Many things are rotten in the Seven Kingdoms, and tonight’s Game of Thrones was a particularly fishy affair, culminating in a Red/Lobster coupling. On the other hand, there were a lot of Arya scenes and Tyrion scenes, which made it a great episode.
(Need to catch up? Don’t miss Regina Thorne’s recap of last week’s episode, “The North Remembers.”)
We open this week on the road with Yoren’s merry band of future Nightswatchmen. Arya Stark encounters the hazards faced by ladies on road trips from time immemorial: the lack of private toilet facilities.
On her way back to camp, Arya encounters another hazard, in the form of the three men in a cage who are traveling with Yoren’s group. The least skeevy looking of the three asks Arya for a drink of water, introducing himself as Jaquen H’ghar. Jaquen has an irritating habit of talking about himself in the third person, but at least he doesn’t threaten to rape Arya, as one of his fellow cage-mates does after Arya pokes him with a stick for having bad manners. Jaquen remarks that “the boy has more courage than sense,“ which could function as the Starks’ house motto.
Gendry reminds Arya that Yoren has warned everyone to stay away from the guys in the cage, since they have committed crimes of such nastiness that they don’t get to hang out with the standard rapists and murderers recruited by the Night’s Watch.
Gold Cloaks arrive at Yoren’s camp from King’s Landing; much to Arya’s surprise, they are looking for Gendry, not for her. Like Arya, Yoren is a stickler for good manners and asking nicely; he threatens the nearest rude Gold Cloak with his extra-sharp knife. Apparently, Yoren can shave a spider’s arse, and also cut a femoral artery in no time. The Gold Cloaks mention loudly that there’s a big reward for Gendry, and ride away, threatening to return with more men.
In King’s Landing, Tyrion’s merry whistle is cut short when he finds Varys and Shae having a long conversation in his apartments. I bet Tyrion wishes he could borrow Yoren’s Spider-arse shaving dagger right now. In the ensuing conversation, we learn that Varys has no interest in Shae’s “fish pie” which is just as well, because Tyrion doesn’t like to share that. Tyrion finally tires of the “veiled” part of veiled threats and flat out threatens to feed Varys to the fishes if he breathes a word of Shae’s presence to Tywin Lannister. Varys tells Tyrion that “the big fish eat the little fish and I keep on paddling.” Now I’m imagining Varys as Dory from ”Finding Nemo:“ Just keep paddling, just keep paddling, just keep paddling!
At the Small Council meeting, Cersei reads Robb Stark’s peace terms, delivered by Cersei’s cousin, Ser Alton Lannister. Cersei asks Ser Alton to tell Jaime that he hasn’t been forgotten; considering Stannis’s letter-writing barrage last week, I’d say the last thing Jaime needs to worry about is being forgotten!
Pycelle mentions that a raven has come from the Night’s Watch asking for more men; Tyrion is the only one to take the request seriously, stating that Lord Mormont doesn’t lie.
Truthful Lord Mormont’s men Sam, Grenn and Dolorous Edd are chopping potatoes outside Craster’s house. Sam is musing about why Craster needs so many wives when Jon’s direwolf, Ghost, gets a little too chummy with one of them. Sam intervenes and finds out that the girl, Gilly, is pregnant. She wants to flee Craster’s keep before her child is born in case it’s a boy. Sam is shocked when his BFF Jon refuses to back up his promise to help Gilly; Jon points out that they’re headed further and further north, which is not exactly the place to bring a pregnant woman. Plus, newborns need to wear hats, and the Night’s Watch doesn’t have any.
In the Red Waste, Ser Jorah, Dany and the remaining members of her tiny khalasar look decidedly wilted. A riderless horse turns up at their camp, bearing mute witness to our first decapitation of the second season. It’s Rakharo’s head in the saddlebag, and Dany’s handmaiden Irri seems particularly broken up by the whole thing, because she seemed closer to Rakharo than anyone else. Jorah believes that another Dothraki Khal, who doesn’t like the idea of a woman leading a Khalasar, has sent Dany a message with the head of her bloodrider. Man, talk about your glass ceilings! Dany promises to whoop some sexist Khal ass whenever she gets a chance. (I’m guessing that won’t be till after the dragons are bigger than housecats, though.)
Now that we’ve had one hallmark of Game of Thrones (beheadings), we get the second, uncomfortable sex scenes. Theon, en route to his father’s castle at Pyke impresses the captain’s daughter (and himself) with tales of Greyjoy manliness. His nasty comments to the poor girl he’s screwing cement his status as the character I’d most like to see humiliated. Luckily, I will get my wish very soon!
In King’s Landing, we visit Littlefinger’s brothel, where Littlefinger is spying on his clients (presumably for information and potential blackmail.) Apparently Ros has failed to satisfy her client because she’s too broken up about the murder of Meghan’s baby Barra last week. Littlefinger feigns sympathy at first, but lets Ros know that he hates bad investments, and if Ros can’t put on a happy face, she’ll be crying for herself.
The author of Ros’s grief, Janos Slynt, commander of the Gold Cloaks, is being wined and dined by the King’s Hand. Tyrion wisely doesn’t trust Slynt, who betrayed Ned Stark’s trust in him, so he replaces Slynt as Commander of the City Watch, giving the position to Bronn instead. Slynt’s avenues of appeal have also been closed down by Tyrion, who bundles the babykiller onto a ship bound for the Wall. Afterwards, Tyrion asks Bronn whether he would kill an infant “without question” if ordered. “Without question?” Bronn repeats. “No. I’d ask how much.” At least Bronn’s upfront about his venality so Tyrion will not, we hope, put his trust in the wrong guy, as Ned Stark did.
At Yoren’s camp, Arya asks Gendry why the Gold Cloaks were looking for him. Gendry tells her not to ask questions because everyone who asks questions of him ends up dead, including two Hands of the King, Jon Arryn and Ned Stark. Arya’s face as she repeats “Lord Stark” makes me want to reach into my TV and give her a hug. Gendry notes that Arya was sure the Gold Cloaks were after her, and asks if it was because she killed someone or because she’s a girl. Arya tells Gendry who she really is, and Gendry, adorably, becomes all nervous about the things he’s said and the fact that he’s peed in front of her. Arya takes exception to being called a lady and pushes Gendry over. They’re so cute together they almost make me forget the mortal danger they’re in; it’s like watching direwolf puppies romping in a field of bluebells.
In Pyke, Theon does not get the reception committee which he assumed would be his due. Instead, one extremely grumpy old guy grudgingly agrees to find Theon a horse. Their negotiations are interrupted by a young lady in salt-stained trousers who offers Theon a ride to Lord Greyjoy’s castle. As they ride along a stunningly lovely coastline, Theon gets handsy with his ride, telling her that he’ll give her a story to tell her grandchildren. I smell the scent of imminent comeuppance in the air.
Theon enters a large room decorated entirely in grey and dominated by a giant squid over the fireplace. Lord Balon Greyjoy pops out from his chair, asking Theon whether he got his girly clothes from Ned Stark. True Greyjoys wear clothes made out of sun-dried kelp dyed with squid-ink. Then Balon asks his son whether the golden chain he wears was paid for in iron or in gold. True Greyjoys don’t pay for their baubles; they steal them from the people they’ve killed.
After dissing Theon’s outfit, Balon dismisses Theon’s friendship with Robb, telling Theon not to call Robb Stark his brother, because Ned Stark killed his true brothers. I bet Lord Killjoy and Tywin Lannister could teach seminars in how to belittle and thwart their children. The only difference is that Theon is such a twit that I don’t feel too bad for him. Theon tells Balon that he has forgotten neither his brothers nor the fact that his father was once King Squid.
Theon tries to sell Robb’s proposal, claiming that it was his idea and that he will lead the attack on King’s Landing, since he’s Balon’s only living son and heir. Not so fast, Young Calamari! Balon has another child, the girl Theon met earlier. And was handsy with—yuk! Yara is everything Theon is not, a seasoned ship’s captain who’s completely comfortable in her own skin. Balon throws Robb’s letter into the fire, saying that no true Greyjoy would accept a crown from another. True Greyjoys take their crowns at swordspoint.
Elsewhere on the rocky coastline of Westeros, Davos and his son have better luck negotiating for ships. They convince the pirate Salladhor Saan to bring his many ships into the war on Stannis’s side, promising him loads of loot when they get to King’s Landing. Davos’s son Matthos is a believer in the new religion, and tries to sell his father and the pirate on the Lord of Light without much success. Salladhor Saan avers that “the one true God is what’s between a woman’s legs.” Somehow I feel that Tyrion would agree.
Speaking of Tyrion, he shares a tender scene with his sister. Just kidding! Cersei comes to complain about Tyrion’s high-handed dismissal of Janos Slynt. Tyrion learns that it wasn’t Cersei who ordered the murder of Robert’s bastards but Joffrey, who did this heinous thing without his mother’s consent (and probably against her advice.) How sharper than a serpent’s tooth it is to have an uncontrollable sociopath as a child! Cersei defends her son, saying that no one has taken ruling seriously, and the burden has all fallen on her. “As has Jaime, repeatedly,” Tyrion says slyly. Cersei turns the joke around on Tyrion, saying that he killed their mother by being born. This is why Cersei hates Tyrion so much.
On Dragonstone, Davos and Matthos are playing with Stannis’s awesome map-table, putting little models of ships and soldiers on the board. Stannis and Melisandre come in and spoil all the fun. After Davos tells Stannis that they’ve convinced Salladhor Saan to join them, Stannis orders him and his son from the room. On their way out, the Red Priestess stops Matthos to whisper in his ear that death by fire is the purest death, reinforcing my feeling that she’s a tad creepy.
Apparently Stannis isn’t a true enough believer in the power of her Lord of Light, so Melisandre decides he needs a slice of her fish pie to convince him. She promises to give Stannis sons, which his wife has never done. Red lays down for her Lobster King on a map of the lands he would rule, pushing all the tiny ship and soldier models off the board. That probably felt just as uncomfortable as it looked, especially if Mel happened to land on a mountain range.
Beyond the Wall, Jon Snow follows Craster, who’s carrying a small baby in his arms. As he watches in horror, Craster lays the baby down in the cold, and a few minutes later, a figure with glowing blue eyes picks up the wailing child. The last time we saw these blue-eyed creatures in the series premiere, panicked horses and severed heads followed closely, but this time things are a lot quieter. Though not so quiet that Jon hears Craster coming up behind him to whack him on the head.
I liked the season opener a lot, but this episode felt more thematically unified to me, with the major themes being “what it takes to command/rule”, “stay away from creepy supernatural creatures and men in cages, and ”Theon is an idiot.” And also fish.
Cersei: “Another king? How many is that now? Five? I’ve lost count.”
Sam to Jon: “I can’t steal [Gilly]. She’s a person, not a goat.”
Littlefinger to Ros: “Those with the most power have the least grace.”
Tyrion to Janos Slynt: “I’m not questioning your honor; I’m denying its existence.”
Balon Greyjoy: “No man gives me a crown. I will pay the iron price. I will take my crown.”
Cersei to Tyrion: “This is what ruling is: lying on a bed of weeds, ripping them out by the root, one by one, before they strangle you.”
Best costumes: Cersei’s gorgeous gown during her conversation with Tyrion
Best new character introduced in the episode: Jaquen H’ghar (although it was a close-run thing with the pirate captain)
Most deserved comeuppance: A tie between Janos Slynt and Theon Greyjoy. But I liked Theon’s more because it was so much more personal.
Most surprising moment: Craster giving his kid to the White Walker/Craster hitting Jon Snow on the head
Number of decapitations: 1/2 (it was offscreen so I can’t give it a whole point, sorry!)
Cutest scene: Arya, Arya, Arya (and Gendry)
Direwolf sightings: 1
Regina Thorne is an avid reader of just about everything, an aspiring writer, a lover of old movies and current tv shows, and a hopeless romantic.