Game of Thrones Review/Recap: “Prince Of Winterfell” Season 2 Episode 8 (Episode 18)
The primary storylines that have been building up through-out this season have come to a breaking point in ‘Prince of Winterfell’ which should make for a very exciting final two episodes. Daenerys decides to go the mystical House of Undying to rescue her dragons against the advice of Jorah, Tyrion prepares for the imminent invasion on King’s Landing by Stannis Baratheon, under Robb Stark’s orders the bastard son of Lord Bolton is to retake Winterfell from Theon Greyjoy and Jon Snow’s fate will be determined by Mance Rayder, the King Beyond the Wall. This was a bit of an underwhelming episode (on first viewing) because we are left waiting for a resolution to these plots points after months of set up and characters are still explaining their back story at this point in the season.
That being said, the exposition served to inform the characters and make us invested in their plight. Talisa’s story about her brother shows exactly why Robb is falling in love and is jeopardizing his alliance with House Frey for a young nurse. Stannis’ story about holding Storm’s End under siege showed us his conviction and made us understand why he wants to appoint Ser Davos, the Onion Knight, to be his Hand of the King. Also, being passed over for the appointment to Storm’s End gives further insight that his motivation to fight for the Iron Throne is more than just his belief that he’s the rightful king. Stannis feels he has been wronged time and again; now he’s seeking justice and retribution.
Tyrion’s back story of being in charge of the sewers of Casterly Rock explains why his position as Hand of the King is more than he ever could have dreamt possible. Tyrion lives and breathes playing the game that he clearly excels at; certainly better than the previous Hands and equipped to play it unlike his older twin siblings Cersei and Jamie. I could only imagine if Ned Stark was in Tyrion’s position, with a loved one captured by Cersei. Ned would have immediately confessed to Cersei that she had the wrong captive and spared the prisoner from any further harm (will we ever get to meet Jon Snow’s mother?) because it’s the honorable thing to do.
As damaged and twisted as Cersei has become, the writers have given us enough insight to show where she is coming from. Her mother died giving birth to Tyrion. In her eyes, a hideous little grotesque killed her mother. Tyrion continues to tear apart her family, the only thing she truly loves, by shipping away Myrcella to Dorne and sending Joffrey to the battlefield (oh yes Joffrey, nothing would please me more than a Red Smile on your face!). Cersei herself only has power as Queen Regent through her son, King Joffrey and as daughter of Lord Tywin Lannister, the richest man in Westeros. She is incredibly resentful of living in a patriarchal society and ridicules Tyrion for letting his “little worm” do half his thinking. Although Shae was not captured, Tyrion’s love for her, if you can call it that, is a liability that can be exploited and might lead to his downfall.
Cersei tells Tyrion that Varys is dangerous because he has no cock, or at least that’s what he wants us to believe. Varys is a trained mummer or actor in his youth so perhaps his persona as an eunuch with an effeminate voice is a ploy to deflect his true power and potential threat? It’s a possibility because we already know he’s taken on the identity of a jailer so he could visit Ned Stark in the dungeon. This episode, when Tyrion asks Varys point-blank what he truly wants, he deftly avoids answering and keeps his agenda a mystery. Or did he indirectly drop a big clue to Tyrion? In Season One, when Arya got lost beneath the castle, she overheard two dark shadowy figures scheming. If you rewind that scene, it is clearly Varys and Illyrio Mopatis, the fat man who arranged Dany’s marriage to Khal Drogo. If they are working together, what doesn’t make sense is why Varys would send assassins to kill Dany as ordered by King Robert. However, Varys did send a message to his spy Jorah advising him to come home because his crime as a slaver was absolved, which he knew Jorah would not believe for a second. Instead, maybe Varys’ message was a clever way to secretly advise Jorah that Dany was in great danger if he leaves her unprotected? Whatever is Varys actual goal, he is playing all sides and his warning of Dany and her dragons that might one day conquer Westeros is not to be dismissed.
The aftermath of two big cliffhangers from last episode, the identity of the burned bodies and the fate of Jamie Lannister, are revealed. Catelyn sacrificed Robb’s trust and put her faith in the Lannisters (and Brienne). With Stannis about to invade King Landing, Tyrion might not be in a position to honor the agreement to return Sansa, he certainly can’t return Arya. Catelyn is rolling the dice on this and the odds are not in her favor. She’s making emotional decisions as a mother but not strategic ones in the greater game. Poor Robb, his Mother has betrayed him and his best friend Theon takes Winterfell! I would have loved if we got to see the reaction of Catelyn believing Bran and Rickon were dead, before the audience learns the truth. As many viewers correctly guessed, the bodies belonged to the farm boys. Theon’s fear of humiliation and desire to prove his worth makes him blind to making the right decisions, even when Yara is rationally explaining everything to him. Beneath her stern, dour demeanor Yara does care for her younger brother although she tries to cover it up with off-hand quips like “Don’t die so far from the sea.” Even before Theon set sail from Pyke, Yara paid him a visit on the docks but explained she was just there to scope out the harbor, which she should already know like the back of her hand having lived there her entire life. In the books, Yara (known as Asha) is one of my favorite female characters even more than Dany because she has so much spunk and sass that’s not completely coming across in her portrayal in the television series. As for Theon, he appears conflicted, possibly regret in murdering the two children that he now wishes to bury. He wants to give a small bag of gold to the farmer which Dagmar interprets it as hush money but it could be a sign of remorse.
The characterization and many individual scenes in this episode are strong. What’s missing is that we are still waiting for something big to happen especially since Jamie Lannister, Bran and Rickon are revealed to be alive. The writers do pay service to Jon and Daenerys by giving them brief scenes but as a viewer it just feels like they are stretching out their story until the season finale. On my second viewing, the complexity of character’s actions and strength of the dialogue, especially the scene with Cersei and Tyrion become more apparent and make this a solid episode. Now that the stage is set and pieces moved into position, I’m ready for some resolution in the final episodes of the season.
Dialogue To Die For
• Yara: “Go on then, warn me.”
• Tywin: “He doesn’t know enough to be afraid.”
• Tyrion: “I will hurt you for this. A day will come when you think you’re safe and happy and your joy will turn to ashes in your mouth. And you’ll know the debt is paid.”
• Tyrion: “Where are the gods of tits and wine?”
• Dagmar: “If you want to silence a man, silence him.”
• Cersei: “Do you know why Varys is so dangerous … it’s because he doesn’t have a cock.”