|Tyrion (Peter Dinklage) weds Sansa (Sophie Turner) HBO
One of the biggest problems facing Game of Thrones has been juggling the ever-expanding cast of characters. I’ve noted in previous reviews that the show can sometimes feel very scattershot as it struggles to cover storylines in eight or nine different locations. Once in a while, though, the show zeroes in on two or three storylines during the course of the hour. This gives the actors more to do than their usual five minutes of screentime and allows for a complete story to be told within the episode. Such is the case with “Second Sons”, the eighth episode in Game of Thrones’ up-and-down third season. The episode limits its attention to only three locations (with bookends from two others), spending several scenes in King’s Landing, at Dragonstone and across the Narrow Sea.
In King’s Landing
The wedding of the arranged marriage between Tyrion Lannister and Sansa Stark plays out in all of its awkward glory, further proving that the Lannisters are the most dysfunctional family in all of Westeros. Located at the Sept of Baelor, the wedding is made awkward from the start when King Joffrey takes Sansa’s arm and walks her down the aisle. This provides for yet another tally on the “Joffrey is literally the worst person in the world” chart, especially after he rubs it in to Sansa that she no longer has a father. He somehow manages to be even more of a bastard (heh heh) when he removes the stool Tyrion was intending to use to cloak Sansa in the Lannister colors, a wedding tradition. Sansa is forced to squat down to her knees to allow Tyrion to cloak her, as the crowd tries to stifle laughter. It’s a humiliating scene, incredibly uncomfortable to watch unfold, and it largely explains his behavior later in the episode.
At the wedding reception, Tyrion imbibes himself with glass after glass of wine until he can barely stand up straight. Tywin chastises the groom for rendering himself impotent for “the bedding”, which is the entire purpose of the marriage in the first place. Tyrion has already revealed that he does not wish to sleep with Sansa, swearing his loyalty to his secret girlfriend, Shea. After announcing that the bedding ceremony is to begin, Joffrey threatens to rape Sansa if Tyrion isn’t able to follow through. Fed up with the bastard’s bullshit, Tyrion stabs the table with a knife and threatens to castrate Joffrey. The proclamation sends shockwaves through the hall, but Tywin calms everyone down by dismissing Tyrion’s words as those of a drunk, nothing more. In a way, this is one of the better moments between Tywin and Tyrion, and it goes to show how terrible Joffrey is when Tywin chooses to defend his son over the King.
Tyrion stumbles to the bedroom with Sansa, who passively accepts her fate and begins to disrobe. Tyrion stops her when he sees how uncomfortable she is, much to her relief. This will undoubtedly be Peter Dinklage’s episode submission for the upcoming Emmys as it shows the many facets of Tyrion. He gets to be a drunken fool, call out Joffrey the bastard and gain sympathy through his actions with Sansa. It’s a potentially winning tape, one that the writers give Dinklage free reign to improvise in his moments of drunkenness and in his heartbreaking expression when Joffrey humiliates him. This storyline is definitely the most natural sequence in the episode, allowing the actors to play against each other by the very nature of their dysfunction.
Melisandre brings Gendry to Dragonstone to let Stannis know of the boy’s existence. Stannis confirms that Gendry is indeed his brother Robert’s son. After stowing Gendry away to his chamber, Stannis and Melisandre discuss their plans for the boy. Melisandre asserts that the boy’s blood must be corrupted in order for Stannis to legally take the realm. Stannis runs to Davos, who still remains in the dungeon, but neither are able to stop Melisandre in time. She tricks Gendry by first seducing him and then placing leeches on him, sucking him of all his royal blood. Stannis takes the leeches and burns them in the fire, despite his previous misgivings. Though Stannis remains one of the series’ duller characters, I appreciate that they’ve given him more to do this season. The moral quandaries he goes through in this episode make him a much more complex character. His stubborn indebtedness to Melisandre is such a compelling dynamic to watch that I find myself constantly wondering when the sorceress is going to double-cross him. Having said that, if this is the last we see of Stannis this season I won’t be too upset.
Across the Narrow Sea
Daenerys learns that the Yunkai have employed a group called the Second Sons to engage in conflict with her. She meets Mero, the group’s leader, and two lieutenants, Prendahl na Ghezn and Daario Naharis, who are probably three of the most stereotypical military jocks seen this side of the realm. The three men properly disgust her, but she bargains with them by asking them to fight for her instead. Later that night, the men plot to kill Daenerys in her sleep, choosing Daario to do the deed.
Disguised as one of the Unsullied, Daario sneaks into Daenerys’ camp but instead reveals the dismembered heads of Mero and Prendahl. Daario swears both his and the Second Sons’ allegiance to Daenerys. With each passing episode, Daenerys manages to get more and more soldiers on her side, amassing an army to rival either side of the Stark/Lannister war. It’s nice to see Daenerys’ storyline go in a forward motion, especially after the second season’s slow burn. She has genuinely become a force to be reckoned with, manipulating and killing any men who cross her path.
In the Riverlands
The episode begins with Arya trying to kill The Hound in his sleep, who manages to sense her murderous intent. The Hound laughs off her attempt and they continue on their way to the Twins. I’m not entirely sure why this scene was necessary, aside from The Hound telling Arya that she will soon by reunited with her brother. At least she has something good to look forward to, now.
In the North
The episode ends with Sam and Gilly continuing their march to the Wall. After stopping in an abandoned shack, the couple begins to hear rumblings outside. Sam ventures outside, only to discover a murder of crows (yes, that is fittingly the terminology). Sam is suddenly attacked by an approaching White Walker, but he manages to kill it with his dragonglass dagger. As I suspected, the dagger came in handy, serving as Chekhov’s dagger (it was first shown two episodes ago in “The Climb”). Sam and Gilly flee from the scene, chased by an ever bigger murder of crows. I love this new heroic Sam we’re seeing, further asserting his ability to provide for Gilly.
I very much enjoyed this episode for allowing the audience to experience three complete stories in one episode. So often, the show just feels like it’s slogging along without telling a full story, and “Second Sons” demonstrates how much more enjoyable the show can be by not trying to cover every single character. Granted, it seems that a record number of main characters were ignored, but sometimes their stories simply aren’t worth telling. Let’s all count our blessings that we didn’t have to go through another Theon torture scene.
MVP: Peter Dinklage
Best Supporting Actor in a Drama Series: Peter Dinklage