SPOILER WARNING! It’s best not to read this review unless you have already seen Game of Thrones Season 3, Episode 2
It’s official; the famous three-eyed raven is back! The title of the second installment of Game of Thrones season 3 is taken from an old Westerosi saying which references their raven-based postal system. Bad tidings are certainly awing in episode 2, but there is also a deeper meaning to the allusion – the mystery of the three-eyed raven is about to be solved…
This episode was far more about character than plot development. There are more than a few surprisingly candid conversations going on all over Westeros; for example Jaime Lannister (ably played by Nicolaj Coster-Waldau), still trudging his way to King’s Landing in the company of Brienne of Tarth (Gwendoline Christie), shrewdly guesses that Brienne was in love with Renly Baratheon (Gethin Anthony). “We can’t choose who we love,” he tells her, in one of those delightful and revealing moments of frankness that his character is becoming famous for – clearly, Jaime is referencing his torrid but faithful love affair with his sister Cersei (Lena Headey). Jaime has his own slightly twisted code of honour which shines through from time to time, making us like and respect him a lot more than we really want to, considering he’s technically on the side of psychotic King Joffrey (Jack Gleeson), his son and nephew…yup.
Elsewhere, Queen in the North Talisa (Oona Chaplin) has a quick heart to heart with her new mother in law Catelyn Stark (Michelle Fairley). News has finally reached the Northern army that all at Winterfell have been massacred, and that Bran (Isaac Hempstead Wright) and Rickon (Art Parkinson) are both missing, presumed dead. Cat reveals more about her strained relationship with her bastard step-son Jon Snow (Kit Harrington), telling Talisa how she prayed for his death and then, once he became gravely ill, for his deliverance. She also divulges that she promised the Gods to treat him as her own son if he survived – but, clearly, she couldn’t bring herself to keep her promise. Cat, who until this point has been rather one dimensional in her role as Mother with a capital M, is revealing herself as a bit of a complex and tortured soul.
Far from being dead at the hands of Theon Greyjoy (Alfie Allen), who is currently tied to a wooden cross and being rather nastily tortured by persons unknown), Bran is really the heart of this episode. Shoved out of a tower window by Jaime Lannister at the very beginning of season one, he can’t walk or fight, and he has no political sway to speak of, but he is quickly discovering that he has a type of power all his own. All this business with the wolf dreams and the raven fantasies is finally explained; we kinda knew this already, but apparently Bran is a Warg, someone who can see visions of the future and project his mind into animals (such as his pet Direwolf, Summer). This is all explained to him by the mysterious Jojen Reed (Thomas Sangster), also a Warg of sorts, who shows up suddenly and mysteriously with his sister Meera (Ellie Kendrick). Jojen deciphers the mystery of the three-eyed Raven, telling Bran what he must have known all along: ‘The raven is you.’
The two Stark sisters, Sansa and Arya, could not be suffering under more different circumstances. Having escaped the clutches of the Lannister army at Harrenhal, it’s back into the fire with Arya (Maisie Williams) when she is picked up by the Brotherhood without Banners, and then recognised by The Hound (Rory McCann), who was last seen at the Battle of the Blackwater telling Joffrey where to stick it. Sansa (Sophie Turner) finds herself embroiled in another of this episode’s interesting little conversations, this time with Margaery Tyrell (Natalie Dormer) and her spunky grandmother Olenna (newcomer Diana Rigg). After being bribed with lemon cakes, she admits to them that Joffrey, Margaery’s future husband, is an out and out monster (let’s face it, if he’d been born into the real world he’d be locked in a windowless room). This turn of events seems to bother Margaery none at all; in fact, she further cements her burgeoning relationship with the King through some intriguingly weird interaction involving a crossbow.
No Stannis or Daenerys this week – seeing as there’s little to zilch going on over in Astapor at the moment, it’s probably better to skip over Dany (Emilia Clarke) for an episode or two until something interesting happens, rather than waste precious screen time (not to mention the budget – CGI dragons don’t come cheap, you know). And no doubt more than a few were glad that we were spared even five minutes with angst-ridden pyromaniac Stannis Baratheon (Stephen Dillane). His storyline is fast becoming the dullest of the lot; leave him to stew on Dragonstone for a few more episodes until he quits sulking and gets his act together.
So, the first two episodes have been slow burners. In other words, there’s a lot of intrigue and general set-up going on, but not much actual plot development/chopping off of heads. However, we are a mere two hours into the season, and anyone who has been following Game of Thrones from the start knows that when things slow down for a bit, all it means is that they’re going to speed right back up again in the near future with little to no warning.
Of course, a Game of Thrones slow burner is anybody else’s action-packed high-octane edge-of-your-seater. In this second offering we still got torture, magic, and more fascinating character growth than possibly any other episode before it, and that’s certainly better than a poke in the eye with a Valyrian steel stick.
Best Kill: Believe it or not, no-one dies onscreen in this episode, not even any pointless peasants (you’re slipping, Weiss/Benioff!) but, there is a fair amount of torturing, so that’s alright.
Best Scene: Brienne and Jaime’s swordfight, closely followed by Margaery’s crossbow action.