[Review] - Game Of Thrones Season 2, Episode 2 "The Night Lands"

Photo courtesy of HBO

"Sometimes those with the most power have the least grace," Littlefinger informs us, in this second episode of season two, and as a thesis statement for the episode, it works pretty well. Littlefinger himself, of course, immediately proves the exception to the rule, as he very calmly and politely explains to Roz (the Fairest Prostitute in all the land), that if she doesn't shape up, he'll sell her to Eastern European businessmen. I doubt that a pimp has ever delivered such a delicate threat.

Luckily for the viewers, most everyone else in Westeros is about as graceful as a tightrope walker going through withdrawal, and we get more than enough examples that illustrate Littlefinger's point. Thoughout the episode, we are shown in no uncertain terms, that the dominate characters in each instance, are ruthless and uncouth in their own way. That, and season two settles into more of a season one rhythm, and we get to explore a little more of this world. But is it at the expense of other characters.

To read the spoiler ridden review, hit the jump.

Let's start by saying, only half the cast is at work here. Practically the whole Stark family is absent, as are Joffery, and still no sign of Renly. In the War of Five Kings, we're only up to four, which is one more than last week. Dany gets only a single, absolutely pointless scene, and Jamie is presumably still sitting in his cage. The difference from last week being, you don't notice their absence. The story moves on, and if the character is needed, their names are invoked and their presence felt. It's the best way that the writers can do it, considering the numbers they have to deal with. To drop a character into the episode, as they did with Dany here, just to remind viewers they still exist, serves no purpose. The viewer gets frustrated, and the character is ill served.

What we get instead, are a closer look at new arrivals Stannis and Davos, and the still unnamed Melisandre. I think of all the characters on the show, Davos, played by Liam Cunningham, has the potential to be for this, and later seasons, what Ned Stark was in the first. He is loyal, possibly to a fault, and proud. He knows which side he is on, and despite not always agreeing with the decisions made by those he serves, he always stands by them. It helps that Cunningham looks like he's having fun. Almost as much fun as Dinklage has playing Tyrion. His scene, convincing the pirate Saan to join his fleet with Stannis, was the best of the episode, and Davos is the newest character I'm most looking forward to moving forward.

Again, I'm conflicted by my knowledge of the books impacting my enjoyment of the series, and exactly how far they intend of deviating from the source. I'm fine either way, but I'd like some guidance. An exchange during Stannis' big scene illuminates one of these moments. The series continues to show Stannis as more of a reluctant recipient of Melisandre's help. During their interactions, it is revealed that Stannis' wife is sickly, and incapable of giving Stannis sons. In the books, Stannis' wife was more of a Lady Macbeth, being directly responsible for Stannis' conversion. And, he does have a daughter, who is the sickly one. Are the writer's intending on combining the mother-daughter characters, and if so, how instrumental was Mrs. Baratheon in bringing the Red God into Stannis' life?

More of the focus of the episode was geared towards Theon Greyjoy, who consistently proves to be the biggest idiot in the seven kingdoms. Honestly, there isn't anything this schmuck can do right. Even the peasants recognize that he's a schmuck. Balon Greyjoy (Patrick Malahide) is right to trust his armies to his daughter, even if the actress playing her doesn't seem to care about what the hell is going on. If Theon were given charge of the Greyjoy fleets, he'd either try to have sex with the ships, or sail them into a cliff face. Alfie Allen fills the role with so much pathos, you can't help but feel sorry for him, even though he's done nothing to earn it. We do though, get a look another awesome looking but horribly impractical castle, the bridge-linked Pyke.

Things are quiet on the other fronts, Tyrion dispatching a possible rival to the Wall, and fretting with Cersei over the horrible baby murder from last week. The realization that Joffery is growing beyond anyone's control might have been the biggest reveal of the episode, certainly the one that will plague our characters the most in the coming weeks, especially Tyrion, whose plans had counted on easy manipulation. It also marks the largest deviation from the books, where Joffery, save for certain outbursts, was always more of a puppet to Cersei's whims.

Arya makes her first proper appearance of the season, in an establishing scene setting up yet more characters and conflicts for later on, though she does find an ally in Gendry, the King's bastard who escaped the purge last week. The scene was lacking an overall tone, and so the reveal of Arya being a Stark was played strangely, I think mostly becasue the actor playing Gendry wasn't certain if he was meant to be sarcastic, grovelling, or just a little shit. What we get is a combination of the three that just sits there.

Elsewhere, beyond the wall, Jon has to put up with more of Sam's nonsense, and witnesses something he aught not have (this season does love it's baby murder, doesn't it?). Knowing (maybe) where the Jon Snow story is headed this season, I think it will suffer the most from pacing issues, not really having enough meat to sustain itself over an entire season. My prediction, don't be surprised if those in Black disappear for episodes at a time.

It's a mark improvement over last week, and more in line with what we are accustomed to from GoT. We can assume that the shape of this episode will be the standard format for the near future. I'd much rather have two or three characters fill an episode, than try to cram too much in, resulting in disconnected one-off scenes. If this results in some characters only appearing occasionally, so be it. If story is best served this way, then that is the way is must be. As it should be in this, or any world, the story is king.

Best line: Not a single line, but the euphemism off between Varys and Tyrion at the beginning, which rivals a similar scene between Ned and Jamie from season one in terms of subtext. Both men, I think, are too clever for their own good sometime,s and tend to bite off more than they can chew.

B*tchslaps: None, though Theon gets a bit of a psychological one in, telling the ship rat to try smiling with her lips together.
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About MR. Clark

Adopting the descriptor of "successfully unpublished author", MR. Clark began writing things on the internet in 2012, which he believed to be an entirely reputable and civilized place to find and deliver information. He regrets much.


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