Game of Thrones season 2 episode 8 review: The Prince of Winterfell

Game Of Thrones continues to impress, as it sets up the final two episodes of the season with style...

This review contains spoilers.

2.8 The Prince of Winterfell

When dealing with the Game of Thrones, not every week can feature dramatic turns of events. Sometimes, to properly build up to the end of a season, you have to spend an hour getting all the pieces into position. This week’s episode was a set-up to a bigger blow-up down the road (specifically, the upcoming battle scene they’ve been hinting at all season as Stannis’ troops head towards King’s Landing, the Lannisters head towards a clash with Robb Stark, some other Northerners head into a clash with the Iron Islanders at Winterfell, and the wildlings perhaps head for a clash with the Night’s Watch?). In order to have a feast, you must first set the table.

Just ask Arya, she knows all about setting tables now, having been Tywin Lannister’s serving girl for quite some time. Now, she’s been handed over to the Mountain while Tywin and his army moves off to engage Robb Stark. However, the girl’s clever—too clever for her own good and more clever by half than any of her brothers—and she devises a brilliant way to get Jaquen to risk his neck by busting her, Gendry, and Hot Pie out of Harrenhal. With no Tywin around, Arya should take off anyway; she’s too good of a character to have rusting away in a burnt-out relic of a castle.

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That’s why getting Tyrion to King’s Landing and making him the Hand of the King has been the move that will vault Peter Dinklage from Best Supporting Actor to Best Actor at this year’s Emmys. The scene with Shae (Sibel Kekilli) was wonderfully heartbreaking, and Dinklage’s expression throughout his face-off with Cersei about his secret whore (the very unfortunate Ros) was a brilliant mask. Playing concealed emotions has to be difficult, considering how much of acting is about expressing. Their reunion was touching, albeit unsurprising; Tyrion, as a character, makes sparks with whomever is crossed with him, from Cersei and Joffrey to Bronn and (perhaps most fun of all) Varys. I’d love to see Tyrion, Bronn, and Varys just get one whole episode amongst themselves to dish on the plots and intrigues of the city and the relative merits of testicles versus height.

further reading: Game of Thrones Season 8 – Everything We Know

There was another touching moment this week, this time from an unexpected source. Yara and Theon Greyjoy’s reunion scene at the opening of the episode was fascinating. Theon is so far in over his head that even an Iron Islander would drown, and it’s clear that Theon has managed to end up as a prince without a kingdom. Nobody in Winterfell wants him around anymore after he “killed the Starks” and the Iron Islanders think he’s a fool for “killing the Starks” and thinking like a landlubber. Granted, Theon’s first mate Dagmer Cleftjaw (Ralph Ineson) knows what happened to the missing little lords, but he’s not talking because, it seems, he’s enjoying watching Theon screw everything up royally. He’s not as stupid as his lord, but I can’t see why he’d give Theon this advice if he wasn’t there simply to see Theon fail and die so Yara could become Queen of the Iron Islands. It’s nice to see that she doesn’t hate her brother; she seems to pity him and knows that he’s a fool destined to suffer as a result of his many misfortunes, and urges him to have an Islander’s death near the sea since there’s no way he’ll be able to hold Winterfell with a boatload of pirates.

If Theon is the king of mistakes, Cate Stark must be his queen. She takes Robb’s biggest bargaining chip and, unless we are being misled, simply gives it away for the hope of getting back her daughters. Robb, wisely, puts her under guard, but the damage has been done. The Kingslayer is gone to recreate Huckleberry Finn with Brienne of Tarth (to a similar extent, Stannis and Davos Seaworth are doing a similar song and dance, but only if Huck Finn could turn Jim into a powerful lord). Of course, maybe Cate isn’t going to give Jaime away and that’s why she kept yelling at him as he stormed off to hook up with a strange Volanti nurse.

This is going to be an interesting final two episodes. Yes, season two is almost over, and it seems like only yesterday it started off. George R.R. Martin himself is going to be penning next week’s episode, with direction from Neil Marshall. Talk about your special events! As good as Alan Taylor has been throughout the run of the series (ditto writers Benioff and Weiss), I’m looking forward to seeing what a director as good as Marshall can do with a script from the creator of the Game of Thrones universe.

further reading: Game of Thrones Season 8 – Predictions and Theories

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Read our review of last week’s episode, A Man Without Honor, here.

US Correspondent Ron Hogan loves the idea of King Joffrey trying to give dear ol’ Uncle Stannis a red smile, if only because Joff will undoubtedly get slapped for it. Find more by Ron daily at Shaktronics and PopFi.

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