Monday, April 1, 2013

Game of Thrones: The Truth Is Either Terrible or Boring

Posted By on Mon, Apr 1, 2013 at 9:30 AM

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So, here in Brooklyn, winter came. It was long and cold and, therefore, kind of great. And now winter seems to have left. But who cares about Brooklyn? Brooklyn doesn't have phosphorescent green wildfire. Brooklyn doesn't have armies of castrated men who don't even flinch when their nipples are cut off. Brooklyn doesn't have dragons. No, those things are only in the world of Game of Thrones. And so finally, FINALLY, the best kind of winter has come again. And this winter is so much better than real winter because this winter has dragons. Oh, did I mention dragons already? Yes? Well, I will be mentioning them again and again because dragons are everything, including the best thing about this episode because, as happens with many season premieres, our first trip back to the Seven Kingdoms was heavy on plot exposition and light on action. By action, I mean sex and violence. Sex and violence were surprisingly lacking, but there's time for all that. Oh, there's time.

So where did we leave off at the end of Season 2? Well, we left off all over the place. There were White Walkers and warlocks and direwolves and wildling women like Ygritte who said, "You know nothing, Jon Snow." (Only she said it more like, "Yeh knah nuthin', Jon Snuh", and it was incredible.) Let's not retrace our steps. Let's move forward, like the intrepid viewers that we are. Forward like the ravens that Samwell Tarly sent from behind the Wall to warn the people of Westeros that the Others were on the move. Oh, wait. Samwell didn't send the ravens? Oh, shit.

That's how we open anyway. On Samwell Tarly in the cold, dark, swirling white wasteland of the land behind the Wall. All Sam's friends are dead. Very, very dead. And Sam is almost killed by a zombified Wight before he is saved by a combination of Ghost, Jon Snow's direwolf, and fire. The fire is wielded by Ser Jeor Mormont, Lord Commander of the Night's Watch, who doesn't look too excited to see Sam.

Mormont asks him, "Did you send the ravens? Tarly, look at me. Did you send the ravens?

Samwell shakes his head. He did not send those ravens.

"That was your job, your only job."

Everyone's pretty disgusted with Sam, which is unfair but understandable. They're all headed back to the Wall now though because, Mormont acknowledges, "We have to warn them or, before winter's done, everyone you've ever known will be dead." Ominous!

And, scene. The credits roll and it's a map of the known world and some things are the same but some things are different. Because, oh, no! Winterfell is smoking and smoldering. This is because it was totally destroyed last season. So it's old news, but it's still sad. We also see some new places with names like "The Shivering Sea" and "The Gulf of Grief" and "Slaver's Bay." George R.R. Martin really seems to have fun with names.

So first we check in with Jon Snow who has made it to the Wildling camp, where he is being brought before Mance Rayder, the "King Beyond the Wall." Also, in the wildling camp, are giants. Or there is a giant. He is big. Jon Snow stares, which is just what I'd do too. Ygritte scoffs at him because she is hilarious and amazing. "First time you've seen a giant, Jon Snow?" She warns him not to stare at them too long, lest he make them angry, and get "pounded straight into the ground like a hammer to a nail." I would watch that.

But so, Jon is brought before Mance Rayder and Tormund Giantsbane and is asked to defend his choice to abandon the Night's Watch. At first Jon tells them that he just "wants to be free" but, seriously, that's the stupidest thing they've ever heard, and they're like, No, really, why are you here? Jon decides to tell them that he was upset about old incestuous Craster who fed his baby sons to the White Walkers and had a deal with the Lord Commander. Jon was offended by this, on an ethical level. That is enough for Mance Rayder, who is maybe a man of ethics? Unclear at this point, although he is played by Ciaran Hinds, who has a great big head and I just like him.

The three amigos.
  • The three amigos.

And we get our first (and only) sex scene of the episode! And it involves Bronn and a professional sex worker who is topless but has left her bottom on because, as she asks Bronn, "Don't you want to leave something to the imagination?" No! Bronn doesn't. And neither do we. That's why we're watching this show. However, just at that moment, Podrick Payne (Tyrion's squire who saved his life during the Battle of Blackwater) comes in to fetch Bronn because, Pod says, Tyrion told him it was "a matter of life and death." Which sounds serious.

And so we see Tyrion, inspecting his ravaged face in a mirror. It's not so bad, really. It was worse in the book. Peter Dinklage still looks great, especially if you are the kind of person who thinks that a well-placed scar holds a certain appeal, which, I am exactly that kind of person. There's a knock at the door but instead of Bronn coming to Tyrion's chambers, it's Cersei. She is afraid that Tyrion is going to "slander" her and that piece of shit Joffrey to their father. Tyrion tells her, "It's not slander if it's true."

Cersei bites back, "You're a clever man but you're still not half as clever as you think you are."

"Hm," says Tyrion, "Still makes me more clever than you."

Which, come ON you two, just fuck already. That's what all this clever banter is about, right? They want to sleep with each other? I mean, they are Lannisters.

Anyway. Cersei leaves. Bronn and Pod arrive and talk to Tyrion while walking the ramparts. Basically, Tyrion needs Bronn in his corner and Bronn reminds Tyrion that he is a sell-sword. He likes Tyrion but he likes money more. I don't know how this was "a matter of life and death" but who cares. Tyrion is always great to see.

Not so great to see? The face of Ser Davos Seaworth, the Onion Knight. He does not look well. In fact, his skin looks rather like an onion's, a very moldy onion that is losing its peel. Ser Davos is stranded on a rock, and presumably fated for an ugly death, until he spots a ship which he successfully flags down.

Now here's where it gets tricky. Whose ship is it? He'll either be killed on the spot or helped. Luckily, these guys like humorless old Stannis, so when Ser Davos starts talking about how Stannis is the one true king, they let the Onion Knight climb aboard. And it turns out the ship belongs to Ser Davos's old pirate friend, Salladhor Saan. What luck! Also lucky? Salladhor helps with a little exposition. It turns out that Stannis went to his home, Dragonstone, and that he and the "Red Woman", Melisandre, have been burning lots of men alive. Because those men were servants of darkness. And Melisandre worships the Lord of Light. So that all makes sense. Ser Davos convinces Salladhor to take him there so that he can kill Melisandre. Salladhor is no fool and knows this is bound to be futile and tells Ser Davos, "When you're dead I'll gather your bones in a little sack and let your widow wear them around her neck." Because that's what friends are for.

And so here we are at Harrenhal. Robb Stark has arrived with his army and they are all hoping to find Lannisters to fight, but instead? They find lots of dead bodies. The blood dripping from the bodies is still fresh. That's why it drips instead of, like, congealing. Gross. Everyone is appropriately horrified. They want revenge! Especially against the Kingslayer, Jaime Lannister, who Catelyn Stark set free. Robb Stark is keeping his mother as a "prisoner" but it doesn't look like it will be enough to appease his men. But, oh, look! Someone's alive! Among all those dead men at Harrenhal, one little old man survived. His name is Qyburn. Will he be important? Of course he will be! You don't get a name if you're not going to be important.

I want one.
  • I want one.

So, now here we are with Tyrion and Tywin Lannister for a little father/son bonding. Or, you know, not. The best thing I can say about Tywin in this scene is that it turns out that he has lovely handwriting. It all goes downhill from there. (And who exactly was he writing to? I need to know.) Anyway, Tyrion makes small talk, or tries to. He really just seems to want his father's praise, but, well, has he ever met his father? It doesn't seem like he has. Despite all of Tyrion's accomplishments, Tywin just says to him, "You spent your days as you always have, bedding harlots and drinking with thieves." Ouch.

"Occasionally I drank with the harlots," says Tyrion, but it's got no edge. When Tyrion loses his edge, it's bad.

"What do you want, Tyrion?" Tywin asks.

"Why does everyone assume I want something?"

Because you do! We all do. And what Tyrion wants is the family seat, Casterly Rock. Unfortunately, his father would rather be "consumed by maggots" than let that happen. So, Tywin hurls a few more insults at Tyrion, calling him, "an ill-made spiteful little creature full of envy, lust and low cunning" and telling Tyrion to "Get. Out. Now." For good measure, he also says that he will hang any whore that he finds in Tyrion's bed, so maybe things aren't looking so good for Shae.

Oh! And look who it is! It's Shae and Sansa and they are looking at boats in the harbor and Sansa wants to play a game where they concoct fantastical stories about where the ships are headed but Shae is not really into using her imagination and asks, "Why should I make up a story when I already know the truth?"

"Because the truth is either terrible or boring." Smart girl, Sansa!

Anyway, who should approach but Littlefinger. He is terrible and snake-like as always and lies to Sansa that he saw Arya. He further tempts Sansa with the offer of escaping with him. And we'll see where this goes. I don't like it. You know who else doesn't like it? Ros. Wonderful, wonderful Ros. She works for Littlefinger now and warns Shae, "Watch out for Sansa. Watch out for her with him."

Ser Davos arrives at Drangonstone to see Stannis and the Lady Melisandre. Predictably, Davos is blamed for the loss at Blackwater because he prevented Melisandre from joining them when they went to fight. He is thrown in the dungeons. Perhaps Salladhor better find a sack to collect all of Davos's bones. They will be all burnt up, so it needn't be too big of a sack.

And what about that little shit Joffrey? Can we forget that he exists? Sadly, no. He is busy being a little shit, but his betrothed, Margaery Tyrell is up to some interesting things. While Joffrey is carted through the dirty streets of Fleabottom, Margaery walks freely, smiling beneficently on those around her. She visits and talks with orphans. Everyone loves her. She gives out food. Joffrey is intrigued and this manifests itself later at a dinner between that little shit Joffrey, Margaery, her brother Ser Loras, and Cersei. Margaery plays the saint while Cersei seems more and more like an ogre. And she seems to be losing control of Joffrey because he has become invested in Margaery, who will soon be queen. You can basically see Cersei sweat through her armored dress.

And now, finally. Dragons! They swoop and fly over the boat that carries Daenerys Targaryen, Ser Jorah Mormont, and dozens of seasick Dothraki. The dragons are a fucking delight as they catch fish and then burn them alive before eating them whole. No sushi for them! Dany is about to dock in Astapor, a slave city, where Ser Jorah wants her to buy an army of "Unsullied" so that she can fight for Westeros. The Unsullied are castrated slaves who are reputed to be the best warriors there are, but Dany doesn't want to be in the slave-trading game and wonders how good any purchased army can be.

Her wariness seems justified when the slaver who is trying to sell her the army repeatedly calls her a whore in High Valyrian, while having his translator simultaneously flatter Dany. What a dick. For calling her a whore, sure, but also because he reveals what it takes to become an Unsullied man. In order to "earn his shield" each man must go to the slave market and murder a baby in front of its mother, and then pay the slave-owner a silver coin for the loss of the baby. And also, to prove how tough the Unsullied are, he cuts off one guy's nipple! That has to fucking sting. As you can imagine, Daenerys is not too sure she wants to be a part of this. But Ser Jorah tries to convince her that it's the only way and that the Unsullied will still be there even if she doesn't buy them, and maybe they will one day fight against her. Dany doesn't seem to want to think about this and instead starts aimlessly following a cute little girl who is playing with a ball.

Unfortunately, that girl turns out to be a creepy warlock who tries to kill Dany with a hideous scorpion hidden inside the ball. Children are the worst. How does Dany survive? She survives thanks to the help of a hooded stranger who reveals himself to be none other than Ser Barristan Selmy, formerly of the Kingsguard. Ser Jorah looks skeptical that Ser Barristan, who had until recently served King Robert and King Joffrey, is truly loyal, but Ser Barristan swears that he is. And I guess we'll find that out soon enough because the credits start rolling and it feels like we've only just begun. Where's Jamie? Where's Arya? And Brienne? There's so much to cover!

And who were the winners and losers of this week's episode?

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Winners

House Tyrell: We don't know too much about them yet, but Margaery and Loras sure have managed to ride a wave of good fortune. Not too long before, they were shacked up with Renly Baratheon, but after his death, they managed to wind up in the seat of power. There's a lot to admire there. Even if they play sweet and innocent, this family is dangerous.

House Targaryen: Although not fully grown yet, those dragons are getting stronger by the day. Plus, Daenerys might feel guilty about buying slaves, but at least she's finally making progress in building an army. And dragons. Dragons win everything. They just do.

Losers

House Lannister: Yes, they're still in power. But a lot of their power depends on their alliance with the Tyrells, who provide food for the kingdom. Also, Cersei recognizes the threat that Margaery poses and when Cersei is threatened, she acts irrationally. Plus, Tywin is too busy hating and alienating Tyrion to realize what an asset his son is. This does not bode well for anyone. And Joffrey is a Lannister, and he is a little piece of shit.

House Stark: Sure, Robb is winning battles, but he also has dissension in his ranks and his prize prisoner is no longer Jaime Lannister, but is instead his own mother. Sansa is still being held captive in King's Landing and has now caught the eye of Littlefinger, so that can't end well. And Arya? WHERE IS ARYA? We want Arya.

Follow Kristin Iversen on twitter @kmiversen

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