Reaction: Game of Thrones (2×02)

Real life, as always– including subpar Internet access– continues to get in the way of my posting regularly. Alas! But never fear, everything’s been resolved for next week. :D

2×02

Human beings in a mob
What’s a mob to a king?
What’s a king to a god?
What’s a god to a non-believer / who don’t believe in / anything?

Will we make it out alive?
All right, all right
No church in the Wild

We pick up this episode with the potential new recruits for the Knight’s Watch on their caravan– with “Arry,” of course, having secluded “himself” to urinate privately, as warned. Good girl! Still, everything’s not peaceful in the traveling camp. After Arya has a brief interchange with a prisoner, Jaqen H’ghar, asking for water, the other two men caged up with him get rude (Jaqen apologizes that his traveling “companions” suck, using the third person, which is apparently his thing; his name’s certainly awkward enough for that to be a “Foreigners Speaking the Common Tongue” thing, but GRRM’s genre-standard “special and uniquely spelled” naming tendencies can also suck my dick, so that doesn’t actually mean anything at this point). The affront to her dignified sensibilities makes Arya drop the firewood she was carrying and kind of attack the cage with a stick until one of the Jerkass Prisoners threatens to “rape ['him'] bloody” up the ass with it, giving “Arry” pause. What the shit?! Boys were supposed to be safe. Bee tee dubs: glad male-on-male rape/pedophilia is coming up, since that makes femaleness not the sole “risk factor” (UGH, I hate that kind of language for things like assault, it’s so… victim-blame-y) for opportunistic sexual terrorism, particularly in a power dynamic where, yeah, Arya/Arry carries a blade, but is also a child, and a small child at that, traveling a long way down a hard road with harder criminals.

Anyway, Gendry rolls up, carrying firewood as well, like, “Dude, I can’t watch your back all the time if you just want to fuck around with everybody, especially the scary people, you putz,” but just then, a bunch of gold-armored King’s Landing dudes on horseback march up, Royal Warrant in hand, clearly in search of… someone.

Arya hides behind a small bridge. “They’re looking for me,” she tells Gendry, looking concerned. After the guards confirm that they are, indeed, looking for one of the scum youths destined for the Wall, Gendry gives “Arry” a “Fuck, seriously?” kind of look.

The thing is, though, Yoren could not give less of a fuck. He is all out of fucks to give. He doesn’t even have two fucks to rub together. What’s the sound of one fuck clapping? Yoren wouldn’t know; he doesn’t even have the one. (In case anyone was wondering, it’s the lonely dry sound of a spider weeping.) The guard is all ready to pull his sword on Yoren, but Yoren has a freshly-sharpened dagger out faster at the guy’s femoral artery. “Seems you have a choice. You can die here, at this crossroads, a long way from home, or you can go back to your city and tell your masters you didn’t find what you were looking for.” He also steals the guard’s sword as the dude bounces. Peace!

Oh, but wait, the guy has something to add: “We’re looking for a boy named Gendry. He carries a boar’s-head helmet.” Dude. I would just toss that and make a new helmet if it was me. My new name would be Jerry, and I’d adopt a new accent with my new identity. Gendry? Never ‘eard o’anyone by that name in me loife! …Get it, because everyone’s very British in this series? Because– nevermind, you get it. I can tell. “Anyone turning him over will earn the King’s reward. (Heads on a pike for everyone!) …We’ll be back.” Hasta la vista, jerks. And everyone is now staring at Gendry and Arya. Awks.

In King’s Landing, Tyrion, who apparently likes him some whistling, goes to the chambers of the King’s Hand to find Varys, the bald eunuch, hanging out with Shae, who seems happy for the company. I understand it sucks to be on lockdown, Shae, and Varys probably just likes to show up places unannounced, because he’s better at sneaking around than Littlefinger is, but whether she’s fake- or for-real-oblivious at how serious this is (I’m going with fake, since she seems pretty sharp– she’s just got the misfortune to be essentially a female NPC with plot-requisite shallowness in this moment), that is hugely inappropriate. Still, Shae has lied to Varys, but not for Tyrion so much as for herself, to hide her own backstory to being a kitchen girl. “You should taste her fish pie,” Tyrion quips.

“I don’t think Lord Varys likes fish pie,” Shae snarks back.

“How can you tell?” Varys asks.

“I can always tell,” she answers, grinning widely.

“Men like Lord Varys and I can’t let our disadvantages get the better of us. We’ll make a fisherman of him yet.” You know what? I’d be less uncomfortable with this if the recently-ended RuPaul’s Drag Race hadn’t emphasized “fishy” (as in, presenting as believably femme cisfemale) as one of the Drag Vocabulary Lessons of the season (through use of editing; there tends to be emphasis on one or another “drag-ism” every year so far). It’s a clever enough pun, if nasty and misogynistic, though period-appropriate and in-character for everyone concerned. I’ve just still got a bad taste in my mouth (er, so to speak) from racist ol’ Sharon Needles winning RPDR 4, and cross-fandom brainwave interference makes me sad.

Varys fake-laments how Shae’s not really supposed to be in King’s Landing. “But rest easy, my lord. I am very good at keeping secrets for my good friends.” Varys excuses himself and Tyrion to head to a Small Council meeting (and I’m really glad no one’s gone for the obvious joke regarding that), but Tyrion blocks the door.

“I don’t like threats. I’m not Ned Stark, I understand the way this game is played.” Ned Stark was a man of honor– “And I am not. Threaten me again, and I’ll have you thrown into the sea.” Tyrion turns to go, and Varys blocks the door– you might want to reconsider that threat, there, Tyrion. The sea is ever-changing, with new waves cresting and storms forming and breaking as they will, big fish eating little fish, and Varys just keeps on swimming. They both leave, having effectively measured each other up, though Tyrion seems more bitter about it than Varys does.

At the meeting, however, Cersei is very much over Robb Stark’s peace conditions. “He has more spirit than his father, I’ll give him that,” she drawls to the Lannister cousin who delivered the news, after neatly tearing the (dictated, but not read) proclamation into fourths. Tyrion thinks they should at least send Robb Ned’s bones, as an appeasing gesture of good faith, since it doesn’t really cost them anything and can only serve to soften the Starks’ cold, Northern hearts. Instead of acknowledging that, Cersei asks about Jaime, and Varys side-eyes while Baelish stiffens up and Maester Oldguy Pycelle avoids eye contact. It’s so uncomfortable I start just looking at furniture to avoid secondhand embarassment, and may I note how fierce Cersei’s ostrich-skin backed chair emblazoned with the Baratheon stag is? Anyhoo. His spirit has apparently not been broken, and Cersei’s like, “Tell him I said ‘hi,” *intense stare*, until Tyrion tells his cuz to travel safe, because to Cersei, if you’re not Jaime, then fuck you. Other people tend to find that rude, bb.

Last order of business, however, is a letter from Lord Commander Jeor Mormont just before he and the Knight’s Watch headed north of the Wall. Everybody gets in a good, sarcastic jab at dirty ol’ Wildlings, and how many freaking Kings are there now, anyway? LOL supersticious savages, amirite? “Need reinforcements, stop. Weather frigid as usual, stop. Zombie attacks increasing though response to fire is promising, stop. Winter is coming, full stop.” Only Tyrion thinks this merits concern, which Cersei laughs at, but Tyrion’s like, one, if Mormont says there’s zombies he at very least really, really thinks there’s zombies, and two, either way we should be trying to keep everybody at the Wall happy, as our first line of defense against Arctic craziness.

Speaking of Arctic craziness, back at Craster’s… commune, some of the Knight’s Watch dudes are talking about how you can totally tell the gods are jerks because people fart as they kick the bucket. Is this what men talk about when women aren’t around? I can tell you right now it’s exactly the kind of thing women talk about when men aren’t around, so y’all don’t have to feel bad about it if that’s true. Samwell, however, keeps being distracted by women, and sex, and women’s asses, and sex, and OH MY GOD YOU GUYS HAVE HAD SEX BEFORE TELL ME ALL ABOUT IT. LET’S TALK ABOUT SEX. Don’t decoy, avoid, or make void the topic, yo. The older guy of the three is like, “…Yeah, I’m officially sending you away from me, distractionpants. Go get some potatoes or something.”

On his journey for tubers, however, Sam runs into Ghost, who’s cornered one of Craster’s daughterwives. Ghost’s like, “O HAY THAR YOU SMELL INTARESTING,” and Sam’s like, “GHOST, NO, GODDAMMIT, WE HAVE DISCUSSED THIS, YOU SIT PRETTY FOR STRANGERS. REMEMBER, ‘SIT PRETTY’?” *clicker, clicker*

Ghost leaves to go sniff other people, presumably, and Sam tries to check with the girl if she’s okay, but her immediate response is, “You shouldn’t touch me.” Oh. Right. Right. But seriously, are you okay though? She stares at Sam for a minute. “You’re very brave,” she says. Meanwhile, Jon is doing what he does best, which is brood in solitude in the snow, this time while sharpening his sword with a distinct air of malaise around him. He remains unhappy when Sam walks up to the Brooding Tree with the young woman– apparently what Ghost found so interesting was the smell of a person growing inside of another person. Ooh. (And yes, some dogs actually find this trippy as hell, though Ghost was fairly positive about it; I’ve heard of dogs stomping really hard on their female owners’ abdomens when something in that area smells “wrong” to them about as much as I’ve heard of dogs getting eerily protective of their female owners’ bellies well before the women themselves find out they’re pregnant.) The girl, Gilly (who Sam won’t refer to as Craster’s wife, but as one of his daughters, because he’s good people), wants to come with the Knight’s Watch when they march out, though she’ll run on her own if she has to.

Sam’s like, “We are sworn to protect,” because he’s awesome, but Jon’s against the idea of “stealing” one of the Wildling women away. “I can’t steal her. She’s a person, not a goat,” Sam says, incredulously.

Remember how I said Jon Snow was not, in fact, a secret feminist? Yeah. His views on women remain as self-serving as ever, because he’s really only interested to the point that Gilly starts to say she’s afraid that if she has a boy– um. Nevermind. Jon, who’d just gotten done saying how imposserous it was to take a woman with the Men of the Wall deeper into Wildling territory, is suddenly all, “Well, we aren’t going to risk our lives without information,” like the answer to his curiosity has become the deciding factor. Gilly appears to grow appropriately angry and fearful at this, and runs away, and Sam calls Jon out for being cruel (and a general dick). “Mormont wouldn’t have it,” Jon snaps back, “and even if he would, what are we going to do with her? Who’s going to deliver a baby, you?”

Sam thinks for a second, then brightens up. “I could try. …What? I’ve read about it! A bit.” Guys, Sam is so nice, but the tone of this scene, regrettably, is one of not being able to take home a pet vs. not being able to save a human being from sexual slavery under abusive and incestuous conditions, and that’s as the tip of iceberg as far as reproductive human rights violations going on. The writing is good, but the direction here could be a bit better. Still, Jon vetoes the idea, and Samwell skulks away, but now that Jon’s got that bug up his ass about the baby boys, he can’t even focus on sharpening his sword anymore, and he gets sad. Well, sadder. He’s always kind of a Debbie Downer, but will that stop us, Pep? I doubt it.

Daenerys, her khalassar, and her omnipresent horde of horseflies, however, have camped out in the little bit of shade they could make, waiting for news from any of the men she sent out with the surviving horses. Everyone’s hair, of course, is looking surprisingly alright, if frizzy, for people who are supposed to be starving and nearly out of water, in addition to being seriously dirty, though not peeling and sunburnt (but seriously, what, has no one heard of sand baths out here?). Suddenly, a horse! And I have to keep reminding myself that the Red Waste must be more of a series of salt plains or something than a “traditional” desert, because horses can’t stand freaking dunes, let me tell you. The wrong kind of ground entirely. But: the blurry outline of a horse and the clip-clop of hooves!! Dany and Ser Jorah rouse themselves from their heat-induced semi-stupor, but the horse has no rider, and has been painted with some ind of red ochre. One of its saddlebags hangs heavy, gore-smeared, and drips an ominous red. Hair hangs out of the top. (I know dripping brown is less dramatic, too, but how far is this horse supposed to be coming from? Blood oxidizes pretty fast. Just sayin’.) Jorah starts to pull a head out of the bag, revealing the chopped-off ponytail, included in-package so the man’s people know he’s been disgraced even beyond being mutilated. Still, he tries to cover it up and protect Daenerys’s delicate eyes and heart, but she wants to see. Her remaining Dothraki are blood of her blood, and she has a duty to them.

“Who did this?” Jorah thinks some Khal nearby isn’t happy about a Khaleesi ruling instead of another Khal, but Dany says, “They will like it far less when I am done with them.” Still, one of the Dothraki women has come to see as well, and begins sobbing.

“They killed his soul,” she cries. “They butchered him like an animal. They didn’t burn his body. He can never join his ancestors in the night lands.” I had to take a second, because the whole thing is incredibly heartbreaking and dehumanizing, and really reminds me of how, in colonial efforts, one of the processes of genocide tends to be attempting to break the spirits of the colonized by violently destroying or “interrupting” their religious rituals and capabilities to practice spirituality. Mutilation and dishonoring the dead with the deliberate intention of perceived destruction of the spirit/destruction of path to an afterlife, cycle of rebirth, etc., is pretty stock stuff, historically, but it’s a really real moment, and Daenerys struggles under the weight of it. She promises the woman that Rakharo will ride with his ancestors tonight, and she and her khalassar (read: her khalassar) will build him a funeral pyre themselves, then embraces her. They rock back and forth, crouched on the ground, while the woman continues to scream.

On a ship to the Iron Islands, Theon Greyjoy isn’t really struggling with anything except his own concept of what hot shit he thinks he is. The Iron Islands look smaller than he remembers, and he bets his return home will be a monumentous occasion that everyone will be lined up at the docks waiting for; but before he gets there, he plans on having sex with the daughter of the captain of the ship he’s traveling on to get home, in the captain’s quarters no less. Theon cracks a joke about ruling the world and his hard-on, then tells the captain’s daughter to smile with her lips closed before he flips her over the screw her from behind so he won’t have to look at her ugly, ugly face. The poor woman still wants to come ashore with Theon, worrying about being able to remain on-ship, since her father won’t want her to stay knowing she’s been with an Iron Islander and will call her a whore, but Theon’s just like, “I haven’t paid you.” In case you didn’t know: Theon Greyjoy’s an asshole!

At Baelish’s whorehouse, though, you have to pay extra to talk all mean like that. Shee-ooooot. Gotta nickel and dime people for everything! Littlefinger is monitoring business, which of course means creeping like he’s goddammned Judge Turpin through peepholes all over the place. Ewww. (That, of course, is a complimentary service at the Baelish Bordello, much like the continental breakfast!) I legit at first thought the peepshow element was another business Baelish was capitalizing on to maximize profits, which would have weirded me out less, I think? Anyway, there is the sound of weeping from offscreen, and an angry john storms in. Apparently, he has paid good money for a whore, and now she’s crying, but not, like, because he wanted a crying prostitute, he wants a not-crying one, he specifically said. Baelish is all about customer service, so he snaps his fingers for the woman whose gimmick was revealed, last episode, to be pretending to not speak the Common Tongue for Maxxxed Out Exoticism, Hot Interracial Sluts Take Westeros Dick for Cold, Hard, Cash! (…lord almighty, the search engines are going to have an interesting time with that sentence) and hands her off to No-Pants before heading off to investigate.

But, hey! It’s Roz! I wasn’t expecting that, to be honest– I thought for sure it would be Daisy or someone “new.” She apologizes for her behavior to Baelish, who, to be fair, the first thing he asks is if the man hurt her. Roz is still just, you know, traumatized by seeing an infant ripped from another woman’s arms and stabbed to death in front of her, and can’t stop thinking about it, which is making staying focused on her job a little bit hard today. At this point I have to wonder if Roz is not only being used, obviously, as a convenient plot device (while really, let’s be honest, having a fascinating storyline building up herself, if only it would be explored for more than the lulz or to exposit for someone else), but so that we-the-audience will view this show’s sex workers as fully human? Because, you know what, a lot of people don’t, and it’s nice to be reminded that just because your profession, whether by choice or by circumstance, happens to involve charging money for sexual acts, you’re still just like regular people. Most folks are not back to business as usual within 24 hours of viewing a murder they were helpless to stop, particularly of a child, though some folks, like sex workers, are in positions where that’s very much the reality of their lives.

Still, because Roz is a storytelling element rather than a character, she’s the only prostitute with feelings right now, and we don’t get any backstory, like, “I can’t go back to seeing babies stabbed,” or, “I can’t go back to not feeling safe,” because what was needed in this scene was a crying and vulnerable woman to show us how Baelish switches rapidly from fake-concern to full-on abusive pimp mode.

He falls back on the same conversation device he tried on Cersei, how he knew another prostitute who got depressed one time, but she got so depressed she wasn’t making him money anymore. “I hate bad investments,” Baelish whispers to Roz, as she steels herself for whatever it is she’s about to hear. “Really, I do. They haunt me. I had no idea how to make her happy. I had no idea how to mitigate my losses.” He insinuates that, with no other alternatives, when Baelish was offered a large amount of money by a patron with… particular tastes (some Law & Order: SVU, Hellraiser-type shit, presumably). “I would not say he succeeded in making her happy,” he continues, as Roz seems to realize what the fuck Baelish is actually saying, “but my losses were definitely mitigated.” Back to his less-terrifying businessman self, Baelish then gives Roz the night off to mourn the other prostitute’s child (how gracious of him), but she’s back on the clock tomorrow, and she will be happy, yes? Roz makes sure to smile at Baelish until he leaves.

In one of Tyrion’s chambers, he’s having a meeting with the newly-Lord-Commander’d Janos Slynt, the guy in charge of the King’s Landing City Watch who used a sword on an infant only the day before. Tyrion starts out the meeting pleasantly enough, but very quickly moves on to confronting Janos about who gave the order to kill all of King Rob’s bastards (Tyrion suspects Cersei), and from there wants to know if Slynt was the one behind slaughtering all of Ned Stark’s men in the throne room last season. And then Tyrion flat-out says, “Dude, so you murder babies, you murdered the men of the Hand of the King, and I’d say you straight-up have no honor whatsoever.” Tyrion figures Slynt betrayed the last Hand, so he’s fired, banished, and replaced by Bronn as of five minutes ago, have a great time at the Wall, son! “I have friends at court! Powerful friends!” Janos yells as he’s being marched out of the room.

A good ways ahead of Slynt on that journey are Arya, Gendry, and the boy I’m just going to call Fatty Lumpkins, who I think actually respects Arry now, somewhat, since “he” called Lumpy’s bluff on stomping a boy “all t’pieces,” and told the tale of the Fat-Boy Killing. Ahh, nostalgic lollerskates! Anyway, Lumpy and a blond boy have decided they have Gendry’s back, since he’d be good in a battle, but Lumpy ain’t ‘fraid of no ghosts battles. Arry’s all, “Bullshit,” and Lumpy says he’s seen battle, he seent a man kill another man outside a tavern in Fleabottom, stabbed him right. In. The neck. Blondie (not Clint-Eastwood-Blondie, the other scruffy kid) and Arry just make “What in the hell–?” faces, because Lumpy just kind of opens his mouth and says things that the sounds seem to go along well with together.

“Two men fighting isn’t a battle,” says Blondie, after letting the whole thing sink in for a second.

“Uh, they had armor on?” Lumpy retorts. “If they got armor on, it’s a battle.”

The kids argue about it for a few seconds until Arry’s like, “Well, ask Gendry, Hot Pie. Tell him what makes a fight a battle.” Oh! We have a name for Fatty Lumpkins. An equally stupid name. Hrrm. Anyway, Hot Pie thinks it’s anytime people have armor on. He knows, because a knight told him.

“How’d you know he was a knight?”

“Well… it’s ’cause he got armor on.”

“You don’t have to be a knight to have armor. Any idiot can buy armor.”

“How d’you know?”

“…’Cause I sold armor.” Gendry looks disgusted and confused, like, what the fuck is wrong with this kid? Hot Pie is stupid, but Arya’s just amused by the whole thing. Hot Pie and Blondie leave in shame, which leaves Arya to be nosy at Gendry. The Starks, they’re a nosy people, man. Gendry says he didn’t know why the “gold-hats” were after him, and Arya calls him a liar.

Gendry says she shouldn’t insult people bigger than her, but then Arya’s like, “Then I wouldn’t get to insult anyone.”

“How can someone so small be such a huge pain in my ass?” he gripes back. Gendry tells Arya about how the last two people asking about his life died within a fortnight, and they were both the last two King’s Hands. “See? Asking me questions is bad luck. You’ll probably be dead soon.” Arya’s not deterred, though.

As it turns out, the last two people showing any interest in Gendry were asking after his parentage; but what about Arry? “Did you kill someone, or is it just because you’re a girl?” Arya flips her tiny lid, but, I mean, not to be a buzzkill or anything, but you can totally tell she’s got boobs under her tunic. Arya is not as slick an Arry as she thinks. (I know that in book-canon, she really wouldn’t be as physically developed as the fifteen-year-old Maisie Williams and would be able to “pass” easier, particularly since Sansa isn’t even supposed to have gotten her period yet, but I think everyone’s supposed to be significantly younger than they read on-screen in the literature?) Still, Arya insists she’s not a girl, and Gendry says, “Yes you are. You think I’m as stupid as the rest of them?”

“Stupider!” she spits. Gendry says if “Arry’s” a boy, then to pull out his cock and take a piss, which throws Arya off. “I– don’t need to take a piss!” Gendry just smirks. “…No one can know.”

“They won’t. Not from me.”

And: “My name’s not Arry. It’s Arya. Of House Stark. Yoren is taking me home to Winterfell.” Gendry starts to piece everything together– but Ned Stark– “He was never a traitor. Joffrey is a liar.”

“So, you’re a highborn, then, you’re a lady.” Gendry starts to visibly have a mini-panic-attack, which is far funnier than panic attacks actually should be. It’s still funny, though, particularly since Arya’s freaking out a little bit at the same time, too.

“No. I mean, yes– my mother was a lady– and my sister, but–”

“You’re a lord’s daughter, and you lived in a castle, and– all that about cocks, I should never have said– and I’ve been pissing in front of you and everything– I should be calling you ‘milady.’”

Do NOT call me ‘milady.’

“As milady commands.” Arya shoves him. “Well, that was unladylike.” She knocks Gendry down and stomps away in a huff, and Gendry just laughs on the ground. Who knew the less-weird ‘ship between a Stark kid and a Baratheon kid would involve drag and pissing in the woods on the run from the cops?

At the Iron Islands, which I know aren’t actually being filmed in New England, because that makes no sense and also it looks a lot more like the coast of Ireland, but whose rockiness and cold, foggy coastline are reminding me wicked hard of my home state of Massachusetts (beaches aren’t the same down South, though the water’s a much nicer temperature), there is absolutely no one to gree Theon in his fancy Westeros clothes. An old guy at the dock to I guess handle import procedures asks what Theon is carrying, and he wants to get fancy and dramatic about it, like, “I’m carrying Balon Greyjoy’s heir. *pause* His only living son. *longer pause* Me.” The dude is unimpressed, like, don’t get cute, I’m just trying to do my job, and Theon’s irritated he’s expected to pay money for allowing someone to escort the lost prince back home, or whatever. The old dude goes off to find a horse for Theon, since apparently you can’t get to the castle by douchecanoe or he could just jump in the water and float on over himself.

Theon’s being a Pissypants until a woman (in pants!) saunters over. “I’m heading that way. I can take you there.”

“I bet you can.” Theon looks her up and down then leers at her in her face, and the woman backs up a few steps.

“You been at sea long, or are there just no women where you came from?”

“None like you.” The woman continues walking backwards, and Theon follows her, maintaining eye contact.

“You don’t know what I’m like.”

You don’t know what you’re like. Maybe you need someone to teach you.” Um. Ick. “Do you know who I am?”

“Do you think I offer free rides to every man in jewelry, Lord Greyjoy?” The old man is heading back towards where Theon and Lady Jumpsuit were walking from, with a horse now, but as they pass each other, Theon just hands him more money and asks for his bags to be delivered to the castle, maintaining his creepface at the woman going toward her own horse. The old man looks incredibly confused. Deliver… your bags…? Does not compute.

Still, the woman’s riding her horse astride, and Theon’s riding behind her, with his hands on her hips. “You should give me the reins. I’m a better rider than you. I’ve been on horseback for the past nine years.” She pulls one of his hands off her hips, like, nine years riding horses, have these hands ever even touched a ship rope? “Don’t worry about my hands,” Theon murmurs in the woman’s ear, reaching into her shirt to grope her. “The sea is in my blood.

“Your blood will be in the sea if I don’t watch where I’m going.” Theon takes his hands out of the woman’s shirt and moves them down to the waistband of her pants, where he appears to be massaging her lower belly? He’s not low enough to be in clit territory, plus, they’re on a horse riding in, like, rock city (rock city bitch, rock, rock city, bitch). Theon keeps talking shit about how awesome he is, and how awesome it’s going to be how he “saves” his father with Robb Stark’s proposal to join forces, and if she’s lucky, this woman might even get to stay at the castle tonight. …Oh, joy. How any woman would have longed for this day. “Is that an offer from my future king?” the woman asks. Naw, gurr. That’s an order from your future king. You’re going to tell your grandchildren about this night. How delightful.

In the Greyjoy castle in Pyke, Balon stands with his back to the door of his receiving chambers, staring into a fireplace decorated with a squid above it. Which is a fierce-ass sigil, by the way. Cephalopods are smart and ferocious as hell. “Nine years, is it? They took a frightened boy– what have they given back?”

“A man. Your blood and your heir.”

“We shall see.” Apparently, nine years with the Starks was longer than Balon got with Theon (whoa, dude is under eighteen?! DA FUQ). But now Lord Stark is dead. “And how do you feel about that?”

Theon knows it’s a test, so he’s like, “What’s done is done.” but Balon turns around, because he’s not done. Did Ned Stark buy you those clothes? You look like a girl. You’re wearing jewelry? Did you pull it off a corpse, like a man (the Iron Price), or did you pay for it, like a Stark girl (the Gold Price)? …Dude, has the price of iron gone up or something? Like I know this is supposed to be a spartan manliness Iron Islands thing vs. a decadent “femme” thing, but why gold in particular? Eh, whatever. Theon admits he paid the gold price, and Balon snatches his necklace off and calls his son a whore before expressing dismay that his son is more a Stark than a Greyjoy. “My blood is salt and iron!” Theon protests. (Everyone’s is, but that’s a neat way to put it, I gotta admit.)

“Yet the Stark boy sends you to me like a chained raven, clutching his message.” Hey! Theon’s not just any old raven. Winter is coming. He’s a white raven. (Ominous signs of portent are linked to albinism, naturally; and they sing like nightingales, but do still eat carrion.) Besides, the whole thing was Theon’s idea, anyway! Robb stark listens to him, since they came up together– they’re practically like brothers. “No. Not here, not in my hearing, you will not name him ‘brother’– this son of the man who put your true brothers to the sword– or have you forgotten your own blood?” Theon looks about to cry. He hasn’t forgotten anything. He remembers. He remembers when his father was a king.

Still, Balon reads the letter from Robb, and is unimpressed with the offer inside. Fight Robb Stark’s enemies for him and have your old title of King of the Iron Islands returned, the title taken from Greyjoy by Robb’s own father nine years before. Theon volunteers to lead the attack, which Balon is likewise nonplussed by. “I’m your son. Your only living heir. Who else?” The doors behind Theon open again, and the woman in blue walks purposefully toward, then past him. “I told you to wait outside. How did you get past the guards?”

“Anything with a cock is easy to fool,” she snipes, and goes to stand next to Balon, who embraces her.

Theon needs a second to process this. “…Yara?!

“So good to see you, brother. This is a homecoming I’ll tell my grandchildren about.” Whaaaaaat.

Theon splutters indignantly, and then announces, “She can’t lead an attack!” Seriously, dude? That’s what you’re going with as your first reaction? Okay, then. “You’re a woman!

You’re the one in skirts.”

“This isn’t Winterfell, boy,” Balon adds. “Your sister took over command of your eldest brother’s ship, after your new father killed him.” Balon and Yara both snap into a salute in unison, fists to their hearts. “What’s dead may never die.” Theon’s a half second late joining them, and it’s doubly awkward. “The only nights she’s spent off this island have been spent on the sea. She’s commanded men. She’s killed men. She knows who she is.” Yara smiles at Theon, but it’s not a nice smile, and he honestly doesn’t deserve one. Not that being cut off from one’s roots and kidnapped isn’t a difficult and sad thing, and not that that means you deserve creepass pranking or to be called a whore by your father after coming back home, but if Theon wasn’t such a dick during the whole process, I’d feel worse for him.

Balon, meanwhile, burns the letter from Robb in the fire and watches it smolder. “A man gives me a crown, I pay the Iron Price. I will take my crown. That is who I am. That is who we have always been.” He and Yara turn and walk out of the room past Theon without even a backward glance as Theon yells that they won’t stand a chance alone against the Lannisters. Fool, who said the Greyjoys are going up against the Lannisters, anyway?

Over at Dragon Beach, Davos and his son, Matthos, are talking with… a Black man! Hey! I was wondering if/when Black folks would show up in Game of Thrones, excellent! Saladhor is a pirate (an excellent pirate), and Stannis has sent Davos to secure a better plan than Robb and Theon cooked up for a fleet, which is hooking up some privateers. Saladhor isn’t totally convinced that he should give up the sure thing of robbing merchants at sea for armed warfare, particularly as a message coming from a smuggler, but Davos reminds him that rich idiots on the ocean are going to keep on sailing either way, but raiding King’s Landing is not only the greatest plunder any pirate could ever hope for, it is guaranteed immortality– he’d be a legend long after his own death, “as long as men have voices to sing.” “Saladhor Saan is a good name for a song,” Saladhor concedes. Matthos rolls his eyes, and I hope it’s some teenager angst and not some anti-Summer-Isles thing (or an anti-pirate thing, since his dad is a smuggler, for Stannis Baratheon, of all people).

“One thing. I want the queen. Cersei, I want her. I’ll sail with your fleet, all thirty of my ships, and if we don’t drown at the bottom of Blackwater Bay, I will fuck this blonde queen and I will fuck her well.”

“This war isn’t about you,” Matthos blurts. “We’re not attacking King’s Landing so you can rape the queen.”

“I’m not going to rape her. I’m going to fuck her,” Saladhor corrects.

“As if she would just let you!”

“You don’t know how persuasive I am. I never tried to fuck you.” Matthos backs up several steps. He’s apparently gone for whatever Melisandre has been pushing, though, because Matthos seems to think that Stannis as the rightful king, Lord of Light, and One True God should be enough to convince anyone to throw their full support behind him. The older men, having graduated beyond eye-rolling to full-on head-rolling have had more than enough of Melisandre’s preaching as soon as Matthos started. “I’ve been all over the world, boy, and everywhere I go, people tell me about the ‘True God.’ They all think they’ve found the right one. The One True God is what’s between a woman’s legs, and better yet, a queen’s legs,” Saladhor snaps. Matthos looks disgusted, and Saladhor turns to Davos and adds, “I never thought you would have a ‘True Believer’ for a son.”

“Ahh, he’s young yet.” Davos can promise gold and glory, but he can’t promise Cersei. Still, Saladhor wants confirmation, at least, that Davos thinks Stannis is the man to back. “He’s the One True King.”

Saladhor snorts. “You Westerosi are funny people.” Still, Davos is the most honest smuggler Saladhor knows, so he’ll get Stannis to King’s Landing if Davos will make him rich. Saladhor walks away and Matthos goes out of his way to back up out of the Black man’s reach, which weirds me and Saladhor out.

Davos and Matthos are walking back, as well, and are discussing theology. Matthos wants to teach Davos to read (“Oh, you and your mother,” Davos sighs), because the Holy Books are much more convincing than Matthos could ever be, and Dad, Stannis’s god is Matthos’s god, and if only he could see. “I wish I had a god, truly. I’m not mocking you, but I’ve seen men pray to every god there is, pray for wind, pray for rain, pray for home, none of it works.”

“But you always came home!” But Davos wasn’t praying. “But I was. Every night that you were at sea, I lit a candle and I prayed. For you.”

“You want me to have a god? Fine. King Stannis is my god. He raised me up and blessed me with his trust. He gave you a future I couldn’t ever have imagined– you know how to read, you’ll be a knight someday, you think a fire god commanded all that? It was Stannis. Only Stannis.”

“Stannis is my king, but he’s only a man.”

“Tssh. Don’t tell him that. Haha!” Davos mounts a horse and rides away from his son, watching him on the beach.

In King’s Landing, Cersei is yelling at Tyrion over exiling Janos Slynt, and Tyrion is like, “Maybe if killing babies wasn’t such a P.R. nightmare, I wouldn’t have to be the one exiling blockheads. “You’re losing the people. Do you hear me?”

“Aha, the people. Do you think I care?” No, really, that’s the line.

“Half the city will starve when Winter comes, the other half will plot to overthrow you. And your gold-plated thugs just gave them their rallying cry: ‘The Queen Slaughters Babies.’ …You don’t even have the decency to deny it.” Cersei just looks away and walks to the window behind Tyrion, looking out at the city. “It wasn’t you who gave the order, was it? Joffrey didn’t even tell you.” Nope, but you’re getting warmer! “Did he tell you? I imagine that would be even worse.”

“He did what needed to be done. You want to be Hand to the King? You want to rule? This is what ruling is. Lying on a bed of weeds, ripping them out by the root one by one before they strangle you in your sleep.” Tyrion tries to snark his way back into control of the conversation, but Cersei continues, “I don’t care what you think! You’ve never taken it seriously, you haven’t, Jaime hasn’t. It’s all fallen on me.”

“As has Jaime, repeatedly, according to Stannis Baratheon.” Tyrion smiles at his own joke, but Cersei does not think now is the time.

“You’re funny,” she laughs. “You’ve always been funny. But none of your jokes will ever match the first one, will they? You remember– back when you ripped my mother open on your way out of her, and she bled to death.”

It’s not funny anymore, I guess. “She was my mother, too.” Tyrion has his serious face on, and speaks quietly.

“Mother gone. For the sake of you. There’s no bigger joke in the world than that.” The siblings stare at each other, and then Cersei turns on her heel and leaves Tyrion to sit alone.

In Stannis’s War Room, Davos and Matthos are plotting out battle schematics on a scale-model table of, I guess, all of Westeros. I’m not good at maps, so I haven’t been paying attention to borders and stuff in the opening sequences, I’m just all about all the buildings and stuff building themselves upwards out of the ground, that’s cool. Stannis and Melisandre walk in, and Stannis wants an update on the fleet situation: Saladhor’s joining up, but Stannis doesn’t like working with pirates very much. Still, you do what you gotta do. Melisandre gives Stannis a look, and he simply says to the father and son, “Leave.” You don’t need to ask Davos twice, and he and Matthos are out, but not before Melisandre stops Matthos.

“The Lord of Light shines through you, young warrior,” she says, then grabs his face and whispers something at him. Stannis asks what’s up with that? “I told him death by fire is the purest death.” Why, though? “Because it’s true. …You’re troubled, my king.”

“Yeh,” Stannis says.

“These armies are toys for the Lord of Light.” Stannis is more worried about numbers, at this point. “You must have faith.” But he doesn’t care about faith right now; nine times out of ten, the side with the greater number wins, and Renly has greater numbers– Stannis can’t defeat him in the field– but he also can’t take King’s Landing without the bannermen that Renly “stole.” He’s in a pickle. That does not stop a weird, random wind kicking up inside (!!!) while Melisandre makes her eyes all big. Is she doing that thing that Tyra’s always going on about about making your own wind machine? Only with monotheistic magics using weirdly Western-European-pagan imagery around the monochromatic priestess?

“I have seen the path to victory in the flames,” she says. “But first you must give yourself to the Lord of Light.” Stannis doesn’t know what else you want, damn it, he’s said the words and burnt the idols (are the Seven Old Gods the kind of gods where representation is manifestation, and they actually live in/through the statues that were burnt? That’s kind of harsh, dude). “You must give all of yourself.” Melisandre strips.

“I have a wife.” Stannis sneers at her and walks away, but Melisandre follows. “I took a vow.”

“She’s sick. Weak. Shut away in a tower. She disgusts you. And she’s given you nothing. No sons, only stillborns. Only death.” Stannis turns to stare, and Melisandre grabs the back of his head and whispers, “I will give you a son, my king.” Those were the magic words, apparently; Stannis yanks off the rest of Melisandre’s robe and flips her onto the table, immediately setting into thrusting as Melisandre arches her back and knocks tiny wooden men– Renly’s men– off the table and onto the floor.

North of the Wall, Jon Snow sits alone in the darkness. He turns at a sound behind him, and can make out a figure in the torchlight, carrying a baby in its arms. It heads for the forest. Jon watches, then follows, woring only by moonlight, armed, but without Ghost. The shadows cast by the trees are long, and the disorienting stereo calls of night-birds can’t muffle the crunching of Jon’s footsteps, but something else is crunching in the darkness: it’s Craster. He’s heading back to the village now, arms empty. Jon hides behind a tree, but is drawn to the sounds of the infant’s wails, and around him, something else that’s not Craster is making the crunching, chittering noises that made no sense coming from the wildling man alone. Jon picks up speed, panting as he runs, getting close enough to where the baby was left in time to see something, something too tall, pick it up as the child falls into silence.

Something grabs Jon’s shoulder. This time, it is Craster. He hits Jon in the head with something. The scene goes black.

And man, oh, man, is it ever a good thing I’ve got the next episode at home already, or would that be an annoying cliffhanger, am I right? Hahaha! Sometimes it’s good to be the king behind– at least enough to be able to get a Game of Thrones fix two days in a row! You, however, must tune in next week, same Hathor time, same Hathor channel, for Game of Thrones 2×03 & 2×04, everybody!

Comments

  1. says

    Maria,

    He might still have a daughter? “No sons”/”No heirs” is different than “no kids,” even with the bit about stillbirths (if Stannis’s wife had some other repro health issues going on after having their daughter, say, or if Stannis and his wife both have some kind of X-chromosome-carried issue, which just combined poorly for bearing sons, or something).

    I mean, on the one hand, the Greyjoys seem like absolute dicks, and I know their skewing more towards something resembling gender equality (toughness is still maleness, after all) is supposed to show how hard times are for them, but I still liked how Balon was all, “Where the fuck do you think you are? This ain’t Ned Stark’s house.” I think that could also still be some weirdness about gender-coding labor, though– for example, Cat and Sansa in particular, as “ladies,” wouldn’t be viewed as “contributing” or “working” in the same way Yara is, despite their situations being arguably more precarious.

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