Game of Thrones – Second Sons

***WARNING CONTAINS SPOILERS OF GAME OF THRONES SEASON 3 EPISODE 8 ‘SECOND SONS’***

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After a couple of relatively lackluster episodes, ‘Second Sons’ begins to ramp up the pace in the final stretch towards the season finale. The most significant factor working in this episodes favour is its construction: focusing predominantly on three arcs while bookended by two other short scenes. The show’s biggest challenge has always been the difficulty of navigating the many divergent storylines into a coherent whole, both throughout a season as well as in a self-contained episode. This episode struck a satisfying blend of blend of narrative continuance and character development.

After a short period of inactivity all of the characters appeared to make some progress in their respective narratives.

After two season of Arya stumbling from the clutches of one captor to the next, she may finally have found herself in the grasps of a most unlikely short-term ally, the Hound. After revealing himself to perhaps not be the monster she first thought, the Hound pledges to ransom Arya back to her mother and brother at the Twins. These two death obsessed oddballs, with strained relationships with an older sibling and distrust of fire (or fire worshippers), are now trekking across the seven kingdoms with a shared goal. Some of the series best moments come from the rapport between two characters throwing barbs in each other’s direction and the Hound and Arya already are working up a bit of chemistry.

tumblr_mmym8kATyv1r9h4heo1_1280-1A man who fights for gold can’t afford to lose to a girl.

Daenerys makes sufficient ground in her attempts to conquer Yunkai, winning over the mercenary band the Second Sons.  The use of nudity in the show has been very controversial in the past and this episode certainly made efforts to rectify Game of Thrones recent slump in nudity. However, while one could argue that the two mains scenes of nudity in this episode were gratuitous, I believe that they both demonstrated females exerting their sexuality as a form of power.

While it’s certainly arguable whether Daario’s presentation to Daenerys needed to occur in a bathroom, I thought it was remarkable how the power dynamics shifted so suddenly and elegantly. When Daenerys stands out of the bath and moves to have Daario swear his allegiance she goes from a position of vulnerability to power; showing no hesitation or hint of modesty, but rather self-assurance. Daario extols himself as a man motivated by above all beauty and I believe that in this scene Daenerys is not submitting to Daario’s wishes, but rather displaying her ability to captivate men and sway them to her will.

Melisandre deploys hers to further the ambitions of her god. In last season she used her body to seduce Stannis and make a smoke baby and here she lulls Gendry into a false sense of security. With her ‘lambs to the slaughter’ discussion with Stannis we can infer that she is quite accustomed to using her body in this way before bringing out the knife/leeches.

A friend  of mine described Stannis as like “that weird uncle no one really wants to talk to”, that really is the strange appeal of him and i think Stannis is emerging as a very interesting character. He is trapped in a loveless marriage with a woman who keeps her unborn babies in jars, while he is enamored with a beautiful woman whose only reciprocation is driven not by love but in service to a deity. He seeks the Iron Throne not for personal glory but because he is the rightful legal heir and most importantly, because a priestess with some demonstrable powers of her God has told him that he will save the entire kingdom.

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How many boys live in Westeros? How many girls, how many men, how many women? The darkness will devour them all she says, the night that never ends, unless I triumph. 

I never asked for this, no more than I asked to be king. We do not choose our destiny, but we must do our duty, great or small we must do our duty.

Stannis is not a man easily loved, but his iron sense of duty and sad resignation of fate, make him an eminently intriguing character. His conversations with Davos also reveal that he is not entirely certain about the validity of Melisandre and her blood sacrifices.

Cersei is in a wonderfully foul mood this episode and explains to Margaery the story behind ‘The Rains of Castamere’, a song featured throughout the series and performed for last season by The National. The story illustrates not only the dangers for the Tyrells and whoever else of challenging the Lannisters on the show’s metaphorical ladder/wall climb, but also the vicious nature of Tywin Lannister. To put down a rebellious upstart family he orders the extinguishment of every single member of that family, women and children all. Tywin Lanister is certainly not a man who one should mess lightly with. Margaery’s attempts at sweet talk and smile manipulation may be beginning to fall short.

If you ever call me sister again I’ll have you strangled in your sleep

I loved the interchange between Sam and Gilly which echoed Jon and Ygritte’s last episode. The two castle raised boys have quite a different cultural heritage from the wilding women and are challenging the simplistic conceptions of relationships they had assumed. Sam’s slaying of the White Walker also raises the possibility that the realm may not be as hopelessly doomed as first thought. His use of the dragonglass dagger dug up at the Fist of the First Men last season, reveals that perhaps the knowledge of how to defeat their icy enemies may be hidden somewhere, if they know where to look.

Game of Thrones is taking a one week break for the US Memorial Day holiday, but in absentia you can enjoy the National’s version of ‘The Rains of Castamere’, which also happens to be the title of the next episode.

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