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As with episode’s one’s review there is no promise of keeping free of spoilers. In fact there is nothing to spoil. Last week’s episode was gritty in a political thriller sort of way as the divided North became the main focus. Episode 2 takes place in the limbo period between the preparation episode and the battle itself. It served as a second preparation episode that was unnecessary filler between two important events. In practice, I like to keep these reviews free of shiny objects and focus on the more analytical aspects of the show, but those were few and far between.
Verdict: Episode 2 was a hollow turd.
Ser Jaime Lannister is the MVP of this episode, having the only interesting opportunities continuing throughout the script, but still failed to depict, accurately, Jaime’s character once more. Jaime opens up on “trial” before his former enemies. In truth, Jaime, blurring the lines between sarcastic and serious, regards slaying Mad King Areys II as his “finest deed.” He regrets little, but that which he regrets are the deeds of concealing his (past) love for Cersei, like throwing a child out of a tower, and [spoiler alert] lying to Tyrion about his first wife Tysha being a whore. The latter is an increasingly frustrating deviation that not only undermines Jaime’s character development but has paved the way for HBO to emasculate Tyrion Lannister, metaphorically speaking as opposed to the literal emasculating of Theon Greyjoy. In confronting Daenerys, Jaime was not as defiant enough to make an interesting confrontation better. Instead this was undermined by the power struggle between Daenerys and Sansa, denying a far richer scene where Jaime declares that he saved half a million people. During the drinking scene that resembled previous buildups before battles, Jaime’s character could have amended the Tysha deviation. This hope was unrealized; however, the episode’s best scene was the knighting of Brienne of Tarth, a misfit too ugly to be a lady but unable to be a knight. “Any knight can make a knight” is a well-known Westerosi saying.
Lack of Military Realism
The show goes out of its way to paint incompetent characters like Sansa and Daenerys as quality leaders. Last week, was the first time characters acknowledged how selfish Daenerys is. Sansa is the last person on the show you want as a “wartime president.” Very few remaining characters in Game of Thrones can play the game and command an army. Jon Snow is one. Tyrion is a second, but the show has made him irredeemably stupid. Jaime refused the game but technically has a winning record as a commanding officer. Bronze Yohn Royce was technically featured in the episode and can do both. Daenerys is probably better at military command than playing politics, but when you have dragons, it takes far less skill, Aegon the Conquerer proved as much. Last weeks episode delved into the logistics of war. That was virtually undone in this episode.
For instance Brienne of Tarth is given command of the left flank. Looking closely at the war maps, the left flank featured the knights of the Vale. Instead of having Lord Yohn Royce, a season military commander who fought in Robert’s Rebellion, the Greyjoy Rebellion, led the winning cavalry charge in the Battle of the Bastards, has the loyalty of his men as the most powerful lord in the Vale, the show has Brienne of Tarth command the Vale’s force. Brienne of Tarth has fought one battle, at most! She has never led an army and has no ties to the Vale. The only thing dumber than giving her command of the Vale would be giving her command of the Dothraki, who I believe are on the right flank, the place of honor in ancient Greek culture (perhaps relevant). It’s not that Brienne of Tarth is unworthy of any command, they simply chose the second least believable place for her to lead.
Prepubescent Sex Scene
This is not the poorest written sex scene in Game of Thrones, that still belongs to Sansa being married off to Ramsay Bolton, one of the worst plot deviations from the books. Arya having sex with Gendry was up there though. Arya is eleven when the show starts. A year has passed, no doubt, maybe two, but not anything beyond three which would barely put her at fourteen, at most. It’s not the combo, it’s the age. Arya is a child, not a sensual woman. The show has unrealistically aged these characters. Heck, why didn’t they recast Gilly’s [Mance’s] son? They’ve had over three Mountains, two Dario Naharises (both poorly casted), two Myrscella Baratheons, and I’m sure there are others.
The only meaning in the episode that was of any worth was Bran revealing the motive of the White Walkers to erase the memory of mankind. There was no buildup and little foreshadow towards this reveal. Game of Thrones is all about placing mysteries on the backburner (who really killed Jon Arryn) but this was a little rushed.
This episode was less worthwhile than watching the first three episodes of Star Wars. You could have missed episode 2 and have gone straight to episode 3 and you would have missed nothing that wasn’t known already. I’m not saying this was the worst Game of Thrones episode ever but its down there.
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