May 21 2012 11:30am

Game of Thrones, Season 2, Episode 8: “The Prince of Winterfell”

This week on HBO’s Game of Thrones, we finally, finally get to see some much-missed faces. Bronn, baby, Bronn. And Tyrion. And Stannis. Remember him? And Robb, the handsomest king. And Ros. Because we all thought she didn’t get enough valuable screen-time at the beginning of this season.

Lots of pieces were moved around the board this week as we move towards the biggest clash of kings at season’s end. And then there’s Dany’s story.

Warning: Episode reviews contain episode and book spoilers. If you want to remain spoiler-free, follow Leigh Butler’s read of ASOIaF. is not liable for your further enjoyment of the series if later books get spoiled in the comments.

One of my favorite returning faces was Yara Greyjoy. Not-Asha returns to snark her way through a scene at Winterfell’s banquet hall and emasculate her little brother for being the only person stupid enough to not realize that murdering the heirs of Winterfell would make all of the North hungry for his head. Actually, Not-Asha calls Theon another word, one that got considerable, noticeable use throughout the hour.

I would kind of love a scene between Yara and Jamie, just to see who could come up with the most sarcastic jokes. My money’s on Yara, but Jamie’s tongue is nearly as sharp as his sword. He really has a talent for getting under people’s skins. Kudos to Brienne for keeping her cool. What an incredibly strong person she is. Cat, too, in her “woman’s honor.” I don’t know why Cat and Robb can’t learn about the deaths of Bran and Rickon yet. That was such a powerful motivator in the book and we watch mother and son cope with their grief in different ways.

I mean, not that Robb needed any special motivation to get horizontal with sexy nurse Talisa. I thought their love scene was sweet and well-earned. The more these two fall in love, the more our hearts will get ripped out later.

As for Cat, why would she possibly think releasing Jamie Lannister was a good idea? Why would she think he would keep his word and get her daughters back? The show made her decision seem a bit more reasonable, because if Karstark’s men killed Jamie in the night, she wouldn’t have anything to trade for Arya and Sansa. In the books, her decision seemed much more infuriating. Of course her actions as a mother were understandable, but as a war strategy? Not so smart.

My favorite scene was between Bronn, Varys, and Tyrion. Nerves are frayed as King’s Landing is preparing for a siege. Bronn seems to be preparing more than anyone else by rounding up the city’s thieves and taking them off the board for good. He’s a practical one. Clearly he has watched The Incredibles or read Watchmen and knows better than to wear a cape. (Cloak/cape, same difference.) Tyrion can read about sieges all he likes, but Bronn’s actually been there.

While the bromance between Bronn and Tyrion goes on, any kindness between Tyrion and his sister Cersei from last is gone when she made good on her promise to hurt someone he loves. We called it earlier in the season; Ros gets to be the stand-in for Alayaya in the books, at least in this regard. She must be one of the unluckiest whores in all of King’s Landing. I’m sure we’ll see her at a slave auction in Yunkai next season. Cersei really comes across as petty. Her son is a monster, there’s a pissed-off Stannis at her doorstep, the people are starving, but she’s still got time for this nonsense?

In Harrenhal, Arya has no wishes left to waste on small grudges. She lost her opportunity to take out Tywin before he moved against Robb. A blogger wonders why she didn’t say his name from the start. But I loved her using Jaqen’s name as her final name. So awesome.

Personally, I might’ve said Hot Pie’s because, really? All he talks about is hot pies. It’s both hilarious and annoying as hell. Gendry is to be commended for not putting Hot Pie’s chubby face between his mallet and anvil thus far.

I think I need a memory jog, because there’s a hugely important (and freaking cool) final scene with Jaqen we haven’t seen yet. A girl can’t leave her only friend like that, without taking back his name. Right? Where’s the weasel soup?

And where’s Ghost? Another welcome face we reconnected with this week was Samwell at the Fist of the First Men. It’s a lot more interesting to watch Sam and co. dig up all that mysterious dragonglass than a direwolf because we get a few more words of bleak wisdom from Dolorous “Debbie Downer” Edd. Jon, meanwhile is meeting a few more Wildings as a captive. Rattleshirt! Creepy as hell. Perfect. The Stark boys are really learning the hard way that their bad decisions can lead to death for others. If Jon had killed Ygritte like he was supposed to, those Night’s Watch men might not have died searching for him. I bet those dead brothers won’t think that one man in Mance Rayder’s inner circle was worth their lives.

For those keeping count, Stannis and The Onion Knight are two days away from King’s Landing. The preview for next week’s George R. R. Martin-penned episode, “Blackwater,” gave me a little chill. War is no longer coming. War is here. Showrunners David Benioff and Dan Weiss gave Entertainment Weekly a little preview of the Very Special Episode.

Game of Thrones airs 9PM E/PT on HBO.

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

1. Lsana
In the books, Catelyn has Tyrion's statement in open court that he would trade the girls for Jamie. She didn't trust Jamie, and she trusted Tyrion only a little more, but she did trust that if the Lannisters broke a promise made in front of everyone like that, they would never be able to make a hostage exchange again. They wouldn't have risked that in order to hold on to a pair of pre-teen girls.

I do think it was a serious mistake not to have Robb and Catelyn learn about Bran and Rickon's deaths, because it provides so much of the motive behind what they do here. Catelyn, at least, they give another motive: Karstark would have killed Jamie before Robb returned, and if he did, Sansa and Arya would have died for it. Robb, though...I didn't find that scene cute or well-earned, I found it stupid. Robb is breaking his sworn word not out of grief and a misplaced sense of honor, but out of sheer selfishness. My sympathy for him at the coming wedding will be non-existent.
2. Black Dread
While reading the book, I had to keep reminding myself that Rob is a teenage boy. That's the only way to explain his level of stupidity.
Justin Golenbock
3. jgolenbo
With the well-usage of a certain c word, i had to wonder how many Deadwood writers are working on GoT...
Justin Golenbock
4. jgolenbo
if i have a complaint about this episode, it's the slowness of the Dany/Quarth storyline. did we really need another Jorah "please take the ship" scene just to remind us that someone stole Dany's dragons like 3 episodes ago? it's time to burn, baby, burn...
5. sofrina
where is arya's coin? valar morghulis? i can't believe robb and talisa went at it right there with the tent flaps open to the night. everyone knows and everyone can see this. she's been too familiar all along, frankly. a nurse shouldn't be approaching the leader about supplies and stuff. there's a quartermaster for that. when she met catelyn and then turned and walked away... um, don't you have to be excused by the king? and there's bolton taking it all in.

osha is sneaking around winterfell in broad daylight? crafty.

so now we know why roz has held onto tyrion's locket from the pilot instead of pawning it.

i'm still very curious about doreah's role in the disappearance of the dragons. maybe it's coincidence and she struck out to make her own fortune away from this brokedown khalasar - since she isn't dothraki and has professional whoring skills. but that seems unlikely.

jamie hasn't said anything brienne isn't used to. she endured that wooing contest in renly's camp and dealt with the general threat of rape there.

back to robb's destiny, i'm disappointed at the lack of dacey mormont. his whole guard really, but especially the only one to be killed in a dress with no weapons. and where's the greatjohn?
Scott Silver
6. hihosilver28
I didn't have any problem with Robb and Talisa. I thought that the moment was earned. Or unearned, same as in the books. Although, I do agree that hearing the "death" of Bran and Rickon would provide an extra motivation.


Jon and Daenerys. Seriously. What. The. Hell.

I sincerely don't mind adaptations and scenes being cut or changed from the books. As long as the characters, their motivations, and their spirit remains the same. Jon was always a competent man of the Night's Watch whose nobility and naivete sometimes got in the way. Key word...competent. Qhorin wanted him because he was a Stark and was a proficient fighter. Jon then never slowed them down, even when he didn't execute Ygritte. He joined back up, then successfully located the war horde of Mance before getting chased and captured. Here, he causes the death of the rest of the Night's Watch crew because he's a moron and incompetent.

Daenerys' storyline is also frustrating in the extreme. She seems to have lost all of her character growth from the first season and is blustering about like a combination of Joffrey and Viserys. Claiming how everyone should serve her just because, OR ELSE blah blah dragons grown blah blah burn down blah blah FIRE AND BLOOD...pointless threat.

I understand that Jon and Dany's storylines in Clash are both not the most exciting, and that adapting them must have been difficult. But still. Their characters seem to have taken one step forward and several steps back.

Huh, I didn't intend for the griping to overwhelm this post because, overall, I really really enjoyed this episode and have thought that the last half of this season has been way more consistent than the first half. The scene with Davos and Stannis; Arya and Jacqen; everything in King's Landing; Jaime and Brienne; lots of really excellent stuff here.
7. Mochabean
@Sofrina : so now we know why roz has held onto tyrion's locket from the pilot instead of pawning it. -- Nice catch!

Loved the Asha/Yara -Theon exchange. They needed to start developing Asha/Yara's character as more than just a foil for Theon, and they did it without sacrificing her snark.

Good to know even Westerosis don't always know how to pronouce proper names.

Speaking of which, I really hope we do get that key Jaqen scene, but it doens't look like it...
8. Syllabus
The dragonglass scene was actually a huge **squee** moment for me. Of course, I know what's coming next...
Joe Vondracek
9. joev
Bron, baby, Bron.
You mean "Bronn", right? Not "Bran"? The sellsword's name has two n's.
Theresa DeLucci
10. theresa_delucci
Well, as my friend reminded me, the finale is titled "Valar Morghulis," so there's hope Jaqen will give Arya that coin, just in a different context. I mean... it's such a cool scene! One of my favorite parts of the whole second book.

Yeah, good catch on the locket! I wonder if the actor playing Doreah left the show like Rakharo's and she's been written out. It is a bit suspect that she's not around after all this time. Talisa is very familiar for a nurse, but she's also pretty hot, so I'm guessing a teen boy like Robb would tend to overlook that. Or consider the familiarity a big plus.

Yes, burn, baby, burn. I wonder if next week's episode will take place entirely in King's Landing. And we get the House of the Undying and the attack on The Fist in the finale. I can see the season ending on the Night's Watch horn sounding one... two... three times and the camera pans back to see all the wights surrounding Sam and co. The end. (Maybe Dolorous Edd can say something pithy like, "I knew this would happen.")
Theresa DeLucci
11. theresa_delucci
I... think I've been spelling his name wrong all season then. Why start adding the extra "n" now? ;)
12. Lsana

As far as I know, Arya hasn't officially unsaid the name yet, and I can't imagine Jaqen is going to leave until she does that, so I'm sure we haven't seen the last of him yet...
13. AlBrown
Good episode, as things are starting to come together for the big season finish. Good to see Tyrion again, some great scenes for him this week.
And the only thing I enjoy more than a scene with Brienne in it, is a scene with Breinne and Jamie. Their evolving relationship is one of my favorite parts of the series.
14. AlBrown
Oh, and even though he is a cad, I am already feeling starting to feel sorry for Theon. The actor's performance is very good and nicely nuanced, and creating empathy for a character who has oh so far to fall...
William Fettes
15. Wolfmage
Good episode.

Loving the Jaime and Brienne dynamic. It has the bite of the exchanges in the books. Is Ser Loras one of the three men that Jaime believes have a chance against him? If so, Brienna has already bested Ser Loras on the show.

I liked the change to the Cat's decision. It was too manifestly stupid in the books to respect despite the trauma of the news. At least this time she was acting rationally to prevent Jaime being killed out of hand and the sting of the decision is offset by immediately seeing Jaime in Brienne's capable hands.Robb gets a good justified rebuke in but at least we don't totally regard Cat as a fool here.

The seeds are planted for Qhorin and Jon now. I think it makes good sense.

It's interesting that the chain hasn’t been part of any on-screen preparations or discussions for the forthcoming siege. I mean, in the books Tyrion has the city’s blacksmiths diverted from making arms and armour for at least a week just to get sufficient material. Book purists have been complaining about its absence for most of the season, but this was the first time that I was tempted to agree because the scene with Bronn and Varys, and the history of the sieges of Westeros, would have been a timely place to start making it without it being too unrealistic. Is the chain not happening or are we going to get a scene that reveals Tyrion was doing it off-screen all along? I suppose that could work – but it’s odd that he would only say “pigshit” to Varys’ question.
16. Michael F Flynn
Or else all harbors have chains, Stannis has a plan using his lead ships to foil the chain, and when no chain is pulled they sail in unmolested.
17. Vhagar
I noticed Stannis referred to Robert as his older brother... well at least that makes the actor about the right age, I always thought he looked too young to play the part of Stannis.
Alan Courchene
18. Majicou
Who in the hell is Talisa? What happened to Jeyne?

...I see.

I really hope that when I get around to watching this season I won't be gritting my teeth every 10 seconds at some pointless, boneheaded change they made. I was very impressed by the faithfulness of the first season.
19. SKM
@17 -- Robert is the eldest brother in the books, too.
Teresa Nielsen Hayden
21. tnh
Majicou, the change is neither pointless nor boneheaded. The pertinent principle here is what's generally known as "unity of time, place, and action" in drama. If you want to understand it, start by jotting down a quick list of how much exposition, how many scenes and settings, and how much elapsed time within the drama it would take to run the Jeyne Westerling loop.

Consider its effect on the plot: Robb Stark marries Jeyne Westerling, rather than Frey Girl To Be Named Later. Offended Freys withdraw with their troops to the Twins; Starks and their supporters attempt to make amends; Red Wedding.

Now look at what happens if you substitute Talisa Maegyr of Volantis. She's already on the scene. We already know who she is. Robb's interactions with her don't require extended travel time, and they don't preclude his interacting with other characters in his camp. If plot complications arising from her presence keep Robb Stark from marrying the Frey girl, you get the same consequences without having to divert a major character from the central action, and burden the drama with all the high cost/low yield exposition it would take to move him through that loop.

Drama and the novel both tell stories, but their sets of storytelling techniques only partially overlap. Any time you move a story from one form to the other, some elements will be lost, and other elements will have to be added.

IMO, the HBO version of A Game of Thrones is doing a brilliant job of compressing GRRM's enormous and convoluted plot. That compression is unavoidable. Without it, the HBO version wouldn't exist. If you can't enjoy the show for what it is, I suggest you stop watching it, because I can guarantee you that these abridgements will continue.
Alan Courchene
22. Majicou
@21: I respect that we're talking two different media here, and that a degree of pragmatism is called for in making the transition. In the Lord of the Rings movies, for instance, they cut out Tom Bombadil because he grinds the story to a halt, provides little insight into anything else in the story, and is scarcely mentioned ever again.
Now, it's true that I don't entirely remember all the plot elements that were involved with Robb becoming, well, involved with Jeyne Westerling. I should say that this kind of thing just tends to make me nervous about adaptations; once I watch this season (Blu-ray) my knee-jerk reaction should give way to more considered judgment. Right now, it's the benefit of the doubt based on the series' track record, so I hope that it all works together for the good of the story.
23. Michael F Flynn
Now, it's true that I don't entirely remember all the plot elements that were involved with Robb becoming, well, involved with Jeyne Westerling.

That's because IIRC in the book it all happened off-stage while Robb was off doing battle farther west. (I think he returned already married to Westerling.) In fact, Robb spent a lot of the book not being seen directly on-stage.

Now they could have had Jeyne be the nurse and play her not as a "foreign woman" but as from a bannerman family of the Lannisters. All sorts of possibilities there. The viewer would get to know her before the event, where the reader did not. But it would also make the marriage seem more like a minor political calculation.
Rajan Khanna
24. rajanyk
I think I enjoy the Robb/Talisa relationship more than Robb/Jeyne. As mentioned, Robb/Jeyne is pretty much offscreen. And here, since Robb comes off as older, I think I needed to see the attraction there. And when she talked about her brother and her decisions because of that, I bought it. I can see Robb being attracted to her. I also think the show is setting up events later by making us care for certain characters and relationships.
25. AlBrown
I don't mind the abridgements that the TV show is making. In fact, sometimes I wish that GRRM was a bit more disciplined in the number of words, subplots, etc, that he throws in our direction! ;-)
Rob Munnelly
26. RobMRobM
I liked the episode, but two slower eps in a row highlighted a pacing problem that should have been avoided. Ah well, onto to Blackwater, which should be great and also probably should include Dany's HoU scenes as well.

Adaptation issues -agree that they are needed, only question is which ones work and which ones don't.

I really don't like the north of the Wall stuff - not the setting (which is spectacular), not the acting (all are good, including Kit Harington and I love Rose Leslie as Ygritte) - but that they are writing Jon Snow into little more than an idiot. He is far from that in the books, and it is a big and disturbing change. Mormont's line that he was a crappy Steward was way off. That's one I wish they played far closer to the books, and I hope it doesn't cause irreparable damage to the overall story.

The Dany plot line has not been handled well either but more understandable, how little she is given to do in the books. At least we are heading into the fun stuff.
FYI- re Doreah, my strong sense is that PP and Ducksauce grabbed her to care for the dragons until Dany shows up to take over. That's why she was shown as bonding with the dragons earlier.

Ditto with the Jaime plot line. I didn't like that he killed his cousin - too much - but I agree it makes sense to spring him now.

KL adaption issues have been pretty good (Bronn as head of gold cloaks, Shae as Sansa's maid, no Alayaya, etc.) No big complaints there.

Same with Harrenhall, but I wish we had some weasel soup before Arya left.

27. curgoth
It wasn't until we had Talisa relating her "salvery is bad, m'kay?" story that I figured out why she isn't Jeyne Westerling; it's the showrunners trying to prevent the "Meerenese Knot", the corner Martin wrote himself into at Dance of Dragons. Talisa's being around gives the showrunners another way to expalin the brutality of the Free Cities' slave trade without having to spend so much time with Dany wandering around there. Or, they're just trying to set up the Free Cities' slave trade so we're not surprised by it when it shows up later. Either way, it's a change with a reason.
28. Black Dread
Syllabus - I'm looking forward to the coming battle in the North far more than the South!
Rob Munnelly
29. RobMRobM

The GoT soundtrack tracks for season 2 just got released and the final track is called "Three Blasts" - I'm betting we get the White Walker assault on the Fist ...or, more likely, the three horn blasts as a cliffhanger that closes this season.

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