Game of Thrones
The name of the finale episode Valar Morghulis is a common greeting in Braavos, meaning all men must die in High Valyrian. The customary response is Valar Dohaeris — all men must serve. Stand by as we live blog the final episode of season 2 with all the exciting action!
It’s a good thing HBO guaranteed Game of Thrones a third and a fourth season for the A Storm of Swords adaptation. The book is gigantic. Hell, I wondered how Benioff and Weiss would handle adapting a fairly large A Clash of Kings. For the most part, the writing duo did a terrific job in their adaptation, though the book-reader will always scrutinize the most minor parts of the adaptation and contrast changes made to the book and all that. As a whole though, Games of Thrones season two is a success.
Tonight’s finale did a great job of setting the stage for a sure to be dynamic season three, without relying on cheap cliffhangers or sex and death just for the sake of sex and death. We know where most of our characters will be headed when the action resumes, and in Thrones’ case, that’s even better than wondering what the hell happened to so-and-so when he got into that fight with what’s-his-face. In other words, the episode did a great job of wrapping up the season’s plethora of plot lines, while simultaneously opening up newer, deadlier paths to explore. God, I’m excited. Let’s break it down by character so we don’t get a headache.
“Valar Morghulis” had more momentum than most of this season’s episodes, though it would be hard to top last week’s stunner “Blackwater.” Some choice moments: Brienne’s “two quick deaths,” Tyrion’s confession to Shae, the new visage of Jaqen H’ghar, and the blue, glassy eyes of the white rider. As the army of white walkers faded out and the end credits played, I’ll confess I felt happy Season Two is over, though it does mean a long, tedious wait for season three. I never loved Book Two, “A Clash of Kings,” which served as the primary text for this second season. The book lacked momentum and Season Two often suffered the same pacing problems. In truth, I always felt the show was best when it deviated from the source material (i.e. the stolen dragons plot thread).
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Game of Thrones really delivered what’s arguably the best battle sequence ever produced for television tonight. There were a couple amazing episodes of HBO’s Band of Brothers and The Pacific, sure. But capturing a World War II battle is working from a well-documented blueprint. It’s not like there are any historical photos of a wildfire explosion, you know? “Blackwater” took place on land and at sea. There were advanced special effects and good ‘ol fashion sword fighting and hand-to-hand combat. Plus, Blackwater had pivotal moments for so many Thrones characters — from Tyrion to Stannis, from Joffrey to Sansa, from Cersei to The Hound … they were all battle tested tonight.
And not that we don’t love Arya, Jon, Daenerys and the rest, but I couldn’t even imagine cutting away from the castle siege story for a second. Even before the fighting started, when we hopped around the castle and checked in with everyone, I was hoping that we wouldn’t leave. “Blackwater” was written by author George R. R. Martin himself and directed by Niel Marshall (The Descent, Centurion, Doomsday); a man who definitely knows how to “do more with less” and came in during the eleventh hour to triumphantly oversee this series’ most ambitious production yet.
But the Lannister’s have one ace up their sleeves: the savvy mind of Lord Tyrion Lannister (Peter Dinklage.) “I’m the captain of the ship, and if the ship goes down, I go with her,” says Tyrion. “That is good to hear, though I’m sure many captains say the same while their ship is afloat,” says Lord Varys (Conleth Hill). Varys goes on to warn the Hand that Stannis has pledged himself to the “dark arts” and will likely rain woe on the few who survive inside Kings Landing if the walls are breached. “I believe you are the only man who can stop him,” he says.
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The Prince of Winterfell
Game of Thrones is just two scant episodes away from its finale and it doesn’t even seem close to wrapping up during ‘The Prince of Winterfell’ on May 20. The episode feels more like a setup for an elaborate chess game. All the pieces are set and ready for the ultimate checkmate. The problem with this is very little happens during the course of the episode.
The eponymous “Prince” of this week’s episode started out with the best of intentions: seeking to win back his father’s favor after Balon declared himself King of the Iron Islands, he naturally — and foolishly — assumed a little mission creep might advance the old man’s cause and win himself a little much-needed respect. Unfortunately, hubris is a rather unforgiving character flaw. Starting with the botched execution of Ser Rodrik and ending with the murders of “Bran” and “Rickon,” Theon has worked himself into a corner from which it looks like no one can free him.
“The Prince of Winterfell” didn’t have a single dramatic focus or theme; it felt very much like an ultrapenultimate episode of a season, setting up storylines for the final two. But it was hard to ignore the number of conversations and incidents that were about children and parents, the complicated ways in which characters hurt the ones they love and how the ones you love can be used to hurt you. (Even Dany, who gets the least screen time in this episode, explains her decision to risk the House of the Undying for her dragons explains, “They are my children.”)
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