Home Featured TV Shows All TV Shows Movie Reviews Book Reviews Articles Frequently Asked Questions About Us

Game of Thrones: The Prince of Winterfell (Novices)

[“The Prince of Winterfell” is a difficult episode to review without mentioning book spoilers and various hypotheses about what is coming next. For that reason, I have written two reviews: this one, which is spoiler-free for readers who have not read the book, and another for readers who have read up to the end of Storm of Swords. There’s some repetition between the two, because I am a bear of very little brain.]

“A girl lacks honor.”
“A girl will obey.”

It’s not a spoiler to say that Something Big is coming soon, as the waiting game that we’ve been playing for the last two episodes clearly indicates a Massive Something in the works. “The Prince of Winterfell” focused on the consequences of all those subtle scenes we saw last week, and wound up with most of the characters situated in terrible places.

Episodes penned by showrunners Benioff and Weiss tend to contain vibrant demonstrations of the different ways of viewing power, and “The Prince of Winterfell” is no different. Robb explained Ned’s perspective on ruling: Ned saw those under his protection as his children, and he worried constantly that he could not provide the protective paternalism necessary to keep them safe. (If Ned is watching from above, he’s likely quite miserable right now.) Varys and Tyrion, on the other hand, still see power as a game, even on the eve of a siege. Dany sees it as her right, but struggles to know how to get it. And Joffrey doesn’t understand that it is a struggle: he genuinely believes he could give Stannis a “red smile.” Yara, Theon’s sister, seems to have the clearest understanding of what is at risk: she wants Theon to follow the iron law and then make a run for it. It isn’t cowardly, but it is safer. Wannabe-prince is a riskier job than harrier.

Theon has gotten himself into a fine bind. He has no ground to stand on for allegedly killing the littlest Starks, and rather unbelievably thought that he could pay the farmer for taking his children to kill instead of the Starks. I understand why Osha brought the boys back to Winterfell: there’s really nowhere else to go, and at least the crypts are relatively warm. Hopefully she, Maester Luwin, and Bran can figure out some sort of useful plan.

Meanwhile, further north: Qorin Halfhand nearly called Jon a traitor, and we know that Jon has an issue with feeling uncomfortable in any group that will have him. Will he switch sides? That seems unbelievable, but he seemed awfully proud of having the blood of the First Men in his veins, just like the Wildlings. And Sam, Dolorous Ed, and Other Brother discovered some dragonglass. I wonder if that has a use of some kind?

Robb continues to seduce the sexy girl from Volantis. Maybe she’s secretly the Frey girl Robb is meant to marry? And it’s all a complicated plot to see if Robb will be true to her, or worthy, or something? No matter what, Robb has committed treason just as much as Catelyn did in releasing Jaime: Robb is sacrificing military tactics for love, just as Catelyn let a useful hostage go in order to rescue two rather useless (from a diplomatic point of view) girls. Ned and Catelyn would both be disappointed, but they would probably understand: Ned went to war with Robert Baratheon for love. And Catelyn understands that some things are more powerful than pragmatic negotiations.

Arya has obviously read her genie-in-a-bottle fairy tales and knows the third wish pays for all. While it’s a pity she couldn’t use her last death to kill Tywin, I’m glad she did get something out of it. Now she, Gendry, and Hot Pie are off on a lark through woods that seem to be infested with some mysterious Brotherhood. Hopefully they won’t run into the Lannisters, either.

Cersei seems to vacillate between maudlin and scheming, perhaps depending on how much she has had to drink. Her conviction that Tyrion is attempting to take her children away is truly strange, as she seems to be intentionally ignoring that people’s lives are constantly at risk in a war, and Tyrion is doing everything he can to protect his family. Ros, the northern prostitute we met last season, seemed to understand the complexity of the situation far better than Cersei ever would: Ros knows that protest does nothing for her, but hopes that Tyrion will get her out of this situation.

Grumpkins and Snarks:

• Tyrion and Bronn: do I sense a sitcom spin-off?

• Tyrion: “A History of The Great Sieges of Westeros, by Archmaester Shevealathin. Shevalatin.”
Bronn: “Shevaleteeth.”
Varys: “Ah, The Great Sieges of Westeros. Thrilling subject. Shame Archmaester Ch’vayalthan wasn’t a better writer.”

• Roose Bolton once again reminded Robb, and us, of his bastard son’s formidable skill.

• Jaime and Brienne on a lark. Comedy gold, or impending tragedy?

• Fun synchronicity: Theon mentioned that he’d killed all the messenger ravens and all the horses, and Varys mentioned that he hadn’t heard from his northern spies.

A difficult episode to review, because it is obviously building towards the Something that is Coming Soon. But, even though I’m anxious for the Something to get here already, this is a strong episode that did a good job of creating an overwhelming feeling of dread and preemptive despair.

Three out of four highborn plumbers.

(Reminder: spoilers and discussion about the books take place in the Discussion Thread, or in this week's Review for Bookreaders.)

Josie Kafka is a full-time cat servant and part-time rogue demon hunter. (What's a rogue demon?)


  1. Gendry, not Renly. As usual, I enjoyed reading your review.

  2. Another great review, Josie. Although this felt like an episode in which all the players were being put into position for the final two episodes, it still worked for me and I didn't want it to end.

    Not having read the book, I am excited to see where this is going. Just when I think I have it, the game changes. What I am really enjoying is all the shades of grey.

    I love the parallel "love" stories between Robb and Jon. Both seem about to go against their father's teachings for a woman. As we still don't know the circumstances of Jon's birth, I'm not sure the apples have fallen too far.


We love comments! We moderate because of spam and trolls, but don't let that stop you! It’s never too late to comment on an old show, but please don’t spoil future episodes for newbies.