‘Game of Thrones’ Recap (Season 2, Episode 7): Blood Sugar Sex Magik
As the second season of Game of Thrones soldiers on, new enemies are rising while old ones are either softening or receding completely. The admirable, decent qualities of noble characters are being bent, oftentimes to the verge of breaking. All told, the fantasy realm of Thrones continues to shift and breathe like a sleeping dragon, biding its time for a big flaming finale.
The seventh episode begins in Winterfell, as Prince Theon wakes up to an empty bed. He quickly discovers that the duplicitous wildling Oshu has freed Stark children Bran and Rickon and fled the outpost. He’s certainly vexed about the turn of events, but is growing more confident in himself as a leader and conqueror. He rounds up his troops and some hounds and sets out to find the rogue prisoners.
Up North of the Wall, Jon Snow wakes up beside his crude wildling would-be lover. She continues her snide sexual ridicule, asking Snow if he pulled a knife on her in the night. She goes on to call Snow’s especially private parts “bones” and “stones,” which frankly was kinda gross and awkward to endure. Ygritte might be a really late and unexpected entry into the feminist movement’s answer to sexual harassment against women. In her steady, unrelenting derision and mockery of Snow, she proves that men can be sexually shamed and humiliated just as easily as women. She’s truly a wolf in a ginger-maned sheep’s clothing: she might look like little more than a spunky little wildling on the outside, but really she’s a coarse bully dressing Snow down to his bones and stones.
Back in Thrones‘ nod to Castlevania, Harrenhal, Tywin Lannister is going absolutely ballistic over the poison dart that killed his illiterate cabinet member. Of course Tywin’s version of ballistic is perfectly controlled and meticulous: men are being tortured and hung all over the ruinous castle grounds. Tywin believes that dart was intended for him, and is overseeing a ghastly slaughterhouse until he finds the assassin. An impressive, charismatic shot of Tywin looking over the castle grounds from his tower reminded me of one of the first scenes with Amon Goth in Schindler’s List when he’s on his balcony looking over the concentration camp. Although Tywin is not nearly as deranged and intensely sociopathic as Ralph Fiennes’s Goth, he is still a villain, lest we forget. Tywin and Arya Stark discuss the Targaryen dynasty, and here we are treated to a history lesson. They discuss how dragons blasted Harrenhal into charred ruins generations ago, and how the king was accompanied by fierce female Targaryen dragon riders. Their conversation becomes wrought with tension when Tywin again grows suspicious of Arya’s past. He suspects that she’s pretending to be a commoner when she may be of higher birth (obviously, he’s absolutely right). He tells her that she’s “too smart for her own good,” which is also right on the money. But by making a comment like that, Tywin is basically saying that while he may be onto her trickery, he admires her intelligence enough to let it play on. These scenes are truly remarkable feats of TV writing and acting because they are so intricately layered: as the two characters become more comfortable with each other and develop a surprising affinity, Tywin is getting ever-closer to discovering the girl’s true identity. I guess the deeper question is, once he knows and respects Arya for her intelligence, courage, and all-around precociousness, should it really matter who her father is? If you replace the two lovers with a father-daughter-type relationship, this is sort of like Romeo and Juliet. You probably just laughed at me, so let’s move one.
In King’s Landing, Sansa finds The Hound and thanks him for saving her from that gang of rapist pond-scum. The Hound is not amused. He tells her that actually he loves killing people, so it was no trouble at all. Sansa is incredulous and repulsed, which she really shouldn’t be at this point. Just accept people for their flaws and psychotic tendencies, and be grateful that those tendencies somehow overlap with morally righteous behavior, and you landed in the right circle of that Venn diagram. The Hound insinuates that there may come a time when he is the only person standing between Sansa and King Joffrey, and then she’ll be grateful for his ferocious violence. Is The Hound saying that he plans to kill Joffrey at some point? Or perhaps more accurately, that he’s ready to intervene against Joffrey if he lays a depraved hand on Sansa? Damn that would be awesome. The Hound reminds me of Marv from Sin City: he knows he’s too ugly to consummate his love for a woman, so instead he goes to the ends of the earth to protect them and preserve their honor. That’s kind of a beautiful thing.
A few scenes later Sansa has a horrible rape-dream and wakes up in a blood-soiled bed. But no worries, it’s only her period. But it’s her first time and she’s kinda freaking out. After she completely fails at concealing the evidence, Sansa is treated to a mother-daughter talk with Queen Cersei. Cersei tells Sansa that now she’s ready to bear children for Joffrey, which I’m sure we’d all agree is the precise equivalent of bending your head down in front of one of those pods in Alien so a face-hugger can impregnate you.
Lena Headey seems to especially revel in her intimate scenes with Sophie Turner’s Sansa. In these scenes Cersei is acutely aware of Sansa’s complete misery, and conveys that awareness with a subtle twinkle in her eye. But you’re not entirely sure if she feels any sympathy for Sansa or if she’s enjoying the girl’s infernal despair. I would argue that Cersei shockingly does have a soul and does feel sympathy for Sansa, but at this point she’s so numb and inured by her own trying life of charades and deceptions that she doesn’t care enough to act on that sympathy. She basically tells Sansa that it will be useless to try and love Joffrey, as it will not be reciprocated (at least not in any logical, non-sadistic way). Then Cersei says something incredibly interesting: “The more people you love the weaker you are.” The pillars of her argument are that you will make silly, dangerous sacrifices for those you love, and those sacrifices will ultimately weaken you. I totally disagree with this, but do respect that it’s an appealing theory.
In Qarth, Dany is continuing her petulant streak. My friend pointed out that in the past few episodes, she has begun to resemble her brother more and more. Their similarities can be summed up quickly: an irrational sense of entitlement. And whiny solipsism. In her chambers she confides in Ser Jorah, telling him how hopeless she feels. Jorah again swears his undying allegiance to her, and sets out to find her dragons.
Back North of the Wall, Ygritte continues her burlesque in the tundra, and takes vulgarity to new heights. She tells Snow that she’s “warm…and wet.” Christ. It got to a point where I sort of felt sexually harassed from my couch. Ygritte is a sexual monster. Mid-seduction Ygritte pulls the rope away from Snow and escapes again. This time, though, she leads him right into a wildling trap. We leave the Northern wilderness with Snow surrounded by armed wildlings.
At the war camp, Robb Stark continues to insist that all prisoners and Lannister soldiers receive medical treatment. Whatever website compared Robb Stark to President Obama was right on the money! See–he’s even passing his own version of the Affordable Health Care Act. Unfortunately in Robb’s case there are no privatized options, and everyone gets the public option, which is a hot medic sawing your appendages off. Later we see Jaime Lannister warm up to a fellow prisoner, only to crush the life out of him as part of his escape ploy. After killing a guard, he’s eventually recaptured.
Back in King’s Landing, Cersei and Tyrion are having one of their informal sibling meetings. At this point Cersei is comfortable speaking freely about her relationship with Jaime. She tells Tyrion how he and Jaime justified their clandestine love affair by reminding themselves that the Targaryen dynasty was perpetuated by incest for centuries. But eventually many of the Targaryens went mad, a product of that incest. Cersei is worried that Joffrey is the unbalanced product of her incestuous acts, and even contemplates if such a mad child is the price for what her and Jaime have done. She shows some serious range and remorse here, and a show full of unchecked, unrepentant Ids and egos is all the better for it.
Back in Qarth, Jorah is interrogating the mysterious masked woman as she’s painting tribal patterns on some dude’s back. She tries to explain to Jorah the purpose of this body art, and Jorah basically says “I don’t give a shit, just tell me where the f-ing dragons are you wannabe-mysterious freak.” She tells him that the thief is with Dany now. Jorah then finds Dany at a council meeting with the 13. As they argue the virtues of returning the dragons to Dany, Xaro and the shriveled-up warlock, Pyat Pree, suddenly reveal that they plan to make Xaro king of Qarth. Don’t worry though, a pretentious discussion won’t be necessary: assassins appear behind the 11 other council members and slit their throats. The assassins might have been Pyat Pree pulling some warlock magic and duplicating himself 11 times, but I really can’t be sure. Pree and Xaro then tell Dany that they want her to continue raising the dragons under their watch. Shockingly, she looks terrified and tries to run away. Jorah sticks his sword in Pree, who then vanishes and reappears a couple yards away. This scene was awesome. If anyone can make magic and sorcery both captivating and credible, its Pree. He’s a wormy, otherworldly-looking freak with an alien grin that sucks on blue ice pops all day in his underworld psychedelic drug lair. What I mean is, this guy is awesome.
The episode ends in Winterfell, with Prince Theon bringing Maester Luwin to the courtyard. He then raises two charred child corpses hanging from ropes. Are they Bran and Rickon? That’s certainly what Theon wants everyone to think, but a close-up of his enigmatic, conflicted-lunatic smile keeps us guessing.
This was a great episode. I got my requisite dose of magic (which I had been pining for since having to go cold turkey last week), and perhaps more importantly, we got some desperately needed character development. While The Hound may be noble and righteous in his actions, we find out that his interior life is sick and twisted. Shocking though it may seem, he shares something with Joffrey: both have little to no sex lives to speak of for various reasons, so instead get off on extreme violence. They both take intense, visceral pleasure in it.
We also see the inner conflict and nearly invisible nuances of Cersei. She knows Joffrey is a bat-shit crazy child monster, and loves him as an obligation she’s imposed on herself. She is intelligent enough to see Sansa’s cruel predicament, and actually gives the girl advice Cersei truly believes in. No callous toying; Cersei gives the hapless girl guidance the best way she knows how. It’s funny: Cersei’s dark legacy of incestuous sex still looms over her, and even makes her speculate that she is suffering karmic punishment; for Sansa, sex looms in the future, and casts an equally black and painful shadow.
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