SPOILER WARNING: Whether you’ve read all five books or only watch the series this post is for you. I have read the books (multiple times) but I will not go beyond the scope of the TV series (save a wink or a nod every now and then that only my fellow readers will catch on to). All events that have occurred in the TV show up to and including yesterday’s episode are fair game. You’ve been warned.
Note: With the biggest cast in television it can be hard to keep all the names and faces straight. Thus the first mention of each character contains a link to a picture of them which will open in a new tab.
As I’ve often discussed in the past, I generally try to find unifying theme in each episode of Game of Thrones and base my blog around it. Sometimes it’s hard, and takes a lot of pondering to find. Sometimes, as in “Dark Wings Dark Words,” there isn’t one to be found, as the episode is linked by graceful editing rather than a theme. Other times, as in “The Climb” or “Second Sons,” the writers are kind enough to put the theme right there in the title (although this week didn’t offer a Littlefinger soliloquy to put it in neon lights).
A lot of “Second Sons” is about, well, second sons. We’ve got the literal second-born male children, like Stannis and the Hound, as well as “second-class” sons like Gendry, due to being a bastard. Not to mention Tyrion, who fits into both categories. And how could we forget ol’ Samwell Tarly, a de-facto second son. Recall that Sam’s father stripped him of his birthright (in favor of his actual second son) and relegated him to the Night’s Watch despite his being the eldest.
My Sword is Yours, My Life is Yours, My Heart is Yours
Let’s start with a different, but still literal, kind of Second Sons: the band of sellswords now headed by one Daario Naharis (and thus capitalized). I say now headed because it’s in this very episode that Daario, a mere Liutenant rebelled against the captains of the Second Sons so that he could pledge his sword (and those of the Second Sons), life, and heart to Daenerys (which is especially considering they’re the exact words Jorah Mormont would have liked to have used if not for Westerosi customs and the fact that he doesn’t look quite like the dude in the picture above). Now all that stands between her and the conquest of Yunkai are those big brick walls.
Another, well I wouldn’t call it a theme, but another recurring idea in this episode was the mixture and juxtaposition of the kind, sweet, sugar, spice and everything nice moments with the brutal mean and menacing ones. I say moments here, because that’s how it played out in the majority of the episode. In Daenerys’ case however, it’s her character that’s transitioning from her acting like a “young girl unwise in the ways of war” to swiftly telling Ser Barristan to kill “that one first” (referring to the particularly rude captain of the Second Sons). In the episode, moments of sweetness and sadness are juxtaposed, but this week and in the series and general, it is Dany’s character which defines that juxtaposition. A more dangerous charmer there never was. You know, when she’s not screaming about taking back what is hers with fire and blood. She hasn’t done much of that this year, thank the seven (although in fairness the writers had to scramble about to give Daenerys a semi-interesting storyline last season, since the books don’t really offer one).
The Hound and the Wolf Girl/King’s Blood
I’m combining the highly removed storylines of Arya Stark and the Hound along with Stannis, Gendry, and Melisandre into one section because of they’re contrasting takes on the aforementioned juxtaposition of kindness and brutality. When the Hound snatched Arya up after she ran away from the Brotherhood, she (and many viewers) thought it was just about the worst thing that could have happened. I mean, he’s among the names in her “prayer,” you know, repeating all the names of the people who have wronged her and she intends to kill. No way she’ll ever get back to her family now, right? Arya even goes so far as to raise a boulder above Sandor’s head while he (ostensibly) sleeps. He’s awake though, and offers her a gamble: throw the rock and try to kill him, with the full understanding that if he does survive, he’ll catch her and break both her hands. Things are not looking good. As they ride, Sandor tries to explain that his finding her was actually good luck, as there are people far worse than him out there. She retorts that there’s no one worse than him, and he quips back that she’s never met his brother (which plays back into the second sons theme). Yep, things sure do look bad for Arya. When they reach a river, she asks if it’s the Blackwater, as she’s under the impression that he’s taking her back to King’s Landing and captivity. The Hound laughs and tells her the river is the Red Fork, and that he intends to take her to the Twins, where her brother and mother are headed, so he ransom her. In this case, a story that began menacing turns out well. There appears to be a glimmer of hope that Arya will finally get back to her family.
Arya’s old pal Gendry, however, finds himself on exactly the opposite side of the sweet and sour juxtaposition. Thing’s are looking good, a bastard boy been’s brought to the castle of his wealthy and powerful uncle, placed in a chamber containing more wealth than he’s ever seen, and better food and wine than he could even imagine. He doesn’t know what the plan is, but he’s waiting for the other shoe to drop. The uncles of bastard boys don’t send their red priestesses into the middle of nowhere to find them so they can be pampered and given all the love and affection they never got growing up. Gendry remains suspicious, and rightfully so, until Melisandre is able to get him to relax using her feminine, ahem, charm. She sticks leeches on him to draw out his blood (one of which goes on a particularly painful and entirely unnecessary male organ), king’s blood. Of course, we knew that was coming after hearing Melisandre tell Stannis that she’s “slaughtered many sheep and none of them ever saw the knife.” The reason for all this, she claims, is that the recently freed Ser Davos remains a non-believer, and requires a demonstration of both her power and that of king’s blood. So Stannis drops each of the blood-filled leeches into a pit of fire while reciting the names of the usurper kings: Robb Stark, Balon Greyjoy, and Joffrey Baratheon.
My Small Short Lannister Wedding
Meanwhile, there’s a wedding going on in King’s Landing. It’s the special day Sansa Stark has always dreamed of, only not at all. When Tyrion first comes to greet her she actually smiles and seems quite receptive, as if she’s taken Margaery’s advice to heart. But as the day wears on her true feelings show more and more. Things are just as rough for our favorite second son, Tyrion, who’s uncomfortable with the whole notion of wedding a girl who hates him, a girl who’s far too young for him, and the girl for whom the woman he’s truly in love with serves as a chambermaid.
Yes indeed, there are no shortage of awkward moments in King’s Landing this week. Whether it’s Tyrion’s interactions with his wife and lover, Joffrey telling Sansa he’s going to sneak into her bedchambers and rape her that evening, oh, and let’s not forget this classic line from the Cersei Lannister school of charm: “No one cares what your father once told you.” She says that to her own future husband, Ser Loras. But the night’s most entertaining interactions come from the awkward exchanges between the groom and his “proud father,” Tywin. Peter Dinklage plays one hell of a drunk. But still, the award for the best, and tensest moment of the episode goes to Tyrion after Joffrey tries to initiate the traditional bedding ceremony, in which the men in attendance strip the clothes off the bride and the women do the same to the groom. Tyrion has endured enough humiliation for one day, and declares that there will be no bedding, despite Joffrey’s angrily huffing that there will be if he commands it because he is the king, yadda yadda yadda. That’s when Tyrion pulls out a dagger and sticks it into the wooden table point first, telling Joffrey that if he continues he’ll be bedding his own wife with a “wooden cock” when his own day of matrimony arrives. Tywin is able to diffuse the situation by pointing out how drunk his son is, and Tyrion, quickly realizing his mistake (if not feeling guilty for it) attempts to play it off as a joke. Intra-Lannister relations in King’s Landing are already quite malicious, and it’s not as if Tyrion and Joffrey were pals prior to the wedding. We’ll have to wait and see if Tyrion’s threat comes back to haunt him.
A Few More Things:
-I didn’t get a chance to talk about Sam’s story in any depth. The long and short of it is that he finally discovers why some unknown man of the Night’s Watch left a cache of obsidian (or dragon glass) weapons at the Fist of the First Men: It’s the White Walker’s Kryptonite. It takes a trial by fire (or rather, ice) to figure that one out, Sam stabs the Other because it’s the only move he’s got. Lucky for him it paid off. Now we’ll just have to see if the rest of the Crows believe him, and what they have to say about the woman he’s got in tow.
-All you non-readers might be interested to know that in the books, Daario dyes both his hair and three-pronged beard blue. You can see why that wouldn’t work onscreen.
-That’s all for episode eight, so hold onto your hats, boys and girls. If you’ve been paying attention to the last two seasons, you know episode nine is when Shit. Goes. Down.
Check out the preview for next week’s episode below and follow the writer on Twitter @NateKreichman.
Tags: Arya Stark, Barristan Selmy, Cersei Lannister, Daario Naharis, Daenerys Targaryen, Davos Seaworth, Game of Thrones, Game of Thrones blog, Gendry, Jorah Mormont, Loras Tyrell, Margaery Tyrell, Melisandre, Nate Kreichman, Samwell Tarly, Sandor Clegane, Sansa Stark, Ser Davos Seaworth, Stannis Baratheon, The Hound, Tyrion Lannister, Tywin Lannister