[TV] Game of Thrones – Valar Morghulis (S2E10)


Quick Recap:

Game_of_Thrones_War_is_Coming

Tyrion wakes up in new quarters and learns that he is no longer the Hand – that honour now belongs to his father who is officially appointed by Joffrey. Joffrey distributes rewards and punishments now that the battle is done. Loras offers his sister’s hand and Joffrey accepts the marriage proposals and the betrothal with Sansa is set aside. Sansa is happy to hear this until Baelish points out that Joffrey is not the boy to let his toys go. He offers Sansa his help though she rebuffs his offer. Later, Varys visits Ros and asks her to become his informant. Jaime mocks Brienne mercilessly as they travel towards King’s Landing. They encounter Northern soldiers whose suspicions they arouse but Brienne kills them when they try to stop her. Catelyn is unhappy with Robb’s plan to marry Talisa. Robb is unwilling to listen to her advice after her release of Jaime. Rob and Talisa marry soon after. Stannis is also unhappy and he questions Mel’s visions. She says she’s fought her war longer than he has his which prompts him to choke her, partially out of his grief over Renly’s murder. She shows him her fire and he sees what future she has seen for him.

In Winterfell, Theon is surrounded by the bastard of Bolton and his forces. The horn blowing is annoying him greatly and he takes it out on Maester Luwin. Theon reflects on his time in Winterfell as a ward and a captive and Luwin suggests that he run instead of fighting. He suggests the Night’s Watch but Theon is against this. Instead, Theon decides to rally the twenty Ironborn he has at Winterfell into fighting to the death. The Ironborn do not like this idea and knock him out to be delivered to Ramsey Snow, the bastard of Bolton. Luwin realizes what they intend but is stabbed in the gut before he can stop it. Varys tells Tyrion that Mandon Moore, formerly of the Kingsguard, was ordered by Cersei to kill Tyrion. Bronn has been dismissed from his position as Lord Commander of the City Watch and the hill tribesmen that Tyrion brought along have been paid off and sent home. Shae visits him and asks him to leave with her to Pentos but Tyrion admits that he likes King’s Landing and that he likes being able to outmanoeuvre and outthink his opponents.

Dany visits the House of the Undying while Arya parts way with Jaqen, who gives her a coin and tells her to find him in Braavos should the need arise. Bran, Rickon and Osha emerge from the crypts to find Winterfell ransacked and ruined. They find Luwin dying by the heart tree and he tells them to find Jon at the Wall before passing away. Dany wanders through the House of the Undying and sees the Iron Throne in King’s Landing, except the throne room is in ruins and there is snow everywhere. She then has a vision of Drogo and her stillborn son sitting happily in their tent and she goes to join them but forces herself to remember that it is not reality. She finally finds her dragons but the Pyat Pree tells her that she is not free to leave and that he intends to keep her in the House of the Undying. She sets her dragons on him however, killing him.

Jon is Ygritte’s captive but the Halfhand breaks free and attacks Jon Snow, accusing him of betraying the Night’s Watch. Jon is able to fend him off, partially winning the Wildlings’ trust. Dany finds Xaro Xhohan Daxos in bed with Doreah, her maiden and brings the pair to Daxos’ vault and locks them inside. She strips Daxos apartments of all its gold and jewellery and intends to buy a ship. Sam and the rest of the Night’s Watch hears three blasts of the horn – the White Walkers are attacking them.

Review:

And so we reach the final episode of Season 2 and with it we get a bonus 5 minutes of episode time! It doesn’t sound like much but HBO allocating 5 additional minutes that could otherwise go to advertising is actually a strong indication of their belief in the show. As far season finales go, this one was fairly well done and although it wasn’t perfect by any means, I think it did a good job of balancing the jobs of resolving most characters’ season arcs and giving us a small little teaser of things to come in season 3. This is a fairly long episode and given that some plotlines only got a peek, I won’t really talk about them in too much detail.

King’s Landing

We spent most of the last episode here and so it isn’t surprising that most of the time we spent here revolves around the aftermath of the previous episode and wrapping up the various character arcs. The episode opens with Joffrey back to his customary unbearable smugness as the farce of accepting the former traitors from Highgarden and sealing the deal with Joffrey’s marriage to Margaery unfolds. It was a short scene but effective in establishing the new power structure in King’s Landing. Yet, what one group gains, another must lose and Tyrion is unceremoniously dumped as Hand and his appointments are instantly undone. Dinklage does an amazing job conveying the struggle within Tyrion – he hates King’s Landing and the way they treat him, yet at the same time (like he says) he cannot deny his attraction to the place and its politics. Dinklage’s performance makes Tyrion’s otherwise inexplicable decision to stay on in the filth of King’s Landing understandable and even relatable. His progressing relationship with Shae however, is going to be a problem and even as our hearts break watching the way Tyrion absolutely needs to be loved, you just know it’s going to come back to bite him in the ass (coincidentally, that scene immediately precedes another romantic folly – Robb’s marriage to Talisa, which I won’t talk too much about now since it was a tiny scene).

Just as certain arcs end and season long schemes come to fruition, new schemes are hatched and alliances shift – Ros, an almost unwilling accomplice to Littlefinger, joins forces with Varys in what was an unexpected scene for me though I’m curious to see where it head while Littlefinger in the meanwhile rains on Sansa’s parade and reminds her that she is far from safe from Joffrey. These little snippets gave each of the mentioned characters some nice closure and the scene with Ros and Varys was especially well-done in my opinion. However, it feels like for every step that the writers take in the right direction, they take two steps in the wrong with another character. I am talking about Stannis and the way his character is developing in this adaptation. I don’t want to come across like one of those people that whine that everything isn’t exactly like it is in the books, but this Stannis is just so different (and not necessarily in a good way at all) that it makes me wonder whether I’ve been reading the books wrong in the first place. The show fleshes out Stannis a great deal and adds in details to his interactions with Mel that the book either left out or left implied. Still, these details change the character and his dynamics with the other characters and mostly importantly, it changes the audience’s perception of him.  The whole choking this was not ok and while I like the grief over Renly, the character feels like he’s already diverged too much from the Stannis in the books. Stannis being convinced by the fire vision seemed really weird as well – it’s like he’s seeing something but we can’t know what and while that’s fine from a general suspense point-of-view, it does feel like a bit of a cop-out because we don’t get to see what kind of answer satisfied the very valid questions Stannis had about Mel’s abilities.

The North

Theon’s ill-fated conquest of Winterfell has run its course but Alfie Allen just demonstrated how very far as an actor he has come in the last season. His scenes in Winterfell were absolutely wonderful – you could really feel the anguish and the confusion and the self-hatred from his character and his ill-fated final speech to his men was comical yet fittingly tragic for a character that never had a home and never found a culture that would accept him. The North was too honourable for his pragmatic (if we’re being generous) ways while the Iron Islands were far too chaotic and uncivilized for the honour he learnt from Ned. He wanted to play his part through and through but the part he was playing was never that of Prince Theon of Pyke but rather as a son and ward of Ned Stark. Think about it: the Northerners would have totally fallen for a speech like that but Theon doesn’t know the Iron Islanders well enough and thus his plans fall apart and Winterfell is lost.

There is absolutely no shortage of tragedy however, as Maester Luwin, the most steadfast, solid man in that particular storyline bites the dust though not before being reunited with the two boys he thought of as sons. His death hit rather hard and even as you can’t help but be glad that the Iron Islanders have been evicted from Winterfell, seeing its cost and Luwin’s death really reinforces the idea that there are no winners in war. I’m a little disappointed we didn’t get a sneak peek at Ramsay Snow but already we can tell from the massacre at Winterfell that he takes no prisoners. The final shot of a razed Winterfell was a powerful visual and a stark (heh) contrast with the opening shot from Season 1. It also tied in well with Theon’s first impression of the keep as a place that has lasted a thousand years and will last a thousand more.

Dany and dragons

This was easily my least favourite story of the season and this episode did little enough to redeem it. From the beginning, Dany’s tunnel vision and general ill-treatment of Jorah just didn’t sit well with me. It’s probably an accurate depiction of her character at the time but it didn’t make for particularly tantalizing television. The writing and the execution of the script in this episode in particular just felt so cringe-worthy compared the nuances in the dialogues for Tyrion and Theon (for example). I’m a total sucker for characters reflecting on their actions and how directors use visual techniques to expose a characters state of mind but this arc had none of that – instead it had a very black and white kind of morality to it that just felt oddly out of place on the show. Her visions from the House of the Undying were probably my favourite part, though I’m a little sad that they didn’t show Rhaegar or her vision of Robb dead and mounted but the visual of King’s Landing destroyed and filled with snow made up for it, to some degree. Still, I felt the resolution to her stolen dragons was very anticlimactic (she just burns him? Really?) and it really didn’t need like what, two episodes of build-up? Also, are we really supposed to be siding with a character who thinks its ok to leave two people to starve in an underground vault while she essentially loots their house? I mean, yeah revenge for the dead and no one should cross the dragon and all, but seriously, I would be fine with her executing them but leaving them to starve in a vault was a little fucked up.

Final thoughts

Instead of doing a separate post for this like I did last season, I think I’ll just wrap things up here since I don’t think there’s anything to say that I haven’t already said. I think there are some plot-lines in this season that lost momentum and the pacing for the season could have used some work to prevent that from being too obvious but despite that the show really picked up steam in the last couple of episodes and ended on a high note. I will retain some hope that future episodes and seasons will redeem Stannis’ character and take Dany back into a better direction but I don’t really believe it will happen.

Meanwhile, the usual suspects continue to shine. Peter Dinklage has delivered a consistently excellent performance throughout the season and while there have been occasions where he faltered, I think it’s safe to say that he has been the strongest member of the cast. Yet, the one that left the biggest impression on me (and I might be biased by the last few episodes) is Alfie Allen’s Theon Grejoy. He didn’t make much of an impression on me in Season 1 but in comparison, he really brings it in Season 2. Conleth Hill also comes to mind as an excellent Varys – subtle and mild-mannered he has become as inseparable from my mental image of the character as Charles Dance has from Tywin Lannister or Lena Headey had from Cersei. There have been other strong performers across the various storylines but I should also mention the poor performers. I had high hopes for Aidan Gillen after his first season but he’s failed to deliver throughout the season and I’m not looking forward to the increased presence he will have in season 3. Similarly, I felt that Emilia Clarke held her own very well in Season 1 but she fell off hard in Season 2 to the point where I did actually feel she was outright unwatchable in several sections of the season. A final shoutout to some of the scenes that were original to this adaptation, specifically the scenes with Charles Dance’s Tywin and Maisie Williams’ Arya. There was a genuine tension there and amazing chemistry and even though I knew the rough storyline, it was always a pleasure to watch.

Thanks for reading and stay tuned for Season 3 in about two weeks’ time!

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