Thursday, June 7, 2012

Game of Thrones 2.06: "The Old Gods and the New"

“Theon? Did you hate us the whole time?”

I can’t help but compare “The Old Gods and the New” to its first season counterpart, “A Golden Crown,” because the latter is one of my very favorite episodes of “Game of Thrones.” This episode was not. Mostly because again, it was so disjointed. Last season, the focus of the sixth episode was Tyrion brilliantly talking his way out of captivity (and death) at the Eyrie. A few other things happened, but we spent enough time at the Eyrie to really get absorbed and invested in Tyrion’s story. Interesting things happened in “The Old Gods and the New,” and the production values and performances were good, but there wasn’t enough time to really feel transported into any of the many stories that are currently in play. It’s hard to really get invested in what’s going on when each episode is so fragmented. Just as I’m settling into one plot and wanting to see what happens next, we zoom over to somewhere else. And just as I’m starting to settle in with that plot, we zoom somewhere else. I prefer it when television episodes have some structure all to their own, in addition to fitting into an overall season arc. HBO shows in general are heavily serialized, but this season of Game of Thrones seems to have taken the heavily serialize/ no episode is an independent story model to extremes.

The episode opens in Winterfell, with Maester Luwin frantically trying to send a raven. We hear chaos below, presumably Theon’s forces brazenly attacking Winterfell. Suspicions are soon confirmed when Theon himself barges into Bran’s room and demands that Bran yield Winterfell to him. Theon promises that if Bran yields, nobody will get hurt. Bran is a bit reluctant (his first reaction is to proudly say he’ll never yield), but he eventually agrees. The rest of Winterfell is not going to go quietly, though. Outside, people are protesting the decision to yield to Theon. Rodrik is brought back from the nearby battle he fought, and he protests the loudest. Theon’s first mate tells Theon he needs to kill Rodrik to maintain the respect of his crew. Luwin begs Theon not to kill him. Theon ends up going with the first mate’s advice. He chops Rodrik’s head off very messily. I can see, though, that even if he is a traitorous jackass who only thinks with his dick and has a massive inferiority complex, Theon did learn one thing from living under Ned Stark’s care all those years. At least he did the deed himself instead of having someone else kill Rodrik.

North of the Wall, Jon and Halfhand are having a conversation as they trudge through the snow. Halfhand is going into all sort of fancy rhetoric about the dangers beyond the Wall. He’s basically trying to get Jon to grow up, but Jon’s still as emo as ever. Eventually, the ranger detachment is about to attack the two Wildling watchmen we saw in the last episode. One is killed easily by bow and arrow, but the other turns out to be a woman named Ygritte. Jon gets squeamish about the idea of killing a woman, and he asks if they can spare Ygritte’s life. Halfhand says no, because if they did, she’d just run right to the King Beyond the Wall and tell him what the Night’s Watch is up to. The rest of the ranger detachment kind of stupidly leaves Jon to perform the grisly task on his own. Not surprisingly, he can’t go through with it, and Ygritte runs away. Jon eventually catches up to her, but it’s getting dark, and the rest of the detachment is still nowhere to be found. They have to spoon to keep warm through the night. Ygritte keeps moving around, trying to get a reaction out of Jon. This clearly isn’t going to end well.

At Harrenhal, Twyin is chewing out one of his advisors. This advisor delivered a letter to the wrong person, and that person happened to be allied with the Starks. It turns out the advisor can’t read well. Petyr enters the room ready to deal, which understandably scares Arya, considering Petyr would certainly recognize her. Petyr doesn’t notice Arya at first, because he wants to get right to talking about a potential alliance between the Tyrells and the Lannisters. He also wants to talk about the deal he proposed to Cat (Jaime in exchange for the Stark girls). Eventually, as circumstances force Arya to keep coming out of the shadows to complete tasks, Petyr does appear to recognize her. He doesn’t say anything through. It was a great job of acting by Aidan Gillan to show the growing realization and confusion. Later, Arya tries to read a message Tywin left on the table about Robb’s troop movements. Twyin notices and is surprised she can read. It leads to a rather illuminating discussion about both their fathers (although Arya doesn’t name her father truthfully, of course). Arya palms the message and says she’s going to go out to fetch more firewood. She instead wants to share the message with someone who can help, but the illiterate advisor catches her. She says she’s going to the armory to deliver the message, and because the advisor can’t read the message, Arya’s story is somewhat plausible. Arya ends up running, and luckily she soon finds Jaqen (the murderer). The gives Jaqen the second name, the advisor of course, and the advisor soon turns up dead. Too bad Arya had to waste one of her three murders on the likes of him.

At King’s Landing, the Lannisters are watching Mycella (a young Lannister daughter) sail off to Dorne to be married. I’m surprised Tyrion actually went through with this once he discovered that Pycelle couldn’t be trusted (testing his advisors seemed to be the whole point of the Mycella plotting to begin with). Everyone but Tyrion and Sansa seem to be pretty pissed that Mycella was sent away, and I found that amusing. On the way back to the Red Keep, things start to get scary. Peasants are beginning to get rowdy, and some of them are chanting nasty things at Joffrey and the rest of his entourage, including Sansa. Things come to a head when somebody throws a cow pie at Joffrey. He starts screaming at his guards to kill all the onlookers, and this escalates into a full-blown riot. Some of the peasants act more like zombies than people and rip a guy’s arm off. The guards go all Secret Service and do their best to usher everybody back to the Red Keep, but Sansa gets lost in the crowd. Joffrey doesn’t want to send any guards back out to help Sansa, but the Hound thankfully has a mind of his own and saves her just as she’s about to be raped. Afterwards, Shae is trying to clean Sansa up and tend to her injuries, and Sansa says she doesn’t understand why the public hates her, considering she hates the king even more than they do. Shae warns Sansa that she should be more careful about who she says such things to.

Elsewhere in Westeros, at Robb’s camp, Robb is chatting up Talisa. He’s flirting with her by calling her “Lady Talisa” and saying that she must be of noble birth. Cat arrives, which breaks up the party of course. When Robb introduces her to Talisa, she can see that Robb kind of has a thing for her. Cat takes Robb aside, and she reminds him that he made an agreement with the Frays to marry one of their daughters, and his position as King in the North means he has to honor his obligations. There isn’t much time for them to discuss this, however, before the bad news of Theon’s takeover arrives from Winterfell. Robb is extremely upset about this news, and he desperately wants to kill Theon himself. He’s reminded that his position means he can’t do that either, but one of his advisors says that his bastard (who has his own keep) and several hundred of his soldiers will retake Winterfell and bring Theon to him.

Meanwhile, at Winterfell itself, Theon is being even more stupid than usual if that’s possible. He’s thinking with his dick (as always), and this time it gets him into even more trouble than usual. Osha approaches him and asks for her freedom. She implies she’ll have freaky Wildling sex with him if he agrees, and she takes off all her clothes to make her point. Theon, unsurprisingly, agrees. Osha gets the better of him, though. She sneaks out of his bed in the middle of the night and she escapes Winterfell, killing a guard on her way out. To make it even a sweeter victory, she takes Bran, Rikon, and Hodor with her! Theon’s not going to be happy when he wakes up, that’s for sure.

Finally, in Qarth, Xaro takes Dany to see the Spice King. Dany hopes he will donate some ships to her cause of crossing the Narrow Sea and retaking the Seven Kingdoms. The Spice King isn’t taken in by her “Mother of Dragons” schtick, though. He refuses to donate ships because, practically, he doesn’t think Dany will be able to retake Westeros. Dany gives him a big “fire and blood” monologue about how she will reclaim her birthright, but the Spice King still says “no.” He values probabilities more than dreams. On the way back to Xaro’s house, Dany and Xaro talk about how you can’t always make money and be honorable at the same time. Dany might have to tap some more unpalatable sources to finance her war. This conversation has to be tabled, though, when they return to Xaro’s compound and find everyone dead and the dragons missing. We see a person, covered in a cloak, carrying the dragons away in a crate. Their cries sound eerily sort of, but not quite, like babies’ cries.

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