Episode 8 of HBO’s hit series Game of Thrones, based on the novels by George R.R. Martin, is, in my opinion, one of the best written hours of the series thus far. Written by series creators D.B. Weiss and David Benioff, I felt like this may not have been the show I wanted but it was definitely the one we needed. Legendary TV director Alan Taylor returns to helm ‘The Prince of Winterfell’ and, I’ve got to say, it’s near perfect.
The episode opens with Theon Greyjoys most recent actions (killing Bran and Rickdon Stark) being called into question by his newly arrived sister. She continues to berate him and is concerned the iron in his blood is less commanding as hers. Since taking over Winterfell, Theon has struggled with each and every decision he has made, which, in my opinion, is the only redeeming quality I can find with him at this moment. He betrayed the Starks and his continual objective to impress his sister, and their father, has led him down a hole he may need help getting out of. Lucky and unluckily for him, his sister has come to relieve him.
Last weeks episode ended on a cliff hanger with Jon Snow and we now see that the tables have turned on him. He is now a captive of a group of wildlings who seek to bring him to their king Mance Rayder, a former member of the Nights Watch. A fellow crow prisoner reveals to Jon that Mance plans to attack The Wall and that the entire team of Rangers had been lost. I’m starting to really see how the wildlings view the people of Westero’s. Last week, Jon snow tried to make Ygritte understand that his line of ancestors were now different than hers and it all seemed a little strange that their people where fighting at all. I feel like, if Snow survives his ordeal, he may be the key to saving his home, Winterfell, from Rayders advancements.
Rob Stark has a lot going on in this episode…finally. As he continues to fight against the Lannisters, he is battling a serious crush on Talisa (he is betrothed to another, except he’s not sure who) and is dealing with The Kingslayer and the affect he is having on his men. If you recall from last week, Jamie’s attempted escape left two of Rob’s men dead, leaving several men wanting immediate justice. However, Rob, being level-headed and Ned-like, has the unique task of keeping alive a man that he wishes he could kill himself all the while keeping the peace in his own camp. He understands how the game is played. His mother, on the other hand, does not…sort of. This week Jamie escapes again but this time it is at the offering hands of a still grieving and weak Catelyn Stark. She knows how badly the Lannisters at Kings Landing want Jamie back and she has been told, by the always trustworthy Petr Baelish, that in return for The Kingslayer, Ned’s widow could have her daughters Sansa and Arya back. Neither of them are Petr’s to trade and one of them is not even in the capital city. Rob takes his mothers actions as an act of treason against him and immediately arrests her and sets men off to find Jamie and bring him back. This particular scene is exquisitely staged, acted and written.
Rob makes a believer in me in a big way this episode. His first interaction with Talisa sealed the deal for me and the second interaction, for him. When Talisa asks about his goals for the war Rob responds humbly and honorably by saying;
“Do you think I’m fighting this war so they’ll sing songs about me? I want to go home. I want the men following me to go home”
Yet, in the same breath he states that none of that happens unless the Lannisters are brought to justice and a good start would be Joffrey’s head. King of the North indeed!! Later on in the episode both Talisa and Rob confess their feelings for each other and for the first time in the series, I felt that the consummation on screen was warranted, romantic and beautiful.
We spend another good moment with Tywin and Arya. Man, I could watch these moments in hour long blocks if they made them. Tywin and his men are literally spilling information into Arya’s little ears about the impeding war and the scrappy little thing is listening and learning, but has no ability to act. Luckily, she has Jaqen, and his debt to her is about to be complete. When Arya learns that Tywin plans to march that very evening, she names him as Jaqens final target. Unfortunately, Jaqen deems this as ill-timed, making Arya anxious and pissed. I really like her hotheadedness in this scene particularly when she says Jaqen might as well kill himself as he is useless to her. He comes through for her in the end.
Another pair I love seeing interact with each other is Tyrion and Bronn. We find them attempting to study past wars in order to keep Kings Landing from falling to Stannis and his approaching fleet. Bronn doesn’t agree with Tyrions educated methods and believes that the books would only be of use if they threw them at the enemy. Tyrion really seems like he’s being backed up against the wall this episode. He is usually so in control of his own destiny, but without an army or a worthy King for them to fight for, Tyrion is certain Kings Landing will fall. While that’s happening, he is also being accused, by his sister Cersei, of attempting to overthrow Joffrey during the siege. Vicious Cersei follows through on a threat made to Tyrion several episodes back about hurting someone he loved. Cersei reveals that she has taken Shae captive in return for Joffreys future safety. When Tyrion presses her further it is revealed that Cersei has captured Ros and not Shae. Keeping that bit of information to himself, Tyrion threatens his sister and promises to save Ros. Tyrion is visibly shaken by the thought of Shae being hurt in anyway and the bit of vulnerability we see is a really welcome sign. He continues to be the comic relief with subtle and honest humor. I also love seeing Cersei overconfident and ill-informed.
We spend a small amount of time with Dany as she contemplates her future and the fate of her stolen Dragons. Does she leave Qarth or does she venture into the Land of the Undying where the warlock Pyat Pee has been keeping them? Jorah Mormont urges her to leave the city but he reluctantly obeys her commands and promises to take her to the Land of the Undying. As someone who didn’t read the books, I am very much looking forward to what these lands have in store for the viewers. Last weeks crazy ass moment with Pyat Pee and his clones has me on pins and needles. Here’s what I’m hoping for but I’m sure I won’t get. Somehow this Undead land defies time and when Dany is reunited with her children they will be full grown and read to reign down blood and fire. I just can’t stand the idea that we won’t get to see any real dragon action till season 4 or 5. I want Targaryen vengeance and I want it now!
The episode ends with Stannis and his fleet sailing towards Kings Landing. No Red Priestess, or her shadow assassin, in this episode, which is a bummer. However, we get another great scene in which Davos and Stannis discuss their history together. We learn about The Onion Knight’s origins and that Stannis promises him the role of The Hand of the King if their siege is successful. This is a big deal as he would be the only non-royalty or high-born person to hold that position.
Like I said at the beginning, I was sort of hoping for some pre-war action in this episode but I’m really happy with what I saw and I think it might be the strongest one this season. The pieces are moving into place and this feels like the calm before the storm. Next weeks episode promises to be epic with action set pieces blood thirsty fans have been waiting for. I cannot believe Season 2 is almost over but I’m glad we are ending on a strong note.