Monday, 4 June 2012

Game of Thrones | Season Two, Episode Ten: Valar Morghulis


So, we've finally come to end of the second season of Game of Thrones - and, in keeping with the style of the first series, they've taken it all away from us just when it was starting to get really, really good. Last week's episode, The Battle of the Blackwater, may well have been the massive showdown that this entire series was leading up to, but as far as tension, excitement and pure visceral terror goes, Valar Morghulis trounces the Blackwater every time.

Following the battle, Tyrion is very badly wounded and languishing helpless in a cramped room in the Red Keep. He has been shunted aside by his father Tywin, who has shown up to take his place as King's Hand. Although he is badly hurt, has an ugly scar across his face, and is in pretty much the most dire situation he's been in since his arrival in King's Landing (even though it was his smart thinking that basically saved the city), he refuses Shae's offer to run away to Pentos, saying that he wants to stay in King's Landing because he belongs there - and for the love of the Game.

Sansa is happy for about five seconds after it is decided by the council that Joffrey will not marry her after all - instead he will be married to Margaery Tyrell (Renly's widow, and Loras's sister) in order to join the Lannisters (it's pointless to call them the Baratheons, I think we can all agree) to the power of Highgarden. While she may be free of actually having to marry the sadistic inbred munchkin, Littlefinger is quick to remind her that she will still be under Joffrey's power - and Joffrey is a total psycho. Littlefinger offers to help her escape - but come on, this is Littlefinger we're talking about; you just know he's not doing this out of the kindness of his heart.

In various other corners of the realm, Brienne is still dragging an increasingly filthy-looking Jaime Lannister towards King's Landing in the hope of trading him for Sansa and Arya. She is forced to kill three Northmen who make the mistake of recognising Jaime. Against the advice of his mother, Robb marries Talisa, which is sure to piss off Walder Frey no end, as Robb was supposed to be betrothed to one of his daughters - something tells me that one's going to come back to bite him pretty soon. Stannis blames Melisandre and her Fire God for his loss at the battle of the Blackwater, but she convinces him that he is in fact the embodiment of the Fire God on Earth (which surely can't be true - somehow I don't think Stannis Baratheon is Westeros's answer to Jesus Christ) and that the war will eventually be won by him.

Theon is still whining away at Winterfell, surrounded by a force of Northmen. Aemon suggests he joins the Night's Watch, where all his past sins will be forgiven and forgotten (yeah, right), but Theon elects to fight instead. He gives a really quite rousing battle speech - even people that pretty much hate Theon and the Greyjoys will be impressed - even so, his own men knock him out and offer him to the Starks to save their own skins. Winterfell is burned to the ground in the process, and Maester Aemon is mortally wounded. Bran, Rickon, Hodor and Osha emerge from the crypt to find the devastation - Aemon, who they find dying slowly in the Godswood, advises them to head North to find Jon; going South would be too dangerous. Osha puts Aemon out of his misery and, re-united with Summer and Shaggydog, they set off.

Arya is still wandering in the wilderness with Hot Pie and Gendry after escaping from Harrenhal with the help of the mysterious Jaqen. She meets up with Jaqen for one final time, upon which he reveals to her that he is in fact one of the Faceless Men, an order of brilliant assassins. He gives her a coin, and tells her that should she ever need to find him again, she should give it to any man from Braavos and say the words 'Valar Morghulis' - all men must die. Then he cleverly shapeshifts into a completely different man, before going on his merry way. North of the wall, Jon Snow (who is still in the hands of the Wildlings) kills his fellow captive Quorin Halfhand in a clever but fatal ploy to ensure that the Wildlings come to trust him.

In the best scenes of the episode, Dany enters the House of the Undying to get back her dragons. The building is a kind of psychic labyrinth; Dany wanders through the King's Landing throne room, out past the Wall, and into a tent where she meets up with Drogo (her dead husband) and Rhaego (her dead son). It's not clear whether this is a trick on the part of the Warlocks, or whether she is actually communing with her dead family - or maybe a bit of both - but Dany recognises that she can't stay. She chooses her dragons over remaining with Drogo, then burns the place down and Pyat Pree with it. Upon returning to the house of Xaro, she finds him in bed with her supposedly-missing-presumed-dead handmaiden. After discovering that Xaro's vault of riches is actually completely empty, Dany has him and her faithless handmaiden locked inside it to die, while she takes all of his possessions in order to buy a ship to get her to Westeros.

In the spectacular final scene, Sam, Pyp and Grenn are performing their duties at the Fist of the First Men, when suddenly they hear three blasts on a horn. One blast means rangers returning, two blasts mean a Wildling attack - but three blasts mean they're about to be set upon by an army of the undead. And, sure enough, a fair few frozen blue-eyed dead guys turn up to join in the fun.

Something tells me the third season is going to be titled Game of Thrones: You Ain't Seen Nuthin Yet.

Episode Ten Best Moment: Tie - Dany in the House of the Undying/Sam coming face to face with a Wight

Episode Ten Best Line: "I'm a monster as well as a dwarf. You should charge me double." - Tyrion

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