This week on Game of Thrones, we catch up with the other half of the considerable Dramatis Personae. The premiere was all about service, the second episode is all about... walking. Jaime Lannister is the chatty Donkey to Brienne’s Shrek, Bran and Arya meet strangers on the road, and Sam’s fallen and he can’t get up. Meanwhile, women in King’s Landing are either manipulated or manipulative or irrationally jealous, unless they’re old. Then they’re the only people who talk sense.
I really wish the season premiere was two hours, like Mad Men. It was a long week waiting for this episode. But when compared to how long book readers have to wait between new Martin novels, it feels ungrateful to whine about it.
Bran, Rickon (contractually obligated to be on screen for no more than thirty seconds per episode), Osha, and Hodor (Hodor!) trudge to the Wall. Jojen and his sister Meera announce themselves to the party in the misty forest. I wouldn’t call it a Meet-Cute. I can’t say I was overly into their more supernatural introduction, first by Jojen in Bran’s dream. There was a whole lot of gradual bonding in A Clash of Kings, but a TV show just doesn’t support the luxury of time. It’s a little difficult for me to get into a character like Jojen, who speaks in heavy portents so much. I like Meera a bit more. She’s down to earth and we know where she stands right away. I enjoyed her aside with Osha. Jojen is more of a plot device, a new interpreter for Bran and his wargin’ gifts and premonitions.
In King’s Landing, Sansa gets invited to tea with the Dowager Countess of the Red Keep. Women’s roles are so strict in this world, it’s refreshing to see one who has the freedom that age allows to actually speak her mind. And what a sharp mind it is. Maggie Smith may be the reigning queen of the withering comment, but Diana Rigg shone as Olenna. Could Sansa have actually made some friends in the castle? It’s sad that only Shae seems to genuinely care about this naive young girl. I really could’ve done without Shae freaking out over Tyrion and his “friendship” with Ros and the innocent comment about Sansa being beautiful. It seemed so out of character, until you could tell she was mostly just enjoying making Tyrion squirm.
The rose doesn’t fall far from the bush when it comes to Margaery. Joffrey’s wrong: intelligent women only appear to do as they’re told. I mostly love scenes that aren’t in the books. Knowing the truth about Joffrey’s nature from Sansa, Margaery used the intel to masterfully seduce Joffrey, despite coming from the bedside of a traitor. With sweet whispers about murder and how she doesn’t do... that very painful act that doesn’t produce children. (Hilarious. You know she’d totally do that; she was willing to have a threesome with her brother.) But if Joffrey makes homosexuality punishable by death, where would that leave Loras? I didn’t get a sense that she was thinking that far ahead. Who could when you’re in a room with Joffrey and his crossbow?
Arya—a.k.a. the best Stark kid—is weighing options on where to go post-escape from Harrenhal. But first, Gendry is the voice of frustrated people everywhere: why didn’t Arya just name Joffrey to Jaqen H’ghar and end the war? Nevermind that! Moving on. Good thing the Brotherhood Without Banners showed up in style to distract viewers from nitpicking further. This was a real highlight of the hour. Thoros and Anguy, with his slick archery skills, could be like Robin Hood and his band of Merry Men, or they could be a bunch of drunks with swords. Either way, Arya is the bravest of her group for at least attempting to stand up to them. But Syrio would be rolling in his grave if he knew how easily she was disarmed. How happy were you to see The Hound again?
Another hooded figure in tonight’s episode was revealed to be Theon Greyjoy. This should be interesting. I have no idea where the show is going with this storyline. A few torn fingernails and tightened screws in his feet is still less than what Theon deserves for his betrayal. I wrongly assumed Iwan Rheon would be playing Roose Bolton’s bastard. Instead he’s a spy sent to free Theon and return him to his family. Or is he? We got no escape attempt tonight. I’m glad the Greyjoys won’t be out of the season, but what are they going to do?
The episode ended on a more exciting note as Brienne and Jaime got to cross swords. Finally. After much talking. Jaime did really well for an underfed, manacled man. The talking wasn’t boring—Brienne did look like she contemplated killing that innocent bystander on the road, she just wasn’t as honest about it as Jaime was. Say what you will about him, many people do, but Jaime was right in the end. Brienne’s mercy got them both captured by Boltons. Dun-dun-dunnnn....
Other impressions and nominees for Quote of the Episode:
- Oh, come off it, Cat. Michelle Fairley is a great actress and her monologue was moving, but it’s a bit melodramatic to say everything bad that’s happened to the Stark family was her fault for not loving Jon Snow. And it makes no sense.
- I kind of hate how incompetent Samwell is. We get it. He’s fat. He’s not a good fighter. He’s craven. I’m sure they’re holding him back to make him do something cool and brave. It’s the way of fat sidekicks named Sam. But they’re running the risk of pushing him over the line from meek to a whining crybaby. Give him some redeeming traits to sympathize with.
- Dolorous Edd is a motivational speaker for the ages. “If you don’t stop, you’ll probably die, too.”
- What’s wrong with The Cave People? Is everyone jealous because their homes have better insulation than a furry teepee?
- “It’s a shame the throne wasn’t made out of cocks. They’d have never gotten [Renly] off of it.” - Jaime, crude but effective.
- “No flowers! I’m the king!” - Joffrey
- “Give it to Margaery for her wedding gown. It should be more than enough fabric.” - Cersei, who’s even better at burns than her twin.
- “But once’s the cow’s been milked, there’s no squirting the cream back up her udder, so here we are to see things through.” - Olenna
- “Half the country’s starving and look at this one.” “Maybe he’s the reason half the country’s starving.” Thoros and Anguy haven’t met Sam. Westeros isn’t kind to the portly among us.
- “This is cruel and unfair. Cruelly unfair.” - Tyrion
Next week: Less walking and more forward momentum.
Game of Thrones airs Sundays at 9P.M. E/PT on HBO.