Tales From Westeros – Second Sons
Hello minions…we’re getting dangerously close to the end of the third season of Game of Thrones and I think it’s safe to say that with a few glaringly obvious exceptions, it’s becoming increasingly difficult to judge each character as 100% good or evil. In fact, one of the best examples is right in the opening scene of this episode. Last week our beloved Arya Stark, fast becoming a fierce little animal herself, was captured by the Hound during her escape from the Brotherhood Without Banners. Now we watch as she wakes up on the hard ground, finds a nice sizeable rock, and prepares to smash his ugly (and still peacefully slumbering) face in. She hesitates—and in that moment, Sandor proves that he’s not sleeping by goading her to just DO it already. She loses her nerve. Arya and the Hound are not exactly similar characters but they do have one thing in common—in this dog-eat-dog world (heh), they’re not afraid to subscribe to the survivalist “kill or be killed” philosophy. The Hound drops another bomb too—he’s bringing Arya to the Twins instead of Riverrun, because that’s where her family is now gathering for the wedding. As they embark on this new journey (poor Arya basically lives on the road), the Hound is rather kind to her and tries to justify his previous actions. He tells Arya he saved her sister Sansa from being raped horrifically. Quite frankly, like a lot of characters in the series (as well as the SS, it may be noted) are just following orders. It’s difficult to hate him as he acts sort of fatherly to a young girl that just lost her father.
In a refreshing change of pattern, this week we not only had more than one Daenarys Targaryen appearance, but it was even early on in the episode! Dany is getting her life together re: fighting Yunkai/obliterating slavery and decides to negotiate with a mercenary group called the Second Sons. They’re a bunch of brutes that look like they’ve done too many rounds at Burning Man without the aid of drugs that make you nice, and it doesn’t get any better when they open their crusty mouths. Dany is using her Mother of Dragon Fear/Sex Mojo (bottle it up, I’ll buy it) to intimidate them into working for her. A lot of it involves heavily flirting and doling out disgusting comments. (It’s times like these when I sympathize with the feminist opponents of the show.)
While a Targaryen negotiates, her family seat awaits the blood of a king—specifically that of King Robert’s disposable bastard son Gendry. On Dragonstone, Stannis asks Melisandre, “What do you mean to do with him?” IT’S FAIRLY OBVIOUS. Sacrifice, Stannis. What else is blood good for? Sex magick sacrifice, that’s what. Meanwhile, King Stannis himself heads down to the dungeons to visit with his old friend Ser Davos. Davos is learning to read. It’s cute. It’s not so cute when Stannis traps Davos into giving him solid advice again and eventually decides to eschew it. Davos is the moral backbone and voice of logic of the current House Baratheon loyalists, and Stannis knows this—he knows what Davos will tell him when he asks about Gendry, and in his heart he knows what he should do. However, it’s a peculiar quirk of Stannis’ that, when his interests are involved, his normally ironclad morals get a bit murky. “What’s a bastard boy against a kingdom?” he asks before freeing Davos, meaning “this is something bad I have to do for the greater good.” Davos knows that it just doesn’t work that way.
Back in the sand and sun of Yunkai, the Second Sons crassly discuss their plans over a hot cup of near-naked wench. They’re plotting an ambitious sneak attack on Dany and pass coins to see who the lucky winner is. Lanky, longhaired, former CK1 model Daario Naharis (the least brutish option from the aforementioned meet cute) chooses the Braavosi coin—Valar Morghulis—and is the one that must try and assassinate her. Awesome.
If you have ever thought you’ve suffered from an awkward life situation, I’d bet 1,000 gold dragons Tyrion Lannister has got you beat in terms of severity. Not only is he being forced to marry Sansa Stark, he is: weirded out by how young she is yet still attracted to her, acutely aware of how disgusting he must seem to her, about to lose his lover and Sansa’s handmaiden Shae (and if he doesn’t lose her, his life will certainly be H E L L)… etc, etc, etc. There’s a lot going on here. It’s bittersweet to see Tyrion being so gentle and sensitive toward his betrothed. He is trying his best to do the right thing (within the confines of the wrong thing, natch), only to be looked at like a hideous troll by this symbol of all he can’t have in life. As she prepares for their wedding, Tyrion tries to get Sansa to relax and promises to never hurt her. He may not be Loras Tyrell, but at least he’ll be able to get it up for her.
Over in the Great Sept of Baelor, Cersei and Margaery busy themselves as they wait for the ceremony by linking arms like they’re best friends. Cersei obviously can’t keep up this charade for long, else she would explode into a million flames and descend directly to Hades, so she chooses their close proximity to relay the tale of the Rains of Castamere. It’s a tragic story of a family destroyed by the Lannisters (and a song! That the National covers!!!). Subtle, Cersei. SUBTLE. She finishes off the warning-disguised-as-love-fest by letting Margaery know if she “ever calls her Sister again, I’ll have you strangled in your sleep.”
And in this fashion we march towards Sansa and Tyrion’s wedding. In a cruel twist of fate, Joffrey gives her away and makes sure she remembers that her own father is too dead to do it. The actual ceremony involves the Westerosi tradition of cloaking a new bride in the colors of her husband’s house. Joffrey (yet again) is a total prick and removes a stepstool so that Tyrion can’t reach Sansa and they are forced to perform an awkward dance highlighting everything that is wrong with the situation amongst the giggles of the crowd.
It seems like Gendry is about to have a better time with Melisandre, but appearances can be WAY deceiving. They’re in some sort of Dragonstone bachelor suite, sippin’ wine, feelin’ good. The mood is sensual yet ominous—is there something in the wine? Is the fire too bright? We know that the Red Lady is up to something, but Gendry doesn’t (even though he really should). Soon there is a straight up seduction, with Melisandre taking the reins in a scene I’m pretty sure was ripped off from the late, great ‘90s show Silk Stalkings. I’m unsure if it was a) to get the sex magick flowing, b) to get Gendry’s actual King’s BLOOD flowing, or c) completely gratuitous, but she gets him going and cruelly stops mid-coitus to drop a trio of LEECHES on him. I’m gonna go out on a limb here and say that is one of the top ten worst things to do at that particular time. The biggest surprise though is that Gendry is still alive—the leeches are ritualistically thrown into the fire instead. One for each usurper: Robb Stark, Balon Greyjoy, Joffrey Baratheon.
Meanwhile, back to The Most Awkward Wedding of All Time. Tyrion is getting blind drunk (may the Seven bless Peter Dinklage’s acting skills), as can be expected, and Tywin reminds that he still has to perform his duty, i.e. knock up the Key to the North™. The rest of the Lannisters (save for Jaime) are once again being huge douchebags: Cersei is mean to poor Loras, and Joffrey threatens to rape Sansa on her wedding night. Nice. So on a sliding scale of douchebaggery, Joffrey wins. Then there is the bedding ceremony, that barbaric institution celebrating the first night of newly wedded bliss. In the bedroom, there is palpable tension between the two; Sansa painfully begins to undress and Tyrion, though he tries to suppress it, does indeed lust after her. He can’t go through with it though, not like this, and he tells her “I won’t share your bed, not if you don’t want me to.” That’s very honorable, and it’s unlikely many other Westerosi men would have been as sensitive. Yet Sansa’s reply is cutting in its deeply felt pain and innocence: “What if I never want you to?” Tyrion looks wounded straight to his core. Later, we (and Shae) learn that he is true to his word.
The plot thickens in Yunkai as Missandei aids Dany in taking a late-night bath. Sidenote: can no one bathe themselves on this show? In walks Daario, violent and clearly miscast since Eugene Hutz of Gogol Bordello would have been perfect. Just as we fear an attack upon our beloved Khaleesi, Daario releases a sack full of HEADS onto the ground. The heads of his captains that wanted him to kill Dany. So, uh, I guess he chose a side. Then he pledges his military and sexual prowess alike to our dear Mother of Dragons (who rises from her bath like Aphrodite from the ocean). Victory. Maybe?
The episode closes with Sam and Gilly having some conversational difficulties. Sam is an interesting character because he is so nice and blundering and innocuous that you can’t help but like him (or feel sorry for him), but he nearly always goes and says something so annoying you wish he would just go away. Gilly even went so far as to suggest they share a sleeping fur—are you dense, Tarly?! This. Is. Your. Chance. Yet he decides to talk about naming traditions instead. The wildlings don’t name their babies until they’re two years old. It’s tough being a wildling, and it is said naming them before they make it through the tender first years is bad luck. So the mood is ruined, and even further so by the sudden appearance of a friggin’ White Walker. Seriously? So terrifying. The White Walker attacks and Sam tries to deflect it with his sword—but it is splintered into thousands of pieces by the possibly Old Magic of this Other. In a moment of desperation, he remembers the blade he found a few episodes back and uses it—and it works. Obviously this means something, we just don’t know what yet.
This is the episode where everything falls into place. It feels suspenseful yet perfect, like the cogs are moving smoothly toward something that will blow our minds. Not only that, but it is getting a little tough to pick a side. The Brotherhood Without Banners have a point: everyone is kind of a jerk, and all the sides suck. On that note, until next time…
All images and characters depicted are copyright of their respective owners.