Bran trains with the Three-Eyed Raven. Jaime advises Tommen. Tyrion demands good news but has to make his own. The Night’s Watch stands behind Thorne. Ramsay Bolton proposes a plan. Balon Greyjoy entertains other proposals.
The second episode does not suffer from the same structural flaws as the first one; there are fewer storylines and though two of them feature a number of individual scenes, these are at least kept together so that one transitions into the next and creates a sense of cohesion. An intriguing opening draws the viewer in, even though the contents of Bran’s first vision of the past are relatively tame save for the revelation that Hodor was once a normal stableboy whose name was Wylis (yet another of the show’s perplexing name changes due to similarities; in the books, his true name is Walder). There’s a typical Thrones-style shocker in the latter half of the episode, as Ramsay gets rid of his father, step-mother and newborn half-brother, but the biggest moment is saved for the very end as we get to the rather unsurprising resurrection of Jon Snow.
Between the visit to the past, the slaughter in Winterfell and Jon’s return, the episode certainly does not lack attention-grabbing material, but it is unfortunate that such moments have a tendency to mask problems with these scenes themselves and with other scenes. While this episode does not feature anything as nonsensical as the Dornish assassinations of last week, it does show underscore a growing problem with how storylines are advanced: things are made to happen rather than occurring out of organic growth towards them.
The worst offender in this regard is the lead-up to the resurrection of Jon. The storyline conveniently glosses over questions such as why the men with Jon’s body appear so attached to his quite dead body (and in retrospect, one can wonder why Thorne simply left it lying around after the murder, if there was a concern about the body being used as a symbol). However, one might not have noticed that hand-waving if it was not for the strangeness of concluding the matter (once the mutineers are in custody) by having Davos approach Melisandre to ask her if she knows of a way to resurrect Jon. Given that Davos is the one who in the first episode tells Melisandre that Jon is definitely dead when she mentions her visions of him at Winterfell, it seems like quite a sudden reversal for him to now push for a magical solution. But because they decided to have Melisandre caught in a crisis of faith, they needed someone else to tell her to make the attempt, and so Davos was co-opted for this. To me this is evidence of them stitching together the storyline in a rather hap-hazard way.
It also seems to indicate a certain haste (while this is pure speculation, I don’t expect Jon to be resurrected until well into The Winds of Winter rather than early on), and this may also be evidenced by the streamlining of the Bolton storyline by killing off Roose, Walda and their child. Granted, I’ve speculated that Roose may be dead in the books by the time that Ramsay writes the “Pink Letter”, so it is probably not too early as such. However, I am concerned that it is also a way to up the Ramsay screentime even further, as it appears the writers have decided that we need a central villain that gets plenty of exposure.
King’s Landing centres around the Lannister family dynamics. Tommen has prevented Cersei from attending Myrcella’s funeral out of fear for her safety and he has avoided speaking to her because he feels ashamed for not protecting her. At the same time, he apparently holds no illusions about what Cersei is capable of as he assumed that she had Trystane killed. Jaime is the one who tries to protest, but he too seems to believe it is very plausible. And even though Tommen knows this about Cersei, he goes to her and asks for her help to be a strong ruler. I find it hard to reconcile these two statements of Tommen’s, but clearly the writers wanted a tearful scene between mother and son. King’s Landing also contains a confrontation between the High Sparrow and Jaime, which does include some rather Jaime-like lines. I am starting to worry about these lectures from the High Sparrow, however, and I hope they won’t become one of those elements that they insist on revisiting too many times.
Another such example would be Tyrion being funny (or rather, attempting to have fun with his more dour companions), which appears to be a necessary ingredient for a scene in Meereen. I am finding myself increasingly bored with Dinklage’s performance and even when he goes to see the dragons and delivers a moving speech about how he wanted a dragon as a child, there’s just something lacking from how he comes across. The dragons themselves are, of course, as magnificent as ever and I do continue to be awed by the production side of the show.
The final storyline worth a more detailed mentioned (Aryas simply consists of a follow-up to last week’s scene and these two could easily have been reduced to one) is the Iron Isles. Patrick Malahide’s Balon Greyjoy is a sour, unpleasant man, just the way he should be, but unfortunately the introduction of his brother Euron leaves something to be desired. It is a wonderfully staged scene, a meeting amidst a storm on one of the precarious rope bridges of Pyke, but the first impressions of Pilou Asbæk’s Euron were a touch underwhelming, and while they used lines from the novels their context has been changed considerably. The Iron Isles segment concludes with Balon’s burial and Asha learning she cannot simply claim the Salt Throne (what was wrong with the Seastone Chair?) but that a Kingsmoot is needed.
Overall, the episode holds together pretty well as an episode, but some elements feel rushed and happen because of forced character motivations. If this season keeps speeding along in the same fashion as the first two episodes, HBO will clearly have to settle for the amount of episodes the showrunners want to give them, as they seem determined to wrap matters up as quickly as possible.
Inspired by the Books
Possible Developments in Future Books