“Game of Thrones: The Night Lands” — A Slice of SciFi Review

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Reviewed by Michael Hickerson (Slice of SciFi Editor)

Game of Thrones: The Night Lands

Image: HBO

Another week, another king laying claim to power in the kingdom of Westeros.  As Cersei points out, that makes at least five people trying to claim power in the kingdom.  And that doesn’t even take into account Dany with her dragons across the sea.

A lot of time this week is spent examining how various factions within Westeros are trying to consolidate or hold onto their power. Tyrion exiles the Janos Slynt to the Wall for his role in the betrayal of Ned Stark and his role in carrying out Joffrey’s orders to have all of Robert’s bastards put to the sword.  As Tyrion points out early in the episode, he can be more ruthless in playing the power game than Ned Stark was, but he still has issues with killing innocent children in an attempt to hang onto the throne and power.  Clearly Cersei has less of a problem with this, confronting Tyrion on the point and challenging his ability and wits to play the game.   This could just be part of Cersei attempting to play the game herself and truly rule from behind the scenes, pulling the strings of Joffrey until he’s old enough.

Meanwhile, Theon returns home after years away, hoping to consolidate power for Robb Stark and ultimately himself with an alliance with his father. Robb needs the ships Theon’s father has and Theon sees it as an opportunity to win favor with the side he’s backing and ultimately as his own way to rule over his father’s kingdom.   Unfortunately, Theon didn’t count on his father not rubber-stamping the plan or that his sister, Yara, would become the leader their father wants in his absence.*   The question becomes in a society so driven by male leadership, will the other kingdoms accepts Yara as a leader of the fleet and, eventually as the ruler of Greyjoy kingdoms?

*The scenes of Theon flirting with Yara as they ride to the castle were particularly creep having read the book and recalling the relationship these two share.   Kind of that sinking feeling you get when you realize that Luke and Leia are siblings in Jedi and then recall the kiss she plants on him in Empire

Meanwhile, Stannis seems to be the most realistic of the leaders shown this week, trying to find a power base through alliances with pirates all while realizing he doesn’t have the necessary forces to take King’s Landing.  Stannis’ point that if had the legions and troops that should be loyal to him as the legitimate heir is a fascinating one, but it’s a wish.  I get the feeling the people are loyal to those who most readily meet their immediate needs and with Winter coming, we could see those people begin to rise up and follow whoever promises them what they want and need to survive.  (Something Tyrion ably points out to Cersei before she insults him as a cosmic joke).

Of course, this being Game of Thrones there’s a lot of sexposition this week with at least three scenes of it.  These scenes feel a bit like producers David Benioff and D.B. Weiss are responding to certain complaints about the Littlefinger brothal sexposition scene last year.**  What also caught my interest in each of these sequences was how in this male-dominated society, women are attempting to use their sexuality to have a stake in the game.  Theon’s girl from the ship sees her sleeping with him as a potential way off the ship out and out of the life at sea, though Theon clearly sees her only a a convenient and willing companion for the duration of the journey. Melisandre is attempting to further her hold over Stannis by giving him not only the keys to power now but also sustained power in the form of son–something his wife (who Melisandre says Stannis finds repugnant) never gave him.

**The scene that jumps from Theon and the woman aboard ship to Littlefinger observing his clients’ activities in his brothel felt like it was showing the audience how we can and are voyeurs at times on this show.

It’s interesting to see an almost reversal of this across the Wall with Craster and his family.  Craster values females and not males.   One of Craster’s wives comes to Samwell because she’s pregnant and fears what will happen if she delivers a boy.  She wants to go with them, playing on Sam’s want to save people.  Jon Snow is drawn into this and it could have disastrous results not only for him but the entire kingdom of Westeros.   Craster’s support is needed in order to determine what’s coming from beyond the Wall.  And if he feels that Jon has somehow violated the conditions he imposed last week, that could make things not go well in the long run.

And all of this doesn’t even take into account the power of belief.  Stannis believes in the new gods as does Davos son.  Davos has yet to embrace this belief, instead putting his faith in the man of Stannis himself.   Tyrion believes that something supernatural is lurking beyond the Wall and on its way to the kingdoms.  Cersei believes that the people aren’t important in keeping her power base.  Greyjoy doesn’t believe Theon is the right man for the job of leading his fleet.  And then there’s the whole issue of the dragons across the sea and how that could shatter and change alliances and power bases once they come onto the scene.

It’s all about power in Westeros–who has it and how far they’re willing to go to either hold onto it or maintain it.

It’s a slower episode than last week’s but one that is setting up just as many, if not more, potential threads for season two and the rest of the series run.

 

Comments

  1. Mouldy Squid says:

    Theon, dude, Balon is the Lord of the Iron Islands. Theon was the hostage of the Starks.

  2. Mouldy Squid says:

    And Jon Snow goes north of the Wall with Samwell, not Robb Stark. I swear, do you even watch this show? ;)

  3. Could someone help me clarify Theon Greyjoy part in the story. He was taken hostage from a past war and raised by the Starks? He is now friends with Rob Stark? He went home after all these years because Ned is dead and he wants to help Rob and take his rightful place at his father’s side? He knew his sister’s name but didn’t reconize her? Anyway…a little help on his situation would be greatly appreciated. THANK YOU

  4. Tonya – Theon’s dad started a revolt against King Robert and Ned Stark put it down, killing all of his sons except Theon. He then took Theon as a “squire” (actually a hostage) and raised him with his family. So he has been away from home for almost 10 yrs raised by the sworn enemy of his family and people. It wasn’t really well explained in the show (glossed over really) but was pretty well covered in the books.

  5. RapidEye- Thank you for clearing that up for me. Once last question, who’s side is he on then?

  6. Yeah, The hostage thing was usually part of a peace treaty as a deterrent from more attacks. They weren’t treated like prisoners, it was just a measure of insurance. Theon was treated like one of the family and I think he really liked the Starks. As for who’s side he’s on, I think he’s going to have to decide that. They did have scenes explaining who he was but it was really spaced out and was easily drowned out by all the other stuff going on in the show.

  7. I’m only about half way through the second book, so I really don’t know which side Theon is going to wind up on. Like Skiznot said, he was raised among the Stark kids and considers them like family (which really irritates his biological Dad and Sister).

    The way his character comes across is that he feels like he is entitled to his Dad’s crown and he comes across as a spoiled jerk. And the fact that he hasn’t been welcomed back as the rightful heir is really sticking in his craw. I suspect that will drive him to do something dramatic – but at this point, I’m not sure if it’ll be for the good of the Starks, his family, himself, or something entirely different. Fun stuff! =-)

    Martin really does put a lot into these characters. Lots of fun trying to pick through their heads!

  8. I like how the characters have come across on the screen. Sure some parts do get glossed over because you just can’t get all the backstory that is part of the novels. Visual media vs. what’s in your noggin’ will always be a hard nut to crack since we all make up what the characters look and act.

    I personally really DIG how Alfie Allen portrays Theon. He seems very spot on to how I imagined him.

  9. I agree Brian – he plays Theon exactly how I had it in my head.
    The look on his face when he learned the “girl” he had been groping was his sister was perfect! =-)
    Speaking of his sister – I’m not sold on that actress yet. Not saying she isn’t going to work out, but I didn’t really care much for her in that first appearance. She didn’t come across nearly as salty as she is portrayed in the book.

    Hands down, Peter Dinklage is still the best character/actor on the show. He took his great performance last season and has really taken it to the next level.

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