SPOILER WARNING: All events that have occurred in the TV show up to and including yesterday’s episode are fair game. I have read the books but I will not go any further beyond small hints that only fellow book-readers will catch on to. You’ve been warned.
This week’s episode was different than most, it had a whole lot of character development and almost no macro-level action. As such, I’m going to be experimenting with something different as well. As usual, the post will largely be divided based on geography, but I’m also going to split some of it based on character and thematic groups. Don’t worry, you’ll see what I mean.
Theon Greyjoy is sure in a pickle. Nobody likes him, he goes from trying to rally the Ironborn to please Robb Stark to attacking the North to please his father. He just can’t win. Anyway, the actors in “Game of Thrones” have perfected the art of fading from smirk to grimace. If you watch the episode again, look for the way Theon’s expression changes as he turns from the people of Winterfell to the horribly burnt bodies of Bran and Rickon Stark. I mean, those bodies are Bran and Rickon, aren’t they?
Well, they might be. Theon did say there was nothing he wouldn’t do to stop himself from looking like a fool and that it’s better to be cruel than weak. Then again, when they mounted Ned’s head on a spike in King’s Landing it was perfectly recognizable, so why go to all the trouble of burning the bodies? Let alone the bodies of two boys Theon once thought of as brothers and whom he clearly still cares for, despite trying oh so hard to act like he doesn’t. And if Theon really did find and kill the boys where are Osha and Hodor (who’d be pretty hard to miss)? That said, this is “Game of Thrones,” we all know anyone can be killed. Maester Luwin was certainly convinced, are you?
As I suspected, the dragon-napping was a way for Pyat Pree to get Daenerys into the House of the Undying. Most of you still don’t know what that means, but take my word for it, going there is just about the only interesting thing she does in the second book. As I’ve said her story line is boring, so they’re adding stuff like the dragon-napping and Xaro’s little coup d’état to spice things up a bit. There’s not much else to say other than let’s wait and see where it takes us. Oh, and that Pyat Pree is one creepy motherfucker.
The Lannisters as good guys?
As I’ve often discussed, one of the best things about Game of Thrones is that there are no good guys or bad guys, no heroes or villains, no black or white, only human beings and thus shades of grey. This week’s episode gave us some of the best evidence of this yet, as we got a glimpse into the minds of a number of prominent members of House Lannister. While they’ve done some awful things, the Lannisters are still human, and they’ve undergone many of the same struggles as the characters we love.
Last week, we saw a different side of Tywin when he told Arya about teaching Jaime to read. His humanization continued this week, partly because of the way he told Arya she reminds him Cersei after she said “most girls are idiots.” Like Cersei, Arya has no interest in things that are “meant” for girls, although I’m sure she didn’t take too kindly to being compared to someone one her to-kill list. More importantly however, Tywin actually took steps to protect Arya, who he now believes to be highborn, telling her to say “m’lord” rather than “my lord” if she wants to pass herself off as a commoner. Whether or not Tywin knows who she is specifically remains to be seen.
Tywin is just a man who loves his family, and he’s doing what he can to protect them in the only way he knows how. Humanizing him is one thing, but this week the show actually managed to make Cersei a sympathetic character, a far more daunting task. In her conversation with Sansa, we saw that the two have something in common. Sansa got her first visit from Aunt Flow, which means of course that she is now fit to bear Joffrey’s children, a prospect that once delighted her. After all, it’s the most honorable thing a Queen can do, or so Westerosi culture would have us believe. Similarly, there was a time when Cersei would have been overjoyed at the thought of mothering Robert’s children. However, as time went on both Sansa and Cersei discovered that they hated their betrothed, Robert was a drunkard and Joffrey is a sadistic little prick. As such, Cersei advises Sansa to love only her children, because “the more people you love, the weaker you are.”
There was also her conversation with Tyrion, in which she wonders if Joffrey’s cruelty is the price for the things she’s done, namely fucking her brother. She seems sorry for what’s happened as a result of Joffrey’s refusal to listen to her. As Tyrion put it, “it’s hard to put a leash on a dog once you’ve put a crown on its head.” For a few seconds, she seems genuinely remorseful. I mean, she actually cries, and as much as she hated Robert, she recognizes that while he was a drunken fool, he didn’t enjoy cruelty. If it’s any consolation, Tommen and Myrcella are good, decent children, as Tyrion points out. I suppose two out of three ain’t bad.
Lastly there’s Jaime, another Lannister who’s tough to like. It didn’t exactly help that the Kingslayer used killing his own cousin, who worshiped the ground he walked on, as a means of attempting an escape. However, unlike Ned Stark, who fathered a bastard in Jon Snow (or so we’re lead to believe), Jaime has been with only one woman. Granted, that woman is his sister, but there’s something to be said for that kind of dedicated monogamy in a culture as male-dominated as that of Westeros. Furthermore, his little riff about vows was fantastic, giving us some semblance of justification for the things he’s done. “So many vows, they make you swear and swear. Defend the king, obey the king, obey your father, protect the innocent, defend the weak. But what if your father despises the king? What if the king massacres the innocent? It’s too much, no matter what you do you’re forsaking one vow for another.”
Beyond the Wall
Up north, Jon Snow seems to be learning the same lessons about universal humanity as we are. Last season, in his conversation with Benjen Stark, Tyrion said, “I believe that the only difference between us and the wildlings is that when that Wall went up, our ancestors happened to live on the right side of it.” It seems that Jon confirmed this last night when he told Ygritte about his Stark heritage. He has the blood of the First Men, just as she does, which prompts her to ask why he’s fighting them. A valid question, given what we saw in the first scene of the series. In truth, the people of the seven kingdoms and the wildlings share a common enemy in the white walkers, although few people south of the Wall would believe it. Benjen knew though, his response to Tyrion was, “You’re right. The wildlings are no different from us. A little rougher, maybe. But they’re made of meat and bone. I know how to track ‘em and I know how to kill ‘em. It’s not the wildlings giving me sleepless nights.”
We were also treated to a bit of will they/won’t they. Jon’s vow of chastity is certainly being tested, when they awoke Ygritte asked if he’d pulled a knife on her in the night. Insert “wildling, you make Jon’s heart sing“ and other puns about his “sword in the darkness.”
Tags: Arya Stark, Benjen Stark, Bran Stark, Cersei Lannister, Daenerys Targaryen, Eddard Stark, Game of Thrones, Game of Thrones blog, Jaime Lannister, Joffrey Baratheon, Jon Snow, Maester Luwin, Nate Kreichman, Rickon Stark, Theon Greyjoy, Tyrion Lannister, Tywin Lannister, Ygritte