Before Blackwater: Journey to the Throne, S2E7-8

This is the eighth post in a series I’m staring on this blog called Journey to the Throne, reviewing previous episodes of the show Game of Thrones before its eighth and final season. To view the previous post, click here: Why I Don’t Like Qarth: Journey to the Throne S2E4-6

Since the goal of Journey to the Throne is to consider the show as a whole leading up to its end, please be advised that this post will contain SPOILERS up to the end of Season 7.


Game of Thrones, Season 2, Episode 7: “A Man Without Honor”

Synopsis: King’s Landing frets as Stannis is on his way. Sansa has her first period and Shae threatens to kill a maid who plans to tell Queen Cersei, but Cersei finds out anyway. Cersei and Sansa then have a discussion about being a wife and being a mother – Cersei warns Sansa that she will likely have an unlovable husband in Joffrey, but that she will love their children. At Harrenhal, Tywin orders the Mountain to find whoever killed Ser Amory Lorch. He then invites Arya to eat with him. He pontificates about his legacy and explains the history of Harrenhal. Arya shares all her knowledge about the Targaryen conquest – and errs too close to blowing her cover. Tywin seems to know for certain that she’s noble-born, but does nothing about it. Alton Lannister returns to Robb Stark after bringing his peace terms to King’s Landing – he’s kept in a cell with his cousin Jaime. He tells Jaime that he once squired for him at a tournament, and the two share stories about being knights and warriors. However, Jaime kills him in an attempt to escape. He also kills Torren Karstark before he is caught and put back in prison. Torren’s father Rickard Karstark demands revenge, but Catelyn explains that they need to keep Jaime prisoner. In Harrenhal In the North, Bran, Rickon, Osha, and Hodor are on the run from Theon. Theon uses hounds and horses to track the escapees, but loses the trail. He brings back the charred bodies of two young boys back to Winterfell. North of the Wall, Jon still has Ygritte as prisoner as he searches for his companions. She makes fun of him for being a virgin and tries to tempt him to break his vows and join the wildling army. She escapes from him briefly, only to lead him into a trap. In Qarth, there is a shocking development in which we discover that the characters behind the kidnapping of the dragons is the one-dimensional warlock character – but, he does it by the command of Xaro, the social climber and only member of the Thirteen with any kind of agency or motivation. Wow, surprise surprise. Xaro and the Warlocks kill the rest of the Thriteen.

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Something I haven’t had a chance to comment on in previous episodes but really wanted to is the relationship between Sansa and Shae. Initially, Shae’s role as Sansa’s handmaiden is just to provide a plausible cover story for her presence in the city. But soon, the two begin to bond. It’s telling that at this point in their story, Shae threatens murder on Sansa’s behalf. It’s really heartwarming to see how organically this friendship has developed.

In the Riverlands, the Kingslayer becomes a Kinslayer in one of the episode’s highlights – but this also causes some storytelling hiccups. First off, it leads to the wonderful character work between Jaime and his cousin Alton as Alton describes squiring for Jaime at a tournament and recalls being so in awe of him. Later on in the episode, Jaime is also prompted to share some of his philosophy in regards to his Kingslaying and oathbreaking. That being said, my issue is that Jaime murdering his cousin – something he noticeably does not do in the books – is a definite step backward for his character, and this is noticeable because he really begins a redemption arc in earnest starting next season. Combine this with another show add-in from S4, and his redemption arc is suddenly less redeeming. By the end of his conversation with his cousin Alton, you like him a lot more. He’s not terribly cocky, he’s sympathetic to this cousin who assumes that he doesn’t remember anything about him or the time they spent together, but he does. He’s immensely likable in this scene… until he does a complete about-face and murders Alton. If Jaime became more villainous as time went on, I’d actually like this sudden shift – but we’re supposed to see him as something of a hero by the next season. So why’s this happening?

But there’s an absolutely flawless moment between the other Lannister children. Honestly, the quiet moments in this episode are some of the best. I like Cersei and Sansa almost bonding, and how Cersei – having married Robert – gives Sansa some advice.

But the scene between Tyrion and Cersei is phenomenal. Cersei wonders aloud if Joffrey’s temperament is punishment for the sin she and Jaime committed. Lena Headey and Peter Dinklage being an absolutely terrific actors. It really tears at my heartstrings to have the moment in the above video in which Tyrion walks close to Cersei and seems to want to comfort her but knows that there is just too much animosity between them usually to do so. This scene might play as awkward on first viewing, but it becomes clear that these two actors have a strong chemistry when it comes to conveying relationship between siblings who mostly don’t get along sharing a tender moment. I’ve said it before and I’ll said it again; these are the small, tender character moments that have gotten lost as the show has gone on to scenes of a larger scale.

Favorite Line: Jaime’s philosophy on vows: “You are no knight! You have forsaken every vow you ever took.” “So many vows… They make you swear and swear. Defend the king, obey the king, obey your father, protect the innocent, defend the weak. But what if your father despises the king? What if the king massacres the innocent? It’s too much.”

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Favorite Scene: Tyrion and Cersei trying to be siblings is a definite highlight; either that or Jaime being brought back into camp. The riot that accompanies Jaime’s return is very cinematic between the way people defend him, attack him, yell at him, and he is grinning and laughing all the while. While I don’t love the character change of him murdering Alton, this sequence was interesting to see.

 

Season 2, Episode 8: “The Prince of Winterfell”

Synopsis: Arriving back at his camp, Robb discovers that his mother has released Jaime to send him back to King’s Landing in exchange for Sansa. Talisa tells a story of how she became interested in medicine. Robb and Talisa finally give into temptation and make love. In Winterfell, Theon’s sister Asha Yara arives at Winterfell to tell him that their father commands him to return to the Iron Islands, but Theon refuses. Meanwhile, Maester Luwin discovers that Theon never actually killed Bran and Rickon. At Harrenhal, Tywin talks strategy and then travels south to fight Stannis. Evaluating her deal with Jaquen H’gar, Arya realizes she can wish for more wishes and tells him that she demands he use the last death on himself unless he helps her escape. In King’s Landing, Tyrion, Bronn, and Varys discuss strategy for the battle. Cersei – upset that Joffrey is going to fight in the upcoming battle – tells Tyrion that she has found his whore and tortured her, but she has the wrong woman. On his way to King’s Landing, Stannis recounts the awful siege of Storm’s End in which he nearly died, and how Davos saved him, before naming him his Hand of the King. North of the Wall, both Jon and Qhorin Halfhand have been captured by the wildlings who are going to take them to the wildling king Mance Rayder. Halfhand tells Jon that he has a plan, and then makes a big show of having a fight with Jon.

This episode, coming right before the momentous “Blackwater,” has a couple of notable scenes, but nothing tremendous is going on. This episode is mostly character interaction before all of next episode’s explosive action.

For example, the moment where Cersei thinks she has caught Tyrion’s companion. It’s pretty astonishing. There’s a steady build of drama as Cersei talks about the woman she caught and how she had a Lannister Lion necklace – and because Shae hadn’t appeared in that episode yet, it felt like she could plausibly be in danger. That’s why when they bring out Ros (Remember her and Theon talking about that necklace in Season 1?) it’s a relief, even though you do feel bad for Ros.

This episode’s best moment probably has to be Stannis and Davos discussing the battle, their history of the Siege of Storm’s End, and Davos being promoted to Hand of the King. This is a scene where Davos proves to be immensely likable; when Stannis recounts the story of the Siege of Storm’s End, Davos stays humble and even cracks a little joke. “Every man on Storm’s End wanted to kiss you that night,” “And I was thankful that they did not.” But the moment that was really touching is when Stannis mentions that the other men in his army tend to look down on Davos and Davos almost starts to defend them, by pointing out that they are brave men regardless. Up to this point, Davos had been little more than an audience stand-in, giving us a look at Stannis. Now, with his background and a good look at his shining personality, he’s suddenly an immensely likable protagonist.

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Another backstory we get is Talisa’s. She tells the story about how a Volantene slave performed CPR on her brother to revive him from drowning. She explains how this made her love medicine and hate slavery, and it finally tips Robb over the edge and into love with her. It’s just a beautiful scene.

A very funny (if not particularly important exchange) occurs during the scene where King’s Landing is preparing for Stannis’ attack. Joffrey says that he will give Stannis “a red smile” before walking off. Tyrion says sarcastically “Imagine Stannis’ terror” and Varys says – perhaps sarcastically perhaps not – “I am trying.”

And that’s the episode in a nutshell – amusing enough, but more focused on what’s going to happen in episode 9. This episode had the tough job of being the good on its own merits while also setting up the final elements for the Battle of Blackwater. In this regard, I think it succeeded well enough.

Favorite Line: Qhorin’s warning to Jon. “[The other rangers] are dead because of me.” “See that it wasn’t for nothing.

Favorite Moment: Stannis and Davos. It’s the first moment where we love this character who we will likely love until the last episode of this show.

 

One thought on “Before Blackwater: Journey to the Throne, S2E7-8

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