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TV Diary | Game Of Thrones – “A Man Without Honor”

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TV Diary | Game Of Thrones – Episode 2.07 – “A Man Without Honor” – Original Airdate: 5/13/12

Episode Grade: B

As much as it pains me to say this, at essentially the three-quarter pole mark of Game Of Thrones’ second season it might be time to face the fact that this sophomore set of episodes has been a bit of a disappointment. After the zeitgeist-grabbing nature of its offseason where it essentially became the face of HBO and was front-and-center with HBO’s efforts to brand its HBO GO service as a Netflix competitor, it probably hasn’t reached my (and I’m sure some other viewers’)  expectations. Sure, it’s still better than most of what’s on television or has been on television in 2012. But unless it pulls out something mind-blowing in its final three episodes of the season, it’s gonna fall short of what I know it’s capable of. And that’s the mark of a disappointment, even if a slight one. The season has been progressing along in fits and starts, something evidenced by its last three episodes. “The Ghost Of Harrenhal,” as I’ve said, was the worst episode in the show’s run yet, but then it bounced back with “The Old Gods And The New.” That’s why it’s disheartening to see it follow up a relatively strong installment like that with “A Man Without Honor.” Let’s dive a little deeper into why this one left me a little cold:

  • Qarth. Probably my number one problem with this second set of ten episodes is whatever the hell is going on in Daenerys’ orbit this season, and this Qarth nonsense is literally the worst. I care about none of it. Zero. It’s officially become pee-break time whenever this crap comes on screen. It makes no sense whatsoever. It’s so far removed from everything else this season that it’s utterly unclear what purpose it serves in the overall narrative of the show. One of Daenerys’ servants is killed. Whatever. The character wasn’t developed at all so I don’t care at all. Daenerys is broken up over leading her people to slaughter, saying, “I led my people out of the red waste and into the slaughterhouse.” Again, I don’t care about any of these people so I don’t care about their fates. She also upbraids Jorah for being “too familiar” but then enlists his help when one (of the many) Qarthian weirdoes kidnaps her dragons. Oh… and there’s some weird lady with a tiled face painting a naked guy [1] who hints at some kind of betrayal by Jorah. Seriously – whatever. I don’t care about any of this in the slightest and it’s a complete drain on the season. Any time spent on this storyline is wasted. It’s really as simple as that.
  • Theon’s gambit at the end of the episode was a little flat. I mean, we’re supposed to feel the impact of Theon’s decision to use Bran and Rickon’s deaths as a warning sign to the rest of Winterfell… only it’s blatantly obvious that it’s not them. We never saw the deaths happen and the bodies are burned beyond recognition, so TV 101 tells us that there’s absolutely no way that those sadly dead kids are the youngest Starks. It’s kind of similar when other shows [2] put one of their lead characters in danger. You know there’s no way that the show’s actually going to off them, so the tension is false. Same applies here. I mean, I dig the work that Alfie Allen is doing as Theon this year because he’s doing a great job of conveying just how over his head Theon is, as well as playing the internal conflict that Theon feels in siding with his biological family over his surrogate one. But this supposed impact of the Starks’ “deaths” just didn’t have the heft that I think the show was hoping for.
  • Talisa’s still hanging around Robb and, while I generally like what both Oona Castilla and Richard Madden are doing with their material here, move things ahead already. We know where this is going. Just get there.
  • No Tyrion on screen until 46 minutes into the episode. Unacceptable.
  • “A Man Without Honor” was also the first time that Nikolaj Coster-Waldau has been used since the season premiere. Almost as unacceptable.

This may seem to be a bit of unfair criticism because – as I’ll address in the Miscellany – there was still plenty to like in “A Man Without Honor.” It’s just that with a show whose potential is as limitless as GoT is, it’s frustrating to see the show coast at times, while also continuing to waste screentime on things that aren’t working. Three episodes left to right things and prove that season two isn’t going to stand as a disappointment.

[1] Really. This is some American Horror Story-level bullshit.
[2] I’m excepting GoT somewhat from this upcoming example because… “Baelor.”

Miscellany:
*As I mentioned, this is the first time we’ve seen Jaime Lannister since the first episode of the season, “The North Remembers.” And Coster-Waldau shows just how underutilized he is with almost every moment he’s on screen. He uses one of his cousins – a man who hero-worships Jaime in no small measure – as a distraction in order to escape from the Stark camp, killing both the cousin and one of Robb’s soldiers in the process. He’s almost immediately recaptured, but still gets some shots in on Catelyn after she accuses him of being “a man without honor,” while seemingly confirming to her his less-than-toward relationship with his sister, Cersei: “You know, I’ve never been with any woman but Cersei so, in my own way, I have more honor than poor old dead Ned.” Seriously, GIVE THIS MAN MORE TO DO ALREADY.
*While I’ve bashed almost anything involving Daenerys almost all season, I’ve been equally as harsh to anything involving Jon Snow and his compatriots in the Night’s Watch. That’s why it’s nice to see the forward movement in that story thread, and a lot of that has to do with the introduction of Rose Leslie as Ygritte, the wildling woman who Jon’s obviously going to be ending up with in short order. She escapes his capture while giving him crap about the fact that he’s never, er… known a woman in the biblical sense, only to lead him directly into a trap where about a dozen of her compatriots are waiting. While still tethered to Jon and prior to the ambush, she seems to be hinting that she’s hoping to turn him against his brothers in the Watch, especially after he mentions that he’s Ned’s son and that the blood of her people runs through him. “So, why are you fighting us?” she questions. The chemistry between Leslie and Kit Harrington is well-played and this potentially flipping of Jon gives the character more shading than we’ve seen at any point this season. Almost gives me hope for the Dany/Qarth thread. Nah… it really doesn’t.
*Any and all scenes between Tywin and Arya continue to be season’s highlights.
*The Hound tells Sansa that he did what he did in “The Old Gods And The New” simply because he likes killing. So… there’s that.
*Some good stuff going on in King’s Landing as well with Sansa experiencing a seminal moment in her path towards womanhood, while simultaneously fearing that this may now mean that producing an heir for the execrable Joffrey could be on the near horizon. Cersei shows the first hint that she understands what a monster her son is by advising Sansa that the way to deal with Joffrey is to just focus all of her love on her children, as Cersei implies she did during her marriage to Robert Baratheon.
*Also? Shae’s a goddamn badass.
*”Oh, well that’s alright then. You let a half-wit escape with a cripple.”
*”Did you pull a knife on me in the night?”
*”I want the wounded men to be treated well. ALL the wounded men.”
*”There are no women of the Night’s Watch.” “So the lads just do it with each other, then?”
*”You’re too smart for your own good. Has anyone told you that?”
*”Brave? A dog doesn’t need courage to scare off rats.”
*”The more people you love, the weaker you are.”
*”Shouldn’t I love Joffrey, Your Grace?” “You can try.”
*”It’s hard to put a leash on a dog, once you put a crown on its head.”
*”Sometimes I wonder if this is the price for what we’ve done, for our sins.”
*”I don’t need trust any longer. I don’t want it and I don’t have any room for it.”
*”Hodor.”

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