing. He tries to treat her like a lady, and she ends up pushing him. After that, he just goes back to making fun of her.

At King’s Landing, all the same-old, same-old political intrigue is going down, just with slightly different players from last season. Tyrion returns to his chambers to find that Varys is talking with Shae. Varys is one of the slimiest of the slimy in King’s Landing (maybe tied with Littlefinger for that honor), so this can’t be good news for Tyrion. Varys makes it clear, in an innocently threatening manner, that he knows Shae isn’t supposed to be in King’s Landing- Tywin has forbidden it. Tyrion and Varys end up trading the typical King’s Landing threats back and forth on the way to a Small Council meeting. I do find Tyrion trading threats jab for jab a bit more entertaining than Ned’s noble effort to stay above all that. At Small Council, Cersei reads and then tears up Robb’s list of demands over Tyrion’s protest (Tyrion thinks they should at least give the Starks Ned’s remains if nothing else…gotta keep it classy). Tyrion then reads a letter from Lord Commander Mormont about the recent White Walker attack up at Castle Black. The letter is a request for more men to defend the Wall, and Tyrion, having seen the conditions, agrees with it. Nobody else takes it seriously, though, even with the new threat of the “King Beyond the Wall.”

One area in which Tyrion is really able to assert some power is with the City Watch. I guess he was getting fed up with the Small Council leaches just trying to keep getting what’s theirs, so he takes matters into his own hands. Tyrion invites the commander of the City Watch (who Joffrey has made a Lord) for dinner, then he unceremoniously banishes him to the Wall and installs Bronn as the new City Watch commander. Cersei is extremely pissed about this, and they have a rather heated argument later in the episode. Tyrion thinks Cersei needs to do some damage control on the whole killing babies thing. The people aren’t likely to support a Queen Regent who kills babies for much longer. Through the conversation, Tyrion realizes it was Joffrey who gave the orders for the Kill Robert’s Bastards murder spree. It’s a good thing Tyrion is in King’s Landing. Somebody needed to take control of that sociopath. The argument continues, and we learn from Cersei that their mother died giving birth to Tyrion. Now I guess we know why the rest of the Lannisters (except maybe Jaime, who is too dumb to really care) just barely tolerate him.

We take a quick visit to the Red Waste to see that Dany and her crew are even worse off than they were in the season premiere. Most of the horde is sitting around, dehydrated and hallucinating, waiting for the riders to return with reconnaissance. A horse does return alright, but all that’s left of the rider is his head. Dany vows vengeance on whoever killed one of her bloodriders. Ser Jorah thinks it was a rival Khal who doesn’t think a woman should lead a Khalessar. Meanwhile, Dany’s lead servant sees the head and wails uncontrollably. I wasn’t sure what that was supposed to mean. Was the servant having some sort of relationship with the bloodrider, or was she just that unhinged? I guess it was meant to lend the scene some dramatic gravitas without undermining Dany’s toughness by making her the one who cries.

The one plot of this episode that I really couldn’t stand was Theon finally getting his Iron Islands homecoming after nine years with the Starks in Winterfell. We first see Theon on a ship approaching the Iron Islands, and since this is “Game of Thrones” and the character involved is Theon, there is of course a naked woman in his cabin and it’s Iron Islands sexposition time. And of course Theon treats said naked woman like dirt. We quick transition from that sexpostition to some sort-of sexpostion at one of Petyr’s brothels. We have to see him peaking in on a few clients, of course, before one client’s complaint draws him away. The whore he has hired just keeps crying. It turns out she’s very upset about the babykilling that happened in the last episode, because the baby’s mother was one of her friends. Petyr threatens her with the story of what he did to another whore who didn’t make him enough money.

Theon arrives at an Iron Islands harbor and needs a ride to Pyke (his dad’s keep, I assume). He tries to bribe an old dockhand, but a woman offers him a ride on her horse instead. And of course Theon gropes her the whole way there. Not only was it gross, but it seems kind of unsafe. How is she supposed to concentrate on directing her horse when there’s a hand down her pants? Theon finally gets to Pyke, and his dad, Balon, doesn’t seem too happy to see him. Balon thinks that the Starks have made Theon forget who he truly is. Theon delivers Robb’s proposal for an alliance (which involves making Balon King of the Iron Islands), but Balon just throws it in the fire. The woman with the horse just walks into the room, and Theon is confused until he realizes that she’s Yara, his sister. And that’s when an already gross situation got even more gross. What the heck is it with this show/series and incest! Balon says that Yara, not Theon, will lead the next attack, and that attack won’t necessarily be against the Lannisters.

We next head to Dragonstone, where Davos and his son are negotiating with a pirate, Salladhor Saan, to help with the invasion of King’s Landing on behalf of Stannis. Saan says he’ll help if he’s guaranteed to be allowed to rape Queen Cersei. Lovely guy, right? Davos balks at this, and they end up reaching an agreement that doesn’t promise sex with Cersei but doesn’t exactly forbid it either. As they leave the meeting, Davos and his son talk about religion. Davos’ son is very into the whole “Lord of Light” thing, but Davos’ only god is Stannis. Later, Stannis and his advisors have a strategy meeting for the upcoming invasion. Melisandre barges in, and everyone but Stannis feels compelled to leave. For some reason, Melisandre really wants the unhappily married Stannis to have sex with her. At first he refuses, but then she whispers in his ear that she’ll give him a son, and all of a sudden he starts tearing her clothes off. I think the whisper has some magic to it. She had already whispered in the ear of Davos’ son as he was leaving the strategy meeting.

Finally, we also pay a visit North of the Wall. The Night’s Watch is still staying at crazy incest-dude (yes, more incest…seriously…) Craster’s place. Ghost threatens Gilly, one of Craster’s daughter-wives, and Sam rescues her. He then takes Gilly to see Jon because Gilly is pregnant and afraid. She wants the Night’s Watch to smuggle her out of Craster’s compound because something bad will happen to her baby if it’s a boy. Jon, who is still being all emo, says “no,” and Gilly runs off upset. Later, Jon is emo-ing it up outside at night when he sees Craster walk by holding a baby boy. Jon follows, and he starts to hear the baby cry. It’s been left for some creature that looks sort-of, but not quite human. Jon is taking in the horror when all of a sudden Craster sneaks up on him and knocks him out.

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