Review: GAME OF THRONES S3E08, SECOND SONS (Or, Sam Gets To Be A Hero But Mostly By Accident And Only For A Couple Seconds)

Todd Brown, Founder and Editor
A question for those who - like me - have been watching Game Of Thrones very closely. Who does Season Three belong to? Whose story is driving the narrative? Because, frankly, I don't know and not being able to answer such a fundamental question is becoming an issue as we draw nearer to the end of the season. Series one clearly belonged to Ned Stark. Series two? That belonged to Tyrion Lannister. But series three? Well, the Stark children have all become completely passive. Tyrion's back on his heels. I honestly have no idea why we've given as much time to Theon as we have. The sweeping, epic final shot of Season Two has not been addressed AT ALL - That army of undead just disappeared? What? How do you show us that and then just forget about them? - and Mance Rayder has largely been invisible as well.

There have been a couple of solid additions, for sure, with Gramma Tyrell being far and away the best of them, but far too many characters are far too often being entirely reactive with nobody really driving the story forward. Nobody has fought anybody in ages and people are spending an awful lot of time moping. Yes, I still love the show, but unlike Seasons One and Two I keep finding myself waiting for Season Three to finally kick into gear and, thus far, it has resolutely resisted the urge to do so. Sigh.

The one character - and really the only character - with any oomph to their story so far has been Danaerys. And while she still remains too distant from Westeros to really inject any tension into the goings on there she is once again the dominant figure this time out. You see, it turns out the city that Danaerys intends to wipe out and de-slave has enlisted the help of a mercenary army known as the Second Sons. Though only two thousand men they're a tough bunch of bastards and two thousand men may not be enough to stop Danaerys and her eight thousand strong army but it's certainly enough to make a dent. So she tries to buy them herself and - after a bit of back and forth, some boorish male behavior and a couple beheadings - she succeeds.

Second Son leader Dario strikes me as an interesting character - he's certainly going to cause some interesting dynamics with Barristan and Jorah as the third member of her growing male harem - but I suppose this story line is where part of my unease comes from this week. Danaerys is far and away the most proactive character in the show this season and even her story this week is an entirely reactive one, where she just sort of falls into a situation and it resolves in her favor. It's entirely passive and in a show based around large scale plotting and political intrigue passive is just sort of blah.

There's a Lannister wedding this week, as Tyrion ties the knot with Sansa. He tries to make the best of it with the help of a great deal of wine while Joffrey remains a predictable shit. Cersei steals this particular plotline this week with her fabulously prickly response to Margaery Tyrell's sisterly advances while Gramma Tyrell's attempt to unravel how everyone will be related to everyone else once the current wave of Lannister weddings is over is pretty damn hilarious.

Arya and the Hound ride off through the hills, with the Hound revealing that he intends to sell her back to her family. Well, thank the gods for that, I've had more than enough of her moping. Get her home already.

And then there's Sam, sweetly stupid Sam, who fails to realize that ravens gathering en mass to croak at him as he and Gilly set up for the night is probably a bad omen and so instead of moving on like a sensible person he instead has a conversation about baby names until a White Walker arrives. Presumably the same White Walker Craster used to sacrifice his male sons to, presumably because he wants to eat aforementioned unnamed baby. Note to Sam: Steel doesn't work very well on White Walkers. Another note to Sam: The obsidian knife you found does. A third note to Sam: There's no reason to run away from a bad guy once you've already killed it. A fourth and final note to Sam: PICK UP THE KNIFE BEFORE RUNNING AWAY, YOU BLOODY IDIOT. So much for being a hero.

The one thoroughly satisfying storyline this week revolves around Stannis, Melisandre, Davos and Gendry. Melisandre has arrived back with Gendry and Stannis - realizing immediately who Gendry must be and that Melisandre, therefore, almost certainly intends to sacrifice him - indulges the teensy bit of conscious he has left and releases Davos from prison so that Davos can 'convince' him not to have his nephew killed. Mission accomplished, Melisandre first extracts a certain other kind of fluid from Gendry before applying leeches to extract blood for a demonstration of exactly what sort of power lies in a king's blood.

There are three leeches worth of blood handed over to Stannis, the three then dropped into a fire as Stannis issues some sort of curse against three enemies: Joffrey Baratheon, Robb Stark and Balon Greyjoy. What will these curses accomplish? No idea, though I kind of hope Joffrey got the penis blood. More to the point, why Balon Greyjoy?  How exactly is Greyjoy an enemy on a par with Robb and Joffrey? Methinks we've been missing something ...

With two episodes left in the season this curse at least promises a little something to look forward to while the reappearance of a White Walker should also get things rolling again. Is it too much to hope for a little more action and a lot less moping in the final two shows of the season? I hope not ...

[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.]
Around the Internet:
  • darrenjh

    I think there are two main characters to the story, Littlefinger and Stannis. They clearly have the most effect on everyone else involved.

  • LOL. LLOOLLL. OMG. Too funny. "I wonder what the 3 leaches will do..."

  • T0astofwar

    Well the greyjoys as they said last season multiple times have the largest navy. But the big reason stannis says all the names was because they are all "usurpers" they all are saying they are kings when he is the rightful king.

    Also the large wight and white walker army has been addressed multiple times. There was 300 nights watchmen almost all of them died, with the remaining few last been seen fighting each other at crasters house. You say there is no war, well thats budgetary, also the reason we didn't see the fight with the white walkers.

  • Having a show about a war without showing ANY actual war throughout an entire season is a mistake. You find a way to make it work. You DEFINITELY find a way to make it work with the White Walkers, given the end point of last season. You don't show an army of undead marching on Westeros as the final shot of a season and then do NOTHING with it.

    Again, I'm a huge fan of the show but this season has, in general, lacked focus and drive and a MAJOR part of that is because they've made no attempt at all to engage with the war effort at all. So instead of seeing battles we get guys in a cabin complaining about being hungry and the occasional reference to the fact two years have passed since Robb started marching on King's Landing, which - in the absence of ever seeing any actual fighting - just makes me wonder what the hell he's been doing all this time. Refusing to engage with the major conflicts of the story on screen neuters the characters.

  • harumph

    Just wait till they get around to adapting Feast For Crows, a book that even most diehard fans agree lacks the focus and drive of the first three books. If you feel like story cohesion has been falling apart this season, then it's really going to seem scattershot for the next couple seasons.

    I don't necessarily think that it's budgetary constraints that prevent us from seeing more battles, as Scott suggested above. One of George R.R. Martin's quirks as a writer is that he leaves almost all of that off the page as well. The show has skipped over a couple battles that occurred on the page, but those were from the first two seasons. We never really see Robb Stark fighting in the books either. Or really much of the fighting with the white walkers. It's all about seeing the aftermath. But yeah, even in the books, it feels like the walkers must be walking very, veeerrry sloooowly.

    I enjoyed this episode, but I thought that Melisandre's seduction of Gendry was a weak replay of the same trap that Theon suffered in the previous episode. That was just lazy writing.

  • darrenjh

    the last episode did seem like they were looking for excuses to get some tits out there. I'm not really complaining, though.

  • Joe Foolio

    You are right on all points Todd, and that is part of the huge let down for this season. Book 3 was so chalk full of awesomeness that they felt it deserved 2 seasons to tell the tall, but damn have they ever shit the bed. Probably the only reason I don't hate this season is that I know exactly what is happening that they aren't showing, it certainly ins't very impressive for those that don't have the full scope.

  • Chuck

    Wonder why they are making Daario the leader of the Second Sons.He is suppose to be the leader of a much smaller but also very badass Merc group called the Stormcrows, just seems like an odd omission from book to screen. Considering the leader of the Second Sons plays a big part much later on and they can't just roll him into Darrios character and still make an impact.

  • Condensing the story, and number of characters. Same reason they made Gendry the bastard that Melisandre was trying to kill, instead of another bastard, like in the books.

  • Karma Kollapse

    "More to the point, why Balon Greyjoy? How exactly is Greyjoy an enemy
    on a par with Robb and Joffrey? Methinks we've been missing something
    ..."

    We have a bit, in that we're not seeing what the Ironlanders are doing in the War of the Five Kings. The 'curse' was directed at the three remaining men claiming to be King in Westoros.

    Nice sum-up as usual!

  • Part of a larger problem, there, in that we haven't seen what ANYONE has been doing in the war. It's been a whole lot of moping about, mostly.

  • Karma Kollapse

    Source material I'm afraid. The book/season (at least up until this point!) should probably be renamed "A Song of Ice and Fire: Four Weddings and a Funeral*".

    *not actual number of weddings or funerals.

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