Game of Thrones: The Night Lands

GAME OF THRONES: 2.02 “The Night Lands”

I’ll start by saying how great it was to see Arya in more than just a single scene. I missed her. She’s got a nice rapport going with Gendry, who already knows about her little secret but is keeping it to himself. His flustered stammering and embarrassment after Arya reveals her noble birth to him made me laugh out loud. Even so, Gendry’s deference doesn’t last for too long, as he’s right back to gently teasing Arya only a few minutes later. It’s fun to watch them get along so well, but the threatening Gold Cloaks that appeared looking for the boy with the bull’s helmet certain foreshadow that some kind of badness is going to hit Yoren and his gaggle of recruits.

The verbal sparing between Tyrion and Varys was the best part of the episode, I think. Both of these characters have, at their core, a fundamental sense of decency, yet because of their inherent handicaps, and because Kings Landing is such a nest of vipers, they can’t risk letting their guard down fully to trust one another. The scene allowed them both to trade thinly veiled threats so that their positions, and what they will do to retaliate if they are attacked, is made clear. They’re not allies (though it would be really cool if they worked together somehow) but I’d like to think they have some degree of mutual respect for each other.

In other Kings Landing news, I thought it was interesting that Cersei described ruling as, to loosely paraphrase, lying in a bed of grass and trying to pull out weeds by the roots before they strangle you. This paranoid approach to rulership is not going to serve her well in the future. Finally, it was great to see Tyrion outmaneuver and exile Janos Slynt, the captain of the Gold Cloaks and one of Ned’s betrayers. As so many others do, he underestimated Tyrion (something that Varys will not do) and suffered because of it. Now Bronn’s in charge of the city guard, and at least Tyrion knows he can trust him as long as the gold keeps flowing.

This episode jumped around a lot, as it seems like the creators are moving around as quickly as they can early in the season to set up a big climax in some of the later episodes. A few other things I liked:

  • Sam’s humanity really shone through in this episode, especially when he said to Jon that they couldn’t “steal” Craster’s daughter/wife Gilly because she was a “person, not a goat.” In Westeros life in general, particularly the lives of women who aren’t noble born, is cheap; simply look at Littlefinger’s menacing speech to Roz about losing his “investments.” So it’s encouraging to see Sam rather courageously assert that Gilly has essential worth as a person, and doesn’t deserve to be used or treated like a thing.
  • Only one scene with Dany this week, but it was a good one. I like the way the camera moved slowly and remained unfocused through much of the scene; it really highlighted how parched and exhausted she and her followers were. They’re all in real trouble. Again, the precarious nature of a woman’s position in society is highlighted here. The other Dothraki were so offended by the idea of a woman (Dany) leading a Khalassar that they desecrated the body of her messenger, in effect “destroying his soul.”
  • I enjoyed the character of Davos in the books, but I think he’s especially well done here. He’s very pragmatic, but he was also extremely charismatic in the scene where he recruited the pirate and his fleet to Stannis’s cause. This sense of charisma was missing from the books, I think, but it’s present here. You can see why someone like Stannis would want Davos as his right hand man.
  • I was never a big fan of the Theon or the Ironborn storylines in the books, so I can’t say I’m any more thrilled about them here. We quickly learn that Theon’s father doesn’t plan on allying himself with the Starks, which puts Theon in a bind. Should he stay loyal to a man who is almost like a brother to him, yet who’s father has held him hostage for years? Or will he side with his real father, who seems to detest him for being soft?

5 thoughts on “Game of Thrones: The Night Lands

  1. I’m curious to know from others that have not read the books how they’re liking this season. As I’ve been watching the casting up until the season started, I knew that they’d be adding new characters, but I’m finding it rather hard to follow now. Not only in the new characters, but in characters that were so minor they were invisible in the first season — standing in the background or delivering the maximum of five lines — and suddenly we’re supposed to know who they are.

    Just reading the review, I’m noticing how far behind I am: Janos, Craster, Davos… I’m really falling behind. They may be introduced in one episode, but it’s hard to follow week to week, and it makes me worry a bit. I could go more into this, but I’m not sure anyone wants to hear it (though I could do a whole blog on it…maybe I will).

    As far as plot goes, I do wish they had shown the face of the Dothrak messenger who was killed. This show has not hesitated to show the gory (sheesh, Ned Stark’s head was shown on a pike, for goodness’ sake), so I’m surprised to be left in mystery to know which messenger it was. It made me assume that it was someone nameless and not important, but my hunch is that he was the good-lookin’ one (aka, the one who did stuff and had lines).

    Finally, there was WAY too much sex in this episode, venturing on the gratuitous. I’m not opposed to including it, but the part in Littlefinger’s prostitution house was just unnecessary as it was shown. As for his conversation with Roz, that really didn’t bother me. Perhaps I’m setting women back 60 years, but if you’re a prostitute, being paid to play the role Littlefinger’s telling you to play, crying isn’t part of the package.

  2. I should also add that I can’t stand Roz anyway, so perhaps that’s going into my thought process as well.

  3. Yeah, they have been moving a quite a clip so far, introducing people left and right, so I’m not surprised that your head is spinning a little bit. I’d like to think that this will settle down a bit somewhere around episode 4 and we’ll have some more clear storylines to latch onto until the end of the season (I hope). Davos is a new character we’ll probably be seeing a lot of, but Craster, Janos, and a few others are minor folks who probably won’t be doing much more from here on out. Characters like that might be viewed better based on what they provoke the main characters to do (Tyrion exiling Janos to the Wall shows that Tyrion is more cunning as Hand than Ned was, for example.)

    There was quite a lot of sexposition in this one, and I’ll agree that it almost was too much.

  4. Part of it is the adjustment. The first season, while incorporating a lot of people and a lot of storylines, really surrounded the Stark family for most of the plot. Their actions rippled out elsewhere (even to Dany’s story, when Ned refused to send someone to kill her). Now, we realize that they’re not the center of the story anymore, so those characters we spent time getting to know may not be heavily present in an episode. I might want to know what’s going on with Rob and Sanza, but we’re merely getting glimpses of Arya and Jon in this episode.

    Btw, loved Arya and Gendry (another new name) in this episode.

  5. Yeah, the gratuitous sex and nudity is overdone. It’s almost to the point where I think to myself: “what, 10 minutes have passed! Time for another sex scene.” Although Martin’s works were full of sex, HBO has ramped up the percentages. For instance, in the show, Tyrion was introduced as a drunken leach having sex with a prostitute, and his brother, Jaime, threw in three more prostitutes for good measure. In the book, Tyrion consorts with prostitutes, but, intriguingly, he usually has monogomous relationships. In the show, HBO has introduced a new character, Roz, a prostitute. As if GOT needed yet another character! And, with a prostitute as a main character, sex is just de rigueur.

    What’s sad is that much of the sex portrayed is brutal, animalistic, gratuitous, and directed at the male viewership. Females engaged in sex, whether through rape, consent, or exchange, are young and are often depicted with partial or full frontal nudity; males engaged in sex are of various ages and are often depicted clothed. Interestingly enough, in the book, Catelyn and Ned Stark have a bedroom scene in which the couple lovingly consumates their relationship, and then Catelyn, a middle-aged woman, leaves the bed fully naked. HBO declined to show this scene.

    HBO needs to cut back on the gratuitous sex and focus on tightening up the plotlines. It’s a shame that they’ve decided to commit to every POV character in GOT: even in the books, it becomes more and more disjointed and alienating to follow so many characters. If they continue in this vein, it will be near nigh impossible for people who have not read the books to follow the action. Ah well. I guess they’ll have to sex scenes to ponder instead.

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