Game of Thrones – Season 2 Episode 1: Recap

For the night is dark and full of terrors...

Disclaimer: Note: This is a recap of the first episode of Game of Thrones - Season Two, Episode One, and contains detailed spoilers about the episode. Read only if you've already seen the episode, or care not about taking the train to spoiler town.

Screen Art
Title Game of Thrones - Season Two, Episode 1
Studio HBO
Director Alan Taylor
Starring Peter Dinklage, Lena Headey, Etc.
Genre Fantasy
Rating TV-MA
Release Year 2012

Welcome back for another season of intrigue, blood, swords, and so many names to remember that you’ll need Post-it notes. Well, have no fear, because I’m your friendly guide to the World of Westeros! Tune in here every week for a recap so you can keep all those faces understood, and all those facts in line.

We open on a scene of the Hound whaling on another knight, eventually sending him over the edge of a wall and crashing to the ground below. King Joffrey-the-Annoying leaps from his chair to compliment the violence, while Sansa watches with an absolutely apathetic face. Joffrey asks for Sansa’s opinion, but she’s so terrified of giving the wrong answer that she merely parrots back his own observation, which displeases Joffrey, but he moves along. After all, it’s his birthday, he can whine if he wants to. The next pair of knights are brought out to fight, but Ser Dontos is late to the party, and something of a buffoon; Joffrey calls it for what it is and decides to punish him for his drunkenness. Just as the Kingsguard is about to shove a whole keg of wine down Dontos’ throat (CHUG CHUG CHUG), Sansa intervenes, unable to stomach what Joffrey’s kingdom is devolving into. Thinking on her feet, she convinces Joffrey to keep Dontos as the court jester. Sansa is maneuvering through the court, keeping both herself and others alive with grace.

Tyrion enters the scene, newly arrived to King’s Landing in place of his father to act as Hand of the King – the first thing he comments on is Joffrey’s ruling style, in typical Tyrion fashion (“What a good job you’ve done!” he compliments the boy, as he looks away with a sour expression). His backhanded compliments are always welcome, though they’re not quite as good as the scene of Tyrion slapping Joffrey. It’s especially important to see how Tyrion handles the situation of Ned’s execution, deftly showing that he’s leagues beyond the boy king – Joffrey refuses to see Ned as anything but a traitor, while Tyrion parallels it to the death of Joffrey’s own father, Robert. But while Tyrion has leave to offer her condolences, Sansa knows that every word coming out of her mouth is being watched and weighed, and she quickly reassures Joffrey (in the most unenthusiastic voice possible) that she is loyal to her king, denouncing her mother and brother for the traitors that they are.

Once he’s checked in with the boy king, Tyrion moves on to fry bigger fish. After all, he’s here to bring both Joffrey and his mother into hand, and Cersei is the true power behind the throne. The Queen Regent is in a meeting with her small council, discussing the arrival of a white raven which signals the changing of the seasons. The Long Summer has ended, and autumn has arrived; time to start thinking of the people and preparing for winter, right? Start stocking up on food, ensuring supplies are in order, all that good stuff. Unfortunately, Cersei’s ruling style informs Joffrey’s, and she orders all of the peasants fleeing the war and running to King’s Landing to be locked out of the city. Nice to know those in power care about you. Tyrion walks in, surprising everyone and introducing himself as the new Hand.  Cersei is less than pleased with this development and has absolutely no issue showing it – but Tyrion quickly shows that he’s no idiot, that he’s quite aware of the events at hand. Cersei reveals that she doesn’t have all of her cards, telling Tyrion that Arya is missing, and Tyrion mocks her for being the “disappointing child,” something I’m sure he relishes since that mantle usually falls on him.

We cut to Bran being bored to death through listening to holdfast lords file complaints with him. He’s the eldest male stark left in Winterfell, so it leaves him to see over the day to day duties of ruling. Bran contrasts Joffrey in a few ways: he seems to take his duties a little more seriously, correcting one of the men when he speaks badly about Robb. Joffrey merely sees ruling as a way to please himself, abusing his power. This scene flows into one of a wolf dream, where Bran is able to use Summer to move about as he used to, before his accident. Through Summer’s eyes, we see a red comet streaking across the sky: a portent of doom, or a lucky sign? Everyone has their own theories, but Osha, the wilding-turned-caregiver, says that it can only mean one thing: dragons.

And we all know who has dragons, though we get to see very little of them in this episode. Dany (with all her hair grown back after the great fire!) and her tiny khaleesar are wandering through deserts, unsure of where their next meal will come from. Another ruler, this one scrambling to figure out what to do. She seems to take her duties the most seriously, having promised her people to make her enemies die screaming. “How do I make starvation scream?” Jorah offers her advice, stating that all who they come into contact with will simply kill them and take her dragons. Dany refuses to be cowed, instead sending riders off in three directions in order to find someplace for her people to rest and restore themselves. She wants to know what’s in the area, what can be of use, and it’s a smart move. We get a touching moment between Rakaro and Dany – she tells him that he and the other riders are the last hope of the khaleesar, impressing upon him the weight of their duty. Rakaro says that he will not fail; hopefully this isn’t a portent of things to come.

So, by now, aren’t you wondering what Jon’s been up to? Well, rest at ease, because we switch over to a scene of brothers of the Night Watch riding through the forest beyond the wall. They seek shelter in a scary looking house that seems to be populated only by women – Craster’s daughters. Craster is a wilding who’s carved a nice little existence out for himself, in that he marries his daughters. You heard me right – get your eewing out now, because incest is nothing new when it comes to Game of Thrones. Craster is the last wilding to still be in the area, so he’s the only person they can ask for information toward what’s going on. Jon, being the smarty pants that he is, casually wonders aloud what it is he does with his sons; after all, he marries all of the daughters, and there are no boys to be seen anywhere in the complex. There are a variety of ideas, but no answers are forthcoming at the moment.

Craster is especially unlikeable in person, much more concerned with people touching his daughter-wives and drinking all of the wine the Night’s Watch has brought, rather than actually being helpful. After being promised more Dornish wine, he reveals that the empty villages the Night’s Watch has wandered through are the result of wildlings leaving to join up with Mance Rayder, the King-Beyond-The-Wall. Mance Rayder apparently used to be a crow as well, but he’s made himself a tidy little kingdom that doesn’t impress Mormont. Craster claims that Rayder is raising an army, one which swells with far more numbers than any of the southern kings. Once he’s raised enough swords and spears, he’ll be marching the only direction worth going in – toward the Wall. Jon makes a nuisance of himself, being rude and correcting Craster, letting his arrogance show. Mormont has a word with Jon after the conversation with Craster, which amounts to him telling Jon to learn how to follow before he attempts to lead: not bad advice. Seems like there’s a lot of advice revolving around what makes a good leader this episode.

We switch to a beach at dusk, where a bonfire is a’blazin’ and a woman all in red is performing a ceremony to the Lord of Light. Melisandre, a prophetess of R’hllor, is feeding the Seven to the Lord of Light’s flames in order to ask for victory for King Stannis (yeah we’ve got quite a few kings going on here – I mean, the name of the second book is A Clash of Kings, so what did you expect?), Robert’s other brother. Other than Renly, I mean. Stannis believes that since he is the eldest Baratheon left, the crown is rightfully his. Maester Cressen, the maester of Stannis’ court, can’t believe the sacrilege he’s witnessing, and pleas with Davos, the Onion Knight and probably the most loyal servant of Stannis, to help stop Melisandre before she pisses the Seven off so badly that they forsake Stannis all together.

Davos could care less, leading Cressen to speak up on his own. Melisandre isn’t taken in at all by Cressen’s attempt to guilt trip her congregation, and tells him to grow a pair and stop her himself if he wants to stop her at all. Melisandre speaks of a prophecy of a champion of light, and tells Stannis to retrieve the sword awaiting him in the bonfire; once he does so, everyone watching falls to their knees, apparently brainwashed into believing in this foreign religion (at least, foreign to Westeros). Davos isn’t quite as sucked in, looking a little awkward as he follows the crowd and kneels as well. What’s more surprising is that Stannis doesn’t seem quite as sold on this religion either, screwing up the catch phrase (for the night is dark, and full of terrors) – so why does he have this woman on his payroll at all? Maester Cressen catches this little stumble, probably using it to fuel the last bit of hope that he has in order to save Stannis from the evil that he sees in the Lord of Light’s flames. Cressen tries one last appeal to Davos, but Davos is insistent that he will follow Stannis, even if it’s off a cliff.

Stannis proves to be a persnickety ruler, as is clearly shown through writing a letter where he catches every phrase and tunes it to exactly what he wants to hear. Only moments before, Cressen was impressing upon Davos that it’s important to tell a ruler the truth, even if it’s not what they want to hear – and Davos asked in reply, what is the truth? It’s something that Stannis is very concerned with, especially when it comes to the claim that Joffrey Baratheon has on the throne. The letter he’s composing is a notice, denouncing Cersei’s children as offspring of incest and not true-born heirs of Robert. These are some incredibly huge accusations, brought about by Ned Stark’s investigations; when these letters reach their destinations, it will be a huge blow against the Lannisters. Once that task is completed, Davos brings up the topic of making peace with Renly (Robert’s other brother, by the same mother), something Stannis refuses to do since Renly is also vying for the crown. Melisandre is insistent that Stannis need not worry about getting support from other lords, especially since he has R’hllor behind him; but Davos is discontent to be pacified with religious zealots, wanting hard numbers and facts to ensure that Stannis will win.

Stannis refuses to bow to anyone else either, instead insisting that everyone will bend the knee to him, or suffer the consequences. Cressen breaks in at this particular juncture, stopping the argument in its tracks as he apologizes for his earlier outburst. He offers a drink to Melisandre – which only moments before he’d poisoned. Nice tactics, Mr. We Should Be Truthful. Melisandre doesn’t even blink, though, drinking from the cup fearlessly and watching with a stone cold gaze as Cressen starts to bleed from the mouth, falling to the floor dead. It’s quite obvious that Melisandre is not someone to be messed with.

Back in Robb’s camp, Robb approaches his prize prisoner, Jaime Lannister (excuse me, need to fangirl for a moment  – OK, back). Jaime teases and taunts Robb, needling him for keeping the Kingslayer around like a security blanket, but the Young Wolf is undaunted, explaining his reasoning for dragging Jaime along with the rest of the encampment. Robb even goes so far as to scare the shit out of Jaime with Grey Wind, letting the big bad wolf creep around Jaime’s cage. Continuing, he even levels the accusation of Joffrey’s parentage at Jaime, having received the notice from Stannis. Jaime quickly changes his tone, correcting every accusation with the facts that push Jaime just outside of being culpable. We are left with a lingering shot of Jaime as a captive, which I don’t know about you but I definitely felt sorry for the asshole. No matter what he tries, Robb is impervious to Jaime’s barbs, leaving him entirely at the Stark’s mercy, until one of his relatives can lend him a hand.

But don’t worry, we aren’t going to continue to stuff incestuous, king-slaying, gorgeous-and-trapped-in-a-cage-for-your-amusement men down your throat. How about some whores instead? Or rather, just one whore in particular, Tyrion’s little concubine Shae. She comments on the smell of King’s Landing, complaining that it smells like dead bodies and shit. Probably because of all the starving, unwashed masses that Cersei wants to kick back out, but hey, we’re not worried about the little people, right? Tyrion reminds Shae that she wanted to come to the city, and she quickly admits that she did – she’s not actually complaining about the smell. No, she loves it! Because there’s nothing quite like a good stink to get you all randy. She and Tyrion are lodged in the Hand’s quarters – rooms that have seen quite a lot of death. After all, both Jon Arryn and Ned Stark used to sleep in there. Doesn’t that kind of give you the willies? But we visit the topic of truth again: Tyrion reminds Shae that she can’t trust anyone in the city, that she should only rely on him for the truth. Which is actually pretty interesting, since, for a Lannister, Tyrion is much more generous and kind hearted than any of his other family members and he might just be a “slave to the truth,” as he claims. He just knows how to play the liar’s game extremely well, but the odds are already against him because of his physical deformity.

In the castle, Petyr is approached by the Queen Regent about the topic of Arya’s disappearance. This conversation, though, is less about Arya and more about power. Petyr posits that information is power, but Cersei disagrees by ordering the guards to kill Petyr. But, oh, wait, just kidding! Her little show of force is to prove that power is power; and yet, we know that Stannis’ move to slander the parentage of Cersei’s children was definitely an exercise in power. We know that Robb controlling who knows the whereabouts of Jaime Lannister is power.  We know that the Night’s Watch trying to find out what Rayder is up to could be power that they can use against him. Cersei definitely has a point in that power is power, but knowledge is certainly the stronger contender. While Cersei’s power is more immediate, Petyr’s is further reaching and has much greater influence, which certain people are going to feel very, very harshly later on.

But first we switch back to Robb’s camp, where a Lannister envoy is ready to receive the King in the North’s terms for peace. Robb demands to have his sisters returned, to have his father’s bones returned, and the bones of those who died in Ned’s service. He also demands that the North be recognized as a separate state, causing everyone seated at the table to start chanting like a bunch of frat boys. The envoy tries to explain that such terms might be a touch too much for Cersei and Joffrey to stomach, but Robb is unyielding. Once the envoy leaves, Theon begs a moment of Robb’s time. Greyjoy offers to go to his father to ask for ships for Robb’s cause. Robb seems unsure, but a moment later Robb is arguing with Catelyn about whether or not he should send Theon on this suggested quest. Cat is less than welcoming of the idea, due to a Greyjoy rebellion that Ned had to put down in years past. She insists that Balon Greyjoy is untrustworthy, but Robb compares himself and his men to the rebels. A tired looking Cat finally tells Robb that she wants to go home, to see Bran and Rickon, but Robb usurps this plan with one of his own, telling Cat that she will ride to Renly’s encampment in order to broker peace terms with the other Baratheon.  After some argument and convincing from Robb, Cat agrees to go as a diplomat for her son, instead of going home to see her children again.

From one mother to the next, we change to a scene of Cersei walking in on Joffrey redesigning the throne room. At a time like this, when people are starving and wars are being fought, this little shit is spending good coin on repainting the throne room. Cersei starts trying to talk strategy with her son, commenting that no one knows where Arya Stark is. Without her, they can’t trade for Jaime; Joffrey drops a nice little bomb, that the Starks put too much value on their women – a nice comment for his mother, who has been fighting against her gender her whole life, to the point where it’s nearly put the crown on her head. But Cersei lets this roll off, trying to give Joffrey more advice, to which Joffrey simply isn’t listening – and that little mouth just keeps running and running. He eventually asks how many bastard brothers and sisters he might have, in the most horrible way possible. And BOOM, Joffrey Slap 2.0 comes rolling out from his mother’s own palm. Joffrey quickly asserts that now that he is king, the slapping needs to stop because he’ll hack off the head of the person who touches his poor little face. Cersei is unfazed by Joffrey’s remark, but is quickly dismissed by Joffrey all the same. Is Cersei starting to lose her grip on the reigns to the kingdom?

And now we’re back to whores. Roz is training some ‘new hires’ in the art of faking it, because giving paying customers the real thing is too expensive. She’s giving a new girl, Daisy, the walkthrough, explaining that the brothel is a higher end affair and that everyone is expected to be as pleasing as possible – but it’s all a game of deceit, where those who claim to be exotic are really just two-bit sluts that grew up right down the street. It’s manipulation at its finest, and probably Petyr’s biggest well of information (he does own the place – but don’t call him Littlefinger, he doesn’t like that). But in the middle of the discussion, they’re interrupted by Janos Slynt, leader of the City Watch. He’s a familiar patron to the brothel, but this time he’s not around for any hanky-panky. He and his men begin searching the premises without a word, and Roz tries to calm the situation by threatening that the place is owned by Lord Baelish, the master of coin, coin that goes into many pockets – but Janos is unmoved. Finally his guards produce a woman with an infant – it’s one of Robert Baratheon’s mistresses, and the baby girl is one of his bastards. Apparently Joffrey has given the order for all of his father’s bastards to be put to the sword, in an effort to protect his claim to the throne. It seems that little notice that Stannis sent ’round was convincing enough to make Joffrey nervous. They kill all but one – Gendry, who’s with the much-sought-after Arya, traveling with the Night’s Watch to the Wall.

And that’s what happened, this week on Game of Thrones. Remember to say your prayers, for the night is dark and full of terrors!

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