‘Game of Thrones’ Recap (Season 2, Episode 10):War and Peace and Zombies
The season finale opens with Tyrion’s blurry, bandaged point of view. He awakes to find himself in some dark, dusty chamber with his squire and Master Pycelle presiding over him. Pycelle tells Tyrion that he is no longer Hand of the King, and that this foul old rat’s nest will be his new haunts.
Thrones then quickly shifts from Tyrion’s plummeting demotion to the Throne Room. Here King Joffrey is conferring awards and accolades to those who saved him from his own cowardly demise. His grandfather, Tywin, is declared “savior of the city” and given Tyrion’s title of Hand of the King; Littlefinger is given Harrenhal (the ghastly castle/torture-chamber from earlier this season); and Joffrey tells Loras Tyrell, who successfully joined forces with the Lannisters to defeat Stannis, that any wish is the child king’s command. Incidentally, Loras does have a request: he asks that the Tyrells and Lannisters join houses through the marriage of Joffrey and Margaery. As Joffrey briefly mulls over the proposition, Margaery tells him how she has fallen in love with him from afar after hearing tales of his legendary courage (…). Joffrey is clearly flattered and possibly turned on (insofar as his prepubescent sexual deviant switches can be turned on). After Master Pycelle shuffles in and mumbles some jabbering claptrap about Joffrey’s marriage to Sansa being nullified by the Stark’s treason, it is settled. Margaery will be the new Queen of The Seven Kingdoms. Sansa rushes away from the proceedings barely concealing her glee, only to have Littlefinger throw a soaking blanket on it. He tells her that just because she’s no longer betrothed to Joffrey doesn’t mean he’ll relinquish his sadistic dominion over her. She is still in grave danger, he says; her last best option is to go with Littlefinger, who can take her home. Right. When it comes to getting girls, Littlefinger is opportunistic in the most pathetic way possible. If you remember early in the season, he thought delivering Ned’s head to Catelyn was his ticket into her pants. That’s twisted and preposterous. Here he sees an opportunity to claim Catelyn’s daugher when she’s at her most vulnerable.
Lady Brienne crosses the river with Jaime and finds three female corpses charred and hanging from trees with the sign “They Lied With Lions.” These girls slept with Lannister soldiers, and paid dearly for it. Three Stark men then cross their path, and one recognizes Jaime Lannister. To protect her charge and uphold her duty to Catelyn, Brienne slaughters all three men in agile, merciless fashion. Her combat moves might be the most convincing on the show. Jaime looks on, astonished that she got so much game.
After a quick scene in Robb’s camp where the King of the North castigates his mother Catelyn for what seems like the twelfth time, we’re taken to Dragonstone. Stannis is in his tower war room brooding and licking his wounds like a great wallowing villain. But he’s furious not because his ego has been wounded, but because victory at the siege was his by divine right. Melisandre dares to console him with more of her sycophantic mystical bullcrap, and he strangles her. He almost kills her, but the ginger witch bounces right back up and tells him to look into the fire. “Do you see? Do you see?” she whispers to him, sounding a lot like Frances Dolarhyde showing Philip Seymour Hoffman’s reporter his art history slideshow in Red Dragon. Yes, he sees. Stannis’ eyes go starry like he’s staring into the briefcase from Pulp Fiction.
Now for one of the most emotional scenes of the season. Theon is surrounded by hundreds of Stark men, who have come to reclaim Winterfell. In what are seemingly his final hours, he is accompanied by Maester Luwin. Theon looks back on his life with wrenching bitterness: he was told how lucky he was to be a prisoner of the Starks for all his youth; then when he finally returns to his biological family, they treat him like a treacherous pariah. Now his hard luck has come full circle. He has to either die fighting the soldiers of his surrogate family, or return home to face a lifetime of shame and disgrace from his kin. Luwin tells Theon that he’s “not the man he’s pretending to be,” but Theon knows it’s too late to renege on his recent transgressions. He decides to go down fighting, having finally found a path to dignity and identity, albeit a short one that ends in certain death. He makes a stirring speech to his soldiers, who respond by knocking him unconscious and impaling Maester Luwin. It looks like his soldiers are going to hand him over to the Starks and head home.
In these scenes Theon’s character arc ends in flawless tragedy. He delivers a Shakespearean monologue, reflecting on a life he never wanted but that everyone around him insisted he be grateful for. He expresses great sorrow for the man he has become in these last few episodes, a transformation motivated by his desire to earn the respect of his father and sister. Now he is stuck on the plank, all but assured an unceremonious death. What’s so incredible about this scene is the stark reality that all that’s left for Theon to do is try and make sense of his tragic life; he can’t escape or atone. He can only articulate a final picture of a life he was never in control of. He is mad, bitter, near tears, and left almost completely alone to grieve over the decisions he’s made and those he couldn’t make. But these final hours are not without self-pity. Perhaps the same self-pity heard from Cersei in the previous episode (when she too thought death was near, and lamented her arranged marriage), and perhaps a pinch of it from Stannis earlier in this one. Maybe self-pity is the true mark of a villain: to feel personally wronged by a world that does not discriminate and deals its fortune and sorrow with a strict but fair hand. It’s worth mentioning that Tyrion never expresses self-pity. Even in this episode, when he is demoted, punished, and shunned after valiantly defending the city, he doesn’t feel bad for himself. He knows the world is cruel but blind, so he expects no special treatment from it.
Back in Tyrion’s dingy quarters, Varys stops by. He’s there to deliver more bad news, telling Tyrion that he won’t be able to have their intelligentsia rendezvous for awhile, and that no one is going to acknowledge Tyrion’s heroics on the battlefield. Shae then arrives, and proclaims her love for Tyrion, with or without him bankrolling it. Another emotional scene, as Tyrion plunges to the bottom of the game of thrones, is suddenly not only a dwarf but a scarred and ghoulish one, but, but, his love is finally returned. And isn’t that more important than money looks and power? All his life Tyrion implicitly knew his friends and lovers stood by him only because he paid them to. Did anyone ever truly want to be by his side, to share their lives with his? Shae does, and for him to know that means more than just about anything.
Back at the Stark Camp, Robb and Talisa have a secret wedding in the woods. I hate to be cheesy, but what do these two back-to-back scenes with Tyrion and Robb show us? That even in the time of war, death, betrayal, strife, and characters being prodded to the very edges of mortality, love finds a way.
In Qarth, Dany, Ser Jorah and the remaining Dothraki approach the House of the Undying. It’s a huge stone tower with no entrance. As Khaleesi winds around it looking for a way in, she disappears. It seems the warlock has beckoned her forth with his magic.
Arya and her fellow escapees find Jaqen H’ghar waiting for them on a cliff. He offers to take her across the Narrow Sea to Braavos, where she can learn the jedi magic tricks of the faceless men. She is tempted, but resolves to continue searching for her family. Jaqen seems disappointed, but gives her a coin and tells her to give it to one of his countrymen and utter the words “Valar Morghulis” and he will come to her aid. Jaqen turns away for a split second, and when he turns back he is a different person. Jaqen H’ghar is dead, the shapeshifter tells her.
Bran, Rickon, Osha and Hodor have formed their own ragtag nomad crew, and are heading out of Winterfell, which has been burnt to the ground. They find Maester Luwin spending his dying moments under a sparkling tree. Luwin says his last words to Bran and Rickon, telling them he was lucky to have spent every day with them since they were born. God did this get me. The old man was so kind to everyone, including Theon, and asked for nothing in return. He desired no power or glory and only pursued what was best for others. Osha finishes the poor man off and the foursome head North to Jon Snow.
Back in the House of the Undying, Dany enters a room with door number 1, 2, 3, 4, and so on. She opens one and finds herself in the Throne Room under falling snow. She pets the throne for a bit, then exits to find herself walking through the gate on The Wall. Dany is dwarfed by the immense scope of the vast arctic wilderness, and it’s a breathtaking shot. In the distance she sees a lit tent. Inside is Khal Drogo with their baby boy, the one who was once destined to rule all the world. They profess their love for each other, “moon of my life.” Drogo himself seems unsure if this is his dream, her dream, or some purgatorial vision he’s managed to conjure because he refused to go to the other side without Dany. Dany knows its just a chimera, and leaves the tent to find herself back in the main room with her dragons in chains. Pyat Pree appears, and uses his sorcery to cast chains on her as well. Like all good villains do, he reveals his plans to his imprisoned adversary: he plans to keep Dany and the dragons prisoner of his House, because Dany keeps the dragons strong, and the dragons keep the warlock’s magic great and powerful. Not so fast. Dany utters a command to her dragons, who breathe fire onto Pree, setting the warlock aflame. He is reduced to withered charcoal, and Dany returns to Ser Jorah and her men, who celebrate by plundering the city and sealing Xaro away in his own empty safe.
North of the Wall, Halfhand starts a fight with Jon Snow, who ends up sticking a sword through the legendary watchman. The wildlings are impressed, and cut Snow free. We catch a glimpse of the wildling camp they’re traveling to, a massive compound where the man whose reputation has preceded him for two seasons, Mance Rayder, awaits.
The episode then moves closer to The Wall, where Sam and his two Night’s Watch comrades hear three blows of the horn. This means one thing: White Walkers. As two of the watchmen gun it for the Wall, Sam freezes up, unfit for “run for your life” situations after a lifetime of carb-loading. Silhouettes appear, swaying in the dark snow-blown air. Out of the darkness a horde of zombie creatures appear: men raised from the dead by White Walkers. We then see the mythic monsters themselves: ivory-maned White Walkers, riding demonic horses. They’re headed to the Wall, to wreak unimaginable havoc on the world of men.
The season finale did an exceptional job with the characters in Game of Thrones. While Blackwater Bay may have had the war theatrics and violent spectacle, this episode brought more emotional wallop than the previous nine combined. What we are left with is a firm lesson on an enterprise far greater than mere throne games. The two men who suffered greatest in this episode are Pyat Pree and Theon Greyjoy. These are two men that desired power but did not have the fathers, mothers, or loved ones to support their quest. Without this support a quest, regardless of its moral merit, is ill-fated. Theon saw the world through an outcast’s twisted prism: what he saw as a glorious ascension was actually a reckless downward spiral, one that ended in mutiny and death. Joffrey suffers the same delusions of grandeur, but does not pay the same steep price. Why? Family. Without Cersei and Tywin, Joffrey would have been defamed and beheaded by now. With them he is secure and safe to indulge in his jejune grandiosity. Theon was torn between two families, and ultimately a part of neither. His solitary journey was destined to end badly; perhaps when we are alone, we are already closer to death. The only lone wolf that has thus far managed to elude death and defeat is Varys, who slinks around King’s Landing like a dickless mink. Does he keep his enemies at bay through fear and repulsion? Or will his aloneness soon spell his doom?
The season finale of Game of Thrones showed us that it doesn’t matter how good or evil you are. Without love and family, you will die. And then be resurrected by White Walkers.
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