This review contains spoilers.
3.8 Second Sons
When Game of Thrones wants to be creepy, it can be very creepy. This week’s episode had an incredibly eerie vibe to it at several times, but nothing seemed quite as unsettling as the wedding of Tyrion Lannister and Sansa Stark. The entire scene of the wedding, with the assembled dignitaries of both House Lannister and House Tyrell, as well as the small council (minus Littlefinger), were all gathered together in the sept of Baelor in their finest, to watch Sansa Stark march to her ultimate fate. The person who takes it upon himself to walk her down the aisle? None other than Joffrey, who sleazes up to her, takes her arm and reminds her that he’s not her father, but he’s the father of the realm, so who better to give her away?
As Sansa and Joffrey took their sweet time heading towards the altar through the parted crowd, with the camera shooting up at them to emphasize the weird tallness of the set, and faces and bodies on either side of them, the whole thing reminded me of a German Expressionist horror. With every step down the aisle, things got more and more unnerving, and when Sansa and Tyrion finally took their wedding vows, it became clear that the whole thing was both a real wedding and a cruel, cruel joke.
Joffrey, in one of the most subtle movements, takes away his uncle’s stepladder and leads the laughter when it’s time for Tyrion to drape his cloak over Sansa’s shoulders. It’s a great series of moments for all three principal actors in the scene. Jack Gleeson gets to remind us that he’s the most effective pure villain on the show, Peter Dinklage gets to show just how physically vulnerable he is when compared to the much-taller everyone around him, and both Dinklage and Sophie Turner get to explore the emotional vulnerability of their respective characters during the ceremony and during their first night as man and wife. To watch these three characters interact with one another throughout what is supposed to be a joyful night (in a normal world) was a wonderful moment for Tyrion/Dinklage, who has been put on the back burner this season in favour of Charles Dance’s Tywin and various Wildlings.
It’s a credit to director Michelle MacLaren. When it’s time for Tyrion to be humiliated, she makes the most of Peter Dinklage’s short stature and emphasizes the height difference between Tyrion and everyone else with some masterful camera placements. When it’s time to show how sensitive and kind Tyrion can be, it’s accomplished through visual means, too. Watching Tyrion watch Sansa take off her dozens of layers of corsets through a screen was a brilliant decision. You could see Tyrion struggle between his lust for her and his general human decency. After all, Sansa is a child who has been through a lot, and as Tyrion admits, he would only be adding to the cruelty by bedding her without her permission. It’s a clever staging bit that keeps Sansa at the focus even though you see nearly nothing of her.
A similarly brilliant shot took place during a Dragonstone moment when Stannis went down into the dungeon to talk to Davos. On the surface, it’s a chat and the possibility of freedom for Davos, but from the position of the bars between them, Stannis looks as trapped as Davos, if not more so. It’s an interesting connection to make. Davos is in jail because he did his duty to Stannis. Stannis is trapped by his duty to become king and rid Westeros of usurpers. Tyrion and Cersei struggle in their duty to marry powerful houses at their father’s command. Robb has already shirked duty for a hot young wife, and Jon Snow is being forced to pick between Ygritte and the Night’s Watch.
All of them are driven to ruin by things they feel they cannot control, and as Ned Stark would tell you, honour can be nothing more than a chopping block on which the doomed may lay his head. Wedding celebrations feel like final meals. The happiest event is a portent for disaster. No good deed goes unpunished. Even a good meal and a drink of wine can lead to terrible consequences.
US Correspondent Ron Hogan was impressed to see such a great deal of pre-show warning letters on the parental advisory page. That’s how you know it’s going to be a good night in Westeros. Find more by Ron daily at Shaktronics and PopFi.
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