Welcome back to another episode of Game of Thrones. I think I speak for everyone when I say that last week’s episode was the whirlwind intro, a big high after waiting almost an entire year for the new season to air. And as expected, things were visually appealing, exciting, and eye-popping from time to time. At the same time, in what is fast becoming the trend for this show, differences from the source material are becoming all the more apparent and obvious.
This is largely due to the fact that changes in the last season have required the writers to make further changes this season. These include rewrites, additions, things left out, and late introductions. And with this second episode now aired, I feel like I’m beginning to sense how these will play out. At least I think so, but I’ll keep them to myself to avoid any potential spoilers, especially for those who haven’t read the books yet.
Needless to say, the central theme of this episode was the bad news that becomes so manifest in book three. Between the shifting fortunes for Robb and the Stark family, the chaos that grips the Seven Kingdoms, the ongoing battles of Daenerys, and the fate of lesser players (Theon and Jaime being foremost amongst them), everyone seems to be suffering from setbacks, debacles and ill omens. Here’s how it all went down this week:
Dark Wings, Dark Words:
The episode opens with Bran having more dreams about the three eyed crow. This time, a young boy appears telling him that the raven is him. He wakes up to the company of Hodor, Osha, and the direwolf Summer, his companions as they continue to make their way north. On the way, they encounter Jojen and Meera Reed, who claims that they have come a long way to find him. They inform him that he is a Warg, and can control animals and experience “greendreams”.
North of the Wall, John and his Wildling companions move towards the Wall and learn from one of Mance’s wargs that the Fist of the First Men has fallen and is littered with bodies of the Night’s Watch. Sam and the others are still retreating south, battling cold and starvation, and Sam seems ready to die. However, Lord Commander Mormont refuses to let him yield and orders his brothers to help him along.
Robb meanwhile is summoned back to Riverrun when word of his grandfather’s death reaches them. His mother is perturbed by the news, but not nearly as much as by word that Winterfell was burned to the ground and that Brandon and Rickard are missing. They begin the march back to Riverrun to attend the funeral, during which time Catelyn and Talisa (John’s new wife) get a chance to bond.
In the Riverlands, Brienne and Jaime continue south, and it is hard going as the two find each other’s company quite difficult to endure. While attempting to cross a river, Jaime grabs a sword from her and they fight. Unfortunately, this gives their position away and the two of them are fallen upon by the Brave Companions (aka. Bloody Mummers), another free company that currently owes service to House Bolton.
In King’s Landing, everything is being dedicated towards the preparations for Joffrey’s wedding to Lady Margaery Tyrell. Cersei is naturally suspicious of his newly betrothed, but Joffrey refused to listen to his mother’s counsel. Sansa, meanwhile is introduced to Margaery and her grandmother, Lady Olenna Redwyne – the Queen of Thorns. She asks Sansa for the truth about Joffrey, and after some convincing that she is safe, she confides that is he is an absolute bloody monster.
She gets a taste of this when Joffrey summons her to him and interrogates her about her marriage to Renly and why it didn’t produce an heir. However, Lady Margaery manages to skillfully manipulate him, hinting at Renly’s interest in men and lying about their night together. In the end, Margaery plays to his weaknesses, tapping into his endless appetite for cruelty, and clearly has him wrapped around her finger.
Elsewhere in the Riverlands, Arya and her companions, Hot Pie and Gendry, wander freely now that they have escaped Harrenhal. While seeking out the way to Riverrun, they come upon Thoros of Myr and the Brotherhood without Banners who take them into their company. Over food and ale, they see the Hound brought in shackled, and Arya tries to sneak out unseen. However, the Clegane recognizes her and identifies her as Stark’s daughter.
In between all of this, we see Theon being tortured in an unidentified dungeon, which includes his finger being flayed and his foot being mangled by a screw. His tormenters are unknown to him, and he is asked only one question. “Why did you take Winterfell?” He finally answers truthfully, and is left alone for the night. A young man comes to him and claims he was sent by his sister and will free him in the night.
Overall, this episode was not bad. In fact, they did a few things here which I thought were pretty interesting, which included using material taken from the latest book (A Dance with Dragons) to fill in some areas that were not mentioned in the third book, but which happened during the course of it and were not covered. This includes what became of Theon after he was betrayed at Winterfell, though it was by the Bastard of Bolton, and not his own men.
However, that small technicality they seem to have glossed over quite well by simply saying the Northmen torched the city before the Bolton’s army arrived. The rest is true to the text, Theon being taken captive and tortured mercilessly as part of Ramsay Bolton’s predilection for cruelty and villainous schemes. And, having read the fifth book, I know what lies in store for Theon, and I pity the poor bastard! I approve of the way they are parceling it out though, not revealing just yet who his tormenter is or what he has planned…
Other changes which I didn’t like much included Robb’s return to Riverrun. Here, the show is once again working with changes that were forced on it by previous changes. Robb did not take his mother or Jaime Lannister with him as he fought his way to Casterly Rock. They were left behind in Riverrun, hence he did not see him until he returned for his grandfather’s funeral and to confront his mother about her treason (letting Jaime go). And it was for this reason that she didn’t meet his new bride until he came back.
Which reminds me, Robb’s return to Riverrun had little to do with his grandfather’s death. It had more to do with his mother letting Jaime go and his uncle, Lord Emdure Tully, deviating from the orders he had left him with. While Robb was campaigning in the west, Edmure chose to engage the Lannister forces in the Riverlands, forcing them to attempt to ford the rivers and causing them many losses, which included wounding Ser Sandor Clegane (“The Mountain”).
While this seemed like a good idea to Edmure, it had the effect of making Tywin refocus his troops to defend the south and not pursue Robb’s forces as they neared Casterly Rock. This deprived Robb of a chance to commit an outflanking maneuver and deal Tywin and his forces another stinging defeat. Because of this, Robb was not only facing troubles for breaking his betrothal to the Frey daughter and the loss of his hostage, but also because he was no longer in a dominant tactical position.
In addition, Bran’s introduction to the Reeds was quite different than it was in the book. There, the Reeds had come to Winterfell to pay homage to the King and meet Bran. They did not come to him in the wilderness. But since they were not introduced last season, it was necessitated that they be dropped in at this point in season three.
All of these represent changes that are now being forced on the show because they chose to omit or alter things last season, most likely due to budgets. I get it, but it still can be annoying, since they do seem to have a cumulative effect. However, in just about everything else, they managed to get things right. Aside from the fact the Ser Thoros was supposed to be missing part of his face, due to his earlier death and resurrection, the storylines appear to be faithful.
All I can say is that I wish the episode got into things a little bit more. Much like the first episode, this one felt kind of whirlwind-esque, with plenty of nuggets being left for later. But of course, that seems necessary since the story is branching out, with three main threads turning into half a dozen or so. Since they feel obliged to show how all characters are faring at this point, it only seems logical and natural that they parcel things out and try to cover all their bases.
Needless to say, I am looking forward to the reveals and I believe others should be too. If you haven’t read the books yet, you’re in the perfect position to witness some rather big surprises, and I envy you that. As for the Thrones geeks out there, you know what’s coming and I’m pretty sure you’re anticipating it as much as I am. So stay tuned. Things get pretty interesting from here on in, and pretty bloody!