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Game of Thrones Review: Sexual Politics

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It's both the blessing and the curse of Game of Thrones: no show on television serves so many characters and storylines.

As a result, viewers must often exercise patience before learning more about their favorite Westeros residents. Consider: season one concluded on an epic shot of Daenerys and her dragons, yet she has received very little screen time so far on season two, including none at all on "What Is Dead May Never Die."

Moreover, last Sunday's "The Night Lands" cut to black on Jon Snow getting whacked over the head by Craster, only for this week's installment to barely touch upon the actions of the Night's Watch, revealing only that Lord Commander Mormont was aware of Craster's devious sacrifices all along.

Tyrion Photo

Could I watch entire episodes dedicated to Dany's journey through the Red Waste? Or to Jon Snow's adventures beyond the wall? Heck, even to cute, thimble-giving Sam and his careful courtship of Gilly? Absolutely. Game of Thrones has created layered, fascinating characters across every Kingdom.

There just isn't time each week to focus on every one.

(NOTE: Remember: I review this series from a purely television-based standpoint. To read the latest take from someone who has read the George R.R. Martin novels, check out Carissa Pavlica's review of "What is Dead May Never Die.")

So... while Stannis' craving for a son and his relationship with Melisandre were pushed aside in this case, we still got to know a lot more about one Baratheon brother, Renly. He isn't exactly as cunning as his brief first season introduction would have us believe, is he?

Soon after Robert died last year, Renly was prepared to join forces with Ned and succeed his sibling. He seemed anxious, ready, confident. Here, however? Renly gave off those traits in public, but he's nothing more than a cowering mess behind closed doors.

A gay cowering mess, that is, which - within the world George R.R. Martin has mapped out - can't be a huge deal in and of itself. There are eunuchs and prostitutes and constant talk of sex; I doubt non-royal gay men would receive a second look in Westeros. But a king? One who aims to sit on the Iron Throne? Where fathering a son and continuing the line of succession is one's most pressing duty?

Yeah. It's a big problem. Which explains Renly's insecure state and which also provided the perfect introduction to Margaery. Theirs is not a fairy tale love, that's safe to say. I don't recall Snow White asking Prince Charming if he wants her brother to come in and get him started. But Margaery isn't after true love, just the power that comes along with her hoped-for future position.

It's refreshing to watch someone so open with her plans and desires. As the title of this series states, a constant game is afoot, with motivations and actions often unclear until later on. Not for Margaery, though. She wants to be Queen. She wants to sire a royal son and she has no interest in pretending otherwise.

I feel like Tyrion would like Margaery. She's straightforward. He would know how to deal with someone like that and, man, would it save him scheming time! This little Hand of the King once again provided the most entertaining aspects of a GoT episode, maneuvering his way through potential snitches; finally outing Pycelle; and then paying the poor woman who had just serviced him in bed. Twice. Because, come on, she deserved at least that much for this job.

We were then treated to a revealing scene between Varys and Tyrion, along with more mentions of power and how best to attain it. Petyr Baelish, of course, believes that knowledge is power; while Cersei tried to prove on the season two premiere that power is power. Varys? He thinks the appearance of power is power, and he sees a future ruler in Tyrion, someone with a unique skill set of verbal manipulation.

But does Tyrion actually seek power? He has always seemed content where he is, wherever that may be, simply aiming to survive and drink a lot of wine. Things can change, however, especially when one is so close to the ultimate power in King's Landing.

Finally, there's Theon. He has seemingly made his choice. He's his father's son, a man of iron. Like so much else on this episode, he's a key piece being moved in to place. He'll soon butt heads with Robb Stark, who will likely view him as a traitor.

When will that battle take place on screen? It's unclear... but something big is on the Game of Thrones horizon. We've met new characters, we've been taken to new places, we've received new insight into past favorites. But we haven't really been shocked yet. No one we know has been killed and, as hard as it may be to believe, one-third of season two is already complete. I expect the early episode simmer to reach a bloody boil any Sunday now.

Who is your favorite new season two character so far?

 

Review

Editor Rating: 4.1 / 5.0
  • 4.1 / 5.0
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User Rating:

Rating: 4.7 / 5.0 (103 Votes)

Matt Richenthal is the Editor in Chief of TV Fanatic. Follow him on Twitter and on Google+.

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Fifty

Loved the schemes of Tyrion and the talk between him and Varys. Seems like Varys knowledge of Shea can be a setback for Tyrion.
Loving the show, every storyline has a nice twist. Arya's one seems most entertaining barring any scene Tyrion is in of course :)

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Just watched the first episode of serious sorry I mean series one. Sorry to be a downer but does e dialogue get any less stilted and the plot any less juvenile? The only thing to keep me watching from here is the clearly excellent production values and the excellent character of the imp. I remember reading the first book years ago and getting to pretty much the same point of the story as ep 1 and thinking 'this is pretty lame'. I also remember thinking that the beginning of the book was quite 'cinematic' well I was right and the show is better than the book at least.
Needs to be less 'yes, my grace I am honored to defend the northlands from the undrelliki hordes that plague the fields like locusts'... For gods sake we've already had lord of the rings....

Beverly-brooks

I sat and watched the all episodes of the 1st season and then watched the first 3 new ones within a week. This is the only way to keep up with all the characters and how they tied in with one another. I am impatiently waiting for this weekend to watch episode 4. I did like the way Tyrion found his traitor. I had figured that the old man was the traitor. Enjoying Game of Thrones!

Saad-khan

Game of Thrones is going great so far but Daenerys Targaryen & Jon Snow stories are limited to one scene each week, which is really becoming frustrated! :-X
And above all Daenerys Targaryen was completely ignored in 3rd episode of this season. I do love Peter Dinklage as Tyrion Lannister but if he is taking Daenerys Targaryen & Jon Snow screen time then I've huge problem with it!
P.S Margaery Tyrell out spoken confrontation with One-of-the-King-to-be Renly Baratheon shock the hell out of me. Superb!

Fortyseven

I thought Shae decided to be Sansa's handmaiden herself. I liked the Sansa/Shae scene.

Fortyseven

Better than the first 2. The long pauses are a bit too long. Tyrion used the classic way to discover a mole. Margaery is cool. Wish we get more action with Jon and Dany.

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This season GOT is dragging us through medieval misery, gratuitous (gross) sex and rampant story lines too numerous to count. HBO has really lowered the bar on this one, as the show seems to be floundering in a downward spiral from a truly great start.
SNL did a skit this past weekend on how the GOT script consultant is a 13-year old boy in mouth braces who has only one thing on his juvenile and deviant mind…. bathroom breaks! Watching babies being beheaded and young children sliced up with a sword is not at all entertaining. And, the humiliating brothel scenes are as pathetic as it can possibly get! SNL's pointed observation as to how HBO airs this uber-violent and hyper-sexual TV program in between children's cartoon daytime fare is spot on!!!

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No spoilers here--If you haven't read the books, then you may see some of the scenes as 'wasteful'--but, think about this--if GRRM and Benioff and company put a scene into the TV series, whether it was in the books or not, there had to be a reason they want you to see it. SO much goes on in these books, yet they only have barely ten hours a season to tell us the story. I have to think they chose wisely, so that you will get the info you need, to understand what's going on. Every episode bears re-watching :)

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I too thought this episode was short, it didn't even ring in at 55 min. It is scattering around a lot, very hard to keep up with all of the players giving precious little time to everyone, except Tyrion. The character development is quite happening unfortunately. The hectic pace that everything is going leaves little room to care about or dislike these new characters. Martin, knowing that a tv show wouldnt even touch the depth of the novels should have cut many of the supporting characters. Littlefinger is pointless as well as Varys. Arya in the scheme of the show is pointless as well. After 5 books she still doesnt do a whole lot in the grand narrative of Westeros.

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You are so right with the schock-factor. I was thinking along the same lines... Who do we have to fear loosing? Not Tyrion - he is far too cool for death. But I do worry about him. He seems to be doing too well. That means probmlems. Arya won´t die too, but I do worry about Gendry. I have the feeling she may betray him in the end. Kid her age can´t be un-affected by all this. If any of the Stark-children were to choose the wrong side, I´d bet my money on her. And she´ll be so much more evil than some Joffrey. She has the brains. He is just dumb kid who I don´t even hate all that much. With family this fucked up, how else could he turned out?
Margaery is very cool. I like her - but I have a feeling she won´t get the son she wants. Renly is, like you said, too weak to survive. I will miss the hot gay scenes, but the character... Not so much. He is kinda most whatever of them all.
As far as the begining of the article goes, the is almost no downside to this many storylines. Yes, I do miss my favorites sometimes, but I never get bored. And that is very rare on TV these days.
BTW- I totally love your headlines.
And in the end... I have one thing that buges me. I´d love to know if I´m the only one, so if anyne could, respond!
How in the hell are all the sex stuff about the age-aproppriate people? Every whore looks of age. Children play with dools, play kings, play. I´m not agains it in real life, don´t get me wrong - but in a series like this, where fathers fuck their daughters and bear another daughters to fuck, it just seems... Unrealistic. It seems as if the creators are trying to be "Appropriate" with the one. And that I don´t like. Appropriate is something so not GoT.
Also - they sould not cut the sex scenes. But it sould be longer! So much longer. 10 episodes a year is not nearly enough.