Episode II of Game of Thrones is basically just more setup. In its 57 minutes, not much really happens. This is understandable; at this point, the show is tackling what feels like twenty different story lines, so episodes founded upon primarily setup are inevitable. So given that I expect this season to offer big payoffs, and understand the task they’re dealing with, I felt the fact that this episode was pretty uneventful was annoying, but acceptable. On to the details:
I found the most interesting scenes to be those centered around Margaery Tyrell. At first, I was annoyed that she seemed like just yet another power-hungry woman of whom this show has ample supply, but she’s clearly brought something new to the table. She has a different kind of political prowess. I was surprised in the first episode to witness the scenes with her at the orphanage, which gave her a well-meaning dimension lacking in Cersei and the completely boring Melisandre, and the scene from this episode in which we are introduced to Lady Olenna also made her seem sympathetic. Lady Olenna at this point seems likable, but potentially capable of causing trouble, and less clichéd than many of the other characters in the show, though the writers laid on the “I am an old woman who speaks bluntly, isn’t that crazy?” a bit too heavy. Then, in the scene between Margaery and Joffrey, we see someone for basically the first time manage to calm Joffrey’s temper, even if it involves her telling him that he has the right to kill all homosexuals and saying she’d like to kill something in front of him. What I loved about this scene is that you saw new and interesting sides of the characters, especially Margaery. I don’t know what to think of her yet, and that’s always a sign of good writing.
Brienne and Jaime are fine, but there’s basically just three minutes of them talking about absolutely nothing important before the guy who sees them shows up. As I said before, I have my patience with this episode being all setup, but every minute is important, and three minutes of Jaime teasing Brienne and peeing in front of her is just a waste of time. Get rid of it. Replace it with a scene that actually moves the plot forward. Or a scene with Daenerys. Why wasn’t she in this episode?
Bran’s story shows promise and had some interesting elements, but it too is guilty of time-wasting. In the second scene of the episode, after Bran has had the dream, nothing happens. He and Osha just talk for a bit. Stop wasting our time! Every scene should move the plot forward!
Though Arya’s story felt strangely similar to Bran’s and Brienne’s, it did feature two very two promising twists at the end that I quite enjoyed. And Arya’s always fun.
Why is Robb Stark’s story boring? It should be one of the most interesting. And yet we’re forced to see him and Talisa have fun little banter (that doesn’t move the plot forward), hear Lord Karstark tell him for no logical reason that marrying Talisa will lose him the war (half-assed, unmotivated conflict), and hear YET ANOTHER story told by Lady Catelyn about something that happened in the past. This show could make its plot so much tighter and engaging if it would just cut the scenes where a character tells a long story about something that happened ten or more years ago.
The worst scene by far this episode was the bizarre scene between Tyrion and Shae. Nothing in it makes any sense. Since when was Shae weirdly jealous? Why does she care about Sensa? How was a blowjob a fitting resolution to that scene? Why did they hire Sibel Kekilli to play Shae? I honestly think she’s the worst actor in an HBO series I’ve ever seen.
All in all, in a word, the episode was fine. Some interesting stuff, some boring stuff, but nothing really frustrating. The balancing act of characters is bothersome, but in a sense, that’s not the show’s fault. At this point, I’m just waiting out the clock until the middle of the season, where huge things had better start happening. I think I’ve waited long enough.