Dark Wings, Dark Words. A foreboding title, but one that hints at the fact that this episode was more about traveling and talking than any action. Like the season premiere, Episode 2 spent its time introducing us to new denizens of Westeros and setting things up for what looks like will be a busy, action-packed season. In some ways, you can just consider this episode to be the second half of the premiere. Changing loyalties played a large part in this episode, and will remain a driving theme for the rest of the season. This week in Westeros, let's see who is doing what.
We start, as we have in the past, with Bran walking through a dream. He's a bit older now, looking more like a teenager and less like a boy. He is carrying a bow and arrows as he wanders the forest, and that three-eyed crow appears. The little Lord Stark aims at the bird, and then his brothers Jon and Robb appear, reliving some of the first moments of the first episode of the series. He attempts to shoot the bird and misses, as he missed the target in the series premiere, and his brothers laugh. Then Ned Stark's disembodied voice appears and tell them to stop.
Bran once more attempts to shoot the bird, and then some lanky kid appears in the dream. Upon closer inspection, it's the love-struck son of Liam Neeson's character in Love, Actually. He's grown up! After Bran wakes up, he and his brother and Osha and Hodor continue to trek towards the wall. Formerly love-struck dream boy shows up again and reveals himself to be Jojen Reed, the son of an ally of the Starks. Like Bran, he can float into animal heads and control their actions. The three-eyed crow also appears in his dreams and shows him the past, present, and future. Jojen has apparently taken it upon himself to guide the young Stark, and Jojen and his sister, Meera, join the odd group.
One interesting characteristic of this group: the young men rely on the women for protection. Osha protects Bran and Rickon, and Meera protects her brother Jojen. A lot of female empowerment up in northern Westeros!
A lot of ickyness here. The last time we saw the obnoxious Theon Greyjoy and his huge self-esteem problems, his own men knocked him out and put a bag over his head before torching Winterfell. He's back, now, tied up in an uncomfortable position and being ruthlessly tortured by people whose names we do not know. These are the most uncomfortable scenes in the season so far, made tolerable only by the fact that I am totally okay with by repeatedly stabbing Theon with pointy things.
Robb has a lot of issues to deal with right now. His mother betrayed him and freed the Kingslayer, one of his best friends has just sacked Winterfell, his brothers are missing, his sisters are held captive, his grandfather just died, and he has the small matter of a rebellion he's leading against the well-funded, well-positioned Lannisters. Oh, the crown weighs heavy upon his head. At least he's married to the most beautiful woman in the series, played by the lovely Oona Chaplin (granddaughter of famed actor Charlie Chaplin). You would think the marriage would be at least one souce of unyielding happiness to him, but that marriage was a violation of his alliance with Lord Walter Frey (grumpy-pants Mr. Filch from Harry Potter), whose daughter he had promised to marry. In the words of his gruff bannerman Lord Karstark, "I think you lost this war the day you married her."
Yes, on top of everything else he has to worry about, his own bannermen are starting to lose faith in the cause. His luck has to turn around soon!
She is not having a very good time, either, ever since her son made her a prisoner. On top of this, her father just died. Cat does have the single most poignant scene in this episode, though, and one of the most touching that the strong character has provided so far. Speaking with Talisa, her new daughter-in-law, Lady Catelyn gets something big off of her chest: everything bad has happened because she was mean to Jon Snow.
When Ned Stark brought Jon home, Cat apparently prayed to the gods that he would die. She "didn't want to see those brown, stranger's eyes staring up at" her. He did contract the pox, though, and began to die. She stayed up all night praying at his bedside, overcome with guilt for condemning that "poor, innocent child to a horrible death, all because I was jealous of his mother - a woman he didn't even know." So she vowed to the gods that she would love him as a mother, invite him into the Stark family, and love him if he was allowed to live.
Well, live he did. Catelyn, however, went back on her vow, and let the boy grow up without a mother's love, openly despising his presence. "And everything that's happened since then, this horror that has come to my family, it's all because I couldn't love a motherless child." Heavy stuff.
There was not much of Ned Stark's bastard in tonight's episode. He has a bit of banter with Mance Rayder, the King Beyond the Wall, and then stumbles upon half of the comic relief duo from Pirates of the Caribbean (played by Mackenzie Crook), who is staring up at the sky with white-out eyes. We are told that the Wildling is a warg, someone who can control animals and see through them (like Bran and his new best friend, Jojen). When Jon seems a bit confused by this, Ygritte just stares at him oddly. "What, you've never seen a warg?" No. If you wildlings all want to head south of the Wall, you need to figure out that giants and mind-controlled animals aren't normal! Anyways, the pirate wildling apparently saw a lot of dead members of the Night's Watch while in animal mode.
The Night's Watch:
Over two-hundred members of this sacred order have been killed by the White Walkers. As we saw in the season premiere, they are frantically trying to make their way back to the Wall so that they can warn Westeros that winter is coming with a vengeance. Poor, cowardly, tired Sam is being picked on by the resident bully, again, and almost resigns himself to death. Lord Commander Mormont, however, quiet simply says, "I forbid you to die," and on they go in their valiant attempt to save the Seven Kingdoms.
There is not much of everyone's favorite character in this episode. He spends his time warning Shae that they should not be openly seeing each other, as Tywin has placed a death warrant on any woman found to be in Tyrion's chambers. Shae is worried about Sansa, though, and wants to protect her from Lord Baelish.
We like Sansa a lot more now than we have before, mostly because we feel bad that she's stuck in King's Landing with the most dysfunctional family in the world. However, we can't forget that she's still a teenage girl, and when Sir Loras Tyrell shows up to invite her to lunch with his sister and grandmother, she of course gets all swoony. Loras takes her out to the garden and deposits her with the Tyrell women, and boy is it a treat.
We are introduced to Lady Olenna Tyrell, the Queen of Thorns. Played by the awesome Bond girl Diana Rigg, Olenna is a no-nonsense court politician with a sharp tongue and a keen mind. She quickly lets it be known that she is the power-behind-the-throne in House Tyrell, and she's cooler than everyone else in court. "I'm much less boring than these others," she says in that matter-of-fact tone. She has summoned Sansa to lunch because she wants to learn about Joffrey, whom her granddaughter Margaery is bound to marry.
It took some prodding; Sansa kept falling into his script of how great and just Joffrey is. After some clever disarming by the Tyrells, however, she lets them know that Joffrey is an absolute monster. Olenna does not seem phased. "Oh, that's a pity," she says nonchalantly. Here we see the big difference between the Starks and the others: the Starks are not willing to play the game of thrones. The Tyrells are more than willing to play. Hopefully they will make for useful allies for Sansa as she remains stuck under the thumb of Joffrey and the Lannisters.
Television's most-hated character still sits the Iron Throne. This sadistic little creature spends the episode hating women, homosexuals, his mother, his enemies, and pretty much anything that enters his sight. He only begins to show an interest in Lady Margaery when the clever temptress figures out how the brat's mind works and expresses an interest in killing things.
Freed from Harrenhal and traveling with Gendry and the fat kid to her (now-deceased) grandfather's home, Arya continues her game of trying to have even worse luck than her brother Robb. The trio comes across the Brotherhood Without Banners, a group of interesting and jolly folk who seem to be rather tired of Westerosi aristocracy always ruining things, led by Thoros of Myr (played by Paul Kaye). She is about to be released by the Thoros when the Brotherhood's newest prisoner arrives. This would not be a big deal if that new prisoner were none other than the Hound, who outs Arya as a Stark. Out of the frying pan and into the fire for poor little Arya.
Jaime Lannister and Brienne:
The continuing banter between these two is great. The Kingslayer's constant insults and attempts to get into Brienne's mind , and Brienne's humorless resistance as she continues to push Jaime along his way to King's Landing, have a great deal of wit and fun to them. The incestuous prisoner does let one unguarded comment slip, though: "We don't get to choose who we love."
The two are building a rapport, and this comes to a head when Jaime manages to free himself from an annoyed Brienne and get his hands on a sword. The ensuing battle between the two knights is the only bit of action in the episode, and you can see the two learning to respect each other a bit more. With his tactic of getting inside his enemy's head in play, Jaime lets Brienne know her choices during their battle: "If you kill me, you fail Lady Stark. If you don't kill me, I'm going to kill you."
While the Lady Knight seemed to be kicking the Kingslayer's ass in the fight, it had an unfortunate end when House Bolton arrived en force to arrest the Kingslayer and drag him back to Robb Stark. The episode ended with Jaime and Brienne side-by-side, backing up across the bridge as Bolton's knights inched closer.
This week lacked fire-breathing reptiles, so it loses some cool points, but Daenerys is due back next week with her dragons. The lack of Lord Varys so far this season is disappointing, as he's one of the most intriguing characters in the show. While things have been slow, all of this set-up is necessary for what is to come. This season will be a roller coaster; at the moment we're only making the climb to the top. Get ready to enjoy the ride.