So. What do I think of Valar Dohaeris?
This is a thing that is part review, part introspective analysis. If that’s the right phrase I want. It probably isn’t.
To put it simply, the plain parts are what happens in the show, and the bits in italics are things that I’m asking myself and theorising might happen down the line. Also there will be spoilers from the books, so if you haven’t read past A Clash of Kings, best avoid the bits in bold.
Interesting choice for a title, leading right on from last episode’s Valar Morghulis. All men must serve in this episode, whether they wish to or no.
More often no.
First of all, a question that’s been plaguing everyone since last year; how on earth is Samwell going to get out of being torn apart by a horde of walking dead people?
The answer is…we don’t know.
The episode picks up at least a few hours later, judging by the fact that, in the next scene, Jon and Ygritte are only just now entering the wildling camp. Presumably Sam found some way to escape from the various White Walkers and their masses of dead forces that I personally would have liked to see. The show, however, decides to skip over it by opening the episode with him just running through the snow without anything discernably chasing him, and coming across a dead Brother who is both kneeling in the snow and holding his severed head in his hands.
Then we see a sinister shadow in the distance and Sam is nearly killed by just one solitary zombie, which quickly gets dealt with by Ghost and set on fire by Mormont. There’s been a battle that we didn’t get to see at the Fist of the First Men, and Mormont and the surviving Brothers of the Night’s Watch are very disappointed in Sam, because he didn’t manage to send any ravens for help.
Wait. What? What just happened?
Now that I’ve got that immediate reaction out of the way; I’m sure a lot of people were disappointed by cutting the fight scene but, yet again, budget and time constraints.
At least Ghost looks quite impressive, although I can’t remember if he was supposed to be here at this precise point. I’m thinking he wasn’t.
The opening titles. Pretty much the same as last season, except that now Winterfell is smoking and dark like Harrenhal, and I loved Astapor’s itty bitty harpy.
Jon and Ygritte enter the camp, and Jon sees his first giant. Which was freaking hilarious, he looked completely gobsmacked. The giant was very well done, in a case of ‘Wait that guy’s pretty tall and getting taller oh wait oh shit giant!!!’
And Mance Rayder. Ciaran Hinds is a fantastic actor, and I already love his portrayal of the King Beyond the Wall. I also like that they worked in what Jon had seen while at Craster’s Keep all the way back in The Night Lands, giving him an even more reasonable excuse to want to join up with the wildlings.
I’d heard a rumour on the internet grapevine that we were going to see the first evidence of sentient races other than humans in the first episode, and at first I was apprehensively curious, thinking we were going to meet a Child of the Forest or something.
I’d completely forgotten about the giants, and thus I smacked myself in the head when this one showed up.
Ah, it wouldn’t be King’s Landing without gratuitous nudity. Well, no, that’s unfair; the North and Essos have their own generous proportion of displaying tits, arses and various genitalia to best effect.
At some point I really should make a pie chart of the show’s nudity relative to geographical position.
Anyway, moving swiftly on, Bronn is denied the chance to take a prostitute’s underwear off with his teeth because Tyrion has sent for him. Tyrion, meanwhile, is matching wits with Cersei, as she tries to bully him into saying nothing about what exactly she and Joffrey have been getting up to. Jibes and barbs are traded in a scene that essentially boils down to ‘Tell me what you’re going to tell him’ and ‘Nope’. Dinklage and Headey play it to perfection, Tyrion plays dumb and Cersei leaves defeated in this arena, but still very much more powerful in everything else.
This scene was of course wonderful in every possible way, but I couldn’t help but be distracted by Cersei’s remembrance of Tyrion ‘slandering’ her when she was nine and had a serving girl beaten by the guards for supposedly stealing a necklace. Besides showing once again where Joffrey gets it from – yeesh, the girl lost an eye???? – this left me very confused as to how old Tyrion is meant to be, or at least how much older his brother and sister are meant to be than him. As Cersei said, she was nine when it happened. In the books, Cersei and Jaime were nine when Tyrion was born.
So, how old are these siblings meant to be, again? This wouldn’t have confused me nearly as much if Cersei had been twelve or thirteen at the time of the story, making Tyrion three or four if we were going by book ages…
…but I don’t want to go down one of the dark roads to insanity, so after this pondering let’s just ignore it.
The Tyrion/Tywin scene was taken straight from the book, and perfectly heartbreaking.
One thing I was really wishing they’d do would be to show Tywin’s reaction to the fact that Cersei and Joffrey essentially lost Arya. And then maybe he would think of his little Northern cupbearer that he suspected was nobleborn, the cogs would turn, and he would wait until he was alone before letting out the Westeros equivalent of
“Son of a BITCH.”
I live in hope that they will still do this, although I may have to relinquish the desire for the “Son of a BITCH” line.
Down at the docks, Sansa shows both her romantic side as she entertains fantasies about where the ships are going, and her fast growing cynicism about the world around her. Good combination. Shae is uncooperative, Petyr Baelish is ambiguous, actually did seem to recognise Arya and lies to a varying degree, and Ros’s dress is very beautiful, as well as a sign of how she’s going up in the world – something which I’m going to talk about more later. And the relationship between Sansa and Shae is very beautiful too.
I do have to wonder, though; why are Cersei and Joffrey letting Sansa go down to the docks? Why are they letting her go anywhere, even with guards? Even if she’s no longer Joffrey’s betrothed, she’s still a valuable hostage.
I can see why people might have a problem with this scene. Littlefinger in the show as opposed to Littlefinger of the books is in some ways much too obvious with his plotting, and showing that he intends to get Sansa out of there rather undermines the big reveal after Joffrey’s wedding/murder – if there’s even going to be a reveal at this stage. The shock and surprise of Littlefinger’s…finger in the pie of Sansa’s escape is probably going to be lost, and not necessarily for the better.
Still, I can understand why they chose to go this route. As opposed to Ser Dontos, who’s had precisely one scene quite a long time ago, Littlefinger is an established character with an established interest in Catelyn and Sansa, thus giving him a storyline and something to justify him being on screen. While he works behind the scenes a great deal, from what I remember Littlefinger doesn’t do anything terribly obvious until near the end of A Storm of Swords, which by my calculation would take place sometime next season. If you’ve got Aidan Gillan in your show, flaunt him, and Sansa is as good a character as any for Petyr to interact with.
Actually more so, because I really like their interactions. Very much tutelage of an innocent, master and apprentice, etc.
Davos gets rescued, gets back to Dragonstone, gets mad with Melisandre and gets arrested.
In that order.
Also, Stannis is depressed and Melisandre is…being kind of petty, really.
Bit of a departure from the books; I really cannot imagine book Stannis ever sitting in his chair and staring at things and being depressed. Still, it suits this version of Stannis, since he’s actually seems to be in love with Melisandre and has actually completely converted to her religion and…
If he’s converted to her religion, and has seen his (admittedly potentially false) victory that she showed him in the flames…
…then why the hell is he sitting around not doing anything except feeling depressed?????????????
Other than because he missed Davos, of course. The expression on his face when he saw his right hand man was alive, aliiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiive! was very sweet.
Robb marches on Harrenhal, expecting to have to start a siege. What they find is an abandoned castle with a whole lot of dead bodies all over the place. Somehow, considering Gregor Clegane was the last one in charge, I’m not surprised.
Robb makes certain that Catelyn is locked up before he does practically anything else. You know, if he’s punishing his mother and locking her up all the time because he doesn’t trust her, then why is he bringing her with him wherever he goes? This isn’t the same as Jaime; no one’s going to try and bribe her captors in order to free her.
Unless you count her brother and uncle, but since they haven’t been officially introduced or even mentioned yet, we won’t.
Continuing in this vein, why is Robb also bringing his wife and queen with him wherever he goes as well, even though that’s bound to annoy people? (I know it’s because they needed to keep all the actors together to work off each other, but the stupidity in-universe annoys me.)
In case you haven’t noticed, I find Robb to be very irritating at the moment. Oh mighty King in the North, do not act as if you have the moral high ground here. Who was the one who broke off a marriage alliance with the Freys, again? In order to marry, and I want to stress this, a woman who was originally working as a field medic. An act which was partly done in defiance of your mother, in a rather ‘You can’t tell me what to do, waaah!!!!‘ vein, and incidentally snubbing the family that’s been providing both a large part of your armed forces and a secure route to the North.
All because you ‘fell in love’.
I really hope there are going to be scenes in later episodes where part of his forces abandon him, and Talisa gets insulted, and it’s rubbed in his face just how much of an idiot he’s been.
Oh, but all is not doom and gloom, for Qyburn the maester happens to still be alive! He just wishes that he wasn’t.
I do wonder who Roose has sent after Jaime and Brienne. For a moment I thought it would be Ramsay, but since he’s going to be very occupied with Theon, now I’m inclined to think it’ll be the Vargo Hoat substitute. Whatever his name is.
Hel-lo, Qyburn, I didn’t expect to meet you this early in the season! I thought you’d be introduced alongside the other ‘Brave Companions/Bloody Mummers/Whatever The Show’s Going To Call Them’. Then again, having him already be in Harrenhal does make sense, in order to establish him as a contrast to the other mercenaries – the creepy kindness as a juxtaposition to their cruelty.
Qyburn showing up here leads to interesting possibilities. Was he left behind among the dead in order to be a spy for the Lannisters? (Quite probably, yeah.)Will he bring up the possibility of switching sides to Roose Bolton, assuming Roose is still left in command of Harrenhal? Will he sow discord and tension? Will he get to team up with Ramsey and go to work on Theon? Seriously, I do actually wonder now if this will happen. Ramsey likes skinning people, Qyburn likes vivisecting them – it could be the beginning of a beautiful friendship!
Assuming, of course, that this version of Qyburn still likes to cut people open while they’re alive. I do hope he does.
Don’t look at me like that, Martin’s the one who wrote it.
Joffrey is rather confused by Margaery’s PR ventures. His confusion, and later the way he sticks up for her, is actually sort of interesting.
Oh, no. Don’t make me like Joffrey, show, please. Or at least don’t make me sympathize with him. I’ve spent a long time comfortably hating the little shit.
Natalie Dormer does Margaery very well, whether talking to orphans or scoring one against Cersei. Very much in the vein of the show version of Margaery; a woman who clearly knows what is going on.
And Cersei’s apprehension about the Tyrells’ PR strategies, the threats they might pose to her and the possibility that Margaery will take Joffrey and the city’s (dubious) loyalty away from her, ties into what I was so desperately hoping for when it came to her character, as opposed to…
Also, I find Margaery’s choice in fashion fascinating. All the noblewomen of King’s Landing – or least Cersei and Sansa, small reference pool I know, work with me here – wear long sleeved dresses, while servants and maids wear sleeveless dresses. Compare Shae’s outfit with Ros’s, now that the latter has been promoted to the right to wear a dress that resembles the sort Cersei and Sansa wear.
Now, look at Margaery’s dresses. They’re made of expensive material, true, and the Tyrell fashions are…rather odd, sometimes, and designed for an even hotter climate than King’s Landing, but they’re a breath of fresh air. Margaery bares her arms a lot in a style that seems to echo the common classes, and she’s not afraid to get dirty in order to achieve her goals. She free, she’s floating, she’s unconstricted, and no doubt the crowds find her enchanting.
Could she possibly spark some new fashion trends, sending another war between the present queen and the future queen in motion?
Finally, Daenerys, her brood and her knight. Again, pretty much taken from the book, and done very well. I was dubious about the Unsullied uniforms when I first saw the adverts, but I think I’ve come around to them now.
And hel-lo, Ser Barristan! I’ve been waiting for you ever since you left; welcome back.
Again, different from the book, but I can understand why they changed it. The screen’s an entirely different medium from the page, and you just know that if they’d introduced him but didn’t have him reveal his true identity, there’d be people asking ‘Why is that guy from the first season calling himself Arstan Whitebeard when he’s clearly that guy from the first season?’
Okay, they probably wouldn’t, give the audience some credit. Still, it saves time and the need to willingly suspend disbelief. Although I do wonder what they’re going to do for the betrayal later on. Maybe it’ll just be Ser Jorah?
Next week, the Queen of Thorns is finally here!!! Margaery has another plunging neckline and cosies up to Joffrey! Bran’s voice has broken! (How old is he meant to be by this point, again?) Ragetti from Pirates of the Caribbean can see through the eyes of birds! Robb and Talisa kiss. Woo. Lord Karstark is getting uppity! Arya, Gendry and Hot Pie meet people with bows! Jaime and Brienne swordfight oh my good god! Lots of quick shots of Samwell in the snow, Margaery with what I think is a crossbow, Catelyn looking grim and Bran screaming!
It’s going to be a good few months.