Review: Game of Thrones S2E07 “A Man Without Honor”


“It’s hard to put a leash on a dog once you put a crown on it’s head.” — Tyrion Lannister

“A Man Without Honor” is the name of tonight’s episode which also happens to be the season’s seventh. How time flies when one is enjoying a series, but this is amplified when it’s a series that only runs ten episodes a season. Considering that HBO’s other hit series in True Blood gets twelve episodes a season makes giving the channel’s biggest hit and moneymaker only ten a season an interesting choice. Having ten episodes a season definitely allows for the series to not dawdle on too many subplots, but it also means certain characters and events in the book source either got dropped (some for the better and others not so well-handled) or amalgamated with others to create something wholly different. Tonight we got some great examples of how changes from book-to-screen made for a better narrative.

Tonight’s episode moved from place to place. We get to spend some time with Jon Snow north of the Wall with his wildling prisoner Ygritte. There’s some definite sexual tension between these two young people as Ygritte constantly baits Jon about their night spent close together (only for warmth as Jon kept trying to tell the young lass) and how Snow and his brother Crows must either be having congress with each other (something Jon denies very loudly) or with the local goat population (for some reason his denials about this weren’t as loud). Throughout their exchanges Jon continues to act the honorable man he was brought up to be by his father Ned Stark and he even tells Ygritte this though something he wishes he kept to himself if her reaction to the information was any indication.

Jon’s honorable behavior during his time with Ygritte and the consequence of it at the end of their part in tonight’s episode was a constant reminder about how Ned Stark’s brand of honor and intractable principles really has no place in the world created by George R.R. Martin. It’s idealism that masks the truth of the reality around them and Jon Snow, like his father before him, might be too late in learning the true costs of his idealism.

The same could be said about Daenerys over at Qarth as she has to deal with more of her followers dead because they decided to trust and follow her. Then there’s the little thing about her dragonlings still missing and taken by one of the Thirteen. It’s easy enough to surmise that the warlocks of Qarth had taken her dragons, but as to the reason other than wanting them still eludes the young Targaryen Queen-to-be. It’s left to her guardian knight and close adviser Ser Jorah Mormont to try and talk some sense into her, but as her experiences in Essos has clearly been teaching her it’s trust that she can’t afford to have anymore. Whether it’s others offering their trust or her being asked to trust in others. Here we see Ser Jorah testing the boundaries of Daenerys’ trust towards him and we see even more clearly that he has had and continues to have some very strong feelings towards his khaleesi that even Daenerys begins to suspect.

Unlike Jon up North, at least Daenerys has begun to shed some of the idealism she started this series with and looking towards learning how to truly become a ruler of people. Once again idealism was the casualty in this part of the episode but one that might help Daenerys survive a little longer in this deadly game of thrones.

Tonight’s episode also sees the return of the Kingslayer. He still remains a captive of the Starks, but now has a jailhouse companion in a distant relative the young Alton Lannister who once squired for him in years past. This section of the episode was really one extended exposition done well as we get a deeper look into the backstory of Jaime Lannister. He’s much more than the male half of the twincest pairing of the show, but unlike Cersei he seems to have accepted his lot in life and the sort of figurative bastard he has turned out. His reminiscing to Alton about his own time as a young squire was quite honorable in putting the young man at ease, but once again Jaime continues to be this show’s rare survivor in that he uses everyone he thinks could be of use to help him survive one day longer even if it means killing several young men in less than a night and throwing the hypocrisy of the Stark honor back at Catelyn’s face.

Jaime might be a villain, but he’s one who doesn’t blame his lot in life for turning him so and sees clearly how those who try to look down on him might be just as sullied and dishonorable as he is. He just happens to admit to it.

The best part of tonight’s episode once again come from one of the major changes from book-to-tv. It’s an extended scene between Tywin Lannister and Arya as the two sit down for a meal and talk. It never happened in the novel, but the fact that the showrunners thought this peculiar relationship between the elder Lannister and the young Stark daughter would make for some strong scenes and dialogue was a change that I fully accept. The back and forth between Charles Dance as Tywin and Maisie Williams as the young Arya was great. Whenever Tywin makes mention of how observant and learned his cupbearer seem to be Arya would have a ready-made reply. Even when Tywin makes it known that he believes her to be more than a local peasant girl but more akin to a noble-born Arya doesn’t break stride and continues her charade.

What’s great about this scene is how we’re able to believe Arya’s deft ability to stay in character even when she knows she might have been found out. She’s learned to play the part to help her survive and even gotten better to hide her true feelings from her face. Even Tywin seem to be quite impressed by Arya and even though he might have some suspicions about her true upbringing he’s still not fully sure about the truth of it so he bides his time. The two characters really look like they would’ve made the perfect father and daughter if not for their present situation.

Finally, we see just how low a man without honor can go. Back in Winterfell we see “Prince” Theon blaming everyone but himself for allowing the two young Stark boys to escape the castle. We see how he’s turned to violence as a way to court respect from his men when all it does is just show just how much a child playing at ruler he truly looks. What’s worst is how the episode ends with what looked like two young figures burnt beyond recognition and hanged above the castle gates and Theon looking like he had a hand in it. If people had any sort of sympathy for the Greyjoy son tonight’s episode did much in burning those bridges.

Tonight’s episode did much to grow some of the characters in the show, but also show how the war between the five kings have shown particular characters faults and virtues. With just three more episodes remaining in the season we’re getting close to the culmination of the war or, at the very least, narrowing down even more pretenders to the rule of Westeros before we look towards season 3 of HBO’s Game of Thrones.

Review: Game of Thrones S2E04 “Garden of Bones”


“A naked man has few secrets. A flayed man has none.” — Lord Roose Bolton of Dreadfort

I will say that tonight’s latest episode of HBO’s medieval fantasy series, Game of Thrones, probably qualifies as a set-up episode. The episode was quite good, but it was also one that moved around the world of the series to help establish some upcoming storylines for characters in the show. What each of these set-ups had in common was how much they dealt with death both the past, present and future. Tonight’s episode lacked any sort of balance to it’s downbeat and doom-laden tone.

“Garden of Bones” was the title of tonight’s episode and it comes from the description the people of Qarth called the area outside their city-state’s walls. It’s an area full of death and the bones left behind by the enemies and unfortunate individuals who were barred from entering the city’s gates. The show has been very good with introducing those fans who have never read the book to the culture of the many peoples in Game of Thrones. While these many disparate cultures have differences that make them unique they also seem to have a common denominator and that’s with how they view the concept of death. This is a world where death has become the norm and almost a currency for those in power. It’s no wonder that death would be described in such interesting and flowery ways.

We see death on the battlefield as Robb Stark’s army opens up the episode with another major victory over forces of Tywin Lannister and his bannermen. While the battle itself wasn’t shown the aftermath is something we do see in very grim and detail. Bodies of the dead from both sides litter the battlefield and we get a mention about how the butcher’s bill for the battle itself was 5 Lannister men dead for every Stark men. It’s a grim reminder that the world Martin has created with his novels is one that doesn’t glorify or sugarcoat the nature of warfare, especially the medieval kind, and how it grinds away men both soldier and civilian alike. We get a sense of how even the very one king out of the five vying for control in this season has no clue as to the consequences of his actions. A nurse who is tending to the wounded and crippled of the battle’s aftermath pretty much calls bullshit on Robb Stark’s assertion that he’s the good guy in this war. A good guy the nurse calls out for not having a proper exit plan if and when Robb defeats Joffrey. Even Robb’s compassion towards his defeated enemies seem to ring hollow considering that it’s his reaction to his father’s death which has brought about all the death we see in this episode’s beginning.

It’s that exit plan that Tyrion seems to be working on whether his family wins the war or not. Once again it’s the one person everyone (well except Bronn) seems to not take seriously due to his appearance and undeserved reputation who sees clearly that if the war continues the only one who would have won would be the dead and that’s because they won’t have to deal with the post-war mess Joffrey and the other claimants to the Iron Throne (or carving out their own kingdoms from the ashes) have made with the execution of Ned Stark in season 1.

The theme of death continues to permeate even when it comes to the younger roles in the show. Across the Narrow Sea we see Daenerys and her khalasar on the brink of starvation and death until news comes from one of her outriders that the city-state of Qarth wants to meet with her. It’s a meeting that doesn’t go well for the young Targaryen queen as those in power in the city (a city of merchants) are not overly impressed by the so-called Mother of Dragons. It’s a misstep in her attempts to negotiate diplomatically that threatens to add her and her khalasar to the ever-growing Garden of Bones which encircles the walls of Qarth.

It’s from the youngest of the Stark daughters that we see the death and brutality of this war come into vivid view as Arya arrives with the rest of the prisoners into the cursed castle of Harrenhal. We see torture in full display as a prisoner is brought into questioning as Harrenhal’s current lord wants information on a band of warriors who call themselves “The Brotherhood” who continue to harry the Lannisters in the region. Arya’s journey from being the rambunctious and wild young daughter of Ned Stark in season 1 to the damaged and old-before-her-time survivor continues as she witnesses the torture of the prisoners and the utter disregard for human life some of the men of Harrenhal have towards the prisoners and villagers living nearby. It’s ironic that the very person who actually shows a semblance of compassion (though probably less compassion and more of a pragmatist who sees waste in killing of prisoners) would be the head of the house which killed her father and took her away from family and home. Yet, it’s her near-ritualistic repeating of the names of everyone who has wronged her from Joffrey and the Lannisters to Ser Amory Loch who killed Yoren in the previous episode.

Tonight’s episode doesn’t treat it’s young characters with kid gloves and with Arya we see how much she’s becoming accustomed to all the death around her and even uses it to keep herself focused on her personal quest of vengeance. For one of the youngest characters in the show she’s turning out to be the one who is learning to understand the power the concept of death has over everyone. It’ll be interesting to see if the show does the brave thing and really follows the novel in terms of Arya’s journey into what I can only call the dark side.

“Garden of Bones” wasn’t as streamlined as the previous two episodes this season, but it does set-up some major plot threads for the rest of the season. While it they all seem to be lines of story that look to not interconnect they all seem to agree on the fact that more death will be forthcoming as the season heads toward what I can only see as a bloody, fiery conclusion. Oh, plus it did have quite a major turning point in the show and another step towards making magic and the supernatural part of the show’s narrative fabric as Melisandre show’s Ser Davos Seaworth the true extent of her powers.

Notes

  • We get two new locations and clockwork cities in the show’s intro sequence: Harrenhal and Qarth.
  • Love the detail of the clockwork Harrenhal being made to look like the dead and cursed castle and land that it is with no clockwork motions given to it in the intro.
  • Another battle that is done off-screen. The Battle of Blackwater Pass better be epic.
  • Great to see Greywind actually being used as part of Robb Stark’s army.
  • We get another new character introduced that fans of the books should know very well: Lord Roose Bolton of Dreadfort
  • Joffrey takes another step into Emperor Nero-level of royal madness.
  • If anyone ever wonder just how crazy the Mad King Targaryen was then Joffrey may be giving glimpses of that very madness when it was still in it’s early stages.
  • Fans of the show may still not be enamored with Sansa Stark, but Tyrion is beginning to understand just how much a survivor she’s becoming in the dangerous world Joffrey has turned Westeros into.
  • Tyrion and Bronn continue to be one of the highlight’s of this new season with Tyrion once again having some of the best dialogue. You’d think the show’s writers were making sure Dinklage wins another Emmy for his work on this show.
  • Natalie Dormer in the role of Margaery Tyrell continues to own the role as she more than holds her own during a verbal joust with Littlefinger in the Renly war camp.
  • We hear the first mention of something called “The Brotherhood”. It will be interesting if the writers decide to make them a major part of the tv series considering it would add another half dozen or so characters to an already large cast for the season.
  • We see how much Daenerys has to go to be a political queen as she deals with the Thirteen of Qarth.
  • Some more great work from young Maisie Williams as Arya Stark in tonight’s episode. She continues to be the star of the cast of young actors on this show.
  • Stannis may be a rigid man in terms of whats right and wrong, but not when it comes to battle or war it seems.
  • Davos’ reaction to what Melisandre has planned all along in the secret mission Stannis has sent him on was classic. It had all sort of WTF written all over his face.
  • One of the most important scenes in Martin’s story was done quite well and disturbingly so.
  • Which ends the episode that was shorter by a few minutes than previous ones.

RANT BEGINS

Some major changes in tonight’s episode in regards to the books and in this season as a whole. I’ve seen many on Twitter complain about this. All I can say to these people: they had to be made and Martin has been involved in making sure they fit into the overall story he’s been telling. Either stop watching the show looking for the next book-to-tv change and bitch and moan about it when it happens or just treat the show as it’s own thing separate from the books they love so much. As a fan of the book series from the very beginning I understand the changes for tv and don’t see it as making the novels worse in the end.

What’s the point of watching something that’s suppose to entertain and bring about discussion when one already going into with a negative bias about the show. Get off the show’s jock and watch something else if you can’t get passed the changes. No point in spoiling things for those who have never read the book and must read and listen to the complaints.

RANT ENDS