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Game of Thrones 2×01 Rewatch: The North is Also Here

It’s Season 2! Welcome back to The Wars to Come, our Game of Thrones rewatch that seeks to examine how Benioff and Weiss (D&D)’s show declined into…well…

Last week we discussed Season 1 in full and were surprised how many issues, even if minor in scale, we had. This week, Julia, Kylie, Jana, and Bo. dive face-first into the second season with “The North Remembers”. But first, here’s what happened for anyone who missed it.

Episode Recap

We’re back in the action in no time at all!

At Dragonstone, we’re introduced to many new faces as the red priestess Melisandre proclaims King Stannis Baratheon to be the “warrior of light” for the “Lord of Light.” He has a sword that he pulls from fire! The maester at Dragonstone expresses his concerns about this to Davos, since the ceremonial fire came from burning statues of The Seven, though Davos says they have to follow their king.

Inside, Stannis certainly takes quick action to secure his claim to the throne, mailing a letter to all the Lords and Ladies of Westeros that explains how Joffrey is the product of incest between Cersei and Jaime Lannister, not King Robert’s son. However, we also learn that Stannis does not wish to ally with his younger brother Renly, nor with Robb Stark, who he views as having stolen half his kingdom. We’re not entirely sure what his strategy is though, since the maester interrupts the planning session to try and poison Melisandre. The red priestess swallows the poisoned wine whole, as does the maester, yet she remains standing while he dies on the spot.

Over in King’s Landing, Joffrey shows off his delicate governance style with a bloodbath of a name-day tournament. Sansa cleverly spares a drunk knight from being drowned with wine, though it’s clear Joffrey’s foul temperament has created quite the horrible situation. Perhaps some relief arrives, however, in the form of Tyrion. The youngest Lannister immediately establishes himself as the acting Hand to the Small Council, getting there just shortly after their decision to close the gates to the peasants. Cersei is furious, but Tyrion promises he’s only there to advise the king. Well, advise and sneak around with his still-employed sex worker Shae, who he brought to King’s Landing to defy his dad.

Cersei has her own problems to sort out, meanwhile. Arya is still missing, and thanks to Stannis’s letter, even people like Littlefinger are willing to hint at Joffrey’s illegitimacy to her face. Joffrey is included as one of these people, though Cersei tells him it’s just a lie to weaken his claim. Yet that gets the young king thinking about his claim and any potential challengers. He orders the murder of all of Robert’s bastards, one of whom is just a baby in Littlefinger’s brothel where Ros is now the madam. There is one bastard that was lucky enough to get away, however, and that’s Gendry, who we see riding on the back of a wagon on his way to The Wall, right next to the missing Arya Stark.

Robb Stark, meanwhile, frightens Jaime with his wolf Grey Wind after learning about the twincest and piecing together that it was why Bran was pushed from the tower. As King in the North, he also has his own matters to deal with. He tells Ser Alton Lannister his peace terms: that hostages are exchanged, bones of the dead are returned, and the North becomes recognized as a free and independent kingdom. Even he knows this has little chance of being accepted, so when Theon proposes making an alliance with his father, Balon Greyjoy, Robb considers it. Cat is very much against this idea, though asks if she can be sent home since she misses her children. However Robb has another mission for her: go to Renly Baratheon’s camp and treat with him.

Back in Winterfell, Bran is keeping things together by serving as acting Lord, which means listening to his subjects and their requests along with the help of Maester Luwin. There’s a red comet in the sky that distracts him, once he’s able to get out, which Osha tells him signifies the return of dragons.

She’s right: Dany’s three baby dragons appear hungry, yet won’t take the meat she offers, as she and her few Dothraki followers trudge through the Red Waste. Once her horse dies, she realizes she has to try something, so she sends three riders in three directions, telling them to look for anything—cities living or dead—that could be of help in their current situation.

Finally, North of the Wall, Jon and the brothers of the Night’s Watch arrive at the wildling Craster’s keep, where they discover that the man marries his daughters, who give him more daughters to marry in turn. Jon wonders where the sons go. He heads in the house, where Craster tells the Night’s Watch that Mance Rayder, the King beyond The Wall, has united the wildlings and they’re preparing to march south. Yet Craster also bristles at Jon when he speaks out of turn, and tells Commander Mormont that one wrong look and they’ll all be thrown out. Mormont yells at Jon afterwards, saying he can’t lead unless he can first learn to follow.

Will Jon snap into shape? Will Tyrion be able to rein in Joffrey’s reign of terror? Will the baby dragons eat? Find out next week with us, in The Wars to Come.

Initial, quick reaction

Kylie: This was actually an odd episode for me. I’ve ranked the season so many times in my brain that the general “it gets worse over time” thing really colored my expectations. I knew it’d be probably mostly fine, but not as good as the season we just finished—you know, the season that I was less thrilled with than I assumed. Then, there were a good number of individual moments that irritated me in this episode, and I’d say that irritation was more acute than it had been during most of the things I complained about in Season 1.

And yet, I sort of came away feeling like this was a decently strong episode. I thought the pacing was fantastic. That could be simply juxtaposed to the Season 7 scenes I brushed up on for my upcoming retrospective with Julia, but I was actually surprised when I realized the episode was about to end in a good way. Then, as an opener, I thought this episode was good at re-establishing where our characters were without feeling like things were too recappy or random (my thoughts are going to the Season 6 opener).

Maybe it’s just because 10 episodes to cover A Clash of Kings is kind of rushed anyway, and as the season goes on those aggravations I have will fester? But I may have actually enjoyed a good amount of this.

Jana: No, I’m right with you on that and I haven’t touched season 7 with a ten foot pole for about a year now. This episode was rather enjoyable. It worked a bit like a parabola, started high, lagged a bit in the middle, ended strongly. A few moments made me go “WTF”, but mostly because I was actually disturbed by how much I was enjoying this episode, especially the beginning.

Bo: I agree. It was a strong table-setter and outside of two really glaring lowlights, I had no issues here. I thought this episode continued what season 1 started. I wish season 1’s premiere worked as well as season 2’s did. Who would have ever expected this show to devolve into what it eventually becomes? Rewatching almost has me in denial of the episodes to come.

Julia: I really enjoyed the beginning half; if the whole show were like that it would be deserving of its reputation. But then it felt like it went downhill in quality of everything very quickly. In fact, I’m not sure I agree with Jana that it went up towards the end very much. The last scenes were Ros being the new Littlefinger (?) and then some asshats killing babies, so not a parabola for me, just a downward slope. No calculus required.

Kylie: We need to fix ourselves with those meters so we can track our enjoyment over time. Like they do at presidential debates:

Highlights/lowlights

Bo: My highlight is Jack Gleeson. He’s so perfectly petulant in every scene. Joffrey is such a horrific little piece of crap but I have so much fun watching him because of Gleeson. Every little expression during the opening “tourney” made me feel guiltily giddy. He’s also doing a really great job with Joffrey’s growing confidence in his power. Joffrey ultimately has to be dealt with because his cruelty becomes unrestrainable, and we can see that sprouting here.

It’s really no wonder why D&D have never stopped trying to replace him.

My lowlight is hard to pick, which kind of sucks when there are two obvious lowlights; the Tyrion/Shae scene and unbelievably pointless tour of Littlefinger’s brothel. I’m going with the Tyrion/Shae scene. My goodness the dialogue was bad. Like, season 7 Jaime and Bronn bad.

Jana: Those are my high- and lowlights as well, but for slightly different reasons? Like, Jack Gleeson is great, yes, but what delights me the most during the not!tourney scene is Sansa. That’s the actual Sansa right there. And the actual book scene, for the most part. True, it’s not a tourney, but close enough, and all the essentials are present, and it is obvious what Sansa is doing in that scene and how we’re supposed to be on her side. Okay, Tyrion helps a bit, but still. Also, Tommen and Myrcella! Let’s enjoy them while they’re still appropriately aged, adorable, and not being abused.

Shae is probably just going to be the walking lowlight until Talisa shows up. Her character and presence alone are too jarring, even this early on. And how exactly did Tyrion think to keep her secret in the tower of the hand? Is she supposed to be his servant or something? His book plan to keep her in a secret mansion was already pretty dumb, but to smuggle her into the castle like this? What?

My other lowlight would probably be the Bran scene. That’s where the exposition got clunky enough for me to care, and they’re doing a bad job at connecting Bran to the plot at large.

Julia: That’s too bad Jana, because I really enjoyed the Bran scenes. I think it created a nice atmosphere and I didn’t find the exposition awkward at all. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ I guess. On the other hand, I second Sansa bein’ Sansa as a highlight. The only thing that poisons that chalice is that we won’t see Dontos again in any meaningful way until the fucking fourth season. So I guess she’s being nice, but this is the start of her having no agency at all.

Speaking of major female pov characters with no agency: Cat. Omg, I was so annoyed. Doesn’t dumb Cat know that politics is complicated and Robb needs to think of his bannermen and his kingdom and junk! Wars are hard, they make her head hurt. She just wants to go home and hug her babies! She’s super proud of Robb, though. And good thing he’s here to tell her what her duty is.

Kylie: We can’t all pick Sansa as the highlight, right? It’s just so nice. Where did she come from? Where did she go? I’ll second Bo’s Jack Gleeson shout-out too though, since he really set the stakes so well, even if it neutralizes Cersei a bit. Though speaking of Cersei, I greatly enjoyed the scene where Tyrion first shows up. They’re both perfect in it, even if D&D end up being super convinced by both of them, somehow.

I’ll be boring and agree about sidelined Cat as a lowlight; that was 100% the scene that had me yelling at my screen the most.

Jana: Okay, I have another highlight. The letter writing scene on Dragonstone. Just, the pedantry of it. The delivery. I’m not a Stan-Stan by any stretch of the word, but god damn that was glorious.

Bo: And we can get into this where it belongs, but the letter scene was really good exposition.

Quality of writing

Julia: In that old dude’s day, the stories they told were three times as long winded! Why, my long windedness isn’t fit to hold my grandpappy’s thumbs in my armpit as I tell this tale!

I don’t know, I just enjoyed it. It’s weird to see D&D be boring on purpose. But, on the other hand, it was about the only original thing of theirs I liked. Because in the other corner there is Shae and her super-power of smelling ejaculate from a long distance. And also Littlefinger decides it’s a good idea to tell Cersei he knows about the twincest because… of all the leverage he has over her? If she doesn’t do what he wants, he’ll… tell everyone? Like, was he just taunting her for kicks? “I have all the secret information! For example, the thing that Stannis just told literally everyone. Knowledge is power, yo!”

Kylie: The Northern Lord amused me. It was something I could see taking place in the books, in a good way, you know? Highlighting the sort of inherent absurdity of Bran being the one taking all these requests anyway.

I think in general, this was a well-written episode, though where the dialogue was clunky, it was really clunky. Shae gushing about the scent of cum comes to mind. Of course, given the character she’s based on, I’m having trouble figuring out if this is worse or just a different bad.

There are choices made with Stannis’s adaptation, there’s no question. But I do think the writing was actually a decent balance of subtle and exposition to take us to those scenes. Like, imagine meeting a new king in the current seasons and it being this understated.

Oh, D&D also seeded something! Where do Craster’s sons go? I’m not sure why it needed to be hammered like this, but when was the last time we’ve seen them lay the groundwork?

Jana: Hey, look, Jon said something somewhat smart for once, okay? That’s basically grounds for an international celebration. Sure, he blows it immediately by being really, really stupid around Craster, but it was something!

Bran holding court and that old guy wafting on about the good old days was fine. In general, everything in this episode based on book events was okay to really well-written… And then in comes Shae in all her glory, and Cat with no idea of politics and wars, silly woman that she is.

Bo: I’ll side with Julia’s point in her quick reaction, where the writing started off rather strongly and then started tumbling down a cliff. “You can smell cum from the balcony?” is one of the worst lines on this entire show. And then they added an entire conversation around it. Then Cersei/Littlefinger happened and I was reminded of the worst Game of Thrones can be. Most scenes started losing their subtlety.

You do you, girl.

What did we think of the Maester Cressen subplot?

Julia: Part of me was happy to see the old guy, but it was not well done and I mostly ended up feeling embarrassed for him. First he stands up for the gods (because maesters are religious figures in this continuity?) but then ends up slinking off, then his awkward non-sequitur toast.

Also, was that poison boner activated?

Jana: It was… Weird. Very disjointed and stiff. There’s a reason that scene was used as a cold open in the books, is the thing. I think I remember listening to a comment track where D&D said that’s what they were going to do originally, but they were afraid people would get bored because they had no reason to care about these characters.

Julia: I must say, I find that quite a cowardly decision. I guess they have no faith in their viewers at all. But we already knew that. Just like we knew they find Stannis boring altogether.

Bo: I’m more forgiving, I guess. Maybe just because of how Melisandre’s gem glowed after Cressen died. It was a nice touch. The timing of the toast was really absurd, though. I feel like everyone in the room should have known what he was doing. Maybe they did. Perhaps if they had him propose the toast after the meeting ended or something, as a sort of apology.

Overall I have no real problem with it, though.

Kylie: I’m more in Bo’s camp, but I have to imagine Unsullied had a hard time with it. There’s not a ton to latch onto, and Jana’s right that it was disjointed. Honestly, the issue is that they violated adaptational maxim #2: “I feel too, that we should not attempt to correct seeming faults of construction. I have learned to avoid trying to improve success.”

Do not assume to know what the audience engages with, and that what you find to be a fault is a universal one. But this is also their favorite maxim to violate, isn’t it?

Our 8th grade book report (on themes)

Kylie: This is the only section where I feel bringing this up is appropriate, but before we dive into the theme discussion proper, can we talk about how odd the name of this episode was? There’s so many better moments I can think of where “The North Remembers” would fit. Was it just because of Robb’s peace terms (a natural repercussion of his closer in 1×10)? Was it Bran reminding the old Northern Lord who wanted masons of his commitments to Robb? Isn’t this phrase about the Red Wedding since it came from Manderly to Davos about that?

Jana: No, Kylie, it’s the North’s new kingdom words. Like House words, but for everyone. Their sigil is the wind vane. At least until Jonny Snow knelt it all away.

Bo: Maybe we’re supposed to admire the North for remembering naming Robb king? I mean, a whole year passed since the season 1 finale. That’s a long time for the North to stay loyal on Game of Thrones. They didn’t give Jon that much when season 7 started.

Julia: Whatever guys, I’m going to take this seriously. This episode is about consolidating power. Robb decides to do so by trying for an alliance with Renly, Stannis takes to Twitter to speak directly to the people, Joff kills children he believes to be his close kin, and Dany sends her closest buddies on a road trip. All to consolidate their positions.

Bo: Poor Stannis. Dude needs to hook up with the little birds running the Twitter accounts for Varys and Aemon.

Kylie: Sansa doubles down on her “armor of courtesy” too. It’s not exactly consolidating power, but it’s ensuring her position will be as stable as possible. Tyrion can fit in here as well, I’d say, immediately establishing himself as Hand and neutralizing Cersei (somewhat). Well done, Julia! Full marks for you.

Jana: Yeah, consolidating power and power dynamics in general seem to be the theme here. Bran holds court to showcase how the whole feudal system has put a… uhm… 10 year old? Is he supposed to be 10? A prepubescent boy in charge, and all that entails. And the thing is, we even know that that’s what they were actually going for, because they had an entire original scene with people discussing power. That means they did a theme on purpose. Oh boy.

(And then Shae and her existence tramples all over that because of course she does, good job everyone.)

Bo: Guessing the intended theme should be easier moving forward, just because they’ll go out of their way to announce it like they did with the Cersei/Littlefinger scene. I guess that’s one benefit of those types of scenes.

Joffrey also fits in by establishing his power over Sansa (while she does the same, how she can), and the throne room scene with Carol has him establish his power over her. Craster lords his power over the Night’s Watch. And it’s especially interesting since all the power established in these relationships eventually falls apart.

Julia: Oooohhh… nice point.

Cracks in the plaster (the bullshit to come)

Jana: Hi, hello, yes, my name is Catelyn Stark, all I want is my babies, and I will rave and rant about that and have literally no agency in what I’m doing or where I’m going, thank you very much.

Bo: The sidelining of Cat was palpable in an episode featuring so much of Robb. Robb’s war was told through Cat’s eyes and to have her absent for so much of it was bad enough.

The Tyrion/Shae scene was a gigantic crack in the plaster, as most Tyrion/Shae scenes tend to be. However, I think the biggest crack in the plaster was the Cersei/Littlefinger scene. It works fine without the context of what’s to come, but it was exhibit A of what will soon swallow Game of Thrones whole: pointless nonversations where two characters spout pseudo-philosophical nonsense at each other. They’re so blunt and unsubtle and ultimately meaningless.

Jana: I’m not actually that annoyed with the power is power scene. Like, it was stupid for Littlefinger to say that he knows about the incest and stupid of Cersei to let him live after that. No argument there. But the scene still had kind of a point, and I find scenes in which Littlefinger is clearly the loser a lot better than the average nonversations they have about politics, or the numerous sequels to spy vs. spy.

Julia: Why is it stupid of Cersei to let him live? Stannis just told literally everyone. She’s dumb for not realizing that those guards are loyal to her father and not to her. And he’s dumb for thinking he had any leverage. They’re both just really dumb and this is a dumb scene.

Also dumb, the doubling down on LF’s Establishment, the place where sex was apparently invented, as a major location for this show. And just people fucking in the foreground.

Also, why would they murder a baby in public? Did Slynt think that would make him super popular with the brothel-going masses?

Jana: Stannis told, yes, but the official council line, even before they had a strategy meeting about it, should have been to deny it all. I mean, of course this could just have been read by everyone around as Littlefinger making a really bad joke at the queen, and her overreacting to that. But at least what I got as subtext here (if we assume that’s a thing on this show) was Littlefinger directly telling her he knows about it all, has receipts, and is not above threatening her with it, which makes it even dumber to let him walk away.

Of course, that’s probably being way more charitable than the scene deserves. Am I honeypotting? Reverse honeypotting? I can’t even tell right now.

Kylie: I’m just glad Ros gave permission for the sex worker that she had simulated intercourse with to work the night after even more simulated intercourse. How much practice do people that work there need?

No, no, I’m trying to look at other cracks in the plaster and there’s just this gaping fucking hole in the wall that is Cat’s writing. We can chat about it in adaptation, but a wise man once said, “Sometimes if it walks like a duck and it quacks like a duck, it’s two men with no imagination whatsoever demonizing female agency.”

Girl crazy Sam was back! He hasn’t seen a girl in six months!

Bo: Damn it, I almost shouted incoherently when Sam said that. Why do they reduce Sam to this? Where in the hell did they get this reading of him? It infuriates me. They can’t put his character on screen without him mentioning girls.

Jana: But how else would the audience know that Sam is not gay?! I mean, he likes books better than swords! Better mention his heterosexuality at every chance you can possibly imagine or people might turn his and Jon’s relationship gay, like they did with the hobbits. One of which was named Sam, the other had Jon’s luscious hair. Oh god, this started as a joke, but maybe I’m onto something.

Julia: And can we talk about what a catty jerk Ros was being for some reason. Calling another sex worker a “dumb slut” is so empowering.

Kylie: And like, that was the sex worker she went through orientation with! Come on girl, where’s your sense of cohort pride?

Remember adaptation?

Julia: This episode was doing SO well. Like, so well I was thinking “wow, this is really good. Maybe I’m wrong about season 2.” They nailed Davos’s introduction, even if the scene was totally in the wrong place, (Why didn’t they open with that?) the stuff in Winterfell was perfect, (a wolf dream!), and they actual used the comet to create cohesion. (A motif!) Then fucking Shae showed up and it was all downhill. After that there’s the stupid “power is power” thing, and the brothel tour. And hysterical mom Cat and Cousin Richie. I guess D&D got bored copying out of aCoK?

Also, I guess it’s common in Weisseroff to randomly propose toasts in the middle of other business, and Prince Bashir was just carrying on that proud tradition in season 5?

Kylie: Now I’m picturing Indira Varma dumping wine on the floor, thanks.

Bo: So what you’re telling me is that D&D totally seeded Porne in that moment!

Kylie: I…

Anyway, I had the same thought about this episode too, Julia. There were minor things like us being reminded how pretty Jon was every five seconds, but it started off so strongly, with Tyrion kind of being a delight, if I’m totally honest. He was funny and engaging—sue me!

The nose-dive was not elegant though. Honestly, I get that D&D prefer male rulers and can only write scenes where one person is smart, but would it have killed them to at least have Cat suggest that she treat with Renly?

Jana: Thank goodness, I was starting to feel dirty for really liking Tyrion in both the scene with Sansa and Joffrey and in the facelick scene.

Also, as much as the scene stood out like a sore thumb, the sets and casting for the Dragonstone gang is spot-on. Carice van Houten has Melisandre’s intensity down from the word go, and for never knowing what he was supposed to be doing, Stephen Dillane is pretty much perfect as Stannis.

Bo: It’s real hard not to feel bitter about Cat. I don’t want to be unfair because the episode did a good job with other aspects of adaptation. It continued everything the first season did right. But knowing what’s to come with Cat and seeing what they did to her already in this episode, I can’t help but hold a grudge.

And you know, I get the need to foreground Robb because of the differences in TV vs. novels. Does that mean Cat had to have all her agency stolen from her? Hell no. Plus, it’s the way the show steals all her moments from her that creates the fandom dialogue about how stupid and useless she is. Just like Sansa.

Carol Watch: who is Cersei this week?

Jana: You know, for the scenes with Tyrion and Littlefinger, she almost felt like Cersei to me. Maybe a liiittle more subdued and rational than that, but pretty damn close. And then the scene with Joffrey happened and reminded us all of the Carol That Was Promised. Poor Carol, even her own son disrespects her and tries to humiliate her with her late husband’s infidelity! And she tried so hard to make it work!

Bo: I was going to argue a little about the Joff scene bringing out the Carol in her, because I could imagine Cersei slapping her son in that scenario, but I guess not. He was insulting Robert, not her. Well, maybe her a little but probably not in a way that Cersei would probably care about or notice. I still feel the moment is iffy.

Taking the murders of Robert’s bastards from her was a full Carolization though.

Jana: Joffrey did say Robert fucked other women when he grew bored of Cersei, that’s a pretty direct insult to her. And generally, talking about a husband’s infidelity like that in the setting we are in always translates into insulting the wife to me, and to Cersei/Carol/whomever too, apparently. The differentiation there gets really iffy.

Julia: I agree, first two scenes, Cersei, and then Carol shows up to talk to Joffrey. Her Carol-face was heartbreaking.

Kylie: Which means I get to do the season’s first of what might be many:

Exposition Imposition: good or clunky?

Jana: Mostly good, I feel. The conversations felt natural, the information flow was pretty well done. The Bran scenes felt a little heavy-handed and left me wondering how the hell Osha knows so much about southron houses and/or dragons, but that’s pretty much the worst of it, for me.

Julia: The episode as a whole was actually quite light on exposition.

Speaking of, did the Unsullied have any clue what was going on with the Lord of Light by the end of this episode?

Kylie: They sure as hell don’t know anything about Lightbringer, I’ll say that much. That was pretty badly done.

The heaviest exposition I can think of was at Craster’s, and it felt seamless because Edd was explaining everything to the new brothers who didn’t know this place. Then Craster was explaining the situation beyond The Wall to the Night’s Watch because he had intel. And if I recall, this was a heavily altered introduction to everything as opposed to the presentation in the books. Likely because the show only focuses on about 4 Night’s Watchmen.

Julia: Omg, Edd! He was actually being Dolorous.

Bo: I thought it did a pretty great job with the scenes demanding exposition. The statue-burning and letter-writing scenes were nice ways to remind you about who Stannis was, introduce you to him, and explain his situation. They also had an excuse to remind you of everything happening around Westeros.

And the Craster scene was much the same way. Craster gets on my nerves rather quickly, but he’s supposed to. Overall the scene did a good job catching you up, explaining Mance, and seeding future plots with Gilly and the White Walkers.

How was the pacing?

Kylie: I liked it. Even the scenes I was annoyed by fit in the flow of the episode really well. And the scenes we’ve been complaining about didn’t really stop the episode in its tracks the way spy vs. spy tends to do.

Jana: I mean, Shae came close to that, I think, and also Robb’s posturing with Jaime dragged a bit, but all in all, they did burn through everything essential at a perfectly appropriate pace. Leaving out Arya for only the shot at the end with Gendry fleeing was a very smart move; I think introductory scenes with her would have also slowed the episode down a lot.

Bo: I love how committed they were to using the comet as a point of transition. Until they weren’t. But yeah, it moved along very nicely, which is always a worry with a season premiere. Catching the audience up on so many moving parts, while also needing to introduce others, can be a hell of a thing to do.

Julia: Yeah, I think the comet would have worked a little better if they had committed to it a tad bit more. What was there works but the cynic in me feels like they’re not sure why it worked, and used it more because it was a visually cool transition rather than fulfilling both a Watsonian and Doylist function. From the latter perspective, it provides cohesion to the episode as setting up future conflict. But it also places that conflict as a result of the resolution of the conflict in the previous season, which was exactly what Bran and Osha were talking about. What are the consequences of what just happened and which of those consequences are truly the most significant? Bran is talking politics; it’s about Ned’s execution, or Robb’s victories, or Joffrey’s ascension. But Osha, who’s kind of otherworldly anyway, says what we, the audience, know to be true: the most significant thing that happened was this thing in the middle of nowhere that no one’s heard of. I think it did more to “establish the real stakes of the series” than Hardhome ever did.

And they’re like 80% there, they just didn’t have the discipline to not fill their episode with extraneous shit they think their audience wants to see.

This has nothing to do with pacing, sorry. The pacing was fine.

Let’s talk about sex, baby

Jana: Look at our girl Ros! Now she’s running the place! Though I do question the decision of making That Scene™ the one they explicitly call back to. Well, and they even keep up with the tradition of telling people with unsatisfactory sex noise performance that they’re working tonight anyway.

Side note: was that the first male sex worker we saw, or is that just in my head?

Julia: I don’t remember seeing much of him.

Bo: What in the world was the point of Ros’s tour of the brothel? It had to exist for the flesh quota. I can’t imagine why else it would be there. I really dislike that scene. Just get right to the murders. We get three minutes of Ros showing off the pleasure palace but no Cat. Bullshit.

Jana: I dunno, out of all the gratuitous brothel scenes, this one was kind of my favorite. Of course it goes on for too long, of course I’d rather have more Cat, but at least there was sort of a reason to be at the brothel at all (Robert’s bastards), and it did show Ros moving up in the world. Does that matter in the grand scheme of things? Not after the actor wanted to wear more clothes, of course. But considering how she’s the closest we have to a common people POV in this show, well, I like following her career. It’s weird, I know, but if you need to fill a quota, I’m here for using Ros to do it. Also, the new hire gushing about Littlefinger’s good taste made me laugh. Yes, orientalist 70’s porn sets are the pinnacle of taste in brothel interior design.

Kylie: This just makes me depressed that I’m not watching Black Sails and a much better version of this arc with Max.

Bo: Why did you have to say that name, Kylie?

That place and time is now, here on The Fandomentals.

In memoriam… The guy Sandor killed, Robert’s bastards

Bo: As awful as it was to watch, the deaths of Robert’s bastards was really good, I think. They needed to make it brutal and hard to stomach. I think they managed that without crossing over into gratuitousness as well.

Jana: The all-out manhunt they had for the bastards was gratuitous, but more in a funny way than anything else. Like, we know the exact number of bastards, at least three of them are not in King’s Landing at all, and they’ve been kept track of enough for Jon Arryn and Ned to find them. You don’t exactly need to tear apart the entire city to find 13 kids that don’t know you’re coming, do you?

Kylie: I really think the baby didn’t need to be killed in front of an entire room. The guard was clearly conflicted about it, you’re telling me they wouldn’t have at least wanted to do it without witnesses?

Bo: I don’t have a problem with the manhunt or the way it was done because Joff ordered it and Janos is an incompetent toad. It fits what they would do. Neither of them are very smart and they’re both noteably cruel. I’d be surprised if Joff had the subtlety to tell the city watch, “maybe keep this on the down-low, guys?”

Julia: We forgot Dany’s horsie!

Jana: Oh no! How could we! Drogo’s first gift!

Kylie: That looked really good? Honestly, it was a great effect, however they pulled it off. I have to assume that horse wasn’t injured, even if as time went on they got sloppier about it.

Anyway, as usual we’ll have to cut that here. What did everyone else think about this episode? Was it a parabola? Was it as strong as some of us gave it credit for? Is power truly power? Let us know in the comments below, and we will see you next week!


Images courtesy of HBO

Kylie
Written By

Kylie is a Managing Editor at The Fandomentals on a mission to slay all the tropes. She has a penchant for complex familial dynamics and is easily pleased when authors include in-depth business details.

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