I didn’t write a review for last week’s episode, “The Lion and the Rose”. I don’t really have a good excuse for not doing it; I was in a weird place last week and just couldn’t bring myself to write a full review. I probably would have scored the episode an A, especially for the macabre and heartbreaking extended scene involving the dwarfs re-enacting Joffrey’s twisted imagining of the War of Five Kings In short, I thought it was a great episode that didn’t quite live up to the show’s pedigree of other “game-changing” episodes. Joffrey was killed yes, and that is cause for untold amounts of celebration, but it wasn’t a very satisfying death. I was disappointed with this scene in the books, so I guess I was already expecting to be disappointed, but I feel that a villain of Joffrey’s calibre should have bowed out in a way that was more fitting to the overall narrative structure or something. Even though it wouldn’t have quite fit in with her characterization up to this point, I think Sansa should have been the one to put an end to Joffrey’s miserable little life, or at the very least gotten a cutting remark in at the last minute. After all, no other character has arguably suffered more at the hands of the twerp king than Sansa. Oh well, this is not the story that Game of Thrones gave us, and as far as that goes, it was well done, even if it does leave fan-favourite character Tyrion in an extremely compromising position as the suspected murderer. Even in death Joffrey is making life miserable for his uncle.
Enter the unassuming and always delightful figure of Podrick Payne, squire to Tyrion Lannister, who visits Tyrion in his prison cell to remind us that good people do actually inhabit this fictional world. This is mostly a bonding/farewell scene for the two characters, but establishes that Tyrion still has a few friends left. Podrick updates Tyrion on the situation surrounding his pending trial, and I like that Tyrion voices what we’re all thinking, which is that he would hope he’d be given more credit in carrying out the murder of his nephew than to stand there dumbfounded holding the wine that killed him. Tyrion is one of the smartest and most cunning characters in the series, and it’s something of an insult to him that he would be thought to have carried out such a sloppy murder, as it’s totally beneath him. As Tyrion begs Pod to leave the city as soon as possible, I fear that we will not be seeing the good squire for some time; I’m hoping it’s much sooner though.
Making matters worse for Tyrion is the fact that his wife Sansa flees the scene of the crime immediately, making it seem that she is complicit in the murder as well. Whisked away to a ship waiting in the harbour, Sansa is reunited with the shady figure of Littlefinger, who has orchestrated her escape from King’s Landing for his own purposes (probably something shady). I love Littlefinger because he’s just so unpredictable and is only ever looking out for his own interests, constantly switching sides to further them. While I believe that he truly wants to protect Sansa because of his connection with her mother, I think it’s safe to say that he would only do this if he can use Sansa to fit his own purposes. Sansa is probably much better off with Littlefinger than she would be in King’s Landing, but Littlefinger’s unpredictability could be a danger to her.
The rest of the Lannister clan handle the King’s death in ways both predictable and despicable. In my favourite scene of the episode, Tywin grills the new King Tommen with questions on Joffrey’s deathbed while Cersei mourns, wasting no time in molding the new King to fit his machinations. You can practically feel Tywin’s frustrations melting away as he recounts the failures of past Kings to Tommen, who is automatically positioned to be a better ruler than his brother simply because he’s not a sadistic lunatic. Ever since he set foot in King’s Landing, Tywin has been the true ruler of Westeros, but having to put up with Joffrey was an embarrassment to a man as cunning and collected as Tywin. Now, he has a King who will listen and follow his commands. Joffrey’s death is practically a cause for celebration for his grandfather, and you just have to admire that.
Cersei, meanwhile, is the only character actually mourning the death of her son. I feel like Lena Headey doesn’t get enough credit in this role, probably due to the fact that she plays a psycho bitch who is constantly conspiring against characters most viewers like, but she really does a great job. It takes some chops to make me hate her for calling for the death of one of my favourite characters (Tyrion) to making me feel sympathy for her as she is raped by her other brother/father of her dead child, whose corpse is present throughout the heinous act. I didn’t realize this until after reading some other opinions of the episode, but this scene is actually much different than it was in the book, and is causing quite a bit of controversy. In the books, you see, Jaime and Cersei have consensual sex together after Jaime returns to King’s Landing. In this episode, Cersei appears to not give any consent, and is essentially raped by Jaime. I don’t really want to dive too deep into this, as rape is always a difficult topic, and I’m not completely convinced it was a rape because the scene cuts away at the beginning of the act. I will say, however, that this scene was handled wrong, in the context of it not fitting with Jaime’s characterization of late. He’s become much more than the villainous rogue he was in season one, and I just don’t believe that he would act in quite this fashion towards his sister/lover. Then again, this is a character who was introduced to us throwing an innocent boy out a window, so who knows what’s really going on in Jaime’s head these days. At any rate, we will have to wait for a later episode to see the fallout from this scene.
Outside of the events in King’s Landing, which as usual take center stage, “Breaker of Chains” checks in on most of the other major players. Arya and the Hound get a brief scene this week that is light on forward momentum, but great simply because these characters are awesome together. Seriously, a spin-off show with these two traipsing around the Westeros countryside as “father and daughter” would be compelling television. The main point of this scene is to further hammer home the idea that the world in which these characters inhabit is rough as well, and you have to be underhanded and immoral to survive. Two episodes ago, the Hound claimed that he was not a thief; he proves himself a liar here by stealing money from a father and daughter because he claims they’ll be dead soon anyway, so they don’t need the money. Arya is of course outraged, but she sticks with the Hound because a part of her knows he’s right, and she wants to survive. Not much else to point out here; I hope these two have more to do next week.
In the north, things continue to look dire for the Night’s Watch at Castle Black. In a rather unsettling scene – amazingly, this show can still get under my skin – the Wildlings butcher a village of peasants. Ygritte is shown grimly dispatching innocent civilians while a terrified young boy looks on (Jon’s breakup has evidently really hit her hard). The leader of the cannibalistic Thenns then grabs the boy and tells him to go warn Castle Black that the Wildlings are coming, while assuring the boy that he is going to eat his dead mother and father. It’s interesting that the Wildlings sometimes insinuate that they are only fighting to claim lands that they believe they have a right to, as if the Night’s Watch and Westeros in general has been keeping them down for too long. When you slaughter and eat civillians though, it kind of undermines your platform of being unjustly downtrodden people. At any rate, it looks like the Night’s Watch are going to have quite a fight on their hands with this bunch, and I expect it’s coming soon. At Castle Black, Jon and the rest of the Crowes are setting out to dispatch their brothers who betrayed them last season, as if they are captured by Wildlings, they could reveal the full extent of Castle Black’s inadequate defences, which would surely doom them to defeat. I have a feeling that things are not going to go smoothly on this front.
The final scene of the episode is reserved for Dany and her now trademark speeches railing against the injustices of slavery. While this scene is excellent from a visual standpoint (the city of Meereen and Dany’s army looks really impressive), it’s a failure on a thematic level. This scene feels like a retread of at least two other similar scenes from last season, where the Mother of Dragons stood outside of a random city that practices slavery and tells them how fucked they are because she hates slavery. Don’t get me wrong, Daenerys is a great character, with one of the best arcs on the show. The problem is that her storyline is, at this point, so far disconnected from anything happening in the rest of the plot that I just don’t care about what’s going on anymore. How does conquering another city get her any closer to coming to Westeros and actually interacting with another main character on this show? Her storyline, while still interesting when isolated from the rest of the show’s, is interesting, but it feels totally stagnant when it’s not clear what, if any, affect her actions have on the other characters, besides random snippets of dialogue like Tywin’s observation that there is a girl with three dragons far away across the sea that might threaten them someday. That day sure feels far away at this point, and that is why I have stopped caring about Dany’s story. Oh well, there’s always the chance that this may change (I’ve read the books though, and it doesn’t. Her story only gets worse from here unfortunately).
-Stannis and the Onion Knight make an appearance tonight, but as usual, it doesn’t amount to much other than setting up future developments. Davos has a plan for how to get Stannis more men, but it’s not clear what is yet.
-That scene with Oberyn and Tywin was excellent. Seeing a character as imposing and stern as Tywin surrounded by naked prostitutes was worth the price of admission alone, but the conversation between the two had some serious developments. Oberyn will be one of the judges at Tyrion’s trial, which I think will backfire on Tywin considering Oberyn has nothing but contempt for the Lannisters and likely won’t play ball. This is gonna be really great stuff.
-Sam and Gilly. Yaaaawn. I love Sam, but his romance with Gilly is just not compelling enough to hold interest. I hope he gets something better to do soon.
Overall, this was an above average episode. Although it was a little too busy at times with all the jumps to various characters, there were enough interesting scenes (and one really controversial one) to elevate this above just being a typical “check-in” episode.