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Game of Thrones Review: Royal Pains

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A beheading-based takeover of Winterfell. A violent uprising against the boy king. A possibly fatal mistake by Jon Snow. And the Mother of Dragons without her children.

Oh yes. Game of Thrones - which occasionally whips around between characters so quickly that it can feel like nothing substantial actually takes place - upped the ante across the board on "The Old Gods and the New," delivering an episode with endless action, one shocking development after another and a royal slap that could be felt across all of Westeros.

Take that, Joffrey!

Joffrey and Sansa

Let's start there: what a dramatic scene. It depicted Joffrey at his most narrow-minded and ruthless, Sansa at her most vulnerable and Tyrion at his most heroic - and his most panicked.

The Hand of the King is a man always in control, always thinking six steps ahead (and he did at least have the early sense here to predict what was coming and order the children away). But he couldn't get to Sansa in time. It was squirm-inducing to watch her dress ripped to shreds, to see those giant men preying upon the helpless soon-to-be queen.

It's the second time in three episodes (see "Garden of Bones") we've watched clothing torn from Sansa's body and also the second time in three episodes we've seen Tyrion berate the king as a result. But, in this case, the little guy delivered a big speech and an even bigger thwack across Joffrey's petulant face. And, look at that, Tyrion still breathing!

Will this sequence of events - the dissatisfaction of the peasants, the near end of his own life, the realization that at least someone out there isn't afraid to stand up to him - actually have a positive effect on Joffrey? I doubt it. But it will clearly speed up whatever Tyrion's plan may be to remove Joffrey from the throne.

And when he's done with that, maybe he can scoot over to Winterfell because... damn. That place now needs some serious help.

Did it seem like an abrupt move, for Theon to go from sacking a smaller village last week to taking over Winterfell the very next time we saw him? Maybe. But his plan didn't include decapitating poor, noble Rodrik. Heck, his plan didn't include decapitating poor, noble Rodrik even after Rodrik spit in his face.

Theon isn't thinking about anything aside from proving his mettle and his loyalty to his father these days, making the attack on Winterfell a believable next step. But he didn't follow that next step to its logical conclusion. Did he think he'd be welcomed back with open arms? That he could just take over as Lord without the use of violence? That his sword would do the job of beheading in one quick swoop?

Again: what a dramatic scene. What a graphic scene. What a scene that no other show on television would ever depict.

It really can be more symbolic than this: Theon is a violent, crazed man without a clue what he's doing. That's pretty much as dangerous as it gets. With each chop and each splattering of blood, Theon moved closer and closer to the dark side - it's clear he can't ever come back at this point. The man is most definitely going to die, by the hand of Robb Stark, I'd imagine. I'd hope. But who else in Winterfell will also die before that day comes?

Daenerys' dragons? They aren't dead. But they are no longer in her possession, either. This fiery leader tried her best to get her people a boat - she was full of passion and courage in her speech to that trader - but I really did stop to wonder last week how she could ever leave her babies alone.

Just carry around the cage at all times, D. Those animals hold the key - the only key, really - to you following in the rightful, royal footsteps of your family.

It's safe to assume the culprit, meanwhile, is that weird dude who made a copy of himself and invited Dany over to his tower two weeks ago... right?

Finally, in the pair of other key storylines from the week, we were treated to a major contrast between Arya and Jon Snow. The former is fun, sneaky and actually talks. The latter is boring, overly noble and hasn't smiled since the White Walkers last roamed.

It was pretty obvious Jon Snow wouldn't kill Ygritte, and then even more obvious she'd take the opportunity to flee. Commence a chase, that silly bastard getting separated from his colleagues and, granted, a rather funny scene where Ygritte got her grind on, much to the consternation of Jon Snow. But still... yawn. I'm just not entertained by someone as serious as Jon Snow. Oure morality can be a snooze.

Arya's on-the-run, incognito arc has been a blast, conversely. She's killing people via wishes, she's sneaking around Baelish, she's even bringing out the humanity in Tywin Lannister. Who would have guessing that the Stark's youngest daughter and the Lannister patriarch would such a dynamic duo?

So that's where we stand, as we're now past the season two halfway point. The action is undoubtedly picking up, with King's Landing on the verge of a coup, Winterfell having fallen and Dany more desperate and helpless than ever. What did everyone else think of the episode?

And what does everyone else think of Jon Snow? He's...

 

Review

Editor Rating: 4.8 / 5.0
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User Rating:

Rating: 4.7 / 5.0 (135 Votes)

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

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Fifty

This episode is a big step up from the previous one since this is action packed without a minute to snooze. I liked Jon Snow storyline although admittedly it seems a bit less magnitude compared to others. Arya storyline is my favourite and it seems to be developing an interesting relationship between Tywin and Arya. Loved Tyrion again he keeps delivering in every episode. Nice ending btw with the Dragon stealing. Can't wait to see how that turned out.

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@Matt
Keep it up, man. As a fan of the books and the show, your reviews are among my favorites on the net. It's gratifying to hear someone enjoy the show on its own merits and put that enjoyment to writing. The more I read them, the more I think "book reader" reviews are a self-defeating pretense more than anything. No actual SPOILERS, but some general clarification regarding the displacement of the Reeds compared to the novel follows: Is it wise to bring up the Reeds here? Well, they're definitely missed at the moment, but as some astute observers from the other tvfanatic review comment section mentioned, they could be introduced later easily enough. There are a few narrative casualties that result from this condensed fall of Winterfell, but not to the point of doing a gross disservice to the source material. Not even close. I see the adaptations of these events as both necessary and effective, so I don't see it as a loss for fans of the show. The Reeds' arrival in Winterfell provided some relief from the bleakness of the other arcs in the books, but Theon's coup and Bran's escape were handled so deftly and abruptly in the show that the Reeds would have had no time to do anything in Winterfell.

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@matt
I too wondered why meera and jojen were absent. If they don't go with bran that means that they are all going together, since bran can't be alone with just poor hodor. I wonder how much of the rest of that story will change?

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no novel approach this week? Zzzzz

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While this episode was still entertaining and quenched my GoT thirst for another week, it was by far the biggest departure from the novel's storyline as of yet. Also, question for those who have read the books. Why have the Reeds not yet been introduced in Winterfell? They're easily two of my favorite characters, and need to be in there.

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BEST... EPISODE... EVER.

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I didnt think it was possible to enjoy an hour of TV as much as I do GoT. Rooting hard for all Stark children, and I adore Catelyn. Great character. And Arya's creepy assassin is so cool! Tyrion is hands down, my favorite. Jorah better find those dragons!! Love this show!
Can't wait for next week. Where is a 'novel approach?' Hope its coming.

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Another marvelous, on the edge of your seat episode...If I had a bowl of popcorn in my lap when the cow pie hit Joffrey in the face, it would of been thrown all over the room in GLEE....I dread the ending of this season, but warm myself with the knowledge I am collecting the books to fill in the gaps and relive what is show on one spectacular television show...

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This was a great episode. Action packed, nicely balanced and I agree with Matt that John seems boring at the moment. But the fact that every character is telling him he's a brave and noble fool should clue you in to the fact that this is a state of being that wont last. Foreshadowing people. At the rate they are chopping along it shouldn't take too long for everyone's preconceptions to be completely overhauled.It's about to get even more interesting...

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Where is the novel approach for this weeks episode? I've never read the books myself, started the first after the show started but hard to read when you know whats coming, but I do like to see how the show compares to them. I'm very big on analyzing how things get changed when they come to screen (you should have heard me and my friend in the movie theatre our second viewing of hunger games)

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