Monday, May 7, 2012

HBO Game of Thrones Recap: The Old Gods and the New

Ok. At the close of last week's episode we saw (but I did not explicitly point out) the germination of a nasty little idea in Theon Greyjoy's head. Upset by the disdain of his men and his relatives, Theon decided to grab the gold ring. The Greyjoys do a feint attack at Torrhen's Square, then while the minimal Stark forces ride off to assist, Theon takes Winterfell, which by this point is virtually undefended. Bran does not wish to yield but Theon helpfully points out that if Bran wants to see his people unharmed, he'll do the right thing. Osha asks to serve Theon as a fighter but he declines. And my goodness but Osha (Natalia Tena) has some large expressive eyes.  Rodrik Cassel has figured out the diversion and fought his way back to protect his liege lords but he is captured. Cassel spits in Theon's face. Theon is urged by his men to kill the unbowed and unbroken Rodrik, which he does in front of the castle populace. Bran's dreams of the sea coming to Winterfell have come true. Remember that there were almost no fighting men in Winterfell. Theon's betrayal is both tragic and cowardly. Theon is obsessed with what he sees as the trappings of honor. He wants everyone to call him Lord or Prince. He swaggers around as if he's won a great battle. As Cassel and Bran ask Theon, did he really hate the Starks that much? Theon is like-"Forget you , I was a hostage".* We get the feeling in the aftershock of Cassel's murder that Theon has crossed over some critical moral lines.


We go to the North where Qhorin Halfhand tells Jon Snow that although Jon may die, his real job is to stay alive to protect those south of the Wall. This location (Iceland) is just so beautiful. We also see Ghost, Jon's direwolf, who is much larger than season 1.  
The Night Watch detachment sneaks up on the wildling scouts (apparently this is testament to Halfhand's skills, since he spends a lot of time talking about how much the wildlings know about the wilderness) and kill them all. All except one that is. It's a redheaded young girl named Ygritte and Jon Snow can not harm a female. Qhorin has no such scruples, especially after Ygritte admits that were the situation reversed Qhorin would likely be tortured AND killed. But Jon says he will kill Ygritte. Qhorin and the other rangers tell Jon to catch up later. Ygritte tries to escape but Jon captures her. He can't kill her.


In King's Landing the royal party has come to see Princess Myrcella off to Dorne as part of Tyrion's plan for her safety and betrothal. Cersei is not at all happy about this and ominously and quietly tells Tyrion that she really hopes he finds love one day so that she can take it from him. For once Tyrion decides to keep his mouth shut. It's a wise decision. Don't laugh at live lionesses, I always say. Joffrey makes fun of his brother for crying and is challenged on this by Sansa. He is about to have her beaten I suppose-out of Cersei's sight perhaps? As the party is walking back through the city jeers and catcalls and insults about the incest rain down on Joffrey. Finally someone throws some dung which hits the king in the face. He orders an attack but simultaneously a riot breaks out. Lords and ladies are attacked, murdered and raped. The kingsguard and Lannister troops make double time to the safety of the keep but no one thinks to worry about Sansa. Tyrion is REALLY upset about this and verbally rips Joffrey a new one. He belts him one too. Whatever else he is, Tyrion loves his brother Jaime and knows that if Sansa is harmed then Jaime will be as well. Joffrey refuses to order any sortie to save Sansa. Sansa is about to be brutally gang-raped (this is uncomfortably realistic folks) but at that point The Hound appears and does what he does best. He returns the un-raped Sansa to safety. Tyrion thanks him but The Hound scoffs. Shae cleans up Sansa , who is starting to get an understanding of class dynamics. But if we're keeping score Tyrion has made bitter enemies of his sister and his nephew.
In Harrenhal Tywin Lannister is upset because Ser Amory Lorch sent (or almost sent?) sensitive military information to the wrong House-one which is sworn to the Starks. Twyin has a way of asking questions which are designed to show you JUST how dumb you are for wasting his time. I had a boss like that once; it's not a pleasant experience. Littlefinger visits Tywin and urges an alliance with the Tyrells. Arya tries not to be noticed. Littlefinger seems to find something familiar about her.
Tywin reveals a somewhat softer side to Arya in sharing the story of how he taught his son Jaime (who was evidently dyslexic) to read. They also share talk of their fathers. In a really sad scene Arya says loyalty killed her father. Tywin says his father was weak. Aside-there is a very long back story to this which I won't go into here but suffice it to say that Tywin sees weakness as an unforgivable sin and once he took over House Lannister (per Joe Sarno) gave his enemies a day of reckoning that they did not live long enough to never forget.
I say this again, just because Tywin is reasonable and intelligent doesn't mean he's nice. He's not nice. Arya swipes a letter containing military information but is intercepted by Lorch, who senses she's hiding something. Arya gets Jaqen H'ghar to kill Lorch before he can speak to Tywin. She has one death remaining. The issue though that Lorch's death is obviously no accident. And Tywin Lannister is no dummy...
At Robb Stark's camp, The Young Wolf is meeting and greeting his men, lords and commoners alike. It's the common touch which his father had and what keeps the Starks loved and respected. He runs across Talisa again (what is she writing?) and correctly deduces that she's of noble birth. He starts to try to run the equivalent of Westeros style game on Talisa, who doesn't look like she minds all that much. This is interrupted by the return of Lady Catelyn Stark, who is happy to see her firstborn again and is evidently amused by his lame attempts at romance. Isn't that always the way with parents? But she firmly reminds Robb that he is betrothed to another. This betrothal can't be broken. This mother-son tender moment doesn't last as Roose Bolton brings news of the attack on Winterfell.
Jon Snow can't find his ranger party. They're not where they're supposed to be. Jon has taken Ygritte prisoner. He has her tied up with ropes over her entire body. Perhaps he has a not so hidden fetish? Hmm. Anyway as he insists on no fire Ygritte suggests they snuggle to keep warm. He warily agrees. Ygritte smiles and puts a little motion in her backfield. He tells her to stop and she's like stop what? Hmm. They come a running just as fast as they can cause every girl's crazy about a House Stark man...
At the Stark camp, Catelyn angrily tells Robb that she told him not to trust Theon. Although it's probably not what he needed to hear at this time, it's a fair point. Your mother has known your father longer than you have and in a different way than you ever could. If she tells you that your father had a good reason for doing something, perhaps next time you ought to listen? Well that's water under the bridge. Robb wants to return North and handle Theon personally but Roose Bolton suggests they outsource that task to Bolton's illegitimate son at the Dreadfort. (The Bolton ancestral home). Robb wants Theon alive. 
Back North Osha offers herself to Theon in exchange for her "freedom". Being the lusty little pig that he is he takes her and promptly falls asleep. Osha leaves, kills a guard and hits the road with Bran and Rickon Stark, their direwolves Summer and Shaggydog, and of course Hodor. 
Here at least the kindness of the Starks in not killing Osha seems to pay off. The Stark children are fortunate she's on their side. She told Theon when she first met him that she wasn't all that impressed by him and apparently she still isn't. Theon's weakness, besides doing much of his thinking with little Theon and having a crapsack family, is that he's unable or unwilling to consider things strategically. He thinks he can force respect instead of earning it.
Danerys and Xaro wait to see the Spice King. Xaro is still making a subtle pitch for marriage and boasting of his wealth. Danerys wants ships from the Spice King. Much like Tywin Lannister, the Spice King has a way of asking questions in which you yourself reveal your stupidity. I HATE having that done to me but I LOVE doing that to other people. The Spice King forces Danerys to admit that she has no army, no allies in Westeros, no money to pay him, and no idea of the current political nature in her homeland which she has not seen since she was a young child. In short, the Spice King is not going to GIVE away ships now for possible FUTURE payment. Other powerbrokers in Quarth feel the same way. Some have business relations they don't want harmed. Her not so hidden threats come across as the desperate boastings of a teen girl, which they are. For the first time she comes across a bit like her late and decidedly unlamented brother. Upon return to her compound, Danerys finds her people have been killed and her dragons stolen. I like how the title refers back to Brienne's oath to serve Lady Stark and implicitly contrasts that to Theon's betrayal of his oath to Robb Stark. Neither the old gods or the new look kindly on oath breaking.
*It is important to remember here that Theon Greyjoy's father, Balon, led a failed rebellion against Robert Barratheon. He was primarily defeated by Ned Stark and Stannis Barratheon. The elder Greyjoy sons were killed in battle. Theon Greyjoy was taken as a boy of 9 to be ward of the Starks. As Ned refused to sign off on the assassination attempt on Danerys and attempted to protect Cersei and her children, it is rather unlikely that Ned Stark ever would have killed Theon Greyjoy if Balon had rebelled again. On the other hand, it would have been useful if Balon BELIEVED he would have, otherwise Theon was no good as a hostage ward. Mercy can come back to hurt you and it looks like Ned's mercy and Robb's naivete have done just that.

*This post is written for discussion of this episode and previous episodes. If you have book based knowledge of future events please be kind enough not to discuss that here. Most of my blog partners have not read the books and would take spoilers most unkindly. Heads, spikes, well you get the idea..
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