Game of Thrones 208: The Prince of Winterfell

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.

Note: Because it can be hard to keep all the names and faces straight, the first mention of each character contains a link to a picture of them which will open in a new tab.

Winterfell

Before last night, Theon’s sister Yara was manipulative and mocking of her baby brother. She went so far as to allow him to get some inappropriate groping in to find out who he really is (and humiliate him). Well, inappropriate unless you’re a Targaryen, Cersei, or Jaime. As I so often discuss, every character in “Game of Thrones” is a human being, and we finally saw Yara’s human side last night.

As much as she is in competition with Theon for both power and their father’s affections, her anecdote about Theon, the “terrible baby” who finally stopped crying and even smiled when she came over to his crib showed that she truly cares for him despite being sent away for half his life. Furthermore, her insistence, and hope, that Theon doesn’t “die so far from the sea” was about as affectionate as the Greyjoys get.

On a happier note, Bran and Rickon are still alive. Along with Osha and Hodor, the boys have doubled back and are now hiding in Winterfell’s crypts, hopefully the last place anyone will think to look for them. That final scene was so perfectly executed, with Osha and Maester Luwin discussing how they could not tell Bran that Theon burned  the orphan boys and passed them off as the Starks, because he’d blame himself.

Eddard Stark’s influence is still incredibly evident in all the children he raised. Indeed Bran heard everything his caretakers said, and his teary expression indicates he does blame himself. Bran feels he has failed in his duty as Lord of Winterfell, and it has shaken him to the core despite his age. Ned’s tutelage is even apparent in Theon, who despite his many failings takes no joy in the things he’s done. Theon is not a sadist and the fact that he even has inner conflict is the direct consequence of the caring nature of the man who raised him. However, we see the most of Ned in Robb, as I’ll discuss right about… now.

The King in the North, the Kingslayer’s roadtrip

We saw Ned’s impact on Robb a great deal tonight, both literally, as in Robb’s initial conversation with Talisa, as well as in the young king’s actions (although not entirely in the way one might expect).

When Robb discovers that Catelyn freed Jaime in an effort to rescue Sansa and Arya, he feels understandably betrayed. Cat once chastised Renly, saying “my son is fighting a war, not playing at one,” yet now she seems to be playing as well. And not just at war but hostage Go Fish. “Got any Aryas? No? How about a Sansa?” As a result, Robb is slowly realizing that no one else, not even his mother, abides by the same code of honor which he does. This upsets him, but at the same time he recognizes some need to change. Robb knows what happened to Ned when he played the game of thrones too honorably (and stubbornly).

I believe something Tywin said to his war counselors was foreshadowing Robb’s, er, “slip up,” with Talisa. Tywin said, “He’s a boy and he’s never lost a battle. He’ll risk anything at any time, because he doesn’t know enough to be afraid.” Indeed, Robb may have risked a great deal by forsaking his pact with the Freys. It’s very telling, and displays the Ned in him, that he waited as long as he did. It’s clear he fears for his siblings just as much as Cat does, and he succumbed, in a moment of weakness, only when Talisa told her story. She knows the feeling of having a brother in mortal peril, which gave him something to latch on to. While his actions weren’t very honorable, Ned (allegedly) had his own moment of weakness while away fighting a war.

Meanwhile, Brienne is escorting Jaime back to King’s Landing. And thus, a buddy-buddy road trip comedy was born. The two appear to be exact opposites, one’s a man, one’s a woman, one seems to be a machine that runs on honor, while the other was quite recently called “a man without honor,” the quote for which last week’s episode was named. Will opposites attract or will the two be at each other’s throats the whole way to the capital (if they even make it there)? If nothing else, Jaime and Brienne’s interactions are sure to provide plenty of humor. We saw the beginnings of it last night. “Have you known many men, my lady? No, I suppose not. Women? Horses?”

Beyond the Wall

Things are beginning to heat up beyond the wall. Of course, I mean that ironically (dictionary ironic, not Alanis Morissette ironic), and it’s a pun as well. Wordplay, woo! Anyway, Jon and Qhorin have been captured, which means we get to meet some great wildling characters, like Rattleshirt (also known as the Lord of Bones). Furthermore, we get a glimpse into their culture, one of the few in Westeros where a woman’s voice can hold weight (as long as she’s got a sword to back it up). Ygritte was able to keep Jon alive at least until he meets Mance Rayder, the King-Beyond-the-Wall.

There are so many great character parallels in this show, it’s hard to keep track. This week, Jon and Bran faced much the same conflict. While the wildlings took Qhorin hostage, they killed the rest of the Black Brothers searching for Jon. These men of the Night’s Watch died for Jon, just as the orphan boys did for Bran. Qhorin tells Jon to “see that it wasn’t for nothing,” and I believe both Stark and Snow intend to do just that.

The two men of the Night’s Watch now have a plan: get the wildlings to trust Jon, because “one brother inside [Mance Rayder's] army is worth a thousand fighting against him.” The Halfhand instructed Jon to do whatever it takes to gain the trust of their captors, it remains to be seen what those orders will fully entail.

Meanwhile, Samwell discovered a cache of Dragonglass, or obsidian, at the Fist of the First Men. Non-readers can’t be sure what its use will be yet. But obviously the showrunners didn’t include that scene for shits and giggles.

Harrenhal

Arya finally realized the folly of not givng Jaqen Lord Tywin’s name when she had the chance, and now it’s too late. But the mistake also bred one of her most ingenious plots yet, finding a loophole. A girl has given a man his own name, and she’s not joking around, telling him to go kill himself. To get her to unname him, Jaqen resolves to help Arya escape, which she does without issue (as of yet). The dude is one efficient assassin.

King’s Landing

Cersei is upset that Tyrion insists on having Joffrey fight in the upcoming battle. It’s actually a good idea, as Tyrion says “The men will fight more fiercely seeing their king fighting behind them, instead of hiding behind his mother’s skirts.” But Cersei is paranoid, she believes Tyrion only wants his nephew to fight in the hopes that he’ll die in battle. That said, it may be a bit unfair to call it paranoia, she’s not exactly wrong. It’s not as if the subject of killing Joffrey and crowning Tommen has never come up in Tyrion’s conversations.

Cersei can’t stop Joffrey from fighting, but that doesn’t mean she wouldn’t try to get her revenge. She has Ros beaten, believing her to be Tyrion’s lady love. But Tyrion may just be the best liar in the seven kingdoms, and he pulls off the ol’ whore switcheroo. His ability to play the game of thrones is pretty incredible. He had to act as though Cersei truly had found him out, and he brlliantly combined that with his very real relief that it was not truly Shae that had been captured as well as his very real anger that anyone (let alone a woman) had been unjustly beaten. In the scene that followed, we saw just how genuine his love for Shae is.

Stannis and Davos, War is Coming

Stannis might be rigid, but his unwavering support of Davos, who’s now his future Hand, makes him one of the most respectable characters around. With Ned gone, Davos may just be the moral center of the show’s universe. He’s an honest, self-made man who does what he believes to be right regardless of the situation. He obeys Stannis absolutely, but he’s also not afraid to question his king when he disagrees with a decision, he’s even able to convince him once in a while.

Their interaction last night further elaborated on the events that led to Davos being raised to knighthood as well as Stannis’ motivations for having Renly shadow-assassinated and wanting to be king (because its right, not because he particularly wants it).

And, if nothing else, it’s always great when Stannis is funny, even though it’s generally unintentional. “Then [we ate] the cats. Never liked cats, so fine.”

Next week’s episode is going to be great for those of you who find that “Game of Thrones” to be lacking in action scenes. It’s called “Blackwater,” after the bay in which the battle for King’s Landing will take place, and it was written by George R.R. Martin, the author of the books. Check out a preview here.

  

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