By:Jarrett Kruse
Review Date: Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Anytime I feel a lull in Game of Thrones it just keeps plugging away. Against the ropes but still on its feet. The show is like Rocky Balboa in ROCKY where he just keeps getting up and Apollo Creed is baffled at his opponents drive to go the distance. I have never been a D & D, fantasy, Magic playing type but I am definitely seeing the appeal and depth and layers of the world of Westeros. This week we are given a treat of an episode that covers a great deal of ground in its allotted time. And a final scene that made me revel in the surprises that GoT continues to throw at us just when I think a plotline is dormant. I am hoping that episodes 9 and 10 will be powerhouses as episode 8 seemed to be a forecast of all of the things that still need attending to or at least explained. Well maybe not everything, I am just bummed that we only get 10-episode seasons as I have enjoyed the Hell out of Season 3.

While the episode opens with little Arya still in the clutches of The Hound, she makes a go at smashing his skull in with a rock while he is sleeping. Naturally the giant Hound is up putting the kibosh on her assassination attempt. I was surprised to see the two of them sharing a horse and a snack on the way to return Arya to her brother and mother for a King’s ransom (no pun intended). It is always about money even in Westeros. As The Hound seemed to be a big softy if only for a minute, I was definitely stunned to see the odd couple being civil if only for a minute. It says something about GoT and how nothing ever really is what it seems to be. 

On the borders of the city of Yunkai, Daenerys meets with three men of a Sellsword company called the Second Sons. These guys are none too polite to Daenerys in their negotiations with the Queen of Dragons. When they second guess her she is quick to remind them what she has accomplished in just the last year alone. Her character has gone from a relatively submissive girl into a strong, self-assured woman. With a great body to boot (see this episode; probably twice). Collectively after their initial meeting with Daenerys, Titan’s Bastard and two of the Second Sons decide that she needs to be killed and that whoever draws the unlucky coin shall do the deed. Upon drawing the proverbial short straw, Daario Naharis slays the two other captains and bring their heads to Daenerys where he devotes his and the Second Sons’ loyalty to her. I was a little confused at this turn of events without a solid backstory for those that did not read the books.

Daavos is freed from the dungeons by Stannis but seems to keep his mouth shut about anything related to the Red Woman or her acts of partaking in a mysterious religion that he fears.  Gendry was plucked up from a seemingly harmless trade for gold but because of his royal blood, Melisandre needs said blood to help Stannis rightfully regain the crown. In a twist that I kind of saw coming was when the Red Woman seems to be attempting to bed young Gendry but instead ties him up and has leeches suck his blood. I didn’t forecast the leeches of  course but I knew she was not honest with her intentions. Melisandre then takes the leeches to a fire where Stannis throws each in saying “the usurper Robb Stark, The usurper Balon Greyjoy. The usurper Joffrey Baratheon.” We watch as the leeches erupt with Gendry’s blood in the fire. I have this weird feeling that this is not going to be resolved this season but down the line a bit. I was puzzled at just exactly what the burning of the leeches with Baratheon blood meant. Maybe it was to show Stannis that his bloodline is powerful and still very strong. That he should still have faith in his name… I don’t actually know but am just speculating.

Although it is always nice to see the beautiful landscape of King’s Landing, I know that cringe-worthy TV is going to be upon us. Between Cersei and Joffrey it is tough to find a scene with either of them in it that do not make for uncomfortability. First the cunning Margaery takes Cersei’s arm and goes prattling on about how they will be sisters, etc, etc ad nauseum. I swear I thought Cersei was going to bite Margaery’s damn hand off! Cersei lets her know that no matter what happens in King’s Landing she is still going to be the designated “Queen B” so to speak. But that is a tip of the cap to both characters in that Lena Headey and Jack Gleeson are both such brilliant actors. The marriage between the diminutive Tyrion and Sansa Stark is probably the most awkward moment I have seen on the program. When Joffrey has the balls to walk Sansa down the aisle and then takes his Uncle’s step stool away, I wanted to jump through the TV and knock the little punk out. He is slowly making his way into my Top 10 villains of all-time as he gets older. Tyrion feels the pain of the 14-year old Stark as she begins to disrobe for her wedding night. He stops her and begins to grow even angrier with his bloodline.

Bookending the episode with Samwel, Craster’s daughter and her baby was a clever plot device. I thought that they were just showing their state in the beginning of the show for continuity’s sake. However when we return to them, I realized there is far greater meaning to their placement. When a group of crows begin flying to a tree that is literally making a face, I knew something was up. Sure enough the pounding walk of a White Walker comes looking for the infant. Sam’s first effort to kill it is dashed but his second brave attempt shatters the Walker like Robert Patrick in T2. Sam has proved to be a far greater and courageous asset than when we first met him. Still I was a little upset that it has taken close to a year to follow up last year’s finale with White Walkers. Do all Walkers look the same or was that exact Walker they gave a close-up to last year the one we saw tonight? That is a terribly confusing sentence…

It was an extremely solid effort and I am keyed up for the last two episodes. I am trying to figure out just how they can wrap things up with so many damn storylines wide open for the taking. Actually the more apropos thing to say is what storyline will they choose to wrap up. Still it will be interesting to see as we close in on episodes nine and ten. I wish GoT followed the new “binge viewing” format from NETFLIX where I can watch all the episodes at one sitting while flicking Cheetos dust off my tee shirt. Still, it is fun to speculate at just will fill the last two hours of the Game.

Mania Grade: A-
Episode: SECOND SONS (Season 3, Episode 8)
Starring: Peter Dinklage, Thomas Brodie-Sangster, Richard Dormer
Written By: George R.R. Martin ("A Song of Ice and Fire" by), David Benioff (creator)
Directed By: Michelle MacLaren
Network: HBO
Studio: Home Box Office (HBO), Television 360, Grok! Studio