And this episode does a good job of living up to that. There is a whole lot of sex and nudity. And though there might not be many deaths, it is always lurking in the corner, just waiting to pounce. Last season Ned told Arya, “we have come to a dangerous place,” and Tyrion told Shae the very same thing. No matter where you are, Kings Landing, the Wall, on the road, you are always in a dangerous place.
I rewatched this episode on HBOGo with the interactive features. These feature for the most part are most helpful to those who have not yet read the books and cannot remember the cast of characters or general names of places or things. That being said, there are some interesting video interviews with everyone involved in production, from George RR Marting himself, to the actors, producers, and most enlightening, the craftspeople who worked on the show.
As everyone moves further away from each other and we learn more about new characters and locales, let’s break this down by character/location.
Arya – She is on her way to the Winterfell with Yoren that rest of the scum that has been picked up to serve at the Wall. We meet Jaqen H’ghar for the first time though his presence on screen would clearly mean more to those who have read the books. I like the actor, Tom Wlaschiha, they cast to play him as he managed to get the characters style of talk down without it seeming awkward. Meanwhile the Gold Cloaks show up. Of course Arya is convinced that they are there for her, but as part of their duty to hunt down and kill all of Robert’s bastards, they are really there for Gendry. This is a shining moment for Yoren, and I never doubted for a moment that he would have done all the violence he promised. Both Gendry and Jaqen have guessed that Arya is no boy, but both keep the secret. Gendry and Arya have the best interaction, after Tyrion’s below, from the episode. Gendry tells Arya not to insult those that are bigger than she is, to which she responds,
Daenerys – Not much movement on this front, yet. She and the remains of her khalasar are slowly dying in the Red Waste. Last week Dany sent out riders to find some sort of salvation. Alas Rakharo’s horse returns, but carrying only his rider’s head. A clear message from one of the other Khals who are clearly disgusted and insulted by Dany’s attempt to remain khaleesi. As she attempts to comfort Irri who cries over Rakharo’s death and dishonor, Dany swears vengeance. It is taking time for Emilia Clarke to fully embody Daenerys in all her glory, but you hear the glints of steel and resolve in her voice every so often, and this was clearly one of those times.
Tyrion/Kings Landing – Tyrion continues to make his mark as acting Hand of the King. Of course Varys has found his way to Tyrion’s quarters and befriended Shae. The conversation between Varys and Tyrion is chock full of innuendo, sexual and threatening. As when Varys and Littlefinger spar verbally, this dialog is a pleasure to listen to and parse. Tyrion is later seen with the rest of the Small Council as Cersei openly mocks Robb Stark’s peace terms. When she asks about Jaime, everyone in the room is clearly uncomfortable. If she believes that anyone else doesn’t think she is sleeping with her brother, she is clearly mistaken.
Tyrion’s dinner with Janos Slynt is Peter Dinklage at his best.
As he told Varys, “I know how this game is played.” He knows that the Lannisters bought Slynt’s betrayal of Ned Stark and Tyrion is in no hurry to put himself into the hands of someone who not only is so ready to betray, but who had no compunction about killing innocent babies. He sends Slynt to the Wall and put Bronn as the head of the City Guard. Bronn is a mercenary at heart so his answer to Tyrion’s questions “If I ordered you to kill a baby without question, would you do it”, was true and honest – without question? No. I’d ask how much you’d pay. And to his credit Tyrion looks troubled by that answer. For as much as Tyrion likes to play the bon vivant whose only cares are wine, women, and song, he clearly has a conscience and sees himself in all those who are powerless and at the mercy of others.
Tyrion discovers that it was not Cersei who gave that mass murder order, but Joffrey. Cersei never falters in support of her son, even though you can see she is a bit troubled by his actions. As Tyrion continues to mock Cersei, she gets in her meanest and most vicious jab at him – his cruelest joke was killing their mother as she gave birth him. Tyrion’s hurt is palpable and a bit heartbreaking.
Elsewhere in King’s Landing, we see who Littlefinger truly is. After an introduction that would satisfy any voyeur, we find out that Roz cannot, ahem, perform since she is still sobbing over the death of Meghan’s baby (Robert’s bastard that Ned visited last season). Baelish grabs another lady of the evening who has just finished with a customer, wipes away evidence of said encounter, and thrusts her into the arms of Roz’s dissatisfied beau. Baelish then goes in to speak with Roz.
I cannot decided if the words were scarier than the delivery. Talking of bad business investments and a man who would use a whore in ways that would never occur to most men, Littlefinger shows Roz exactly who he is and what matters to him. Aiden Gillen who was so slimy as Carcetti on The Wire really frightened in this scene. The quiet tone of a probably sociopath is just as scary as a knife, when wielded by the right person. It is no wonder that Roz promises to be happy the next day.
Theon/Pyke – I’m not ashamed to say that I literally clapped and cheered aloud when Pyke appeared in the opening credits. I’ve always found the Iron Islands and the Iron Born fascinating and I’ve been waiting a long time to see this. Of course Theon screws the captain’s daughter on his way to the Iron Islands and of course he’s crude and cruel about it. Telling the girl to try and smile with her mouth shut as she sits in front of him, stark naked and vulnerable is just despicable. His homecoming isn’t the grand affair he expects and instead of his father standing there waiting to welcome him home, is an indifferent fisherman who has not time for such idiots.
But Theon reaps what he sows (and yes, I mean to put a play on the Greyjoys’ house words ‘We do not sow’), when he meets up with a comely lass who offers to take him to Pyke and Balon’s castle. Because he is Theon, he immediately puts one hand on her breast and another down her pants. And because his is Theon, unbeknownst to him, he has just put the moves on his own sister. Balon is clearly disgusted by his son; he buys his trinkets and jewels rather than taking them from a corpse he made (gold price vs iron price), and he doubts Theon’s loyalty to the Greyjoys, having spent so long as a member of the Stark family. Balon tosses Robb’s offer of independent kingship in exchange for ships, and one wonders what lengths Theon will go to prove himself to his father…
We must give a shout out to Balon’s amazing kraken festooned fireplace. Kudos to the set designers for this one.
Stannis/Dragonstone – I wonder how people who haven’t read the books feel about Davos or understand the situation with his fingers. Davos had been a smuggler and when he went legit, Stannis cut off the fingers of one hand as punishment and reminder for his illegal activities. But instead of resenting him, Davos near worships Stannis. He doesn’t mind his humorlessness or seeming lack of personality; Stannis gave Davos and his family a title and a chance and for that Davos is forever grateful. So grateful that Davos is now talking fellow pirate Sallahdor Saan into sailing for Stannis. Saan just wants to fuck Cersei, as all good pirates would. Davos’ son is a bit more somber than his father and only wishes that his father would submit to the Lord of Light, the one true god.
Stannis, meanwhile, doesn’t let honor get in the way of allowing himself to be seduced by Melisandre. And as soon as she promises him a son, he throws her on his war room table and has his way with her. Stannis knows that even if he manages to win the war against Renly, Joffrey, Robb, he still has no heirs and would just thrust the country back into war upon his death. And adulterer or no, he’s not about to walking blindly into that. Note: the table is a full map of Westeros and was one of the earliest prop pieces they created for this season.
Jon/Craster’s Keep – Back at Incest Central… Excuse me, the Incest Central that’s NORTH of the Wall… Poor sad Sam. Still talking about women he won’t have. Not even little inbred Gilly, who just wants to use him to escape her father/husband’s clutches. Jon, thankfully, tells Sam to wise up and stop acting the fool. Clearly, the Old Bear’s warning last episode had some resonance for Jon. But not enough, because Jon follows Craster as he takes his latest newborn son out into the night. It wasn’t that much trouble to figure out that Craster was killing any boys born to him, but it was more than that. Jon sees him offering these babies as sacrifice to the White Walkers. It is no wonder Gilly wants out. Jon turns to go back to camp but Craster conks him on the head and then – black screen.
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