Every week, Tezini’s panel of A Song of Ice and Fire subject matter experts breaks down the latest episode of its television adaptation, Game of Thrones. Below, we tackle “The Old Gods and the New”.
AJ: Once again, I feel like we’re going to have very few complaints. We collectively called last week’s episode one of the best in the show’s history and this week’s built on all of that momentum. We’re at a point now where mayhem and chaos is about to really snowball. I suppose it started with the death of Renly, but it really took off this week with two events — Theon’s capture of Winterfell and his beheading of Rodrik Cassel and the riot in King’s Landing.
Both were brilliant scenes because we learned so much about the characters. We saw Theon’s half-heartedness at all he is doing and the immaturity and insecurity that is motivating him. We saw Tyrion get really, truly angry for the first time, slapping Joffrey (yes!) not because his nephew needs to be reared but because things are so precarious for the Lannisters at this point.
Several books on, you kind of forget what a perilous and uncertain situation Tyrion will face in King’s Landing for the rest of this season, and I think that’s an important point. The Lannisters’ grip on the throne is extraordinarily tenuous, and the casual viewer needs to understand just how much so that is. Finally, we got our first glimpse of the enigmatic nature of Sandor Clegane, who saved Sansa from certain rape during the riot. That sets up a lot down the line and was a critical element of the plot that simply had to be included.
Other random thoughts:
- Charles Dance (Tywin Lannister) is probably the most established actor in the entire cast, but I thought this week was the first time he really showed it. His portrayal of Tywin — hard, cold, cunning, determined — was terrific. You have to love the scenes with him and Arya.
- Speaking of Arya, she continues to be the most compelling character this season; hey, she also has the most compelling storyline at this juncture of the book so that’s no surprise.
- Ygritte was much more attractive than I expected her to be. This was probably my least favorite storyline of the week, but it was all aesthetics. I don’t think they have the look of the wildlings right, or at least it doesn’t match with my mind’s eye. Ygritte looked like she was stationed on Hoth, not one of the free folk.
- Bran! Bran! It’s going to be OK.
All right. Have at it gents.
Sam: Actually AJ, you are going to have complaints, from Andy as usual. Surprisingly, you’ll get some from me this week as well. This episode rubbed me a bit the wrong way at two or three moments. First, the silly Ygritte chase scene and second, Dany getting her dragons stolen. My complaints are nuanced and different for each of these scenes so I’ll begin with Ygritte and address Dany in a subsequent paragraph.
Everyone on the Internet is saying that Ygritte is too hot or whatever. I personally wasn’t surprised, and I always thought that she would be a foxy ginger wildling sex machine. As I noted on Twitter I thought her teeth would be worse, but I was being tongue-in-cheek. It seems like anyone who will be having sex in the show is going to be hot, and, to be honest, I’m fine with that. Her attractiveness levels aside, the chase scene through the snow kind of irked me. As I see it, the producers are trying to do their best to develop the relationship between her and Jon Snow so that it’s set up for what comes next. It’s my speculation that they didn’t think that they could do this with the limited scene that you get from the book, where Jon lets her escape. But to me, what’s the point of introducing Halfhand unless you are going to develop the relationship between him and Jon as well.
One of my favorite scenes in all of A Clash of Kings is when Jon confesses to letting Ygritte go, and the Halfhand says, “to lead men you must know them, Jon Snow. I know more of you now than I did this morning.” This exchange, and the later one before Jon kills Halfhand are awesome, and I wonder if they’re developing the Ygritte/Jon relationship at the expense of the Jon-Qhorin bromance.
Yes, I understand that they can bring Jon and Qhorin back together so that they can have this exchange before shit hits the fan, but I just don’t know if the Ygritte scene was necessary. It’s possible as always that I’m overly ensconced in the warm embrace of the source material, so maybe the early development of Jon and Ygritte’s relationship is needed for the casual Game of Thrones viewer.
I wanted to confine this part of my response to Ygritte, so I’ll write more about what I really liked from this episode (there was a lot) and my issues with Dany losing her dragons in another entry.
AJ: Ygritte really looks like she stole Han Solo’s wardrobe on Hoth. I’m sticking with that.
Sam: I’m just going to go bullet point by bullet point here:
- The sack of Winterfell was well done.
- Bran is such a badass. Fuck Theon. What a dick. He deserves everything he gets. (Enough of your supposed moral terpitude. You like killing people and you’re a conceited prick who can’t even chop people’s heads off in one swing.)
- Osha’s character is well done. Yes, I know that the Reeds are sorely missed, but Osha is doing quite well as a spiritual guide.
- The beheading scene was great. It was taken almost exactly from the books, even if the characters were switched.
- GHOST! ENDE WHICH DIREWOLF HAS BEEN ESTABLISHED IN THE TV SERIES AS THE SNUGGLIEST? I personally think it has to be Ghost. What a good dog. He loves chickens, he doesn’t make noise (though he did in Season 1) and he’s just a totally chill bro.
- Concerning the Tywin/Arya/LIttlefinger scene — the casual viewer only knows Loras and Margaery, they don’t have any sense of the size of the Tyrell army, and they don’t understand how important the Tyrell alliance is to the Lannisters. Littlefinger handled it well and gave the layman a good perspective. He also helped establish the Tyrells as powerful allies.
- I really wish they’d thrown the bodies over the edge of the cliff after they killed the wildlings. Why weren’t the wildlings riding Tauntauns?
- It was a great transition from the Wall to King’s Landing at the episode’s outset, and an awesome action scene with the riot. Something that got kind of lost with the chaos of the riot is that right before that Cersei is a huge bitch to Tyrion at Myrcella’s sending-off. Joffrey continues to be an asshole, but is incredibly entertaining.
- I just love that Dog (Sandor Clegane) wears two swords at all times. The ease with which he kills people is also awesome.
- Dany’s scene was awesome, but I don’t understand why they’re changing her story around. I guess her time in Qarth is pretty boring (until the House of the Undying), so I guess I can see why they’re adding drama into her story, but it annoys me.
AJ: I think we need to answer the snuggliest direwolf question immediately.
Ende: I initially typed up a rage thread, as one might expect. I didn’t have time to finish it, though, and then I watched the episode with Sam again last night. The episode, for me, really was a low point in the season so far due to the amount of screen time spent on scenes that I felt were misprioritized or not necessary at all (again, keeping in mind that these scenes come at the expense of leaving out other material). I’m not going to go into my list of complaints, though. I don’t like some of the decisions the writers have been making, but I’m happy to take a wait-and-see attitude. So basically I’m withholding judgement on this entire topic until the end of the season.
One thing I will harp on though is the choice to have Littlefinger discuss the Tyrells with Tywin. I’m not sure why they would want to spoil one of the biggest twists of the second book. And for what purpose? What did it accomplish? Nothing really. I’ve also seen enough of Littlefinger for awhile. His scenes seem forced and unnatural to me (at no fault of the actor, in my humble opinion). That’s largely because his scenes have tended to be extra-canonical. If he’s not going to be used properly, though, I don’t want his character wasted. Save the money for future seasons when his presence matters.
I like Tywin a lot, and don’t really mind him swapping with Roose Bolton. Of course, this does beg the very obvious question as to why Arya doesn’t just have the big man himself killed. OK, Tywin seems to be really nice to Arya, and she seems to sorta respect/admire him. But now the writers have contrived an explanation to account for a discrepancy that they created. It brings us into this territory where I’m not really sure why we’re here.
Stealing Dany’s dragons is stupid. It’s just more made up nonsense. We’ll see what they do with it. In other news, I found out somewhere that the reason they killed off Rakharo is because the actor had to leave the show.
But despite these complaints, watching the episode a second time was a bit better. It’s probably my second least favorite episode so far. We’ll just have to see how the rest pans out. I think I have a better understanding of how they’re segregating content (sets, characters, and themes) between this season and next, which begins to make the bigger picture make more sense For example, I loved the King’s Landing riot scene but felt there wasn’t sufficient build-up of the frustration and suffering of the people leading up to it. The effects of war are showcased throughout the books. I have a feeling we will begin to see that more in Season 3, however, as attention turns to the Riverlands.
AJ: I would echo two things here, but in general most of what you’ve said:
- Yeah, why wouldn’t Arya just off Tywin? I posed this question last week, actually, but it makes no sense. We know Arya isn’t shying away from vengeance. It’s a fairly major plot hole in my mind. Tywin is the grandfather of the boy who killed her father — the man everyone knows is pulling the strings in Westeros. And we’re supposed to believe because he shows some very frosty kindness to her that she’s just going to forget that. Arya isn’t stupid nor is she naive at this point. I could see Sansa falling for this, but her? No way.
- And I too am just about done with Littlefinger. There have been plenty of home runs, but I think they’ve swung and missed with him in an enormous way. Do they think just because he’s Mayor Carcetti they have to use him a lot? Even if they do, do they have to misuse him so badly?
I thought this was a fine episode, honestly, but I can why you guys are annoyed.
Ende: Oh, and I second Ghost as the most snuggly direwolf alive. Summer comes a close second, but I prefer Ghost’s personality. Lady probably would have been a good snuggler too. I’m pretty sure I would snuggle-rank the direwolves in the following order:
- Grey Wind
- Very reluctantly, Shaggydog
Don’t get me wrong, I looooooove Shaggydog. But I’m also pretty sure he’d rip my face off.
Sam: Arya is still a child, and, if I recall correctly, she kicks herself for not saying Joffrey/Cersei/Tywin after her three deaths have been spent. She’s not naive, but at this point in the story she is the only character who is relatively weak and focused exclusively on surviving. Think about how killing those two people improves her situation versus saying Joffrey or Tywin. I think it’s realistic.
Oh, and …
- Dead Lady
- Grey Wind
- Nymeria (she’s gotta be soooo wild at this point)
Ende: The difference in the books is that Joffrey and Tywin aren’t in proximity. Arya was in a desperate situation in Harrenhal, and sought revenge on and respite from her tormentors. But I don’t see how Tywin escapes as a target when he’s right there.
AJ: The point is, though, that in the books Tywin isn’t in front of her face at this stage. I think it’s different to expect her to name Tywin when he’s not there — an abstract concept — vs. when she’s stuck serving him, seeing him every day.
Sam: She has a chance to kill Tywin before he names Vargo Hoat castellan of Harrenhal, so are you guys just talking about the prolonged and intimate interaction they have as being the differentiating factor? (I really tried to make that sentence not sound pederast-y, but I suspect I failed.)
AJ: So, we’re really that resigned as a group to Dany’s dragons being stolen? I’m most surprised about that, I think.
Sam: I mean, not that much actually happens in Qarth until Dany arrives at the House of the Undying. Even the scene from last week where the spice merchant rejects Dany’s demands is only touched upon, you don’t see it from her point of view. My guess is that the House of the Undying is going to confuse the shit out of the casual observer, so I guess establishing them as firmly nefarious at this point is a useful plot tool? Maybe I’m being an apologist.
Ende: I just wish the writers would stop trying to anticipate the confusions of some delicate audience and subsequently coddling them. The House of the Undying scene is supposed to be trippy and weird. It contains a lot of important prophecy as well. I really hope the writers don’t screw it up in the name of protecting the viewers from what they can’t handle.