Game of Thrones: SE02 EP02 Review: The Night Lands

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“I’m not Ned Stark – I understand how this game is played” ~ Tyrion

This episode was about putting the game pieces in play. There was little violence and an abundance of political maneuvering. Cersei is still failing miserably at maintaing control over Joff and the people of King’s Landing. Far from winning over the inhabitants, the Lannisters alienated the populace with their cruelty. Fortunately, Tyrion has stepped in to mitigate the damage. He deftly removes Janos Slynt, a bully and crony loyal to Joff and Cersei, and replaces him with Bron. Tyrion is the only Lannister who truly understands that power is more than sheer might, it’s cunning and popularity. He probably understands this best because unlike his sister and brother, he has had to rely on his wits as opposed to his physical prowess or beauty. He is now the Hand of the King and doesn’t care to meet Ned’s fate. Tyrion spends much of this episode “fire fighting” and doing damage control. He may just save the Lannisters from completely falling apart. Cersei attempts to throw him off his game with a few well placed verbal barbs, but Tyrion holds his ground knowing what he’s doing will A.) keep him alive, and B.) Prevent the city from rising against the Lannisters after Cersei and Joff ‘s horrific blunders.

Theon Greyjoy makes the journey home to find a less than warm welcome from his family. His father is displeased with his loyalty to the Starks and feels his son has grown soft in the North. Theon mistakes his sister for a common whore and attempts to bed her so his shame is amplified when he not only finds out who she really is, but when their father adds insult to injury by placing her in command of his men.

Baelish and Varys are at it again making veiled threats and stirring up political intrigue. Varys threatens Tyrion, but Tyrion is wise to his ways while Baelish threatens the mistress of his brothel showing his more sinister side.

North of the Wall, Sam Tarly comes to the aid of one of the abused daughters and finds himself begging Jon to help rescue her. She is pregnant with her father’s child and tells them if the baby is male, her father will kill it. Jon sees him trying to expose the baby in the middle of the night and is attacked attempting to save it.

Arya is still in hiding and has a close call when the King’s Guard come looking for her and Gendry. They are saved this time but Ayra realizes her disguise is not as good as it seems when Gendry admits he knows she’s not a boy and Arya is forced to reveal her true lineage.

Stannis is trying to rally support to his claim for the throne. He comes across as feeble and weak because it is plain to see that Melisandre, “the red woman”, is controlling his every move and manipulating his mind. She seduces Stannis, promising him a male heir if he discards his wife. Stannis has sex with her on his war table while the pieces of his amies crash to the floor possibly forshadowing/mirroring his life; it’s a brief yet memorable image.

Lastly, Dany is still stuck in the desert awaiting news from her Khalasar. A horse returns with the head of one of her riders and causes unimaginable grief to her people – his body has been dishonoured and Dany vows vengeance. This was a short scene but powerful and well acted. It conveyed her desperate situation, her anger and grief beautifully. When you compare Dany to Cersei, you see that Cersei merely has the trappings of power, but no real power and certainly no respect from her people. Dany is benevolent but strong, and adored by Drogo’s people. Even at her most desperate and with little to no resources, Dany commands respect, and demonstrates true power.

Join us next week for another exciting episode of Games of Thrones, Sunday at 9pm on HBO.

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Sharan Newman