Contributor: Gregg Wright
If it can be said that the previous episode was the one in which all hell broke loose, then it could also be said that hell continued to break loose right into this episode. The opening scene is an outright bloodbath as Lannister soldiers continue slaughtering every member of House Stark in King’s Landing, save Sansa and Arya. Syrio’s fate is left uncertain after the ridiculously cool scene in which he takes on the Lannister soldiers with a wooden sword, giving Arya a chance to escape. I, of course, like to think that he survived.
Sansa has been the most unlikable Stark thus far, but this aspect of her character is now what finally make her situation interesting. She’s the only Stark in good standing with the Lannisters, so she has a lot of room to maneuver. I really can’t imagine Ned changing his mind and openly professing that he was wrong, but it was a pretty good try on Sansa’s part. Sansa is in a unique position in which, if she wanted to, she could begin building even more good faith with the Lannisters and lulling them into a false sense of trust, where she could then begin manipulating them. I think it would be a great direction for her character, and would give her more of an opportunity to actually affect the plot.
I don’t know how I got by without Tyrion last week, but I’m glad he’s back. The comic relief he brings to the table seems especially needed at a time like this. Poor Tyrion has escaped one mess, and ended up right in the middle of another. But his silver tongue and sharp wit have served him well, not to mention being able to fall back on the Lannister reputation for wealth and paying their debts. Now all he has to do is join the Stonecrows on the field of battle and survive. Oh, poor Tyrion. I do hope that you survive. It’s unfortunate that Tyrion is again being pitted against the Starks. He obviously bore no ill will toward the Starks, and has no real interest in his family’s political gambits. He has plenty of wealth to support his continued survival and habits, and that’s all he really needs to be happy.
There’s a lot of interesting stuff occurring as a result of the change in the status quo. Ned is down in the dungeon, and along comes Varys with some water. Though not there to rescue Ned, and he doesn’t seem interested in killing Ned out of mercy. He’s not willing to do anything that would put himself at risk. But he does give Ned some water to ensure that he doesn’t die of thirst down there, as well as information about what’s going on. I can’t quite figure Varys out here. Why even bother with Ned? Idle curiosity? Pity? I did enjoy the scene, as I do all scenes involving Varys. He’s such a strange, crafty creature. I like these wild card characters whose future actions are not easy to predict.
The forceful retirement of Ser Barristan Selmy does not strike me as being a very good idea. I believed him when he said he could slice up all of the other remaining Kingsguard. Considering that reaction, as well as Selmy’s reaction to the tearing up of the late King Robert’s orders, I wouldn’t be surprised if Selmy promptly joined up with the rebellion.
Robb Stark is a character that has felt bit under-developed until more recently. Robb has gradually become one of my favorite characters on the show, and I think that this is the episode where he finally gets a chance to prove what he’s capable of. It turns out that Robb makes for a pretty fierce leader. I love how he handles Greatjon. When Robb gives an order, you sure as hell better follow it. Based on initial impressions, Robb seems to be mounting a reasonably impressive offensive. The Stonecrows may give the Lannisters an advantage, but it’s difficult to make predictions so far.
Anyone who’s read my previous reviews can probably imagine what I thought of this epsiode’s events at the Wall. Syrio’s fight with the guards could still be the best scene of the episode, but Jon’s fight with the zombie came pretty close to equaling it. I never did understand why that little girl in the pilot episode seemingly came back to life. I’d always just assumed that she was a White Walker herself who was only pretending to be dead. But clearly, there’s a difference between the giant White Walkers themselves and those that they’ve “touched” and turned into these super-strong zombies whose only weakness is fire (though I still think they need to try taking off the head). I’m guessing now that this process that creates these zombies isn’t instantaneous, which is why you’ll find corpses that eventually spring back to life with creepy blue eyes. Anyways, I can’t express enough how much I enjoyed finally getting some supernatural action at the Wall. And Commander Mormont’s line to Samwell was funny. I can’t wait to see those White Walkers invade the south and shock everyone into working together in order to fight them (I wish).
I’m almost forgetting another one of the best scenes in the episode (which also ranks pretty close to Syrio’s fight with the guards and Jon’s fight with the zombie). The Dothraki are in the process of annihilating some unknown village so they can steal gold, which they’ll then use to get ships to take them across the sea. Daenerys isn’t happy to see all the raping going on, so she demands that the remaining women be given to her. The little exchange between Jorah and Dany here is as amusing as it is telling. Dany takes offense to being called a “gentle heart”, which doesn’t fit with the new image she’s trying to project at all.
Dany’s meddling in the Dothraki ways of war ends up offending one of the warriors, and he takes it up with Drogo. Hilariously, the situation completely backfires for Mago, turning out completely different from what I expected it to. Drogo is amused and impressed by how fearless his wife is getting, and lets her have the slaves. Mago immediately insults the Khal and challenges him to combat. Not a good idea, but I get that he probably didn’t have much of a choice, given how the Dothraki culture works. The fight scene is great because it reminds us, very clearly, why Drogo is the Khal. It’s because he’s the meanest, most badass Dothraki alive, plain and simple. He actually walks into Mago’s sword, just to prove how badass he is, before fighting him with no weapons, slicing Mago’s throat with his own blade, and finally ripping out Mago’s tongue right out of his throat. The scene is incredibly brutal, and awesome. But Dany needs to be more careful. I don’t think she can get away with this kind of cultural infraction all the time.
Osha once again has a short scene, this time with Bran next to the heart tree. Osha’s main purpose seems to be to provide insight into what’s really going on, behind-the-scenes. Her words provide more reason to worry about what’s going to happen when the White Walkers come. Once they get past the Wall, I’d guess that Winterfell would be their next target, and it doesn’t seem very well-defended at the moment. At least Osha seems to indicate that these things could be fought and driven back, if enough soldiers were sent north.
You may have noticed in the opening credits that George R. R. Martin himself actually wrote this episode. I didn’t notice any stylistic changes in the writing, though. As good as it was, this episode felt very much in sync with the rest of the show, which I suppose is either a compliment to Martin or to the show in general. Or perhaps both.
Regardless, I continue to be completely enthralled by this experience. It looks like an all-out war is coming, and there’s only two episodes left, so I’m hoping it doesn’t feel overly rushed. My other hope is that, if there is to be a war, that enough of the budget has been saved up to do it justice. Large battle scenes need a sense of scale that TV usually can’t deliver, but I’ll try to stay optimistic about it. As I’ve said before, “Game of Thrones” has far exceeded my expectations. So the hype surrounding these final two episodes far outweighs any doubts I might have.