The Prince of Winterfell (Season 2, Episode 8, Game of Thrones)

1 The Prince of WinterfellSieges and Strategies

Numerous strategies are exposed in this episode; some to be launched, some that have failed, and none that have proven very successful.

We learn from Bronn that it is starvation, not fighting, that kills most people in a siege. He explains to Varys and Tyrion Lannister that during the fighting, thieves steal food and hold onto it until it demands a staggering high price. In the meantime, people die unless they are able to pay the premium.

Aboard the Onion Knight’s ship, Stannis Lannister recalls the siege of Storm’s End to Davos Seaworth. With his orders from Robert to hold Storm’s End, the supplies quickly diminished. Soon, they had to eat the horses; then the cats, then the dogs and finally the rats. Davos managed to sneak past the enemy camp and into Storm’s End with onions, potatoes, and dried meat. For that act, Stannis made him a Lord. And, for his loyal service and value to Stannis since then, Stannis plans to make him Hand of the King when he seizes the Iron Throne.

“He’s a Lannister.”

With this episode, the dialogs between Arya Stark and Tywin Lannister end – which I am sad about – as they were among my favorite scenes. Kevan Lannister has arrived at Harrenhal to notify Tywin of Stannis’s proximity to King’s Landing. Tywin glumly summarizes his situation, “Stannis two days from the capitol and the wolf at my doorstep.” Kevan urges Tywin to allow Joffrey, Cersei, and the rest of the royal family to flee to the West while there is still time. Tywin dismisses this advice, pointing out that a king who runs is not a king for long.

“He’s a Lannister, he’ll stand and fight.” Tywin is referring to Joffrey Baratheon when he says this to Kevan. I find this interesting. Did Tywin slip? Is he pretty much acknowledging that Joffrey is the child of Jaime and Cersei? The ‘secret’ (if it could be called that after the hundreds of letters Stannis dispatched in ‘The North Remembers’) of Joffrey’s real father is common knowledge, and I can buy that Tywin knows the truth. But I find it difficult to believe that Tywin would publicly acknowledge that fact, simply because, in his eyes, it would tarnish the Lannister name and politically weaken Joffrey’s claim to the Iron Throne. Perhaps “he’s a Lannister” just means that by virtue of Cersei being his mother, he has Lannister blood. But it’s more interesting if it was slip.

Jaime Lannister and Brienne of Tarth begin their odyssey.

Jaime Lannister and Brienne of Tarth begin their odyssey.

The Fresh Prince of Winterfell

Yara has arrived at Winterfell and mockingly refers to Theon Greyjoy as ‘the prince of Winterfell,’ asking Theon who gave him the tougher fight, “the cripple or the six-year-old?” Yara points out that Iron Islanders’ strength lies on the water. Winterfell is too far away from the water to defend and with the execution of Bran and Rickon, every man in the North wants to see Theon hanged.

Theon proudly insists on keeping Winterfell, in spite of Yara begging him to abandon the castle and go home.

When Robb hears of what has happened, he instructs Roose Bolton to have his bastard Ramsay Snow, who is a few days from Winterfell, to spread the word that any Iron-born who surrender will receive mercy except Theon Greyjoy.

“You commit treason because your children are prisoners?”

The Prince of Winterfell includes some strong scenes for Robb Stark. His friendship with Talisa is deepening as he shares with her memories of his father and his desire to win the war so he can go home (he has no designs on the Iron Throne). A rider arrives from camp to bring the news that Jaime has escaped with Catelyn’s help. Robb, who we know loves his mother, nevertheless puts her under armed guard. He very clearly understands how deeply her actions have undermined him – the lost leverage that having Jaime afforded him; the discord with the ranks; and the fact that she did so in his absence – knowing he would never agree to it.

Jaqen grants Arya her third wish of escaping Harrenhal.

Jaqen grants Arya her third wish of escaping Harrenhal.

Burning Bridges

Robb has explained to Talisa why he is betrothed to one of the Frey daughters. He had hoped to march on King’s Landing while there was still time to save Ned’s life, and needed access to the bridge Walder Frey controlled at the Twins.

In reading other reviews of this episode, one of the consistent themes is about how this is an episode of conversations versus action – and it is. But if you’re re-watching this season as I am, you will see some crucial decisions being made in this episode that will have long-term consequences.

As Talisa tells Robb the story of how a slave saved her brother inspired her to become a combat medic and to never live where slavery was allowed, Robb blurts out that he doesn’t want to marry the Frey girl and succumbs to his feelings for Talisa.

(One of the benefits of buying the DVD sets is hearing the commentary. Michelle Fairly (Catelyn Stark) and Nikolaj Coster-Waldau (Jaime Lannister) provide the commentary on this episode and Coster-Waldau has some funny remarks about this particular love scene. )

Speaking of Jaime Lannister – the Jaime/Brienne of Tarth odyssey begins in this episode, as well as the Arya/Gendry/Hot Pie odyssey.

“Imagine Stannis’s terror!”

The majority of great lines, not just in The Prince of Winterfell, but throughout Game of Thrones, belong to Tyrion Lannister. And, one of my favorite Tyrion lines is in this episode. It’s always delicious when Joffrey and Tyrion share screen time, and this is one of their finer moments together.

One of the rare happy (sort of) endings

In the courtyard at Winterfell, we learn that Theon and Dagmer murdered and burned neighboring farm boys to make it appears as though they had found and executed Bran and Rickon. Theon discovers from Dagmer that the parents of the farm boys were murdered as well. At the same time, Maester Luwin sees Osha in the shadows near the crypt entrance. He meets her in the crypt where she explains why she brought them back to hide at Winterfell (it’s the last place they’d look). Bran and Rickon are still alive and safe if still threatened fugitives. And that’s about as happy of an ending as you’ll get from Game of Thrones.

Sigil Notes

  • “I took the great castle of Winterfell with twenty men.” Theon Greyjoy
  • “Come home with me. Don’t die alone.” Yara Greyjoy
  • “A day will come when you think you’re safe and happy and your joy will turn to ashes in your mouth.” Tyrion Lannister
  • “I like to keep me hands clean.” Bronn
  • “Death is certain. The time is not.” Jaqen H’ghar
  • “The Greyjoys have done us a great favor.” Kevan Lannister

Further Reading:

Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Prince_of_Winterfell
AV Club: http://www.avclub.com/articles/the-prince-of-winterfell-for-experts,75237/

Watch along with me: Game of Thrones: The Complete Second Season

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