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."
Ep. 17: "A Man Without Honor."
Episode 18: "The Prince of Winterfell"
Original Air Date: May 20, 2012.
Directed by: Alan Taylor.
Written by: David Benioff & D.B. Weiss.
Again, I'm dividing up this week's recap not by scene, but by location. And whereas last week I started in Qarth and worked my way north to Jon Snow, this week I will do the opposite and start beyond the Wall working my way south. Since I gave you all free license to sound your disgust for this format in last week's comments section and only one of you did, you have only yourselves to blame if this arrangement doesn't exactly float your boat. Me, I think it makes for shorter recaps, which is a blessing on my fingers.
Now, let us begin . . .
North of the Wall.
After Ygritte led him straight into a wildling ambush last episode, Jon Snow is taken across the frozen tundra to the camp of the Lord O' Bones himself, Rattleshirt. To Jon's shock and dismay, there he discovers Qhorin Halfhand already captured and bearing the bruises of a severe beating. His other rangers, unfortunately, fared far worse -- they're all dead! And all because Jon couldn't follow through on his orders to execute the beguiling redheaded wildling girl. Rattleshirt can't wait to bring a big prize like the Halfhand back to his King, but of Jon Snow he has less use and orders his men to kill the young steward. Only after some quick thinking on Ygirtte's part does Rattleshirt cancel the order and decide to take Jon along to see Mance Rayder as well. Phew!
Ygritte: "We're even now, Jon Snow."
Later, as Rattlehsirt's wildling band escort their "crow" prisoners toward Mance's encampment, Qhorin tells Jon that the King Beyond the Wall is planning a full-scale attack on the Seven Kingdoms. He adds that having a man of the Night's Watch working from the inside will be worth a thousand rangers on the Wall, but Jon doesn't believe that the wildlings will ever trust him enough to take him in. So the Halfhand does him a favor and kicks him down the side of a mountain, calling him a traitor for getting his brother rangers killed. Jon is unhurt, but Rattleshort warns Qhorin not to do that again. Meanwhile, holding Jon's sword "Longclaw," Ygritte does a double take at what just happened. She's not dumb; she suspects what the grizzled old ranger is trying to accomplish.
Meanwhile, back at the Fist of the First Men, Sam and the boys discover a secret package hidden beneath the permafrost. The parcel is wrapped in an old cloak once belonging to a ranger of the Watch, and when they unfold the garment they discover an ancient horn . . . and a stash of "dragon glass" blades. Dragon glass is what the Maesters call "obsidian," Sam claims. The boys wonder what purpose such a stash might serve.
Theon has killed all the ravens in order to keep word of his brutal killing of Bran and Rickon Stark from reaching the other lords of the land, particularly the lads' older brother, Robb. He'll have a tough enough time as it is keeping the place under his control without all of the North rising up against him in outrage for the murders.
Theon's older sister, Yara, finally arrives at the castle with her men, but they are far fewer than the thousands the self-proclaimed "Prince" of Winterfell expected. It seems his sister is not there to help hold the citadel, but to fetch him back to the Iron Islands to answer to their father. Theon is incensed by this threat to his newly-claimed authority. He wants to pick a fight with his sister, but is cowed by the fact that her men outnumber his, and they are far more loyal to her to boot! Yara clears the room and has a little heart-to-heart with her sibling, relaying a story of their childhood that shows there is still genuine love and care there in her heart for her baby brother. This stuns Theon and leaves him speechless. Perhaps it would be better to return home, then. After all, without the proper numbers to hold it Winterfell could become a death trap for him and his men if Robb decided to send forces north to retake his seat of power.
Out in the courtyard, Theon suffers a bit of conscience as he stares at the burned corpses of the little boys hanging above the main gate. He tells Dagmer Cleftjaw to pay the farmer for the killing of his two orphan field hands, but Dagmer thinks the best way to pay off a liability is with an iron coin, not gold. Maester Luwin ovehears the conversation, then receives another shock when he spies Osha the wildling scurrying off down into the crypts with loaves of bread in her arms. The old Maester examines the burnt corpses more closely and puts it all together.
Down below, Osha confirms what he already knows. She tells Luwin that the four of them doubled back to Winterfell, thinking that the best way to elude capture was to hide right under Theon's nose. Luwin expresses grief that the poor orphan boys Bran sent to work at the farm had to suffer. But both agree that the little Lord of Winterfell should never learn of this, however, for both he and his brother have suffered enough without the guilt. But as the camera pans away, we see Brandon Stark wide awake and full of regret at what he has just overheard.
The King in the North.
King Robb and "Lady Talisa" of Volantis are taking a stroll on their way either to or back from The Crag. Talisa has heard of what a brave and honorable man his father, the late Lord Eddard Stark, was, and Robb tells her that he does not fight to be a conqueror, but is simply doing the honorable thing by seeking justice for the wrongdoings of the Lannisters. Talisa is heartened by this, and reveals a little of her childhood and the reasons for why a highborn lady would trade in silks and finery for the drudgery of working as a field medic in the war.
Talisa: "I was raised to be a proper little Lady. To play the harp and dance the latest steps, and recite Valyrian poetry."
Rob: "I'd like to hear you play the harp."
Talisa: "No, no you would not."
The two seem to be growing close when a messenger arrives with bad news: Jaime Lannister has escaped imprisonment. And worse yet, it was Robb's own Lady mother who freed him!
Back at camp, Robb has his mother placed on "house arrest" for hampering his cause. He clearly doesn't want to do so, but he has no choice. What she has done is technically treason, but Catelyn Stark claims a mother's right in wanting to get her children back. With Jaime returned to King's Landing, she hopes to have her daughters Sansa and Arya released from custody. Robb's bannermen are furious, but there is nothing to be done.
Elsewhere, we find Brienne escorting a trussed up Jaime Lannister toward King's Landing. Constantly wary of being spotted by passersby on the high road, she quickly tosses her prisoner in a canoe and sets off by river for the capital. Hopefully they'll be able to make good time and avoid any troublesome highway men along the way. Is this the start of a life changing journey for two unlikely companions?
Back at camp later that night Robb tells Roose Bolton, Lord of the Dreadfort, to caution his bastard son in the retaking of Winterfell from the traitorous Theon. He's worried that his brothers may be harmed, and so orders the pardoning of all Ironborn if they should surrender peacefully and return to the Iron Islands. All except for Theon, whom he means to execute for his betrayal. Bolton reluctantly agrees, but is interrupted by Lady Talisa who wants a word with Robb. When Bolton leaves, we find that it is not words she means to exchange with the King, but tongues. The two make wild, giggling love down by the fire. Or, at least, down by the rug mites and little scurrying things that make their homes in the tents of filthy field camps. How romantic!
Ser Kevan Lannister, younger brother to Lord Tywin, delivers the depressing news to his sibling that King's Landing will not last very long once Stannis Baratheon's ships enter Blackwater Bay and land his troops. Kevan suggests that King Joffrey and his court should flee the capital now while they have the chance. But Lord Tywin quickly shoots that down, claiming that a king who flees a fight would not remain king for long. Pressed by Robb's forces to the North, Tywin knows that he cannot move to aid King's Landing until the Stark threat is dealt with. He hastily concludes his war council and gives word for preparations to be made for his departure. In his absence, he leaves The Mountain in charge of Harrenhal, with Arya remaining to serve in the same capacity as cupbearer.
Realizing that her chance is fading fast, Arya frantically searches for Jaqen H'ghar once more, but is too late to add Tywin as her third "death debt" repaid. For by the time she runs into the elusive assassin, Lord Tywin has already left Harrenhal. Jaqen presses her to give another name instead, and out of spite Arya cruelly names Jaqen H'ghar.
Jaqen: "A girl gives a man his own name?"
Arya: "That's right!"
Jaqen: "Gods are not mocked. This is no joking thing."
Arya: "I'm not joking--a man could go kill himself."
Jaqen: "Un-name me."
Arya: "I'll un-name you . . . if you help me and my friends escape."
Feeling on the losing end of this exchange, but not willing to risk being named again, Jaqen reluctantly agrees. Arya is one tricksy little hobbit! He tells her to be prepared to walk through the gate at midnight, then departs.
Later that night, Arya, Gendry and Hot Pie wait near the gate. Guards are clearly posted at the exit with no sign of Jaqen H'ghar, making the trio unsure of what to do next. Arya suggests they have a little faith and to start walking towards the gate. The others think this is sure suicide, but realize they have no choice if they want to be free of the dreaded haunted castle. As they inch their way toward freedom, closer inspection reveals that the guards are already dead in their places, propped up by rope and thrusted spears in pantomime of men attending to their sworn duties. That Jaqen H'ghar delivers again!
Tyrion and his newly appointed Commander of the City Watch, Bronn, seem to be experiencing some friction over how exactly the Gold Cloaks should conduct their business. Bronn is for the more heavy-handed approach to cracking down on wrongdoers, which the eunuch Varys supports. Harsh, but it's what needs to be done during war time in order to keep order in a city about to be put under siege. Tyrion confers over a pile of books with both his Lord Commander and the Master of Whispers on the proper strategy for defending the city, even though they are woefully undermanned and at the complete mercy of Stannis' ships. The dwarf seems particularly interested in the city's Mud Gate as a potential liability to their efforts:
Varys: "And if Stannis does attack the Mud Gate, what is our plan?"
Bronn: "We could throw books at his men!"
Varys: "We don't have that many books."
Bronn: "We don't have that many men, either."
Varys: "What do we have?"
Tyrion: "Pig shit."
Funny thing is, the dwarf is not joking. Time will tell what exactly Tyrion means by that, no doubt.
Later that night Tyrion has dinner with his sister in the Queen's chambers while his new squire, Podrick Payne, waits on him. Cersei has it out with the Hand over the thought of sending the King out with his men during the heat of the upcoming battle. Tyrion thinks the boy could stand to gain some respect among the populace by not being seen as weak, a notion which naturally does not sit well with the Queen Regent. But, surprisingly, she laughs as if sharing a private joke. When Tyrion suspiciously asks why she's suddenly so happy, she becomes deadly cold and serious:
Cersei: " Because I have your little whore."
Tyrion: ". . . . . . I thought you preferred blonds?"
Cersei: "Such a droll little fellow. Tell me, have you married this one yet? No? Good. Father will be sooo pleased."
Tyrion: "Why do you care who I fuck?"
Cersei: "'Cause a Lannister always pays her debts!"
Banking on her brother's infatuation with his plaything, Cersei trades the well-being of his whore in exchange for Joffrey's safety. When Tyrion asks to see the woman to ensure that she is still alive, he is relieved when the Queen's guards bring in Ros, the hardest working whore in all the North, instead of his sweet Shae. He plays it straight, though, and hides his obvious elation. For her part, Ros seems to play along as if she's in on the dupe. Still, Tyrion does have appearances to keep and threatens his sister in turn. Someday, perhaps soon, he will pay his debts as well. Later, back in his chambers, he calls out to Shae and is relieved once again to find her safe and unharmed. On bended knee, he promises her his devotion, and she does the same in turn, albeit a bit reluctantly. After all, she is still being paid to be with him.
Somewhere offshore Stannis speaks with his naval commander, the former smuggler Davos Seaworth. The Onion Knight is still expressing doubt about the other lords respecting him, but Stannis reminds him of how he alone came to his liege's aid back during the rebellion when the castle of Storm's End was under siege. Davos had used his considerable bootlegging skills to slip past the blockade in a tiny boat and deliver desperately needed provisions of onions and salted beef to keep Stannis and his family fed long enough for Ned Stark's reinforcements to arrive. Since then, the other nobles mockingly call him the "Onion Knight," but Stannis thinks him the bravest and most noble person among them. In a scene reminiscent of Robert Baratheon's visit to Winterfell, Stannis names Davos to be his Hand of the King. Davos is beyond honored.
Back on land the next morning, the boy king Joffrey and his own Hand inspect the city's fortifications along with Lord Varys. Joffrey brandishes his jeweled dagger and promises to give Lord Stannis a "red" smile for his troubles. Tyrion and Varys all but roll their eyes as the brat saunters off.
Tyrion: "Imagine Stannis's terror."
Varys: "I am trying."
The pair get down to the business of real work planning the city's defense. Varys compliments him on being truly adept in the role of the King's Hand, unlike Ned Stark and Jon Arryn before him who were too honorable for the job. The Spider then informs Lord Tyrion that word has reached him about Daenerys Targaryen still being alive and well, and last seen in Qarth of all places. Tyrion doesn't deem this worthy of further thought, a girl scion to a ruined dynasty all the way on the other side of the world. But the eunuch reminds him about her three dragons, and that even if it takes them several more years to reach full size, eventually they will pose a considerable threat. Tyrion needs to worry about the current crisis, however, and not plan for future ones just yet. "One game at a time, my friend," he informs the spymaster.
Meanwhile, across the Narrow Sea, Daenerys Stormborn is in fact worrying over the whereabouts of those very dragons. Hiding in seclusion somewhere within the city, she knows that they are presently being held in the House of the Undying under the watchful eyes of the city's warlocks. Ser Jorah Mormont has secured a ship and wants to just sail off now while they have the chance, but Dany will not hear of it! Her claim on the Iron Throne will mean nothing without her dragons by her side to enforce the birthright of her forebears. And a mother never leaves her children. Dany reminds Jorah that she does not fear the warlocks' magic, for she has magic all of her own. Her House's motto is "Fire and Blood" after all, and in her veins flows the blood of dragons. Does he not remember what happened on the funeral pyre?
Jorah: "Until my last breath I will remember, after I've forgotten my mother's face."
Touched, Dany places an affectionate hand on his face, and tells him that her dragons are the only children she will ever have. She then asks her sworn protector to take her to the House of the Undying.
Rating: 3 out of 5 crowns.
Not a whole lot happens in this episode, I'm afraid. You certainly do get the sense that the pieces of the game are finally being maneuvered into place for the big showdown beginning next week, though. And what a doozy that episode plans to be, written by none other than the author of the books himself, and directed by the estimable Neil Marshall. Marshall, as some of you may know, is a pretty decent film director most recognizable for directing the action flicks Doomsday and Centurion. So needless to say he knows his way around a big bloody epic battle scene or two! I think when fans see what's in store come next Sunday, they will feel truly rewarded for putting up with several slow-moving and set-up episodes this season. I can't wait!
But as for this episode, while there were hardly any big exciting developments this time around, there are a couple of points I would like to address.
Primarily, I want to discuss the motivation behind Catelyn Stark releasing Jaime Lannister from captivity. Reading the message boards, it seems a great many people don't know how to pay attention to the finer plot points in this show. And I'm mostly speaking to book readers who should know better. With very few exception, the consensus online seems to be confusion over why exactly Cat would do such a thing. Granted, she is trying to trade the Kingslayer for her girls, and this is motivation enough as it stands. But doubters should also look to the events of the previous episode to get a grasp of Cat's secondary motive here. If you recall, Robb was away from camp when Jaime killed his cousin and murdered one of his captors, Lord Karstark's son. Cat was left to deal with the ornery old man and his restless men, while at the same time having to figure out what to do with the Kingslayer before her son returned. Jaime provided quite the quandary for Robb should he have been present at the time of his attempted escape. Either appease the Karstark by executing him for his crimes right then and there, thereby giving up all hope of ever seeing his sisters alive. Or keep the Kingslayer in captivity as a future bargaining chip against his sisters' lives, thereby risking the defection of one of his key bannermen or worse. What could Robb possibly have done?
By releasing Jaime herself, Cat delivered her son from having to make such a potentially costly decision. With the onus now on her, she could claim a mother's weakness and deal with the proper repercussions thereof. But at least no one would think any less of her son for her own mistake. Robb placing her under watch was exactly what she had hoped he'd do, so as not to appear weak and playing favorites before his men. They could hardly ask for her execution, and yet at the same time she gets to possibly have her girls returned to her. Brilliant, actually. And totally in keeping with the intelligence and strong will of Lady Stark.
I don't see why this is so hard for other viewers to figure out. I mean, seriously people. WTF?
Secondly, I have to apologize for leading some of you on with my reflections on last week's episode. I knew that most people had already figured out that the charred bodies hanging over Winterfell were those of the two little orphan boys from the farm, and not in fact Bran and Rickon Stark as we were meant to believe. See, in the book it was a lot more ambiguous than this, and I felt the show didn't do a good job in being subtle here. So, yes, I played a bit of the devil's advocate and tried to make it really seem like the very worst had happened. But of course, it had not. I knew you would all find out in this week's episode that the two little lords of Winterfell were alive and well, and that we would all breathe a sigh of relief. Yes, this show is very dark. But it's not that dark. At least, not yet anyway. Wait until you see next season . . .
Also, I may have been wrong last week in my hinting about a certain somebody revealing her true identity on the way to the Crag. Seems she may just be telling the truth, and this would mean a pretty puzzling departure from the books. Of course, she did mention in an earlier episode her gift for fabrication, so I still hold out hope that the story of her childhood was indeed that, a fabrication. Because if she's a foreign born Lady then I'm a monkey's uncle! But my god, how freakin HOT was that love scene? I sorta make fun of it in my recap above, I know, but I'm not made of stone and will admit to being somewhat affected by a certain lady's lovely, uh . . . assets, if you will. Wow, that Robb is one lucky son of a direwolf!
I'm very glad the Arya storyline is finally moving along. Of course, I do expect one more of her pivotal scenes to show up by the end of the season. And judging by the title of the last episode this year--"Valar Morghullis"--I'm pretty sure it's going to come then! So have no fear, you will be seeing Jaqen H'ghar again. How exciting!
Well, as I mentioned above, next week we'll get the episode we've all been waiting for. So stay tuned to this space as usual for my recap and review of Episode 19: "Blackwater."
And, hey, in case you need any more motivation, check out the preview for the episode below. Go ahead, tell me in the comments section that this doesn't leave you chomping at the bit for Sunday to come RIGHT NOW!!!
Best line of the episode: "I will hurt you for this. A day will come when you think you're safe and happy, and your joy will turn to ashes in your mouth. And you'll know the debt is paid."