Game of Thrones 2.02 Review- "The Night Lands"

A tv review article by: Dylan Garsee, Nick Hanover


The second episode of Game of Thrones second season found Tyrion pushing his authority as the standing hand of the king, exiling the sleazy Janos Slynt and clashing with his sister. Elsewhere, Arya is failing to cover up the fact that she's, well, Arya Stark and both Stannis and Theon got busy with crazy ladies...but only one of them molested their sister. Meanwhile, Daeny is still working on her suntan and Jon Snow got in too deep with the mayor of Incestville.


Paul Brian McCoy's Brew of Choice for the Evening:

Tonight's episode of Game of Thrones is rife with sexual intrigue, some cross-dressing, and one case of manliness not being manly at all back home. So in honor of these sexually ambiguous moments, tonight's Brew of Choice is Saranac High Peaks Chocolate Orange Porter; a robust 9% ABV brewed with blood orange peel and cacao nibs. Now this may sound like a feminine drink, but the orange is very subdued and instead you get big porter taste with a heavy kick that you need to watch out for. Is it for ladies? Is it for dudes? This one swings both ways, if you know what I mean.


Game of Thrones Episode 2.02- "The Night Lands"


Nick Hanover: Last week, Game of Thrones caught us up on most of the major goings on of Westeros, setting up expectations for how season two would unfold and who our major players would be. So it's only natural that the second episode of the season would dial things back a bit and concentrate on a few of those major players, including Arya, who was largely absent in the previous episode, and Tyrion, who continues to appear to be this season's Ned Stark, both in regards to title and purpose.


Dylan Garsee: Hopefully those similarities between Ned and Tyrion end there, because I don't know if my heart can handle another "episode nine."


This episode reminded me of the early episodes of last season, when not much happens because it was setting up for the insanity that was the second half of the season.


Nick: I think that Tyrion is already proving he's learned from Ned and is hellbent on not reliving his fate, as we saw with his biggest bit of badassery this episode, the exiling of that asshole Janos.


Dylan: Janos was being a real anus.




Guys. Guys?



Nick: You know that doesn't rhyme, right?


Dylan: I don't know how you're saying anus, but it's obviously wrong.


Nick: Speaking of anuses, I thought that Littlefinger was especially irritating this episode, with his nasty little threat to Rose and his voyeurism. That dude has some issues.


Dylan: I've always hated Littlefinger more than Joffrey, simply because Littlefinger knows exactly what he's doing, yet he continues to be a dildo. Joffrey, while he does more dildo-esque things, has no idea what he's doing, so it almost seems more innocent.


Although I still hate both of them.


Nick: I don't know, when it comes to cruelty, Joffrey seems to know exactly what he's doing, as was proved here with the revelation that he was responsible for the wave of infanticide and didn't even bother to tell Cersei about it. I had a feeling she wasn't behind that, and I think Joffrey lashing out like that reveals that he and his mother are going to only continue to be at odds. Not that Cersei didn't get her fair share of cruelty in tonight, with her horrible remarks to Tyrion.


I'm also concerned that Tyrion is lashing out at people himself. I thought that his attempt to intimidate the Spider was particularly ill advised and if there's anything to fear, it's that Tyrion's instinctive defensiveness against all comers could get him into trouble. Although the decision to put Bronn in charge of the city watch was especially brilliant, since Bronn's loyalty is to the richest and Tyrion has an advantage in that department.



Dylan: I don't think Joff thinks too far ahead, while Littlefinger knows exactly what's happening for the next five years. I think it's the goatee. Also, I'm loving Cersei's quick descent into madness, she's such a great character.


Nick: Littlefinger thinks far ahead, but it's telling that Cersei was able to get the drop on him so easily.


Dylan:  Cersei, no matter her faults and insecurities, is still the scariest character on the show. If I were anywhere near her, I'd probably crap myself.


Nick: I disagree. Varys is by far the scariest character here, because he's managed to survive every major conflict that's come up during his existence and he has everyone's weaknesses and foibles down. He seemingly has no personal vulnerabilities-- no loved ones, no family-- and he manages to remain loyal to everyone and no one. If I were involved in the game of thrones, he's who I'd watch, both to get an idea of what side is actually wining and to know what direction I should personally lean towards.



Nick: Cersei, despite being intimidating and ice cold, is also seemingly a terrible strategist, with no idea of how to properly manipulate a situation to her advantage unless it comes down to buying people off or using others she's bought off to execute her will.


Dylan:  Her power and influence begins and ends with her money and status. Varys knows everything, and I'm still not sure what he's going to do with all of that information. I'm going to have agree with you, he is the most terrifying of the GoT characters.


So far, that is.


Nick: Until those dragons grow up.


Dylan:  Or when Bran becomes Magneto.


Or whatever those dreams mean.


Nick: Speaking of those dragons, though, Daeny didn't have such a good week.


Dylan: I agree, her 12 seconds of screen time did nothing to help her get out of the predicament she's in.


I'm very upset that she's hasn't been in the second season for very long.

Although, I'm reading at the same pace as the books, and she hasn't been the focus of a chapter for a long time.



Nick: I can't tell if we're getting less Daeny because the season is going to end with a major development in her storyline or if it's because her storyline is going to continue to involve a lot of hardship and a slow climb for a while. We're clearly supposed to feel the bleakness of her situation and focusing on it too much would mean even less action in the episodes. Seeing her lose one of her key Dothraki allies this time out was heartbreaking though.


Dylan: I'd hate to see her fail knowing that she has the power to literally take over all of Westeros relatively instantly.


Nick: I think this situation is only going to make her more powerful, honestly. The people that stick with her will see how she managed to get through an unbearable, hopeless situation and it will add to her legend. I could easily see this becoming a Biblical development, where the cult of Daeny hinges on this story and she's spoken of as some kind of messiah-figure who literally overcame the impossible.


Dylan: It's interesting to see the diptych between Daeny and Cersei, both queens losing everything around them, yet one still has followers and supporters, while everyone is quickly evacuating the other's sinking ship.


Nick: Cersei has no concept of how to maintain power, only how to gain it and then squander and waste it once she has. That's certainly going to lead to her downfall and her conversation with Tyrion about this subject proved her naivety on this front. She doesn't see why she should have to do anything for the little people she lords over and she doesn't understand that merely buying the loyalty of others is problematic if you want to really survive. Tyrion, by contrast, completely understands that there's strength in numbers and having the common people on your side as well as money can make you a nigh unstoppable force.


On the common people front, we spent a lot of time with common people who aren't so common this episode, including Arya and her new boyfriend, Gendry.



Dylan: But Arya's not a girl!


Nick: Honestly, I'm a little worried about Arya. She gave up the information that the Lannister guard might be looking for her a little too quickly, and then when she discovered they weren't but that their true target knew she wasn't a boy, she immediately spilled the beans about her lineage. I get that she wants someone that she can talk to, and the armorer's apprentice seems like a good guy, but her carelessness with this information doesn't bode well.


Dylan: That brings up my main issue with this season so far, and it's both nitpicky and reasonable. There have been strange deviations in the layout of the stories as they unfold. So far, the show is making Arya out to look like she's weak, when in the book pretty early on, there's a (SPOILER) awesome battle scene that she kicks ass in.


Yet I've yet to see this in the show so far, even though it happens fairly early.


Nick: I haven't read the book yet, obviously, but it would seem like the show is heading towards a battle in this area, as the Night's Watch hopefuls had a run in with the Lannister guard that seems to indicate they'll be coming to blows soon. That could make for a fascinating scenario where the Lannisters, through Cersei, make themselves look awful once again by coming to blows with one of the oldest and most neutral institutions in the land. And I wouldn't say that Arya looks weak, per se, just that she doesn't seem to be thinking her actions through, which is admittedly in line with what we know of the character.



Dylan: I'm just hoping that the rearrangement of the book doesn't deviate from the overall plot of the novel. That's what made the first season so great, it's faithfulness to its source material.


Nick: As long as Game of Thrones doesn't pull a Walking Dead, I don't think there's too much to worry about, but I see your point. I doubt that the Game of Thrones crew are going to make Arya and the armorer boy the next Jackie Chan and Chris Tucker, though. But like you, I am anxious to see Arya kick some ass and put Needle to use.


This episode did give us plenty of glimpses at how Lord Greyjoy puts his needle to great use, however.


Dylan: That's gross.




Dylan: Just remember, anytime there's a sex scene, there is one George R R Martin writing it.


With one hand on the keyboard and the other rubbing cocoa butter all over his body.



Nick: It's okay, that's pretty much what I see in my head every time I go on reddit, anyway. I'm building up a tolerance.


Dylan: That's all I see when I close my eyes.


I'm afraid.


Nick: What did you think of the Greyjoy development?


Dylan:  Besides the cameo from Riff Raff of Rocky Horror fame as Balon Greyjoy... 



...I'm excited to see a new cast of characters join the madness.


Nick: I wish that was actually Richard O'Brien as Balon. Would have been so much better.


Don't you worry that we're reaching a critical mass of throne contenders, though?


Dylan: You have to have a lot of kings if this is going to be a true clash.


Nick: Because, what, five wasn't enough? We've got Robb, we've got Stannis, we've got Renly, we've got Joffrey and we've got Daeny. I think the Greyjoy element has a lot of potential, but he's clearly never going to be a legitimate threat and the worst he can do is make an impact on the chances of, say, Robb, or Stannis, since he's already made it clear the Lannisters aren't his target. But what concerns me more is the extra dose of incest we get this time around, because, hey, that's the other thing this show needs more of.


Dylan:  With Viserys dead, GRRM had to keep the quota of 2 creepy families boning per book.


Nick: Point.


Sister Greyjoy creeps me right the fuck out, though. Something about her is deeply unsettling. Maybe it's the dazed, not-quite-there look on her face throughout this episode. Or how cliquish she is with Pops Greyjoy.


Dylan: It's probably the incest.


As in, it's always the incest.



Nick: Well, watching Theon awkwardly finger Yara while on horseback as they're heading to their fathers' castle was pretty fucking odd. But there's more to it than that. I have a feeling that there's some immense darkness to Yara (after all, she knew who Theon was, even if he didn't recognize her) and I suspect that she's going to wind up the Greyjoy equivalent of Joffrey, a monster let loose by her elders, who have no idea what they've set upon the world. She seems murderous and sociopathic, although I have absolutely nothing to back that feeling up other than a gut instinct.


Dylan:  Neither do I, as the last scene I have read in the book was when Theon was making way with his saltwife, which made for a very awkward read. But I think I'll agree with you in that something about her is off, and not in a good way


Nick: The question now is whether Theon is going to be able to get out of there in time to warn Robb, or if something terrible is going to happen to him. I don't think Theon is willing to sacrifice his relationship with the Starks, especially not when his father has been so awful and he's already been manipulated by Yara. 


But Theon's brashness and youthful bravado have landed him in a situation that he's clearly not equipped to handle and I'm concerned that he won't get out at all, or at least not in one piece.


Dylan:  Only time will tell.


Nick: It's clear though that whatever happens, the seas are going to play a huge role in what's to come in this season as we saw with Stannis' right hand man Davos, i.e. the stoic guy who DIDN'T chug poison in a poorly planned assassination attempt. Davos and his annoying son spent the episode attempting to recruit pirates to Stannis' cause and were successful, despite said son going all evangelist on the pirates' leader, Salladhor Saan.



Dylan: Was that the first black person in Game of Thrones? Or does Khal Drogo count? Or am I just racist?


Nick: For all intents and purposes, yes, that was the first black man, and yes, he was a Jamaican pirate king.


Dylan: While I'm happy to see Ron Swanson taking on another show while Parks and Rec is on its hiatus, his son needs to shut the fuck up.


Nick: My prediction here is that the Greyjoys' first battle will be against these pirates, as the Greyjoy beef seems to be as much against Stannis as it does the Starks. And since the Greyjoys are better at war in the sea than on land, it stands to reason that they're going to go for a target they can take down first before moving on to the more difficult enemies.


Dylan: But this is Game of Thrones, so I always assume that all predictions are wrong. That's why I'm afraid of trying to predict the upcoming episodes, because I don't like being incorrect.


Nick: Well, we were correct about Jon last week. Despite his attempts to not get involved in Sam's pleas to save one of the daughter-wives, Jon ended the episode blacked out thanks to a blow to the head from ol' Creepy McIncest.


Dylan:  I bet he's not the only one who's been blown in the head by Creepy McIncest.


If you know what I mean...



Nick: Unfortunately, I do.


How much of your day do you devote to finding creepy .gifs, anyway? 35%? 40?


Dylan: I don't get out much.


Nick: So do we think that was a white walker the baby was being sacrificed to? Or one of those Seussian creatures everyone is always talking about?


Dylan: As in the Lorax? Yes.


Nick: It wasn't pudgy enough to be the Lorax.


Nick: Sam and Jon's storyline this year has been more interesting than last season, but I can't say that it's all that captivating yet. As creepy as the International House of Incest is, it seems to be small stakes in comparison to everything else, but perhaps this "I sacrifice male babies to monsters" subplot will change that.


Either that or we soon learn that the Night's Watch are actually in China now.


Dylan: There needs to me more baby sacrificing to Danny DeVito, because I'm still bored with the Night's Watch plot.



Dylan: Hopefully that will change soon, depending on how many incest baby monsters are born.


Nick: Maybe Jon Snow is going to lead an army of incest children.


Dylan:  I'd watch that


Nick: Because, as this series continually proves, incest is the weakness of all of the most powerful families in Westeros.


Just like France.


Dylan:  Exactly like France.


Dylan:  What if Game of Thrones is actually France, 5000 years in the future, and incest has made civilization revert back into Medieval times.  


Nick: And the white walkers are just how our health insurance system dealt with people suffering from pre-existing conditions.


Dylan:  GRRM is a genius.


(Image via Grizzlybomb)


Nick: Speaking of healthcare, what do you suppose Stannis' wife is suffering from? Is she a white walker?


Dylan:  If she was, I don't think my brain could handle that.


Nick: Even though I have a weakness for redheads, even I know that-- marital issues aside-- Stannis should not have stuck his dick in crazy in that particular instance. [insert joke about burning sensation here].


Dylan: Stick your dick to close to fire, you're gonna get burned.


I'm so tired.


Nick: I'd give that joke a 4.


Dylan:  Out of 3, thanks.


Nick: Seriously though, that has to be one of Stannis' worst decisions. It seems clear to me that Melisandre has gotten close to Stannis specifically so that she can have a fire baby, and I'm not sure that she cares about his fate otherwise. In fact, he may be in the way now because her intentions may in fact be to breed an usurper of her own.



 Dylan:  But honestly, is that out of character for anyone in GoT? Everyone using each other to kill each other.


Melisandre, I'm still out on her. I don't know if she's good or bad. All I know is she gives me the heebie jeebies.


Nick: At least it's not incest? far as we know.


Dylan:  Stannis stuck his fire sword in Melisandre's old god.


If you know what I mean.


Nick: I think your understanding of heterosexual acts leaves something to be desired.


So, how many incestuous sex acts are we rating this episode?


Dylan: I'm going to say . Not because it wasn't as good as last week's, it just wasn't as exciting, save the last ten minutes or so.




Nick: Same. Less happened, but everything that happened was interesting. Hopefully next week will shift to different characters, though, as I'm curious about what Renly is up to and would really like some more Daeny time.


Dylan:  Hopefully I'll finish the book by then, so I won't have to wait any longer.

Dylan Garsee is a freelance writer/bingo enthusiast currently living in Austin, TX. He is studying sociology, and when he's not winning trivia nights at pork-themed restaurants, writing a collection of essays on the gay perspective in geek culture. An avid record collector, Dylan can mostly be seen at Waterloo Records, holding that one God Speed You! Black Emperor record he can't afford and crying. You can follow him on twitter @garseed.

When he's not writing about the cape and spandex set and functioning as the Co-Managing Editor of Comics Bulletin, Nick Hanover is a book, film and music critic for Spectrum Culture and has contributed to No Tofu Magazine, Performer Magazine, Port City Lights and various other international publications. By which he means Canadian rags you have no reason to know anything about. He also translates for "Partytime" Lukash's Panel Panopticon.

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