Monday, June 4, 2012

Game of Thrones Season 2 Finale: Valar Morghulis

By Amanda Lowery

Book and Show Spoilers....

I would like to start off by saying how deeply satisfied I am with the season two finale for Game of Thrones. I’ve read the books, and I write about the show – so as the opening sequence began I actually felt that excited/nervous feeling in my stomach. In my reader’s mind I knew how much had to be covered before they could end it with viewers wondering what the hell could possibly happen in season 3. I assure you, Storm of Swords will not disappoint, I think the third book was my favorite because of the level of intensity of everything that happens. But lets not get ahead of ourselves and instead check out what happened in last night’s episode.

One thing I noticed last night was that we saw a lot of eyes, fire, and ice – perhaps it was purposefully done by the show’s writers as they often interconnect thematic elements, or perhaps the story is naturally evolving in that direction because it is a part of the Song of Ice and Fire told from different eye witness perspectives.

In King’s Landing

We start with the image of an eye. We find out that it is Tyrion’s eye, and everyone’s favorite imp is laid up with a facial wound that even the cast of Nip/Tuck would have problems dealing with. The fact that Tyrion wakes up with Maester Pycelle looming over him sets the tone for what follows. Tyrion shamed the Maester and imprisoned him, he is not likely to be an adequate care-giver, and we see evidence of that when the bandage is removed. It’s obvious that no one has effectively treated his wound, a Maester other than Pycelle would have set it with herbs and a poultice and maybe sewn it up some, but no, it’s covered by a dirty bandage.

We also find that Tyrion has been removed from the Tower of the Hand with the return of his father, and all his belongings are squeezed into some tiny compartment. Bronn has been removed from commander of the city watch, and Tyrion later discovers that his own sister arranged to have Ser Mandon Moore kill Tyrion. For a man who helped win a very important battle and save the city from siege you’d think he’d get more respect, but he instead gets nothing. Varys is the one to thank Tyrion and remind him that although he will not be written in the histories, all that were there will remember what Tyrion did to save the city. Shae enters the room and pleads with Tyrion to leave and go to the free cities with her; she claims that Tyrion does not belong in Kings Landing among his family and the bad people who have shoved him aside and tried to kill him. And then we get a bit of what it is that drives the spirit of Tyrion Lannister: he belongs to the game of thrones. He may not belong within the Lannister family, but he was meant to out-think and outsmart them all, his ability to play the game has given his life meaning, and he admits to Shae that he likes it. The game gives him a sense of purpose, unlike the professional plumbing supervisory position his father bestowed upon him back on Casterly Rock. Shae says she will stay with him, and Tyrion seems relieved to still be in possession of one of the power scenarios he had created for himself, but we’re left to ask – how long will this last when everything else is coming apart at the seams for him?

You know who gets all that recognition that should have been shared with Tyrion? Tywin Lannister. I love that his horse takes a shit in the great hall before he promenades down to accept his honor as savior of the city and the hand of the king badge. No intense dialogue was needed to convey what that horse did – this current government is corrupt and, well, shitty. We also have another shift in the power of families. The Tyrells, the second wealthiest family in the seven kingdoms, have joined forces with the Lannisters. Petyr Baelish is to thank for this apparently, and his is given Harrenhal as reward (yikes!). And, in true Game of Thrones ‘our children are the pawns for power’ fashion, Margery Tyrell is positioned to become Queen. Joffrey is hesitant to accept the arrangement at first because he is betrothed before the seven gods in a sacred arrangement to Sansa Stark. But, conveniently, all has been reconsidered because the arrangement was made before Ned Stark was labeled as a traitor. I will say this right now, and it’s not meant as a spoiler, but I think Cersei is going to have a much more difficult time controlling Margery than Sansa. We’ve seen Margery; she is quick, hungry for power, and dedicated to the upward mobility of her family. But at least Sansa is freed from having to marry Joffrey, for which we see a laugh escape the girl before Littlefinger bursts her little bubble to remind her that she may not be marrying Joffrey but he will still make her suffer. Littlefinger offers to help Sansa get home, because…she reminds him of her mother? He’s had a thing for Sansa since season one, and he is far from trustworthy. At least Sansa tries to play the game for her own protection and tells Littlefinger that she is already home, but he calls her out on being a terrible liar.

What is Varys up to with Ros? I know he is plotting against Littlefinger and claims to have found a weakness in the man…is it Sansa? So next season we will have to watch Tyrion fight to reclaim power in the game, Joffrey wed Margery, Tyrell join with Lannister, Cersei rein in her craziness under the power of her father as Hand, Sansa deal with her vulnerability in Kings Landing, and a plot to undo Littlefinger.

Robb’s a Big Boy Now

Still full of fury with the decision his mother made in defiance of his orders in releasing the Kingslayer, Robb tells his mother of his love for Lady Talisa. He resents the arrangement his mother made with Walder Frey because right now he resents his mother for disregarding his command as King and betraying him. So he feels that he has the right to betray an arrangement of betrothal, which as we just found out from Joffrey, is actually a bit more extensive then simply agreeing to marry someone. Robb weds Talisa, and we are left wondering what will crazy ole Walder Frey do when he finds out?

Stannis Fire Gazes

Back on Dragonstone, Stannis is pissed. Understandably so, for his red priestess guaranteed him victory, and well, he lost. Melisandre points out that Stannis only lost a battle, he has not lost the war. The war rages on, and will continue for a long time and Stannis will ultimately betray everything that he holds dear to become the King she sees in the flames. Doesn’t that seem a little desperate? I know Stannis is severe and uncompromising, but there has to be a moral compass in there somewhere that overrides the compulsion to pursue his Kingly right. Stannis chokes Melisandre, then laments about being a kin slayer, then the two fire gaze. Here we get another image of the eyes. In these eyes we see fire, but what is it the two of them see in the fire?

Theon, Theon, Theon, Tisk, Tisk, Tisk

I actually really enjoyed Theon’s segment of the show. I think more than anything, his hatred for the horn blower was just fantastic. It served both as a comedic element, but also to let the audience know how on-edge Theon is. Theon also got to speak on the very thing that undermines and yet defines his entire state of being, and that is the fact that he was given away by his family, raised by the Starks who didn't love him, and then returned home only to endure the rebuke of his estranged family. Theon is trying to prove himself, and yet a lot of choices seem to be taken away from him, hell, he can't even die on his own terms. He is surrounded in Winterfell by Roose Bolton’s bastard, and he only has 50 or so men. Maester Lewyn encourages Theon to flee through the underground tunnels and to take the black. All past transgressions are forgiven on the Wall, but Theon is possessed by a stubbornness not unlike Stannis’. Theon decides that he and his men will instead die fighting, but apparently his men have another idea. We are reminded of an offer made by Robb, that if Theon were delivered to him he would let the other Iron Islanders go. And that seems to be what is going down, these old men don’t want to die on the whim of an arrogant boy, so after his speech (and, it was a pretty good speech), Theon is knocked out. We see his men put a bag over his head and then they stab Maester Lewyn for caring, and the possibility of his telling of their betrayal.

Next thing we know Winterfell is burned. Uh, who burnt it? Was it the Iron Islanders or the North Men? Bran, Rickon, Osha and Hodor find Maester Lewyn dying in the Godswood. He tells Osha to lead the boys north to the wall where Jon is; he thinks Jon will be able to contact the right people and unite the boys with their mother while receiving safe harbor and the comfort of their brother at the Wall. And for those of you who have read the books: I understand why the show creators eliminated the Crannogmen Reed children from the Bran storyline, there are simply too many characters as it is, and I think that Osha will be a good fill-in for explaining the mysticism beyond the wall. I just hope we don’t lose Bran and the development of his psychic gifts as other plot lines pick up, it really is interesting and full of intrigue. But as a season ender this story line wrapped up nicely, everyone is on the move and Winterfell, once the pillar of the North, one of the oldest settlements since the First Men is burned.

Two Quick Deaths

Jamie Lannister finally got to see what Brienne of Tarth is made of when she comes across some women who were hung for fraternizing with the enemy. The Stark soldiers who delivered the punishment say they killed two of the women quickly, but the third one…well, we can only imagine. When Jamie is recognized from the battle of the Whispering Wood, Brienne is left with only one option: Kill the witnesses and uphold her oath to Lady Catelyn. In a world so broken down and ripping at the social seam of things, those who carry the hope of honor uphold oaths. And that is what Brienne is going to do at all costs. It should make their journey an interesting one in season three.

Valar Morghulis

Arya, Hotpie and Gendry end up bumping into Jaqen on their journey to nowhere in particular. It is here that Arya learns that not only does Braavos produce excellent dancing masters but also faceless men, who can change their identity, who are trained killers. This seems right up Arya’s alley as she changes her identity as often as needed to survive and she has found the usefulness in delivering death. But Jaqen also suggests that perhaps Arya should look to the Red God (Lord of Light) to offer up all of the names she whispers at night during her vengeance prayer. He suggests that she does not have to become a faceless man to unburden herself, especially since she still holds onto the vengeance and anger rooted in her original identity. Jaqen gives her a special coin and phrase to use if ever she decides to try to find him in Braavos. I guess we will see where this path will lead for Arya.

Warlocks Burn Like Everyone Else

Dany arrives to the House of the Undying, and finds herself in the grips of sorcery. But as we know, Dany possesses her own bit of magic. It is an intuitive magic; an unexplained set of capabilities stemming from the blood of the dragon. Once she disappears to the inside of the building, Dany follows the sounds of her dragons. We get to see a couple of very interesting images in this part of the show. Undoubtedly, the images come from her mind, but there is something much more significant to what she sees.

First, she walks into the Iron Throne room. The snow is falling through the open ceiling, and my first thought was Harrenhal. Harrenhal bears similars scars to its architecture from Dragons. Does this mean Dany will take the throne by way of her Dragons and end up destroying the capital city? Plus it appears that all this talk that Winter is Coming is the truth, the Stark words have materialized into snow in the tropical climate of Kings Landing. Dany is about to reach out and touch the Iron Throne, it is the thing she has been driving towards, it’s also something she’s never seen before, but then she hears her dragons and continues on.

Then Dany is walking through the gate at The Wall. I don’t know about you, but I was wondering if she’d be bumping into Jon Snow all the way out there. Again, this is a place Dany has only heard of, and frankly it has been of very little concern. But then we must remember that all of the old powers are awakening. The White Walkers are awake now, and so are the Dragons – it is no coincidence that fire kills a wight. Perhaps Dany’s war will move beyond just procuring the Iron Throne, perhaps the biggest war of all will be at the wall. It is here that she finds Khal Drogo, the greatest conqueror of the Dotraki, and their baby (adorbz!) that could have been. But as sweet as the illusion is, Dany knows it is just that, and she leaves to pursue her dragons. So the book series is a Song of Ice and Fire, and I think that Dany, who most ardently represents Fire has just been given glimpses into a world of Ice. I just can’t shake the feeling that she is going to bump into Jon Snow.

Back in warlock central, Dany is informed that she is not going to be leaving any time soon. She and her dragons are chained. The warlock drones on about how her power and the power of the dragons are made stronger only when they are together. Dany decides she has wasted enough time and commands her dragons to burn, and they do. Ding Dong the Warlock's gone! Back in Xaro's house she finds Doreah, and a big fat lie and betrayal. So Dany and her remaining Dothraki loot the place and head out to buy a ship, after locking up her old friends in an empty vault. She always seems to make some sacrifice of life in the midst of a great triumph. Where will Dany and her Dragons head next?

I am Snape

Speaking of Jon Snow, he’s up there doing a Professor Snape by killing Qhorin Halfhand under command so that he can penetrate the Wildlings as a convert and free man, whilst still a man of the black. It works, Jon is unbound after the deed. And then we get a look-see at Mance Rayder’s, the King Beyond the Wall, encampment, and it is huge. We soon understand why it is that all the Wildlings are banning together and marching south: ZOMBIES!

The Walking Dead

A cross-over show extraordinaire? Nah, just your run of the mill zombies in a really cold place. Only these guys are ruled over by the White Walkers, and how terrifying was that guy? With Sam as our witness we see what the realm will be contending with in coming seasons. While Kings Landing is so caught up in politics and power plays, there are some serious forces and old powers about to rain hell on their puny disputes. Next season’s going to be so exciting!!!


Drew said...

I haven't finished reading your review yet, but it is really good so far. One thing to point out, however, is that the Reed children will be in the next season according to the season 3 character list that was revealed last night.

Amanda Lowery said...

Oh yeah? That makes me happy. There is a lot of information the Reeds bring with them, including a lot of the history of the children of the forest and information about Bran's psychic powers. Thanks for the info!

Anonymous said...

Excellent recap! I was under the impression it was ash, not snow, Dany was walking through in the throne room. Mega burnination. All the storylines were tied up nicely, except for who the heck burnt down Winterfell. That's still bothering me.

Anonymous said...

I think that Theon is a complex character and you wrote it perfectly what he is going through...He feels unwanted everywhere he goes and I think he is now figuring out he felt most wanted being next to Robb Stark but now knows he has gone to far to ever get forgiveness and would rather die a warrior's death instead...And then BONK in the head!!!

Now I have a few ideas what might have happened after that.....
1. The iron people are going to give Theon to Robb
2. The Iron people were actually blowing the horn to fool Theon so they could go home.
3.Theon's sister comes back with an army and defeat the Northmen and then burn Winterfell

keep up the good work

Steve P.