Previous Game of Thrones Season 2 episode recaps:
Ep. 11: "The North Remembers."
Ep. 12: "The Night Lands."
Ep. 13: "What Is Dead May Never Die."
Ep. 14: "Garden of Bones."
Ep. 15: "The Ghost of Harrenhal."
Ep. 16: "The Old Gods and the New."
Episode 17: "A Man Without Honor"
Original Air Date: May 13, 2012.
Directed by: David Nutter.
Written by: David Benioff & D.B. Weiss.
I'm going to do something a little different this week. Instead of a recap covering every single scene as they occur chronologically in the episode, I'm dividing it up by locations on the overworld map instead--taking a general northwesterly sweep starting from the continent of Essos across the Narrow Sea. I'm hoping this will make the recap portion much shorter. Not to mention it should be easier to connect plot developments specific to each location, and facilitate remembering certain key facts without jumping from place to place like a flea with Alzheimer's.
If you don't enjoy this format, please remember to sound off in the comments section at the end. I welcome all feedback. And so, let us now begin . . .
Daenerys Targaryen is right where we left off at the end of last week's episode -- in the presence of Xaro Xhoan Daxos and pretty po'd at having her dragons stolen from right under the watchful gaze of her benefactor's house guards. Xaro tries to explain that it had to be a member of the city's governing council, the Thirteen, behind the dragon-napping, but Dany will hear none of it. Her adviser, Ser Jorah, tries to console her, but gets burned by his khaleesi for being a little too familiar with her.
Ah, I think we all know what the beleaguered Westerosi knight is really interested in here. He wants what Khal Drogo once enjoyed! Spurned, he sets off to do some investigating of his own and ends up at Quaithe's tattoo parlor--or whatever the hells it is that she does for a living. Quaithe, cryptic as always, claims that Daenerys is presently with the one who took her dragons.
Cut to Dany once more, and she's currently being heard by the Thirteen! They don't seem to know anything about her dragons, all save for one: Pyat Pree, the mysterious bald-headed leader of the warlocks. He outright professes to stealing the dragons himself--big shocker, since we sorta figured this out already at the end of the previous episode--and that Xaro Xhoan Daxos himself assisted. Whoa! Now, no one saw that coming! In a sudden power move, multiple copies of Pyat Pree appear behind each member of the Thirteen at Xaro's own bidding--and slit their throats! Seems that the richest merchant in Qarth orchestrated this coup ever since first setting eyes on Dany and her khalasar. The dragons were simply the bargaining chip to get the city's head warlock on his side, and in return Xaro gets to claim the title of the King of Qarth. Sonuvabitch!
Pyat Pree invites the Mother of Dragons to visit her babies at the House of the Undying. Dany flees.
Over in the Westerosi capital, Sansa comes across her rescuer, The Hound. Sandor Clegane doesn't exchange niceties with her when Sansa wants to thank him for his valiant act, but behind his gruff words we get the sense that the king's pet dog has grown rather fond of this pitiful princess:
The Hound: "You'll be glad of the hateful things I do someday when you're Queen . . . and I'm all that stands between you and your beloved King."
See, even the Hound knows Joffrey is a little punk! The next morning, Sansa awakes from a dreadful dream recounting her attempted gang-rape, only to find her sheets bloody from the onset of her very first menstrual cycle. Horrified that this will now signal her readiness to start giving Joffrey children, Sansa and Shae quickly try to hide the evidence--but are found out by the Hound. Drats! He must be a blood Hound!
It doesn't take long for Queen Cersei to find out as well, as she consoles Sansa on the joys of motherhood. And better yet, on the ability of a mother to focus on only her children should her husband turn out to be one giant asshole walking about in boots.
So, even Joffrey's own mother can cop to the fact that her son is a right twit? Damn, that's bad!
But, actually, it gets better! For, later that night, Cersei Lannister pretty much admits the same to her younger brother, Tyrion. The Hand of the King is worried that all the responsibility of defending the capital from Stannis' forces lies upon their shoulders. The king's immaturity and lunacy is a major liability, something Cersei can only agree with. She has no control over her tyrannical progeny.
Tyrion: "It's hard to put a leash on a dog once you've put a crown on its head."
In a moment of weakness and rare insight, Cersei reveals to her brother the possibility that having children by her own twin, Jaime, might not have been the wisest choice. Uh, no doi! I mean, seriously . . . you think? Tyrion tries to comfort her by pointing out that two of her three kids turned out decent. It's a rare show of sympathy shared between the two hated siblings. Unfortunately, we probably won't see a scene like this ever again.
The mysterious and sudden assassination of Ser Amory Lorch last week has got Lord Tywin Lannister's panties up in a bunch. Several of his own men are executed in an attempt to uncover the lone assassin, but no dice. Tywin believes it is the work of the nefarious mercenary group Brothers Without Banners, who have been menacing his host for months now. He orders The Hound's older brother, the brutal Ser Gregor Clegane--aka, The Mountain That Rides--to live up to his reputation and start harassing the local villagers for information on the band's whereabouts. Of course, only Arya knows the identity of the true assassin--and she's not telling!
When The Mountain leaves to begin his bloody business, Tywin chats up his cupbearer over the castle's turbulent history. But Arya already knows all this! In an unwise revealing of her hand, Arya proves that she knows more about the legend of Harrenhal and Aegon the Conqueror than a lowly stonemason's daughter should. Tywin is clearly intrigued by her knowledge and wit, but after correcting her on a key grammar point, he adds with a sinister smirk:
Tywin: "You're too smart for your own good. Has anyone told you that?"
Come on little girl! You have to be more careful than that. Don't you recognize you're a mongoose in the den of a cobra who's coiled and ready to strike?
King in the North.
Robb receives Alton Lannister, the POW he sent back to King's Landing to deliver his demands to Cersei. The messegner, of course, brings back news that the Queen is intractable. Hooo-boy! The King in the North orders him tossed into a cell with his cousin Jaime, the Kingslayer. Unfortunately for poor young Alton, Jaime only has love for immediate family members. He pummels the lad bloody until a son of Robb's bannerman, Lord Karstark, comes to investigate and meets his end as well at the hands of the desperate lion.
Catelyn only hears about Jaime's escape and subsequent re-capture after her son has left camp to accept surrender terms from the nerby stronghold called "The Crag." The field medic Lady Talisa is also accompanying him there on the pretense of acquiring medicinal stores from the holding's resident Maester. So the task of keeping the Karstarks from falling upon the trussed up Kinglsayer with their swords resides with Lady Stark. She deftly reminds Lord Karstark who's in charge here, and then confronts Jaime in his cage later that night.
Catelyn: "You are no knight. You're forsaking every vow you ever took!
Jaime: "There's so many vows--they make you swear and swear. Defend the king, obey the king--obey your father!--protect the innocent, defend the weak. But what if your father despises the king? What if the king massacres the innocent? It's too much! No matter what you do, you're forsaking one vow or another.
Catelyn: "You are a man without honor."
But Jaime points out a very hard truth: that, unlike her deceased husband Nedd, he himself has never been with any woman other than Cersei. So who's the man without honor now?
Nah, sorry dude. It's still you. Twincest beats out plain adultery in the battle of wrongs any day of the week, and extra on Tuesdays!
Catelyn asks for Brienne's sword, and the lady knight complies. We leave the scene with the blade hanging ominously in the open air. What is Catelyn planning to do with that thing? And does she know that she can poke someone's eye out?
North of the Wall.
Having spent the cold, wintry night spooning with Ygritte the Wildling, Jon Snow is also lost for what to do with his "blade." Ygritte teases him mercilessly over his, er . . . nocturnal resurrections, and the two bicker back and forth over the vow of celibacy men of the Night's Watch must undertake. But the argument takes a serious turn when the two start to fight over who has the right to the lands of the North--the Seven Kingdoms or the Free Folk. It's all just semantics, however, as Jon points out that the same blood of the First Men flows through his veins as through hers.
Ygritte tries a different tactic, appealing to Jon to forsake his oath and live free among her people, where he can take any woman he wants and live as a man should--beholden to no master. Beyond the wall, no one cares if one's father married one's mother. Among the Free Folk, there are no bastards. No surnames "Snow." Ygritte even offers to teach him how to lay with a woman, because she's such a charitable and giving sort.
Ygritte: "I could teach you how to do it."
Jon: "I know how to do it!"
Ygritte: "You know nothing, Jon Snow."
I've been saying that since season 1!
Jon leads her ever farther afield, searching in vain for Qhorin Halfhand and his other fellow rangers, but is clearly lost. Ygritte turns to face him as she walks backward across the frozen ground, wondering aloud what they would do should his Crows figure out what's happened between them in the night.
Jon: "Nothing happened between you and me."
Ygritte [mock innocence]: "'I swear it, o Master King Crow, sir. We were only close together for warmth! And then I felt it -- right up against me backside like a club! Well, I could show you the bruise on me tailbone. And before I knew what was where, his . . . his . . . well it was all out in the open, all angry as you like. And I didn't want to want it, but -- oh, I did! And he spread me legs and . . . ruined me! The shame of it! Now I could never marry a perfumed lord, what will me poor savage father say? . . ."
Jon: "Turn back around."
Ygritte: ". . . And I thought that we were done, but he said: 'turn back around.'"
Jon: ". . ."
Ygritte: "Is that what you want, Jon Snow?
Clearly it is, but Jon is too embarrassed to admit as such. Ygritte uses his befuddlement to get close, then suddenly knocks him down and sprints away! Oh Jon, when will you ever learn? She leads him on a merry chase right into the embrace of a waiting wildling ambush!
Looks like you really know nothing, Jon Snow.
Slightly south of the wall, "Prince" Theon wakes up in Lady and Lord Stark's bed to his house of cards falling down around his ears. One of his men is dead in the courtyard, and the wildling woman he slept with the night before has fled the premises, along with Bran and Rickon Stark and their manservant, Hodor.
Worried that his hold over his men is slipping fast, let alone losing the only bargaining chip he had against a possible reprisal from the King in the North, Theon is understandably anxious to get the Stark boys back into his custody. He orders a search party formed and drags the castle's Maester Luwin along for the hunt, perhaps to speak some sense to the boys when the Ironmen of Pyke eventually track them down.
For their parts, Bran and his party were able to put much distance between themselves and Winterfell during the night. Osha is from beyond the Wall, and she's pretty crafty among the trees and streams of the forest. But as she points out, they'll be no match on foot for the hounds and horses Theon is surely sending after them. And when they happen across the farm where earlier Bran had sent two orphan boys to assist the old farmer and his wife with the chores, the previous acting Lord of Winterfell realizes that they cannot seek rest there for fear of putting the family in danger.
But Theon's first mate, Dagmer Cleftjaw, is pretty crafty himself. After being led to the farm by their dogs, Dagmer shows Theon some walnut shells left behind by Rickon. Damn that boy and his precious walnuts! Theon orders his men to take Maester Luwin back to Winterfell. The little lords Stark are within his grasp and will pay dearly for their short-lived ruse. The old man probably won't want to be around to see what happens next.
Later that evening, Theon and his remaining band return to Winterfell triumphant. Gathering the serving folk around him, he reiterates his earlier warning to them about what should happen to those who disobey his commands. With a gesture, one of his men winds a wench and raises the mutilated, burned corpses of two young boys high up to the parapets. Maester Luwin cries out in horror at the sight, his heart broken.
Rating: 4 out of 5 crowns.
I love all the episodes which David Benioff and D.B. Weiss write themselves for this show; you're always guaranteed excellent writing and memorable dialogue regardless of how well the episode does overall. In this case, I took away a whole crown only due to a general lack of not much happening this week -- save for Xaro Xhoan Daxos going all Michael Corleone and killing the heads of the other 5 Families . . . er, 11 members of the Thirteen. And, yes, that NEVER happened in the book. But I like it because it makes sense. I can see book Xaro teaming up with the devious Pyat Pree and doing something like that. He was much more hot-tempered and aggressive in the book anyway, so this seems like a natural progression of his character. Nothing to see here.
I guess the big shocker for everyone comes at the very end. Like I said in my last episode review, now you all know why I hate Theon's guts. When that happened in the book, I felt like crying. Nooooo! Not Bran and Rickon! Say it ain't so! But, remember folks . . . this is George R. R. Martin's world. And like I warned before, no one is safe. Not even children. Although I must say that the Starks as a family really do get the shit end of the stick, don't they? Damn!
Anyway, for the most part the plot meandered on all fronts and didn't advance anything. While the scenes between Jon and Ygritte were my favorites, I think Jon fans will be a bit disappointed by the fact that he hasn't had much to do this season. I think this is all going to change now that it looks like we'll finally get to meet Rattleshirt next week. Hot damn! Things should definitely start to pick up in the Beyond the Wall scenes now.
I can't wait to see what happens when Robb shows up at The Crag. Knowing what I know, I think he's going to be in for quite the shock when a certain somebody is revealed to be a certain somebody else. At least, that's what I'm guessing will happen since most of this somebody's scenes up to this point never even occurred in the book. But I always suspected this person's true identity from day 1, even if the book adaptation was playing coy with us readers for no apparent reason. But either way, Robb is about to get sorely tested. The decision he makes next could make or break his entire campaign!
And now, let's talk about Jaime Lannister. The Kingslayer. How absolutely AMAZEBALLS! was that speech about vows? Wow, Nikolaj Coster-Waldau freaking owns this role. I mean, damn he's good! And even though Alton Lannister is a made up character for the show, and the book Jaime would probably never kill a family member--albeit a distant cousin from the Lannisport branch of Lannisters--I like this display of his ruthlessness because I've felt the show thus far was almost making him into a sympathetic character. And it's very important to me that the audience learns to hate this guy, or else a certain set of circumstances happening later on in the series won't have the same emotional impact. And speaking of that--I almost passed out from laughing when Jaime reacted to Brienne's presence. "Is that a woman?!" LOL, priceless!
There was a decided lack of Joffrey this episode. Very interesting. But I guess it was necessary so that Cersei could be seen having doubts about her son not just once--but twice!--in conversations with two different people. Like Jaime, the show has gone a lot out of its way to make Cersei far more sympathetic and much earlier on in the timeline than she is in the books. Because I absolutely adore Lena Headey as an actress, I'm very okay with this. In fact, I love the nuance of her character. On the one hand she's an ice-cold queen bitch in her public persona (and let's face it, behind closed doors too!), but in private when surrounded by her family members, we get to view a more introspective and faceted Cersei. Which is great since we don't have access on the show to her innermost thoughts and fears like we do in the books.
Lastly, I think it's time we get some movement on the Arya storyline at Harrenhal. This is, what? The third episode now where she's basically just serving food and drink in Tywin's chambers? Granted, her scenes with the Lannister patriarch are MONEY! I mean, some of the most brilliant one-on-one interaction I've ever scene between two actors--and one of them's a teenage girl at that! But, yeah, she needs to give her third name to Jaqen H'ghar already so that the fun can really begin! I did do a little shout out of joy at the mention of the Brotherhood Without Banners, though. For those who have not read the books, we probably won't see much light shed on this outlaw bunch anytime this season. But in the third season -- OH YEAH! So I would recommend you remember that group's name. They'll be coming up again.
Oh, and I'm still in love with Ygritte. My god, Rose Leslie is so damn PERFECT in the role! It makes me want to watch Downton Abbey now, for reals! I hear the entire first season is available on Netflix streaming. Guess I know what I'll be adding to my Instant Queue this coming weekend!
And in the meantime, stay tuned to this space for my recap and review of next week's Episode 18: "The Prince of Winterfell."
Best line of the episode: "Did you pull a knife on me in the night?"