Winter is Coming. And War. But mostly Winter. And playful ginger girls from beyond The Wall. Yes, it’s time again for our weekly Blog of Thrones, the part of the week when we urge you to gather around the mead cooler and talk of Westeros and the Free Cities of Men. As we march through the show’s second season, it’s important to be constantly reminded that Winter is Coming. It stands as an excellent motto for all of what is to come in this story — “Winter” is not just about cold, but of war and evil and evil war. With that in mind, we put Winter is Coming on our banners this week and forge on as the staggeringly good HBO series ripped from the mind of George R.R. Martin (and his books) moves swiftly toward a season two finale that continues to promise big things. This week, we learn about a few key personality traits shared by many a character in this Game of Thrones.
As always, Blog of Thrones is written from the perspective of a relative novice to George R.R. Martin’s books. It focuses solely on Game of Thrones the show and assumes that you’ve seen everything up to the latest episode. If you travel down this Kingsroad and find yourself spoiled, the king will know the reason why.
This week’s episode begins with and rests upon the cunning of many of our favorites, old and new. We begin with a trip north of The Wall, where Jon Snow and his wildling hostage Ygritte (an electric new character played by Rose Leslie) are marching deeper into the dangerous snowy mountains. And through her wit and playful nature, we begin to see what comes of the sexual tension we glanced in the last episode. For an episode that didn’t do any whoring, there sure was a lot of talk of bones and stones and where they go. Ygritte’s cunning eventually becomes Jon’s undoing — he is the product of a man’s inability to keep it in his pants, after all. What we learn here is that Ygritte isn’t just some wildling girl, she’s a formidable adversary for Snow and the men of the Night’s Watch, a loyalist for Mance Rayder (who I personally can’t wait to meet) and she’s tough. She reminds me a bit of Theon Greyjoy’s sister, but we’ll get to that pesky Greyjoy brood momentarily.
Also dishing big in cunning was Lord Tywin Lannister, played regally as always by Charles Dance. Just as I was bemoaning the lack of Lord Tywin in season two, we get to see a full range of his person — he goes from the rage of ordering as many men necessary to die in order to seek out the killer to having a somewhat tender moment with Arya to showing that he won’t be fooled by anyone. How long before he realizes who exactly is filling his cup? The show’s writers are doing a splendid job of keeping that relationship held in suspense without it feeling forced.
And finally, there’s the Kingslayer. In an episode where Peter Dinklage’s Tyrion is relegated to a brief, tender moment with his sister, it was nice to have the wit of Jaime Lannister back in the fray. In the same way that this episode benefits from a lack of Joffrey, it gains much from a focus on Jaime. The title, “A Man Without Honor,” gives hint that he would be the focus. And Nikolaj Coster-Waldau, in his ever European Josh Hollowayness, carries the episode while shackled to a post. Because he’s smart and ruthless and so much fun to watch, even though he’s a real shit.
More than a few characters showed us their softer sides, not the least of which being the woman who loved the Kingslayer most. In a turn away from the book — as I’m finding out — David Benioff and D.B. Weiss have really given Cersei Lannister a lot more emotional range. She’s still a calculating lioness, but we’re starting to understand why. Her conversation with Sansa gives us everything we need to know about her to understand why she’s often so terrible. Love your children and no one else, is the lesson we are left with, only to find her also showing true affection for her brother/lover Jaime. The most likely result of her little moment is that Tyrion will use it to gain further control of the situation in King’s Landing. And that’s fun to watch. What isn’t surprising though, is the expansion of the Cersei character. If you had Lena Headey at the top of her game, delivering some awe-inspiring emotional range, wouldn’t you exploit that, too?
Other vulnerability in this week’s episode comes not just emotionally, but in that which is simply not safe. One Daenerys Stormborn of House Targaryen. She’s in all kinds of mess in the city of Quarth now that her dragons have been taken captive by the people from Beneath the Planet of the Apes, and it’s driving her absolutely mad. Can she truly trust her loyal manservant knight Ser Jorah, or is he just trying to get under her jerkin? Her story will be an interesting one to watch as the season comes to a close — one might assume that there’s no way she doesn’t get those dragons back, else this series is teasing us in a terrible way, but it also won’t be easy.
The final bit of vulnerability bleeds right into our final dominant trait in season two’s seventh episode. As the cunning of Jaime Lannister opens wounds deep inside the heart of Lady Stark, we see the wolfmother bear her teeth at long last. So much of what we’ve seen thus far from Catelyn Stark (Michelle Fairley) is confusion and grief and the will to survive, but we’ve yet to see her really come out of her shell as the hardcore den mother she is. As the Kingslayer points out, she’s an honest woman. And honestly, she’s grown tired of him. Her honesty with herself — that peace and war do not outweigh the love she has for her children — may be his undoing yet.
And then there’s Theon Greyjoy. Poor Theon Greyjoy, we had such high hopes that you’d go off to Pyke and return to help your brother Robb win. Robb’s our hero, after all. At least until something bad happens to him. And it’s not hard to see a wounded boy coming home and trying to impress his insane father by taking back the most fortified keep in The North. But killing the children? That’s not going to end well for young Prince Greyjoy. Everyone Bran and Rickon, except for those of us who were tired of Bran wining about his dreams, and no one wanted to see them die. Especially their very scary older brother and his ferocious army. As I said last week, watching Theon Greyjoy die might be the first time a main character’s death is going to be fun. And it can’t be far off.
On the whole, “A Man Without Honor” is another great whirlwind check-in episode. So much is happening in the kingdom of Westeros (and beyond) that’s its not going to stay inside a neatly outlined package. Things are about to get messy and these kinds of episodes are important, because we’re learning more about who these characters are under the surface. The fact that Weiss and Benioff still see this as an important thing is what makes Game of Thrones such a formidable show. It’s about the characters, not just the blood or the dragons. Hopefully it will be more about the dragons soon, though, because that will be awesome.
This Week’s Final Thought: Aside from its brutal final moments, this week’s episode seems a bit of a calm before the storm. Also… Hodor? Hodor Hodor. (Laugh it up, nerds).
Next Week: According to HBO’s promo (seen below), all hell is breaking loose. It’s brother on sister, Arya on whomever she needs dead, everyone of the North on Theon Greyjoy. Isn’t this about the point in season one when heads began to fall off of shoulders? It’s hard not to be excited…