Game of Thrones: Season 2, Episode 2. The Night Lands
Game of Thrones is based on A Song of Ice and Fire by George R R Martin. The content of Season 2 in this television adaptation by HBO is drawn from A Clash of Kings. As before, the production is helmed by David Benioff and D B Weis. Here’s the link to my retrospective overview of Game of Thrones Season 1. This is a spoiler-rich discussion of what happens in each episode, so do not read this if you want to watch without prior knowledge.
One of the fascinating things about the way production companies cast and then directors direct is the way they deal with “foreign” accents. Now as one originating on the North East coast of England on the north bank of the Tyne, I can tell the difference between all the major northern accents and some of the Scottish ones. If you asked me about American accents, I could vaguely distinguish between the north and south, but it’s a vast country and it would be guesswork as to where anyone came from. So here’s the thing. This American production company wants to make a series about a fictional world, but it would be convenient to map accents on to our world. So, for example, since British actors come more cheaply than their American counterparts, we could cast all the Lannisters as southern English with received
pronunciation (apart from the Danish guy, that is — he looks so good, viewers will just eat up anything he manages to say in English). That would leave us with a convenient group of accents for the northern folk, Scottish for the wildlings and Irish for the Iron Islands (Danish for the good-looking). Except it hasn’t worked out with any degree of consistency. We’ve people in the same families speaking with different accents. Now, of course, we’re not striving for realism here. This is fantasy and it’s a miracle any of them can actually string two sentences together. More to the point, Game of Thrones is actually been made with the American market uppermost in HBO’s mind so the accuracy of accents is the last thing anyone’s worrying about. Who among the millions of American viewers will know or care whether a father and son should speak with the same accent? This is the real world of television production and I should just “get over it”. Except, since these Americans are hiring some of Britain’s best acting talent, they could have asked these Brits to sort it out among themselves. Leaving it to random chance is sloppy directing when it was so easy to fix.
As we start off The Night Lands, Arya (Maisie Williams) investigates the contents of the cage on the King’s Highway and so meets Jaqen H’ghar (Tom Wlaschiha). She watches from the safety of the ditch as Yoren (Francis Magee) drives away the first two soldiers searching for Gendry (Joe Dempsie) one of the Baratheon bastards. They exchange brief family details but the two runaways fail to bond. Varys (Conleth Hill) comes to see Tyrion Lannister (Peter Dinklage) and Shae (Sibel Kikilli) so they can exchange ritual threats and then watch Cersei Lannister (Lena Headey) meet with Theon Greyjoy (Alfie Allen) and reject the terms for peace he brings from Robb Stark (Richard Madden). With no awareness of the dangers, she also refuses to send more men to the Wall demonstrating little sense of diplomacy or long-term interest in self-defence. Later Tyrion confronts Janos Slynt (Dominic Carter) for his role in slaughtering the bastards. That leaves Bron (Jerome Flynn) in charge as the Commander of the City Watch. His morals are no better, but at least he’s a known quantity. The argument over Slynt’s fate then spreads to include Cersei who has never forgiven Tyrion — their mother died while giving birth to the “dwarf” — and finds it hard to take criticism from him on her style of government. He, on the other hand, feels obliged to point out that rulers depend on the passivity of their people. If the masses rise up, one or two rulers and their guards stand no chance. It’s therefore refreshing that Cersei was not the one to order the slaughter of the bastards. That was Joffrey (Jack Gleeson).
Equally lacking in the sense department, Jon Snow (Kit Harington) finds himself under pressure from Samwell Tarly (John Bradley) to take Gilly (Hannah Murray), one of the Craster (Robert Pugh) “wives”, with the group when they leave. It seems Craster acts ruthlessly when the wives produce boys. The trouble is that Jon Snow has too much initiative and even more curiosity. He finds it difficult to follow orders.
There’s more sex in this episode as Balon Greyjoy (Patrick Malahide) and the fierce Yara Greyjoy (Gemma Whelan) welcome the randy and, to them, effete Theon Greyjoy to the Iron Islands. Petyr Baelish aka Littlefinger (Aidan Gillen) offers a shoulder to one of those in his brothel whose bastard child was murdered (that’s a cold shoulder, of course). Salladhor Saan (Lucian Msamati) talks to Davos Seaworth (Lian Cunningham) as one pirate to another on whether Stannis Baratheon (Stephen Dillane) can succeed when he has the smallest army. As men of honour and atheists both, the old pirate comrades agree to combine their naval forces. This puts them slightly at odds with Matthos Seaworth (Kerr Logan) who’s rather devout in the new religion. Stannis is also having trouble with his conversion to the ways of his seer, so Melisandre (Carice van Houten) turns to seduction to complete the conversion. She’s the means to the end of making her own prophesies come true.
This episode is moving us along at a reasonable pace, showing just how dangerously incompetent the Cersei/Joffrey combination has become. While enjoying the company of the Stark family, Theon Greyjoy has also lost touch with the ways of his family. Politically, everything is falling into place for the different claimants to start fighting for the throne. The remaining Starks and Daenerys Targaryen (Emilia Clarke) have less to do. In a way, The Night Lands is still all set-up but the slightly brooding atmosphere of the episode is easing.
For the reviews of other episodes, see:
Game of Thrones: Season 2, Episode 1. The North Remembers
Game of Thrones: Season 2, Episode 3. What Is Dead May Never Die
Game of Thrones: Season 2, Episode 4. Garden of Bones
Game of Thrones: Season 2, Episode 5. The Ghost of Harrenhal
Game of Thrones: Season 2, Episode 6. The Old Gods and the New
Game of Thrones: Season 2, Episode 7. A Man Without Honor
Game of Thrones: Season 2, Episode 8. The Prince of Winterfell
Game of Thrones: Season 2, Episode 9. Blackwater
Game of Thrones: Season 2, Episode 10. Valar Morghulis
Game of Thrones: Season 2 — the HBO series considered