Game of Thrones is juggling a lot of stories, as it always has, but this year it feels different because for the first time I think that viewers are really clearly feeling the stakes. We know the major characters, we know the major trajectory. There are zombies to the north and dragons to the east, and a lot of political intrigue in between. What’s been nice about this season too is that we’ve gotten lots of great character moments, even in the midst of so many stories. The storytelling has often been fractured though, but what “Second Sons” did a great job with was actually giving us time to pause and really embrace the plots and characters this week — no Jon, no Robb, no Bran, no Jaime and Brienne and no Theon meant lots of time to spend with the others, especially because so many of them for once shared the same screen. Hit the jump for more on why your brother is now your father-in-law (it is known).
Game of Thrones has always been about trust, and this week saw the featured characters changing alliances to stay alive. Most of them also happened to be exceptionally unpalatable to those in them. Arya spent the last two seasons cursing the Hound’s name, and now rides with him to preserve her own life. The only thing she hates more than the Hound is being away from her family, and he has promised to take her to the Twins to meet up with her mother and brother and protect her while doing so, in the name of gold. Here, Arya makes the choice to put aside the past and allow the Hound lead her where she needs to go.
Dany has vowed to destroy Yunkai if the slaves are not freed, and considers being in cahoots with a vile man, Mero, the “Titan’s Bastard” and captain of the Second Sons, to achieve it. The scene was a more drawn out one than Arya’s, but what we got out of it was similar: I will bite back my disgust with you for now to get what I need, but once I do, all bets are off. Dany tells Barristan to kill Mero first when battle breaks out, just like Arya tells the Hound (next week) that she will put a sword through his eye.
Dany’s desire to see Mero wiped off the face of the Earth happened sooner than she could have imagined, when the handsome and cocksure Daario does the deed for his own means. Dany seems willing to trust him, because what choice does she have? But his motivations are shallow, and he’s willing to kill his captains over a disagreement … not good signs. But she’s blinded by her desire for power, much like her brother.
“Second Sons” was also a particularly talky episode, something that can sometimes make the show drag (in the past I’ve praised it particularly for when it literally “shows” and doesn’t tell), but in this case, the series handled it pretty well. The verbal sparring and quips from Dany, Tyrion, even Tywin laying down the law were great moments that enriched the characters in ways that we haven’t gotten a lot of in prior weeks, when there are 10 stories told within the hour, and everyone gets one or two lines.
The only scene where this failed was with Melisandre, Gendry and the leeches. Gendry, if you had any idea what Theon or pretty much anyone else in Westeros was going through right now in terms of torture, you would welcome those leeches (except maybe the one on your dingaling). Dragonstone has largely been a drag, save for Davos learning to read (one of the best small moments of the season so far), with Mel rarely having a monologue without it becoming sexposition. In fact, this episode almost single-handedly made up for the lack of nudity, particularly female, in the last few weeks.
The main thrust of the episode though came with the wedding of Tyrion and Sansa, every moment of which was brilliant and excruciating. Though we didn’t get anything particularly new from it (Joffery is still a heinous little shit, Tywin is a badass enforcer, Sansa is powerless, Tyrion is a gentleman when it comes down to it, Cersei is miserable and the Tyrells are cautiously jovial), the way it played out was great. Most of the characters have had side conversations together throughout the season, whispering in hallways and in gardens, planning and scheming. But for once they all came together and shared a screen for the union of two of the purest souls among them. Neither Sansa nor Tyrion desire the alliance and union, but in the end it’s truly not a bad match.
Finally: The Game of Thrones series has kept the White Walkers in the forefront much more so than the book, and jiggled the timeline with Sam and the dragon glass, though it had great effect here. When all is said and done, the happenings in King’s Landing and the magic potions on Dragonstone seem petty and small compared to what lies beyond the wall. And Winter is Coming.
Episode Rating: B+
Musings and Miscellanea:
— I liked this episode, but some of the talky scenes dragged, particularly among the Second Sons and at Dragonstone.
— Though Sansa doesn’t know Tyrion as we do, I like that she made an effort. Tyrion, too. Even Shae was happy in the end. So clearly something bad is about to happen.
— Such a sad wedding full of miserable people.
— Another thing I really liked about the short Arya and Hound scene is an illustration of how slow news travels in Westeros. Arya had no idea that Edmure was going to the Twins because her brother was married, etc.
— Ahh, the Rains of Castermere … watch out, Tyrells. Tywin Lannister is not easily bested.
— Also watch out, Robb, Balon and Joff. The Red Lady has put a blood curse on you …
— The Queen of Thorns explaining the new family tree after the upcoming weddings was hilarious. That’s the first time I’ve seen Margaery look genuinely pissed.
— I loved the baby naming scene just for Sam’s face when she said “Craster.” But the crows were terrifying.
— If you want to chat Thrones or any TV, you can find me @keeneTV on Twitter.
— Programming Note: No Thrones next week, HBO will be airing the Liberace movie.