‘Game of Thrones’ Recap (Season 2, Episode 6): “Junior Prom”
Game of Thrones crosses the midway point of the season with prodigal-bastard son Theon besieging Winterfell. He wakes up Bran Stark and declares that he has conquered Stark country and her paltry defenders, and that Bran would be wise to surrender. Bran initially refuses, but Theon explains to him the grim realities he faces: to defy Theon and his Iron Island pillagers would be to jeopardize the lives of his people. “Prince” Theon, as he’s begun calling himself, sits on Bran’s bed and acts sympathetic and brotherly when insisting that the boy yield. The whole scene has a great deal of irony rubbing up against the surface. Theon is ostensibly barging into the Lord of Winterfell’s room to demand his surrender, but the scene can also be perceived as two brothers bickering in their bedroom.
Eventually Bran acquiesces, and announces in the courtyard that Winterfell is now “Prince” Theon’s. When Theon proclaims himself ruler “by right of conquest,” he is met with explicit disdain from the crowd. After all, most of them knew him as a boy growing up, making his treachery all the more obvious. Winterfell master-at-arms, Ser Rodrik, takes the contempt to another level by spitting in Theon’s face. Theon’s right-hand man tells the prince that such an act must not go unpunished, and that Rodrik needs to pay “the iron price.” Conflicted as ever, Theon commences the beheading. It’s a terribly gruesome affair, as Theon needs about four chops to get the guy’s head off.
Up North of the Wall, Jon Snow is traveling with the Night’s Watch assassination squad, hunting for wildlings. They ambush a handful, slaughtering most of them with the cutthroat apathy clearly required this far North. Surprise surprise, Jon Snow realizes he’s about to kill a pretty little redhead, and can’t do it. Night’s Watchman legend Halfhand tells him to make it quick and catch up with them after he’s finished. It seems like every actor on GOT must master one distinct facial expression, and for Kat Harington that expression is “I’m trying realllly hard to be mean and callous, but I can’t.” It’s the thin veneer of toughness about to be shattered by the soft-hearted Romeo underneath (albeit a Romeo with no game). Anyway, Snow is busting out his signature visage when the wildling realizes that there’s no way this guy has the balls to kill me and flees. After a-funny-because-it’s-so-pathetic-Snow-let-it get-to-this footrace, he tackles her, ties her up and settles in for the evening. The wildling, Ygritte, suggests they huddle together for warmth during the frosty night. Of course Jon Snow acts all tough and disinterested by this cheeky little remark, but we know he’s flattered. He lies down beside her, and then puts his arm around her. Good god. My trajectory of reactions to Snow has went from respect to pity to vicarious embarrassment to, finally, resigned amusement. This dude is having some chaste eighth grade snugglefest in the middle of a frozen hellhole stretched as far as his dreamboat eyes can see. I mean, think of the inane logic of it all: he joined the Night’s Watch and his overarching goal seems to be to fall in adolescent love (even though he’s clearly in his twenties).
In Harrenhal Arya and Lord Tywin continue their strange but endearing master-servant relationship. Arya overhears that Littlefinger is paying Tywin a visit, and is terrified that her true identity could be revealed. While she’s serving both men wine, Littlefinger eyes her with cunning suspicion. Although he doesn’t say anything, it looks as though Littlefinger knows it’s Arya. Later in the episode Arya is caught stealing one of Tywin’s messages relaying war plans. She escapes capture and finds Jaqen H’ghar, demanding that he make good on a second death wish. In nary an instant, the man who caught Arya stealing Tywin’s letter is dead with a dart in his neck.
Back in King’s Landing, young Myrcella Lannister is being shipped off to Dorne to be married. I’m not sure exactly what the hierarchy of power is in King’s Landing, but Tyrion was able to supersede Cersei on this one. King Joffrey ridicules people around him for crying, making me and everyone I watched Thrones with laugh out loud. Once we hated Joffrey; but now we somehow feel his incredible value to the show. Maybe it’s because the show is so interminably, mercilessly serious and Joffrey has become a master of dark, dark comedy. On Joffrey’s way back to the castle, the villagers get extremely rowdy and their hatred of the royal family eventually bubbles over into all-out insurrection. The caravan is attacked and Sansa is snagged by three filthy street urchins. She’s about to get raped when The Hound crashes the party and massacres the living hell out of her assailants. It’s quite a heroic moment, and you can tell the creators want us to see the righteousness of The Hound here.
We take a cursory tour into Robb Stark’s camp, where he’s hitting on that hot medic he met a couple weeks ago. Robb’s all modest charm and masculine grace, like the intelligent and responsible but still popular high school junior. He’s got confidence, sure, but it doesn’t dilate into cocky swagger. Catelyn swoops in to kill Robb’s game. She’s not even apologetic. In the Game of Spitting Game, you either get the job done lightning quick or your mom kills your chances.
Speaking of getting the job done quick, back in Winterfell Osha offers herself to Prince Theon. Lest we forget, Theon is the horniest character on this show. For awhile his character arc was just a game of connect the dots, with each dot being another female conquest. The writers weren’t exactly shooting for Don Draper-complexity here. So he bangs Osha, no big deal. If we’re to return to the high school romance theme, which really is the only common thread I could find in this episode, Theon is the horny jock that basically gets as much ass as he can. He probably plays lacrosse, lacks any self-awareness, and when asked to summarize To Kill a Mockingbird in English class, reads the back book jacket (literally, with his teacher looking on in pain).
When Theon is asleep, Osha kills one of Theon’s guards and frees Bran and his cohorts. Apparently she liked her captors more than she let on.
This episode traveled to Qarth a couple of times, but we’ll summarize it all here. Dany has an appointment with the Spice King. He rumbles down a staircase looking fat, jolly and cartoonish. I honestly think he would fit perfect as a character in the Candy Land board game. He looks a lot like King Kandy and a little like Plumpy. Clearly I’ve chosen to take the Spice King seriously as a key player in this show…
Dany tells Spice King that the Iron Throne is hers by right, and that he should lend her many ships which she will repay threefold once she’s conquered King’s Landing and ascended as Queen. Spice King is practical in that merchant-businessman way, and points to the fact that she has no army, no allies, and no one in Westeros awaiting her glorious arrival. Dany gets pissed and roars that she is “the mother of dragons.” Yes, and Spice King is the father of Candy Cane Forest and Gum Drop Mountain. At the end of the episode, Dany and Xaro are returning to her quarters, only to find that her men have been slaughtered and….wait for it…the dragons are gone!! Dany is furious.
Let’s be clear and blunt about it: this episode was weak. After episode five, full as it was with sorcery, alchemy and sumptuous visual feasts (that would be the garden party), this episode fell tragically short in comparison. Not only were we as viewers returned to a pedestrian world stripped of magic and the supernatural, we were also subjected to the cruel one-dimensionalizing of several major characters. The most lamentable of these acts of character simplification is Dany. After seeing her grow into a fierce, aggrieved, hell-hath-no-fury woman scorned in the first half of this season, she was reduced to a petulant and callow shadow of herself in this episode. For god’s sake, she is yelling at Spice King to give her ships and resources when she has absolutely no leverage justifying such demands. In her ME ME ME screaming she reminded me a bit of Angelica from Rugrats. That’s how dire things have gotten over in Qarth. The corpulent Lord of Licorice squabbling with an overgrown whiny Angelica.
If this episode is remembered for anything, it will be for the romantic exploits of three of Thrones‘ young men, Theon, Robb, and Jon Snow. Each sports a different courtship style–Robb charms with his dashing but reserved charisma; Snow stumbles and bumbles around women with his adorable naivete; and Theon is on one massive Homeric quest to get laid as often as possible.
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