‘Game of Thrones’ Recap (Season 2, Episode 4): “I Don’t Think She Needs an Epidural”
We are approaching the midway point of the season, and finally get to see the much-discussed war Robb Stark is waging on the Lannisters. In the opening scene of this episode, two Lannister soldiers are enjoying a bit of boys-will-be-boys toilet humor in the middle of a rainy night. When one steps off to go to the bathroom, he’s gruesomely mauled by a direwolf. Cut to Robb Stark, leading a cavalry charge into the Lannister war camp.
Presumably for budgetary interests, the battle takes place off screen; all we see is blood, corpses, and entrails strewn across the countryside the next day. The Starks have won another decisive victory. As Robb takes in his triumph, he spots a cute medic as she’s preparing to amputate a Lannister guard’s foot. As she literally saws it off with what we can only assume to be a jagged, rusty blade, Robb stares at her, transfixed. He’s taken by her steely demeanor in the face of a bloody task. Unamused, she makes no effort to play down her scorn for the human cost of the war he’s waging. This just makes her even hotter in Robb’s eyes. The King of the North gets a romantic interest.
Enter Joffrey in King’s Landing. The next scene made me, who was weaned on horror movies as a kid and has a preternatural tolerance for cinematic cruelty, shake my head in utter shock. The child king is aiming a crossbow at Sansa in the court, threatening to kill her for her brother’s treachery. Rumor has it that Robb has an army of wolves that are devouring the king’s army. Thankfully, we see his softer side, as Joffrey the Merciful sets down his crossbow and instead has one of his men (who all seem to be pleasantly operating according to the banality of evil) strip her down and bash her with the broad side of a sword. As he is wont to do, Tyrion crashes his nephew’s torture party and whisks Sansa back to her chamber. But that’s not all. No no. Later Joffrey finds madam Ros and one of her prostitutes on his bed, ready to serve him. Alas, it seems he’s not quite ready for sex. Instead Joffrey demands that Ros beat the other prostitute, first with a belt, then with a big bad scepter. He points the crossbow at them the whole time. Bottom line is that Joffrey is a psychotic sadist. Be that as it may, someone should cut a YouTube video of Joffrey pointing the crossbow at everybody, all the time. At a Small Council meeting, pointed at Varys; at the kiddie table, pointed at his younger brother; calling servants into his chambers, just to point the crossbow at them.
Lord Baelish arrives at Renly’s camp, and reels off his usual pseudo-intellectual prattling at Renly and Margaery before reaching the true purpose of his visit, Catelyn Stark. First he tries to woo her by spitting the worst game we’ve ever seen–”I always loved you as a boy”…”fate has brought us together.” After his pathetic Jane Austen-lite courtship crashes and burns, he goes back to politicking. He tells her to give up Jaime Lannister in exchange for Sansa and Arya. She says no. But he’s got one more “trick” up his sleeve: he’s brought Ned Stark’s bones in a box, as a token of good faith. If that’s a romantic strategy then his game is not only awful but also downright weird.
After being taken prisoner, Arya and Gendry are now captives in a derelict castle-turned-torture-chamber. Each day, one prisoner dies an insane death. How insane? We see an interrogator ask some hapless bloke what he knows about the “Brotherhood,” and when he tells them nothing, they put a rat in a bucket, strap the bucket to his chest, and torch the bucket. The conceit is that the rat will burrow into the guy’s stomach to escape the heat. Twisted yes, graphic no. Can we call that subtle?
Later Renly and brother Stannis meet on the mountainside, each accompanied by their armies. Sibling dynamics are on full display; to the surprise of no one, Stannis was always the cold, isolated child growing up; Renly harps on this, and basically tells his older brother that nobody likes him. In all the kingdoms of Westeros. Stannis is fumed that his little brother can still make fun of him, and gives Renly until sunup to surrender. As the two claimants part ways, Melisandre warns Renly that “the night is dark and full of terrors.” Trust us Melisandre,we know that by now. But for god’s sake, it’s the afternoon.
In The Red Waste, a rider returns and tells Dany they are welcome in the city of Qarth. At the gates of the city, they are met by some overzealous ambassadors that repeatedly refer to Qarth as “the greatest city that ever was or will be.” Their spokesman, the “Spice King,” seems friendly enough, until he demands to see Dany’s dragons. After all, he’s a merchant, and dragons are the hottest commodity in the seven kingdoms. Dany refuses to show them the only power play for the future that she has, and Spice King is content to let them dry up in the desert. But one of his fellow councilmen invokes an ancient law–really just the equivalent of vouching for the Dothraki tribe–and they are allowed to enter.
Now we get the requisite scene of Tyrion outwitting a potential political rival. Lancel Lannister (the pretty boy who was serving wine to Robert Baratheon on his fatal hunting trip) stops by to drop off a message from Cersei demanding that Tyrion free Pycelle from his dungeon banishment. Here Tyrion tries out some opportunistic manipulation. He insinuates the ongoing sexual liaisons between Lancel and the Queen Regent, and then speculates at what King Joffrey would think of such acts. Faster than you can say “incestuous statutory rape” Lancel is prostrate, begging for Tyrion’s silence. Tyrion agrees, but in return Lancel must report to him everything that Cersei does.
Now season 2 has had quite a flair for mind-blowing closing scenes, and this episode may take the cake. While at sea, Stannis tells his right-hand man, Davos, to smuggle Melisandre onto the shore. Davos takes her through a waterway that runs into a cave, where Davos seems to know a secret underground passage. Melisandre taunts him with her sexual candor, telling him “You want to see what’s beneath this robe. And you will.” If Davos had a thought bubble at this point, it would probably say, “This is really bad. And really awesome.” In the cave, they find that the secret passage has been barred off. Suddenly, Melisandre disrobes, and is very pregnant. She hits the sand and starts going into a sort of time-lapse photography labor. What takes most women hours of anguish takes Melisandre mere minutes of sick pleasure. Davos is way too stunned to administer the epidural. As we lean up from our sofas with bated breath, the sorceress gives birth to a creature made of black vapor. In the episode’s final shot we see the smoke/ink materializing in front of Melisandre and Davos.
So this whole time not only was the night full of terrors, but Melisandre herself had a placenta full of them too. And it took her barely one trimester to give birth to them, without putting on any weight or remotely compromising her sexual allure. The editorial team at Fit Pregnancy is flipping out.
Where to start? This was probably my favorite episode so far this season, for reasons that make me feel really depraved. Let’s talk about Joffrey. At the start of the season we still saw him as a puerile sissy with a penchant for asserting his power in asinine ways. But then he got more and more vicious, which previously culminated in his threatening his mother’s life. In this episode he goes off the deep end, and fully embraces his sadist tendencies. When he refuses to have sex with the prostitutes and instead opts to watch them flagellate each other, we know the boy is beyond saving, incorrigible. If we wanted to play psychologist, we might say that rumors of his mother’s incestuous relations have left him repulsed by sex. And because that outlet is closed off, his id manifests itself in extreme violence. I might sound like a total sicko, but I like this direction for Joffrey. He simply doesn’t get enough playing time on the show to develop into a truly complex character, so instead they give him a rapid, downward-spiral transformation. It’s a tight, believable character arc. And expert film and TV viewers know that ultra-violent characters like this don’t last very long. Think Joe Pesci in Goodfellas or Casino; when a reckless sociopath starts flying off the handle, he’s gotta get his comeuppance sooner or later. If only to reclaim the moral balance of the show, they have to off the head of this king.
Tyrion seems to wrest a little more power from Joffrey and Cersei each episode. Perhaps all these small political strokes will eventually reveal themselves as part of a greater design to win over all the politicians and lobbyists in King’s Landing. Tyrion does appear poised to become a hero. He may be the only actor on the show who has to express compassion. That’s shocking, and important.
It’s also nice to see some narrative progress for Dany and her tribe. The dragon queen maximizes her screen time, spouting furious threats at the covetous spice merchant even though she is basically standing on her own arid grave. But better times lie ahead for the Dothrakis as they enter this lush seaside emerald city.
Obviously, the big grab of this episode was Melisandre’s inkjet baby. Is this the son she promised Stannis? Or is it the Lord of Light coming to aid his apostles? All I know is that this is probably the biggest leap into fantasy Game of Thrones has made since its inception. The White Walkers and dragons are fantasy beasts, yes, but this is a supernatural being. There’s no going back now to a world firmly grounded in reality. My only hope is that this black gaseous thing is fully explained. If it is the fruits of black magic and dark religion, tell us how. We don’t just want evil characters; we want evil stories behind them.
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