I must doff my cap and offer humble apologies for the tardiness of this week's Game of Thrones recap. I spent the week in the sultry climes of the South Pacific, wiling away the hours in a dreamy haze of sunshine and tropical punch.
Actually, what I was doing for much of it was reading the first book of George R. R. Martin's A Song of Ice and Fire. I'm about two-thirds of the way through it, and so far it's left me even more impressed with the TV series. The adaptation of Book One into Series One is truly terrific, capturing its epic nature and faithfully following the multiple narrative threads. And so far, the bits they've left out are completely justifiable.
So it was something of a shock to be jolted back into new territory, rather than the now-familiar tales of Season One. But WHAT a jolt it was. So raise the standards, remember to breathe, and here comes another edition of Raven On.
Once again, reading on from this point means MASSIVE SPOILERS.
Episode 4: Queef of the Damned (title quipped by The Wah)
This may be the beginning of the recap, but we really must start with the end of the show.
What. The F***. Was That.
Now we're used to seeing ladies, ahem, spread their legs in this series, but crikey Moses I wasn't expecting to see the "red witch" Melisandre (aka 1980s chanteuse Kate Bush) giving birth to Lord Stannis' son, who seems to be some sort of half-formed demonic shadow man. Kate Bush obviously ignored all the cigarette packet warnings that smoke could be harmful to unborn babies; in this case it seems to have been an epidural and happy gas all rolled into one. Which you'd think might make the idea of childbirth somewhat more palatable - but frankly I'm now even more disturbed by the process than when my Gran regaled the story of having to birth my father in Iraq, in 40-degree heat, with no drugs, over a 48-hour period.
|"Now that did NOT show up on the ultrasound."|
Stannis himself was having a horseback confrontation with his younger brother Renly over crowns and sygils and claims to the Iron Throne. Stannis really is a humourless robot of a man; Renly is gallant and looks the part, but no doubt it will be a sticky end for him. Particularly if Loras Tyrell is involved, AMIRITE?!?!?!?
We also saw Danerys make her way to the Free City of Qarth (that's pronounced "Karth", not "Kwarth"); and do the best pleading of her life to be allowed in with her raggedy Dothraki band. We got to meet the mysterious "Thirteen", in charge of the city, and set up a new path for the so-called Mother of Dragons.
Tyrion was awesome as usual, but here's something that's been gnawing at me, particularly since beginning the book - how much does Tyrion know about Jaime and Cersei? If he's twigged to his cousin Lancel doing the nasty with his sister, surely he must know the twins have been going at it like randy blonde baboons for more than a decade. At the very least he's heard the rumours, and holding all the information is so crucial for a Hand of the King. But so far in the TV series, he's not admitted that the funny business between them is in fact VERY funny indeed.
We didn't see anything this episode of Bran and Winterfell, of the salty sea-dog Greyjoys, nor of Cersei herself or Jon Snow and the Night's Watch. Still, we did get...
Yay! (Best Moments)
...Tywin f***ing Lannister. FINALLY, some Charles Dance action this series. I didn't realise how much of an impression he'd made on me in the final episodes of Series One; but seeing him ride into Harrenhal like a boss was tremendous. Spotting the fact Arya is a girl straightaway was the cream on top. The man misses nothing - no doubt it can only be a matter of time before he twigs to who this girl actually is.
For some reason, I totally dug Margaery's bizarre stiff-round-necked gown, worn as she dispatched Petyr Baelish to his tent at Renly's encampment.
Also - is it just me, or is Robb Stark getting increasingly... sexy? Battle suits him. I'd remove his plate for him, ooo-er, guv'nor. His battlefield meeting with the healer woman was tantalising; no doubt he's found someone who piques his sword a bit more than any of the Frey daughters (one of whom he pledged to marry in return for a safe crossing of The Twins back in Series One). But it was telling that he has no plan for after his intended victory; he's still a boy in many ways. Albeit a more and more sexy one.
Zing! (Best Line)
"He's backed up, balls to brain," says Bronn to Tyrion about Joffrey. Of course, his idea on how to solve the boy-king's frustrations doesn't really turn out for the best (more on that below).
Arya taking on Yoren's lesson and repeating the names of those who've wronged her as she goes to sleep was really striking. I'm so pleased Gendry escaped the rat treatment; I hope they both stick it to the Mountain.
Ewww, gross (a skin-crawl moment)
Littlefinger trying to sleaze onto Catelyn Stark in Renly's encampment. Ugh, he's such a slimeball. Pretending Arya was safe and well with Sansa just to try to win her over. I wish she'd stuck him with that knife, but no, she just got Ned's bones and got all thunder-faced.
Boo, sucks (a downside)
Finally, a really good opportunity to break out the boos for King Joffrey. What a foul little psychopath. First there was torturing Sansa in revenge for her brother's victories on the field; then there was his abominable treatment of the two prostitutes sent to him by Tyrion as a present. He made sure he sent his uncle back a present - although I must say I would have liked to have seen Tyrion's reaction to that this episode. Perhaps it will come next week, although the imp is already well aware of his nephew's uncomprimising shittiness.
Finally I must admit to having the thought "jump the shark" run through my head as Kate Bush delivered her shadowy babooshka on the cave floor. I really loved the first series' set-up of a world without magic. As someone who generally bypasses the fantasy genre, it helped keep the sprawling narrative grounded for me. But I realise that it was a grooming process; the whole saga is about the return of magic. And really, if Dany can mother a few dragons, then Kate Bush should be able to go running up that same hill all she likes.