Friday, May 18, 2012

Review: Game of Thrones "A Man Without Honor"

Non Spoiler Review:
With an attack on King's Landing coming within days, Tyrion and Cersei share some harsh truths about their situation. Jaime Lannister makes an appearance and an impression on Catelyn. Daenerys learns what her role has been in Qarth. Jon makes more ridiculous decisions. A desperate Theon takes off in pursuit of the Stark boys, while Arya shares some verbal sparring with Tywin. Sansa wakes up to a new reality.

What really stood out this week was the incredible number of amazing scenes between characters. The dialogue was superb. It was easily the best of the season in this respect—Cersei behaving unusually introspective with both Tyrion and Sansa, more banter between Arya and Tywin, Catelyn and Jaime, Theon and Luwin, Daenerys and Jorah—it was one of those episodes that carried itself just on the merits of its dialogue.

In other respects, A Man Without Honor was a very dark hour. Invasion is imminent. Characters are lost and at their most desperate. My only critique is the boring Jon Snow arc the last two episodes. He's really behaving like a fool, so I hope there's some greater reveal about what's going on with him, because right now he should have his ass kicked out of the Night's Watch.

Spoilers Now!
Theon is furious with the ineptitude of his soldiers who let Osha escape with a cripple and a half-wit, and brings Luwin along on the hunt after the fleeing Starks, promising to punish (but not hurt). Luwin urges him to abandon this course, given Robb will have sent a force north, but Theon is confident his sister will come with reinforcements, and as Ned always said, 500 men could keep Winterfell from 10,000. Meanwhile, Bran, Osha, Hodor and Rickon approach a farm, but Bran insists they don't go to them for help given it will subject them to Theon's wrath. Osha points out they can't outrun hounds forever.

Jon awakens with Ygritte, who continues to goad him when she finds out he's a virgin. She also tries to tempt him with her freedom beyond the Wall, never having to answer to anyone. She also threatens to tell the other Night's Watch he slept with her, and it will just be her word against his. She suggests he might as well have sex with her. It's all a ruse to let his guard down so she can make another run for it. He follows after, but when he catches up he's surrounded by other Wilding warriors and has been led into a trap.

Tywin believes an assassin attempted to kill him using a wolfsbane dart. His soldiers have been hanging men to find out, but believe it was a member of the Brotherhood Without Banners. Tywin tells them to burn the villages and farms and let them know what it means to choose the wrong side. Arya brings in dinner, but Tywin offers it to her instead, and tells her to sit so he can enjoy her company. He muses it will be his last war, and one that will establish his legacy in coming months. As he stares out the window, she has opportunity to try to stab him, but doesn't take it. 

He goes on to tell the story of Harren the Black, who constructed the greatest fortress ever built, with the intent to hold off any attack. That only applied to land invasions, as he could not foresee Aegon the Conqueror would arrive with dragons and burn Harrenhal with his men in it. Arya reminds him Aegon came with his two warrior sisters Rhaenys and Visenya on the dragons Balerion, Vhagar and Meraxes. He muses that she reminds him of his daughter, given she doesn't behave like other little girls. He asks where she learned those stories. From her father, she says. A well read stone mason, he asks, and has never met one. She inquires at how many stone masons he's met, so he tells her to be careful how far she pushes him with her sass. He sends her to the kitchen, and reminds her commoners say milord, not my lord, and if she's going to pose as one, she'd better get it right. She explains her mother served a lady and taught her to speak properly. He warns her she's too smart for her own good.

Sansa crosses path with Sandor Clegane, and thanks him for saving her. No thanks are necessary, he says, as it gives him joy to kill people, and while her father might have told her killing was his duty, he lied. Killing is the sweetest thing there is. Seeing she's horrified at his attitude, he adds that she'll be glad of his hateful things when he's all that stands between her and her beloved king.

Xaro promises to call a meeting of the council to get to the bottom of the theft, but Daenerys doesn't trust any of them. He was responsible for her care, so he can't let it go unanswered. Jorah returns and is apologetic for not being there for her while he was searching for a ship. Daenerys explains Doreah is unaccounted for, and is disconsolate that she led her people out of the Red Wastes to their death. He regrets leaving her alone with these people, but she asks him who are her people exactly. She's all alone and Westeros doesn't even know she's alive. Is it him alone she should trust? She tells him he's grown too familiar with her. But no one can survive without help, he says, so she orders him to find her dragons.

Jorah finds the masked woman, Quaithe, and asks what she knows about the situation. She says he loves Daenerys and asks if he will betray her again. He declares he never will. The thief, she reveals, is with her now.

Daenerys and Kovarro are in the council chamber with Xaro. The Spice King admits it's best if her dragons die and wouldn't tell her if he knew anyway. The warlock Pyat Pree speaks up that he will help her and will take her to the House of the Undying where he has put them. When he learned she was coming, he made an arrangement with the king of Qarth, who procured her dragons. Xaro admits he is the one, and addresses the council to say they would keep Qarth sealed from the world, so he struck a deal to make him king. The Spice King reminds him he isn't a king and no alliance with Daenerys or Pyat changes that. Then Pyat's mirror images step forward from the shadows and kill all the members of the council. He says Daenerys will be with her babies forever. Horrified, Daenerys and Kovarro flee, running into another of Pyat's doppelgangers. Jorah show up and kills it, but the warlock calls out that her dragons wait for her. The three of them escape.

At Robb's camp, Alton Lannister returns with Cersei's answer to Robb's terms, and explains she tore it in half. Robb thanks him for delivering his message with honor and instructs his lords to give him his own pen. They have too many prisoners, Lord Karstark reminds him, so he's put in with Jaime Lannister while the men build a new cage, with Karstark's son, Torrhen, to watch over him.

Talisa asks for a moment, explaining she's out of essential supplies. Robb is going to the Crag to negotiate terms of surrender, so he offers to take her along so she can speak with the maester herself about what she needs.

Theon and his men arrive at the farm but find no sign of the boys. Theon is getting desperate to find them so he doesn't look like a fool. Dagmer finds some walnut shells that shouldn't be there. The farmer swears he doesn't know where they are. Theon sends Luwin back to Winterfell so he won't have to witness what must be done.

Sansa has a nightmare about her near rape, but wakes up to a bloodied bed. She's begun to menstruate, which means she can now bear the king's children. Shae comes in to find her trying to cut out the stain, so they conspire to flip the mattress, but another handmaiden arrives and is off to tell the queen. Shae follows and threatens to kill her, but when she returns, Sandor Clegane is already there.

Cersei is aware of the news, and speaks with Sansa, offering her some revealing advice. She recounts her own pain of childbirth while Robert was off on his hunts, and how she delivered him babies when he returned. Only Jaime was there with her. Joffrey has always been difficult, she explains. She may never love the king, but she will be devoted to her children. Despite Sansa's protests, Cersei tells her the more people she loves, the weaker she'll be. She should only love her children. As for Joffrey, she can try to love him. 

Alton is put in Jaime's cell, who doesn't recognize him as one of his distant cousins. Alton explains he once squired for Jaime, which was the greatest day of his life. Jaime seems to recall after a bit, and comments that he was a good squire, and very similar to his own first time, when he squired for Barristan Selmy in a fight against the kingswood outlaws. He speaks of Barristan's prowess as a fighter, and only through chance was he able to prove himself when one of the outlaws attacked him. He admits he would have been useless at anything else and isn't suited for imprisonment.

Alton asks him if he's attempted to escape, and Jaime reveals only now has he had an opportunity, and that unfortunately means Alton must die. So he beats him to death. When Torrhen comes in to investigate, Jaime strangles him with his chains and escapes. 

In the morning, Catelyn is alerted that Jaime has been caught. Lord Karstark wants him killed for murdering his son, so Catelyn must talk him down. She promises him justice, but he demands Jaime's head when Robb returns. 

Tyrion has received a message that Stannis is five days away with 200 ships. Cersei seems less concerned, given their high walls that will rain fire from above. Tyrion reminds her it's just him, her and Joffrey to figure out what to do, and Joffrey needs to act like a king. Cersei shoots back that he gave him whores to abuse. Tyrion admits he was wrong. Cersei laments she can't control him and confesses she hoped he'd be like Jaime, but realizes their incest may have come with a price. Tyrion points out the Targaryens wed brother and sister, but half of them went mad. She beat the odds with two decent children. Cersei cries. Tyrion looks like he might console her, but both say nothing.

At night in Robb's camp, the men are getting rowdy over Jaime. Brienne suggests the drunker they get, the worse it will be, so Catelyn takes her to Jaime's pen. Jaime is his usual cocky self and she chides him for forsaking every vow he ever took. Jaime says he swore so many vows that they surely contradict one another at some point. She adds he's a man without honor. Jaime admits to never being with any woman but Cersei, so in his own way has more honor than Ned, who fathered a bastard. Did she pretend to love the baby, he asks. But he can see that she hated the boy, given she can't conceal her feelings. She demands Brienne's sword.

At Winterfell, Theon addresses the crowd, telling them what would happen if they don't serve him. He unveils two burned bodies of boys. Luwin is distraught. Theon appears to have some sense of the horror he's committed.

The Verdict:
Jon needs a slap for being such an idiot. But his level of ineptitude is such that it now has me questioning if this was the plan all along—either Qhorin using him to mess up so much that they could get him into Mance Rayder's camp, or that he and Jon conspired together on this. I hope that's the case, because Jon really can't be that unbelievably useless and I'm getting tired of this meandering storyline.

Lena Hedley shows us some of Cersei's softer side, coming to terms with how her actions have brought the Lannisters to potential ruin. Her motherly chat was quite touching, considering how awful she's been to Sansa, but it really made the two bond on a level they've never reached before—as women promised to their kings. Cersei also figures her incest has caused Joffrey's insanity, like the Targaryens, and Tyrion does provide some brotherly counsel that she beat the odds by having two other wonderful children (who, unfortunately, are in the wrong line of succession). I almost expected a hug at the end, but we didn't get that.

While in Harrenhal, Arya's growing fondness for Tywin is causing her to slip up on her charade. She pulls out a few saves, but it's obvious to the old man that she's a highborn girl. Yet he allows her to continue it given he's enjoying her company (and a reminder of a young Cersei). It's an interesting comparison, given Arya hasn't reached the point where she can do her own dirty work (unable to make a rush to kill Tywin with the knife) and needing Jaqen to be her silent assassin. Tywin's suspicion that the assassin was after him will heat things up for her. He obviously can't suspect she's a Stark, but who does he think she is?

Daenerys had probably the most character revealing scenes in the series, showing just how far she's come from her first appearance in Pentos. Definitely a compassionate but strong queen in the making, she's now behaving as such, but being wrapped up in Qarth's coup has thrown her off balance. I'm pleased to see that Doreah is unaccounted for and might turn up. But how to get the dragons free, and the ultimate motivation for the House of the Undying remains to be seen. The Qarth plot continues to play out at the periphery of the series, but I'm actually finding it interesting enough, due completely to Daenerys and Jorah's chemistry.

With Robb away, Catelyn got to have some great leadership moments, and the return of Jaime Lannister after a very light season for him was welcome. I have no idea what happens to his character, but I wonder if Catelyn might keep him alive but cut off a hand or something (it's what I'd do). And it would certainly end his career at the one thing he's good at. The conversation he had with his distant, noble cousin was a chilling commentary on how nasty he and the Lannisters can be.

It's unusual to have so many tight episodes taking place within a few days of one another, given they tend to have lots of time in between (allowing for those ravens to get their messages out). So not enough time for the Bolton army to reach Winterfell yet. 

Stannis' ships are just days away for the ultimate battle for King's Landing. And still no plan to defend the city that doesn't involve risking burning it to the ground. I'm really interested in how Joffrey will figure here, and if it will mean his overthrow when things get desperate—while I still ponder if Sandor might do the deed, it would certainly make an interesting twist if Cersei were to kill her son. Highly unlikely, though.

Finally, the reveal at the end of the two boys, while shocking, just doesn't seal the deal for me. Having seen those two farm kids running around, and Theon's desperation to show his strength, and the idea of having major deaths occur off screen makes me believe the Starks are still at large and Theon's conspired to cement his position as ruler.

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