SPOILER WARNING! It’s best not to read this review unless you have already seen Game of Thrones Season 3, Episode 8
The title of this episode is a telling one; Second Sons focuses on the oft overlooked spare male heirs of Westeros, and perhaps suggests that they shouldn’t have been so easily discounted. Tyrion (Peter Dinklage), the despised dwarf offspring of Tywin Lannister (Charles Dance) is married against his will. Samwell Tarly (John Bradley-West), who is in fact a first son shunted aside due to his cowardice, is forced to show his quality. Sandor ‘The Hound’ Clegane (Rory McCann), brow-burned younger brother of Gregor ‘The Mountain’ Clegane (Ian Whyte), also rears his disfigured head, and Stannis Baratheon (Stephen Dillane), possibly the most high profile second son of them all, throws his fire-worshipping hat back into the ring.
The big happening of this episode is the wedding between Tyrion and Sansa (Sophie Turner). This event is masterfully played by both actors, with Dinklage coming back onto form after his character has taken somewhat of a back seat this season. The wedding is a strategic alliance, a political power play, and a cruel punishment rolled into one. The wedding scene in the gigantic Sept at King’s Landing (one of our favourite majestic sets) is cleverly filmed, emphasising Tyrion’s short stature as well as Sansa’s teenage lankiness.
When watching the seventeen-year-old (and rather tall) Turner, it’s very easy to forget that Sansa herself is only fourteen, which lends yet another level of creepiness to a wedding which is already creepy enough. The bizarre cruelty of this forced marriage makes it almost unwatchable. Joffrey (Jack Gleeson) doesn’t help matters by rather gleefully leading Sansa up the aisle, taking it upon himself to be chief sniggerer during the service, and then later reminding Sansa that because he’s the King (and also a sociopath) he can decide to rape her pretty much whenever he chooses, and no-one can stop him. Despite this, Sansa is now in a much safer position than she was before; being married to Tyrion makes her a technical Lannister, after all.
The Hound, who nabbed Arya Stark (Maisie Williams) last week while she was on the run from the Brotherhood without Banners, has decided that his best course of action will be to take her to her mother and brother at the Twins, where they have gone to attend the wedding of Edmure Tully (Tobias Menzies) to one of Walder Frey’s (David Bradley) many daughters. It seems as though Arya might actually make it back to her family after an entire season and a half wandering in the wilderness, which is great for her – but then again, do we really want wild, fierce Arya to be once again fenced in by family, duty and honour? That’s a resounding no.
Thankfully we were spared another half hour of riveting torture starring Theon Greyjoy (Alfie Allen), although the hapless sailor is presumably still languishing in a dungeon at the mercy of Iwan Rheon (who is conjectured to be Ramsay Snow, the rather unhinged Bolton bastard). Instead we were treated to a few more lengthy scenes involving Dany (Emilia Clarke), who was left out of last week’s ep. The Mother of Dragons considers procuring the services of a band of sell-swords called the Second Sons; things turn a little sour when two of the three leaders of said band plot to kill her. Luckily the third leader, Daario Naharis (Ed Skrein), takes it upon himself to chop the heads from the shoulders of his two comrades, and pledge himself to Dany. Why? Because he values beauty above all things – or so he claims. Also, it’s clear that he and Dany fancy the leather desert pants off one another. Lovesick Jorah (Iain Glen) will not be best pleased.
For once, the Stannis section of this episode was one of the more exciting. Not only did we get a nice little scenelet between Stannis and Davos (Liam Cunningham), who is finally let out of his cell, but we also bore witness to another dastardly magical plan. Using the blood of Gendry (Joe Dempsie – Robert Baratheon’s bastard, and yet another second son of sorts), Stannis and Melisandre (Carice van Houten) conjure up a curse on three of their enemies: Joffrey Baratheon, Balon Greyjoy (Patrick Malahide) and of course, Robb Stark (Richard Madden). Now, Joffrey, most of us actively want dead. Balon, we couldn’t really give two hoots either way. But Robb? He’s the King in North, a son of old dead Ned, and (for some of us) our cuddly little fluff bunny. But we don’t believe in this ‘fire god’ and his magical baloney anyway, right? Right?
Game of Thrones, with these final scenes, you are really spoiling us. Like something out of Hitchcock’s The Birds, a Weirwood tree slowly filling with chattering ravens clues Sam in to the fact that a White Walker is closing in on him, Gilly (Hannah Murray) and the baby. A self-proclaimed coward, Sam finally finds a reason to be brave, and succeeds in stabbing the frozen zombie in the back with his strange obsidian blade, simultaneously saving all their lives and discovering the secret that may prove the undoing of the entire frozen zombie invasion: the White Walkers don’t like it when you stab ‘em with Dragonglass. They don’t like it at all.
Many GOT fans have turned sour towards Sam recently (he can be a bit whiny), but after this? After this Samwell Tarly, the pudgy blubbering coward from Horn Hill, is king of the zombie killers. Only two episodes now remain of Game of Thrones season three, and one of them is purported to be this season’s ‘event’ episode, the game-changer that will have us all taking to our social network of choice quicker than you can say ‘Winter is Extremely Nigh’. In the last two seasons, this has traditionally been episode number nine – which means that for next week, we’d all better start circling the wagons.
Best Kill: …and Zombie Kill of the Week goes to…Samwell Tarly!
Best Scene: Lifted straight out of a Hitchcock movie, the raven-filled final scene in which Sam takes on the White Walker.