Title: Game of Thrones
Genre: Historical Fantasy
Watched: Episode 30 – June 9, 2013
Summary: Satisfying, but more staid
After last weeks intense and narrow(er) focus, this week hits on each and every thread in Westeros (and beyond). The result is more diffuse, and is typical of GOT’s first/last episodes in that it’s mostly positioning the characters for the season to come. Still, there are some great moments like:
Arya and the Hound – Bolton ascends the keep to survey the chaos below. This part of the battle — achem, slaughter — feels big for TV, and it’s good to see it on screen (unlike the seige of Yunkai!). We zoom below through the chaos to follow the Hound fleeing with Arya. In the background is the grisly spectacle of the wolf head staples onto Robb’s body. This was suitably graphic and is a very medieval touch. Bodies of the vanquished were rarely treated with respect and this kind of symbol defilement is pretty authentic.
Later, Arya and the Hound stumble (a tad too coincidentally) on a bunch of Frey soldiers boasting of their participation in the above grisly bit of business. Arya, now stripped of all hope and ties has only her connection with the God of Death left. She uses Jaqen’s coin (oh so appropriately) to trick and stab one — the hound finishes off the others. And so she moves into position.
I liked this moment, and it’s bit of savagery. Valar Morghulis.
Bolton and Frey – just in case we wondered exactly what happened, Walder Frey gives Bolton a bit of an info dump (including that Edmure is alive and the Blackfish on the loose) — certainly continuing to establish his self-serving character and Bolton’s cold one. Since it wasn’t totally clear to new viewers, Bolton takes a moment to fill us in about his bastard Ramsay and the (second) taking of Winterfell, which segues too…
Theon and Ramsay – Our nut job continues to be quite effective. Not only does he tease poor Theon with a sausage, but he teaches him his new name. And so Reek is born. Another piece in position. Oh, and finally non-readers will (sort of) understand who the hell is holding (and chopping) Theon!
Balon and Yara/Asha – Ramsay sends a note to Balon along with “Theon’s favorite toy.” Poor Theon. Fortunately for us, we never see inside the box. Balon could care less, but Yara puts together a raiding party and a ship to go for a rescue. This felt a tad forced. Not that I begrudge Yara the sentiment, I just didn’t quite by the dialog.
Davos – has a chat with Gendry and they bond over their common origins in Fleabottom. This is fine, but hardly exciting stuff. Then Davos continues his reading practice with Shireen and stumbles across a note from the Night’s Watch. He goes to Stannis to argue (again) against sacrificing Gendry. We’ve heard it before. Then he sets the boy free himself in a boat and returns to confess his treason. Stannis sentences him to death, but when Davos shows the note from Castle Black Mel steps in to save him and divert the king in this direction. Piece on the move.
Bran – and crew approach the night fort. While camping inside Bran tells a creepy tale of a cannibal cook that is partially lifted (by Martin) from Herodotus (the first historian back in our world). They think they hear a ghost, quite effectively, but it’s just Gilly and Sam. When Sam recognizes Bran he tries to get him to come with them to Castle Black, but Bran knows he must go North of the Wall. Still, Sam passes on his dragonglass.
Soon, Sam and Gilly make it back to Castle Black where after long absence Maester Aegon returns. I nice scene, and I like the old man as well as ever.
Jon – is washing his eagle scratches when Ygritte catches up with him. Nicely done and touching, he speaks the truth and professes their love, and she, also now choosing loyalty has to shoot him. Kudos for excellent use of “you know nothing, Jon Snow.”
A wounded Jon escapes, then rides up to and collapses outside Castle Black. Sam and Pip drag him in. This last felt a little quick and forced.
Tyrion – strolls with his wife (and Shae just a step behind). Their banter and building friendship is nicely handled. Pod flirting in the background is a nice little nod to the squire’s “bedroom powers.”
But when he’s summoned to a small council the company isn’t so nice. The news of Robb’s death has arrived and Joff takes every opportunity to gloat. The hostility between Joff and Tyrion, obvious enough before, continues to ferment. Tywin, however, has no time for the King’s nonsense, and quickly proves who has the power. Pieces in place.
The following conversation with Tywin and Tyrion is good as usual, full of both Tywin’s philosophy and more biting back and forth. This is a complex relationship. Can we say daddy issues? Ty doesn’t forget to remind the Imp of his duties in the bedroom. It seems dad knows he’s not sticking it to her — I wouldn’t thought Ty would keep this to himself.
When Tyrion returns to his wife to deliver the tough news she already knows, and what little trust he was beginning to build shattered. Like several critical moments this week, there is little or no dialog.
Later, Ty teaches Pod how to get drunk everyday, when Cersei arrives for another of her little chats with Tyrion. Again, as has happened a number of times in the show, they are actually slightly sympathetic to each other. As I’ve continued to state, show Cersei is much more likeable than book Cersei.
Shae – meets up with Varys who attempts to bribe her into sailing away to another land. This continues to show Varys as a man who prefers the carrot to the stick, but Shae is having none of it, preferring to fight for her man.
Jaime and Brienne – arrive at Dubrovnik (I mean Kings Landing) after a long flight from Ireland. Due to jetlag no one recognizes him, but he must be persuasive because he gets back into the castle and finds Cersei. This segment felt quick and wasn’t a very satisfying ending to what was one of my favorite arcs in the first half of the season.
Dany – and crew wait outside Yunkai, which being a composite of some Moroccan town and CGI looks pretty great. A bunch of slaves emerge and she does another rousing speech and they declare her mother. This leads to crowd surfing, or really a tradition used (invented?) by the Roman army, in which victorious leaders are passed above the crowd. The first half of the scene felt a little cheesy, but the crowd, augmented with CGI extras, has a bit of scale at the end and the final up sweep with circling dragons is nice and rousing.
By ending the season each time with Dany, it seems the producers recognize her as the structural backbone of the larger multi-book story.
Overall, this was a solid episode with some good scenes, but the sheer breadth of handling every narrative thread left many of them feeling a little thin. I was also surprised we didn’t see the return of that other mother — next year I guess, for a lot of stuff. This was a great season, and it contains some of the scenes from the books. I think it solved the main season 2 problem of over-compression, allowing for more character moments, and upped the visual ante so that things felt big (gigantic for television even). Nicely done. Even if there were a few cheap outs — sacking of Yunkai! Given that GOT is now HBO’s second biggest show ever (after the Sopranos) we can hope season 4 is even bigger!
On a minor note, I’m disappointed not to see Olena or Marg in the finale.
The official “Inside the Episode”: