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TV Diary | Game Of Thrones – “The Night Lands”

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TV Diary | Game Of Thrones – Episode 2.02 – “The Night Lands” – Original Airdate: 4/8/12

Episode Grade: B+

As most television shows are wont to do, they begin to focus on new characters as their second season opens. Whether it’s because the show’s writers merely want to establish their new players or that it’s because they grow weary with writing for the older ones, this is a fairly common occurrence in the television industry. Game Of Thrones is proving to be no different early on in its own second season, but it’s also taking care not to give familiar characters a short shrift. Year two’s second episode, “The Night Lands,” focused on four major threads [1], half of which were populated by characters unseen in season one. Let’s first discuss the storylines that used almost solely familiar characters. Tyrion is beginning to settle into his new role as Hand Of The King at King’s Landing and is beginning to realize the perils of the treacherous waters he’s about to have to navigate in order to carry out his position’s duties. Take his discovery of Varys visiting Shae in Tyrion’s quarters, a visit which provides the eunuch no small amount of potential blackmail material, something he alludes to while making his exit. Tyrion, however, warns him not to cross him in saying, “I’m not Ned Stark. I’m aware of how this game is played.” To that end, Tyrion installs Bronn as the Commander of the City Watch after removing the former top man, Lord Slynt, saying that his betrayal of Ned in season one made him untrustworthy in Tyrion’s eyes. In the process, he also tries to get a handle on who made the call to kill all of Robert’s bastard children at the end of “The North Remembers,” first suspecting Cersei of being behind the massacre but, after speaking with her, he later deduces that she actually didn’t have a hand in the order and that it came solely from Joffrey. During that conversation, we also learn that the root of Cersei’s enmity toward her brother comes from the fact that their mother died during Tyrion’s birth, causing her to deride Tyrion as a “cruel joke.” Though by Tyrion’s own admission he’s not an “honorable man,” it’s obvious that he’s not just going to fall in line with the scruple-free reign of King Little Shit and their looming conflict is quickly becoming one of my favorite dynamics of the new season. As for the other familiar character thread, Arya’s journey to the Night’s Watch alongside one of the remaining potential heirs to the throne – Gendry – hits a bump when Joffrey becomes aware of Gendry’s possible claim and then sends soldiers out to return him to King’s Landing. After a deft display of weaponry by Yoren saves the nascent recruits [2], Arya comes to realize that her identity has been compromised by Gendry when he tells her that he knows that she’s a girl. The fun, however, comes when he realizes WHICH girl she is, leading to a nicely funny scene where he acts mortified at the realization that he’s been acting so low-class around someone of her station [3]. In turn, Arya finds out that her father visited Gendry prior to his death which is something that piques her interest. When it comes to new character dynamics, however, both present in “The Night Lands” demonstrate that GoT is building to a coming war… and that war is gonna be BIG. Theon returns home to the Iron Islands on behalf of Robb who has requested that Theon deliver him the support of Theon’s father, Lord Balon Greyjoy, as Robb feels that the ships that Lord Balon possesses could help him in overthrowing Joffrey’s rule. What’s unclear is whether Theon’s pitch to his father – which includes his father taking a kingship, leaving it for Theon to inherit upon his father’s death – is a betrayal of Robb or part of the deal that Robb has brokered. We know to this point that Robb and Theon are like brothers so a betrayal would be somewhat surprising, but on a show like this where the majority of characters have, er… convenient morals it wouldn’t surprise me to see Theon going into business for himself. What isn’t unclear, however, is that the dynamics of the Greyjoy family are incredibly perverted – figuratively and literally. Theon initially comes onto his sister [4], who’s now taken over as Lord Balon’s favored child while Lord Balon sees Theon as someone who’s become soft as a result of being raised by the affluent Starks as opposed to having his mettle forged in the bleak toughness of the Iron Islands. Theon was a character who was so neglected in the first season that I honestly couldn’t have told you his name until this year started, but I like where this storyline is initially headed and it gives him much more of an interesting purpose on the show than he’d previously held. So, while the dynamic with Theon and his kin is definitely interesting, I’m significantly less intrigued by what’s going on around Robert’s newly introduced brother, Stannis Baratheon. He’s apparently being lead around by the (I’m assuming) supernatural Melisandre, to the point where she convinces him to get, er… biblical with him here by promising him an heir, something his actual wife has not been able to provide him. I have faith that GoT will make this story thread relevant at some point, but we’re not quite to that point yet. It’s often been said that HBO series are less episodic than they are novelistic, making each episode the equivalent of a chapter ing a book. With that in mind, as a second chapter, “The Night Lands” was certainly sufficient.

[1] And on a show whose narrative is as sprawling as GoT, you can be sure that a given episode will try to service a number of other characters – as is the case here – but just not to the level of detail given to some other threads.
[2] He also notes that, as recruits of the Night Watch, they’re out of the purview of Joffrey’s authority. The soldiers threaten to come back in the future, so… Chekhov’s gun and all that.
[3] Ironic in that Gendry himself has a legitimate claim to the throne.
[4] Albeit Theon wasn’t aware she was his sister when he was trying to uh… do stuff to her. Still… gross.

*Arya continues to be perhaps the most engaging and interesting of the late Ned’s offspring and is definitely the one with the most backbone, evidenced in “The Night Lands” with her refusal to take any amount of crap from the prisoners being transported along with the Night Watch recruits.
*I’m still at a loss to figure out what’s going on with Rob and Jeor Mormont and the rest of the Night Watch as they’re staying with, as I’ve dubbed him, Creepy Incest Guy. So the dude sleeps with his daughters and kills any sons that are produced? I get that (stomach-turning as it is), but revealing the point of all of this at some point soon would be nice.
*Absolutely dynamo scene between Littlefinger and Ros where she’s displaying some post-traumatic effects of seeing one of the infant bastard children of Robert murdered in its mother’s arms and Littlefinger not so subtly threatens to kill her if she doesn’t straighten up. His passive/aggressive menace is alternately terrifying and impressive. It’s also worth mentioning that I’m seeing more than a little Gary Oldman in Aidan Gillan’s performance as Littlefinger these days.
*I might write some variation on this thought every week but GODDAMN is this show ever visually incredible. What inspired this week’s sentiment was Theon’s ride to his family’s dwelling on the Iron Islands via horseback with Yara.
*The wife having trouble delineating characters: “They all look the same. Disgusting.”
*”Come closer and I’ll shove that stick up your bunghole and fuck you bloody.”
*”Funny thing. People are so worried about their necks that they forget about what’s down below.”
*”You should taste her fish pie.”
*”Ned Stark was a man of honor.” “And I am not.”
*”Cold winds are rising and the dead rise with them.”
*”I can’t steal her. She’s a person, not a goat.”
*”I’m not questioning your honor Lord Slynt. I’m denying its existence.”
*”If you got within a mile of a battle you’d fill your pants.”
*”You shouldn’t insult people who are bigger than you.” “I’d never get to insult anyone then.”
*”No man gives me a crown. I pay the iron price.”
*”I will fuck this blonde queen and I will fuck her well.”
*”Stannis is my king, but he’s only a man.” “Don’t tell him that.”
*”It’s all fallen on me.” “As has Jaime repeatedly, according to Stannis Baratheon.”


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