Monday, 21 May 2012

Game of Thrones: The Prince of Winterfell recap/review


Betrayal ran through this week's episode, and two of the main parties finally got off their backsides and actually physically moved closer to battle, rather than just talking about it.

The Lannisters
Battle is getting ever closer to the Lannisters, and they're still stuck in a state of limbo as to what to do about it.

Is anyone else getting a bit bored of Cersei? She's still a great character but she seems to be stuck in a rut - focusing on how Tyrion married off her younger daughter. She's been going on about this for weeks now, too selfish to see that it's actually for Myrcella's good.

Cersei is also still defending Joffrey, despite admitting last week that he's the Meanest Character on Television™ (okay, she just admitted he's unlovable to anyone but his mother). This week she's saying he's not old enough to go into battle. When Tyrion counters by reminding her that Jaime was fighting wars at 17, Cersei pulls out her trump card in revenge.

She's found Tyrion's secret girlfriend, and is holding her captive and having her beaten. She knows love is Tyrion's weak spot, judging by his history of marrying a woman who it turned out was only paid to sleep with him. Luckily for Tyrion, the woman Cersei is holding is not Shae, it's some other poor prostitute, who plays the role of Tyrion's girlfriend, reminding him that he owes her.

For all the fighting talk, this episode features one of the most tender scenes we've seen in Game of Thrones, when Tyrion rushes back to Shae and tells her he loves her. It's the first of two romantic scenes this episode, and romance is something we don't get a lot of on the programme.

While worrying about Shae, Tyrion also has the bigger problem of Stannis Baratheon's fleet coming ever closer. He reads some books to try and get some battle tips, prompting a humourous scene involving Tyrion and Bronn. These two need to be in their own buddy film (if you don't know what that looks like, watch this fan-made trailer).

Still, the most important Tyrion scenes this episode involve Varys, who's back after a few weeks' absence. He provides a good sounding board for Tyrion, and also gives his own input on keeping Stannis out of the city. But his most important input is when he reveals his spies (they stretch far and wide) have found out Danaerys Targaryen is in Qarth, and that she has dragons. Tyrion dismisses it as rumour - he'll soon wish he hadn't.

Meanwhile, Jaime is on the loose with Brienne as a guard, heading back to King's Landing, and Tywin Lannister has finally left Harrenhal and is heading for Robb Stark.

The Starks
Ooh, so when we left Catelyn Stark last week it looked like she was about to slice Jaime Lannister's head off. But no, she did worse than that - she freed Jaime. While her son, the King in the North, was away. Without his permission. Betrayal.

It's the first time we've seen Catelyn do something that's purely in her interests, and not for the greater good. She freed Jaime because all bar one of her children is now being held captive, and she thought Jaime's release might cause the Lannisters to release Sansa and Arya, the latter of whom we know isn't at King's Landing, but Catelyn doesn't.

It's a sign of how desperate Catelyn is. Just a few episodes ago she would never have thought to go against her son, never have been naive enough to think her favour would be returned by the Lannisters. But since then Catelyn has learnt her two sons are being held captive (she thinks) at Winterfell, the body of her dead husband has been returned to her, and Littlefinger has whispered deceitful words into her ear.

All that has finally led Catelyn to break, and really, it's about time. I was beginning to think she was too stoic, but we've finally seen that she's just as emotional as the other characters.

Robb wasn't happy though, and he promptly put Catelyn under house (tent) arrest.

His woes are growing by the day. He's now lost his most previous pawn, and unbeknownst to him, Tywin Lannister is marching towards him. As if that wasn't enough, he's growing ever closer to Talisa, until finally the dam breaks and the two confess that neither of them want Robb to marry "the Frey girl".

The scene between Robb and Talisa is sweet and the second romantic scene of the episode, and it's also full of subtext. Their move round the tent is a dance of sorts, even though they're both as far from a ball as one can get. Robb's flirting is really cute, and he's fast catching up to Jon Snow as the loveliest male in Westeros for me. We find out a bit more about Talisa (privileged girl who learnt there's more to the world and wanted to do good), and Robb finds a real confidant. And it all ends in a passionate embrace on the floor of Robb's tent.

Meanwhile, Arya is panicking because Tywin Lannister has decided to march towards Robb's army in the dead of night. She runs to find Jaqen H'gar to give him Tywin's name as her third kill, but he's nowhere to be found. When she does track him down, it's too late and Jaqen can't promise her that Tywin will be killed as fast as Arya needs him to be.

Instead, Arya shows she now knows how to play the game, instead giving Jaqen his own name, and only taking it back when he promises to help her escape from Harrenhal. Always one for self-preservation, Jaqen agress, and slaughters a group of guards so Arya, Gendry and Hot Pie can walk straight out of Harrenhal without anyone noticing.

And Bran and Rickon, who were presented as dead, are actually alive and hiding in the vaults under Winterfell. And poor Bran has realised exactly the sacrifices being made to keep him alive.

The Baratheons
We're back with Stannis Baratheon briefly this week, as he and his fleet sail to King's Landing. There's no sign of Melisandre, but Davos Seaworth is on hand.

Nearly all the major characters on Games of Thrones have confidants who are below them in stature (Tyrion and Bronn, Robb and Talisa, Tywin and Arya), and Stannis has Davos. The latter is a self-made man of sorts, and I get the impression Stannis is deeply jealous of him. After all, Davos may have been punished for being a smuggler, but he's always done things on his own terms, been honourable and not given in to anyone else.

Unlike Stannis, who spent his years living in the shadow of Robert Baratheon, and doing exactly what he was told to do. Stannis may be the rightful heir of King's Landing - until Robert's true son returns - but I don't think Stannis is trying to win the throne because it's the right thing to do. He's doing it as a form of revenge for all those years he spent doing what other people told him to do, and to get back at Robert for betraying him and giving Renly what he believed belonged to him.

The Targaryens
Just a brief visit to Qarth this week, as Danaerys contemplates what to do now that most of the Thirteen have been slaughtered and her dragons are being held captive.

Jorah Marmont has found her a ship to get her away from Qarth, but Danaerys won't leave without her dragons, who she says are like children to her. Danaerys' outburst is followed by a tender moment with Jorah, but she's manipulating him to get what she wants.

Jon Snow
More wandering in the snow this week for Jon, only now he's the prisoner. Ygritte takes him back to her gang of wildlings, who almost kill him before Ygritte reveals he's the bastard son of Ned Stark, thereby saving his life. As she reminds him, the two are even now.

It turns out the wildlings have also captured Qhorin Halfhand, as he and his men set off to find Jon when he didn't return after he was meant to kill Ygritte. Halfhand comes up with a plan to get the wildlings to like Jon by pretending he thinks Jon is a traitor. The hope is Jon can infiltrate the wildlings and take them down from the outside.

Meanwhile, elsewhere beyond the Wall Sam and two of the other men from the Night's Watch are digging holes in the snow when they come across a stone chest bearing the markings of the First Men. Inside the chest is a Night's Watch cloak and knives made of obsidian. It's not clear what the significance of the discovery is, but by the look on Sam's face, it's clear it is significant.

The Greyjoys
Theon Greyjoy is still straddling the line between conqueror and selfish idiot. 

This week, his sister comes to visit, and while the two squabble as always, she does give him some wise words - he should leave Winterfell before he dies there. It's advice Theon would do well to heed, but his ego gets in the way.

Surprisingly, Theon then shows us his more tender side, respectively speaking. He wants money taken to the farm where he found Bran and Rickon, but is told that would be a bad idea. Money is no way to silence someone, his loyal servant tells him, implying that killing is.

The full significance (and inadequacy) of Theon's offer is revealed when Osha appears, beckoning Maester Luwin and revealing that she, Bran, Rickon and Hodor turned back and are now hiding in the vaults beneath Winterfell. And if Bran and Rickon aren't dead, that means the farmer's sons are, making Theon's offer of money seem really, really stupid.

Violence and (gratuitous) nudity count
Many dead bodies, mainly because Jaqen H'gar killed a bunch of soldiers to aid Arya's escape from Harrenhal.

There's a bloody nose (Halfhand), another sighting of "Bran" and "Rickon's" tarred bodies, a beaten prostitute, and the implication of lots of violence to come as Stannis moves closer to King's Landing.

Not much nudity this week - just Robb and Talisa during an unusually tender sex scene by Game of Thrones' standards.

When you play the Game of Thrones...
So who is the Prince of Winterfell the title of this episode talks about? Is it Theon, who now rules there? Obvious, but unlikely. I think it's more likely the title refers to Bran, who is learning tough lessons as every day goes by.

Robb tells Talisa this week that kings spend their lives being brought up as princes, but that he was only ever brought up to be lord of Winterfell. Bran, on the other hand, is now being brought up as a prince, thrust into circumstances beyond his control. Osha might think he's still a child, but Bran is becoming more princely, and in direct contrast to Joffrey, seems to realise just how much responsibility he has. After all, people have been executed for him.

It's a responsibility other characters like Theon and Robb perhaps cannot grasp as well, since they weren't brought up as aware of the consequences of war as Bran is and as they are now (although there were wars happening when they were children).

Pretty soon though, everyone will realise just how high the stakes are.

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