There’s yet another Meccano playset on the Westeros map that backdrops the opening credits. It’s called Pyke, which is one of the Iron Islands, a place of salt and steel and sea. Its inclusion hints at its importance, as its ruler, Balon Greyjoy, proclaims himself yet another King. That’s seven now, if you’ve lost count (Joffrey, Robb, Stannis, Renly, Balon, the ‘King Beyond the Wall’ and Danerys).
The Night Remembers (episode two) ended with Jon following a man into the woods surrounding Craster’s keep. The man had a wailing infant with him, and gave it to a large figure darkened by the night. “Is that an Other?” Jon barely had time to think before being knocked unconscious by the butt of Craster’s axe.
…is thrown to the floor of Craster’s (Robert Pugh) keep. He wants them out, all 300 men of the Night’s Watch who rest there. There was only one precondition to the men staying there: don’t none of them look at any of Craster’s daughters. He marries them and fathers more children. They’re his.
Craster never mentioned ‘following him into the woods at night whilst he sacrifices a newborn’, but that appears to be another unbreakable rule. “Out!” he bellows at the men of the Night’s Watch, wanting them gone immediately. Jon (Kit Harington) informs Commander Mormont (James Cosmo) that Craster has been giving baby boys to something in the woods. He quickly realises that Mormont knew all along. “They serve crueler Gods than us,” explains Mormont, almost warmly.
Every day for Jon is another knock at his vision for the Night’s Watch. He rode into Castle Black thinking he was joining men of honour and courage, yet it were murderers, rapists and bastards that greeted him. Such men were nothing like his uncle, Benjen Stark. But now even Benjen is missing, a fact that is mentioned often, promising a reveal later down the path.
And today the Night’s Watch crumbles a little more before him. They have to rely on monsters like Craster for the greater good, Mormont tells, they need to find to where and why the wildlings are gathering.
What remains left unsaid, however, is who are the even bigger monsters that Craster appeases?
…finding out who serves whom is currently Tyrion’s (Peter Dinklage) main concern. The rift between him and Cersei (Lena Headey) is widening, and he’s unsure which side those around him are on. As seen in the first series with Ned Stark, the Queen has nearly as many eyes under her command as the spider, Lord Varys (Conleth Hill).
He can be sure of Bronn (Jerome Flynn), his sellsword and recently appointed head of the City Watch, but the other members of the court are a mystery. To test their allegiances, Tyrion ingeniously informs those who make up that court – Varys, Petyr Baelish (Aidan Gillen) and Maester Pycelle (Julian Glover) – of his plan to wed Princess Marcella to a House in Westeros, telling each the name of a different suitor and swearing all to secrecy. That way, if Cersei is told, Tryion can deduce which who has betrayed him by the House she repeats.
The scene itself is most satisfying. The Imp is arguably Game of Thrones' standout character, and watching him in the full flow of political chess has you rooting away.
Later, when Cersei screams at Tyrion for planning to send Marcella off to Dorne, he knows immediately that it was Pycelle who gave him up. But he remains calm before Cersei as she rages and fumes at the prospect of Marcella being taken away (she really does loves her family), his cogs whirring away as to what to do with Pycelle.
Upon realising the rouse, Baelish behaves like a spoilt kid, offended that he’d been played rather than be the player. It’s a nice comeuppance, him being the one who betrayed Ned Stark during season one's attempt coup. Varys, however, is gleeful at being deceived. These eunuchs must find their enjoyment in strange places, you see. “Power is illusion,” he tells the Imp, “and a very small man can cast a very large shadow.”
Tyrion forgets himself in the flattery, arranging with him where to house Shae (Sibel Kekilli), his whore lover. Who’s to say that Varys can be trusted?
…left her son in the last episode as an envoy to Renly Baratheon (Gethin Anthony), the dead king’s youngest brother. By marrying Margery Tyrell (Natalie Dormer) he has all the strength of Highgarden with a host of 100,000, and he intends to march on the Lannisters.
Catelyn (Michelle Fairly) is again side-lined as a character, despite being central in the books. Being written as cameo appearances doesn’t help, but Fairly’s portrayal comes off far too needy. The showrunners simply don’t seem interested in her perspective.
Instead she’s used to segue each episode to characters in different parts of Westeros. Last week it was Robb in Riverrun, and now its Renly in the South.
Although Renly is married to Margery, it is her brother, Loras (Finn Jones) for whom he lusts. Renly’s homosexuality is shown once in the first series, but is only ever hinted at in the books. His King’s Guard are attired in the colours of the rainbow, and Stannis mocks him for not yet fathering a child, but that is all. Here, however, we’re treated to a passionate scene between Renly and Loras.
But they both know Renly needs to get Margery with child. Those close to them are already asking questions, and she remains a maiden two weeks after their marriage. Such foot dragging is unheard of in Westeros, and bloody incredible given the low-cut dresses Margery wears.
And, like most actresses in Game of Thrones, the dress soon comes off, but still Renly is flaccid. “It’s the wine,” he suggests nervously, uncomfortable around a woman’s body, yet so full of live anywhere else. “My brother could start you off if you like.”
WHOAH – she knew!? Oh jeez, oh no. Act like you don’t know what she’s talking about.
“[Laughs awkwardly] What are you talking about?”
“I could turn around so you can pretend I’m Loras? Or he could be here with us? All that matters is that you get me with child.”
…we’re only afforded a brief scene in Winterfell. Neither Stannis on Dragonstone or Danerys over in the East even grace the episode. With the cast still increasing at a steady rate, absent friends will be a more common occurrence. This is the first episode I can remember where a storyline has been left out. But though brief, Bran’s scene might be the most intriguing and illuminating of the entire episode.
For the second time this series, we experience one of Bran’s ‘dreams’ where he becomes his direwolf, Summer. The technique is the same as before: low camera, handheld, point of view. Whereas previously, these dreams have been out in the forest, this one ends with Summer running up to Bran as he slept. Upon waking, Bran finds Summer staring over him, a sudden jump in perspective from his sleep.
He explains this to Maester Luwin (Donald Sumpter) during lessons that Old Nan once told him tales of magic and wargs who could become animals. Perhaps magic once existed long ago, Luwin rationalises, but it has long since left this world. There are no more giants or Others, and the children of the forest (elves) have been forgotten.
And dragons haven’t existed for centuries…
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