Once again we are back in Westeros and with Dark Wings, Dark Words we have now finished a two hours reintroduction to the lands of Ice and Fire. Two hours to sufficiently catch up with all the characters! This alone shows how much the scope of this series has expanded and Game of Thrones might have reached the point where it would be better to watch the entire season in one sitting and not in weekly episodes.
A note on the spoiler policy
These articles will discuss the episodes in-depth so everything that has already been aired will be talked about. There won’t be spoilers for future events and book information will only be discussed if it has already happened or happened differently in the books. Things that are omitted from the books won’t be mentioned because those events might come to play in a different way.
The many ways a story goes
Just to give you a bit of an overview how much the scope has expanded here is a simplified overview of the general storylines:
The Wall, King’s Landing, Winterfell, Dothraki, Tyrion/Catelyn
Beyond the Wall, King’s Landing, Winterfell/Theon, Quarth, Stannis,
Renly/Catelyn, Arya, Robb Stark
Jon Snow, Nightswatch, King’s Landing, Bran, Dany, Stannis,
Catelyn/Robb Stark, Arya, Jaime/Brienne, Theon
And this is just a rough geographical sorting and does not include the many substories that are happening in the individual places (King’s Landing alone). Game of Thrones has exploded in terms of complexity and it is one of the biggest questions if there might be too many characters around right now.
Many critics have already previewed the first four episodes and the frequent location change is something that they pointed out compared to last year’s winner episode Blackwater. But still episode 9 will focus on a smaller number of characters according to the writers so there might be a more Blackwater-esque story down the road.
What I find positive is that even though there are tons of characters their storyarcs mostly happened in one of the two episodes. I prefer two scenes of Daenerys in the first episode and none in the second over Daenerys on a ship in episode one and Daenerys in Astapor in the second episode. This goes for Jaime and Bran as well who were absent in the premiere but had more scenes this week.
And if Martin’s reputation holds true we might soon have less characters to follow… you never know who wins and who dies.
The King of the burning castle
Somehow I see Robb either going completely mental or the same road as his father.
He just doesn’t seem to fit into the world of Westeros:
He cares for his people, he has an honorable cause, he doesn’t think himself above his men and he is a great tactician… and even though he has won everything up to this point it seems like the war is slowly grinding him down.
Where did it start? Is it true what his bannerman said that he lost the war the day he married lady Talisa? We have yet to see the reaction of Walder “Argus Filch” Frey when he hears the news that Robb didn’t honor the treaty. And it might come down to Catelyn’s warning from Season 2: “Treat your vows lightly and your men will do the same.”
Speaking of Catelyn:
I can’t shake the feeling that we are witnessing a sort of origin story for how people like Cersei start. We have been introduced to Catelyn as the protective mother who would stand behind her children and she still does but in a way that might send the wrong image to everyone around her.
For many people in Westeros Catelyn started the war by arresting Tyrion (we still have to learn who really sent the assassin in Season 1) and now she has released Jaime Lannister to get back Sansa. I still don’t understand that plan and how that transaction should play out… does Catelyn think that if Brienne knocks on the doors of King’s Landing that Littlefinger or Cersei will gratefully give her Sansa and not… say… kill Brienne?
But aside from her public image we learned a very different – regretful – side of Catelyn. In a story of how she prayed for Jon Snow to not die of a fever we initially were led to believe that Catelyn did indeed love the boy – only to find out that she thought she had brought the fever upon Jon. The entire scene was a woman desperately trying to make sense of all the horrible things that were happening around her and to her family.
I wouldn’t be surprised if Robb would fail and the series would continue with Catelyn having basically lost all her children to either death, exile or prison.
Plus Robb’s failings would leave the entire north in chaos and ready to be swept away by whatever lurks up there…
Tarly, I forbid you to die!
The immortal worlds of Lordcommander Mormont work stronger than wildling magic and Sam got back up after losing his will to walk. To make things worse the one soldier responsible for Sam’s super weak state of mind was appointed by Mormont to bring Sam back to the world of the mentally stable. I like the fact that it is the very same actor who already hated Sam in the first Season. It helps flesh out the characters but in a way that still works if you don’t recall all names. If you have no idea who this guy is you get a pretty good idea why he hates Sam just from the words he is whispering into Sam’s ear.
Why does everyone hate the cave-people?
Mance Rayder continued Jon Snow’s introduction to the culture of the wildling. And we learnt of a “new” skillset: being a warg. A warg is a person who can project his mind into animals and we have seen that before when it comes to Bran Stark. The introduction of Orell who can project his mind into eagles served both for explaining some of Bran’s talents and gave us the weekly “you don’t know nothing, Jon Snow” moment by Ygritte.
I wonder what magic Jon will stumble around next week…
Captain Exposition from Love Actually
Also I wonder what this means for Bran’s storyline. Will the wolf-sight be treated casually as a fantasy gift or will there be a deeper meaning behind all this magic?
Bran opened this episode with a dream sequence harking back to his introduction of Season 1 but also to something Osha said after Ned Stark was killed. We saw the wind going through the trees when we heard Ned Stark’s voice and Osha has said to Bran that the wind is the way the gods talk to humans… after all who commands the wind if not the gods?
I liked the understated nature of it and it might become important for this entire “Children of the forest”-storyline we have yet to uncover.
But right now Bran has two more precise things on his mind: the Reeds. Jojen Reed (Thomas Brodie Sangster, Love Actually) first appears in Bran’s dream and later in the real world where he is guarded by his sister Meera (Ellie Kendrick).
The Reeds were characters originally introduced in the second book A Clash of Kings but were probably delayed because of the already vast cast in Season 2 and to give them an air of mystery. We have little to no idea of their backstory and right now Jojen acts as the wise-old-mentor who happens to be trapped in the body of a little boy. But aside from that Jojen is the first person Bran meets who can explain what is happening to him and what the three eyed raven might stand for. Still I am interested in the Reeds’s backstory because right now they are pretty much walking exposition for Bran.
The House of Tyrell has landed
House Tyrell has lived by its family motto growing strong by slowly expanding with each Season. Season 1 showed us Loras, the knight of flowers, Season 2 gave us Margaery and now we have been introduced to Lady Olenna. In a delightful scene Olenna (Diana Rigg) proved to be both a female version of Tywin Lannister and cunning enough to finally make Sansa break. I have waited since Season 2 (Is Joffrey going to kill Sansa’s brother?) that Sansa would lose the mask she had been wearing but she held out until this very episode.
Afterwards she was also asked by Shae to show her on this anatomically correct Sansa-doll where Littlefinger had touched her. Overall I see growing potential in Sansa but she still seems to trust the wrong people. And also she is still chasing those dreams she should have stopped believing after all the horrible events. For example when the Knight of Flowers appears and she is completely enamored and in love… does she still believe in those fairy tales the Hound warned her about?
I am starting to get really scared by the Tyrells. They are incredibly smart and reaching for more and more power. They don’t sugarcoat the truth and deal with it – as seen in the scene where Margaery once again proved her fearsome intellect and played Joffrey like she felt.
Now an unpopular opinion: I kind of feel sorry for Joffrey.
Yes, he is a monster and all this but the scenes with both Cersei and Margaery showed that Joffrey is just incapable of feeling affection for humans. He can’t talk about Margaery as a person but only as a tool for power. The same way he only gets horny for Margaery when she expresses interest in killing. He is an incredibly deranged individual but a lot of times I wonder how much it is his fault and how much it is handicap.
A big thumbs up for Jack Gleeson. His portrayal of Joffrey grows more confident with every season and next to Dinklage he is probably the best actor in the entire cast. And to continue the theme of horrible people…
Where is Theon Greyjoy?
It is time to play a little Sherlock!
- Robb Stark sent Bolton’s bastard to Winterfell
- Bolton’s bastard had orders to let go any Ironborn with the exception of Theon Greyjoy
- The Ironborns knocked down Theon Greyjoy and put a sack over his head
- Maester Luwin talked about secret ways to get out of the castle but only to Theon
- Winterfell got burned down
- Bolton’s bastard reported that the Ironborn had burned down Winterfell
So this leaves two options:
- The Ironborn have taken Theon using a tunnel to get out after setting Winterfell on fire and are now torturing Theon to see if he is a traitor or what the hell he was thinking when he took Winterfell
- Bolton’s bastard took him either in exchange as Robb Stark suggested or he killed the rest. But this raises the question why Winterfell would burn… is Bolton’s bastard just a guy who loves mayhem and dismay?
From the way Theon is “interrogated” it seems to be more about pain than anything else. Whoever took him is probably torturing for some kind of perverted pleasure. Anyways Game of Thrones has made me a cynical man because I can’t think that the guy who told Theon that he was sent by his sister was actually telling the truth… sorry, don’t buy it.
And regarding trust issues:
The Brotherhood of Robin Hoods
After teasing the so-called Brotherhood without Banners in Season 2 we are introduced to them via Arya, Gendry and Hot Pie. The two names dropped were Thoros of Myr and Anguy the Archer. They seem like a whacky funny lot. But as I said before this series has made me cynical and until proven otherwise I consider Thoros not trustworthy even though he seemed willing to let Arya go… before things changed.
Last week we wondered what had happened to the Hound after he so delightfully told the King to fuck off. We speculated that the best place for the Hound to go would be the Wall because he would be a great addition against the Walkers – until we realized that the Hound was scared by fire so that would be very pointless.
Anyways the Hound was reintroduced as a captive of the Brotherhood and being the biggest gossiper in King’s Landing he knows a Stark girl (he used another word) when he sees one.
I’ll withhold my judgment about the Brotherhood until I see the reaction to Arya’s true identity.
The romantic comedy
And last but definitely not least we got re-introduced to Jaime and Brienne – the romantic couple traveling through Westeros. Nikolaj Coster-Waldau and Gwendoline Christie are a delightful match bouncing back and forth. Brienne the uncompromising mountain and Jaime the cunning and funny man. In a way Jaime’s role is very much the role of the Jester. He is poking fun at Brienne but his insults are not picked at random but always have some truth.
What I love about Jaime is that he is aware of his weaknesses. He is used to insults like Kingslayer and all the sorts but he is also aware of the faults of others. As seen in Season 2 where he found the right button to hurt Catelyn Stark. He is an incredibly observant character and I hope he shows us more of his strengths.
Speaking of strengths Jaime clearly lost against Brienne but in a neat way the writing pulled a “Godzilla vs. King Ghidorah” on us by having Jaime fight with his hands cuffed together so we can endlessly discuss if Brienne would have won the fight had Jaime been fully armed and prepared… that’s how you keep us talking!
And at the end we once again learned that honorable actions might not always have honorable consequences. The banner of house Bolton (the flayed man) was seen and it also showed prominently during the entire episode (see also Theon theories) so the question is: will Jaime and Brienne be returned to Robb?
- How will Robb react towards Brienne?
- Or is house Bolton’s loyalty not 100% towards house Stark?
- Because why else would there be a visual distinction between Starks and Boltons if there was not a conflict to come?
All images taken from the Game of Thrones youtube channel