Can Tywin and Arya get their own spinoff? Not really… but really? I guess that by this point I shouldn’t be surprised by how much juice this series is able squeeze out of the various character dynamics. Most shows are lucky to get one or two pairings that really work, but Game of Thrones seems to strike gold every time it shuffles the deck. Beyond the awesome of Tywin and Arya, “A Man Without Honor” has Cersei and Tyrion prove they can be just as fun commiserating as they can sniping, and Jon Snow finally finds someone to make him interesting.
Good as the writing is, most of the credit probably needs to go to the cast. I’ve been remiss how little praise I’ve given Maisie Williams this season, but she’s as good as ever and it’s truly astonishing to see someone so young have such chemistry with someone as seasoned as Dance. It’s even more astonishing to enjoy watching everyone’s favourite Stark develop mutual respect with the brains behind the Lannisters. It’s not just a matter of these two characters being awesome (they can do that on their own), it’s the fact that they each let their guard down enough to realize that the other’s kinda awesome. The reveal that Tywin knows she’s a noble was a really nice touch. It’s easy to assume that he’d been dismissing her the whole time, being as honest as he might be with a pet. The reveal not only confirms that the Lord’s no slouch, it’s an admission that she’s not insignificant; still far below a Lannister, certainly, but this has been a dialogue, not a monlogue, and that’s saying something.
Performance is also key in the pairing of Tyrion and Cersei. This isn’t a new pairing, but there seems to be no end to the Lannister gold mine. Dinklage and Heady are just as enjoyable when they’re not at each other’s throat and that’s really saying something. What’s truly great about this scene is the way they pull off almost connecting. Cersei finally acknowledges what a monster her son is and the admission is painful enough to draw sympathy from her acerbic brother. The look they exchange as he stands just beyond arm’s length says it all; a glimpse beneath the masks is all either of them is willing to give, and even that’s a bit more than they’re comfortable with.
The casting department at GoT continues to earn every penny with Rose Leslie. There’s no heavy dramatic lift here, but she and Harington click immediately and it’s to give his character a sorely needed boost. Jon’s done little more than pout this season and while there’s still plenty of that here, at least I have some sympathy. While some of Ygritte’s mockery is deserved, much of it isn’t. Jon Snow’s a young man who had few options in life, and still managed to make the worst of a bad situation,. But saying “screw it” and running off into the wilderness isn’t going to make it any better. His honour’s the last thing he has left. It’s a whiny, petulant sort of honour, but it’s honour nonetheless.
I’ve complained before that the breadth of Game of Thrones can make it feel stretched a bit thin, but episodes like this one prove what an enormous strength it can be; old favourites remain fresh by being combined in new and interesting ways, and character who aren’t really working can be revived through a new pairing. The cast is, without exception, a joy to watch on this show and the sheer number of them assures me that things won’t grow stale anytime soon.
Once again, I must apologize to those of you who’ve been waiting for this write up. Real life, yada, yada, yada.
Hmm, made it through the whole review without mentioning the titular character. Nikolaj Coster-Waldau deserves as much credit as everyone else as he proves what a colossal (and hard to argue with) bastard Jaime Lannister can be. I particularly like how the truly despicable act of killing the cousin he just bonded with goes unremarked while everyone bemoans the death of an extra and a king who had it coming.
Still not digging the Daenerys storyline, which is making me feel kinda sad, although I did appreciate the portrayal of the warlock here.
Sansa’s more than making up for the first season. Bravo.
Theon, you bastard. You’ll catch Joffrey yet.