Game of Thrones: Second Sons

As I was thinking about this episode prior to re-watching it, I realized that I couldn’t immediately call to mind what had happened other than the Most Uncomfortable Wedding Ever. That’s not to say the MUWE was the only event—but this episode felt undeniably like a placeholder, getting us up to date with a few characters, and excluding a few others, to set us up for the next episode.

If Game of Thrones follows the pattern, that episode—the ninth—will be as awesome as “Baelor” and “Blackwater.” Until then, though, we’ve got some standard updates: Arya is still with the Hound, and he’s hoping to return her to her family in exchange for gold at the Twins, where the Freys hope to marry one of their daughters to Robb’s uncle. Dany continues to win against the odds: as she said, a fortnight ago she had no army; a year ago she had no dragon. Now she has the mercenary Second Sons, led by the sultry Daario Naharis.

The Second Sons are interesting. (Well, okay—interesting if you’re me.) In naming the army, George R.R. Martin was likely drawing on the works of Georges Duby, a twentieth-century historian of the European Middle Age who argued that the Crusades were so popular because so many second and third sons were just looking for something to do after primogeniture left them without an inheritance. I like the way he worked that real-world research into his books.

The title of this episode, of course, doesn’t just refer to Dany’s new army. It refers to many second sons: Stannis, Tyrion, and the Hound, for instance. The Hound continues to struggle with his brother’s general tendency toward atrocity. Stannis is struggling with the morality of Melisandre’s desire to dress Gendry up and then bleed him like a sacrificial lamb. And Tyrion…

Oh, Tyrion. The wedding and bedding scenes were very similar to those in the books, and made me just as uncomfortable as when I first read them. I don’t think I’m alone in liking Tyrion best (he’s GRRM’s favorite, too), and that makes his discomfort all the more squirmy, especially since so much of it depends on everyone in Westeros being uncomfortable with a high-born “dwarf”—and very comfortable making fun of him.

As wedding days go, Tyrion’s was an unmitigated disaster: the thing with the wedding cloak, Joffrey threatening to rape Sansa (even though she didn’t tell Tyrion about it), Tyrion’s drunken threat against Joffrey (which will surely not go unpunished down the line). But it is Sansa’s line about not wanting to ever sleep with him that breaks my heart: “What if I never want to?” she asks.

Tyrion, of course, is gentleman enough to never force it—but it’s not just gentlemanliness that keeps him from spousal rape. It’s that he wants, like everybody else in the entire universe, to be wanted. And now he’s tied for life to a woman who never will want him because she can’t see past the two things he can’t help being: a dwarf and a Lannister. At least he has Shae, who was clearly happy that Tyrion and Sansa had not slept together. Her morning-after look was quite fun.

As was Sam’s awkward flirty discussion with Gilly: he’s a natural pedant and kind of a doofus, but John Bradley-West really owned the character’s vulnerable complexity when he asked Gilly not to name her son Randall. Sam may have daddy issues, and he may be convinced that he’s craven, but him killing the very same white walker who gave him the hairy eyeball in last season’s finale was quite brave. Sam’s resourceful: using the dragonglass dagger was smart, as clearly it’s the only thing that can kill the zombies. (Leaving it behind, as he seems to have done, was perhaps less smart.)

Grumpkins and Snarks:

• Cersei threatened Maergery so blatantly, and wrote off the lovely Loras with quite a cutting line. Cersei doesn’t really know subtlety, does she?

• Interesting juxtaposition: Melisandre tying Gendry up, then Joffrey threatening to do something very similar in the next scene.

• Sansa’s wedding dress made her look even taller than she usually does.

• “Come keep me warm under the furs” is apparently the wildling equivalent of “Hey, wanna get a drink sometime?”

Three out of four leeches.

(Reminder: book spoilers live in the discussion thread.)

Josie Kafka reviews The Vampire Diaries, True Detective, Game of Thrones, and various other things that take her fancy. She is a full-time cat servant and part-time rogue demon hunter. (What's a rogue demon?)


Morgan India said...

I really enjoyed the MUWE, simply because of how uncomfortable it was. I love Tyrion, but I also really enjoy seeing Joffrey being Joffrey.

Can I just say a big WOOOOOOOO for Joe Dempsie? Who's with me?


Juliette said...

I can't entirely understand why Cersei's quite so upset about marrying Loras. Assuming she's not going to go all out and actually marry Jaime, and that she has to marry someone because of who she is, a husband who probably won't ever want to have sex with her would be perfect, you'd think.

I'm glad Tyrion and Sansa's wedding etc got some room to breathe, even if every other plot in this episode did feel a bit shoe-horned in as a result!

I was hoping the show was working on its own chronology though. It really doesn't seem like Astapor could have been only a fortnight ago, and season 1 has to have been more than a year ago because Bran's voice has dropped. You have child actors, you can't stick to the books' chronology!

celticmarc said...

Shae's face when cleaning up the bed sheets was priceless.

Quoting you : "(Leaving it behind, as he seems to have done, was perhaps less smart.)" They would need a few hundred of these knives. Oh heck.

Suzannw said...


I am pretty sure Cersei is expected to have children with Loras, so I wonder if that might be the cause of her angst.

I felt so bad for Tyrion -- not so much for Sansa, even though I probably should, but I hate when anyone hurts Tyrion. He is so sweet.

Great review!

Juliette said...

Good point Suzannew, I'd forgotten about that (though I can't see Loras having much more success than Renly did).

I keep reminding myself what I was like at 14 years old and trying not to judge Sansa, which is hard, because Tyrion is lovely and clearly one of the better options husband-wise in Westeros!

Freeman said...

Did that dingus really leave behind the knife? Is he serious with that? Ahh Sam, even when you do good, you do bad.

Dany seems to be the luckiest unlucky person ever. Even though she suffered through her early life. Good things just plop into her lap nowadays. I keep waiting for the fall but it seems it just ain't coming. Meanwhile in Westeros...

Anonymous said...

I actually thought this episode was great. You had Dany/Dario. That awesome scene with Melisandre and Gendry, and the curse with the leeches of the three usurpers (a particularly favorite book scene that I was scared they would cut). And the fantastic Tyrion/Sansa wedding with several amazing one liners. I loved when Cersei told Margaery "if you ever call me sister again, I'll have you strangled in your sleep." And I laughed out loud when Tyrion said after being rejected by Sansa, "and so my watch begins." Great reference to the Nights Watch and it's oath of celibacy.

Cannot wait another 10 days until the most unbelievable event of the series will occur!!!

Julia said...

Did Maergery look a little turned on when Cersei was threatening her?
It's easy for me not to judge Sansa, even though I love Tyrion. She's been forced into a marriage with a man she loathes. No wonder she wants to hold on to some little bit of control.
Missed Jamie in this episode. He's been one of my favourites since Book 3.
Also, Dario is awesome.