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Game of Thrones: Season 2, Episode 8. The Prince of Winterfell

 

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 is 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.

 

Theon Greyjoy (Alfie Allen) gets a lesson in leadership from his sister who calls him weak and stupid. Their power comes from their ships, not from the land. Now he’s killed the boys, every man in the North wants to kill him, so she begs him to come home with her to avoid death at Winterfell. For once his sister is showing signs of affection. Showing a similar female desire to save the men from themselves, Ygritte (Rose Leslie) protects Jon Snow (Kit Harington) but Qhorin Halfhand (Simon Armstrong) has also been captured, the rest of the not-so-elite SEALs killed. The two survivors are being taken to meet Manse Rayder — and not before time.

Alfie Allen still alive

 

Robb Stark (Richard Madden) tells Talisa Maegyr (Oona Chaplin), his girlfriend-in-waiting, that he’s pledged to marry as the price of controlling a bridge. Being a lord is like being a father except you have thousands of children to protect. Thinking of her children, Catelyn Stark (Michelle Fairley) lets Jaime Lannister (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau) go as the price she agreed with Petyr Baelish aka Littlefinger (Aidan Gillen), supposedly for releasing Sansa (Sophie Turner) and Arya (Maisie Williams). As a reward for giving in to her maternal instincts, Catelyn is to be kept locked up until Robb decides she’s been locked up long enough. Meanwhile, Brienne of Tarth (Gwendoline Chrstie) and Jaime bond as she takes him towards King’s Landing probably aware in their bones that Robb has sent men to track them down. Tywin Lannister (Charles Dance) decides to march against Robb so Arya wants to escape Harrenhal. Thanks to a nice trick, Arya gets Jaqen H’ghar (Tom Wlaschiha) to help her escape. It’s all working out well for her.

Oona Chaplin tempting the man from the path of righteousness

 

While Tyrion Lannister (Peter Dinklage) is looking in books to find out how to defend King’s Landing against Stannis Baratheon (Stephen Dillane), his loyal sell-sword, now promoted to wear the Gold Cloak, has been going around killing all the known thieves. He offers the insight, not in books, that the biggest danger during a siege is that the people get hungry and, when there’s nothing left to steal, they eat the weak (or the rich who can’t defend themselves). In his description of war at StormsEnd, Stannis Baratheon confirms this foody trend to Sir Davos Seaworth (Lian Cunningham) who will be the Hand if Stannis wins. He ate all the animals he could find.

Peter Dinklage and Conleth Hill read Warfare For Dummies

 

Most Kings are groomed for the role as Princes. They grow up watching their fathers and his court rule. Robb is different because he grew up with no expectation of ruling anything other than Greyfel. He wants to know how Talisa Maegyr became interested in medicine. She describes a scene as children when her younger brother drowned. A slave who worked on a fishing boat, applied artificial respiration until he could breathe on his own. She decided she would not waste her time as a noble lady and would never live in a slave city again. So Robb gives up the bridge and beds the doctor. Tyrion describes how Tywin put him in charge of the plumbing. He was good at making the shit flow down into the sea. And talking of shit flowing, Cersei Lannister (Lena Headey) thinks she’s found Tyrion’s woman and puts it to him that, if Joffrey (Jack Gleeson) dies, his whore will die. Unfortunately she has the wrong whore. Later, when he’s with Shae (Sibel Kikilli), he comes close to admitting real love. It’s his weakness.

 

Daenerys Targaryen (Emilia Clarke) asserts the dragons are her children and the only children she will ever have. Against his better judgement, Ser Jorah Mormont (Iain Glen) agrees to take his (love) to the House of the Undying where Pyat Pree (Ian Hanmore), the warlock, is keeping them. At Winterfell, Maester Luwin (Donald Sumpter) discovers the trick with the bodies and begs Osha (Natalia Tena) not to tell Bram.

 

As the calm before the battle for King’s Landing, this is a moving meditation on the value people place on their own lives and the lives of others. We see the stupidity of Joffrey who has no idea how to rule or mount the defence of King’s Landing. Stannis and Sir Davos Seaworth have been through thick and thin, taking all the abuse society can pile of them, but now they have the chance to rise to the top. Tyrion and Varys (Conleth Hill) finally acknowledge each other as excellent players of the game. Robb does something for himself, and Theon sinks deeper into the mire.

 

For reviews of Season 2, see:
Game of Thrones: Season 2, Episode 1. The North Remembers
Game of Thrones: Season 2, Episode 2. The Night Lands
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 9. Blackwater
Game of Thrones: Season 2, Episode 10. Valar Morghulis
Game of Thrones: Season 2 — the HBO series considered

 

Game of Thrones: Season 2, Episode 7. A Man Without Honor

 

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 is 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.

With only nuts to keep them going, Hodor (Kristian Nairn) carries Bran (Isaac Hempstead Wright) with Osha (Natalia Tena) and Rickon (Art Parkinson) in support

 

As is appropriate given the episode’s title, A Man Without Honor, Theon Greyjoy (Alfie Allen) is frustrated and angry when he discovers Bran Stark (Isaac Hempstead Wright) has disappeared, but manages to say encouraging things to Maester Luwin (Donald Sumpter) about what a good-behaved little boy he’d been when he was a hostage. His conclusion as he leads the pack of hounds to track down the runaways, “Don’t look so grim, Maester, it’s all just a game.” The idea that it’s better to be seen as cruel rather than appear weak neatly sums up this unpleasant little man. Meanwhile, with Osha (Natalia Tena) leading the way, Hodor (Kristian Nairn) carries Bran further away with Rickon (Art Parkinson) in tow. But they know they can’t outrun the hounds forever. Waking after a night without passionate sex, Jon Snow (Kit Harington) finds himself the butt of sexual jokes from Ygritte (Rose Leslie). Do you have sheep at the Wall? No! No wonder you’re all so miserable! It’s a laugh a minute, but the vow of celibacy defines Jon as a man of honour and forms the basis of his emerging reputation. The sparky argument with Ygritte does pose an interesting question. If people have been living on both sides of the Wall for generations, why are they fighting each other? She tries to seduce him into abandoning his oath and joining Mance Rayder. When that fails, she runs off and leads Jon into a trap where he’s captured. At least he’s saved the embarrassment of having to pretend he’s in control.

Arya (Maisie Williams) offers Tywin (Charles Dance) a little more conversation

 

Back at Harrenhal, Tywin Lannister (Charles Dance) thinks he was the intended victim of the murder at his door yet, in his new role of surrogate Daddy to Arya (Maisie Williams), he still has time to chat with her and feed her mutton. He tells her how Herrenhal fell to the dragons, but she fills in all the gaps in his version of the history. He concludes she’s only pretending to be low born and that she’s too clever for her own good. At least he’s not completely stupid. Alton Lannister (Karl Davies) returns to Robb Stark (Richard Madden) with the rejection of the peace terms by Cersei Lannister (Lena Headey) and, as a reward for having the honour to keep his oath to return, he’s placed in the same lock-up as Jaime Lannister (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau). Happy as two peas in a pod, the prisoners remember the fun times they had when young and then Jaime explains his plan to escape. Meanwhile Robb Stark has taken Talisa Maegyr (Oona Chaplin) off to the Crag to top up her supply of medical supplies. Naturally, to preserve his reputation for nobility and honour in battle, he wants her to be able to treat the wounded of both sides. This leaves Catelyn Stark (Michelle Fairley) to defend the recaptured Jaime until Robb returns.

Jaime (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau) in a spot of bother

 

Having held back time for months, Sansa Stark (Sophie Turner) bleeds and thereby announces she’s physically able to bear children and so available to marry Joffrey (Jack Gleeson). Overcome with joy at this prospect, she runs to Cersei who offers womanly wisdom. Essentially this comes down to loving her children and trying to avoid being killed by everyone else. Tyrion Lannister (Peter Dinklage) has news that a fleet representing Stannis Baratheon (Stephen Dillane) is about four days away and twice the size of their navy. He and Cersei lack confidence in the planning of the defence. Caught in a moment of truthfulness, Cersei admits to the incest and opines that Joffrey is her punishment. Off in distant Qarth, Daenerys Targaryen (Emilia Clarke) trusts Ser Jorah Mormont (Iain Glen) to find the stolen dragons. He gets the information from Quaithe (Laura Pradelska), but arrives too late to stop the coup organised by Xaro Xhoan Daxos (Nonso Anozie) and made possible by Pyat Pree (Ian Hanmore). It seems the warlock has the dragons.

Xaro Xhoan Daxos (Nonso Anozie) and Pyat Pree (Ian Hanmore) seize power

 

It’s fascinating that a contemporary fantasy series should feature two such awful people. This is not to say any of them are very nice. Indeed, by and large, they are a murderous bunch except for Tywin Lannister who’s increasingly demonstrating a cuddly side. But several of them have qualities we can respect if not actually like. This leaves us with Joffrey as a sadistic boy with megalomania coming on fast. Theon, however, must win a prize because his cruel streak comes from his cowardice. He’s genuinely despicable — his deception over the burning of the boys is gratuitously callous to protect his reputation but without any sense of what that does for his chances of survival in one piece. The women come out of this well. Ygritte is having fun at Jon’s expense, and the tag team of Catelyn and Brienne is shaping up well. Unfortunately, the pace of events north of the Wall is appropriately glacial, King’s Landing is in a holding pattern until Stannis arrives, and Winterfell is under the control of a boy who grew up into A Man Without Honor. Events in Qarth are happening, but I can’t say any of this is terribly exciting.

 

Thematically, the episode seems to be about the different ways in which people can enhance or lose their reputations. When she no longer controls the dragons, Daenerys discovers she has nothing (except the undeclared love of Ser Jorah Mormont). This continues her underwhelming contribution to the excitement level in this series. Xaro Xhoan Daxos has an impeccable reputation for having climbed to the top of the commercial heap from nothing, while the Spice King (Nicholas Blane) proves a disposable asset when he’s on the wrong side. Theon doesn’t realise that being seen as cruel is usually taken as a sign of weakness by others. Jaime no longer cares what others think of him, hence his successful plan to escape, while Cersei is finally prepared to admit Joffrey is a monster. In all this, the most interesting man is Jaime. It’s not that he’s without honour. It’s just that his code is not the same as everyone else’s. All in all, A Man Without Honor offers a lot of violence to compensate for the lack of sex. HBO must have some element to maintain its reputation for being edgy even though the pace of progress is slowing down quite dramatically.

 

For reviews of Season 2, see:
Game of Thrones: Season 2, Episode 1. The North Remembers
Game of Thrones: Season 2, Episode 2. The Night Lands
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 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

 

Game of Thrones: Season 2, Episode 6. The Old Gods and the New

 

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 is 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.

 

What makes The Old Gods and the New interesting is that it signals an increasing willingness on the part of the production team to move away from the book. It’s always appropriate when adapting a novel for a visual medium to change things around. But the continuity between this episode and the last is challenging. We leave it with Theon Greyjoy (Alfie Allen) being rowed out to his single ship and return with him actually taking Winterfell. I’ve no particular axe to grind but there’s a lot missing with him landing, laying siege to Torrhen’s Square with a token force and then capturing Ser Rodrik (Ron Donachie) as our doughty defender marches to drive off the attackers. I suppose the important question is whether the increasingly selective way in which scenes are being chosen and fitted together actually works. In the main, what we see in this episode is reasonably easy to follow and not unenjoyable despite the slow-moving sequences north of the Wall. I’ll come back to all the changes to the main story at the end of the reviews of the individual episodes.

Jon Snow (Kit Harington) reaches a critical point in his relationship with Ygritte (Rose Leslie)

 

Personally, Bran Stark (Isaac Hempstead Wright) is helpless but also mindful of the fate of the people in Winterfell so, with Theon and his crew of cut-throats threatening the few staff in residence, he mouths the words of surrender. This should have kept everyone safe except the weak-minded Theon listens to the wrong advice and decides to behead Ser Rodrik. Botching this simple task signals the end of respect for the man. Because this is an HBO show, Osha (Natalia Tena), the Wildling girl, sleeps with Theon, steals a knife while he’s in post-coital slumber, kills a guard and then leads Bram away from his home on the back of Hodor (Kristian Nairn) with his younger brother Rickon (Art Parkinson). In any other show, Osha would have picked up one of the hundreds of knives lying around Winterfell, quietly killed a guard and escaped. Beyond the Wall, Jon Snow (Kit Harington), shadowed by his direwolf, Ghost, goes off with Qhorin Halfhand (Simon Armstrong) and three other rangers on a commando raid to kill Mance Rayder. Among the first group of Wildlings they fight is a girl called Ygritte (Rose Leslie). Jon Snow now demonstrates why he’s also an ineffective person. In this type of raid behind enemy lines, there’s no place for sentimentality. Not understanding the extent of the boy’s weakness, Halfhand leaves him behind with instructions to kill her. Except he can’t bring himself to do it. She runs off and there’s then a tediously long chase. He catches her but he’s stubborn enough to lie out in the open with her. Good job he’s taken the vow of chastity. This saves HBO from having to show another sex scene — danger money would have been required for lying down and baring tender bits. Who knows what might get stuck to the ice.

Tywin (Charles Dance) looking the part as the head of House Lannister

 

To help us understand why Robb Stark (Richard Madden) is on a winning campaign, Tywin Lannister (Charles Dance) is shown having trouble with his senior officers, all of whom are as thick as two short planks. This is cartoonish. If Tywin Lannister is really so competent, he would have ignored all these lightweights and brought in military professionals to get the job done. Petyr Baelish aka Littlefinger (Aidan Gillen) comes to report Renly’s death. He correctly identifies the Tyrrels as the unknowns since they have not yet declared what is to happen to their troops. He also reports on Tyrion’s plan to trade the Stark girls for Jaime. Lurking in the background as the cup bearer, Arya (Maisie Williams) listens carefully. Then, somewhat improbably when they are alone, Tywin tells Arya about teaching Jaime to read and talks candidly of his own father who was weak and almost lost the House. Although it’s interesting to consider what Tywin’s attitude to Arya might have been, seeing Tywin as less than ruthless in his dealings with her does rather blunt his reputation. But Arya’s impetuosity puts her in danger and she takes a second life from Jaqen H’ghar (Tom Wlaschiha) to protect herself. She’s leading in the ruthlessness stakes.

Cersei (Lena Headey) and Tyrion (Peter Dinklage) say goodbye to Myrcella (Aimee Richardson)

 

Back at King’s Landing, Tyrion Lannister (Peter Dinklage) finally gets his way and sends Myrcella Baratheon (Aimee Richardson) out of the city. Cersei Lannister (Lena Headey) vows she will take revenge by killing anyone he loves. The presence of the great Joffrey (Jack Gleeson) in the city streets sparks a riot. Sandor Clegane (Rory McCann) as The Hound literally carries Joffrey out of danger, but Tyrion worries where Sansa Stark (Sophie Turner) is. She’s caught and men are about to rape her when The Hound finally does the right thing and rescues her — plenty of feeling on his part when slaughtering the wannabe rapists. No-one’s going to touch his Sansa. Tyrion has the satisfaction of slapping Joffrey. Fortunately, no-one kills Tyrion for his lèse majesté. After her rescue, Sansa and Shae (Sibel Kikilli) exchange notes on who to trust. There’s no explanation of how The Hound could find Sansa, but perhaps we’re supposed to infer an ability to track her scent through city streets and slum tenements from his name as The Hound.

Talisa Maegyr (Oona Chaplin) could tempt Robb Stark (Richard Madden) into the wrong decision

 

In Qarth, Pyat Pree (Ian Hanmore) makes his first appearance as the warlock, while Quaithe (Laura Pradelska) offers a warning to Ser Jorah Mormont (Iain Glen). Despite her pleading, the Spice King (Nicholas Blane) refuses to give any of his ships to Daenerys Targaryen (Emilia Clarke). She has no army. She has no allies and cannot explain why the people will rise for her as the rightful Queen. He offers the wisdom of the ages. That wishes and dreams are not enough. She protests she is not an ordinary woman. She dreamed of dragons and her dreams came true. But the Spice King is all business where logic conquers passion. When she returns to the home she has been given in Qarth, she finds many of her supporters dead and the dragons missing. In a moment of peace, Robb Stark meets up with Talisa Maegyr (Oona Chaplin) again. This time, she not amputating limbs after a battle and they manage to talk more romantically to each other before being interrupted by the return of Catelyn Stark (Michelle Fairley) with bad news about Renly. Great timing as a crow also comes in from Winterfell.

 

On balance, The Old Gods and the New is one of the weaker episodes. Although we appreciate that the landscape north of the Wall is full of ice and snow, it’s not necessary to show us quite so much of it for so long. I also appreciate the difficulty in training animals, but the failure of the direwolf Ghost to put in anything other than a token appearance is a bit worrying. A little foreshaddowing of future events would be more useful than extended chases. In the Westeros, the characterisation of Tywin Lannister feels wrong. He’s far too likeable. Although Arya is the third most intelligent person in Harrenhal (after Tywin and Jaqen H’ghar), that’s no reason for Tywin to treat her like his own daughter. Yes, he’s probably a lonely old killer, but that doesn’t mean he would open up to a girl he’s only just met. So this is all disappointing.

 

For reviews of Season 2, see:
Game of Thrones: Season 2, Episode 1. The North Remembers
Game of Thrones: Season 2, Episode 2. The Night Lands
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 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

 

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