Game of Thrones: Second Sons, Review

Three weddings and an ice zombie, oh my....

ICE ZOMBIES! DID YOU SEE THAT BEAUTIFUL SHUFFLING GLACIER OF DEATH?!… …Ahem. This was a superb show crafted on the finest of witty dialogue, carefully calculated performance and sterling production value. Ergo, it truly…hold on a second… ICE ZOMBIES! FROZEN, BLUE-EYED, CADAVERS COMING TO SWALLOW YOUR SOUL! EAT YOUR HEART OUT WALKING DEAD!…. …Okay. I promise that I have composed myself and gotten it out of my system. Yes, this was another excellent, if slightly restrained (for HBO) hour of television. Beyond that crystal-eyed beauty at the end, it very economically revolved around Tryion and Sansa’s nuptial bliss, the less happy times at Dragonstone and Dany’s continued politicking in the East. To prove that point, the only other major storyline that moved beside the above mentioned this week was the brief opening with Arya. The little scamp who stole audiences’ hearts last year when she ordered the assassination of about a dozen men, began this episode by trying to smash the Hound’s skull in. Adorable! Is it any wonder the Social Security Administration announced last week that Arya is the most popular “new” rising name among baby girls in the U.S. for 2012? True story. Alas, our favorite little sword wielding sociopath-on-the-make maintains her season streak of being underused. In her brief appearance, it is established that she will not attempt to crush the Hound’s pretty face, because he would otherwise cut off her hands (wise choice). On the upside, he is playing the Good Samaritan by taking her to her mother and brother at the Twins. For a price. They are galloping on his horse along the Trident River on their way to Uncle Edmure’s wedding with a Frey girl. If they hurry they can make it in time for festivities! Edmure is getting married; Tyrion is getting married; Joffrey is getting married. They should start calling this season, “Three Weddings and a Human Sacrifice.”read more: Game of Thrones Season 8 Predictions and TheoriesSpeaking of which, the heat was really turned up on Gendry this week. Now clearly stepping into the book’s role of Edric Storm, Robert’s Flea Bottom bastard and Arya’s super special BFF is finding himself in Melisandre’s hot seat. With the blood of Westeros’s last theoretically rightful king, he is the perfect sucker martyr for Melisandre’s plans. When speaking with King Stannis, she unfavorably compares the young blacksmith to a lamb in need of a good coddle before being put to the sword. Stannis is unhappy with his hot-tempered woman’d scheming. Even if he sneers at the immediate presence of the boy by saying, “Half Robert, half lowborn,” that does not mean Stannis wants to see his nephew cooked under the red witch’s flames. Whether it is guilt over already murdering his brother, sympathy for the boy or just some clearheaded thinking caused by Melisandre leaving for a fortnight, Stannis shows some common sense by consulting with his still caged Hand, Ser Davos. The last true Baratheon King makes amends with is bro by apologizing for getting his son killed at Blackwater. Further, he will even let Davos go, if he swears never to attempt murder on Melisandre again. “I swear it; I can’t swear never to speak against her.” That’s why we love the Onion Knight.  This is actually a superb scene for both actors. I will be honest when I say that Stannis has never been my favorite character. I know this is sacrilege in some literary circles, but I do not believe the thin-skinned middle Baratheon has a better claim than his late brother, Renly. If this is indeed a game of thrones, Renly played it well by rallying all of the Stormlands’ bannermen to his cause while all Stannis could muster was his wife’s family connections and a ruby-eyed zealot. Stannis may have a better claim than Renly did, but technically Dany has a better claim to the throne than either. Robert, Stannis’s older brother who he fought alongside, was a usurper who took the Iron Throne from the Targaryen family in fire and blood. As a certain eunuch might say, power resides where men believe it resides. No matter what, Stannis will always be too brittle and finicky to ever hold onto it for long. Unless he uses magic tricks like the one that he slaughtered his brother with. That being said, Stannis is still an amazing personality who the show has not done justice. Stephen Dillane is always a strong character actor, but for too long has TV Stannis seemed to be little more than Melisandre’s puppet. This week, we were finally allowed to see for the first time since Blackwater the depths of his conviction and twisted honor. Thanks to Melisandre, he is the only would-be monarch who is noticing a severe weather change. One that will require more than Lannister gold or Winterfell independence to survive it. While his denials of ambition or a thirst for power still feel as weak as his rationalizations for fratricide, there is no denying that he views the role of power as a heavy burden. It is an obligation to the small folk, who have already lost so much for a few families bathing themselves in treasures and titles. Perhaps, Robb and Catelyn should have paid better attention as to why Ned threw in his lot with this lobster. read more: Game of Thrones Season 8 – Everything We Know Yet, if the safety of the kingdom is his chief concern, why does he feel so rotten about sacrificing his nephew to the flames? A few scenes later, his moral quagmire is compounded when Melisandre arranges a demonstration over the magic of king’s blood. In a sequence that did not require any disrobement in the book, the fire priestess seduces the teenage bastard with totally believable ease and gets him naked in bed faster than you can say Theon Greyjoy. Wait, the last time this happened… For viewers turned off by Theon’s “adjustments” from the previous episode, this scene will not play any better. A vivacious Melsiandre ties Gendry’s body up long enough to stick a few well-placed leaches on his body and royal staff. After some hocus pocus, a skeptical Stannis and a sternly disapproving Davos appear to test the boy’s magical blood. Stannis uses the well-fed leaches as small sacrifices to the flames and puts a curse on Robb Stark, Balon Greyjoy and Joffrey “Baratheon.” Ruh-roh. I am only surprised that Melisandre did not let out a cackle when she finally put back on her gown.  Speaking of states of royal undress, things took an odd turn in Yunkai. Two thousand sell swords, aptly named the Second Sons, have arrived to help the besieged town make war with Daenerys Targaryen. In careful retaliation, the Silver Queen invites the mercenaries’ three commanders to her tent for an entreaty. After witnessing Dany’s fiery glee last week when she threatened Yunkai’s ambassador with her dragons, it is surprising how gracious and friendly she has decided to play these thugs. Perhaps, she really hasn’t forgotten how much easier it was winning the hand at Astapor when she did not hold her cards above her head? Ultimately, discussions breakdown when the leader of the Second Sons shows nothing but contempt for the Mother of Dragons and her handmaiden. After promising to rape both of them after the battle as his slaves, Dany allows the men to politely exit before ordering Ser Barristan to kill THAT GUY first. Unfortunately, old Selmy never gets the opportunity. The youngest and prettiest of the Second Sons’ leaders, Daario, has decided that Dany is just too beautiful to make war with. Thus, when his brethren order Daario assassinate the platinum-haired tyrant, he chooses to execute them instead and bring their heads to Dany. In a scene that honestly plays out more modestly than it likely would have in the books, Dany is taking a bath with the help of her handmaiden. The Khaleesi is so displeased to be told that her Dothraki is not up to snuff that she does not even hear the ominous musical cues when Daario shows up. He has come to pledge his allegiance to the Mother of Dragons and “her beauty.” As a reward, she gives him and the viewers at home an entirely gratuitous eyeful that Kranzy would have approved of. I got a bad feeling about this. Daenerys played a victim for so long that it has been nice to see her in the driver’s seat for a change. But are we witnessing the birth of a hero or the tragic ascension of a despot? Daario instantly ingratiates himself into her circle by feeding into her worst Targaryen impulses. Suffice it to say that he is bad news for the stormborn child still so far from home. Meanwhile, we finally get the first of all these fabulous weddings! Tyrion and Sansa again embrace their downward trajectory by making the most miserable looking bride and groom in television history. Tyrion loves Shae and Sansa would love nothing more than to be free of Lannisters. But they appear to make the best of it when Tyrion promises before the wedding that he will never harm his auburn-haired bride. The wedding also allows for some addictively great television character moments. Cersei is her usual, arrogant self. Still heady on busting the Stark/Tyrell union, she openly takes Margaery’s hands before the ceremony and threatens the entire Tyrell family by reciting the story of when Tywin massacred the entire Reyne family at Castamere. “If you ever call me ‘sister’ again, I’ll have you strangled in your sleep.” Oh Cersei! You are such an idiot that we cannot help but love you. All the proud boasting and ignorant entitlement that you and your son wear like jewelry is why this war started and why precious Jaime rotted in a prison cell for a year. Never one to learn from her mistakes, Cersei also insults her future husband, Loras Tyrell, and his family at the wedding. If the Queen Regent could look past her own insecurities for a moment, she might notice how much more successful Margaery’s cheery smile has been at manipulating her demon spawn. Speaking of the devil, Joffrey is in especially fine form tonight. After having Tywin and Margaery place his tail between his legs all season, Jack Gleason got to shine as the little snot-nosed monster once more. First, he removes Tyrion’s stepladder, for which he would climb to place the Lannister cloak on Sansa’s shoulders. Thus, the Lannister Imp had to squirm under laughter while asking his lady wife to kneel for the ritual. Later, Joffrey promises in private to rape Sansa whenever he feels like it. Fortunately, Peter Dinklage was even better this night. As he prepared to do his marital duty in the bedroom by getting rip-roaring drunk, he still found time to mock his father for this sham of a marriage. When he then sees Joffrey harassing his bride by asking to disrobe her in the “bedding tradition” of Westeros, Tyrion responds by stabbing his feasting table and hissing, “Then you’ll be fucking your own wife with a WOODEN COCK.” All hail the self-proclaimed God of Tits and Wine!  All Tyrion witticisms and hilarity aside, it was a rather solemn return to form. To prepare himself to make love with his wife, Tyrion forced himself to get embarrassingly drunk. Even after such debauched behavior, the mood of his bedroom was closer to that of a funeral than a honeymoon. The subtle change of self-hate to a deeper form soul-crushing loathing and pity that drifted across Dinklage’s face while his child bride undresses is the stuff of Emmys. Barely cognizant enough to stand, Tyrion manages to grant a kiss of mercy to his wife by promising not to touch her until she wants him to. Her even sadder response that the day may never come has officially made them the most pitiful marriage on cable.  Move over [insert AMC couple here]. But things do not end on all doom and gloom. Leave it to the Whitewalking ice zombies to brighten our moods! The episode ends when a Whitewalker stumbles upon lonely Sam Tarly and Gilly. They are discussing the finer points in baby naming (Arya?) when the wraith comes in the wintry darkness. To Sam’s credit, he lifts a sword (kind of) and threatens the monster that is clearly hankering for the other, other white meat in Gilly’s arms. Once the creature pushes Sam out of the way, he reaches into his pocket and discovers…the dagger he found on the Fist of the First Men in Season 2! For those who do not recall, Sam curiously discovered that a ranger from a thousand years ago buried a treasure trove of dragonglass (obsidian) weapons. Dragonglass, forged from the hottest fires, has one quirky use in Westeros: Killing Whitewalkers. In his first moment of usefulness all series, Samwell Tarly proves to be quite the Slayer when he stabs the walker in the back. It shatters into a million little cubes of ice. Realizing that there will be plenty of time for fires when they’re back across the Wall, Sam grabs Gilly and son to make a late night dash for safety. And that two minutes was better than the totality of The Walking Dead. This capped off a good, if scaled back episode of Game of Thrones. It is easy to forget how many storylines are moving week to week until you have an episode where they literally drop half the threads. However, it is arguably for the better when it allows for all the nice character moments that played out during the wedding and even at Dragonstone. Stannis was finally allowed to breathe and prove that he is worthy of all his fanboy love while Peter Dinklage and Jack Gleason once again brought the fun to the most dysfunctional and wacky relatives in Westeros. Who really, really doesn’t want to see Tyrion castrate this twirp? It would finally be some genital torture that even the U.N. approve. All the nice character moments and smooth plotting make up for a lack of major shocks. Given the last few weeks have seen the consecutive stunners of Jaime losing his hand, Dany sacking Astapor, Joffrey murdering Ros and Jaime saving the Maiden Fair from the Bear, this one felt a bit more muted. Tyrion and Sansa finally tied the knot, but the chances of this being a happy union seems as likely as Ned Stark returning from the grave. Yet, it was a great character episode for all involved and will have to satisfy our appetites for TWO WEEKS until Game of Thrones returns. Next up Edmure’s wedding. Hopefully, it will be a happier affair. ****Speaking of marital lovemaking, I also wanted to hand out last week’s Gold Star to Lord Stubbington for his terrific Rom-Com trailer for Tyrion and Sansa, which can be seen HERE. Well done! And yes, it does feature “Call Me Maybe.”**** Den of Geek Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars


4 out of 5