All aboard the Hype Train! In preparation of Season 8 of Game of Thrones, Kelly is doing a rewatch for the greater good to refresh our memories, catch the things we might have forgotten, pick up the things we might have missed, and maybe make predictions! Hold onto your fur rugs from Ikea and AWAY WE GO.
Rules of this series: We’re deep diving into these episodes and I’m watching them on a per-episode base because I like digesting the episodes. Spoilers lie ahead. As much as I can, I am going to try and keep things episode/season specific. It’s out of respect to the narrative as well as the later seasons. Onwards!
2.2 The Night Lands
A reference to the Dothraki land where dead souls go or something like that. Also, there’s a new addition to the opening sequence- PYKE. Pyke is the main seat of the Iron Islands and House Greyjoy, led by Theon’s father Balon Greyjoy. Across the Narrow Sea, we still get Vaes Dothrak, which still doesn’t make a lick of sense to me. Like, would it have been so bad to just include Qarth? And sidenote- I never realized how baby-centric Season 2 was.
Historically, this season introduces us to the War of the Five Kings, with the alliances currently as such- Joffrey in the Crownlands and the Westerlands, Stannis over in Dragonstone, Renly at the Reach with the support of the Tyrells, Robb in the North and the Riverlands, and Balon Greyjoy over in the Iron Islands, introduced in this episode. The War spans at least three seasons and it’s not necessarily ever won… it just peters out after a bit. But it is the start of really ramping up the series that we know and love today. Let’s get into it.
Somewhere on the way to the Wall, one of Yoren’s more vicious Night’s Watch prospects asks Arya for some water and it’s JAQEN H’GHAR. He does next to nothing here though so, we will not talk about him. The City Watch, far from King’s Landing, approaches Yoren saying they’re on the hunt for some guy and Arya and Gendry both panic, knowing that they are wanted- but it turns out they’re only on Gendry Watch. Gendry asks Arya if they’re after her because she’s a girl and says that two Hands have died asking his questions about his mother and Arya feels comfortable enough now to reveal that one of the Hands was her father. Realizing that means she’s of noble birth, Gendry’s first reaction is to apologize for peeing in front of her and, much to Arya’s chagrin, insists on calling her “milady”. The Tyrion/Bronn Road Trip has officially been replaced by the Arya/Gendry Road Trip.
Down south in King’s Landing, Tyrion is whistling Rains again and walks in on Shae becoming BFFs with Varys. Immediately Tyrion doesn’t trust any of this and to be fair, Shae seems to have been feeding Varys information pretty liberally, which was not part of Tyrion’s plan- Varys apparently already knows that Tywin doesn’t approve of Shae being in King’s Landing and that the story of how Shae came to be in Tyrion’s service was a lie from her actual profession. Meanwhile, Cersei has received both Robb’s declaration of independence as well as the raven from Joer Mormont asking for more men up at the Wall. Cersei refuses to send more men to the Wall because obviously, the war against the Starks is the greater threat, right? Having actually been at the Wall, Tyrion trusts the word of Jeor and urges to send more men.
Over at Littlefinger’s brothel, everyone is spying on everyone else having sex. I’m doing this out of order, but this scene follows one where Theon basically says all women are valuable only for sex and bearing children and… ugh, Theon is terrible. Anyway, Littlefinger passes off a fresh prostitute to a man and by FRESH I mean fresh off a job. I am five. Prostitute Aremca is working double duty because GOAT Ros is still miserable over Janos Slynt slaying Robert’s bastard child, bore by another girl in the brothel. It’s ok, Ros. Everyone has an off day. Anyway, LF says if she’s not happy, then he’s not happy because that means she’s not making him any money and then he’ll find a way for her to make him money. The last girl that didn’t make him money… he basically sold her to men who would torture her and make her more miserable and he profited off her punishment and misery.
Back in the Tower of the Hand, Tyrion is throwing a dinner party for Janos Slynt, in order to lure him into revealing who he takes orders from, including his role in Ned’s death, the Gold Cloaks’ corruption, and the rumored killing of infants that has been going on in the city. Tyrion naturally doesn’t trust Janos, as Janos so willingly betrayed the last Hand, and sends him to the Wall. The best part about this scene? Bronn receives a promotion to the Lord Commander of the City Watch and PODRICK PAYNE is added to the Tyrion/Bronn House Party. Tyrion asks Bronn is he would follow the command to kill an infant without question and Bronn says he’d at least ask how much- it’s a foreshadowing for Tyrion that he can’t really trust the guy as much as he likes him, and he shouldn’t trust him as much as he does.
Annoyed that Tyrion is cutting down on her allies, Cersei blasts Tyrion for firing Janos- in the books, it’s much more obvious that Janos is aligned with Cersei- she openly flirts with him in her chapters, knowing that if she suggests he has a chance to bed her, he’ll do her bidding. Tyrion says that her popularity is waning and that her orders to kill infants isn’t helping. Cersei goes quiet and using their sibling bond, Tyrion immediately infers that it wasn’t her idea- it was Joffrey’s. Tired of being blamed for everything going wrong, Cersei says that out of the three Lannister children, she’s really the only one who has been raised to lead the family from the same standpoint as Tywin.
Cersei also still blames Tyrion for their mother’s death, which Tyrion can never understand because he didn’t mean to kill her- but Cersei’s hatred of Tyrion goes much deeper than this and the show hints at this without ever stating it explicitly: she resents that despite his appearance, height, and being unpopular among the rest of the Lannisters, he will always hold more importance and power simply due to being born a male. Cersei has all the capabilities and mentality to bear the Lannister name and lead the House, but no one takes her seriously as she is a woman- and sometimes this plays into the failure of her actions, as she is so determined to have her way, it nearly blinds her. There are moments throughout the show that Cersei and Tyrion very nearly get along- but Cersei usually remembers, “Oh, right. I hate him.” Perhaps if Cersei’s mother had been around- or Tyrion just simply not born- Cersei would be taken more seriously as Tywin’s direct successor.
Meanwhile, across the Narrow Sea and in the Red Waste, Dany’s story is still super slow and she’s still trapped in the desert, with one of her scouts getting killed meaning DANGER IS OUT THERE. Next.
Theon is sailing out of the Riverlands and to his home of Pyke, which is the seat of the great house of the Iron Islands. Theon’s Arrogance XP has been raised by at least 20 points in this season, saying everyone in the Iron Islands has been in mourning since he left and they are all waiting for the heir of Pyke to return. And did you know women are only good for breeding and since men of the Iron Islands can’t be satisfied, they have torrid affairs and claim salt wives to satiate their desires when they are away? I’m curious to know what Theon was like prior to King Robert’s arrival in Winterfell. Like, was he always like this? Did he talk to Catelyn like this? Where did this entitlement and attitude come from?
He’s in for a rude surprise though, because when he lands, there’s no welcoming party for the only living son and heir to Balon Greyjoy. Instead, a girl comes up and offers to escort him to Pyke, and Theon immediately begins hitting on her, telling her she can’t properly ride her own horse, and that he’s going to have her let into the castle so she can bone him. Basically, his saying he’s doing her the favor, kind of like a guy that promises you six orgasms.
This is all just a setup to pose Theon as a not so great guy- so it feels pretty good when Balon lays into him in the next scene, emasculating him by calling out his clothing and asking “Did you pay iron or gold for that?” (Traditionally, Iron Islanders don’t buy what they wear- they kill people and then wear their things. The more expensive the accessories, the more important the person.) Then, he says Theon is nothing more than a messenger for Robb and points out Theon is betraying his family by supporting a Stark, a known enemy of the Greyjoys. You’re watching thinking, “It’s about time someone called out this little shit.” To rub salt in the wound (not a pun, I swear), Balon sings the praises of Yara, Theon’s sister, who also happens to be the woman that escorted Theon and who Theon then groped. Yay! Theon is livid. It’s nice that he draws the line at incest, but then he whines that there’s no way a woman could lead the Iron Islands. Balon says that she was raised as an Iron Islander and knows a ship better than anyone. Balon ends the scene by telling Theon to find his place- and stick with it.
In Dragonstone, ex-pirate Davos is getting some current pirates to join Stannis’ side. Sallador Saan scoffs at Stannis’ following of The Red God and drops the line, “The one true god is the one between a woman’s legs.” This line makes an excellent return later on. Davos is a little skeptical himself, but rather than shun the nonbeliever, his son Matthos offers him the opportunity to learn how to read and says that the Lord of Light brought Davos to Stannis. Davos says his loyalty to Stannis is due to how Stannis- not an obscure god- offered him opportunities and the chance to live a better life for his sons.
Not changing Davos’ mind, Melisandre, the red priestess, leans into Matthos and tells him that death by fire is the purest death. Mel looks a whole lot like a cheap with Halloween costume (the ones in the bags) in this season. The color of her hair is a bit too bright so it looks out of place and the costume isn’t fitted very well. She’s much… sleeker later on. Perhaps it’s a sign of Stannis’ growing power? But I’d point at funding and not so great material again. Mel tells Stannis he needs to give all of himself to the Red God in order to receive victory, promptly undresses, and Stannis at first refuses.
That’s right- Stannis turns her down. He’s not like Ned in that he refuses out of honor and duty to his wife- it’s more because he’s pragmatic and prefers to follow the rules. He’s like an Ikea manual: follow the steps and only the steps. Remember- he’s a soldier. He takes orders because they are orders- not because they’re morally right orders. Mel finally seduces him with the thought of producing a son- because all kings need an heir and his wife is seemingly unable to have children- and in one of the cheesiest, most… porn-emulated sex scenes of the series, Stannis does Mel on a table that’s carved out in the shape of Westeros with little sigils of the other armies falling down. Because. Symbolism.
The episode ends beyond the Wall, where Sam is interested in letting Gilly join them, even though the Watch has been strictly told not to talk or look at any of Craster’s wives. Sam is dumb and just thinks no one will bat an eye at a woman joining them past this point. Good job, Sam.
Sam does have good reasons though- Gilly is pregnant and if it’s a boy, it’s in danger. Again, everyone decides to be ominous and not say what the danger is. Come on, Wildlings. You wonder why no one will trust you. Jon sees a different baby- a boy- being carried out into the woods, abandoned, and then picked up by more “chittering” noises.
Realizing Jon is spying on him, Craster knocks out Jon and the episode ends. Honestly, these pre-White Walker, horror-inspired scenes don’t really work for me and they feel somewhat half-assed, possibly do to the limited amount of resources. Really, I want to know what the reasoning was for “chittering” in sound design because it really doesn’t match the tone or setting of the series- it’s much more sci-fi and… makes me think of space. Like pincers. Wouldn’t be opposed to a White Walker with pincers though. Click click click.
Up next is our namesake episode, 2.3: What is Dead May Never Die!