There were enough escape and recapture escapades to fill a couple of feature films this week. And the photography of the snowy Icelandic locations was so stark and beautiful (You see what I did there?) that I really felt like I was watching a movie. But the talky character scenes reminded us that we were watching TV, where dialogue takes precedence over action.
Not that I mind, when it comes to GAME OF THRONES. The characterization is so deep and multilayered that it makes the action all the more impressive and meaningful because viewers have a stake in the outcome. We care about the Stark kids escaping, and resent the bumbling Theon, and root against Jamie Lannister, and root for Jon Snow and hate King Joffrey and love Tyrion, and feel sorry for Sansa because we know them.
By the time Theon Greyjoy (Alfie Allen) woke up and tumbled to the fact that Osha (Natalia Tena) had duped him with a roll in the hay in order to sneak away with Bran (Isaac Hempstead-Wright), Rickon (Art Parkinson) and Hodor (Kristian Nairn), the fugitives are long gone. So Theon summoned the hounds and sets off to recapture the Stark siblings without harming them. Much. But after a long chase, Theon’s patience appeared to wear out when he finally had the kids cornered, and he later returned to Winterfell with two tarred and charred, child-sized corpses.
Meanwhile, another escape plan failed, but not fail quite so miserably. Jamie Lannister (Nikolaj Coster Waldau) took an opportunity to murder cousin Alton (Karl Davies) and a hapless guard in his cage then flee. But he was recaptured moments later, and the father of the jailer Jamie killed demanded his head, putting Catelyn (Michelle Fairley) in the unusual position of defending a Lannister from mob justice.
North of the wall, Ygritte’s (Rose Leslie) foiled escape plan actually seemed to be working in her favor, as she kept jawboning Jon Snow (Kit Harington) and needling him about his virginity and his commitment to the Black Watch. She got so far under his skin that he lost concentration for a second and Ygritte dashed off yet again — this time leading Jon right into the arms of her fellow Wildlings. Uh-oh….
Arya (Maisie Williams) wasn’t even trying to escape Tywin’s (Charles Dance) camp at Harrenhal; maybe because she was too busy digging herself in deeper with her tale of being a stonemason’s daughter. This time she regaled Tywin with stories of Westerosi history, including details about the dragon battle that destroyed Harrenhal. Tywin was impressed — and then revealed that he figured out she’s a highborn lady, thanks to her pronunciation of milord as “My lord,” instead of the lower-class “me lord.” Oops! (I warned Arya that her lies would trip her up…)
Sansa (Sophie Turner) no doubt wished she could escape King’s Landing immediately! After a horrifying dream reliving her near-rape, Sansa awakened to discover blood in her bed. Recognizing that she got her period, she panicked, since that signaled she was now ready to bear Joffrey’s children. Shae (Sibel Kekilli) tried to help hide the evidence, but Cersei (Lena Heady) found out anyway. Later, when Sansa tried to thank the Hound (Rory McCann) for rescuing her from the mob, he brushed her off — but then made a cryptic comment about killing for her and protecting her from her husband. What was that about?
In Qarth, Daenerys’ (Emilia Clarke) search for her dragons came to a quick end when wizard leader Pyat Pree (Ian Hanmore) revealed that he took them to the House of the Undying. And then he and Xaro Xhoan Daxos (Nonso Anonzie) put their plan in motion: Guards murdered the rest of the ruling Thirteen, and Xaro pronounced himself king of Qarth. Pyat invited Daenerys to the House of the Undying to retrieve her young dragons.
I was stunned by how much this episode did to humanize Cersei, who has hitherto been portrayed as a mad harpy of evil. She had a civilized conversation with her brother Tyrion (Peter Dinklage) about Joffrey (Jack Gleeson). She knows he’s a sociopath, and while she complained about how long she was in labor with him, I got the sense that she regrets that they both survived the experience. Joffrey was a rotten egg from the beginning, and he’s only gotten worse. And now that he’s king there will be no reining him in, Tyrion noted.
Cersei’s later discussion of womanhood with Sansa was sensitive and mature, and made the crazy queen seem much more maternal than I thought she was capable of being. She also seemed to pity Sansa; knowing what Joffrey is like, Cersei knows there will be no “happily ever after” as long as Sansa is his queen.
As for Cersei’s impish brother, the scarcity of Tyrion scenes was definitely noticed, and I definitely missed him. No episode cannot be improved with more Tyrion!
The Kingslayer must be pretty pissed that he wasted a perfectly good cannon-fodder cousin on this escape bid; surely the time will come when Jamie will wish he had a convenient cousin to murder for some useful purpose! This hasty and useless death goes along with my questioning whether it was really necessary for Osha to sleep with Theon before the Great Escape. Both of these escape plans seemed overly elaborate, which is probably why they didn’t work out well. Ygritte’s plan was much more practical: Keep Jon distracted with nonstop chatter about sex and wiggling your butt in a way that makes him question his vow of celibacy, then hit him and run away!
But I guess that goes along with the general theme of GoT, which is that everything is a lot more complicated that it should be, what with everyone huffing about pride and family rather than thinking things through. Or simply not thinking at all. Take Arya: I loved the scene in which she held a knife and mulled plunging it into Tywin’s exposed neck while his back was turned. Why didn’t she do it? His clan has been responsible for so much misery in House Stark. But even better, why has it not occurred to her to order Jaqen H’ghar (Tom Wlaschiha) to kill him? Arya only has one name left to give the criminal. Incidentally, how did Jaqen avoid Tywin’s purge? Jaqen suddenly appeared in Lannister harness, so no one can know him or vouch for him. If Tywin was looking for an assassin, wouldn’t someone naturally shout: “Hey, maybe it was the new guy!” The guard didn’t seem too particular about who they were hanging.
Anyway, next week we should see some intrigue in the House of the Undying — or a lot of Daenerys running around shouting, “Where are my dragons?”