[Review] - Game Of Thrones, Season 3 Episode 2, "Dark Wings, Dark Words"

Courtesy of HBO
I had high hopes for this episode. Vanessa Taylor was responsible for what I considered to be the best non-Martin written of the series last season, and this is the only episode she is credited for writing this year.

Happily, my hopes were justified, as Dark Wings, Dark Words was a quality episode. It was still fragmented, and covered a lot of ground, which I guess I'm just going to have to accept as the way of things (despite the fact that it rarely works out well), but Taylor's script held things together in a way that at least felt tighter and more focused then last week did.

Hit the jump for the review, which contains spoilers which also enjoy lemon cakes.


Structurally, this week wasn't that different from last. We got a series of stories to focus on, a series more of short scenes doing little more then reminding us that the characters are still around, and a set of plots that weren't referenced at all. The difference was, those stories that were focused on seemed to take their time, letting the action play out rather then rushing through as much plot as possible. Last week, the episode flew by in a flurry. This week allowed you to be absorbed into the world again, and deceived you about how quickly time was actually passing.

Forget about winter, puberty has come to Westeros, and the creators have opted to pretend it hasn't happened. Bran looks to be about five years older, and my guess is Maisie Williams will follow suit next year. It didn't help matters that the first shot we get of Bran this entire season, he's up and running around, a condition we haven't seen him in since the pilot episode, and it is very obvious that he's considerably taller then he was last time. They even made him a wagon, to save poor Hodor's back, or the CG budget from having to pull a Hobbit perspective trip on him.

Outside of Tyrion's story, there is generally little humour in the Game of Thrones. Characters tend towards the sombre and the sardonic. One of the reason I'm partial to Taylor's scripts is she always manages to sneak in humour into characters that don't usually have any. Not everyone in Westeros is a tight ass, even Ned had a laugh once. So with Taylor's words, things are a little more playful, a little less dire and considerably more enjoyable to watch. And considering the show is very watchable to begin with, that is a great accomplishment.

One of the up shots of the series not following the point of views of the books, and having more time to fill in each episode is the elaboration of certain characters or events that are alluded to in the books, but never detailed. So, we get characters like Margaery, who is ever only really wallpaper in a handful of narratives in the novels, but here gets to develop into a fully formed character. And boy howdy is she an interesting one. Her mastery of manipulation, which gives the excellent scene between the Queen of Thornes and Sansa some purpose and context, is about the most interesting thing happening in King's Landing right now, and will no doubt direct Cersei's development from here on out, as the obvious rival in the city. Margaery could almost be considered a sociopath, slipping into whatever skin she needs to get what she wants. She was obviously willing to go to any extremes with Renly, the question becomes will she be willing to go to the same lengths with Joffrey, considering his tastes are considerably more deranged.

We were introduced to the Brotherhood Without Banners here, and I enjoyed them. Thoros wasn't what I expected, but exceeded my expectations. The whole band was Martin's response to the legend of Robin Hood, with Thoros playing the role of Friar Tuck. Here, he is much more affable, much more disarming and enchanting then I ever imagined him. He seems designed to be widely liked, and it worked. His interactions with Arya call back on her interactions with Illyrio, a comforting teacher like relationship, covered in a heavy amount of charm. Except this time, Arya is less accepting of said charm, having become hardened and cautious. Just not cautious enough, as it turns out.

In the novels, Martin was never really ambiguous about Jamie's talents. He is pretty consistent in his description that Jamie is one of the better living knights, if not the best. In the series, he has now been bested twice. I say bested, because both times he has been interrupted before the fight can actually conclude. But once in season one, against Ned, who was clearly winning, and here against Brienne, who also would have cleaned his clock if Bolton's men haven't showed up. Jamie's story is one of redemption, his atonement for being the King's Slayer, but atonement can't occur until he has nothing left, until he is beaten and broken and is forced to rebuild himself. I'd say, after his pummelling on the bridge, he's pretty damned close to that breaking point. That he can still quip and pun while he plummets from his high horse is just fun to watch.

There were interlude scenes, moments of Jon and Sam and Tyrion that didn't really fit. The Tryion scene especially, as it didn't move anything forward. At least Sam and Jon are walking, with the assumption that when the series settles down on their stories they'll have reached somewhere. But, as I've said before, including characters for the sake of having them appear only weakens the show. Point in fact, Dany is nowhere to be seen in this episode. I take her absence as a good thing, not because I don't like her story, but because last season hers was the most fragmented, and her per episode absence can only mean more the episodes she does appear in will have more meat to them. I hope.

Not everything was a winner here though, with the Robb and Cat story briskly doing away with a substantial amount of Cat's development from the books, though to be fair it was development that ultimately went no where. Instead, they replaced it with an admission that she wished Jon Snow harm, something I don't think any viewers needed to be reminded of, and felt very out of place considering that I doubt Cat would have thought about the child she never loved once since he left Winterfell.

It is a hard thing, in a series that is one long continuous story, but requires that each season have it's own arc, that you must sacrifice some episodes reintroducing characters, intentions and conflicts. With this episode behind us, we know where everyone is, where they left off after last year and where they are headed in the immediate future. So hopefully now, we'll see them start to accomplish things and get into trouble yet again. From here on out, I suspect, the fun will start.
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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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