Review: GAME OF THRONES S3E02, DARK WINGS DARK WORDS (Or, Sansa Swims With The Sharks And They're Not Who You Think)

Todd Brown, Founder and Editor
If the season three debut of Game Of Thrones felt a little light on the Stark clan that is very definitely not the case with episode two, an hour that is not quite all Stark all the time but comes pretty damn close. As we bounce from family member to family member the episode plays very much like a re-introduction with very little happening in terms of story as we simply re-establish where everyone is and what's happening. And so, on with that.

For a change this week Bran and Sansa end up ranking as the most interesting plotlines and so while the show more or less leads with them we're going to end there and start instead with with Robb and what feels like his perpetually stalled-out military campaign against the Lannisters, which hits another bump this week with word that Robb's grandfather - the Lord of Riverrun - has died and Robb's somewhat bewildering choice to attend his grandfather's funeral.

Why would I say this is bewildering? For one thing there's the army of men that he needs to feed and keep active if he has any hope of maintaining momentum. For another there's the fact that the Lannisters are now firmly re-ensconced in King's Landing and any time wasted is time for them to plan and reinforce their position. For another this is his mother's father and he's still pretty pissed with her so I can't imagine it's any sort of favor. And, finally, at the same time he receives word of his grandfather's passing he also learns of the sack of Winterfell and the very possible death or imprisonment of his two younger brothers as well. And he barely blinks about that at all. Robb justifies the side trip to Riverrun as a chance to pick up some additional forces, an excuse discarded out of hand by one of his more trusted subordinates - Rickard Karstark - who clearly thinks Robb's thinking has gone off he rails and it's hard to argue with him. After proving himself a brilliant tactician willing to make the difficult decisions, the freeing of Jamie Lannister by his mother seems to have thrown Robb off the rails and if he doesn't get his shit together soon and give his men the chance to kill some bad guys he's at risk of this whole thing just falling apart into nothing. So, get your shit together, Robb.

Also on the Stark's making bad decisions front, we pick up with Arya as she tromps through the woods trying to figure out where to go next as Gendry ribs her over her poor decision making. You could pick anyone in the world who you wanted killed? And you DIDN'T choose Joffrey and / or Tywin Lannister? Are you mad? Good point, Gendry, but before we have the chance to appreciate it, let's all say hello to The Brotherhood Without Banners, who initially appear to be nothing but bandits but prove to be something else entirely - a sort of guerrilla force without allegiance - who are both entertaining and a pleasingly random element to mess with the story. They also happen to capture The Hound, who immediately identifies Arya. Whoopsie.

Jon Snow? He tromps through his namesake and does nothing particularly interesting other than letting Ciaran Hinds be a badass as Mance Rayder and also giving Rayder the chance to explain to the audience what a warg is - a person who can see through the eyes on an animal, basically - which is important because it clearly explains part of what's been going on with Bran for the last while. But other than that Snow is pretty disposable this time out, as are the surviving members of the Night's Watch whose storyline is dominated by Sam being sad. And fat. Poor sad, fat Sam.

This week's 'What the hell is happening here?' bit comes thanks to Theon Greyjoy. You know, the prince of the Iron Islands and also the Stark family's former prisoner / adopted brother depending on which angle you choose to look at him from. Remember him? the last time we saw Theon his takeover of Winterfell was going rather badly with one of his own men knocking him out and dragging him away after he delivered a rousing 'fight to the death' sort of speech. Now? Now he's tied to a rack being tortured by men whose only question is why he attacked Winterfell. So ... what the hell? Is Theon being tortured by his own people? It would appear so, unless he's been captured by someone else and we haven't been told of it.

On the Lannister front, Tyrion gets a blow job.

Also on the Lannister front, Joffrey continues to be a total prat - which is nothing new - but now he's doing it in a way that makes it very clear his mother's grip on him is falling away as he becomes increasingly infatuated with Margaery Tyrell. And mommy dearest isn't handling it particularly well.

And also also on the Lannister front, Jamie almost gets away Brienne but doesn't because a) she kicks ass, b) he's been a prisoner for months at this point, his hands are still bound and he's in crap condition, and, c) Noah Taylor shows up as one of Robb's bannermen and takes him captive again. So, yes, Jamie Lannister is back under Stark control - unless Brienne either kills an awful lot of people or Noah Taylor - his character is named Locke - proves treacherous. In terms of plot elements with the potential to be game changers going forward, this is the big one. But in terms of character moments, not even close. Those bits belong to Bran and Sansa.

Let's start with Bran. The show opens with another of his dreams / visions but this one is different. Different in that another young man (played by Thomas Brodie-Sangster, who we'll later come to know as Jojen Reed) appears within it and speaks directly to him. No, Jojen is not part of the dream. Yes, Jojen has the same abilities Bran has and is far more aware of what they are and how to use them. And, yes, Jojen shows up in real life - his deadly sister in tow - at the end of the episode to teach Bran what's what. Bran has at least two special abilities - he is a warg and has the Sight - and Jojen delivers the news that Bran is the only really interesting / important thing he's ever seen with his own gifts. I'm wagering that this does not mean that Jojen's own gift has shown him nothing but rocks and sticks for his entire life but, rather, that there's big, big stuff in store for Bran. Plus Brodie-Sangster is a great young actor and the dynamic with his sister is pretty fantastic so mark this down as the moment where all the boring 'Bran running away' stuff turns the corner to become something interesting.

And then there's Sansa. And pardon me if I over-promised here because it's not actually Sansa who's interesting. No, she's still dull and whiny as ever, it's just she happens to be there for far and away the best moment of the episode brought on by one of the strongest new character introductions in the entire run of the show.

You see, Margaery wants to have a little sit down with Sansa and sends her brother Loris to get her. At this point you, like me, may think, "Oh, shit, Margaery's about to eliminate a potential rival." But no. That would be petty jealousy and Margaery is about to prove herself a FAR more calculating and ruthless tactician than that. What she wants is Sansa to join her for lunch with Grandma, who is played absolutely BRILLIANTLY by Diana Rigg (Emma Peel from The Avengers!). And here we learn the truth about the adage about a woman being behind every powerful man. Grandma Tyrell is that woman. though she'll never hold any formal power because of her gender, this woman is beyond formidable and clearly brilliantly intelligent. She's also completely blunt in her opinions, entirely charming, and wildly entertaining. And what Grandma and Margaery want to know first hand from the only person who can tell them is what sort of situation Margaery is about to walk into. Who is Joffrey, really?

And while it's presented as concern for Margaery's safety the reality that comes clear very soon afterwords is that the information is so that Margaery can quickly learn which buttons to press with Joffrey to keep him under her thumb. Because Margaery, you see, appears to be completely amoral and a total, utter shark. She's going to eat Joffrey alive and I'm not sure whether to celebrate this fact or feel a little sorry for the guy who is clearly, wildly out of his depth here. Hell, I don't think even Cersei will have a prayer against the Tyrell women if she's foolish enough to put herself in their crosshairs, though Cersei at least is smart enough to realize that Margaery is playing some sort of long game here.

Information extracted, I fully expect the Tyrells to toss Sansa aside now, unless she can prove some further usefulness, but good Lord I hope we haven't seen the last of Grandma. She's just awesome.

[Twitch has been tracking Game Of Thrones from Season One, Episode One from the perspective of someone who has not and will not read the books at all until the series has come to an end so that it can all be experienced for the first time on the big screen. Discussion of the current episode and what has come before is welcome and encouraged but PLEASE avoid spoiling anything that lies ahead in the novels so that those of us who haven't read can experience everything fresh.]
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  • peter b

    Re: Theon Greyjoy - in the episode, we hear that Bolton's bastard didn't get to Winterfell before it had been burned out. Near the end of the episode when Brienne and Jaimie are confronted by an armed group, the men are identified by the banner of an X: the flayed man of Bolton. (It helps that I've read the novels.)

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