Monday, May 21, 2012

Game of Thrones Episode Review "Prince of Winterfell"


By: Amanda Lowery

Warning, Spoilers Ahead.....

Last Night’s Episode of Game of Thrones The Prince of Winterfell reminds us all that things are coming to an explosive head in Westeros and are seemingly headed toward some kind of conclusion (thank the gods) in Qarth. There was a lot of interconnecting discussion about weakness, bravery and fear this week, and like the writers on this show often excel at doing they were able to interweave these themes into each of the storylines, allowing us to connect the dots between some characters, their attributes and their capacity for or lack of humanity.


The show opens with dead ravens being heaped into a pile…um, symbolism anyone? Communication is dead. Theon will hear nothing; he will not budge from his usurped false righteousness, and nothing Yara has to say will sway him. After she finishes giving him a good verbal lashing for his defiant stupidity and the rash decision to kill Bran and Rickon thus reaping the wrath of every man in the North, she then calls him weak. I think she’s right. Theon has battled a lifetime of weakness; first, as a game piece commodity his father traded to the Starks, then living as a ward/captive of the Starks, and then returning to the Iron Islands to face the reality that he is more a Stark than a Greyjoy – and so commenced his desperate crusade to prove himself worthy. His desperation to appear competent, powerful, in control and ultimately a Greyjoy has really only proven that his pride is his Achilles heel. Theon feigns that he has no fear, but his actions are defined by his fear of being viewed as weak. His sister even fears for him because of this, but even her re-hash of terrible baby Theon calming his wailing only in her presence falls on deaf ears.

North of the wall Jon Snow admits his own weakness with his ineptitude at carrying out the order to behead the fiery wilding, Ygritte, to Qhorin Halfhand. Qhorin fills Jon in on the heavy news that all the other men they’d set out with are dead due to the search for the blushing blue-balled Snow. The guilt weighs heavy on the young crow and as Ygritte pleads for his life with the Lord of Bones, claiming he is of use to Mance Rayder as the bastard of Ned Stark, Jon assures Qhorin that he is still devoutly a man of the black. Qhorin roughly declares that Jon will have to hold onto that in the times to come, insinuating that things are likely to get complex as they go further into wildling territory. As their story progresses through the episode we find that Qhorin has begun to play his part in some plan he has devised to make Jon appear undesirable to the Night’s Watch, making him more likely to be trusted by the wildlings. As Jon stumbles down a hillside after pushed by Qhorin, he wears his hurt and wounded face (much dimmer than in the books, this one is) and marches on, and I find myself shaking my head and mumbling ‘You know nothing, Jon Snow.’

Jon’s brother Robb continues to play with the foreign fire of Volantis, in a very predictable romantic storyline. I mean I get it, Robb is hot, and his is noble and good and one of the only uncorrupted characters in the show, and in the book he does forsake his vow to the Freys and the marriage for a bridge, but the private walk in the woods was a little cheesy. Though it did allow Robb the opportunity to talk a bit more about what an honorable man Ned Stark was, which as we all know is one of his favorite topics. And the audience was able to once again pit the Stark leadership perspective against the Cersei and Joffrey leadership perspective in how they regard their subjects. Ned Stark viewed the responsibility of looking out for all of his bannermen and liege lords as something akin to fatherhood and the worry for one’s children, while we know that Cersei thinks of the people as weeds, and Joffrey has no concept of what ruling actually entails, thanks to his mother and Robert – who were psychologically inept at perfecting the selfless task. And the walk in the woods resulted in one of my favorite quotes of the episode citing the carry-through theme: “How can a man be brave with fear in his heart?” Robb once asked his father, to which the stoic and always nobly profound Ned Stark answered, “That is the only time a man can be brave.” I say the walk is cheesy, mostly because what happens in the tent latter on was so much better. We finally get to hear about how Talisa became a noblewoman nurse. It was a good story, one in which a brave slave in Volantis threw caution to the wind to save her drowning brother. That act of selfless bravery inspired Talisa to do all that she could to help others, and to forsake the slave state that was her home. People are more than their stations. And then these two presumed virgins got it on with an experienced fervor unlacing, and unlacing, and unlacing, and then we had our nudity for the episode. All that unlacing was ample time for Robb to remember his honor, to uphold his word and vow to the Freys and his Kingship, but alas, underneath it all he is but a horny teenager.

I got to give it to Robb though; he just had a very bad day. He was betrayed by his mother who freed the Kingslayer in exchange for her daughters. It was a move that Robb forbade due to how weak it would make him look in front of his men, and now that the Kingslayer has killed Lord Karstark’s son, Catelyn’s action has spawned discord in the camp. Is there any question as to why he would betray his vow, pledged on his behalf by his mother, to marry one of the Frey girls in exchange for men and the use of the Twins’ Bridge? Sure he wanted to fuck the foreigner, but he also wanted to fuck his mother after she just fucked him. Now we’re left to wonder what will happen when the Freys find out.

Was Catelyn’s choice made out of a moment of weakness and desperation to do something to help any of her children besides Robb? I think so, and I also think it was out of fear that if she didn’t utilize the opportunity of Jamie Lannister’s captivity now, then she may lose him forever as a gambling piece to the vengeful Karstark. So using Ned Stark’s logic – was her decision actually an act of bravery in light of the inevitable reproach from her son and his bannermen?

Meanwhile, Jamie is traveling with Catelyn’s sworn sword, the lovely Brienne of Tarth. This is already shaping up to be an entertaining duo. I feel like other than looking for a giant woman, the casting crew for the show also tested for her chemistry with Jamie, because I definitely pick up on that. I’ve read the books, so I know the details of their journey, and I am looking forward to these two actors exploring what is to come.

There are no scenes I look forward to more than those involving Arya Stark. Not only do I think this role was superbly cast, but the pairing of Arya and Tywin Lannister has been one of my favorite dynamics and the best liberty taken with the original text. Tywin receives word that Stannis is only days away from Kings Landing while Robb Stark is still a threat in the North. Some strategic jargon is thrown around and then Tywin remarks that Robb is more prone to take unnecessary risks because he doesn’t know enough to be afraid. And there it is again, the fear theme. And a keen observation on the part of Tywin the wise – what he doesn’t know is that Robb is currently in the cherry popping throes of such a risk, because he has no idea what breaking his word to the Freys will do. Arya, always aware and always maneuvering, seeks out Jaqen to call in her next death: Tywin Lannister. Jaqen informs her that though death is certain, time is not and it will be hard to get to Tywin now that he is gone. So Arya in all her cunning, names Jaqen himself; in order to be unnamed to keep his own life Jaqen has agreed to help Arya, Gendry and Hot Pie escape from Harrenhal. One of my favorite moments of this episode is so simple, and yet falls in line with the signs we have begun to see in all the Stark children as they are pushed to their limits: the disintegration of honor. When she names Jaqen, the man has enough sense to call her out for being dishonorable, and Arya, with the simplicity of a child and a cleverness that would give Tyrion a run for his money, simply shrugs. The shrug of a real survivalist.

Back in Kings Landing, Tyrion continues to feel the stress of the impending attack. He and Bronn bicker about wardrobe choices, the danger of thieves (aka looters) in the event of a siege, and the appropriate pronunciation of some ancient text. But it is the following conversations with both Cersei and Varys that are most interesting. Cersei really is something, last week it was ‘Oh the uncontrollable compulsion for incest and the mad son I bore, whoa is me!’ Now she has chosen to demonize Tyrion and blame him for her unhappiness. I’ve known a lot of people unable to own up to their own responsibility in their lives, but Cersei takes the cake. She has identified Tyrion’s whore and has sworn to him that if anything happens to her incestuously monstrous son in the battle he pig headedly demands to fight in then Tyrion will know the pain of loss. However, that whore has been misidentified, and here we find Ros. I wish I could tell the spirited young whore back in her Theon-thrashing days that she should stay in the North, because only horror has visited her in the South. Back when Tyrion visited Winterfell he gave the poor girl a necklace and that is how Cersei made her for her brother’s whore. Peter Dinklage is never one to disappoint, the array of emotions that play across his face during this terrible conversation with his sister to then turn and see Ros was some good acting indeed. He then makes his own promise to Cersei, that he will watch her joy turn to ashes in her mouth; a little sibling rivalry to see who can out do the other in poetic threats. Afterward, Tyrion demands a kind of verbal commitment from Shae that she is his and he is hers, in order to validate the surging emotion he’d experienced in thinking she’d been captured and tormented by his wicked sister. In order to quell his growing fear that he may not be at the top of his game much longer.

For all of the scheming and plotting that Tyrion does do, at least we know that he is not in fact planning Joffrey’s death. He tries to talk the boy out of fighting and Joffrey insists, somehow mistaken in the notion that he will inspire his soldiers to fight. After Joffrey prances off Varys and Tyrion share a moment over looking Blackwater Bay, discussing the way the game is played. The Game of Thrones seems like a game Tyrion was born to play, he plays it well, and he admits that he likes it, but really he was born to be the overseer of Lannisport’s sewer system. Could you imagine Tywin squandering his son’s talents by placing him in waste management? No, he’s much better suited for political scheming and power play strategies. So what will become of him when Tywin returns to claim his place as Hand? How long does Tyrion have left to play the game and position himself for a better life when his father returns? In this same conversation we hear the first mention of Daenerys and her Dragons. Tyrion tells Varys he can only play one game at a time.

Whose Magic Will Win?
Daenerys is still in that damned city, and she is still whining about her damned dragons. She NEVER irritated me like this in the books. I know that in the books we were able to read her internal dialogue, so even though she is young she possesses a great inner strength with which she uses as her internal guide, but in the show she just stands around and whines a lot and calls herself the mother of dragons more times than I can stomach. But really, what happened to the no bullshit Daenerys from the text who pushed forward after the loss of her child, her husband, her people, her status, and then the long journey through the red waste, always telling herself ‘If I look back, I am lost.’ I just want her to stop telling Jorah to do everything and go do it herself. She said one thing this episode that I liked, and it reminded me of the Dany I love, when Jorah warns her about the danger of the warlocks and the House of the Undying, she looks at him and asks, “What of my magic?” Bam! You right girl, you right. You have got some crazy mysticism within you, you can’t be burned, and you hatched and nursed some mutha fuckin dragons! Go raise the roof on that House of Undying.

Oh, and Samwell Tarly finds the dragonglass spears, which is good. But why are his teeth rotten? He was born into a noble family…does that bother anyone else? Also, Osha, Bran, Rickon and Hodor are alive and hiding out in the Winterfell crypts. Risky, especially with Roose Bolton’s bastard headed to defeat the Iron Islanders. Bran overhears the Maester and Osha talking about the orphan boys, and we see in his face that it will not be something he easily forgets. Just like everyone else in the North. We also get a glimpse of big bad Stannis, but no sight of his shadow baby spawn. Instead we hear about how Stannis was jilted by Robert when he endured a kind of hell in holding Storm’s End and then Robert gave it to Renly. I mean, Stannis is harsh and unyielding, but he’s technically in the right. Does anybody else feel that way?

1 comment:

Mark Knox said...

Just stumbled on this site when looking for recaps for the latest episode. I already read the HuffPo and Rolling Stone versions each week, but I have to say this one is as insightful and well written as either of those. Looking forward to going back and reading the recaps for the other episodes. :)