The Night Lands (Season 2, Episode 2, Game of Thrones)
“I’m not Ned Stark. I know the way this game is played.” Tyrion Lannister
In the enormous void left after Ned Stark’s death, who would be the most virtuous man of power? While there are many candidates for the most dangerous, there are precious few for the most virtuous (Robb Stark? Renly Baratheon?).
Who is the most dangerous person in Westeros?
Joffrey Baratheon, the White Walkers, Ser Gregor Clegane, Lord Tywin Lannister, Cersei Lannister and Ser Janos Slynt would all be worthy of the title of most dangerous. But in this episode, it is Lord Petyr Baelish who is particularly chilling.
The soft-spoken evil of Petyr Baelish
Apparently still holding the torch for Catelyn Stark, Littlefinger has spent his time building a fortune through the sex trade and currying influence with the powerful. We know that his love for Catelyn led to a confrontation with Ned’s elder brother Brandon, to whom Catelyn was betrothed. When Ned comes to King’s Landing one of his first conversations with Littlefinger brings up the incident, and Littlefinger responds with “I still carry a token of his esteem from navel to collarbone.” It has to be a defeat that has festered over the years (with the humiliation being worse than the wound – much like the Joffrey v. Arya incident in The
I’ve often wondered if Lord Baelish hastened Ned’s demise by “helping” him follow Jon Arryn’s investigation. When Ned is ready to pack up Arya and Sansa, and leave King’s Landing for the safety of Winterfell, it is Petyr Baelish who suggests that he make one final visit to see Robert’s youngest illegitimate child. Ned can’t resist and, (in Shakespearian style), he’s ambushed by Jaime Lannister at Baelish’s brothel. And while it’s possible that Jaime knew of Ned’s whereabouts through Lannister spies, it’s more than plausible that Baelish betrayed Ned.
In this episode, a revealing and chilling conversation takes place between Littlefinger and Ros. Deeply disturbed by witnessing the Gold Cloaks murder of the infant child in the brothel, Ros begins crying while with a customer and can’t stop. Baelish assigns another prostitute to the customer and goes to speak with Ros. His soft, soothing voice serves to makes his message more terrifying than if he was angry. He shares with Ros the story of another woman that work for him that became sad and unable to perform as customers wanted. Baelish coldly shares the considerable investment he made in her and how her mood was threatening his return on that investment. Ultimately he sold the woman to a man who, as he describes it, wanted to transform her by subjecting her to things that wouldn’t occur to most men, and then adding softly and chillingly, “and you know what occurs to most men…”
The imagination is an effective weapon of terror, and Baelish uses it expertly.
The only living son of Balon Greyjoy
I find the pomposity of Theon Greyjoy a welcome comic relief from the more regular stress, violence, and oppression of Westeros. From the first time we meet him in Winterfell, Theon’s self image is completely at odds with what everyone else seems to think of him. But there’s hopefulness in Theon that defies the unforgiving harshness of the world of Game of Thrones – and that’s what I like about him in spite of his treatment of the captain’s daughter and the moves he puts on Yara.
“They took a frightened boy, what are they giving back?”
In all the fall out of the rebellion, Theon won the lottery in terms of being Ned Stark’s hostage. Not to say that most characters have gone out of their way to grind on Theon about his less-than-a-Stark status, but I have to believe that life at Winterfell was infinitely better than life on the Iron Islands would have been.
In many ways, Jon Snow and Theon Greyjoy have the same challenges – they admire and have been influenced by the Starks – but can never truly be a Stark. Ned Stark told Jon “You may not have my name but you have my blood,” when they parted ways on the Kingsroad. I’m not suggesting that Ned had the same emotional attachment to Theon, but Balon Greyjoy is right, Theon is more a product of Winterfell than the Iron Islands.
But children desperately want the love of their parents (look no further than Tyrion, Jaime and Cersei) and Theon is no different. He arrives at the Iron Islands expecting far more of a welcome homecoming than the indifference he meets on the docks, and while he gets more notice from his father, it comes in the form of sneers and insults. In the presence of his father, Theon’s bluster and self-importance evaporate as he franticly tries to grab any crumb of approval.
However, approval, comfort, and happiness are in short supply for everyone we’re following in Game of Thrones.
- Direwolf Watch We see Ghost, Jon Snow’s direwolf, in this episode. Gilly, one of Craster’s daughter/wives, comes face to face with Ghost. She is frozen in terror and Samwell Tarley shoes Ghost off and approaches Jon about helping the pregnant Gilly escape.
- It’s revealed that Gendry knows part of Arya’s secret – that she’s a girl. Later she confides in him, telling him that she is Ned Stark’s daughter.
- “That boy has more courage than sense.” Arya meets Jaqen H’ghar for the first time. He’s held in a caged wagon by Yoren, along with two other undesirables, and asks Arya to be friends and bring him something to drink.
- The Gold Cloaks have tracked down Yoren and his recruits for the Night’s Watch, looking for Gendry.
- I like Davos Seaworth. We learn in this episode that he can’t read. His blind loyalty to Stannis Baratheon (given what a prickly cold fish Stannis is) makes me uneasy. But he does explain to his son, that he owes everything to Stannis and as a result Matthos has a better future.
- Tyrion is unsettled by discovering Lord Varys visiting with Shae and they share a tense exchange where Tyrion warns, “Threaten me again, and I’ll have you thrown into the sea.” Lord Varys flatly replies, “You might be disappointed in the results. The storms come and go. The big fish eat the little fish and I keep on paddling.”
- Cersei tears up Robb Stark’s conditions for peace and asks Alton if he saw Jaime Lannister when he was at the Stark camp. The camera cuts to the faces of Littlefinger, Grand Maester Pycelle and Lord Varys and the elephant in the room of Jaime and Cersei’s relationship is very obvious in spite of not a single word being spoken.
- Tyrion removes Janos Slynt as commander of the City Watch and replaces him with Bronn. He also discovers that it wasn’t Cersei who gave the order to kill Robert’s bastards; it was Joffrey.
The title of the episode ‘The Night Lands’ refers to the Dothraki afterlife. Daenerys, having sent three scouts out to determine which way the near-death khalasar should travel, the horse of Rakharo returns – with Rakharo’s severed head in the saddlebag.
- Watch along with me Game of Thrones: The Complete Second Season (affiliate link)
- The North Remembers (Season 2, Episode 1, Game of Thrones)
- Season 1 Game of Thrones reviews and video highlights.
- AV Club The Night Lands
- Wikipedia http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Night_Lands