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Game of Thrones – Dark Wings, Dark Words

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Game of Thrones 302, Dark Wings, Dark WordsOn Game of Thrones, a long-kept secret is revealed, the Stark boys learn about wargs, Brienne battles Jaime, and Margaery gives Joffrey a suggestion he can really get behind.

Sometimes, a Game of Thrones episode will focus on a specific theme, and all the plots will wind around and touch on that theme at some point in the hour. Betrayal, servitude, loyalty to family, and so forth. This week’s episode, “Dark Wings, Dark Words,” was mainly about travel and foreboding, as the title might suggest. That’s a bit ramshackle as themes go, but it gets the job done.

Robb Stark’s northern rebellion is crumbling from the inside, and he doesn’t entirely realize it. His bannermen see that he’s betrayed Walder Frey by marrying Nurse Not-in-the-Novels and understand the woe that rash act of puppy love presages. Now Robb is diverting troops to attend his grandmother’s funeral (a neat condensation of the novel’s events, where Hoster Tully’s death is much more prolonged). Lord Karstark questions Robb’s choices. Robb tries to reassure him by mentioning that Roose Bolton’s troops will garrison Harrenhall. This is, in fact, far more foreboding than reassuring.

Until now, the Boltons have seemed like fairly innocuous Stark bannermen, despite their gory sigil, the Flayed Man (unless you’ve wondered why Winterfell was destroyed after the Iron Islanders surrendered, that is). But now we see the fate of Theon Greyjoy, turned over to Roose Bolton’s bastard, Ramsay Snow, by his own men. Ramsay seems fond of torturing people. I mean, really fond. The apple, even a rotten, bastard apple, doesn’t fall far from the tree. The house sigil isn’t really a metaphor. It’s just what the Boltons do. A secret agent appears to offer Theon hope for salvation, which may seem like more than the flopping flounder of House Greyjoy deserves.

Back at Robb’s camp, Catelyn Stark endures terrible news when she learns of Winterfell’s sacking and the possibility that her younger sons are dead. There’s an interesting conversation with Queen Nurse where Catelyn reveals far more about her relationship with Jon Snow than she ever did in the novels (where she pretty much was just a total jerk to him always and forever). But then she adds this silly bit about blaming herself for all the woe that’s befallen the Starks because she didn’t keep her promise to the gods to accept Jon Snow and make him a Stark. Whoever wrote that just doesn’t get Catelyn Stark. At all.

North of the wall, Jon Snow meets his first warg, a wildling who can “enter” an animal and see through its eyes. Handy for scouting. Meanwhile, Sam is the target of anger amongst the Black Brothers. He is forbidden to die.

Let’s acknowledge, before we go any farther, that in a work with 56,833 character names, some names will be better than others. Bran is one of the others. Bran. Bran. Bran.

We do get to spend a little time with Bran, Hodor, Tonks, the littlest Stark, and their wolves. Bran dreams of the three-eyed crow and a strange boy. The boy and his sister eventually meet up with the group in real life, but the boy knows he was in Bran’s dream. It’s Meera and Jojen Reed, strange members of an old house from the swamps, one with a long, long history of fealty to House Stark. Jojen seems to have a great deal of knowledge about weird things, like the fact that Bran is a warg (or skin-shifter), that he has clairvoyant dreams, and that the crow means “something deeper.” Foreboding.

On the long road to King’s Landing, Brienne of Tarth and Jaime Lannister spar and bicker.  Jaime gets the strongest digs in when he denigrates Renly Baratheon, whom Brienne served. Renly’s disdain for women was a poorly kept secret. “It’s a shame the throne isn’t made of cocks, they’d have never got him off it.” He also calls Brienne a “giant tow-headed plank,” and mocks what he supposes must be her romantic feelings for her former master: “You’re too much man for Renly.”

Jaime attempts to escape, which creates a very awkward situation for Brienne. Her mission is to deliver him safely to King’s Landing, so she can’t kill him in battle. He is under no such limitation. Still, she seems to have the situation well in hand when some of House Bolton’s men arrive to capture them. It could be a hell of a battle on the bridge, Jaime and Brienne side by side against a whole squad of Boltons, but I’m not sure even Brienne in her awesome armor could win that fight.

Arya is on the road, too with Gendry and Hot Pie. They’re accosted by the Brotherhood Without Banners, who for once are not total monsters out to destroy everything they find. In fact, they’re deserters from the ongoing war working to protect “the smallfolk.” They treat Arya well enough, feed them, and let them leave, but just as they do, a captive Sandor Clegane is brought in. He recognizes Arya immediately and blows her cover. Will this Brotherhood be quite so friendly when they realize they have a girl of noble blood on their hands?

All this and we haven’t even got to King’s Landing yet. You know, center of politics in the seven kingdoms, major trade center, all that? Let’s get one scene out of the way: Tyrion with Shae. She comes to him to report on Littlefinger’s dealings with Sansa, of which Shae is deeply suspicious. It’s a total dead end conversation that I guess is supposed to be comic relief, since Shae does this whole “jealous girlfriend” routine when Tyrion mentions Sansa’s attractiveness in the context of her value as a pawn in the Game of Thrones. Or maybe it was intended to show how protective of Sansa Shae has become, because they hadn’t pounded on that nail enough already.

Joffrey is fitted for a Nehru jacket while talking to his mother, and hearing Joffrey upbraid his mother almost makes you dislike him slightly less. Lots of credit to actor Jack Gleeson here. Notice how Joffrey, skinny little shit he may be, puts swagger into every single thing he does. Not just walking, but even putting on a shirt or berating a servant. Of course, any mild respect you may have had for Joffrey (and honestly, there wasn’t any) evaporates when he meets with Margaery later. Joffrey is violent, hates women, and is a homophobe.

This scene does offer us a truly magnificent moment, however. Margaery is carefully trying to explain why she never had babies with Renly, and why she suspects he liked men rather than women. One night when drunk, Renly suggested they have sex in a manner she believes would be very painful and could not possibly result in her getting pregnant. We’re not constrained by the delicate nature of royal politics the way Margaery is, though. Anal sex. She meant anal sex. Which apparently Marg is not into, but then she was pretty much playing dumb with Joffrey the whole time, so…

I’ve saved the best scene for last, although it happened early in the episode. Sansa meets with Margaery and her grandmother, Olenna Redwyne. Once again a Tyrell who did little to impress me in the novels becomes amazing on HBO. Olenna is everyone’s favorite grandma, a no-nonsense old lady unafraid to share her plain-spoken wisdom and disdain for the frilly bullshit of life as a noble, and she has great snacks. She and Marg try to get Sansa to dish on Joffrey’s true nature, and though Sansa tries to tamp down her bitter hatred, it is rather a lot of hatred, and so she tells them that he is a monster. Margaery takes this in stride.

I’m trying not to let my, er, admiration for Natalie Dormer’s luminous beauty color my critical interpretation of this show, but it’s becoming awfully difficult for me to not root for House Tyrell. So let’s just get it out in the open: I want Margaery Tyrell to win the Game of Thrones, whatever the throne is made out of.

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Posted by on Sunday, April 7th, 2013. Filed under Dark TV, Headline, Horror. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can skip to the end and leave a response. Pinging is currently not allowed.

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