The critically-acclaimed (and jaw-droppingly brilliant) HBO series Game of Thrones has returned to screens on both sides of the Atlantic. Each week, Richard Browne reviews each episode as the stakes in Westeros rise even higher.
Arya fails to bash the Hound’s head in with a rock (oh Arya, you never fail to underwhelm), but gets a very nice surprise in return, as we find out the Hound’s gone soft (sort of).
Daenerys parleys with the Second Sons, the mercenary company in the pay of Yunkai. Their captain, Mero, is a scumbag to rival any in George R. R. Martin’s universe. Sadly for him, Daenerys appears to have a talent for winning allies to her cause.
Another scumbag, at least for a while, is Stannis. He appears to have no qualms about slaughtering “the son of some tavern slut” (Gendry), although he does listen to Ser Davos, which is all to the good – for Gendry’s sake at least, if not for three poor leeches or their intended victims.
The big day arrives for Sansa and Tyrion, an occasion to bring out the most odious side of Joffrey. Still, nothing he can do can overshadow the absolute delight that is Peter Dinklage playing drunk Tyrion. And yet he remains more of gentleman than anyone in King’s Landing.
Then we have Samwell. Dear sweet Sam. He’s still inept when it comes to building fires, but he then goes and proves himself as something of a hero, quite spectacularly.
An excellent episode, certainly an improvement on last week’s. We have our taste of capital politics at the Sansa-Tyrion wedding, as well as a nerve-tingling fight for survival in the snow.
We also saw that Carice van Houten (Melisandre) and Emilia Clarke (Daenerys) had drawn the straws to get their kit off in this episode. The Melisandre we see on screen is far more overtly sexual than the one we see on the page, both in her relationship with Stannis and her general temptress demeanour.
Spelled out rather than implied is not always a bad thing, and I suppose that they had to do something to set up Gendry’s leeching. It’s sexed up, undeniably, but here it does appear to fit with the on-screen Melisandre we’ve already seen.
I suppose you’ll be expecting me to say that Daenerys getting out of her bath and baring (almost) all is pointless. Actually, I don’t think it is, given who is present when she does it. The showrunners not giving Daario blue hair, less forgivable.
I couldn’t finish this review without saying how pleased I was to have Stannis back. He doesn’t get much time on screen, so Stephen Dillane has to maximise every opportunity. That he does, ogling Melisandre (oh Stannis), attempting to justify himself despite his misgivings (oh Stannis) and showing respect for the common sense of Davos, his saving grace (yes Stannis).
He’s a man who is always struggling. Struggling to win the Iron Throne despite inspiring little devotion, struggling with his feelings for Melisandre amid the guilt and remorse (as a married man) and struggling to judge whether to listen to Davos or Melisandre – can a man be truly just in his actions and honest to himself while making brutal, some say necessary, decisions in order to win the Throne and save the world?
Dillane, needless to say, does not struggle to, well, struggle.
Two this week…
“If you ever call me sister again I’ll have you strangled in your sleep.”
A line dripping with poison. Cersei makes it very clear that she does not see the Lannisters and Tyrells as being on equal footing.
“If my father wants someone to get fucked, he knows where to start.”
Tyrion on his dad. Brilliant.
Winning the game
An honest hero amid all this scheming, ransoming and backstabbing, I give you Samwell Tarly. He kills one of the Others to save the girl and her baby. Hooray for Sam! Stuff Mance Rayder, Jon Snow and Azor Ahai, Sam is going to save the world!
Here be dragons?
No, although Mero gives Daenerys her ‘Mother of Dragons’ title before comparing her to a prostitute. The entire CGI dragon budget was probably spent on episodes one, four and seven, so I’d be surprised if we see them again this season.