Presentation plays a big factor in displaying and maintaining power on Game of Thrones. A couple of weeks ago, Daenerys (Emilia Clarke) was stranded in the desert with malnourished soldiers and baby, barely-threatening dragons, yet her fiery speech got her what she wanted, despite the monologue being full of hollow threats. Last night's episode, "The Old Gods and the New," saw a lot of the characters's being forced to back up their claimsâ€”and failing spectacularly at doing so.
Theon Takes Winterfell
Theon (Alfie Allen) may be weak-willed and occasionally subjective to bouts of bitch-assness, but his predicament is a sympathetic one. He's basically torn between two families and has, perhaps unwisely, decided to choose blood over surrogacy. It's no surprise that "Old Gods" is the most exciting hour of the season yet, because it opens with Bran's (Isaac Hempstead-Wright) dream coming to fruition: water has washed over Winterfell, in the form of the sea-faring men from Pyke, led by none other than Theon, the would-be Stark brother.
The tone starts off relatively light with the somewhat hilarious exchange between Theon and Bran, when the former tells the latter he's taking over. Despite the seriousness of the matter, there was still a sense of amicability, almost as if Theon was simply returning home. Shit got much realer when Sir Greyjoy failed to get the people of Winterfell to see him as anything more than just the Stark's steward boy.
Even his own soldiers don't respect him yet, which is why he's easily peer-pressured into making an example of the non compliant Ser Rodrick (Ron Donachie). Ever the O.G., Rodrick accepts his fate like a man and taunts Theon up until his very end, and even after, when Theon fails to make a clean cut, eventually resorting to kicking dude's head off.
From then on Bran is quite clear that nothing about this will be amicable going forward. Lucky for him his wildling servant Osha is just running game when she pledges loyalty to Theon, who once again falls victim to the power of the "p." Winterfell is currently being held by a skeleton crew until reinforcements arrive, and Theon, already wilding for respect, just lost his only leverage in the Stark boys plus Osha, Hodor, and their direwolves. We initially thought Theon would end up siding back with Robb (Richard Madden) in the eleventh hour, but after his murder of Rodrick, he may be past the point of no return.
The (Neglectful) Mother Of Dragons
It made for a nice end-of-episode cliffhanger, but honestly no one should be surprised that Dany's dragons were stolen. The most powerful beasts of all time, born again after centuries of absence, and all she's got is her handmaiden and a couple of Dothraki dudes guarding her room in a foreign city?! What did she think would happen? And where was Jorah Mormount (Iain Glen)?
Before losing her ill-guarded prize possessions, Dany went before the Spice King, the same douchebag who almost let her rot, to appeal for the necessary funds and passage to travel to Westeros. It would appear that Xaro Xhan Daxos (Nonso Anozie), while not especially salty at her refusal, is willing to grant her room and board and nothing more if she will not marry him. The Spice King, on the other hand, would like to believe in Danerys, she of fiery impassioned speech, but this time he's willing to call her on the fact that she's got nothing. No tangible support in Westeros and infantile dragons do not amount to a believable campaign for power. Until the fire-breathers hit puberty, Dany is all talk, and that's if she can even get them back.
Meanwhile, Jon Snow (Kit Harrington) would like the rest of the Rangers to believe he's a badass who's ready to die for the cause, but he's still got a lot to learn about the way things work beyond the Wall, and the way a true Ranger should carry himself. Plus, despite the (cinematically gorgeous) surroundings, he isn't quite cold enough yet. He can't bring himself to behead a cute hostile girl named Ygritte (Rose Leslie), and conveniently the Rangers managed to get out of earshot within the two minutes it took her to get away from Jon. Now he's lost in the North with nothing but an untrustworthy wildling, who may even get him to break his vow of celibacy with her suggestive spooning. Snow's not quite as built for that Ranger life as he thought.
Joffrey Gets About An Eighth Of His Due
Let's get this out of the way: Joffrey (Jack Gleeson) getting shit thrown at his face and Tyrion's (Peter Dinklage) subsequent sequel to his epic season one bitch-slap were both fantastic. The little sociopath deserves way worse, but it's a start. The rest of last night's King's Landing story, however: pretty scary.
We know all too well that Joffrey's the kind of king whose very presence in the streets would incite slurs, aforementioned mud-slinging, and the like, but what the rightfully angered people of King's Landing don't know is that Joffrey is utterly wild for the night. Throw crap in his face and he will respond the only way he knows how to: telling his guards to get to killing.
An instant riot occurs, and while the knight's guard go all Secret Service on Joffrey and the rest of the Lannisters, Sansa (Sophie Turner) gets lost in the melee and subsequently attacked by some savage peasants. Thank the old and new gods that the Hound (Rory McCann) has a thing for her or she could've ended up having a very, very bad day. Still, the more people rebel against Joffrey's attempts to present himself as a king who be taken seriously, the nastier his rebuttals become. His inevitable response next week will not be pretty, to say the least.
Close Calls At Harrenhal
Arya's (Maisie Williams) portion of the episode didn't connect to the overall theme very much, but it was also the most exciting part of the hour. She continues to impress and engage Tywin Lannister (Charles Dance), and, interestingly enough, she has gained some respect and affinity for the man (he did save Gendry and give her the cushiest job in the castle) while maintaining her overarching hate. It's Wolves versus Lions, and she's quite aware that she's a captive of the den.
The spunky Stark has been narrowly evading danger every episode this season, and her shaky elusiveness came to a peak last night. First, in a bit of physical suspense, she had to do her best to hide her poorly disguised face from a visiting Littlefinger (Aidan Gillen), a danger that might not have been defeated just yet. Things got way more immediate when a Red guard caught her with a note containing information about her brother Robb. When he threatened to out her, she frantically searched for Jaqen (Tom Wlaschiha) so she could cash in another hit. The entire sequence was thrilling, right up to the great, horror-movie esque shot of the guard reaching Tywin's door... with an arrow in his neck. Arya's done well so far, but she's on thin ice now.
- Robb chats up the cute nurse Talisa (Oona Chaplin) again, who may or may not have been joking about secretly corresponding with Team Lannister on his battle plans. A returning Lady Catelyn (Michelle Fairley) is quick to remind him that he's betrothed to someone else.
- Speaking of betrothed, the reason Tyrion, Cersei (Lena Headey), Joffrey, and company are outside of the Red Keep is because Myrcella really is being sent to Dawn. We're not sure why Tyrion made such a big deal out of this, when Joffrey still has an even younger brother who is in harm's way. From a story point-of-view, it's obviously there to create conflict between him and Cersei, who vows to return the favor. T-minus how many episodes until she kills Shae (Sibel Kekilli)?
- Ghost the direwolf is doing his own thing while Jon and the Rangers march on. Again, T-minus how many episodes until it rescues Jon in the nick of time?
- And, once again, that bitch slap to Joffrey's face was truly amazing.