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Game of Thrones

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Episode 8 - The Prince of Winterfell

28 May 2012

Credit HBO

Synopsis: Jon is taken prisoner and Ygritte argues that he shouldn’t be killed. Qhorin Halfhand has also been captured and suggests that Jon should pretend to work with the Wildlings. Yara arrives at Winterfell to tell Theon that he must give it up. He refuses and Yosha sneaks the boys back into the crypts. Robb has Catelyn put under arrest for letting Jamie go. He then sleeps with Talisa after spending more time with her. Stannis’ fleet nears King’s Landing as Joffrey prepares to fight. Cersei tries to stop this by capturing Ros (thinking she is Shae) and threatening to hurt her if Tyrion lets Joffrey fight. Daenerys asks Jorah to take her to the House of the Undying.

The Good: While not quite as strong as the last two episodes this was yet another good instalment. Several character dynamics really clicked into place here.

In their brief scene we finally got a proper look at the relationship between Stannis and Davos. Their temperaments are contrasting, one bitter, the other good humoured. But both are honourable men who do their duty. Stannis may be humourless but he is no snob and honours the low born Davos with the promise of the role of Hand of the King. It was a lovely little scene which once more included a history lesson on what Stannis did during the war with the Mad King.

Theon and Yara also had their best scene together. She dressed him down in front of her men with iron clad logic. Winterfell is so far from the Iron Islands that it’s not strategically useful to have captured. On the contrary its capture has woken the whole of the North to the threat that the Greyjoys present. And by “killing” the Stark boys it will unite the North against their common enemy. Even after all that Yara can understand why Theon won’t give up his prized possession. So she is kind to him. She gets her men out of the room and finally stops being so hard on him. It was a great moment for her character because she put aside their competition so that his ego wouldn’t stop him from doing the right thing. Unfortunately it seems like it’s too late for that.

We already knew that Tyrion and Varys have great chemistry and I almost lost count of the number of terrific lines they shared. “Imagine Stannis’ terror” Tyrion sarcastically comments when Joffrey promises to smite him. “I’m trying to” Varys dryly adds. With the threat of being burnt alive to satisfy Stannis’ God, Tyrion asks why the Gods all want such brutal offerings. “Where is the God of tits and wine?” he asks. Once more though the two men put aside the jocular witticisms and talk as honestly as they can about their desire to survive this siege. I like that Varys won’t reveal exactly what he wants from the great game, wisely concluding that if his end game were in sight it would be used against him. He does however inform Tyrion of Daenerys’ latest movements which produced a terrific meta-reply: “One game at a time my friend.”

I wasn’t so sure about the Tyrion-Cersei feud (see The Unknown) but the scene with Shae was excellent. We haven’t needed to see much of Shae and Tyrion together to believe that he would have fallen in love with her. Cersei’s little reminder about Tyrion’s first ‘time’ with a prostitute underlined why he would treasure the relationship Shae so much. Between that and talk of when he was in charge of drains (at Casterly Rock) help us to see through the facade of his bravado. Behind the straight face (which he held with great courage in front of Cersei) he is still vulnerable and desperate not to lose what he has gained.

I like that Robb Stark imprisoned Catelyn for her treacherous actions (very much his father’s son). I also liked that the script reminded us that his marriage was organised when Ned was still alive. It was imperative then to gain access to the South in a way it no longer is. With that excuse in mind Robb gives in to his heart and sleeps with Talisa. On the one hand you feel happy for them being together but on the other you wonder if Robb is going to suffer serious consequences for this moment of weakness. I did like Talisa’s story about her childhood summer. It established her as the kind of unpretentious woman who Robb would be drawn to.

North of the Wall Jon is now in a very tricky position. I assume Qhorin wants him to kill him so that the Wildlings will believe he has turned. After failing to kill Ygritte its unlikely Jon is going to love that idea. Speaking of Ygritte I thought the door was left open nicely where perhaps she believes in justice or perhaps she has feelings for him.

The Bad: Again I won’t condemn anything as bad but...

The Unknown: Last season I complained loudly about Catelyn letting Tyrion fight for his life when there was no proof that he crippled Bran. It seemed like an unjust case and a ludicrous means of determining his fate. Now she is at it again letting Jamie go with only Brienne to guard him. I don’t doubt her mother’s heart in sending him home but I do doubt her intelligence. Does she really think the Lannister’s will reward this act by releasing Sansa? Did she learn nothing from Jamie’s ruthless escape attempt? And to ask him and Brienne to survive, let alone go undetected all the way to Lannister territory is foolish. Is Catelyn meant to be impulsive and unjust? Or like Little Finger is the TV adaption giving the character a bad name?

I understand that Cersei would be cruel to Tyrion to save her children further misery. But his threat to pay her back seemed beneath him. Again perhaps that is just another layer to the character but I felt he should have risen above her machinations. The fact that Ros was wheeled in instead of Shae was interesting. It felt like a bit of TV conceit because if Cersei was so sure Tyrion was in love with a woman surely she would have better intel on who the woman was.

Similarly I wasn’t so pleased with the latest developments with Jaqen H'ghar. His bizarre sense of justice doesn’t make much sense. He says he will kill anyone for Arya but turns down Tywin’s name apparently because he knows he will be caught. He also turns down suicide because that wouldn’t be much fun and so instead kills a bunch of guards. The bigger picture result is that Arya and friends get to walk away with no difficulty making Jaqen feel like no more than a plot device with a cool accent. I would have preferred to see Arya make a real choice and struggle with the morality of it all. I’m also confused as to how Jaqen became a Lannister Knight. I assumed he escaped their clutches on the King’s Road and voluntarily took on the role to get to Arya. However we now see that his former carriage mates are also clad in Lannister armour. How does that work then? Did the Lannister men really just hand swords to men who their own King had locked up and condemned to prison?

Best Moment: This is really tough. It would be too easy to go for Varys and Tyrion, who would make a terrific sit com odd couple. It would also make sense to pick Tyrion’s emotional scene with Shae as that really cut to the emotional core in a way nothing else in the episode quite did. Instead though I will go for Stannis and Davos because in one scene their dynamic became far more understandable and real to me.

Conclusion: This episode did a lot of what Game of Thrones does best: it laid groundwork. Right now I am hugely invested in seeing these stories reach a conclusion. Now we need a satisfying climax. The last two episodes need to deliver action, emotion and consequence. I have no reason to doubt that they will.

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  • I'm totally down on the Yara character. She's written as Laura Croft meets Kate Beckinsale from Underworld, but comes off as sloppy trailer trash. I didn't buy the tender moment after a season of berating Theon. The Quarth story has jumped the tracks and the complete lack of backstory on why Caitlyn let the Kingslayer go was inexcusable. The time wasted watching Rob's excruciatingly slow amble with the hot nurse should have been used to address Jaime's release.

    Viewer score: 71 / 100

    Posted by dbates, 27/05/2012 5:44pm (6 years ago)

  • Just finished listening to the Podcast on Press+1. Great question to start the podcast with! Made me laugh. Love Robb Stark's character. He is SO gonna die! Anytime I love a GoT character they die on me! I am hoping Arya and Daenerys have a better mortality rate than most! I am so enjoying this season as the episodes progress. i was getting sick of all the baby-killing and shock-value happening at the start of the season but the last three or four episodes I feel have been very focused on character development and story development as opposed to shock-value moments. Really enjoying watching and listening along to your podcasts!

    Viewer score: 75 / 100

    Posted by Kindah, 25/05/2012 4:58am (6 years ago)

  • Hello, I'm new here. I've become a big fan of the podcast.
    I'd like to defend the characterization of Catelyn (on the show--I haven't read the books). She's a clear thinker and a formidable political mind, until of course something really personal comes along, at which point she becomes, like you said, impulsive and unjust. She's been hypocritical and unreasonable from the beginning, back when she was treating Jon Snow like dirt. I think she's meant to have a little Joffrey in her and I think it works ok.

    And about Jon Snow, I've always thought his storyline--his personal journey and whatever's going on with Ygritte--was really tiresome and continues to be. I don't get why he's such a fan favorite. Not to fetishize complexity of character, since Jon's unrelenting purity and loyalty could be dramatized complexly, but so far there's been nothing subtle or interesting about him or his story. His stubbornness has been treated as a virtue from the beginning. Even when his actions have catastrophic results, the catalysts for those actions are always so horrible that nobody could possibly blame him. So the slavishness to his virginity and to the Night's Watch (which preceded any evidence of boogie men up North) come off as equally virtuous when they shouldn't. The only other major character I can think of who's so monochromatic is Joffrey, but he serves a purpose. Joffrey's tyranny makes it necessary for everyone around him to think and act with incredible nimbleness. The only thing Jon has inspired in anyone lately is a cutesy and seemingly endless courtship with a girl from the wrong side of the tracks. Everything about him seems just as calculated to appease casual viewers as does the show's juvenile amounts of nudity. I thought Talisa's story about her childhood seemed a little boilerplate (somehow I feel like her niceness would be more interesting if she just happened to be nice) and the budding relationship arc between her and Robb isn't perfect, but at least it's an honest attempt to show why two people might fall for each other, which is a lot harder than showing why they might want to kill each other.

    Posted by Jason, 23/05/2012 3:53am (6 years ago)

  • Hi Guys,
    We got perhaps our last table setter episode of the season, but the various dynamics still made it work as an episode and we got several interesting dynamics this week.
    We finally got a true brother sister moment between Theon and Yara and I finally felt something besides contempt for Theon. I actually pitied him, then I remembered he killed two boys. So I guess the story has been effective after all despite my disdain for this part of the storyline.
    On Catelyn letting Jamie go; I felt that the previous episode did a poor job of showing that the mob would have killed him otherwise. Instead it comes through as a poor plot device and makes her look foolish. At this point, no reasonable person would trust the word of a Lannister. Rob’s reaction was perfectly done and I liked having a sex scene that wasn’t nauseating and wasn’t sexposition.
    I lament the end of the Arya and Thywin dramedy. It was destined for a long run, but ended prematurely. All jokes aside, I am sad to see this dynamic end. It did give us a nice scene between Jaqen and Arya, despite the logic problems, although I believe the reason he refused Thywin was because it would have been impossible for the timeframe she wanted him dead in. I have to disagree with you about Thrion’s reaction to Cerci’s threat. I feel like if he did anything less, she would have been suspicious. I expected the controlled threat he made against her, let us not forget he is still a Lannister.
    As always thanks for the forum

    Viewer score: 65 / 100

    Posted by Kayode from Baltimore, 23/05/2012 1:23am (6 years ago)

  • Derek - thanks for the comments as ever. I'm more than happy to plug your blog on the podcast. Thank you for plugging us :-)

    I have left out one of your comments about Robb (from the podcast) because I entirely agree with you. I do think Robb hooking up with Talisa was in character for him. And I simply meant exactly what you said - that he may not be thinking through what this will mean for his future.

    Thanks again.

    Posted by The TV Critic, 22/05/2012 10:40pm (6 years ago)

  • This episode was 100% set up for the big things to come so while I enjoyed it, it wasn't as good as some of the previous episodes we've seen.

    Still lots of good stuff with Theon, Tyrion, and Arya though. I think next week's Battle on Blackwater promises to be something special.

    Can't believe there are only 2 episodes left.

    Viewer score: 65 / 100

    Posted by Aaron, 22/05/2012 1:02pm (6 years ago)

  • Oh by the way I know you have said on the Buffy Rewatch that you will promote blogs and things and I did promote my blog before on the Buffy Rewatch, but I did some major reorganizing. I mainly wanted to promote it because I have been doing reviews all season of Game of Thrones (as well as some scattered reviews of other movies and TV) all of which can be found here:
    http://words-in-my-head.tumblr.com/tagged/my%20reviews.

    If that's not something you want to posted on your site or talk about on the podcast that's totally okay. Feel free to not confirm this comment, I totally understand.

    Posted by Derek, 21/05/2012 9:51pm (6 years ago)

  • Your comments about Ros are interesting with it be a TV conceit. I agree but having watched season 1 recently, I think it's worth mentioning that the first time we see Tyrion in the show he is the whorehouse in Winterfell with Ros. He also goes back to her when he revisits Winterfell. Then Ros moves to King's Landing. Given all that it is possible to see how Cersei could misinterpret these events and think Tyrion has feelings for Ros.

    I actually don't have a problem with Catelyn letting Jaime go and if anything I think her TV portrayal is far more likable then the character in the books. The point is raised by Jaime in the books that why should Catelyn trust him, I can easily see this scene happening, so if that makes you feel better Robin. My problem is I wanted to see Cat come to decision to free Jaime rather than it happening off screen and we were told later. There is some logic in freeing Jaime for the girls, because it was likely that Jaime was going to be killed that, so rather gain something out of it, but Catelyn never explains it as that yet.

    This was an okay episode because just the majority of stories just felt incomplete. That was fine earlier when we introducing characters but now it's just felt a little too unsatisfying. The whole real pay off in this episode was Robb and Talisa, who I am really enjoying. While you said this may be a dumb move for Robb. I felt it was utterly in character, because Robb doesn't want to fight this way. He doesn't want to be king. He just wants to go home. Robb just isn't thinking of the big picture and I don't think he truly grasps the seriousness of the situation. In a similar way to Ned didn't understand the graveness of his situation in King's Landing last season.

    Viewer score: 65 / 100

    Posted by Derek, 21/05/2012 5:01pm (6 years ago)

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