Game of Thrones "Second Sons" Review: Mixing and Matching

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Game of Thrones S03E08: "Second Sons"

Remember square dancing? In fourth grade, your entire class would pile into a gym and you'd pair off with the one member of the opposite sex that didn't have Cooties. The two of you would swing each other around and play Pattycake or whatever, and things weren't that bad because at least you had a partner that you felt reasonably comfortable with. But at some point the caller would bark instructions to move down to the left one spot and then everyone ended up with someone new and you ended up dancing with Bucktoothed Becky Winklestein!

So what does this have to do with Game of Thrones? The series has now do-se-do'd enough times so that everyone featured in "Second Sons" was dancing with their version of Becky Winklestein. The characters in focus were paired up with new partners we never imagined seeing them with, while the long developing relationships we've gotten used to (Jon and Ygritte, Robb and Talisa, and Brienne and Jaime, to name the most obvious) took the week off.

The result was a fantastic look at characters we've known as they dealt with new circumstances we didn't expect. Arya and The Hound shared a horse's back, Melisandre and Gendry shared a bed, and Sansa and Tyrion shared one very uncomfortable wedding in "Second Sons," an episode that benefitted from quieter moments with fewer characters rather than spazzing out over several. 

So take that leech of your groin, and let's talk about it!


"Sulk all you want... truth is, you're lucky." —The Hound

The game of Hot Pot-Arya-to (you say pot-AryAY-to) continued with the Hound now in possession of the Stark girl after last week's harmless kidnapping in the forest. And once again, we've got a grizzled old dude carting her around, trying to make an easy buck. For all the talk of rapists and murderers plaguing the countryside, Arya has gotten off rather easy. Sure, from her viewpoint, it's been a series of unfortunate imprisonments, but as the Hound told her, it could be a lot worse.

For my money, the Hound is one of the most interesting characters in the series. There's a weird consistency with his inconsistency. He's loyal to Joffrey and obeying his every word, then he's a traitor and joining our chorus of "Fuck Joffrey." He's a savage monster who killed Arya's friend, then he's plucking Sansa out of the clutches of rapists. He's a bad doggy, but he's also a good doggy. But he's really not inconsistent at all. Everything comes down to what really motivates him, which is unwavering selfishness. the Hound is out for the Hound, and the Hound only. Sometimes his self-motivated acts intersect with our sense of what's good and right, and that's what happened when he told Arya that he was taking her to the Twins to return her to Catelyn and Robb. We see a man doing a good deed, he sees an easy payday. 

And it looks like he and Arya may actually make it to the Twins without Arya caving in the Hound's skull with a rock. Despite being on Arya's shortlist of People to Savagely Murder, Arya recognized that the Hound is her new best shot at being reunited with her family, and the hope that popped up in her eyes when the Hound told her where they were going was touching. Micah's revenge will just have to wait for another day. But then again, how many times has she been told, "Oh we'll get you back to your mum real soon"?

The Hound announcing his plans for her defused a ton of potential conflict between the two that would've been fun to watch given their brief-but-troubled history. I love these two together because of their history and because I'd love to see The Hound try to win Arya over. Maybe there it'll be a long-enough haul to the Twins to see some of this, maybe the series will glaze over it in favor of moving things along faster.


"My sword is yours, my life is yours, my heart is yours." —Daario

Dany played The Dating Game while snooping out Yunkai's special friends, a soldiers-for-hire group known as the Second Sons. Bachelor Number One, the Titan's Bastard, was a real charmer, all ass-slapping and tongue-lapping and "my cock this" and "your cunt that." Bachelor Number Two was stoic, boring, and not really worth talking about, considering what would happen to him later that night. And let's face it, he never stood a chance with Dany.

But Bachelor Number Three, what a cake of beef made out of dreamboats! Daario Naharis and Dany clicked instantly, mentally undressing each other while everyone else talked money for blood. So was it any surprise that Daario would declare himself winner of the game by default when he showed up with the heads of Bachelor Numero Uno and Bachelor Numero Dos in a bag? And was it any surprise that Dany let her nipples peek up from under the bathwater to get a good look at him, then let her entire naked body get a good look at him (and vice versa)? If these two aren't howling like fornicating alley cats in the next few episodes, they need to go back to Flirting School because there are green lights all over the place. 

I'm very skeptical, though, and worried for Dany. What kind of man decapitates his co-workers and changes an entire army's allegiance just for a shot at some booty? A man who can't be trusted, that's who. Daario may be all high cheekbones and luscious locks, but keep your eyes on the prize, Dany, and not Daario's loincloth. And poor Jorah Mormont! Now he has this underwear model to contend with for Dany's attention in addition to cranky old Ser Barristan? Dany didn't even ask him to kill the Titan's Bastard first, she asked Barristan.

Despite really only accomplishing a switch of loyalty for the Second Sons from Yunkai to Dany (which is pretty darn important), the story here was well served, and that again goes toward this episode's focus on telling fewer stories but spending more time with each of them. 


"And none have seen the blade..." —Melisandre

Stannis learned exactly what it takes to be a king when your path to the Iron Throne leads through some insane woman's voodoo. Eggs will be broken, omelets will be made, and Uncle of the Year Awards will have to wait. But deep down he knew that sacrificing Gendry because some fire told his girlfriend to do so was a heavy price to pay for power. And since he didn't have the spine to tell his woman himself, he went to his imprisoned BFF Davos so Davos would be the goat for his discontent.

So it was Davos who took the blame for the leeching of Gendry, which Melisandre did to prove to Davos that King's Blood really is as powerful as she claims. There was recognition here from Stannis that Melisandre is totally loony-toons, but he couldn't help but look at the evidence in favor of the Lord of Light's power. Melisandre said it was Davos who wanted proof, but Davos had already seen her squeeze out a shadow baby. It was Stannis who needed the convincing that his First Lady's withcraft was worth killing Gendry. Or maybe Stannis was hoping that the spell—cast against usurpers Robb Stark, Balon Greyjoy, and Joffrey Baratheon—would fail so he could get off the crazy train. 

At least Davos is out of jail now. But let's hope he keeps up with his Hooked on Phonics reading lessons.


"I won't share your bed, not until you want me to." —Tyrion Lannister

With Edmure set to marry the Frey girl, Joffrey set to marry Margaery, and Cersei set to marry Loras, it's wedding season in Westeros! And what a way to kick off the tying of knots than with the frayed threads of Tyrion and Sansa, the series' most unlikely couple. The entire situation was uncomfortable for the both the bride and the groom, and I loved how Tyrion handled it. First, he was earnest with Sansa, trying to win her trust and ease her nerves and plead his case as an honest man and not a monster. When that didn't work, it was time for some wine.

As for Sansa, in many ways her marriage to Tyrion mirrored Arya's situation with the Hound. In her mind, there's no worse person to end up with. She's reached the end of the dream that she's held tightly since she was a girl, and the beginning of the nightmare that will haunt her for the rest of her life. While I've enjoyed Sansa's misery in the past, there wasn't much to enjoy here. She wasn't even fighting it anymore; she's been beaten down to a chess piece as the "key to the North."

And delivering the final kick was Joffrey, the only person to get any enjoyment out of this union. He stole Tyrion's footstool to make a mockery of the cloaking tradition and he promised to bed Sansa on her wedding night because Tyrion was too hammered to perform. There was no reason for this other than to reiterate that Joffrey is a little shit.

That's what I liked most about this entire wedding scene. Everyone was true to their characters and we saw the good in Tyrion, the evil in Joffrey, and the newfound resignation from Sansa. And we saw how everyone was a prisoner to this system despite knowing how morally wrong everything was. "This isn't about your wedding," Tywin told Tyrion, which pretty much summed up the whole thing.

It also made for one heck of an entertaining reception with Tyrion taking his vows with wine and getting in a few great shots at Joffrey before receding back to his place in court through self-deprecation and over-playing his inebriation. It was the kindest thing Tyrion did for Sansa all night, taking her away from the ridicule of a bedding ceremony emceed by a buzzed Joffrey by drawing all the attention to himself.

And his respect for Sansa continued in the bedroom in a fantastic scene, where he cracked wise about starting his Night's Watch vow of celibacy until Sansa wanted to have sex with him, even though Sansa was willing to go through with it. Of all the mismatched pairings that came to fruition in this episode full of them, it was Sansa and Tyrion's that worked best.


"Please don't name him Randall." —Samwell Tarly

There wasn't a lot of action in "Second Sons," but the episode did conclude with one big moment for Sam. After a lot of idle chit-chat between Sam and Gilly in a ramshackle safe house, a White Walker came for its baby tax. But Samwell manned up and backstabbed it with his dragonglass dagger, shattering the White Walker to smithereens! It may not be scientifically researched, but Samwell's accidental discovery just became the most important bit of information in the war against the White Walkers. Dragonglass is their kryptonite, their Achilles' heel, their Snickers bar (I'm allergic to peanuts). Hey, I'm just proud of Sam for not throwing the baby at the White Walker and running away like a little girl. Way to go, Sam!



WEEKLY POWER RANKINGS

Each week, I'll rank the episodes of Season 3 from best to worst. But remember, these are just my opinions! Feel free to post your own in the comments!

This week:
The strength of "Second Sons" was its focus on three main stories—Tyrion and Sansa's wedding, Dany and Daario, and how Gendry can be of use to Melisandre—as they were all allowed to fully realize themselves, rather than show up in bits and pieces that episodes that touch on many characters do. Even though there was no Jon, Jaime, or Robb, the episode was better for it. But as good as it was, it doesn't make "Second Sons" better than some of the season's excellent episodes. I'd like to see more episodes with smaller focus, and when an episode does that with more compelling stories, it will be a winner. "Second Sons" wasn't as good as "The Bear and the Maiden Fair" and it didn't have the standout scenes of "Kissed By Fire."

1. "And Now His Watch Is Ended" (Episode 4)

Jaime vomited horse pee-pee, Varys crafted a plot to derail Littlefinger's plan to marry Sansa, the Brotherhood Without Banners brought the Hound to trial, Dany got her army with a little trickery, and anarchy took over the Night's Watch. 

2. "Walk of Punishment" (Episode 3)

Dany concocted a plan to buy the Unsullied from their slave master and offered a dragon as payment. Jaime and Brienne found out that being untrue will cost them a lot more than their honor. Tyrion got a new job as Master of Coin, Catelyn attended her father's funeral, Hot Pie said goodbye to Arya, and Jon was headed to the Wall.


3. "The Bear and the Maiden Fair" (Episode 7)

Jon and Ygritte looked at a windmill, Dany brought her dragons to Yunkai and laid down some terms, Robb learned that he's going to be a father, and Jaime Lannister became Brienne's knight in shining armor. George R.R. Martin wrote this one.


4. "Kissed By Fire" (Episode 5)

Themes of loyalty and oaths were explored with the help of Bryan Cogman's excellent script, creating an episode unlike most. Jon and Ygritte went hot-tubbing in a cave, Jaime and Brienne went hot-tubbing in custody, and Stannis's dead babies went hot-tubbing in jars. 


4. "Second Sons" (Episode 8)

Tyrion and Sansa got married in one of the kingdom's most awkward unions, Dany and Daario showed each other what they have to offer, and Gendry got sucked on by Melisandre's leeches. 


5. "Valar Dohaeris" (Episode 1)

The season premiere found Tyrion wondering why he wasn't getting dap for saving King's Landing, Jon getting pledged into the Wildling fraternity, Davos pissing off his friend's girlfriend, and Dany shopping for an army.

6. "Dark Wings, Dark Words" (Episode 2)

We saw Arya, Jaime, and Bran for the first time in this season. But the most exciting parts of the episode were the introductions of the Queen of Thorns, Thoros of Myr, and the Reed super siblings. And we may as well mention that Joffrey got a boner from imagining Margaery killing things, that pervert.

7. "The Climb" (Episode 6)

Jon and Ygritte climbed a big ice cube, and Tywin got his way with the King's Landings marriages. Sansa cried, Edmure was betrothed to one of Walder Frey's daughters, and Gendry was taken away from Melisandre.




NOTES FROM THE RAVENS

– Titan's Bastard, you are one disgusting human being. No one does air-cunnilingus on my Khaleesi! One thing theis episode could have used was a scene of him getting killed very slowly and painfully.

– Arya's smiles are worth 100 times any other characters' smiles because they're so rare.

– "Second Sons" not only referred to the friends of Yunkai, but also to the many forgotten sons in the series. The Hound, living in the shadow of his brother. Gendry, the bastard son cast aside. Stannis, the other Baratheon.

– Somewhere, some weirdo with a leech fetish really enjoyed this episode. 

– That's two weeks in a row where a man's nether regions betrayed him. Last week, Theon's member grew only to become a bigger target, and this week Gendry was ridden to engorgement for a bigger leech lunch. Frankly, I'm scared to get a boner now. Thanks a lot, Game of Thrones.

– Lots of educating going on in this episode. Missandei, Essos's C3PO, corrected Dany on her terrible Dothraki pronunciations; Samwell taught Gilly about names and surnames; and Davos learned how to read from a "Know Your Kings" coloring book. See, it's not too late to go back and get your GED!

– Tyrion pointing out Sansa's "astoundingly long neck" was a highlight of the episode for me. I think she might be half giraffe.

– Thanks to Twitter user seven_hells for giving me a Westerosi geography lesson and reasoning why Melisandre and Gendry could have been sailing north past King's Landing in last week's episode.


Follow TV.com writer Tim Surette on Twitter if you want to: @TimAtTVDotCom