[Review] - Game of Thrones, Season 2 Episode 10, "Valar Morghulis"


Courtesy of HBO
War has a way of clouding the sight. When an army is barring down on you, the choices are simple. Motivations are simple. People become simple. You win, or you die. But after the fighting is over, reality sets in. The real world is a much more textured place then any battlefield, and the motivations are infinitely complex. All this season, Game of Thrones has been at war. Five Kings entered, four remain. One is defeated and dejected. One is distracted. One is absent. And one still sits on the throne. Battles have been fought, casualties mounting, and the war is far from over. Suddenly though, after the fire recedes, things seem a great deal more complicated.

There is a worry in television of the so-called 'sophmore slump,' when a show successful in it's first year can't match the quality in it's second. GoT did not suffer a sophomore slump. It built on the quality and expectations the first had given, and rose to the challenge, after a somewhat shaky start. Now, the question becomes, will it build even further, and make the third season better yet, or will it buckle under the weight of itself, and collapse? We've got ten months to ponder that question. First though, let's finish up here.

Hit the jump for a review, with spoilers.

The final episode was, in many ways, the perfect book end to the first. And not perfect in terms of quality. But in terms of juxtaposition. A good writer never leaves a character in the same place they started, and the journey's many of these characters took have left them in remarkably different places, with wonderful new challenges before them.

Problem was, it suffered from many of the same weaknesses that the first episode had as well.
We still only got one scene to resolve, or at least push forward into a better place, each story line.
Even with the additional ten minutes running time, they didn't actually use the time to provide us with scenes of critical importance, or more of scenes that were important. My guess, Varys' scene with Roz, and Dany's brief reunion with Drogo were the material air lifted in to pad out the run time, and neither scene established anything we didn't already know about the characters involved. At best, Varys' scene had a single line that was nicely placed, his comment that Littlefinger not being as good as he thinks, coming straight after Littlefinger's own assurtion that everyone in King's Landing was better liars then Sansa.

It is a shame that they didn't adopt last week's format for the entire season, and if they were smart, and listened to viewer complaints, the producers might change things up next year. Don't try to cover too much each episode. Bottle the stories, play them out in two or three episodes, and let them alone. This season, Dany could have done everything she ultimately did in maybe two strong episodes, rather then watering it down and spreading it our over eight (though, and I can't believe I'm saying this, in this episode she was actually interesting). The same is true of Robb's infatuations, or of Theon's little power trip in the North. And considering all the new characters that will be introduced next year, there will be even less time for those already established.

As I said at the start, war has a way of clouding perspective, both for the characters, and for us. Remember last year, when Tywin was an arrogant bastard who cared only for his family name. Then this season, he seemed to become a father figure, a magnificent leader with charisma? Guess what? He's back to being the sort of guy who rides into a castle, on horseback, so he can look down on the King, to accept a badge everyone else has accepted in private.

Or Tyrion, who had the power situation figured out, and knew that there was no place for him in his father's world. Then spent all of this season realising that, not only was he perfectly suited for the world of politics, but he was better at it then everyone who had spent their lives doing. And had begun to believe that this was the way of things now, that he was the hero and his name would be cherished? Now he's bandaged and alone in a hovel, being mocked by an old pervert.

Theon's great defiance, and victory had him believing that he wasn't a child, but a fierce warrior. So full of arrogance, he gives the opposite of Tyrion's battle speech from last week, and is promptly betrayed by his own men. Then, without explanation, the prize he held so dear is burned to the ground.

This episode wasn't about conclusions, or even about resolutions. It was about realisations. Those profound, often painful moments of clarity, when everything you think you knew comes crashing down around you. If season one was about allegiances, season two was about the pain and the loss, and the siege and the victory. It was about adrenaline and the rush that comes with it. Season three then, will be about consequences. Actions, as we have seen over the past ten episodes, must suffer those consequences, and that sort of reality, the kind you don't find on the battlefield, but in your own home, can be more horrible then anything else.

Until, at least, the dead rise up. Talk about consequences to actions...

Line of the Night: "It was a good speech. Didn't want to interrupt," which I believe was also the only joke of the night.

B*tchslap: Not tonight. Though Stannis' little fit probably left some marks on Melisandre's neck.

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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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