Valar Morghulis (Season 2, Episode 10, Game of Thrones)
Escapes and certain defeat
At the end of Game of Thrones Season 2, if we’ve learned anything we’ve learned that that there are no happy endings, and if the characters we love manage to escape or squirm out of a bad situation, it’s probably going to be a case of out of the frying pan and into the fire – with one glaring exception, King Joffrey Lannister…er…King Joffrey Baratheon.
Somehow, Joffrey manages to keep his “pinched little head” on his shoulders – he survived Arya, Nymeria, beheading Ned Stark, the riot in the streets, and at the end of Season 2, he survives Uncle Stannis’s attack. Each episode, I kept waiting and hoping that this might be the episode where Joffrey gets what’s coming to him. But no: Joffrey lives on.
Joffrey is very much alive and at his smarmy ceremonial best in this episode naming Tywin Lannister Savior of the City and the Hand of the King, rewarding Lord Petyr Baelish with Harrenhal for brokering the Lannister – Tyrell alliance, and staging a little oath-changing drama with Cersei and Grand Maester Pycelle in a swift and public disengagement of Sansa Stark and an immediate engagement and profession of undying love to Margaery Tyrell. (Also in this episode, Robb Stark ties the knot with Talisa in spite of his mother’s plea to honor his oath.)
But Joffrey’s betrothal to Margaery Tyrell doesn’t mean that Sansa is out of the woods. After being terrorized by Cersei’s gory details of what happens when a city gets sacked, now Sansa has to listen to Littlefinger serve up the fact that not only is Sansa not going to be returned to Winterfell, she will likely have to endure the King’s attentions without the benefit of being Queen.
Varys versus Baelish power struggle
When Littlefinger is recognized by Joffrey, Lord Varys’s sour expression speaks volumes about how he feels about Littlefinger. There’s always been tension between the two of them, but Lord Varys appears to be concerned about Littlefinger’s rising star.
Varys goes to visit Ros and proposes that she work for him by spying on Littlefinger. Ros admits to Varys that she is afraid of Littlefinger and Varys agrees that she should be.
Tyrion wakes to find his Maester Pycelle in his room. Since Tyrion threw Pycelle in a cell back in What Is Dead May Never Die, he suspects he is in danger and dispatches Podrick to find either Varys or Bronn fearful that Pycelle may be there to exact revenge. Pycelle is merely there to gloat. Between Pycelle and later Lord Varys, we learn that in spite of his great strategy and heroic leadership, he is very much persona non grata.
Tyrion knew that his role of Hand of the King was temporary while Tywin was battling Robb Stark, but he has been moved to a crummy room, Bronn has been relieved of duty as Commander of the City Watch, the Hill Tribes have left, and his sister, Cersei, had Mandon Moore attempt to murder him on the battlefield.
The only ones by his side are Podrick, Shae, and Lord Varys. But Varys candidly tells Tyrion that they won’t be seeing much of each other anymore. After Varys leaves, Shae begs Tyrion to go away with her and escape the dangers of King’s Landing. Tyrion enjoyed his taste of power as the Hand, and in spite of the dangers doesn’t want to leave.
“The first time I saw Winterfell…” Theon describes to Maester Luwin his boyhood impressions of Winterfell when he was first brought there, how large it was. How Ned was larger than life due to the fact that he lived in such a magnificent place and that it was no wonder he had crushed Balon’s rebellion.
Maester Luwin counsels Theon to run to the Wall: There would be opportunity for him there. Once a man has taken the black he is beyond the reach of the law. The Night’s Watch is an ancient, honorable order.
But Theon is willing to die at Winterfell rather than to return home a coward.
Theon gives a pre-battle speech every bit as inspiring as Tyrion’s speech at Blackwater. However, the iron-born have other ideas, and as Theon completes his speech he is knocked unconscious, a hood thrown over his head and dragged from the courtyard. Seeing that Theon has been hurt, Maester Luwin arrives on the scene only to be speared in the gut by Dagmer.
A man says goodbye
Arya (along with Hot Pie and Gendry) has escaped Harrenhal. And, in a beautifully shot scene (I love the view of Jaqen H’ghar on the top of the rock waiting for her) Arya says goodbye to Jaqen H’ghar who leaves her with a coin and a password to find him if she ever needs him.
One blast: Ranger returning. Two blasts: Wildlings. Three blasts:
- “You’re afraid. Why? Nothing dangerous down there.” Lord Varys
- “Walder Frey is a dangerous man to cross.” Catelyn Stark
- “The one parent I have left has no right to call anyone reckless.” Robb Stark
- “You will betray everything you once held dear.” Melisandre
- “You know what it’s like to be told you’re lucky to be someone’s prisoner?” Theon Greyjoy
- “I will kill that horn-blowing cunt before I fall.” Theon Greyjoy
- “You’re not the man you’re pretending to be.” Maester Luwin
- “Don’t want to swim too close to a drowning man?” Tyrion Lannister
- Blackwater (Season 2, Episode 9, Game of Thrones)
- The Prince of Winterfell (Season 2, Episode 8, Game of Thrones)
- A Man Without Honor (Season 2, Episode 7, Game of Thrones)
- The Old Gods and the New (Season 2, Episode 6, Game of Thrones)
- The Ghost of Harrenhal (Season 2, Episode 5, Game of Thrones)
- Garden of Bones (Season 2, Episode 4, Game of Thrones)
- What Is Dead May Never Die (Season 2, Episode 3, Game of Thrones)
- The Night Lands (Season 2, Episode 2, Game of Thrones)
- The North Remembers (Season 2, Episode 1, Game of Thrones)
AV Club: http://www.avclub.com/articles/valar-morghulis-for-experts,75561/
Watch along with me: Game of Thrones: The Complete Second Season