GAME OF THRONES: 2.10 “Valar Morghulis”
Season two of Game of Thrones ends with a horde of blue-eyed dead men and white-walkers with crystal swords shambling towards the Night’s Watch encampment, all while poor Sam cowers under a rock and watches in horror. The show did a great job of building up to this horrific scene; the horn blowing out three slow notes to warn of the white-walker’s arrival, the fear in the ranger’s faces as they ran back to camp, the way the wind and snow rose up around Sam, cutting him off from his friends. For the men of the Night’s Watch beyond the wall, winter is here.
We’ll leave Sam hiding under his rock for now for a quick trip around the world of Westeros and Essos, to check in and see where everyone is left at the season’s end.
- Tyrion is recovering from his ghastly injury in a dank room that must be somewhere near the bottom of the royal palace. He’s been stripped of his title, his valor in battle forgotten by his conquering hero father; his hill tribe bodyguards have been sent away, and Bronn has been relieved of his command. At least Shae still cares for him, as it’s clear that their relationship has passed beyond that of a prostitute and customer. She tries to get him to flee with her across the sea to Pentos, but Tyrion realizes that the game of politics is what he loves and what he’s good at, and he can’t leave it behind. Given his reduced status, and that after one failed assassination attempt, Cersei’s almost certainly likely to try and kill him again, Tyrion will need to use all of his considerable intellect to keep himself alive next spring. We’ll see how he does. One thing we know for sure, though, is that the Half Man doesn’t run.
- Sansa is relieved to learn that her marriage to Joffrey has been cast aside for a more expedient political alliance. Joffrey will marry Margarey, Renly’s former wife (who, according to her brother, was never able to consummate her first marriage), to seal the newly formed alliance between the Lannisters and the Tyrells. Sansa lets out a little happy laugh when she thinks no one is looking, but her joy turns to ash when Littlefinger, now the new lord of Harrenhall, informs her that her position in King’s Landing has become even more dangerous. Instead of becoming Joffrey’s wife, she’s now just the daughter and sister of traitors, free to be abused and used by the brutal and capricious king.
- Arya and her traveling companions meet Jaqen outside of Harrenhall, and the mysterious assassin offers to take Arya away from Westeros and teach her how to take revenge on the people who have hurt her and her family. She declines, explaining that she has to remain so she can reunite with her sister, brothers, and mother. Instead, Jaqen gives her a coin, and tells her that if she is ever in trouble, she simply needs to give the coin to any man from Braavos and repeat the words “valar morghulis.” With that, Jaqen turns his head away, and looks back, wearing an entirely different face. I’m sure this special coin will come into play at some point next season.
- Robb and Talisa are married in a very nice, simple ceremony beneath a huge tree. It’s a touching scene, but I can’t help but feel looming danger on the horizon. The show keeps reminding us how Robb is breaking his oath to the Freys. Because it’s told us how dangerous and ill-advised this sort of oathbreaking is, I can only imagine that it’s going to come back to bite Robb somehow. For now, though, he can have at least a few minutes of quiet happiness, something that few people in this show get to experience.
- Quorin, in the hopes that Jon might be accepted by the wildings and therefore in a position to try and kill their king, picks a fight with Jon and winds up getting killed. His last words to Jon, “We are the watchers on the Wall” are said to help remind the younger ranger that he’s still a man of the Night’s Watch, even if he’s pretending to be a traitor, and he must do whatever is necessary to protect Westeros.
- Back at Winterfell, Theon ignores some very kind advice from Maester Lewin (“Go North! Take the black!”) and instead tries to rally his men for a final suicidal stand against the 500 Northmen outside of the walls. His second-in-command brains him with a club for his efforts; it looks like his men will drag him back to the Iron Islands, though I really have no idea how they expect to get back with all those Northmen besieging the castle. All in all, this storyline was terribly anti-climatic. Somehow (I’m assuming) the ironmen escape, and either they or the Northmen outside the walls, wind up setting fire to Winterfell. Bran, Rickon, Hodor, and Osha emerge from the crypts to find ash and fire everywhere. They find Maester Lewin near Ned Stark’s old tree, dying from a spear wound to the gut. The boys say goodbye to the man who’s been a grandfather figure to them their whole lives; I’ll admit that I got a little choked up by the farewell. The boys leave, and Lewin tells Osha to take them north, before looking at her knife and asking for the gift of mercy. Next, we see the four walking (or rolling, in Bran’s case, since he’s in a wheelbarrow) away from the castle, with Winterfell still smoldering and burning in the background.
- Finally, Dany enters the warlock’s House of the Undying to find her dragons, and is treated to some pretty cool illusions. In one, she walks through the shattered throne room in King’s Landing. The roof has been torn off, the stones broken and scorched, the great stained glass windows shattered. Snow is falling, and the iron throne is covered in ice. Winter has come to King’s Landing. Is this a vision of the future, or some other kind of prophecy? She also sees, briefly, the land beyond the wall, and then is finally confronted by an image of Drogo and the unborn son that they never knew. As sweet as the illusion is, she turns her back on it, returning to reality and commanding her dragons to burn the warlock to death. With her three dragons back, she storms Xaro’s estate, to find the newly crowned King of Qarth in bed with her former assistant, Doreah, who must have helped Xaro and the warlocks capture the dragons in the first place. As punishment, she locks both of them in Xaro’s famed treasure vault, which of course is completely empty, no doubt another comment on how people in this world are willing to buy into illusions. Dany and her followers strip Xaro’s estate for anything valuable, and it looks like they have enough for a small boat. But where will it take them?
This episode had a lot of storylines to wrap up, and a lot of ground work to lay down for next season. It all worked fairly well, though I was a bit disappointed by the end of Theon’s story, if only because I had a hard time believing his men would have been able to sneak out of the castle without being noticed by the forces besieging it. There were also a lot of changes from the book, and I’ll be interested in seeing how the writers reconcile those changes with certain plot progressions next year, but I’m not really going to harp on the differences between book and show because… well, the show is it’s own entity, and I’m getting a little tired of noting all the differences. I just want to enjoy it as it is. Overall, season 2 was a great one, possibly better than the first. I can’t wait until next year.