After a solid season premiere which detailed the numerous plot lines that will be unfolding throughout season 2 of Game of Thrones, the show is back with a second episode that delves deeper into these conflicts, while offering some insights and foreshadowing of what is to come.
The show starts where the first episode ended, with Arya traversing the Kingsroad with Yoren and the rest of the caravan headed to the Wall in the North. Trying to play the role of a common boy to keep her identity a secret, she attempts to carry on in a way that shadows her true self. While doing chores, she has the pleasure to meet some of the less savoury characters she is traveling with.
One of these characters is Jagen H’ghar, who begins talking to her from his seat in a caged prison wagon. He is a mysterious, yet well spoken gentleman who does not fit in very well with his two companions, Rorge and Biter. Although not much of relevance is said, it is quite obvious that this man from Lorath may become an integral part of Arya’s future.
After her brief encounter with the convicts, the caravan receives a visit from the Gold Cloaks with a royal search order. At first Arya believes that they are looking for her, but is soon surprised to find out that they are in fact attempting to seek out Gendry. The dark haired blacksmith’s apprentice, who is uncertain of his true identity, has already been noted as Robert Baratheon’s bastard by many, including the two previous Hands of the King, Lord Jon Arryn and Lord Eddard Stark. Another one who knows the truth, Yoren, understands the implications of this request and buys them extra time with some very effective intimidation tactics, sending the Gold Cloaks on their way. Although temporarily stymied, the Cloaks make sure Yoren knows they will be back, and with more men.
Our first scene with the new Hand of the King, Tyrion Lannister, begins with him being immediately put in a predicament. Varys has somehow found his way into Shae’s room without Tyrion’s knowledge. Considering his companion, is supposed to be a secret, this seemingly minor issue has the potential to develop into a major problem if word gets out. He attempts to convey this fact in his plea to Varys, with little success, and finally realizes that the eunuch Varys has proven to be an extremely important information source and possibly, an ally.
After this awkward and eye opening exchange, both make their way to the meeting of the Small Council, where they are finally able to speak with their cousin Alton Lannister, who has just made it back to Kings Landing. He brings with him Robb Stark’s terms of peace, to the chagrin of Cersei, who immediately rips up the document and shows her unwillingness to bargain with their enemies.
Along with this lack of interest in diplomatic means of resolving the conflict, the Small Council also learns that Castle Black is in dire need of more men to protect the Wall because “the cold winds are rising and the dead rise with them.” They completely disregard the plea with the thought that this is only superstition and that they are already strained for men due to the ongoing war for the throne. It is only Tyrion, who has first-hand knowledge of the danger to the North, who is concerned with this. But, as usual, his argument is dismissed.
Back in the North we see the Night’s Watch on their quest to move farther north to find Benjen Stark. They are still stuck at Craster’s Keep, taking respite from what has already been a difficult trek. During this time we see how much Ghost has grown and how awesome he looks, with the direwolf scaring one of Craster’s daughter-wives. Samwell Tarly steps in and gets Ghost to leave the young girl alone. Thankful for the aid, she tells Sam that he is very brave, which is probably music to the coward’s ears. Because of the compliment, Sam feels obligated to help her even brings her to Jon.
The girl’s name is Gilly and she is pregnant. She’s worried that Craster will kill her baby if it is a boy and she says she wants to flee from this place with the Night’s Watch. Jon is not having any of this and refuses to let her tag along, for many reasons. But being of the honorable Stark blood, it is obvious that he may change his mind after a bit more thought on the matter.
From frozen lands to barren deserts, we get our first scene with Daneryus Targaryen and see that her and her Khalasar are wasting away in the aptly named Red Waste. They are waiting for word on if they are near some type of civilization that will provide respite from the brutal conditions that are slowly killing them. Unfortunately, all they get back for the time being is Rakharo’s (one of Dany’s three blood riders) head in a sack on the side of his rider-less horse. Jorah Mormont’s theory on this act of violence is that it was another Khal who does not want a women leading the khalasar. This only complicates what is already a dire situation for the dragon born.
Back in the northwest, we see that Theon Greyjoy, sent by Robb to rally his family to the North’s cause, is finally about to dock in the Iron Islands where his home castle of Pyke is located. With a confidence that he will be accepted back into the family without any issue, Theon is acting much more brazenly than normal, foreshadowing an eventual clash of culture and mindset with his sea-hardened and warrior-like family.
Transitioning back to Kings Landing, Lord Baelish is making sure his brothel is running at top efficiency. There’s a problem though with Rose who cannot perform her “duites” because of her still fresh emotions from seeing the killing of an infant by the hands of Janos Slynt the day earlier. Although she does not know that this child was Robert’s bastard, Littlefinger begins by comforting her and then turns the conversation around and gives her a classic pimp-like dressing down for not getting him his money. Just like everything that Littlefinger does, this has a duplicitous meaning that concerns both his love for coin and to keep any rumors from spreading about what took place.
A few miles away, in the Tower of the Hand, Tryion is having a nice dinner with Janos Slynt. This cordial affair quickly devolves when Tyrion accuses the former commoner of lacking any honor, and rightfully so. For slaughtering Ned Stark’s guards and then killing the baby that Rose was crying over earlier, he is forced by Tryion and the new commander of the City Watch, Bronn, to take a ship to Eastwatch where he must then walk to Castle Black and join the Night’s Watch.
The show then jumps to Kingsroad, where Arya becomes very inquisitive with Gendry about why the Gold Cloaks were looking for him. He answers all the questions honestly, but it leads to little information other than the fact that the two previous Hands visited him only weeks prior to their deaths. Gendry is able to flip the table on Arya though, and gets her to admit she is both a girl (which was obvious to Gendry beforehand), and then more profoundly, that she is in fact a Lady of House Stark, which completely surprises the bastard son of Robert Baratheon.
Elsewhere, Theon Greyjoy makes his grand return by being nearly completely ignored. He eventually comes across a mysterious and strapping young woman who escorts him to Pyke to see his father, during which time Theon does not fail to show that he is very interested in his guide.
Upon entering his father, Balon Greyjoy’s room, Theon immediately finds out that his father does not care that he is his son, but rather that he is concerned that Theon has become a Stark during his nine year absence. After giving him Robb’s plan, Balon is angry and believes that Theon is now just an errand boy. Although Theon takes issue with this, his father’s demeanor keeps him from effectively voicing his loyalty to the Iron Islands. His father does not agree with the terms and is not interested in being the “King of the Iron Islands.” He says that no man gives him a crown, he will take his crown. At this moment Theon’s guide enters and to his surprise, identifies herself as Yara, his sister.
To add insult to injury, Balon also lets Theon know that it will be Yara, and not him, that will command the Iron Island fleet in the imminent action they are about to take. As Balon leaves, Theon tells Balon that he cannot defeat the Lannisters. Balon retorts with “no one said anything about the Lannisters,” opening up the possibility for a surprise attack on someone else.
Meanwhile, Davos and his son Matthos are trying to get others involved in Stannis’ claim to the throne by attempting to recruit the famous pirate, Salladhor Saan on the beach of Dragonstone. Promising gold, women and reputation, Davos successfully convinces Salladhor to add his powerful fleet of boats to the cause of Stannis.
Back at Kings Landing, Tyrion confronts Cersei about killing the bastards of Robert and quickly figures out, through some extremely unkind words, that she will do anything for the power that comes with the Iron Throne, and that nobody, including Tyrion can stop her.
Going right back to Dragonstone, we see Stannis and his captains strategizing about their first move. This session is derailed by Melisandre, the Red Witch, who convinces Stannis to have everyone leave so they can talk privately. During this conversation, she tells him that he must give all of himself to the Lord of Light to win the claim to the Iron Throne. She starts convincing him that his wife Selyse is sickly, weak and shut away in a tower. She says that Selyse has given Stannis no sons, only stillborns and death, and that it is only Melisandre who can give him a son. With the honey in his ear, Stannis gives in and consummates his relationship with this dangerous advisor.
The episode ends in the North, with Jon Snow waking up to see Craster himself carry a baby out to the woods in the middle of the night. Following him, Jon sees Craster leave the baby in the middle of the forest and walk back to the Keep. Immediately after, a blue eyed figure (presumably a White Walker) comes into sight and takes the baby away. Suddenly, Jon looks up to see Craster starring directly at him before knocking Snow out with a club.
Just like last week, there was a ton of material to get through in order to better explain the complex storylines. I have noticed a similar start to this season as last season, with the first few episodes’ main goal being to set the stage for the real action that will inevitably occur in the latter stages of the season.
For those who read the books, it is an impressive accomplishment presenting such an epic saga in television form and having a few episodes used as builders is expected and very much necessary. That being said, I can’t wait until the season breaks out of its current method of transitioning between storylines in a systematic manner and attempting to get all the basic facts out of the way. I’m looking forward to the real meat and potatoes of this season, which is yet to come.
All in all, the excellent production quality, top-notch acting, beautiful locales and profound dialogue continue to make this, by far, one of the best programs on television. Let’s just hope we can move away from the “generalist” attitude of the first two episodes and get into the specifics of the many mental and physical battles being waged in the second offering of George R.R. Martin‘s masterpiece, A Clash of Kings.
Be sure to check back next week for our next Game of Thrones recap.