This episode is mostly about journeys. We get the obvious journeys of the King's party heading south back to King's Landing, Jon and Tyrion travelling to the Wall, and Dany and the khalasar starting their trip east. There are also some more emotional journeys. Dany begins to spread her wings. Catelyn spirals down into grief comes back again. Even Bran can said to begin his journey here, though he is comatose in bed (through the three-eyed crow dream which was cut, but might be addressed through some exposition next week).
Credits - Okay. The theme song is growing on me. It's still no "Bad Things" and it’s a bit repetitive, but I have caught the melody bouncing around in my head a few times. Kudos to fellow WiC poster Lex who got out his axe and shreds up his version of the tune. Listening to Lex, it kind of reminds me of the theme song from another television show. Sort of similar don't you think?
I love the switch over to Vaes Dothrak on the game board even though I don't think they actually arrive there this episode. I hope they are just camped in a field on their journey. Still not crazy about the angle the camera switches to when it pans over the Narrow Sea. I find myself tilting my neck to an almost painful angle.
I'm a bit surprised that the Inn at the Crossroads doesn't appear as more than a blur since the King's party travels there. Maybe it will be focused on later when Catelyn and Tyrion meet up there.
Essos, Flatlands outside of Pentos - According to the HBOGo special features, the khalasar is not yet to the Dothraki Sea as I thought when watched the first time, but are in an area called the Flatlands. Dany, looking worse for wear, snaps into a Slim Jim. At the end of the ride, she is saddle sore, Drogo sore or both and is led away by her handmaids. Viserys banters with Mormont about what life will be like when he once again sits the Iron Throne. Harry Lloyd seems a bit more devious and touched here than he did last episode.
Winterfell, Yard - Fantastic scene with Tyrion, Joff and the Hound. Tyrion slaps Joff around and Joff takes it like the pansy he is. He should take a note from this kid and man the hell up! Much like last episode, it seems like they might be going a little more sympathetic with the Hound. He seems to be genuinely warning Tyrion here rather than mocking him like he does in the book.
Winterfell, Dining Room - Cool dire wolf tapestry! The first thing that struck me about this scene (and for the most part this episode) was how close it was to the original material. We even get Tyrion's breakfast order verbatim. One small quibble with the end is the manner in which Tyrion delivers "You know how much I love my family". I've always read the line with more sarcasm. I think the double meaning is intended in the show, but it’s a little too subtle.
Winterfell, Bran's Room - This scene is all kinds of fucked up, but in a great way! Spoilers coming so beware. We see a haggard Cat sitting by Bran's bed. She looks about 15 years older than she did in episode 1. Then Cersei walks in and the craziness begins. If you are to believe D&D and their comments about this scene, the viewer can easily get lost in the complexities of the queen's emotions. She seems truly pained by Bran's condition, even though she is directly responsible for it. To compound her layers, we know from reading the book that she actually aborts the little black haired baby that she has with Robert. Either D&D are softening Cersei by consciously changing that little fact, or we are dealing with a grade A sociopath.
Winterfell, Yard - New scene with Jon and Jaime. Unlike some of the other scenes (notably with Viserys and Tyrion) that seem to have downplayed the sarcasm that comes across on the page, Jaime is all derision and acerbity. It's a bit ironic that one of the first places we really get to see the cutting sarcasm from the book is in a completely new scene. NCW plays it off to a tee, but his appearance and the line about the sacks of meat and blood conjured up the old Dennis Leary stand up bit about meat and war. It comes in at about the 1:30 mark, but the whole clip is hilarious. Ironically, I think Jaime might even subscribe to this theory. What's with the "I got turned down for the role of Wade in Roadhouse" look that Mikken gives Jon? Weird.
Winterfell, Arya's Room - Finally! Some wolf pup action!!! With the speculation about the Inuits having some difficulty with some of the tricks, I have to wonder if the "Nymeria! Gloves!" line was put into the script as a little gimmick to make you say "Aww!" when actually having the dog get the gloves proved too tiresome to pull off.
This was my favorite of the Maester's Path scenes and is even better in its expanded form. Great sibling chemistry between Jon and Arya here. Kit and Maisie evoke the relationship from the novel very well. Needle looks dead on as I pictured it, especially when Arya takes it with her left hand!
Winterfell, Bran's Room - Lots happening here. Kit really flexes his acting muscles saying goodbye to Bran. What a sweet, sorrowful goodbye! I've noticed a few times now that Kit has a good grasp on tempo. He takes his time with his lines and delivers them very thoughtfully.
Then there's Catelyn. If Michelle Fairley keeps this up, she's going to be my choice for a best actress Emmy. I can't look at her without feeling her pain. She is marvelous! Anyway, very interesting change of dialogue with Jon here. It manages to convey pretty much the same feeling toward Jon without exhibiting the biting spite that you see from Cat in the book. "It should have been you" gets toned down to "I want you to leave." More confirmation that D&D are attempting to soften Catelyn's character a little bit in hopes of making her a more likeable. I've always seen Cat as a mom trying to do her best for her family, but she definitely has hang ups when it comes to Jon. Some of the stuff she does to him in the books is just nasty and almost out of character for her. You can understand it since it’s a sticking point between her and Ned, but I like the restrained route they are using in the series.
Ned walks into the middle of the scene and helplessly stares at the confrontation. Then Michelle effortlessly shifts her stern Lady Stark mask to tortured Cat as Ned comes to comfort her. We’ve seen plenty of this dialogue in the trailers, but it comes off even more powerfully in context. Bean for his part, does a great job showing the strain of conflict between loving husband and loyal banner man. You sense that he doesn't want to leave, but is duty-bound to go.
Winterfell, Yard - The parties prepare to leave and we get a nice brotherly farewell between Robb and Jon. Not a whole lot going on here, but we do get reminded of the close bond the boys share.
Outside Winterfell, Roadside - This scene has both one of the nicest surprises and one of the biggest gaffs of the episode. The surprise is in the score. It's the first time for me that music has made a difference in the viewing (credits excluded). After Jon and Ned say goodbye, Jon rides off to catch up with Tyrion and Benjen. The music swells up and you get the theme song phrased into the score as it builds. Well done! The music and the image evoke the old Game of Thrones cover from the first copy of the book I ever owned. Unfortunately, thinking of that cover brings to mind my big gripe with the scene. Uh.. where the hell is Ghost? Doubtless he's bounded off to hunt or explore on his own, but I'm really a bit peeved that he's not running along beside Jon here. We've only seen him once as a pup and out of all the dire wolves, he's not only the most striking in appearance, but the most important (possibly alongside of Summer) to the story. Ghost is Jon's right-hand wolf. Thus far, you have to have read the books to have any idea of how important the wolves are to the kids. Aside from some cute stunts and looks at the camera, the wolf pups are totally minimalized. I know they play a bigger factor later in this episode, but they should have been utilized more to this point in the story.
Kingsroad, Heading South - We are treated to Robert bestowing his kingly attentions to a tree in the northern countryside. It's kind of funny how something so mundane can be used to further establish the vulgarity of a character, but the shot manages to do just that very well. One of the most striking things about this scene (another from the Maester's Path) is the food. In GRRM's books, the description of the food is amazing. Fans have even started their own websites about the book's food. I don't know how they pulled it off, but that pile of snacks looks just like something George wrote up! It also kind of reminds me of a set piece from the Pirates of the Caribbean ride at Disneyland.
Another good dialogue scene between Robert and Ned. With talk of Wyla, we get some more hints that Eddard's past has some mystery to it. We also get reaffirmation of Robert's commitment to wipe out the Targaryens.
Flatlands, Dothraki Camp - Dany continues to be used by Drogo. The foreshadowing they are doing with the eggs is like getting hit upside the head with this! A bit too strong for my tastes. It's definitely going to lessen the shock in the final scene. I've watched this scene about eight times now. Am I fabricating things or do I hear a hiss as Dany stares at the candlelit eggs for solace? I can't tell if I am imagining it or not.
Kingsroad, Heading North - Still no Ghost. It’s a nice scene between Tyrion and Jon, again with many of the original lines, but we lose a lot without Ghost here. We also lose a chance for a little more Jon/Benjen dialogue at this point. Perhaps we'll get an opportunity or two at the Wall before Uncle Benjen goes on his ranging.
Winterfell, Bran's Room - This is a great scene! I just noticed how low Maester Luwin is wearing his chain. I wonder if all Maesters on television roll this way or if Luwin is just going street with his? Cat is unraveling further. She receives Luwin mostly with apathy and snaps when she does address him. Richard Madden gets his first real chance to show some emotion in this scene adeptly displaying the restraint of a young lordling while showing a few cracks beneath the surface from the pressure of the job. Nice ambient touch remembering the wolves howling.
Robb rushes off when he spots the fire and leaves Catelyn alone with the perfectly creepy assassin. The rest of the scene goes off amazingly well. Smooth believable fight (struggle?) coordination here. I felt the pain of the dagger across my palms as Cat tries to protect Bran. We finally get a little more meaningful dire wolf action with Soon-to-be-Summer. Great gory shot of the assassin's throat bubbling and bleeding out. I loved the way that Soon-to-be-Summer with bloodied muzzle just sit down right on the bed almost as if nothing's happened. Way to TCB Summer! They took out Cat's uncontrollable laughing. Probably part of the decision to soften her. I didn't miss it so much as I was interested to see how Michelle would play it so I was a little disappointed at not getting the chance to watch her work.
Flatlands, Dothraki Camp - Yay! The "it is known" scene! Nice to see that the girl from Michael Jackson's Black or White video is getting work! My vote for the "Least Reassuring Reassurance Award" for the episode goes to Doreah.
Doreah "Before your brother bought me for you it was my job to make men happy."
Dany " How old were you?"
Doreah " I was nine when my mother sold me to the pleasure house."
Doreah (reassuringly)"I did not touch a man for three years Khaleesi."
Oooooh! So she was twelve when she started getting busy with men for money. Whew! That's okay then. I thought there might be something wrong with her mother selling her so early!...uh WTF! Eeew!
Kingsroad - Heading North - Benjen and company get their first glimpse of the Wall. We get a great establishing shot of a very different looking Wall than the one we see in the Prologue scene from episode one. It might seem inconsistent to a new viewer, but this is a great nod to both George's world building and his descriptive flair. We know from reading the books that the Wall can take on a myriad of different colors depending on the time of day and/or the weather. I'm positively giddy knowing that this attention to detail can be transferred over the mediums so adeptly!
Winterfell, Yard - In a new scene we get to follow Cat up to the broken tower to watch her get her Angela Lansbury on. In the windy, open tower she manages to find a suspiciously blonde hair that has somehow kept from getting blown away. I really liked the constant cawing of the ravens in the background. We know that one of the reasons Bran liked to climb this tower in the first place was that he would feed the ravens up there corn. We never actually get to see them, but it was another subtle touch for long-time fans.
Winterfell, Godswood - I'm glad we get to take another trip back to the gorgeous godswood. This scene obviously sets up Catelyn and Rodrick's flight south. I'm not sure how much sense it makes for Theon to be privy to these discussions, but I guess it shows us that he is a trusted member of the Stark retinue.
Winterfell, Bran's Room - Catelyn has made her decision and is standing by it. She hangs her Seven wheel on Bran's bed. Here is yet more evidence of the crew's savvy knowledge of Westeros lore here (at least so far as I can tell). From what I can see, the wheel only holds six dolls. The Stranger, who is represented as ubiquitously as possible when he does show up, doesn't seem to be present. Since his domain is over the dead, my theory is that Catelyn intentionally leaves him out of the wheel. There are no songs sung for the Stranger. Well, except maybe this one.
Flatlands, Dothraki Camp - Hands down the sexiest scene of the series so far. After Doreah gives Dany the Cliff's Notes version of Dominatrix for Dummies, we get another obvious shot of the dragon eggs and then an even more obvious shot of Moonmoa. Seriously though, what an intense sex scene! And with all the blatant nudity we've seen so far, it's kind of interesting to note that once they get going there is no real nudity to speak of yet it's the hottest sex scene to date.
Kingsroad, Inn at the Crossroads - First San/San scene! Somehow, they can get this whole plot point finished in just over 10 minutes. It felt much longer (in a good way) watching it. I'm fine with the venue change from the Darry castle to the Inn. It's obviously a budgetary choice and doesn't affect anything in the story.
Sansa's introduction to Ser Illyn Payne is..strange. don't know why they felt the need to omit Renly and Ser Barristan from the scene. The roles weren't cut from the show, so if you have actors to play them, you might as well use them right? Illyn, Renly and Barristan are such contrasting figures than it seems a shame to cut them here. Maybe there just wasn't enough time to establish them fully here so they decided to wait until later to bring in the other two. Other than that, the only reason for the omission I can think of is that maybe they felt the Inn was too far from King's Landing for an escort to join them?
Without Renly's sly quips and Barristan's chivalrous grace, Ser Illyn looks more oddity than terror. Visions of Sam Eagle flashed through my head as he just stood there. Sandor looks much scarier and tougher and I think GRRM sets the scene up so he has exactly the opposite effect on Sansa. Maybe she was more scared of Ser Illyn, but I'll take my chances against the King's Justice before I try the Hound.
At least we get to see Sansa with Lady once before the bad shit goes down. I still think the ending of the episode would be even more heart-wrenching than it was if we were allowed a little more time with the kids and their pups. Cute ribbons on Lady though!
Banks of the Trident - Very strong scene with all child actors. Sophie, Jack and Maisie are all great. Even Rhodri Hosking does a believable Mycah. While Nymeria's moment is awesome, it illustrates another problem with the sparse use of the wolves that I hadn't considered until this point. When she attacked, my new viewer wife remarked "Oh my god! I love that dog!" She thought it was the same wolf that attacked the assassin in Winterfell. By not showing the kids interacting with their wolves more, I don't think new viewers understand fully that each kid has their own relationship with a given wolf. I know I'm harping on this point a lot, but it's probably my biggest gripe with the series.
Woodlands near the Trident - Touching scene with Arya and Nymeria. You really feel for poor Arya here. As a dad, I felt for Ned during the search too.
Inn at the Crossroads, Interior - Another engaging scene that ends up to be he said, she said on a royal level. If the outcome of the scene weren't so horrible, it would be kind of funny watching the mighty king of the Seven Kingdoms reduced to a clueless father. Robert's lust for life makes him somewhat of a likeable figure, but this is our first real glimpse of how inept the guy is in a position of authority. He can't even stand to handle a fight between kids. How ill-suited is he to be the king? I miss Renly here as well. His uncontrollable laughter when he hears how Joff was disarmed was a very funny moment in the books. Great emotion from Sophie here and Maisie is staring needles through the Lannisters. You can almost hear her ticking off the beginnings of her list as she glares them fiercely down.
Inn at the Crossroads, Exterior - My favorite Bean scene so far. Sean is anguish incarnate as he does the deed. We lose the "Three-Eyed Crow" dream sequence, but what we get is something different, and very cool. The sequencing between Ned killing Lady and Bran waking up was too eerie! The way everything came together had me literally crying through the credits. I'm a sucker for dead dogs (or apparently wolves).
Overall, the second episode was even better than the first. I can't see why anyone would find it boring. If the following episodes have more action and drama, then we are in for one hell of a journey!