Game of Thrones: Second Sons

GAME OF THRONES: 3.08 “Second Sons”

Game of Thrones this week was a tightly focused episode. Aside from the opening scene with Arya and the Hound, and the exciting and heroic closing scene with Sam and Gilly, all the action took place in three locations; Dragonstone, King’s Landing, and outside of the walls of Yunkai. Don’t get me wrong, I love this show and episodes that are packed full of more scenes and characters are often very good, but I think this show particularly excels when it has a chance to slow down and focus on only a handful of storylines at once (see last year’s Blackwater, still possibly the best episode of the series so far.) So the added focus helped here, particularly since the acting in the three stories they focused on was so strong.

First, to Dragonstone, where Gendry is inspected by Stannis, before being carried away to a well appointed room full of fine clothes and food. Melisandre explains that she must keep  the boy calm before his “sacrifice,” but something about this plan bothers Stannis enough to drive him down into the dungeon to attempt to justify his decision to Davos, his living yet imprisoned conscience. It’s a great scene, with Stannis wavering back and forth between what he knows is right and his desire for the power and influence that Melisandre continues to promise him. Davos respectfully but forcefully exposes Stannis’s feeble justifications and forces the King to view Gendry as a boy, as his nephew, rather than a strategic piece of equipment that can be sacrificed for some indeterminate advantage in war. It appears that Davos partially wins out, saving Gendry from a sacrificial death, at least for now, though Melisandre insists that she draw some of the boy’s “royal” blood for a demonstration of the Red God’s power. Since there don’t seem to be any syringes in Westeros, she uses leeches, placing one of them in a particularly sensitive spot. After the bugs have drank their fill, Stannis casts them into an open fire, intoning the name of each usurper king (Joffrey, Robb, and Balon Greyjoy) as the blood-engorged leeches pop and sizzle.

Meanwhile, in King’s Landing, we’re invited to one of the most awkward weddings ever. Neither the bride, Sansa, nor the groom, Tyrion, want to marry each other, and the paltry number of guests gathered to witness the ceremony don’t appear too excited to be there either. Joffrey continues to display his cruelty and sadism, first by humiliating Tyrion by taking away his stepstool and thereby making it impossible to complete the wedding ritual of laying his cloak over his wife’s shoulders. The poor man is forced to ask Sansa to kneel instead. Later, Joffrey promises to rape Sansa later in the evening. When he tries to draw the rest of the wedding guests into what would have been a very humiliating bedding ceremony, a drunken Tyrion threatens to cut off his royal member. Joffrey sputters in comical rage, though Tywin diffuses the situation by explaining that Tyrion was drunk and only joking. Forced to play along to save face, Tyrion keeps swilling wine, while telling guests the story of that one time he threw up on a prostitute in the middle of the act. Later, when Tyrion and Sansa are alone in their chambers, he drunkenly explains that despite the fact that his father ordered him to impregnate her as soon as possible, he won’t sleep with his new wife until she wants him to. “What if I never want you to?” she asks. “Then my watch begins,” says Tyrion, echoing the oath of the Night’s Watch before passing out on the nearest couch. It’s a great extended scene, managing to show Tyrion’s hurt and pain through his drunken haze, as well as Sansa’s tense, unwelcome sense of duty followed by her relief at escaping that duty.

Further east, with her army camped outside of Yunkai, Dany meets with the three sellsword captains, whose mercenary companies were recently hired by the city and could prove decisive in the final battle. They’re unmoved by her offer of more gold to switch sides, but as they leave her tent, she shares a long, knowing look with the youngest (and best looking) of the three. He returns that evening, delivering Dany the heads of his former partners, and pledging his soldiers to the beautiful young Queen’s cause. Dany keeps up her display of regal power while in his presence (especially impressive given her lack of clothes as she rises from her bathtub in the beginning of the scene) you can tell that she’s intrigued by the attention this cocky, good looking soldier has given her. Drogo’s been gone for a long time, so maybe it’s time for Dany to find a new companion. Romance may have to wait, though; she still has a city to conquer.

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