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...

The Old Gods and the New Review

Editor Rating: 4.8 / 5.0
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User Rating:

Rating: 4.7 / 5.0 (141 Votes)

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

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