Oliver Davis reviews the second episode of Game of Thrones Season Three….
Dark Wings, Dark Words.
Directed by Daniel Minahan.
Written by Vanessa Taylor.
This week’s Game of Thrones opened with Bran (Isaac Hempstead-Wright). He’s hit puberty since season two, and bears all the typical signs. His voice is deeper, his features a tad more pronounced, he can walk…wait, what?!
It’s a dream, much like the ones he had last series. Those were exclusively through his pet direwolf, Summer. This time it’s paralysed-from-the-waist-down Bran walking through the forest. His older brothers give him advice on shooting a raven. Ned’s voice is heard rustling the leaves. A loophole that could see Sean Bean return, Ghost Dad-style.
Both are echoes of an earlier, happier time. Back in Winterfell, before the Starks started getting split up and beheaded. Now that place has been raised to the ground by Lord Bolton’s bastard (who embraces that title with enthusiasm), part of George R. R. Martin’s fondness of slowly stripping away everything in which you once took comfort.
Talking of stripping away, Theon Greyjoy (Alfie Allen) is being tortured in a dark cellar somewhere. He’s being interrogated on why he captured Winterfell. Whatever answer he gives, he gets flayed anyway. A rather visceral shot shows Greyjoy’s torturer driving a nail directly into his fingertip. Later on, he’s strapped to a cross, with screws being twisted into his feet. It would’ve been pretty relevant about a week ago. Pull it together, scheduling team.
News of Winterfell’s destruction has finally spread to Robb (Richard Madden) and Catelyn Stark (Michelle Fairley). Westeros isn’t known for its 4G. Catelyn’s father, Hoster Tully, has died, too. That’s a lot of bad news, but neither Rob or Catelyn reacted all that much. Of course, they’ve both been raised to hide their emotions, being in the high nobility, but a solo scene might have been nice. It’s a device the Game of Thrones directors don’t seem to be too fond of, the solo scene. Everything is duologues. Duologues in whore houses, duologues on North-of-the-Wall marches, duologues on piers. Sometimes a good sob all alone in a room would be nice, just to see Robb’s reaction to his best friend destroying his home and the potential murders of his two youngest brothers.
Talking of the potential murders of his two youngest brothers…they’re actually doing rather alright. More than alright. They’ve made some friends – Jojen (Thomas Brodie Sangster) and Meera Reed (Ellie Kendrick). They’re both from the swamp lands, bannermen once to Ned, now to Robb. Jojen’s a warg, someone who can understand animals and see into the future. The more fantastical elements of Game of Thrones are becoming increasingly prevalent. Giants, dragons, black magic, and now seers – the drip feeding unfolds rather beautifully.
Hooray – Arya (Maisie Williams) is back! She’s escaped Harrenhal with Gendry (Joe Dempsie) and Hot Pie (Ben Hawkey), and is making her way to Riverrun where her Uncle rules. But you can’t catch a break in Westeros, and she soon stumbles into the Brotherhood Without Banners.
The Brotherhood are led by the Lightening Lord, Beric Dondarrion – a man who they say can’t be killed. That’s mainly thanks to Thoros of Myr (an inspired piece of casting in Paul Kaye), a red priest with access to the same magical toolbox as Stannis’ Melisandre.
It appears as though they’ve blended his character with Tom of Sevenstreams, a musician from the book. Thoros first appears in the woods singing the Rains of Castamere, the same song The National wonderfully covered at the end of season two’s Blackwater episode. It’s a good move. The show could benefit from a bit more streamlining. (As could the book).
In a mythology so confuddled with morality, the Brotherhood are the good guys. They defend the countryside while lions and wolves tear through the land. They fight for the common folk, and still hold a torch for Eddard Stark. It was he who sent Dondarrion and his men, the now Brotherhood, out to fight Gregor Clegane all the way back in season one.
After exchanging pleasantries (threatening to kill them), the Brotherhood take Arya, Gendry and Hot Pie for a warm meal. But they have a prisoner who recognises the “Stark bitch” – Gregor’s younger brother, Sandor (Rory McCann)…Joffrey’s ex-Hound.
Joff and Marg
King Joffrey (Jack Gleeson) is by far the best thing about Game of Thrones. It’s his voice, those eyelashes. Every bit of him is annoying. He’s performed a near-impossible task – rising above the character in the books.
The writers seem to agree. The highlight of season two was, strangely enough, the part that departed most heavily from the source material – the relationship between Arya Stark and Tywin Lannister (in a series of – you guessed it! – duologues). Joffrey and Margery (Natalie Dormer) are gifted a similar scene together in Dark Wings, Dark Words. Neither has a character viewpoint in the books (each chapter is written from a different perspective), making their interactions alone completely separate from Martin’s writing.
Again, Gleeson perfectly captures the awkwardness of Joffrey (“I’m going on a hunting trip”), while unlocking something deeper and darker within him also. He intimidates Margery, inquiring whether she slept with Renly Baratheon, a crossbow in his lap. Initially, Margery seems unsettled, but she plays the Game well. She reveals Renly’s homosexuality and supports Joffrey’s idea to make it illegal – despite knowing her brother, Loras (Finn Jones), was his lover. Then she slips alongside Joffrey, her fingers resting on his bow’s shaft. “Do you want to hold it?” he asks with both excitement and nerves, his eyes occasionally glancing at Margery’s cleavage.
Then comes the dark stuff. Positioning himself behind her as she lifts the crossbow, like some medieval version of Ghost, Margery imagines killing with it…and whether Joffrey would like to watch. His sneer rises up like an erection. Remember when he got two whores to torture each other back in season two? Of course he would.
Oliver Davis (@OliDavis)