#GoT (HBO) S6 Ep2: The Good, The "Jar Jar's" + The Power of Size
A "Song Of Ice And Fire" Victory Lap
If I were the kind to gloat, okay fine, I am the kind to gloat. If you have read my other #GoT stuff you know what I am talking about (Don't worry, will get to this later).
Before I get going you probably should remember that this is not a recap (just commentary) and also that if you have not seen episode 2 yet, stop reading.
In other words,
* Spoiler Alert *
Also, last week I suggested an ongoing parallel between the hubris George Lucas demonstrated in the Star Wars prequels and some of the tendencies on recent episodes of #GoT (I referred to this as George Lucas disease). When I see examples of this, I will designate them as "Jar Jars."
This was a really good episode. There were still a few "Jar Jar" moments but on the whole a very solid episode.
I also want to continue to "mark out" for "After The Thrones" the HBO after show put together by all of the regulars from Grantland's #GoT coverage. Thanks again to Bill Simmons (@BillSimmons) for bringing that band back together. If you have not seen "After The Thrones" it is on HBO (just not after GoT because Veep). It is also on HBO Go.
Bran Stark Is Back
Okay, that is not what I am gloating about, but it is factually correct, after a year in #GoT exile, Bran (Isaac Hempstead Wright) is back.
Not only is Bran back, but later in the episode, Sansa said the name "Rickon" out loud which may be the first time anyone has mentioned Rickon since he disappeared. Don't worry, Bran still can't walk and he still lives at the feet (roots?) of the Three-Eyed Raven (aka the Three-Eyed Crow of "A Song of Ice and Fire" Fame). Oh, and now 3rd Eye is now being played by Max Von Sydow aka "Ming the Merciless."
Before recent events, I probably would have been pissed that the change from the old "Third Eyed" didn't involve either Prince or at least his final band "Third Eye Girl." Prince was certainly a cryptic enough human being to have played 3rd Eye, I spent half my life trying to make sense of Prince's lyrics and interviews, and how amazing would it have been during the reveal to see Prince at the top of the roots (wearing those third eye sunglasses)? Seriously, how is it possible that both George RR Martin and Prince were obsessed with the concept of the third eye?
So, one of the cool powers those lucky few (able to merge) get from the tree is that the entire world becomes like a searchable DVD. You can teleport yourself to go stand anywhere in the world past, present, and maybe future as long as a tree (or crow) is around too. At least that is the way it worked in the books (in the television version both 3rd Eye Crow and Bran walk around in the places they visit, they can see everything and everyone, but nobody can see them).
Anyway, Bran and 3rd Eye Crow are at Winterfell visiting a scene where Bran's Dad and Uncle are playing at sword fighting in the yard. And wow, out of the blue, a young Lyanna Stark (Eddard's sister and arguably the most important non-alive character in the series). Lyanna is the key to the entire John Snow origin story known as R + L = J. Supposedly, the first thing that Benioff and Weiss confirmed in discussions with George R.R. Martin was that this theory was correct (Rhaegar + Lyanna = John).
Bran, however, seems much more impressed with the new knowledge that Hodor used to be a large but normal kid who was able to have conversations with other people (as wide as his range is using only the charming repetition of his name, it is shocking to see him as a fully functioning young man) . There was more, but that was the gist of it.
Ramsay Bolton Really Is The Worlds Cruelest Moron
And now for a "Jar Jar" award. As usual, it goes to the writing about and around the character Ramsay Bolton (Iwan Rheon).
Last week I bemoaned the fact that Benioff and Weiss seem to feel absolutely compelled to remind us (on a weekly basis) that Ramsay is a really awful person. Hunting humans for sport not enough? How about making a sport of removing the body parts of living prisoners? Removing body parts not enough? How about brutal and unnecessarily cruel rape scenes? Rape scenes not enough for you? How about sacrificing live humans to dogs?
I am starting to think about boycotting Ramsay scenes entirely, more on this in a second.
So Ramsay's loving Dad Roose (Michael McElhatton) has been trying to explain the larger strategy of maintaining and expanding Bolton power in the North to Ramsay. The strategy goes a little something like this:
1) Stop being even worse than public expectations. Apparently, presenting a house sigil of a flayed man hung upside down has not made the Bolton's the most popular people in Westeros. Worse yet, the Bolton's have always proudly embraced a rulership style that reflected that sigil. Roose, being somewhat more pragmatic that his step-son, has realized this has been an impediment to consolidating their power as Wardens of The North.
2) Legitimize Bolton power in the North by marrying Ramsay to Sansa Stark and quickly producing an heir (in the books he marries Jayne Poole aka the "fake" Sansa). This is important because Sansa (Sophie Turner) is a Stark, a member of the traditional and much-loved former ruling family in the North.
Unfortunately for Bolton power, Ramsay first abused Sansa and then allowed her to escape. And after she escaped, instead of doing the logical thing (he is a very good hunter) Ramsay chose not to chase after her himself despite it being literally the most important thing in his life. Shockingly, she remains "escaped" and in Episode 2 Ramsay is still wasting time in Winterfell being incredibly evil.
3) Legitimize Bolton power by marrying Roose (Lord Bolton) to a Frey and quickly producing a Bolton heir. The Frey's, because they control a very important piece of real estate, are a really annoying but critical ally to have in Westeros. It was while trying to solidify the relationship between the Freys and Starks that the infamous Red Wedding happened (Rob Stark and his pregnant wife were murdered during dinner).
Unfortunately for Bolton power, Ramsay kills his Father, his step-mother (a Frey), and his newborn step-brother during this episode. Why would he do this? Ramsay is Roose's legitimized bastard, so his step-brother's birth moves him from heir to second in line to inherit Bolton power.
So, Ramsay is being smart (if psychotic) in the sense that he can never rule while his step-brother and father are alive but he is also being stupid because everyone in the North hates him and he just killed the only ties to wider legitimacy he had. Yes, he is now the Lord of the North. But, he is a Lord of the North who is even more hated than his Father was, who has worse judgment than his Father had, and who has no Starks or Freys to legitimize his rulership of the North.
Basically, Ramsay is being kind of a short-sighted moron. Which is kind of in-line with who Ramsay is (basically, he is a totally awful human being). Ramsay is so awful, that I would not be surprised at all to hear that is affecting Iwan Rheon's life in negative ways (Yes, he is just an actor, but how does he play a guy so vile so well?).
The good news? They didn't show the actual death of Ramsay's step-mother and step-brother (after Ramsay literally fed them both to his dogs - sigh). The bad news? They kept the sound going as the dogs attacked. I almost feel like Ramsay has become like a comic grindhouse character (how far can we take this guy).
Oh, by the way, Ramsay does kill his step-brother in the books but not his Father or step-mother (obviously, the show is moving past the books here).
The Grim Greyjoy Soap Opera Is Back
Yup, more of the world's grimmest soap, "The Lost Princes of the Iron Islands."
Balon is back on #GoT. Well, Balon is back until just a few minutes later when he is killed by his brother Euron (Surprise, this character you haven't seen in two seasons has a brother you have never heard of before who kills him out of the blue, I am giving this another "Jar Jar" for sloppy writing). This murder happens right after Balon leaves in a snit after an argument with Yara (his daughter). Having Euron be the murderer is another one of the shows consolidations of events in the book (much too complicated to explain here now, for instance, Yara is not even on the Iron Islands at this point in the books as the direct result of what happened when Euron returned).
There is a new actor playing Balon's other brother, Damphair. Most of what you need to know here:
1) Theon is returning home to the Iron Islands (we find this out in the Sansa scene mentioned above). Not really sure, but instead of Yara contesting Euron's claim, apparently it will be both Yara and Theon.
2) They are going to have a Kings Moot to determine a new Lord of the Iron Islands (Yara is not being allowed to just take over as her Father desires because = woman - see sexism). A Kings moot is where the Vikings (I mean Islander's) all get together and decide who will be the next Lord of the Iron Islands.
3) Before Euron killed Balon he had been off sailing around the world playing pirate. In the books this is pretty important to what happens at the Kings Moot, we will see how they write their way around all of this.
Fun With Lion's and Lannisters
King Tommen (Dean-Charles Chapman) is about twice the size he was last time we saw him. He is also much more self-aware and self-actualized. He also wants no longer wants to be Tommen the weak, we know this because he told his Mom he now wants to be just like her when he grows up.
Cersei (Lena Headey) is starting to regain her footing and now has the assistance of Ser Robert Strong (aka The Mountain, or the reanimated Mountain as reconstructed by her excommunicated Maester Qyburn. Robert Strong is quite large and very loyal to Cersei. He was out walking around and overheard some kid mocking Cersei (in reference to sexual acts and the walk of shame) so he walks past the peasant pissing on a wall and smashes his head in with one blow.
One of the themes of this episode seems to be that it is good to be large. Fair enough.
Also, Jamie Lannister (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau) and the High Sparrow (Jonathan Pryce) have a pissing contest of their own. Nobody wins, but both of them make important points and temporarily retreat.
Tyrion Lannister Loves Dragons
It was nice to see #GoT paying some homage to the great character development of Tyrion (Peter Dinklage) in the books. Tyrion grew up loving dragons, and the little story he tells the two dragons as he unchains them is part of his real backstory. One of the main reasons, in the books, Tyrion would be valuable as a sidekick to the Mother of Dragons (although they have not yet met in the books) is that he spent most of his life studying every book available anywhere in Westeros that was written about dragons.
One small disagreement about how "After The Thrones (HBO)" talked last week about Tyrion becoming a very effective middle manager (bureaucrat) in Meereen is that he has unique skills (beyond middle-management) that no other living Westerosi possesses. Most important, he knows more about dragon lore than anyone else in the world. Guess what, Daenerys (Emilia Clarke) has one problem, she has dragons but knows virtually nothing about training, riding, or even about raising them.
This is clearly Tyrion's biggest add to Daenerys (and is foreshadowed several times in the books) and it is good to see the show finally providing this important context to Tyrion's character.
Dragons are another example of why it is good to be big on #GoT.
Arya or Nameless?
I don't want to spend too much time on this subplot because it is making me really angry.
In the books, one of the earliest part of Arya's (Maisie Williams) training as a faceless man is being blind part of every day. She learns to fight blind almost from the beginning of her time in the temple learning to become an assassin for the Many-Faced God. There are passages in the book about her learning to feel the wind and using changes in air pressure to determine when attacks are coming.
On the show, she keeps getting her ass kicked and looks defeated and dejected about being blind. After admitting she is not Arya a few times, they take her right back into the temple.
Let me say again, for the record, the Faceless Man portions of the books are really great, on the television show, not so great.
By far the weakest jobs of writing #GoT for television so far have been the handling of the Faceless Men and Arya's training and the total clusterfuck that has been their handling of Dorne. Yes, that means Ramsay is in third place on the bad writing list (and that is saying something). I give this section of Episode a double "Jar Jar."
"John Snow Truthers" Take A Bow
On "After The Thrones" Andy Greenwald (@andygreenwald) labeled all of us who believed John Snow (Kit Harrington) was coming back (including himself) "John Snow Truthers."
John Snow is back....Truth!
If you read what I said last week (or anything else I have ever written about last season's finale) you know I have been calling John Snow's return since he got stabbed. If you talked to me after I read the last book, you know I was saying it was horseshit then too.
As I said last week, "Nice try HBO."
And to anyone who believed he was really staying dead, "You Knew NOTHING."
Also, as the wildlings return to Winterfell (and save the John Snow loyalists at Castle Black), one of the Giants smashes a Black Brother against the wall for having the temerity to shoot him with an arrow. Did I mention that it is good to be big on #GoT?
Okay, that is all I have this week. That was much longer than what I had planned to write. Great episode b/c return of Robert Strong, dragons, and John Snow.
What did you think of S:6 Ep 2? What did you think about my opinions? Is there anything you wanted to add, if so, leave a comment!