IF YOU HAVEN’T WATCHED THE EPISODE – DO NOT READ. SPOILERS APLENTY!
After the stellar first episode of the season, the second episode of Game of Thrones, “The Night Lands,” seems inconsistent at times. The episode actually matches George R.R. Martin’s writing style. The episode jumps between the different sub-plots quickly and with no apparent sense of when we’ll return to that portion of the story.
Again, Tyrion Lannister (Peter Dinklage) is the highlight of the episode. Dinklage’s portrayal of Tyrion is perfect. He’s cunning, manipulative, smart, and very aware of how the game is played. During his two strongest scenes, he shows two sides of Tyrion. While confronting Janos Slynt, he demonstrates the cunning side of Tyrion, who successfully gets his way. In the second scene with Cersei, Tyrion shows his arrogant wall and that, deep down, he’s still the blacksheep of the family.
Cersei’s digging insult and crushing remarks about their mother dying during Tyrion’s childbirth isn’t just mean, it’s downright cruel. Despite Tyrion’s outwardly strong persona, his demeanor shines through in a moment of honesty as he deals with the remarks from Cersei.
Daenerys once again only has a few minutes of screen time. It’s almost impossible to comment on how her story will play out (from the perspective of someone who has NOT read the novels). As for Jon Snow, his layover in the wild at the house of Craster continues. The mystery of what happens to the sons born to Craster is hinted at in the episode climax. I won’t delve into spoilers for those who may have missed the episode – only to say that the episode leaves the audience with a cliffhanger once again.
Arya, who provides the Episode 1 cliffhanger, is now on her way to the Wall (although she’s been told she’ll be dropped off at Winterfell along the way), and she and Gendry (the last surviving Bastard of Robert Baratheon) have developed a friendship based on their shared secrets. While Gendry apparently doesn’t know who he is, Arya reveals her true identity in confidence to Gendry. We don’t get much else besides this minor character development. It reinforces the idea that Episode 2 is serving as series set up.
Finally, there’s Theon Greyjoy, who has returned to Pyke to ask his father to join Robb Stark’s war. Despite Theon’s overcompensated arrogance, he is a Stark in his father’s eyes and a betrayal to their family name.
Theon’s journey to Pyke brings me to my last point – that this episode has more sex in sixty minutes than any other episode of the series to date. While this isn’t that big of a deal, it’s slightly surprising. HBO’s episode unwritten prerequisite seems to be that at least one woman has to expose her breasts or that two people have sex. This episode is privy to three such scenes and plenty more suggestive language. Maybe the writers are trying to break from this mold and get the sex out of the way for future episodes.
Overall, “The Night Lands” foreshadows the coming darkness. It’s a slightly chaotic episode story-wise but is exciting in its set up. The story that appears to be unfolding teases your anticipation and once again making the wait until next Sunday seem awfully long.