Game of Thrones: Series 2, Episode Two – “The Night Lands”

After the hectic scene-setting of The North Remembers this week’s episode of Game of Thrones is getting back to its regular pace. As the kingdom crawls ever closer to war we mainly focus on the fallout in King’s Landing after the order is given to purge all of old King Robert’s bastards, and  Theon Greyjoy’s return to his home, after years of being the hostage and ward of House Stark. Both storylines give an interesting commentary on two of the main themes of this series – family and power – and how the two intertwine with each other.

After getting a brief glimpse of her last week we get more of an insight into Arya Stark’s situation. Still on her way to The North with The Night’s Watch, hopefully with a stop off in Winterfell, she’s become a lot harder since the death of her father. Hasn’t stopped her from making friends with, and revealing her true identity to, Gendry (Joe Dempsie or Chris from the first two series of Skins), who is in a bit of trouble himself. Being almost certainly a bastard child of Robert he’s the perfect target for the City Watch patrols looking for him. Fortunately , both he and Arya escape to fight another day, but it will be interesting to see if their friendship is able to continue in the strife that will surely follow them everywhere they go.

A more interesting side of the purges can be found in Tyrion Lannister’s efforts to minimise the amount of bad PR that might come from killing babies. Notably by sending his commander of the City Watch, to The Wall and replacing him the morally questionable, but much more honest, Bronn (who has quickly become a personal favourite since his rise to fame in the last series).

Although this sly political maneuvering is highly satisfying, it’s Tyrion’s conversation with his sister near the end of the episode that is most promising. It reveals not only that it was Joffrey who gave the order for the purges (another sign that he’s no longer mummy’s little prince but a full blown mad king in his own right), but it also gives a brief insight into the siblings’ relationship with one another.

“None of your jokes will match the first one, will they?” Cersei muses, “back when you ripped my mother as you were coming out of her and she bled to death.”

There’s clearly a lot of resentment within the Lannister household that can’t be solved simply by having a lot of money. Now that they’re at loggerheads with each other these clashes are going to be a driving force in King’s Landing.

Speaking of family affairs, we finally get a look at Theon Greyjoy’s original homestead, Pyke and the Iron Islands, (I can’t help but be reminded of an out-of-season seaside resort with all the grey skies and depressed faces) and old man Balon ‘Grimmer Than Stannis’ Greyjoy, played by Patrick Malahide. Needless to say, the young lord is not as welcome as he thinks he should be.

Straight off the bat it’s clear that his usual attitude of ‘grope first, ask questions later’ is not going to work as he gets  into an embarrassing situation with his apparent sister, Yara (Gemma Whelan). Dad’s not a happy sort, either, as he chastises Theon for taking up the ways of the mainland by buying trinkets rather than tearing them off the corpses of the men he killed (the Iron Islands are  Westeros’ answer to the Vikings) and rejects not only his son but his proposed alliance with Robb Stark, the son of the man who took Theon away from Balon in the first place.

While this is all going on the rest of the world slowly turns on as usual. Danaerys is still stuck in the desert with her dragons, and Jon Snow is still trapped beyond The Wall as he attempts to figure out what happens to the male children of his incestuous host’s wives/daughters.

Meanwhile, Stannis is still building up troops, letting his advisor and former smuggler Davos (Liam Cunningham) hire a pirate to give them the ships they need. The Lord of Dragonstone and potential King on the Iron Throne is less honourable than we first thought; giving into the priestess Melisandre’s promises that she will give him the son his wife never could. It’s clear the spell she’s cast on him is stronger it first seems.

This second episode of Game of Thrones is much less epic than the one that came before it, as the series settles, achingly slowly, into full-blown war. However, we have plenty of psychological conflicts and family feuds to keep us occupied while we wait for the proper battles.

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