Didn’t I just talk about the joys of watching Tyrion slap Joffrey? “The Old Gods and The New” proves that some gags never get old… now if only he’d head up to Winterfell. In truth, I don’t particularly want to see Theon get slapped; drawn and quartered would be far more preferable. No… that’s not right either. Theon needs someone to save him from himself –err, no… Once again, we’re into the sheer genius of Game of Thrones’ character development. What Theon’s done is unforgivable, and seeing him pay for his crimes is high on everyone’s list… but I can’t help feel like he’s already paying.
The scene in Winterfell’s courtyard has to be my favourite of the episode. Sir Rodrick’s death is far from the single clean swing that Ned Stark gave and received and Alfie Allen does some superb work throughout the whole ordeal. It was easy to sneer at Theon’s lack of confidence back when sexual harassment was the worst of his crimes; it’s a lot harder now that it’s driven him to betray everyone who ever cared about him. The look on his face says it all, this a man who’s out of control; not in the murderous rampage sense, but in the complete and utter train wreck sense.
Have you even seen someone royally screw the pooch? I’m not just talking about making a mistake, but about a whole series of them, so drawn out that the athlete/performer/reality show contestant you’re watching can’t help but know what’s happening; they’re so far off track that things can’t be salvaged and every attempt to put things right only exacerbates the disaster. That’s what I see in this scene, except multiplied by murder. Theon’s daring nighttime raid didn’t win him the respect he so desperately craves, and his posturing certainly doesn’t help matters. His captives openly mock him and he barely has a hold on his own men. And so he keeps plowing forward, even as it’s clearly dawning on him that this isn’t working out as planned. Rodrick’s defiance in the face of this sniveling shit is inevitable, as is Theon’s response. He knows that what he’s doing won’t make him “Lord of Winterfell,” any more than it will make his new cronies respect rather than manipulate him.
I’ll stop short of calling Theon sympathetic here, but I will call him human. A despicable human, to be sure, but human nonetheless. Theon’s real fault seems to be wanting it both ways; he’s desperate to be accepted by both his own people and the Starks, and taking Winterfell by force only perverts them both. The Krakens have little use for the airs of their “prince” and the people of Winterfell have no respect for the fact that Theon’s “paid the iron price” for their hold. In claiming to be “Lord of Winterfell,” Theon is trying to don the mantle of Ned Stark, but more than a mere failure, the attempt is so twisted that it ends being a parody of what he’s trying to emulate. If he just accept his role as the villain he’d be no less loathsome, but at least he’d be happier.
Did I just say that was my favourite scene in an episode that featured Joffrey getting slapped? Yes, and I suppose I’ll stand by it in spite of how awesome that slap was. The little shit sure had it coming this time, didn’t he? The court’s presence is enough to spark a riot and all he can do is call for executions. Tyrion’s completely on the money in his assessment of vicious idiocy.
Good as Joffrey and Tyrion are here, Sansa and the Hound also get fine moments in this sequence. I was genuinely worried for Sansa during the attack, thinking the show might just go somewhere this dark. It made Sandor’s rescue all the more enjoyable.
I must admit that I’m not enjoying Daenerys quite so much lately. She’s all bark and no bite and is reminding me a bit of Viserys. Perhaps that’s the point as she grows into the role of Mother of Dragons. Hopefully she’ll get back to her old awesome self now that she has something more to do than beg for ships.
Jon actually had something do to this week, which was nice to see.
Ayra and Tywin together make for yet another episode highlight.
While I focused on a single scene in my review, this was probably the most well-rounded episode of the season. We has some great character work in Winterfell, visceral thrills in King’s Landing, solid tension in Harrenhall, some fun beyond the Wall, and the promise of better to come in Quarth.