It is hard to quantify such an epic show like Game of Thrones and call an episode “boring” because even the slowest of GoT episodes is better than 90% of what else is on TV. Still it is an interesting setup for as fans as we get more exposition about the deep roots of both main and fringe characters in the epic storyline. I actually very much enjoyed this episode in that it showed us some unexpected updates on characters that we may have forgotten about in the ten-month layoff of the show. In TV time, that is a pretty long time to remember every single character in the GoT canon. Fortunately the updates are pitch-perfect in this second installment of the third season.
The thing about Game of Thrones is that sometimes the waiting is the hardest part. That being said, an episode like this is loaded with subtext and all sorts of tidbits and medieval morsels for us to gorge and speculate upon. I feel confident that episode two was one of those that I suspect we will say “Oh yeah, the second episode set this up.” One thing you cannot do is write off the show after what seems like a slower episode as there really is no such thing with GoT. The key to those that not have read the books is that the payoff will come; we just do not know when. I know that our faithful Maniacs on the message boards are dedicated and from what I read (yes I read every last comment) is that there are some stark (no pun intended) differences between the book series and the television series. So for those that have read the massive tomes, I can only imagine your frustration as you wait for your favorite moments from the books to come to life on your flat screen TV.
This week was definitely a female-centric episode although the glaring absence of Danerys was noticeable. In King’s Landing, spoiled brat King Joffrey is trying on some new duds befitting his title. He appears to be over Sansa and has moved on as I do not think he wants a traitorous family like the Stark’s to bear his children. Cersei gives a good go at King Joff warning him of Margaery’s scheming to gain his hand but he is blinded on his power trip. Save for one outfit, Joffrey is just not happy with anything the garments his royal designer brings him. Shocker. Cersei herself is a master schemer and she is quick to tell her son that she recognizes Margaery as a woman with an agenda. However, Cersei’s counsel is more and more being ignored as Joff ages from boy into man.
I began to think of Sansa who on the show’s hiatus has blossomed into a beautiful young woman. Since she is no longer the apple of Joff’s eye and is contending with many larger problems as she tries to get out of the clutches of his kingdom. Shae in a sense is her bodyguard and confidante that voices her concern for the young Stark to not get involved with someone as devious as Littlefinger that is making bold assurances about springing the young redhead out of King’s Landing. She seems conflicted that Joffrey’s interests lie elsewhere now and her sense of purpose is sullied as she seems like a prisoner in the castle that is never to be rescued. After Tyrion’s tongue lashing last week from his father, Shae shows up in his quarters and voices her concerns about Lord Baelish’s real intentions concerning Sansa. The young Stark maiden believes the conniving Baelish could just be the man to assuage her captor out of Joffrey’s empire especially since he has shifted his eyes to Margaery as a romantic interest. Sansa says that Lord Baelish is too old for her but I see a sly admiration in her eyes for the man that lives to traffic information.
Margaery does take Sansa to meet her weathered and feisty grandmother Lady Olenna Tyrell played by Diana Rigg of the classic TV show The Avengers. I could not get over that the super-hot chick that played the ultra-cool 60’s spy Emma Peel had gotten so old and unrecognizable. Ms. Rigg was quite the dish in her day but here she really plays an utterly fascinating and very spunky character. She absolutely owns the scene with her granddaughter Margaery and Sansa as they discuss the state of women in their society. I loved how they presented her as a very smart and sharp as a tack older woman that has seen it all before. Her moniker is The Queen of Thorns and it is most certainly a perfectly suited label. I genuinely hope that we get to see more of Lady Olenna as her acid tongue and acerbic wit were a welcome addition to the GoT mythos. Sansa feels comfortable enough with the Queen of Thorns to let her guard down and tell her elder that King Joffrey is a monster. Margaery hears Sansa and carefully watches her grandmother’s reaction to this statement. However she is determined to be Joffrey’s Queen no matter what is whispered about the evil little punk. Man he ticks me off.
Armed with the information that Sansa disclosed, Margaery is able to navigate just how she is going to interact with Joffrey. She briefly touches upon how the deceased Renly did not take advantage her sexually and alluded that he suggested penetrating her in her exit only area to which Joff divulges that that kind of perversion should be a capital crime. Then something interesting happens as Margaery is able to get Joffrey to lower his guard as she begins to beguile him a bit with her feminine charms. She does the GoT version of a woman’s query to a man to help with their golf swing. In this case, Joffrey has a new crossbow that Margaery takes an interest in and actually lets her use the weapon. She is engaging Joff in the only thing he understands; unnecessary violence and cruelty.
Theon Greyjoy’s taking of Winterfell is costing him as he is being continually tortured but I am not exactly certain on just who is doing torturing. But that is one of the costs of watching GoT; it’s tough to keep track of every character and their lineage. Robb Stark is seemingly bored as he walks and spends time with his betrothed Talisa. Catelyn Stark is still imprisoned for letting the Kingslayer free. Robb and Talisa’s short break is intermittent as Roose Bolton brings the bad news that Winterfell has been burned to the ground with both Bran and Rickon still missing. As difficult as this is to hear, Robb seems to be torn on what to do with his mother upon this heartbreaking news. He seems to be hell-bent on continuing his holding pattern and is reminded that he has already lost the war after marrying Talisa and going against the agreement with the Frey’s. A wife for Robb and a bridegroom for Arya when she is of age was the agreement and troops would be supplied in return. His men seem less than thrilled that Robb welched as their wives and children are anxiously awaiting their own husband’s safe return.
Jon Snow appears to have been initiated in the society of Wildling’s and is schooled in their ways by Mance Rayder. It was Rayder’s doing to get the men to go south getting away from the White Walkers uniting the front. Snow encounters Orell, a wildling ranger and skinchanger or warg that can see through the eyes of his eagle. It was all very Beastmaster-esque but still pretty damn cool. Little Bran continues to have dreams that haunt him about not being able to kill a bird but the teen in his dream tells him that in fact he is the bird. Upon waking and sometime later, Bran discovers that the boy from his slumber is Jojen Reed (the kid from Love, Actually who also played Paul McCartney in Nowhere Boy) and his sister Meera who are now with him. I found this part to be a little confusing but hopefully it will play out as the season unfolds.
We finally get to see our little Arya who has been tirelessly on the run with Gendry and Hot Pie after escaping from Harranhal. Tired and hungry, the triumvirate come upon a merry group of strangers that take the to the GoT equivalent of a tavern where Thoros of Myr is holding court. The three kids are definitely out of their realm but when a giant prisoner is revealed to be The Hound, he immediately recognizes Arya as a Stark causing concern for the brotherhood. Arya will make a fine prisoner for this roguish band of brutes.
Lastly we get to see Brienne walking Jaime Lannister the Kingslayer on a seemingly never-ending trail. Jaime continues to verbally jab Brienne about her size and manly appearance. She is a proud woman and a warrior at that trying to keep her promise to Catelyn Stark. Eventually the two come to battle with swordplay but both are not at their full strength. The walk has taken its toll on the prisoner and her captor. A passerby clearly recognizes the Kingslayer and Brienne is forced to make sure that he keeps quiet while keeping his word of not killing anyone.
Looking back on it now just twenty hours after it aired, I realize that this was a pretty packed episode. There was not a whole lot of action but just enough to whet our appetites for what is to come. The board is set and schemes and strategies are being crafted. There is plenty of time for it all to play out as long as we keep our collective patience. The biggest surprise for me was Margaery’s impressive manipulation of Joffrey. I thought that he would see right through her but happily I was wrong. She is after the throne, not Joffrey. How she gets there does not matter. Episode 2 was another solid episode from the sweeping original series with exhausting detail and exposition.