Last week’s season two premiere of Game of Thrones set the stage for, what is inevitably going to be, a thrill-ride of a season. Dragons, direwolves, sorcery, incest, murder, torture, passion, threats and a red comet in the sky. Episode two, ‘The Night Lands’, continues these plots, with varying degrees of focus on some more than others.
Firstly, we see very little of Daenerys this week. Quite simply, her khalasar is on its last legs, dehydrating and starving in the red waste, with no cities or source of nourishment anywhere in sight. If things couldn’t get any worse, they do, when Rakharo’s head is returned to her, minus the fine body it was once attached to. After swearing vengeance on those who wronged her (they’d better be trembling) and a flurry of emotions from Irri, that’s it. No more scenes in this episode. It’s no secret that Daenerys doesn’t have an awful lot to do in A Clash of Kings so it’s to be expected that the same will apply to this season. I’ve heard rumours that some of her story from book three, A Storm of Swords, may be making an appearance in this season so perhaps we will see more of her as time goes on. Unfortunately, her absence has been noted.
Elsewhere, in King’s Landing, Tyrion is still keeping his lover, Shae, hidden from the prying eyes of his sister and the rest of the people who would do her harm if her presence should be discovered. However, one can’t expect to keep a secret from the many eyes and ears of Lord Varys, a man whom it is difficult to decide whether he is one to be trusted or the most fearsome of them all. This scene is a particular highlight of the episode with Peter Dinklage and Conleth Hill (Varys) bouncing off one another with such fluidity and tension. Both portray their characters with such precision so when they come together in a clash like the one in this scene, the sparks could literally fly if that were possible.
Not only does Tyrion have to fend off the spider’s questionable intentions, he also has to fend off the claws of his sister, Cersei. “You’ll find it difficult to rule over millions who want you dead”, says Tyrion. I’m inclined to agree, if it weren’t for Lena Headey once again lighting up the screen with her presence. The more I see of her in this role, the more I believe how perfect she is to play Cersei. It’s clear that the Queen Regent is losing her hold over her demon child, Joffrey, as she no less than confirms that he ordered the horrific slaughter of babies and children alike at the end of the last episode. There’s also a fantastic, almost comical, scene between the two whereby Tyrion actually makes Cersei, the ice queen herself, laugh. Yes, laugh. A smiling mouth, and all. The man deserves to be King of the Seven Kingdoms for that feat alone!
Hundreds of miles away, Theon Greyjoy arrives back on the Iron Islands, the place he was born before being taken prisoner by Ned Stark and raised as his own son. The above picture is of Pyke and boy does it look beautiful. That’s one thing Game of Thrones is adept at: getting the scenery spot on. Dragonstone looks fantastic, as does the wall and the Red Keep of King’s Landing. A show based on the fantasy genre should have scenery and environments that further that concept and there are no abundances of them here.
Anyway, back to Theon. After a bit of gratuitous fornication on the way home, he’s greeted rather lukewarmly and forced to pay for his own ride to Pyke (the horror!). He takes no time in running his hands all over the female companion on his way to Pyke, blissfully unaware that the female who’s nether regions have his fingers in is in fact his sister, Yara. Yes, Yara, not Asha as in the book. You would do well to remember that. His reunion with his father, Balon Greyjoy (played rather finely by Patrick Malahide, I may add) isn’t a sea of hugs and kisses as one would expect. Instead, Balon insults his son’s clothes, calls him a whore and couldn’t be more hostile towards him than if he held a pitchfork to his throat. He won’t comply with Robb Stark’s request for ships and aid in the war and he has his own plan in mind.
After being a side-character and somewhat absent for most of season one, it’s good to see Theon being used more. Although it may seem that he’s around solely to provide the quota of graphic sex scenes, his story is actually a large part of A Clash of Kings, and therefore this season. The tense scenes with his father are sure to be a foothold for the rest of what’s to come.
Finally making an appearance this season (a proper appearance, not a five-second cliffhanger one) is Arya, along with Gendry and the rest of the folk headed for the Night’s Watch. Still masquerading as Arry, she has to avoid pursuing Gold Cloaks as well as being discovered by Gendry for who she really is. It has to be said: Arya and Gendry are a OTP if ever there was one. For those who don’t know what that is, it means one true pairing – two characters that almost belong together. Either way, it’s clear that they’ve already struck a bond of sorts that’s going to remain in place for some time to come.
If that wasn’t enough, we also got our first glimpse of Jaqen H’Garr, who you won’t know unless you’ve read the book but I can assure you he’s a character worth keeping an eye on. Plus, Yoren got the chance to hold a blade to a guard’s leg, threatening to sever a major artery unless he reversed his horse and pretended not to have found Gendry, who would’ve surely faced execution as per Joffrey’s orders to find and kill all of late king Robert’s bastard children. “People worry so much about their throats that they forget about what’s down below”, says Yoren as he holds the dagger to the poor man’s groin. Aye, they do. Look at Robert and all of these children he’s bred over the years. Blimey.
Over on Dragonstone, Davos Seaworth, aka the Onion Knight, is busy recruiting pirates to fight alongside Stannis as he’s fighting to take the throne that belongs to him. Salladhor Saan wants the Queen in return for his services, but if he thinks that’s going to happen, he may as well jump off a cliff and save himself the effort. Elsewhere on the island, flame-haired vixen Melisandre is busy seducing the trousers off of Stannis, showing him everything from her breasts to her lady parts whilst promising to give him sons and this, that and the other. Quite how Stannis would be able to refuse such a temptress with her seductive voice would be a mystery to me so it’s unsurprising to see that he gives in and gets down and dirty with the Red Priestess on his war table.
Finally, beyond the wall, Jon Snow and the rest of the Night’s Watch men are still camping out at Craster’s keep, amidst the revolting incest that’s present all around them. Sam takes pity on a girl, Gilly, who is pregnant and may be carrying a boy – a sin most unforgiving in the place where all daughters become wives and provide more daughters. He wants to take her with them when they leave but Sam and his lack of thinking-clearly skills is put in his place when Jon informs him of the impossibility of the request. Later on, in the dead of night, Jon witnesses dirty ol’ Craster carrying the newborn son out into the forest and laying it on the ground, where a creepy figure (presumably a white walker) collects the baby and takes off with it. Before Jon can protest, Craster creeps up behind him and makes his face make contact with a rock.
As usual, ‘The Night Lands’ was another solid episode of a show that never seems to produce anything less than exemplary. If there is one negative I could conjure, it would be that having all of these stories running concurrently with each other makes for no sense of connectivity between them. For example, we’re in Pyke one minute, in King’s Landing the next and then we’re all the way in Dragonstone, each time with different plots and different characters. Besides the obvious connection (that being the war), there is very little else connecting these scenes. It may or may not be somewhat of a problem for some but it also means that when one plot takes a considerable focus for that episode, such as this week with Theon and Jon Snow, others are either only shown for a short while or left out entirely. For example, Sansa/Joffrey were completely absent this week, as were Robb Stark and the others. I suppose, for a show that has so many characters and stories, it’s to be expected that sometimes, you aren’t going to be seeing everybody and everything. They already have a lot to show in each 55-minute chunk so I may be being slightly unfair to be criticizing them, given the tasks they’re contending with.
Despite the slight niggle as described above, this week was another great episode that furthered some plots whilst leaving others stagnant. You can feel the oncoming storm brewing in the air and if one thing is certain, it’s that war definitely is coming, and it will be fantastic.