Entertainment Magazine

Review #3489: Game of Thrones 2.6: “The Old Gods and the New”

Posted on the 08 May 2012 by Entil2001 @criticalmyth

Contributor: Gregg Wright

I may have said something similar in a previous review, but if there’s one thing that “Game of Thrones” does exceptionally well, it’s creating that sense of a downward spiral; that things are about to go from bad to worse. This is true as a description of the entire show, but it’s also especially true in individual scenes, such as this episode’s opening scene, in which Theon captures Winterfell. If anything could be called a point of no return for Theon, this would have to be it. Even if there is to be some sort of redemptive arc, there’s only so much that something like that could accomplish.

Review #3489: Game of Thrones 2.6: “The Old Gods and the New”

Theon’s drastic shift to outright villainy may seem a bit jarring and poorly developed to those of us who haven’t read the books, but Theon still comes across as being entirely human, with very human weaknesses. Theon’s sloppy attempt to behead Ser Rodrik Cassel was a nice touch. And, of course, Theon is easily beguiled by Osha, who is well aware of Theon’s weakness for women. This is the first episode to finally allow Osha to do more than just spout wisdom to Bran and warn of White Walkers. I’m not sure if Osha was this attractive in the books, but it certainly proves to be one of her most useful weapons here, allowing her to mount a successful escape with Bran, Hodor, and Rickon. I’m actually a bit surprised that she didn’t simply kill Theon while he slept, but perhaps she had her reasons.

Another scene that even better demonstrates that sense of escalating chaos is the riot scene at King’s Landing. In many ways, this could be the standout scene of the episode. Joffrey is pathetically hilarious as he furiously demands that the whole rioting crowd be executed, failing to realize that just surviving the bloodthirsty mob will be difficult enough. Tyrion, of course, is in top form here, sensing before anyone else that things are about to get bad and giving the life-saving orders. And his righteous indignation at Joffrey is easily one of his funniest moments on the show thus far. The fact that Tyrion gets away with everything that he does seems miraculous. I don’t know if irony is the right word, but it’s interesting that the riot occurs directly after Myrcella is sent away, effectively justifying Tyrion’s decision at just the right moment. Maybe now Cersei will start listening to Tyrion. Or not.

One of my favorite aspects of watching “Game of Thrones” is getting to see characters that have been looming in the background for the entire series finally emerge into prominence. It could be said that The Hound “owns” this episode. The Hound probably has more dialog here than in all of the rest of the series put together, which still amounts to little more than one or two brief lines. Still, he makes quite an impression, primarily due to his physical presence and actions, as well as the gravity of the few words he does choose to say. The Hound’s rescue of Sansa dramatically qualifies as this episode’s “holy ****” moment. There’s a reason the Lannisters effectively use Sandor as their attack dog. He’s a dangerous, dangerous man, and I’m very curious to know more about what’s going on in that scarred head of his.

One might get the impression that Daenerys and Jon Snow’s storylines have been a bit slower and more disconnected from everything else that’s going on in Westeros, but they’ve still been an essential and interesting part of the overall developing story. They really are taking their time with revealing more of the White Walkers, but there’s a lot of potential in the Snow storyline to explore the Wildlings. Jon’s meeting with Ygritte adds some much-needed direction to his storyline. At this point, I wouldn’t be surprised if Jon ended up fighting on the side of the Wildlings before long. And Ygritte seems to have as much potential to be a love interest as Talisa does for Robb. One final thought regarding the Snow storyline: I still find Snow to be one of the more two-dimensional characters on the show (either due to performance or writing), but I will say that putting him in this situation seemed to improve the character to a slight degree, and I’m not sure why.

Unfortunately, Daenerys seems to have gone in the opposite direction. I find her more aggravating than ever. I don’t remember disliking her during the first season. I suppose it was easier to sympathize with her there, given how much she suffered and persevered in spite of her trials. But in the second season, she seems like little more than an entitled child, always shouting about how she will conquer this and that, but never actually doing anything. This may very well be purposeful storytelling; an attempt to show Dany when she’s at her lowest possible point, only to eventually show everyone that they were wrong to doubt her. In any case, it’s getting pretty difficult to sympathize with her. This really is her lowest point, with her dragons stolen and so many of her Dothraki slain.

As to who stole them, my bet is either on the warlocks of Qarth, or on Xaro himself. It may be no coincidence that, just before Dany and Xaro come upon the bodies of the murdered Dothraki, Xaro had been discussing the “impure” path he’d taken to become the wealthiest man in Qarth. It would be an interesting twist, and it would fit with Xaro’s ambitions, but I’d probably be more interested in seeing Xaro remain an ally for the time being. And besides, I would think that his methods would be more subtle, and less reliant on such “brute-force” tactics. Of course, there still remains the mysterious woman who spoke to Jorah shortly after his arrival in Qarth. I’d be surprised if she didn’t turn up again at some point.

Arya’s storyline remains as enjoyable as ever. These scenes between Arya and Tywin are as fascinating as I’d hoped they’d be. Tywin is a perceptive man, rewarding of intelligence where he sees it, which results in some sort of undefinable “relationship” gradually developing between Arya and Tywin. I’m finding Tywin to be not just sympathetic, but even likable. I don’t know how true to the books he is, but Charles Dance seems perfect for the role. I already said that the riot scene was the standout scene of the episode, but thinking back now, it’s hard to ignore the subtle greatness of Arya’s scenes: the way she can’t help but smile to herself when Tywin compliments her, and that great little suspense scene where it seems that, at any moment, Petyr will recognize her. It’d be curtains for sure if he had. And then there’s the unexpectedly hilarious moment where Arya has to assign Jaqen H’ghar his second man, and Jaqen carries out his mission, quite literally at the very last second.

I found a little more to complain about than usual, but trust me, I had to work at it. And in the end, my complaints seem minor when compared to everything that “Game of Thrones” does right. The writing and acting hardly bear mentioning, but I’d like to give a shout-out to the production values. Qarth looks like something right out of the Arabian Nights, and I love the stark beauty of the location shooting for the scenes north of The Wall. Purely in terms of production values, “Game of Thrones” is probably the closest thing to a Hollywood production one will currently find on television.

Rating: 8/10

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