If only one could create an opening credits sequence for a blog post, the one for this particular column would be as informational and visually pleasing as that of Game of Thrones. If you’re paying attention — something I’m not always one to do — keeping a close eye on the opening credits for season two’s second episode will bring clarity to some of the other areas of Westeros left unexplored in season one. Namely Pike in the Iron Islands and Dragonstone. The geography of all this is going to become important as season two wears on, one can assume, because it seems like everyone will be moving from their respective locations and descending on King’s Landing, where episode two’s missing boy, the false King Joffrey, waits for all-out war.
But before that happens, season two appears to be slowing down a bit, taking some time to introduce us to new characters. Gone is the dizzying march across the lives of season one’s beloved (and not so beloved) characters. In its place are some new faces, some new alliances and yeah, some of that wonderful Game of Thrones nudity. Of course, as you read on with this week’s Blog of Thrones, remember that you should do so having watched this week’s episode and the entirety of season one. This author will not be held responsible for spoiling anything that has already aired. Also, here’s hoping you brought some notes, as there will be a discussion at the end.
Who will save the Bastards?
Most of what episode two, “The Night Lands,” tells us is that violence is on the horizon for several characters. Arya Stark and the bastard boy Gendry may be on the path to the Night’s Watch, but Joffrey’s hounds are nipping at their heels. The question isn’t whether or not they’ll be found, it’s how long until it happens. With the secret sharing and caring moments between these newfound friends, one can only assume that something bad is going to happen soon.
As much as we love Tyrion Lannister (Peter Dinklage), the same could be said about him and his special guest, the one who makes that delicious fish pie. His humor aside, Tyrion is making serious steps toward stirring the pot a little too much. From banishing Janos Slynt, babyslayer, to his exchange with the slimy Lord Varys, he’s not exactly making friends as the acting Hand of the King. And as I mentioned last week, something dark continues to grow inside little King Joffrey. He killed Sean Bean. Who’s to say that he won’t kill his own Uncle, too? Of course, none of this even remotely scratches at Tyrion’s real problem: his sister. It’s hard not to appreciate the emotional poise of Peter Dinklage, who delivers a layered performance in the moment when Lena Headey’s Cersei brings the intensity of the cruel joke about their mother. All at once his character experiences grief and anger, and in his lack of response, he shows what strength has been lying beneath the surface. That will come in handy when Cersei finds out about his houseguest and decides she needs some leverage. No matter how many times characters mention how terrifying one of the show’s many male warriors can be, she’s the one we should fear.
The One True God is what’s between a woman’s legs.
Which leads me to the most interesting thing about episode two and the direction thus far of the second season. In the pacing of their narrative, David Benioff and D.B. Weiss are playing hard with the sexual politics at the core of George R.R. Martin’s grande fantasy. It’s about men trying to control other men. And when they can’t control other men, they turn to controlling their women. The mini-saga of Theon Greyjoy’s return home tells the entire story. But what we’re seeing emerge is this group of terribly frightening women who are cold and vicious and will be the undoing of all the men. Daenerys Targaryen is a rage-monster waiting for her weapons to grow up. That won’t end well. Cersei Lannister is the most cunning, brother-loving bitch in all Westeros. Yara Greyjoy, as played by series newcomer Gemma Whelan, is a fierce warrior whose father — a man who pays “the Iron price” for everything — would rather have leading his men into battle than his own son. And of course, there’s the flaming hot priestess Melisandre. If she isn’t creeping you out, I worry about you. As much as the men believe that the oncoming war will be about putting self-proclaimed crowns on their heads, this one is going to be fought and won by some badass babes, all of whom will manipulate, stab, sleep and claw their way to power. The lesson here: killing babies is a bad move, men of Westeros. And karma, she’s a bitch.
This is the quiet before the storm…
On the whole, it’s nice to see episode two slowing down to begin to develop some of the intimate narratives that will drive the larger, more war-heavy tale to come. We all know that Winter is coming, something nasty is coming from North of the Wall, and there be some Dragons out there somewhere. But first, it appears as if there’s going to be a siege on King’s Landing. The men (and women) of lower Westeros are going to be too busy beating each other over the Iron Throne to notice all the real nastiness that’s coming for them. Personally, I can’t wait for this show to spread out again and deliver some big action. But for now, it’s nice to feel equally riveted by an episode full of talking about violence.
This Week’s Final Thought: What do you suppose will become of Littlefinger? I’m not sure yet, but I know that we learned a great deal from the way he handled his little situation this week. He’s a cold-hearted business man. And those are always more frightening than men of honor.
Next Week: We return for more father/son bonding in the Iron Islands and get close to the good King Renly while learning that “What is Dead May Never Die.”