SEASON 2 EPISODE 2 THE NIGHT LANDS. So Episode 1 – The North Remembers, ended with a flurry of shocking child murders that would have made King Herod himself proud, as well as the revelation that the last of King Robert Baratheon’s bastards, Gendry (Joe Dempsie) was headed north to join the Nights Watch. This is bad news for Arya, because she is with him, escaping Kings Landing thanks to Yoren (Francis Magee), a recruiter for the Nights Watch – he recognised her at the foot of Baelor’s Sept the day her father was executed for treason. Realising she was better off out of the city, he arranged to take her north disguised as a boy.
Episode 2 begins and the first thing to note is another, new entry on the map in the opening credits. Last week we stopped off at dragonstone on the way to Winterfell, and we still do this week, but after that we take a sortie out to the Iron Islands and Pyke, the seat of Balon Greyjoy – father of Theon Greyjoy. We catch up with Arya doing her business in the woods, out of sight of the other nights watch recruits who all think she is boy. When she is finished she returns to camp, picking firewood up on the way. A group of men imprisoned in a cage attract her attention – they are thirsty and need something to drink. Arya might have taken pity on them but one of the men gets aggressive and threatening and she backs away in time to see three gold cloaks of the Kings Landing city watch arrive. They have a warrant for the arrest of one of their men. Arya panics, assuming they have come for her, but its Gendry they want. Gendry is stood next to Arya and he sees her try to hide. The pair of them watch Yoren approach the gold cloaks, there is a swagger in his step and its obvious he does not recognise their authority this far north. There is moment of confrontation when the lead gold cloak reaches for his sword, but Yoren quickly brings a dagger up between the mans thighs. “I sharpened this blade before breakfast. I could shave a spiders arse if I wanted to – or I could nick this artery in your leg”. The other men with Yoren rally round in support and abashed the gold cloaks turn tail and leave, but not before they announce that they are looking Gendry and threaten to return with more men.
At Kings Landing Tyrion is returning to his room, whistling a happy tune looking forward to seeing his whore Shae (Sibel Kekilli), who he has secreted in the tower of the hand. He is very surprised to see that she is not so secret as he thought, as he enters to find Varys the Eunuch (Conleth Hill) is there talking to her without a care in the world. Immediately on edge Tyrion recognises a powerplay when he sees it. Varys is sending him a message that he cannot keep secrets in Kings Landing. As Varys makes to leave, Tyrion rallies a little and warns Varys that he will not be trifled with “I am not [a man of honor], threaten me again and I will have you thrown into to the sea”. Varys however is up for the challenge “Storms come and go; the big fish eat the little fish, but I keep on paddling”
The small council convenes to discuss the letter that arrives from Robb Stark delivered by hand by the Lannister cousin. Cersei (Lena Headey) tears it up refusing to meet the Northerner’s demands. She sends the cousin back with their reply. A Raven has also arrived from Castle Black telling of the wildlings amassing an army and the rise of the white walkers. The lord commander Mormont requires more men to man the wall. His request falls on deaf ears, apart from Tyrion who recognises this new threat and is the only one to take it seriously. But Cersai will not sign off on sending men to the wall when they have a war to win.
I didn’t realise I could be so juevenile until I nearly wet myself laughing at the next scene. North of the wall the Nights watch are still camped out at Crasters Keep and we join three of them mid conversation:
- The gods wanted us to have dignity, wouldn’t make us fart when we died.
- We fart when we die?
- My blessed mother – I was holding her hand when she left this world. She farted so hard, the whole bed shook.
I had to press pause I laughed so much. However I digress, Samwell Tarly (John Badley-West), the Craven coward and steward, ranging north of the wall for the first time and responsible for all the Ravens which are used to carry messages back to base about their progress, is distracted by the sight of Crasters wives. One of them screams as John’s Direwolf, Ghost, appraises her coolly, attracted by the dead rabbit she is carrying. Samwell jumps to her rescue, wagging his finger at Ghost and telling him to back off. Her name is Gilly and she is impressed by Samwells bravery. She spots an opportunity and asks Sam for help. She is preganant and she needs to get away from Crasters keep. Sam takes her to see Jon but Jon is not sympathetic. She hints at the fact that if she gives birth to a boy, something bad will happen but Jon cannot allow Sam to steal a daughter/wife of Craster. Where would they take her, they are only heading further north and who would deliver her baby? Its out of the question.
We dont see much of Daenerys this week. A brief trip across the Narrow Sea and the Khalasar is still struggling. Dehydrated and near starved they are seated in shade awaiting the return of her bloodriders. One Horse does come back, riderless but with the head of one of her men inside its saddle. Ser Jorah thinks its the work of another Khal, sent the head back to her as a message.
Theon Greyjoy(Alfie Allen) is following though on his plan to return to his Fathers seat and ask for his assistance in the battle against the Lannisters. Theon is being ferried to the Iron Islands. He has taken the captain’s daughter for his own amusement, having rough unromantic sex with her on the journey. She begs him to take her as his salt wife, but he refuses.
Meanwhile Littlefinger is having problems in one of his brothels. A whore has broken down in tears when she was with a paying client and he is not happy. He goes to speak to the girl and she tells him that she is grieving for the death of her friends baby boy – the bastard son of King Robert who was butchered by Janos Slynt. At first Littlefinger appears sympathetic, but he quickly tells her that he has no use for girls who do not make him money. She has one night to grieve for the child but he expects her to be back to work on the morrow.
Tyrion and Janos Slynt are drinking wine. Tyrion is not happy with the fact that Slynt has been murdering babies, just as he is not happy that Slynt betrayed his predecessor, Ned Stark. Tyrion needs to surround himself with people he can trust and Slynt is not one of them. Slynt is full of bluster claiming that he has the backing of the Queen and Joffrey, and he has been elevated to Lord of Harrenhal on the strength of his relationship with Joffrey. Realising this to be true, Tyrion executes a quick and decisive plan. Revoking the seat of Harrenhal, he has his faithful sellsword Bronn, new commander of the city watch, to escort Slynt to a ship which is heading north towards the wall. Well Mormont did say he needs more men.
Arya and two new friends, Lommy and Hot Pie, are washing pots in a stream, talking about the gold cloaks. Gendry puts them straight on the difference between a knight and any idiot wearing armour. Ayra, is curious about why the gold cloaks would be after Gendry. He tells her he doesn’t like people asking questions, no good ever came of it. He tells her that the previous two hands came asking questions and days later they were dead. Ayra is stunned to learn that Gendry had been speaking to her father. Gendy then turns the tables and asks Arys why she though they were after her? Was it because she is girl? Arys tries to deny it but Gendry tells her not to bother – he isnt as stupid as the rest of them. Caught in her lie Arya admits the truth, and tells him she is Arya Stark of house Stark.
Theon Greyjoy arrives ashore where he is met by an enigmatic woman who agrees to take him up to Pyke. As they ride together on horseback Theon’s hands are all over her. When he arrives at Pike he finally gets to see his father, after nine long years. Balon Greyjoy (Patrick Malahide), is old and joyless. Mean spirited and strict, he will not let any son of his wear jewellery unless it has been taken from the body of a vanquished enemy. The chain Theon is wearing was bought and paid for with gold, not Iron. Balon yanks it off his neck. Balons fears have come true, his son is more a Stark than a Greyjoy. Theon vehemently denies this – Robb Stark heeds his council, they are like brothers and the proposition Theon brings with him was his own idea not Robb’s. Balon is angered that Thoen would compare Robb Stark to his brothers – after all they were put to the sword by Lord Eddard Stark himself nine years ago. Balon has no love for the Starks. Nevertheless he takes the letter from Theon and reads the proposal. Robb will make Balon King of the Iron Islands once again if Balon destroys his enemies for him. Theon stands proud and says he will lead the attack himself. Balon expresses surprise and Theon responds as his only living heir, who else would do it? Queue Yara Greyjoy (Gemma Whelan), Theon’s sister and the same girl he was feeling up on the way to the castle. Awkward! She would lead the attack – Yara took over command of his brother’s ship after Stark killed him (What is dead may never die – these are the words of House Greyjoy, just as Winter is coming – are the words of house Stark). No man gives Balon Greyjoy a crown. He will pay the Iron price, he will take his crown
At Dragonstone (Seat of Stannis Baratheon) Davos Seaworth (Liam Cunningham) and his son Matthos, solicit the aid of the pirate Salladhor Saan and his 30 ships (Lucian Msamati), in their upcoming war.
Tyion has to face the music after packing Janos Slynt off to the wall. Cersei is not happy, but Tyrion tries to make her see sense. She is losing the people, and giving them the notion that the queen slaughters babies at the breast will give them a cause to rise up against her. Cersei admits that she was not the one who gave the order – it was Joffrey. Cersei plays the martyr telling Tyrion that he does not understand what the role of queen entails. They spend a few minutes in petty one-upmanship culminating in Cersei blaming Tyrion for the death of their mother who died giving birth to him – demonstrating a deeply rooted bitterness that borders on arrested development and possible psychosis.
Back at Dragonstone Stannis is discussing tactics with Davos and Matthos, until he dismisses Davos to receive counsel only from Melisandre. She whispers something to Matthos as he leaves and Stannis seems jealous demanding to know what she said. Randomly she told him death by fire is the purest death, confused Stannis asks why and she replies simply because it is true. Stannis has no time for such riddles. He is facing an army that greatly outnumbers his own, his brother, Renly, has called the banners of those who would otherwise fight for Stannis and without those men he can not hope to take Kings Landing. His priestess tells him that she has seen the path to victory in the flames, but first Stannis must become a true disciple of the Lord of Light. Melisandre seduces Stannis, opening her gown to reveal her naked body beneath. Stannis is an honourable man and tries to resist. He has a wife after all, but she is sick, locked up in the tower and unable to give him sons. Melisandre tells him that she will give him the Son he craves.
As they are ‘doing it’ on the tactical map of Westeros, Jon Snow is huddled around a camp fire in darkness. He sees Crester walking through the woods with a baby in his arms and decides to follow him. Losing sight of him for a moment, Crester suddenly reappears without the child, Jon can hear it crying somewhere. He hurries towards the sound of its mewling and sees a White Walker, its eyes glowing blue, pick up the baby – then Cresters smacks him over the head, knocking him unconscious.
And the credits roll…