(WARNING: Significant spoilers follow!)
Let’s get the bad news out of the way: this episode wasn’t as good as last week’s. But really, did any of us expect that it would be? And anyhow, even if this wasn’t as good, it was still pretty damn great, with everyone getting to do at least a little something.
We can start with poor Tyrion (Peter Dinklage) in King’s Landing. He’s in pretty bad shape after the battle last week, and is less than pleased that Tywin (Charles Dance) and Loras (Finn Jones) are getting all the credit for saving the city. For what it’s worth, and it probably is worth something to Tyrion, Varys (Conleth Hill) makes it clear that there are at least some out there who know what Tyrion did for them.
That, though, is nothing compared to what Tyrion probably feels when Shae (Sibel Kekilli) turns up and basically makes it clear that, money or no money, she’s standing by her man and that she seems to have genuine affection for Tyrion. That’s something we know he has for her, and there are far worse places for his story to end for the season than in her arms.
Staying in King’s Landing for the moment, we see Loras asking Joffrey (Jack Gleeson) to wed his sister. Joffrey makes a big show about how he’d love to, but can’t get out of his engagement to Sansa (Sophie Turner). Cersei (Lena Heady) and Grand Maester Pycelle (Julian Glover, who sadly hasn’t had much to do this season) go out of their way to assure him that both church and state are totally down with the idea of him getting married to Margery Tyrell. And with that, Sansa is, in theory, a free woman. Or at least she’d like to think so.
I have to say that of all the characters this season, I think I’ve been most pleased with the development of Sansa. She’s learned quite a bit about how to manage Joffrey and how to bide her time. She’s also earned the affections and protections of the Hound, which is no small feat. Though perhaps refusing the efforts of not one, but two people who wanted to help her escape wasn’t wise.
Speaking of earning affections, or at least respect, that’s what we got to see Jamie (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau) develop toward Brienne (Gwendoline Christie) after watching her pretty easily kill off three Stark soldiers who had killed some women. The bit of teamwork the two displayed in trying to avoid the fight in the first place was masterful, and the actual fight scene itself was pretty great. I’ve been looking forward to the two characters spending some quality time together this season and next, and I’m pleased that so far, we aren’t being disappointed.
The real heart of this episode, though, is what happened in Winterfell. Firstly, with Theon (Alfie Allen) being betrayed by his own men and hauled off to…well, readers of the books know where he’s going. Secondly, the death of Maester Luwin (Donald Sumpter) actually was something that hit even me a little hard. He’d been a good character, and watching him get screwed over really sucked. On the plus side, it did lead to a great goodbye between him and the Stark boys, so that’s good at least.
Another good thing, and the last really important part of the current season arcs, was watching Daenerys (Emilia Clarke) as she worked on getting her dragons back. The scene with her and surprise guest star Drago (Jason Momoa) was so beautifully done, and I loved that we could see the temptation on her face before she went to her babies. I loved even more the expressions on her face when she dealt with two people who had disappointed her slightly. It was also nice actually, you know, seeing her in an episode for more than two minutes. I’ve not been terribly pleased with the way she’s been handled this season, but at least here she got to make up for some lost time.
The other arcs, like Robb getting married and Arya doing her thing with Jaquen, were nice, as was the sword fight between Jon and Qhorin. But the real payoff at the end of the story was with Samwell (John Bradley-West) seeing the White Walkers and making eye contact with their leader.
This is where the story kind of ended on a sour note for me. I thought the CGI on the leader of the Walkers was…less than impressive. It didn’t look even remotely scary or intimidating to me and Samwell’s situation there is just odd. I don’t remember if it happened in the book or not, but I wasn’t too terribly impressed with using it as the end to the season. Jon Snow seeing the camp for Mance’s army would have been a better place (though it would have had to look more impressive, of course).
Overall I think that season two was stronger than season one, but I think I preferred the way season one ended. It was just much more interesting to me. That’s not saying that this episode was bad, but the ending was a bit of a letdown. Aside from that complaint, I enjoyed it, and the season, thoroughly, and I know it’s going to be a hell of a long wait until April of next year.