Don’t miss Regina Thorne’s recaps of “The North Remembers,” “The Night Lands,” “What Is Dead May Never Die,” “Garden of Bones,” and last week’s “The Ghost of Harrenhal.” All caught up? Good. Now, on to...
Game of Thrones Season 2, episode 6, “The Old Gods and the New”:
The episode opens with Maester Luwin frantically sending out a raven out of Winterfell. Before I can figure out what the ravenly equivalent of a dovecote is, two Greyjoy men burst through the door of the raven house.
For a few seconds, I wonder if this is one of Bran’s prophetic wolf dreams, but unfortunately, this is no dream, even though Bran is sleeping, sans direwolf. (Where is that enormous, barely tamed creature who ripped out the throat of the last guy to threaten Bran in that room?) Bran could certainly use an animal protector right now; he’s woken by Theon Greyjoy, announcing that he, henceforth “Prince” Theon, has taken Winterfell. Theon tells Bran that a proper lord would surrender the castle and tell its inhabitants to obey the invaders so they don’t get killed.
Poor Bran is dragged out in the rain, where he repeats what Theon told him to say, although everyone in Winterfell basically doesn’t take Theon seriously at all. Also standing in the rain are Rickon (yay!) and Maester Luwin who tries, without success, to reason with Theon. This is going to be a theme in this episode. Theon orders Maester Luwin to send ravens to Balon Greyjoy in Pyke and Asha Greyjoy at Deepwood Motte announcing that he’s captured the castle.
Meanwhile, two of the Iron Islanders drag in Ser Rodrick “Whiskers” Cassel who’s been captured outside Winterfell (though not before he inflicted some righteous whiskery justice on the invaders.) Ser Rodrick gives Theon another chance to hash out his daddy issues about not really being Ned Stark’s son before he gets tired of all the whining and spits in Theon’s face. Theon orders him confined to the dungeons but Dagmer, who is playing the role of devil on Theon’s shoulder, says that Ser Rodrick has to pay the Iron price. Yet again, Maester Luwin tries to talk sense into the boy he’s seen grow up, to make him turn back before he does something irrevocable, but to no avail.
Theon orders Ser Rodrick’s execution, and because Rodrick taunts him with being a coward for having Dagmar swing the sword, Theon elects to be the executioner. (In the books, Ser Rodrick is the guy who teaches all the Winterfell kids, including Theon, how to fight, so there’s an extra and horrible irony in Theon’s actions here). Theon hacks and hacks at poor Rodrick, while Bran and Rickon scream. As Ser Rodrick says, Theon Greyjoy is truly lost now. And that’s not even the most disturbing scene in the episode.
In the far, far, far North, Jon Snow, Qhorin Halfhand and three other Nights Watch fellows are hunting Wildlings. Also seen is Ghost, cavorting in the icy landscape. Qhorin gives Jon a pep talk about being a Night’s Watch member which basically focuses on how he’ll die anonymously (probably of frostbite because he still isn’t wearing a hat!) to protect people who don’t even know he exists.
In the equally festive halls of Harrenhal, Tywin Lannister is berating one of his knights, Ser Amory Lorch (who killed Yoren), about being functionally illiterate and sending Tywin’s messages to the wrong side. Tywin learns that Arya can read when she brings him a book he asked for. He suggests that she should plan the Lannisters’ battle strategies and Arya gets the cutest little smile on her face that’s half pride (because let’s face it, everyone wants validation from Tywin Lannister) and half “if only you knew I was a Stark.” Further humiliation of Tywin’s minions is interrupted by the arrival of Petyr Baelish.
Uh-oh! Arya tries to be inconspicuous, but I’m almost certain Petyr recognizes her, though for reasons of his own, he says nothing to Tywin about her true identity. Petyr has arrived to present a plan involving a Tyrell-Lannister alliance to Tywin, now that Renly is dead, leaving one lovely widow for Tywin’s unlovely grandson Joffrey. Before Arya leaves, she hears Petyr tell Tywin about the offer Tyrion made to Lady Catelyn as well.
Back in the North, Qhorin, Jon and anonymous Rangers sneak up on a group of wildling scouts, who are all sensibly wearing what look like sealskin coats with really big warm hoods. They kill most of the scouts right away, but the one at the point of Jon’s sword turns out to be a girl. A very pretty red-haired girl who may be familiar to some of us as Gwen Dawson from Downton Abbey, the housemaid whose ambition was to be a secretary. Something clearly went very wrong with her plan because here she is, freezing in Westeros instead with not a typewriter in sight.
Jon argues against killing the girl, whose name is Ygritte, but Qhorin tells him that it must be done. Then, for some odd reason, the other Rangers wander off so Jon can waiver some more. He brings his sword down on a rock, instead of on Ygritte’s neck, and she takes Jon’s lapse in attention as an opportunity to escape. He heads her off and recaptures her, but now he’s truly separated from the other Rangers. Wouldn’t it be amazing if Jon had a large wild animal companion that was good at tracking things and could find him?
In a royal barge on the sparkling blue waters of Blackwater Bay (yeah, I don’t know why it’s called that either!), Myrcella Baratheon weeps quietly en route to the ship that will take her to Dorne. Meanwhile, from the shore, her mother Cersei watches, grim and quiet as she tells Tyrion that she hopes he will truly love someone someday, just so Cersei can have the pleasure of taking this hypothetical lady away from him. (Um, not to cavil at a mother’s love, but given what happens in the very next scene, surely Myrcella is better off in Dorne than amidst a mob who hate her brother’s guts!)
En route back to the castle, Joffrey is struck by a well-aimed cowpat from the surrounding crowd. In Joffrey fashion, he overreacts, ordering his knights to start striking out at the crowd, and things get very ugly very quickly. The High Septon is torn apart by the raging mob and Joffrey, Tyrion and Cersei barely make it back to the castle. Poor Sansa is not so lucky; she’s separated from the others and surrounded by leering strangers. She flees into a passageway.
Once everyone has reassembled in the Red Keep, Tyrion asks Joffrey where Sansa is, but Joffrey doesn’t care. He just wants everyone killed. Tyrion tells him that he’s crazy and an idiot and that if any harm befalls Sansa, the Starks will kill Jaime. Joffrey doesn’t care until Tyrion slaps him in the face. Audiences around the world cheer, and then Tyrion orders Ser Meryn Trant to go look for Sansa. Ser Meryn refuses because he takes his orders from Joffrey, not from Tyrion. I wish someone would slap him too; maybe something to put on the Hound’s agenda.
Things are looking very grim for Sansa who is trapped by four or five men intent on raping her before they kill her. Even though I’ve read the books, this was an almost unwatchably tense scene for me, so I don’t know how anyone who hasn’t read the books got through it. Thankfully, Sandor Clegane shows up in time to rescue the “little bird.” He picks her up over his shoulder like a sack of potatoes and carries her away; when Tyrion thanks him for saving Sansa, he tells Tyrion that he didn’t do it for him. Awwww! Poor Sansa has at least one well-wisher in King’s Landing.
In Qarth, Dany goes to visit the Spice King. She offers to pay the Spice King tomorrow for ships today, but Iron Throne futures are too risky for the Spice King’s investment portfolio and he declines. Dany does her usual spiel about retaking her kingdom with “fire and blood” which will sound much more impressive when the dragons can do more than grill kebabs on command. No ships for you, Khaleesi! (I actually quite like the Spice King; he’s a grammar pedant too, pointing out that Dany can’t “retake” a throne she never occupied in the first place.)
In Harrenhal, Arya is trying to read a scrap of paper that I think was planted there by Littlefinger. Tywin returns just as Arya sees that the paper refers to Robb Stark. Tywin asks Arya where she learned to read and tells her about how his son Jaime was dyslexic. Tywin taught him how to read even though Jaime hated him for it for a long time. This is such an interesting side to the fearsome Tywin Lannister; the thought of him once being a father devoted enough to teach his favored child an important life skill is fascinating. Too bad Tywin and Jaime didn’t read some genetics books about what happens when you have babies with your twin sister!
Tywin asks Arya who taught her to read; she makes up a story about her father being a stonemason who taught himself to read an then taught her. When asks what killed Arya’s father, and she says, simply, “loyalty.” Arya asks Tywin about his father, and Tywin tells her that his father loved his children but he was a weak man who nearly destroyed the Lannister house and name. The Tyrion and Arya scenes are, this week and every week, the highlight of the show for me. I would watch the Tywin Lannister and Arya Stark show, no problem. It could be like Paper Moon (except with a lot more beheadings and other random acts of violence.)
The heart-to-heart doesn’t stop Arya from stealing the piece of paper she was eyeing earlier, but unfortunately she runs right into Ser Amory Lorch (killer of Yoren and earlier victim of Tywin Lannister’s flaying tongue). Lorch takes the paper from Arya, disbelieving her story of Tywin’s having sent her with it to the armory, and Arya realizes the game is up unless she can find Jaquen. She runs frantically around the busy forecourt of Harrenhal.
She finally finds Jaquen and give him the name of her second death: Amory Lorch. Jaquen is amused by Arya’s importuning him to kill Ser Amory immediately; he tells her that she can’t tell him when he gives her the life of another. Arya shouts that Ser Amory is on his way to Lord Tywin and that Jaquen must act now. Jaquen gives this hilarious little sigh of acceptance, and as Ser Amory opens the door to Tywin’s chamber, he falls dead with some kind of a poison dart in his neck. Jaquen is awesome and deserves a part on the Tywin-and-Arya show.
Robb is pedeconferencing amidst the Stark forces when he encounters Sassy Surgeon Talisa, who apparently has the freedom of Robb’s camp without any background checks. She and Robb joke about whether she’s a spy (I totally think she is!) and Robb is just about to ask her out for dinner and a movie when they’re interrupted by Catelyn and Brienne. Catelyn asks about Talisa’s background while Brienne glowers silently.
Catelyn reminds Robb that he’s promised in marriage to a Frey girl, and subtly warns him off Talisa. Their conversation is interrupted by Roose Bolton, who brings them the bad news from Winterfell.
In the cold and snowy north, Ygritte and Jon stumble around the wasteland, because Jon is a typical guy who’s too embarrassed to admit that he’s lost and ask for directions. He ties up Ygritte, who tells him that they’ll stay warmer if they stay close. Ygritte bets Jon that he’ll freeze to death before she does. Well, yes, because Jon is losing body heat at an alarming rate due to not wearing anything on his head except his luscious curls. Hey, you know what would be really cool? What if Jon had a large wild animal companion that was completely at home in the icy wastes of the North and really good at tracking things? I guess Ghost has his own agenda because he doesn’t turn up, so Jon and Ygritte have to cuddle for warmth. Maybe someday Jon won’t have to tie up a girl before he cuddles her. That is, if his head doesn’t freeze first.
In Robb’s tent, Roose Bolton expands on the bad news he brought Robb earlier. Robb still can’t believe Theon betrayed him, and Catelyn takes this well-deserved opportunity to tell Robb that she told him not to send Theon to his father. (I remember that!) Robb is all set to head back North and teach Theon a lesson, but Roose reminds him that he has a war to fight, and volunteers his son, the Bastard of the Dreadfort, to retake Winterfell. Robb wants Theon alive so he can look him in the eye, ask him “why?” and then behead him. Robb, I’m not even sure Theon could articulate “why?” without years of therapy.
In Winterfell, Osha makes a tremendous sacrifice by sleeping with Theon, telling him that she wants her freedom in return. Theon is mesmerized by Osha’s nipples and agrees to set her free if she serves him well.
In King’s Landing, Shae ministers to Sansa’s wounds. Sansa can’t understand why these strangers wanted to hurt her; Shae explains that Sansa’s horse eats better than the strangers’ children, and Sansa is once again struck by the unfairness of it all. She hates Joffrey more than any of the people outside. Shae shushes her, telling her not to trust anyone. This is great advice for survival in King’s Landing.
In Winterfell, Osha steals out of a sleeping Theon’s bed, into the courtyard of Winterfell. She’s stopped by one of the Ironborn; she tells him that she’s been sent by Prince Theon to keep him warm. When the trusting fellow agrees, she takes his dagger and slits his throat; I guess the arterial blood pumping out of his neck will keep him warm for a few seconds. Osha calls to Rickon, Bran, Hodor and the direwolves who’ve finally reappeared.
In Qarth, Dany has struck out with all the Kings—Spice King, Silk King, Copper King. No one will lend her funds for a boat or armies. She’s complaining to XXD about this as they approach XXD’s mansion. When they open the gates, they find dead bodies all around. Dany races to her quarters where the dragon cages are empty and Irri lies dead on the floor. “Where are my dragons?” Dany screams.
They are in a basket, being carried towards a huge tower with no windows as they scream for Mommy. It’s quite heartrending to hear their cries and watch their little tails swish in agitation.
Next week: We finally see Jaime again. Ser Jorah reappears with some explaining to do. Theon goes hunting. Tywin Lannister kills people. Sansa and Sandor have another scene together. Joffrey gets slapped again. (Wait, the last part was just on my wishlist!)
Body Count: A lot of bodies in this one! Assorted wildlings, Qarthian retainers, Ser Rodrick Cassel, the High Septon, various persons assaulting Sansa Stark, Ser Amory Lorch.
Beheadings: Two (one successful; one not)—Ser Rodrick and Ygritte
Dismemberments: One (exceedingly bloody) High Septon
Naked ladies: Just one. And it actually had something to do with the story. Bravo!
View of shirtless Gendry: Zero (boo!)
View of Jaime Lannister: Zero (boo!)
Hats, hoods, earmuffs or other headcoverings for Jon Snow: Zero
Times Joffrey was slapped: One hundred. No wait, that’s how many times I rewound that scene!
Best clothes: A tie between Cersei’s beautiful green gown and Tywin’s elegant black and silver number. Say what you will about the Lannisters moral fiber, they are impeccable dressers!
Theon: You all know me.
Random Stark Retainer: We all know you for a steaming sack of shit.
Ser Rodrick Cassel: Gods help you, Theon Greyjoy! Now you are truly lost.
Ygritte: Strike hard and true, Jon Snow, or I’ll come back and haunt you.
Cersei to Tyrion: One day I pray you love someone. I pray you love her so much when you close your eyes you see her face. I want that for you. I want you to know what it’s like to love someone, to truly love someone, before I take her from you.
Tyrion to Joffrey: We’ve had vicious kings and we’ve had idiot kings, but I don’t know if we’ve ever been cursed with a vicious idiot for a king.
The Spice King: Every lady alive was lovelier and higher-born than my grandfather...
The Spice King: Retake?...If you did not sit on it yourself, would it not be correct to say “take” the Iron Throne?
Jaquen: A man cannot make a thing happen before its time.
Ygritte to Jon: You’re brave. Stupid, but brave!
Shae to Sansa: Don’t trust anybody. Life is safer that way.
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.