Game of Thrones – “Second Sons”

Cultural Learnings


“Second Sons”

May 19th, 2013

“I always have a choice.”

“Second Sons” opens with a choice. Arya wakes up to discover that her captor has fallen asleep, and picks up a rock with which she intends to kill Sandor Clegane, a man she believes to be taking her back to King’s Landing. However, as she grows closer, it turns out the Hound isn’t sleeping at all, and he gives her a choice: she can put the rock down, or she can take one shot at killing him with it. The catch is that, should she choose the second option and the Hound remains alive, he’ll break both of her hands.

It’s not really a choice when you think about it, as Arya’s trust in her own strength isn’t quite enough to make her hands worth the risk. It’s also not much of a choice given that she’s his captive, even…

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My review of GoT: S3, E7

SPOILERS: Don’t read this review if you have not yet seen or don’t want to know details from the latest episode of Game of Thrones  

Jon and Ygritte
Jon and Ygritte’s romance continues to develop.

People work together when it suits them.  They’re loyal when it suits them.  Love each other when it suits them.  And they kill each other when it suits them.  She knows it, you don’t.  Which is why you’ll never hold onto her.  –Orell

You’re mine, as I’m yours. And if we die, we die. But first we’ll live.  –Ygritte

Wow, I can’t believe that there are only 3 eps left!  I enjoyed seeing the interactions between Jon and Ygritte- they can be a fun couple.  Rose Leslie can pull off comedy quite well, we see.  Kit Harington seems to be more comfortable (acting well after several lukewarm eps.)  

Jojen and Bran
Jojen and Bran listen to Osha’s story

Osha (who’s still suspicious of Jojen) and Hodor have a funny little moment.  Then she tells Bran and the Reeds how she lost her “man” (husband, we assume).  He was very good and loyal, but disappeared suddenly one night.  He became a Whitewalker and tried to kill her, so  she stabbed him and burned their hut down.  Natalia Tena (who’s known mainly a singer) continues to shine in her role! 

Robb and Talisa
Talisa tells Robb that she’s going to have his baby.

Robb, his family, and loyal men are on their way to The Twins for the wedding of Edmure to one of the Frey girls.  There is a thunderstorm that’s slowing them down.  Robb and Talisa are still crazy about each other; we get to see more of them (and it’s done in a tasteful manner).  “A little prince of princess” is in their future, Talisa reveals while she writes a letter to her mother (in Valyrian).  

Melisandre talks to Gendry
Melisandre tells Gendry about his father.

While on the way to Dragonstone (Stannis’ place), Melisandre slowly reveals to Gendry that he’s the son of King Robert Baratheon.  The camera focuses in on Gendry’s surprised blue-gray eyes, bringing to mind those of actor Mark Addy (who played Robert).  The thick, dark brown wig on Joe Dempsie reminds us of Robert’s dark hair.  Also, I noticed that “The Kingsroad” theme was playing softly.  CGI was used effectively to show the destruction (broken ships, burned structures) around King’s Landing.  And Clarice Van Houten- talk about screen presence! 

Dany and one of her dragons
Dany addresses a leader of the Yunkai people.

Many viewers were happy to see the dragons- getting big fast!  “Breaker of chains” has been added to the long list of Dany’s titles- very cool.  She’s still on Slaver’s Bay, this time at the gates of Yunkai.  Jorah points out that these are a proud sort of people, who will not surrender easily. 

Meisande, Yunkai slaves, and their leader
The Yunkai leader says that he will not surrender.

Their leader brings the khaleesi 2 chests of gold, but refuses to free the slaves, as she commands.  The dragons are not happy to see their “mother” threatened.  Emilia Clarke plays this scene extremely well.

Joffrey and Tywin
Tywin and Joffrey have an important talk.

You are being counseled right now.  -Tywin

The scene between Tywin and Joffrey is very well constructed, both cinematically and in terms of dialogue.  The door to the throne room opens and Tywin has to make a long walk to the base of the Iron Throne.  He glances (perhaps with disgust?) at the huge, blazing torches on either side of the room.  Joffrey is wondering what’s up w/ The Small Council, which has been meeting adjacent to The Hand’s chambers.  Tywin, aside from Cersei, is the only one who has climbed up the stairs to stand beside the Iron Throne.  (Notice how Tywin looms large over Joffrey?  The king looks a bit uncertain/uncomfortable as his grandpa approaches closer.)  I loved the way that Charles Dance said “we can arrange to have you carried” when the king commented the numerous stairs up to The Tower of the Hand.  Joffrey (finally) has some good points; he’s worried about the Targaryens and their dragons.  Tywin says that he shouldn’t worry about such “ancient” matters.

Theon cowers in fear as his manhood is threatened.

There can be no doubt what happened to Theon at the end of his scene!  Alfie Allen shows us just how powerless Theon is in the hands of his sadistic captor.  

Margaery and Sansa
Margaery and Sansa discuss men and marriage

My son will be king.  Sons learn from their mothers.  I plan to teach mine a great deal. 

 Most women don’t know what they like until they’ve tried it. And sadly so many of us get to try so little before we’re old and gray.


There is another fine scene with Margaery and Sansa; they discuss their respective futures.  Sansa is very apprehensive about having to marry Tyrion, as he’s a Lannister (one of her captors) and a dwarf.  Margaery asks her if he’s ever been cruel to her.  “No,” Sansa responds.  “He’s not the worst Lannister- by far,” Margaery says.  (Very true!)   “He’s quite handsome, especially with that scar,” she comments.  Women like them have to make the best of their situations.  Innocent, young Sansa doesn’t quite understand all she’s hearing, as she’s lived a sheltered existence. 

Tyrion and Shae
Tyrion and Shae have a difficult and emotional talk.

Tyrion and Shae have their break-up scene.  (Thank goodness!)  I didn’t like Sibel Kekilli’s acting, aside from a few scenes.  Peter Dinklage needs a better romantic interest to match his skills.

Brienne and a bear
Brienne holds a bear at bay with a wooden sword.

After the ride away from Harrenhal, Jaime and ex-master Qyburn (veteran British actor, Anton Lesser) have a fine scene where they discuss how many people they’ve killed and saved.  Qyburn was stripped of his title because he experimented on dead/dying people.  Jaime saved 500,000 people (“the population of King’s Landing”) when he killed Aerys (“The Mad King”) as a young knight.

Brienne and Jamie
Jamie jumps in front of Brienne and faces the bear- WHOA!

And then we have the bear scene- WOW! I knew Jaime would go back to save Brienne.  Jaime (who’s a more important prisoner, after all) jumps into the pit to save Brienne (who was being humiliated/tortured by Locke).  They manage to climb out of the pit, with the aid of one of Bolton’s young/burly men.  Jaime tells Locke how it’s going to be- what an unlikely hero…  Nikolaj Coster-Waldau continues to impress me with each new ep!  

Game of Thrones – “The Bear and the Maiden Fair”

Cultural Learnings


“The Bear and the Maiden Fair”

May 12th, 2013

“How do the men holding the banners fight?”

I’m always interested by what online conversation refers to as “Filler” episodes. By all accounts, “The Bear and the Maiden Fair” fits the bill as far as I understand it: no major events take place, a lot of storylines are merely ways of reminding us of what’s about to happen and the stakes for those involved, and there’s not that big triumphant moment that takes the story in a new direction.

As a result, “The Bear and the Maiden Fair” never evolves into a particularly exciting hour of television, content mostly to sketch out the boundaries of the season’s storylines in preparation for the oncoming climax. In the hands of A Song of Ice and Fire author George R.R. Martin, the hour functions not unlike the dominant narratives of his books: a lot…

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Game of Thrones: Season 3, Episode 6 (“The Climb”)

SPOILERS: Don’t read this review if you have not yet seen or don’t want to know details from the latest episode of Game of Thrones.  

I knew you were high born.  -Gilly comments after Sam explains that there were always servants to build fires back home

This ep begins sweetly w/ Sam (love his character), Gilly, and her newborn son out in the woods.  Sam builds a fire, but it’s small, as he’s added too many logs.  At her suggestion, Sam (more book smart than street smart) removes a big log and the fire blazes higher.  He shows Gilly a piece of dragon glass uncovered from The Fist of the First Men.  She asks for a song (starting to like him more and more), and Sam sings something about The Seven (new gods). 

John Bradley-West is revealing himself to be a fine young actor, though he’s inexperienced and lacks the traditional leading man looks (assets in showbiz and beyond).  Unlike Kit Harington (who is very handsome), Bradley-West is not afraid to “go there” (be vulnerable/show messy emotions).  Harington holds back, in my opinion.  (I liked Jon better back in Season 1, especially when he was interacting with the other Stark kids and Tyrion.)  Though Sam served partly as comic relief through Season 2, I feel Bradley-West has succeeded in making the audience empathize with him.  

Ygritte gazes up at The Wall
Ygritte gazes up at The Wall

You’re loyal and your’re brave.  You didn’t stop being a crow the day you walked into Mance Rayder’s tent.  -Ygritte says to Jon

While Jon, Ygritte, and the Wildlings are prepping to climb The Wall, she tells him that she knows he’s still loyal to the Night’s Watch.  Jon is quiet, surprised by this revelation.  Ygritte bluntly tells him that she doesn’t care, as long as he’s loyal to her.  This is a great scene that shows us, once again, that Ygritte is no naïve fool!  Unlike typical Westerosi women, she’s a pragmatic/realistic individual. 

Arya takes aim, thinking of (future) revenge
Arya takes aim, thinking of (future) revenge

I see a darkness in you.  And in that darkness, eyes staring back at me.  Brown eyes, blue eyes, green eyes.  Eyes you’ll shut forever. 

Melisandre predicts Arya’s future when the girl confronts her

We see Arya improving her archery skills and learn some more about the Brotherhood without Banners, but then the Red Priestess (Melisandre) shows up.  (She’s bad news- can tell from her theme music.)  We learn that Thoros’ original mission was to convert King Robert (who loved drinking and whoring) to the Lord of Light.  Melisandre sees the scarred-up Beric and is amazed when Thoros tells her that he’s been brought back 6 times.  She is (obviously) jealous of the fact that the Lord of Light has blessed Thoros with such a gift. 

Thoros talks about his (not so wholesome) past- a very strong scene.  Paul Kaye is a very charismatic actor; there is a twinkle in Thoros’ eyes.  He looks like he could be a relation of William Hurt.

There are others with your blood in their veins -Melisandre said to Stannis (Season 3, Episode 3)

Gendry is tied up and driven away by Melisandre and her men.  Oh no, what’s she going to do with him!  This was a shock- it happened very fast.  Thoros explains to (a very angry Arya) that the Brotherhood needs gold to do their work (protecting the people).  Maisie Williams continues to shine here,  showing us that Arya has no time for hypocritic BS.  Her goal is revenge- plain and simple.  Arya also has deep feelings for Gendry, but that will take time to play out. 

Ransay and Theon
I was right- Theon’s torturer is Roose Bolton’s bastard son!

If you think this has a happy ending, you haven’t been paying attention.  -Ramsay Snow to Theon, who he’s torturing

The scenes with Theon and his sadistic torturer were very difficult to watch, even for a fan like myself.  (I don’t like to see blood!)  Some reviewers compared Ramsay to Joffrey (who also enjoys seeing others in distress/pain).

The Starks must ally with House Frey
The Starks must ally with House Frey

The laws of gods and men are very clear.  No man can compel another man to marry.  -Edmure Tully

The laws of my fists are about to compel your teeth.  -Blackfish Tully

Two of Walder Frey’s sons come to Riverrun to ask for reparations.  Since Robb broke his vow to marry one of their sisters, he must publicly apologize.  Also, after the war, Walder Frey will become lord of Harrenhal.  Robb agrees with these terms.  Then the kicker- Robb’s uncle, Edmure, will marry 19 y.o. Rosalind Frey (who he’s never seen).  Reluctantly, Edmure agrees, since the Starks must form an alliance with House Frey.

Michelle Fairley didn’t get much to say in this ep- too bad.  If I had to quibble about something, it would have to be Richard Madden’s (heavy) Scottish accent.  He hasn’t adapted his accent to fit in with the other Starks.  Rose Leslie, who’s also a Scot, is using the Northern British accent (which suits Ygritte very well).

Jamie will be freed, but not Brienne
Jamie will be freed, but not Brienne

You are charged with abetting treason.  -Bolton bluntly declares to Brienne

Jaime fails at dinner, but wins his freedom from Bolton.  He plays the money card, saying that his father can reward Bolton with much more than Robb.  Brienne observes everything keenly, and even reaches for her knife when Bolton threatens Jaime.  Finally, the Northman says that Jaime can return to King’s Landing, where he’ll explain to Tywin that Bolton had nothing to do with the maiming (of Jaime’s right hand).  When the Northman says he doesn’t drink, Jaime comments that this is suspicious to ordinary folk.  Too bad that Brienne (who looks pretty in that pink gown) has to stay behind as a prisoner!

I liked seeing more of Bolton (Michael McElhatton), who is an enigmatic character so far.  We know that he’s experienced at battle tactics and disapproves of Robb’s marriage to Talisa, a foreign woman with no connections in Westeros.

Lady Olenna and Lord Tywin face off
Lady Olenna and Lord Tywin face off

Finally, we get a meaty scene with Lady Olenna and Lord Tywin- two of the titans of Westeros.  In her usual blunt manner, The Queen of Thorns says that Cersei is too old for Loras (who is a “rose” in the bloom of youth).  Tywin is no fool- he knows that her grandson is gay (a no-no in The Seven Kingdoms).  Olenna brushes that off, saying that it’s natural for young boys to fool around with each other.  Tywin is not amused when she questions him about his youth.  LOL!

If you refuse to marry Loras to Cersei, I will name him to the Kingsguard.  Your familiar with the Kingsguard vows.  He will never marry, he will never have children.  The Tyrell name will fade.  -Lord Tywin declares to Lady Olenna

Tywin has the trump card, because he can make Loras a Kingsguard and end the Tyrell line.  Lady Olenna can’t have that, so she gives in, breaking Tywin’s quill before he can write up the job assignment.

It’s a rare enough thing- a man who lives up to his reputation.  -Lady Olenna concludes

Loras and Sansa
Loras and Sansa talk weddings

It’s terrible, isn’t it?  The most terrible place there is.  -Loras gives his opinion about King’s Landing

Not knowing that their lives are already decided, Sansa and Loras (wearing a lovely rose brooch) have an awkward meeting in the garden.  Poor, clueless Sansa looks so happy.  Loras has more ideas about their wedding than she does- LOL!  We know he’s thinking of Renly when he mentions that he’d like Sansa to wear “a gown of green and gold brocade.”  (Aww, I miss Renly, too!  He would’ve been a good king.)  They both want to leave the capitol for Highgarden, but it’s just not meant to be. 

Tyrion and Cersei commiserate
Tyrion and Cersei commiserate

The scene with Tyrion and Cersei is great (as usual), but also revealing.  We learn that it was Joffrey, not Cersei, who sent Ser Mandon to kill him during the Battle of Blackwater.  Joffrey won’t try anything now because grandpa Tywin is here, Cersei assures her younger brother.  However, there is no way to stop the weddings.  Tywin has won, again!  Tyrion goes to speak to Sansa about the matter.  Why didn’t they show that scene?  I was very surprised!

Varys and Littlefinger
Littlefinger tells Varys how he sees it

Chaos isn’t a pit, chaos is a ladder.  Many who try to climb it fail, never get to try again.  The fall breaks them.  Some are given a chance to climb, but they refuse.  They cling to the realm, or the gods, or love.  Illusions.  Only the ladder is real.  The climb is all there is.  -Littlefinger explains his worldview to Varys

As if things couldn’t get worse, we get the scene with Littlefinger, Varys, and a related montage.  Littlefinger has given the spy who betrayed him to someone who “was seeking new experience.”  We cut to Joffrey holding his crossbow.  Ros is strung up at the foot of his bed, arrows all through her dead body.  (Wow, what a horrible image!)  Outside, Sansa is sobbing as she watches Littlefinger’s ship all burned up.

Aiden Gillen has somehow managed to make his Irish accent more and more distasteful over the seasons.  The preciseness with which he says his words are very effective, and sometimes even menacing.  And have you noticed how Littlefinger’s clothing has become more and more fancier over time?  He knows how to climb, that’s for sure!

The final scene of the episode (top of The Wall)
The final scene of the episode (top of The Wall)

The ep ended on a positive/hopeful note- Jon and Ygritte kissing at the highest point in the Kingdom.  I’m usually not a sucker for CGI, but I liked how the special effects folks did the climbing scenes.  The Wall looked truly scary!