Game of Thrones: Grinding Away

Game of Thrones S02E06: "The Old Gods and the New"

Last week was all about war, but this week there was hardly a peep about a battle that will decrease the population of Westeros by 40 percent. That's the difference between adapting a huge book into a huge television series versus adapting a huge book into a really long movie. With ten installments spread out over ten weeks, keeping the hours thematically similar is much more important in telling the story. That's true for all of television, but it's a shame that the dark cloud of war that's so important to A Clash of Kings can't be present each week.

I wonder what a ten-hour movie of Season 2 would look like compared to a ten-episode television series. Game of Thrones is such a great show to marathon on DVD that part of me thinks the series could get away with structuring itself as a ten-hour film instead of as ten one-hour bits that need to share themes and end on a tantalizing cliffhanger. Just a thought. I'd watch a ten-hour Game of Thrones movie.

Instead, "The Old Gods and the New" put war on the back burner and dabbled in relationships, particularly those of Westeros's two most eligible bachelors, Robb Stark and Jon Snow. But there were also big changes in existing relationships. Robb and Theon are the opposite of BFFs, Sansa and The Hound have a new respect for each other, and even Arya and Tywin had an interesting chat. One of the most exciting things about Game of Thrones is watching characters you'd never think would have a connection spend time with each other and react in ways you never expected.

As is the case with real life, interactions with different people bring out different sides of a character, and Game of Thrones nails this concept. Who do you want to see share a scene? Think about that while we catch up on what happened in "The Old Gods And the New."

"It grieves me that you have less honor than a back-alley whore."

Hey Game of Thrones, how about at least letting us settle into the couch before you blow our minds?! For the second week in a row, an episode only made it about ten seconds before something crazy happened. Last week it was Renly getting skewered by a shadow-sassin, this week it was Winterfell falling to Theon Greyjoy.

Wait a sec: Winterfell, our cherished home? The impenetrable fortress of Ned Stark? The place we practically grew up in? It's... fallen? To Theon Greyjoy? I know I'm a paid writer and stuff, but all I can really think to say is, "What an asshole!" I actually liked Theon in the books, but that's because I never pictured him doing that thing where he looks off to the left and puts his hands on his hips like he's Captain Morgan or something. The guy is all ego and barnacles.

So Theon's plan to distract the Winterfell guard so they'd leave—which he did by attacking a neighboring township—worked to perfection. You probably want to blame Bran because he gave the order to send the men, but nuh-uh, this is all on Theon. The irony is that he's doing all this because his daddy and family didn't love him enough, and it's coming at the cost of the foster family that raised him and loved him. Most ungrateful long-term castleguest ever!

But Theon's second stay at Winterfell might be short-lived. As with all Greyjoy plans, this one was only thought out partway through. I don't know if you've ever played the excellent computer game series Civilization, but Theon's conquest of Winterfell was like when you have one phalanx left to move into a city you just beat. In other words, he's going to be the shortest reigning Prince of Winterfell of all time as soon as a few enemies show up. Theon told Maester Llewyn to send a raven to his sister asking for backup, but how confident are we that the old man will obey?

I'm going to sound like a total dork when I say this, but hey I'm drinking Budweiser and eating Pringles straight out of the can so it can't get much worse: I consider the fall of Winterfell the death of a character. Or at least some brutal molestation of a character, depending on how things turn out. Even if Winterfell is retaken, it will still have that gross dirty ocean smell of the Greyjoys. Winterfell was more than stones and stone-glue, it was a home to the Starks, who as of this moment are still the good guys. Winterfell is/was a beacon of honor and duty; Ned Stark's spirit roams its halls, but he's too kind to rattle his chains because he doesn't want to wake anyone up.

If you don't consider Winterfell a character, you'll at least consider Ser Rodrick Whiskertie a character. The feisty Master-at-Arms of Winterfell was defiant until the end, hocking a loogie into Theon's face. Theon was told he'd never earn any respect if he let that slip unpunished, so now Winterfell's head of security is just "of security." It did take almost a half-dozen thwacks and a kick of the boot to get Rodrick's head off, though. Hey Theon, if you're going to be cutting people's heads off, you might want to sign up for a gym membership.

Osha might wear a smock made of soil and twigs, but she's no dummy. Those Wildlings are survivors, and she used her womanly protrusions and indentations to craft a pretty sly plan. She humped Theon into a deep sleep, fake-flirted a guard into a defenseless stance so she could stab his face, and then made sure Bran, Rickon, Hodor, and the direwolves escaped. But where are a female Pig Pen, a nut-crushing infant, a crippled boy, an oaf, and a couple of pups going to go?

"Wild creatures have their own rules, their own reasons. You'll never know them."

Jon was trudging along the Frostfangs with Qhorin Halfhand and their band of not-so-merry men looking for Wildlings. Qhorin gave him a quick life lesson about wild creatures, saying they can't be tamed or trusted. We call that foreshadowing. But oh, what wild heart might Jon not be able to tame?

I really liked Qhorin's hazing of Jon about their notoriety as members of the Night's Watch. He set Jon up to say he was doing something noble and that sacrificing his life was the best thing he could do for Westeros, then he slapped him with the truth: You're just a no-named grunt who no one will remember, but as long as you're alive, that means the threats from the North aren't heading south and you're doing your job like a champ. That's how Qhorin Halfhand sees it. Gotta love Qhorin.

They came upon a Wildling camp and did that sneaky thing where you try not to be seen and got the jump on the wildlings. It was a total slaughter until Jon tackled his Wildling instead of slicing it in half, and of course "it" turned out to be a girl. And not just any girl, a cute redhead! I think we know where this is going, eh? Ygritte's her name, and she was very keen on making sure that any dead bodies were burned because the dead up here have a tendency to get up and start walking again.

Qhorin left Jon to kill her, and I think we all knew where this was going, riiiight? He couldn't kill her, she ran for it like a snow leopard, and it took a sweet sliding-tackle takedown to bowl her over. But it was too late, they'd strayed too far from Jon's buddies and they were on their own. I guess? I didn't think they ran that far, but whatever. Jon tied Ygritte up (kinky) and took her prisoner, but it got late and they had to go to sleep for the night. I think we all knew where this was going, ya? She certainly did, because she was grinding on him like an extra in a 2 Live Crew video. I know a lot of you ladies out there are Jon Snow fans, and all I can say is, sorry. Serves you right for falling in love with a fake person in a land far, far away.

"You are promised to another, a debt that must be paid."

Speaking of Stark boys getting bit by the love bug, Robb did some big-time medieval flirting with Tilessa ("You're a spy preparing to have me killed by the Lannisters! *wink wink*" "I'm not a spy, tee hee!"). This is an open-and-shut case, folks. Robb and Tilessa are obviously going to get together, unless she actually IS a spy sent to infiltrate the camp through Robb's heart.

Catelyn figured out what Robb's groin was up to and found it cute, but also knew that he better keep it in the pants or all the political moves she made would be ruined. Robb is still betrothed to one of Walder Frey's butt-ugly children, he can't be shacking up with much hotter foreign girls! (Though who can blame him?)

But Robb's boner got killed with news from Winterfell: The castle had been taken and Theon had killed Rodrick. This is how friendships end, people. Do not go into your friend's house, eat all his food, and kill his dog while he's away on a business trip. Robb now wants Theon head, and I hope he gets it.

"It is my belief that a moment of chaos affords opportunity soon after."

You don't really get a sense of how stupid people are until Tywin Lannister is in the room, and he was plenty frustrated with his Knights of the Idiot Table, who mixed up their Reply Alls and BCCs and CCs which resulted in sending the wrong information to the wrong people. Oops! It's hard to find good help in any day and age, it appears.

Well look who showed up in Harrenhal! Lord Petyr "Littlefinger" Baelish, who's been putting serious miles on his frequent horsie rider card. Who makes sure the whores back at the Pimp Palace are properly "playing with her ass!" while he's away? When you pay good money for a whorehouse, you expect a certain level of quality. Hopefully Petyr has a good intern, I'm sure plenty of people lined up for that gig.

Littlefinger had a proposal for Tywin: Join the houses of the Lannisters and the Tyrells (Ser Loras "The Knight of Flowers," a.k.a. Renly's lover, and Margaery) to form a supergroup. They have enough men to squash Stannis, and if Tywin is still upset about them joining Renly (for a moment) he can punish them later. That Littlefinger! Is there anything he can't do? Watch out for this dude!

Arya, you especially! But when she and Littlefinger were playing their game of hide-and-seek out in the open, she blew her cover by being a butterfingers and spilling wine all over him. He didn't do anything about it right then, but how will he use this information—knowing where the missing Stark child is—to his advantage? It would be a pretty good way to get on Catelyn's good side if he could tell her.

I'm not going to say that Arya stealing notes from Tywin's table was a good idea, but she did, and of course it caused trouble when one of Tywin's dim-witted men found her with it. The guard was all ready to take the note back to Tywin and bust Arya, so she cashed in assassination number two with Jaqen H'ghar, who made quick work of it just in the nick of time. So far, we haven't seen how he's making these kills. Is he just a sneaky rogue or is there something bigger at work here? Is he having shadow babies in the corner? Can men have shadow babies? I wouldn't be surprised, given how weird this world is. Now Arya has one more murder in her pocket, and maybe if we all shout "Joffrey" loud enough, she'll hear us.

"Forgive me my little princess, but I cannot make an investment based on wishes and dreams!"

Listen, I love Dany just as much as the next nerd with a dragon fetish. But her adventures in Qarth so far have been pretty boring. It's like following someone on a bunch of sales pitch meetings. "Give me ships! I'm a queen! I'll pay you back when I'm famous!" Many a businessman has heard the same spiel from wannabe rappers. Dany, you're going to have to do what most of today's pop stars did and sleep with someone rich to get your way. At least she looked good when she was begging the spice king for dollars. Does someone have a Tumblr for Qarth fashion yet?

Later, Xaro was telling us AGAIN about how he came from nothing (braggart) to be the richest man in Qarth, when he and Dany came upon the bodies of Dany's entourage. They'd been slaughtered and her dragons stolen! Cut to a guy with her dragons on his back walking up a bunch of stairs to an ominous looking tower. If that creepy self-duplicating Pyat Pree isn't behind this, I'll eat my hat.

"We've had vicious kings, and we've had idiot kings, but I don't know that we've been cursed with a vicious idiot boy king!"

The King's Landing stuff was, by far, my favorite portion of this episode (aside from Rodrick's beheading, what can I say, I love a good old-fashioned beheading). The first thing we saw was poor Myrcella, Cersei's only daughter, being boated off to Dorne to marry some guy she doesn't know. I know Myrcella is pretty innocent, but HAHA CERSEI! Naturally, mama was upset and threatened to take Tyrion's love away from him if he ever finds one. Now Tyrion has all the more reason to keep Shae out of sight. Cersei would have her fileted.

On the way back to their palatial estate, the Lannisters ran into the Occupy King's Landing movement, and there isn't a sweeter sound than that of Joffrey getting hit in the face with a pile of poo! The Lannisters' grip on the city had begun to slip, and it was riotin' time! However, I've never been to a riot where a guy literally gets ripped apart by protesters who hold his severed arm aloft like a trophy.

Once Tyrion and Joffrey were out of harm's way they had a fantastic scene, and Joffrey extended his lead in the race to become the most slapped man in Westeros, taking a solid, well-deserved palm from Tyrion. That guy gets slapped more than I did in college. But how long can Tyrion continue to treat Joffrey like that before Joffrey gives the order to make Tyrion a head shorter?

In the chaos, Sansa got separated from the guards. In a show with plenty of beheadings, disembowelings, and horse murders, the attempted rape of Sansa stands out as most uncomfortable scene yet, in my book. Poor Sophie Turner is going to need therapy after filming it, but credit to her, she looked positively horrified. But then... RELEASE THE HOUND! Sandor "The Hound" Clegane is such a fascinating character. On one side, he's Joffrey's dog who does the kid's bidding. He killed Arya's friend as he was ordered, but he also saved Ser Loras against Gregor "The Mountain" Clegane. And tonight he showed up like Batman to save Sansa and pulled off the very difficult throat-grab-disemboweling-in-the-air maneuver before calmly saying, "You're all right now, little bird, you're all right." Wow. "You're all right now, little bird, you're all right" is the new "That'll do, pig."

Random Thoughts

– What do you think of The Hound?

– Where the eff is Jaime Lannister? I miss that guy!

– Which two characters who haven't shared a scene would you like to see interact?

GIF of the Week!
The Joffrey double punk!

Game of Thrones Season 2 Power Rankings

I'll be ordering the ten episodes of Game of Thrones' second season from first to worst in terms of quality. But remember, these rankings are just, like, my opinion, man.

This Week: Another solid episode of Game of Thrones that doesn't particularly stand out as one of its best but certainly wasn't one of its weaker efforts. A guy got his arm ripped off by regular city folk, for crying out loud! That was awesome. But the Dany story is in a holding pattern and the Jon story forced the pairing of Ygritte and Jon for grinding time. But a guy got his arm ripped off! This goes right in the middle of the pack.

1. "Garden of Bones" (Episode 4)
Joffrey entertains a few ladies by having them beat each other; Melisandre gives birth to the Smoke Monster from Lost; Dany meets a bunch of salesmen from Qarth.

2. "The Ghost of Harrenhal" (Episode 5)
Shadow Baby gives Renly a big hug, wildfire wildfire wildfire!, Theon sets out for the North, and Arya's new friend does her bidding.

3. "The North Remembers" (Episode 1)
Annnnd we're back! Joffrey orders death for Robert's bastards; Melisandre, Davos, and Stannis make their grand entrance; Robb sends an all tomato ultimatum to the Lannisters.

4. "The Old Gods and The New" (Episode 6)
Jon Snow meets a hot redhead in the snow, the people of King's Landing rebel, and Winterfell falls to Theon.

5. "The Night Lands" (Episode 2)
The Goldcloaks set out to find Gendry (and Arya); Theon gropes his sister and disappoints his dad; Jon sees something strange in the forest.

6. "What Is Dead May Never Die" (Episode 3)
Theon suits up for Team Greyjoy; Tyrion gives Pycelle the boot; Cat arrives to see Renly assembling a circus; Arya and Gendry get captured.

Follow writer Tim Surette on Twitter: @TimAtTVDotCom

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