Oh, March. The ultimate deadzone of movies, where filmmakers throw rooten tomatoes up on the screen, shoddy CG, 3D wonders, bad comedies, maybe a few forgettable action flicks–that’s about it. It’s easy to understand why. There are no big holidays associated with March that they can use to draw in the crowds. This isn’t Christmas-time, when everyone is on vacation and has time to go to the movies. It’s not the summer, where all the kids are out of school and big-budget Pg-13 movies can make a killing at the box office. It’s March, that grim time where the top box office movie is…let me check..Oz the Great and Powerful.
Oh, yay. A prequel to a sixty-year-old movie. Just what I was waiting for.
Well, at least Game of Thrones Season 3 is right around the corner–though the silver screen may have entered its deadzone, at least there’s the small screen to fill the void. I might as well look back at the last season and do a recap of what the show got right, what it got wrong. Obviously spoilers will follow.
What Game of Thrones Season 2 Did Right:
1. Arya and Tywin. Oh, these two. The most unusual comedic duo ever–a murderous, PTSD ten year old and a ruthless, grouchy old man. Somehow they managed to give Game of Thrones’ other comedic duo, Bronn and Tyrion, a run for their money, if only because they shared more screen time together. And who can forget that chilling moment where Arya looks Tywin in the eye and tells him “anyone can be killed?” Without question one of the highlights of the season.
2. Tyrion. Oh, Tyrion.
Does this even need to be said. Pretty much every scene involving Tyrion is full of a winning combination of dry humor and political intrigue. With Ned gone, Tyrion is the new star of the show. If only other characters were as downright fun to watch.
3. Robb and Talisa (kind of)
Some may contend that having Robb fall in love with a foreign nurse and then marry her is kind of absurd and unbelievable. Those people are absolutely right. But at least it’s better than in the books, where Robb just shows up one day, married. This romance may also be the first time on a show we get to see a sex scene that does not involve either rape, incest, prostitutes, or extreme levels of awkwardness, so that’s something.
4. Jon Snow and Ygritte
Sometimes, in between all the rape and rat-torture and head-chopping and demon shadow babies, it’s good to laugh a little. Finally, in Ygritte, we have a character that doesn’t take herself too seriously. She’s like a mix between the wit of Tyrion and the unrelenting trolling of Jaime Lannister, except female.
5. The Battle of Blackwater
If only this had been the finale, everyone could have gone home happy. This was perhaps the most epic hour of television ever filmed. The forgettable finale that followed in no way diminishes the unrelenting awesomeness of this half-hour-long battle sequence that is like a mixture of Helm’s Deep and some sort of medieval D-Day landing.
6. Theon Burns Robb’s Letter
Showing a bit of conflict on the part of Theon Greyjoy was a smart move. While he’s still a dick, at least he’s a complicated dick with a touch of a conscience. The scene where Theon decides whether or not to betray Robb epitomized this conflict without a word of expository dialogue needing to be spoken. In fact, the early Iron Islands scenes were all pretty darn good. Sadly, the later epispodes screwed Theon’s whole story up pretty badly (for more on that, see below).
…And What it ****ed Up.
1. How’d It Get Burned?
The Game of Thrones Finale was perhaps the weakest episode of the entire season, if only because what was one of the most dramatic scenes in the book (I’m talking about the Burning of Winterfell) is reduced to a head-scratcher that may have been intended as a cliffhanger but fails at this os badly you have to wonder what the writers were smoking that day. Everyone who’s read the book gets to be disappointed knowing that what could have been an epical, pivotal moment was reduced to an off-screen blink-and-you’ll-miss it moment, and everyone who didn’t read the book gets to sit there in confusion and wonder how a giant castle surrounded by 500 allied soldiers managed to get burned to a crisp.
2. The Warlocks of Qarth
Where do I begin? If you’re going to introduce some magic into a show, never do it in so haphazard and confusing a fashion as Game of Thrones did when it introduced the idea of the House of the Undying and its resident warlocks. Are there many warlocks who all look the same? Is there one warlock who makes copies of himself? If so, how many copies can he make? If you kill one copy do all the others die? Or are some of the copies illusions? How come they can be killed by fire but not stabbing? And since I’m on the subject of Qarth, let’s talk about that storyline’s ending, shall we? Badass though the moment when Danaerys (Daenarys? Danerys? Whatever) locked Xaro Xoan Blacksos in his own vault was, how did she break into his vault with an army of Dothraki, when we see clearly that most of the maybe 20 people who accompanied her to Qarth were murdered a few episodes ago? God, I’d forgotten how much that finale sucked.
Not pictured here: Lots of Dothraki
3. That One Random Pirate You May or May Not Remember
So in episode 2 a pirate showed up and joined Stannis Baratheon’s army, then was never seen again. You may remember this pirate as one of the two black characters on the show (the other one was a traitor. Note to HBO: if you want your show to be seen as less racist, you’re doing it wrong), the guy who said he wanted to bang the queen. Why introduce this character if we are never going to see and hear from him again? Couldn’t we have seen him in episode 9, when all the ships sailed in to attack King’s Landing? No? Maybe they just threw him in because they felt they didn’t have enough characters. Some of you may be thinking, he’ll show up in Season 3. He will play a role then. Well, then, maybe they should have just held off and introduced him in Season 3. They have no problem moving OTHER characters to Season 3, even ones who were actually important to the plot of Season 2, which this pirate wasn’t.
4. Jaime murders his own cousin
No, just…no. First of all, while Jaime is ruthless to his enemies, he is at least loyal to his family. Secondly, that was the worst escape plan ever. Jaime murders his cousin (and biggest fan) Alton Lannsiter in order to lure his guard into the cage where he is being held prisoner, so that he can then strangle that guard, steal the keys, and escape. Why did Alton “have to die?” Couldn’t he have just pretended to be dead in order to lure that one guard into the cage? I wish I knew what that guard was thinking. Maybe something along the lines of
Ooh, looks like Jaime just bashed his cousin to death, since he’s lying on the ground twitching and bleeding like he just got his face smashed in. Well, I guess the best thing to do is kneel with my back to Jaime and check to see if this Alton guy is all right. Jaime may have beaten this guy to death a few seconds ago, but he appears to be sleeping now. Wish I could fall asleep that fast!
5. The Iron Islands
Poor Theon Greyjoy can’t seem to catch a break. He is given his own ship, with instructions to raid some fishing villages. Fine. Then his first mate tells him that his real test is to show initiative and defy his orders: “do Iron Islanders do as they’re told, or do they do as they like?”
So Theon decides to capture Winterfell to prove himself to his daddy. His sister than informs him he is an idiot because Winterfell is too far form the sea and can’t be held. She tells him to abandon it, even though earlier in the show King Greyjoy specifically stated that his plans included capturing the entire north, including Winterfell (“Winterfell may defy us for a year, but what of it? The rest will be ours.” Those were his exact words.) What the hell, Greyjoys? It’s almost like they care more about screwing over Theon than actually winning the war. Or maybe Balon was drunk while making his plans and then sobered up later and realized how stupid his plan was but forgot to tell his son.
Pictured: Greyjoy Battle Plan?
We are also told the Iron Islanders are a bunch of badasses, and that to run from battle is a mark of cowardice and dishonor. Theon complains he can’t return home after feeling from battle and abandoning Wnterfell because then he’d be “the Greyjoy who ran.” Which is why it’s confusing that Theon’s men, rather than sacrifice themselves like the guys from 300, instead knock their leader unconscious and sell him to the enemy so they can flee back to the Iron Islands, presumably to be dishonored forever.
So which is it, show? Are these guys viking badasses, the Spartans of the sea? Or a bunch of self-serving, treacherous, backstabbing pirates? Or both, depending on which scene of which episode you’re watching? Apparently, the Iron Islanders are whatever the contrived plot needs them to be.
6. The Hound
I’m not sure whether it’s his simplistic character, his odd dialogue, his flat, stilted way of speaking or his decidedly un-scarred face that offends me most. The Hound was one of the book’s most complex, dynamic and fascinating characters. The Hound in the show is a grouchy, dull killer who somehow manages to turn every conversation he’s in into a monologue about how fun it is to stab people. Jeez, give it a rest, dude. I stand by my belief that this was one of Game of Thrones’ most poorly-thought-out casting decisions. Somehow, no matter whether he’s telling a scared girl about how fun killing is or threatening the captain of the city watch, this Hound never seems to sound anything besides mildly bored. And his whole unexplained penchant for referring to Sansa as “little bird,” just comes off as forced and silly.
Tyrion: Hound, would you care for game of checkers?
Hound: Checkers is fun, but not as fun as beating a man to death with a checkers-board. That’s the sweetest joy there is. You know you’d like to try it, too.
So, to conclude, Season 2 < A Clash of Kings (the book). Not even close, really, once you factor in the plot holes and that terrible finale that brought Season 2 down several notches. Here’s hoping Season 3 can be better, can really live up to the book it’s based one. I’m feeling optimistic, because Season 2 was trying to cram 1000 pages into 10 hours, and Seasons 3 and 4 are trying to cram slightly more pages into twice as many hours, so they should feel half as rushed, right? Let’s all hope so.