Tuesday, 10 April 2012

Game of Thrones: The Night Lands recap/review

And so on Game of Thrones the night is landing, or is it that our characters are entering the night lands? This episode, The Night Lands, took a turn for the darker, if that was possible, with a beheading, plenty of betrayal and a lot of deceit.

The Lannisters
Oh dear, everyone's favourite backstabbing family is falling apart at the seams, and we're only two episodes in to the series.

No sign of Jaime this week, but it's clear Cersei is still missing him. She may be the only one who is, and if she thinks giving pleading messages to her cousin to pass on about how much she misses Jaime is going to dampen suspicions of their incestuous affair, she's much, much stupider than I thought she was.

With no Jaime around, her father fighting battles across the kingdom and Joffrey being the Meanest Character on Television™, Cersei is left with only Tyrion to battle with. And battle she is. Rather than be nice to her brother, she instead taunts him by telling him the biggest joke in the Lannister family is that their mother died while giving birth to Tyrion. That's the wrong thing for Cersei to do, and she only does it to cover up the fact that Joffrey ordered the deaths of all possible bastards of King Robert without her knowledge and say so. She's starting to crack, and lashing out at all the wrong people. Tyrion is her only potential ally, because while others may seem to be on her side, they're not blood and will happily hand her over to the enemy if it means saving their own skin.

It seems to be pick on Tyrion week, as Lord Varys decides he'll show the Hand of the King his hand. Varys has spies everywhere, and has managed to discover that Tyrion brought his girlfriend with him to King's Landing, despite being banned from doing so. Unlike last week's power struggle between Cersei and Littlefinger, this week Tyrion has to acknowledge that knowledge is power, and in the case of him and Varys, currently the balance is in the latter's favour.

Learning from Varys, Tyrion uses his knowledge to have the commander of the City Watch carted off and his own man, Bronn, placed in charge of them. Cruel as Tyrion may be at times, he is easily the most empathetic of the Lannisters. His disgust at Janos Slynt's carrying out order to kill babies and children is barely disguised, and he shows similar uneasiness when questioning Bronn if he would do the same without question. The answer that comes back, that he would ask how much he'd be paid, doesn't sit well with Tyrion.

The Starks
We found out a little more about how Arya is living this week, and her importance was shown by the absence of any scenes featuring her brothers, sister or mother.

Not only is Arya the only Stark unaccounted for by the Lannisters, and badly wanted by them, she also now finds herself in the company of the true heir to King Robert, although she doesn't know that.

Living on the road, pretending to be a boy and surrounded by criminals, Arya is still not able to keep her head down and stay quiet. First, there is the confrontation with three men in a cage who are being taken to join the Night's Watch. Although two of the three clearly goad and threaten her it is the the third, a quiet seemingly refined man named Jaqen, who is likely to prove the biggest threat of the three. He's definitely got something of the Littlefinger about him.

Second, Arya is not afraid to put Lemmy and Hot Pie, two young boys travelling in the same party as her, in their place. A wiser girl would not intentionally do anything to make enemies. This is a good little scene in which we're reminded that for all her bravery and resourcefulness Arya is just a little girl.

And finally, Arya finds a confidant in Gendry, one of King Robert's bastards, not that he knows it. He does however, know Arya's biggest secret, that she is not Arry but Arya Stark. It's a big risk to take, but Gendry seems a trustworthy, honourable sort, and one with a sense of humour, so he will hopefully prove a decent older brother figure for Arya, whose own brothers are currently spread far and wide. 

The Baratheons
Just a brief visit to Stannis this week (and still nothing from Renly), who is carrying on with his plan to claim King's Landing and willing to do anything to make it so (more on this later).

We do see Davos Seaworth, his loyal knight, acting on his behalf though. Stannis needs to build an army, and as he is so unfriendly himself, it's better left to Davos to recruit anyone he can to the cause. Anyone he can turns out to be an old pirate friend, who makes it clear pretty quickly he's only in it for the money. I've never built an army, but I'm pretty sure those who are in it for the money are going to do a pretty terrible job of staying loyal when it all goes to pot. Stannis, you are going to need to work on your personality if you expect a bit of loyalty.

The Targaryens
Daenerys and her khalesar are still suffering in the dessert. With a lack of water, no civilisation in sight and a dwindling population, the last thing Daenerys needs is for one of her strongest men to turn up dead.

Unfortunately, that's exactly what happens. Actually, it's worse. Not only is he dead, he's beheaded. It's a true sign of just how strong Daenerys is when she insists on seeing the man's head and body because she is queen. I'm reminded a little of Ned Stark, who always said a leader had to make the kill himself, and not just order it.

Jon Snow
The Night's Watch are still camped out with Craster and his daughter-wives. 

Jon was managing to keep his head down unless best friend Sam felt sorry for one of Craster's daughter-wives, who has fallen pregnant. The honourable and sweet Sam wanted Jon to help her escape, but that plan was soon scuppered when Jon insisted there was nothing he could do. He might have seemed heartless, but Jon is becoming a leader, putting the wellbeing of the Night's Watch before his own, and Sam's, feelings.

It didn't last long though, as Jon got up to follow Craster as he crept into the forest in the dead of night. Hearing the sound of a baby crying plus some other ominous noises, Jon went forward to find out more, only to be knocked out by a blow to the head. That probably won't teach him to mind his own business unfortunately.

Violence and (gratuitous) nudity tally
Plenty of the latter this week, with two scenes designed purely to show the (supposed) power of men in Game of Thrones, and one which showed the power of a woman.

First up was the odious Theon Greyjoy, who showed just how manly he thinks he is by being cruel to some poor daughter of a ship's captain. Telling her to smile with her mouth closed was a bit rich, considering he's hardly the epitome of beauty himself. One thing we can learn about Theon Greyjoy from this scene is that he's a cruel man, and one who thinks power is making other people feel inadequate.

He got his comeuppance later though, when he first hit on his sister, before finding out she was his sister, and then discovered that his father thinks he's an idiot and is grooming the female Greyjoy to become his heir. Gone in a second was all the power Theon Greyjoy thought he had, and in its place was a sulky, little boy unused to not being praised from all sides. And looking at the barren, ugly Iron Islands that used to be his home before he became Ned Stark's ward following a battle, I doubt Theon Greyjoy is going to improve in manner or bearing while he stays in these surroundings. This will not turn out well.

Littlefinger did an altogether better job at staying in control. After spying on some of the prostitutes in his brothel he went off to comfort one of the more valued of his staff, Ros. His comforting words of caring soon turned into a thinly veiled threat, all delivered in the same even, sympathetic sounding tone. Anyone not listening to his words would have thought Littlefinger simply had the best interests of his employee at heart, but the man is cruel to the bone, and does it much, much better than Theon Greyjoy could ever hope to.

Both Littlefinger and Theon Greyjoy used sex to make others suffer and therefore feel powerful by default, which is a risk that worked for the former but not for latter. By contrast Melisandre was leaving nothing to chance, and used her feminine wiles to make Stannis feel more powerful by giving him what he desperately wants. She seduced him with the promise of a son, and while he may have felt he was in control, the whole time Melisandre was the one pulling the strings.

Little violence this week, apart from the off-screen beheading, although there were plenty of reminders of last week's child killing, and a small snippet of something very, very wrong at the end, moments before Jon Snow was clobbered round the head. 

When you play the Game of Thrones...
And playing we are now. In this second episode everyone's chess pieces have moved and the game is underway. As yet, it's unclear how everything will fit, as our main players are scattered across the board. They manage to be wreaking plenty of havoc themselves, so one can only imagine the destruction that will occur when they finally get together.

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