HBO’s Game of Thrones

Game of Thrones, Season 2, Ep. 2: “The Night Lands”

This week on HBO’s Game of Thrones, we mostly just felt uncomfortable whenever Arya was offscreen. The sex that has become a hallmark of this series returns in full force as we learn, by turns, that some girls can be neither rock nor salt wives, some girls can be daughter-wives, pimpin’ is not in fact easy, and supposedly moral kings can get a little loose with their definition of moral.

But, yeah, Arya had all the best lines. Bless her.

Warning: book and episode spoilers after the cut. If you wish to avoid spoilers, I refer you to Leigh Butler’s excellent ASoIaF read.

While I really enjoyed last week’s premiere, I liked the second episode much more. Instead of checking in on everyone, we further explored the new situations of a few. 

The only downside? Game of Thrones is perhaps the second worst show to watch with one’s parents after Spartacus.

Right off the bat, we get some quality time with Arya traveling north on the Kingsroad with Gendry, Lommy, Hot Pie, and Yoren of the Night’s Watch. Most importantly, we got to meet one of those three very dangerous prisoners being taken to the Wall. Jaqen H’Ghar! He looked and sounded absolutely, appropriately creepy and mysterious. His multicolored hair was subtle, which I appreciated. I would’ve said Arya has balls of steel for rattling his cage, but, as she discussed with Gendry, she is a girl. (But not a lady. Ladies don’t suggest that someone might “fill their pants” in fear. Perfect delivery.)

I loved the quippy banter betwen the two of them. Maise Williams is just fantastic.

Who really has balls of Valyrian steel is Yoren. Watching him tell off those Gold Cloaks just about made my heart swell.

More introductions were in order when Theon reached Pyke, home to Balon Greyjoy and the daughter formerly known as Asha. I always pictured Balon looking like John Noble playing Denethor in Return of the King and this actor didn’t disappoint. Balon kind of gives Tywin Lannister a run for his money in the Father of the Year contest, no? Yara was well cast, too. I’m dying to see who they cast as Damphair, but I understood why they wouldn’t want to include him in the show so early when his character won’t be seen again for another two seasons. And it was a memorable way to both introduce the badassery that’s Yara and to show how out of place Theon is among his family now.

Not that I feel bad for Theon. I think they actually made his treatment of the captain’s daughter a little nicer than it was in the books. That was some seriously unpleasant sexposition with a very sad and desperate girl. None of the sex in this week’s episode was particularly sexy. And sex tinged almost every storyline. If not being shown, it was talked about, from Sam and Grenn Beyond the Wall down to charismatic pirate Salladhor Saan at Dragonstone.

But why did we need to see Littlefinger in the brothel this week? Without further context for it, his threatening of Ros just served to show some more sex and a little something extra that even three seasons of Spartacus never showed. I feel like the showrunners are trying to make Littlefinger fill up an Al Swearengen-shaped hole in HBO’s lineup and I don’t think it works.

Tyrion has his own problems, of which Shae is only one. I wonder what Shae and Varys were laughing about before Tyrion came home. (“Oh, girl, did you hear? Renly’s got a Rainbow Guard now. Could he be any more obvs?”) And good riddance, Janos Slynt. That was always one of my favorite scenes from the books.

One of the things that makes the nature of television interesting is that we aren’t locked into any one character’s point of view. Robb never got his own chapters in the books, but on the show he comes alive with personality. We have yet to see a Stannis-narrated chapter either. Therefore, I could only interpret his relationship with Melisandre through other people’s eyes.

I thought of Melisandre and Stannis as having more as an emotional affair, not a physical one. I thought she was draining his energy spiritually, magically. Maybe I’m naive. (Shadow babies have to come from somewhere, right?) I just didn’t picture Stannis being okay with breaking his marriage vows, no matter how hot Melisandre was. I never pictured Melisandre as a femme fatale either.

Across the Narrow Sea, Dany is still trying to keep her khalasar from starvation and mourning the loss of Rakharo, her most foppish bloodrider. That didn’t happen in the books and I’m so disappointed that he and Irri can’t continue their quiet background courtship.

Another change from the books was Jon Snow actually catching Craster sacrificing his sons to the White Walkers. And Craster subsequently finding out and reacting with that old knock-on-the-head chestnut. That was a surprise. How will this affect what happens next? Will whatever happens to Jon affect Gilly’s escape attempt?

What do you think of the changes from the books? Which new character shone the most? (Dolorous Edd!) What do you think of Bronn as Commander of the City Watch? Or Joffrey ordering the culling of Robert’s bastards instead of Cersei?

Visit HBO’s offical Game of Thrones site for episode extras.


Theresa DeLucci is a regular contributor to Tor.com. She covers True Blood, Game of Thrones, and is also an avid gamer. She has also covered tech and TV for Geektress.com and Action Flick Chick. Follower her on Twitter @tdelucci

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