Game of Thrones has hit its stride, delivering episodes that, despite the amount of material crammed into them, manage to take the time to blend witty banter, raw emotion, and, yes (alas) gratuitous sex and torture in amongst all the politics and warfare.
It’s pretty safe to say that most of the series’ major plot holes are never going to be resolved. And while that’s disappointing, it’s not disastrous, because there is so much happening that it’s easier than it might be to just set aside your questions and enjoy the ride.
These two episodes have done what the first four didn’t and finally given us some good Jon Snow scenes. The relationship between him and wildling Ygritte has taken off. It’s not entirely clear why she’s so head over heels with him, though. She admits to knowing he’s stubbornly loyal, and says she never really believed his transformation from man of the night’s watch to wildling. Why stick your neck out for him time and time again, then? Apparently Jon Snow has amazing sex skills, but how could she have anticipated that? Considering Snow’s lack of experience and terror of women, he went from night’s watch virgin to expert lover xceptionally fast. It guess he’s the new Podrick Payne–Game of thrones seems to be imparting the message that inexperienced, shy men everywhere are all sex gods in the sack, which is just…weird. Is someone involved with the screenwriting process trying to indulge in a little wish fulfillment?
The show’s most uncomfortable scenes involve Theon Greyjoy, who is being tortured by a sadistic little twerp whose only goal in life seems to be to compete with King Joffrey for the award of most horrible person in Westeros. The torturer promises to end Theon’s pain if Theon can only guess who he is. Theon proceeds to guess every northern bannerman on the show except the one with the tortured man strapped to an X-shaped device as his sigil. Hmm, you’d think that might have sort of been a clue. Way to go, Theon. You should never go on any game shows.
Lord Roose Bolton appears to share Theon’s torturer’s love of trolling people. When Jamie Lannister arrives at Harrenhall, Lord Bolton adopts a concerned expression and tells him that Stannis has attacked King’s Landing. “And your sister…how should I put this?” he says, looking pained. He takes a long pause, while Jamie looks ready to faint. “Your sister…is alive and well.” Wow. Why is everyone in this entire world such a dick?
Nikolaj Coster-Waldau is one of this season’s biggest highlights, without question. In what might be the best scene in episode 5, he shares a revelation with Brienne of Tarth (in a bathtub scene that gives us not one, but two bare asses, one male, one female. Nicely played, HBO). Apparently Jamie Lannister is responsible for saving more lives than anyone else alive, when he prevented King’s Landing from being nuked (I mean, wild-fired) by the mad king. “By what right does the wolf judge the lion?” Jamie demands. It’s hard to argue with that, since Ned Stark’s refusal to do anything “dishonorable” in the first season directly resulted in a war that cost millions of people their lives.
Speaking of honor, Robb Stark appears to be following in his father’s footsteps. When confronted by a treacherous bannerman who murdered two hostages, Robb decides (against the advice of literally every major character on his side) to have the bannerman, Lord Karastark’s, head off. Robb is really not having a good time with traitors–first the Greyjoys, then his mom, and now this. Then there was the matter of Lord Bolton releasing Jamie Lannister back to his family–is there anyone on his side who isn’t a traitor in some way? With Karstark dead, leaves him in the uncomfortable position of having to beg for help from the man whose daughter he was supposed to marry, but didn’t. I see how it is, Robb. Honor trumps reason, but not your sex drive? If Robb can win back the Freys, he has a chance at winning the war, since after staring at a map for a few minutes, he suddenly realized what he has to do to win. “I can’t attack them where they’re strongest, but I can attack them where they’re not,” he says. Wow, good observation, king Robb. It’s easy to see why he has such a reputation for being a master strategist. He decides the smartest move is to attack the Lannisters’ homeland–now I’m just wondering why it took him two seasons to figure this out. Maybe you should have looked at the map a few episodes earlier, genius.
In King’s Landing, Tywin Lannister is busy marrying off–well, just about everybody. He threatens Olenna Tyrell, Margaery’s grandmother (let it be noted that I totally take back what I said before about her probably not being a necessary character–she’s so much fun that she is totally worth it) by telling her if she doesn’t marry Loras to Cersei he will name Loras to the Kingsguard. Does he actually have the authority to do this? I thought people volunteered for the Kingsguard. He hands her a quill and asks her to sign off on the marriage. Does she have the power to do this? She’s not even Loras father, she’s his grandmother–wouldn’t Loras’ father need to sign that paper instead? Yeah, I’m pretty sure that the writers just bullshitted their way through this scene. Tyrion is to marry Sansa. You’d think Sansa would be happy about this, since Tyrion is probably the most attractive dwarf the show-makers could have possibly found, and also possessed of a great sense of humor, but instead she gets all weepy. I guess she’s one of those women who really care about height or something.
Arya Stark is slowly redeeming herself after her blunder last season (killing off three extras instead of anyone important. Arya, you were supposed to choose the people whose names appear in the opening credits, not the closing credits. Silly girl.) by becoming a badass archer. She nails her target three times–head, tits, balls, right where she wanted. The leader of the rotherhood of outlaws she is now palling around with, Lord Beric Whatshisface from season 1, has a pretty cool fight with the Hound involving flaming sword. Ah, if only I actually cared about either of those two characters. The reason for the fight is that Arya accuses the Hound of killing the butcher’s boy (I vaguely remember there being a butcher’s boy in the show two years ago, yeah…) and the Hound says he thought the boy was attacking Joffrey, so it was sort of a justified killing. It’s a pretty weak story, but somehow it’s enough to get him a trial by combat, which he wins due to his three foot height advantage over Lord Beric. Well, that was a stupid idea.
Shortly thereafter, nobody’s favorite character, the red demon-birthing lady, shows up–wait, what? She just waltzed into the middle of a war-zone on her horse, not even in disguise? I guess maybe the Reeds helped her or something. Anyway, she shows up and steals Gendry away, presumably to work some black magic with his king’s blood. Looks like Arya has another name to add to her list.
In other news, Bran Stark is still boring, Danaerys is still awesome, and Stannis apparently has a daughter even though he didn’t in season 2 (“she has given you nothing,” the red lady told him, referring to Stannis’ wife. “Only stillbons. Only death.”) The show’s retconning itself so soon? Oh, and one last thing. Ros, everybody’s favorite prostitute, was shot to death by Joffrey Baratehon after her role in Varys’ plot was discovered. Oh, Ros. Your boobs will be sorely missed–I mean, your complex and well-rounded character. Well, at least well-rounded. Her boobs, that is.
It was a bold move by HBO, since their primary source of nudity was put to grass. Maybe this means other characters will be stepping into the role, or maybe HBO finally figured out that the Ros scenes were just a big waste of time.