Game of Thrones Revisited: 2.06 The Old Gods And The New
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Game of Thrones, the critically acclaimed TV series by David Benioff and DB Weiss and developed from the best-selling series of novels by George RR Martin, has become a cultural icon. The tentpole of HBO's programming with a stellar cast and mix of medieval-style political drama and war with a healthy dash of fantasy, Game of Thrones has enthralled audiences worldwide. And in 2019, the show will come to a dramatic end in its final run of feature length episodes. In the lead up to season eight, I explore every episode leading up to the final battle for Westeros and the rest of the world. The next episode sees the introduction of the doomed romance of Jon and Ygritte...
Warning: There may be spoilers for seasons one to seven...
The Old Gods And The New really starts to progress several storylines that have felt in a bit of a holding pattern all season; Darenerys' arrogance in her quest to reclaim the Iron Throne sees her loose everything, Jon's quest beyond the Wall finally starts to go somewhere interesting, unrest in King's landing explodes into full scale riots and Theon stretches himself too far.
Let's talk about the Greyjoy son first. The entire 'invasion' and capture of Winterfell is a bit of an embarrassment. Theon's attempts to demand allegiance and threaten those that oppose him are desperate and cowardly and Alfie Allen really coveys the conflict inside Theon as he battles old allegiances to House Stark and their allies and his new Ironborn war band. Even in the drama and anguish, there is a sense that characters like Bran Stark, Maester Luwin and the locals are hiding their bemused smirks - at least at first.
Events soon turn gruesome as Theon buckles to the 'suggestions' of Dagmer and has Rodrik Cassel executed. This isn't a swift, noble death; Theon's pathetic attempts to bestow order lead to him repeatedly hacking at Rodrick's next until he kicks the head from the shoulders. Fortunately the audience is spared the full view of the gruesome act - the blood splattering across Theon's face is proof enough - but it is a terrible end to such a noble character. In a surprising quick turn of events for Game of Thrones, the episode ends with Bran and Rickon escaping Winterfell with Hodor and Osha, who uses her body to seduce the unwitting Theon and then lead an escape from right under his nose.
The King's Landing scenes are perhaps the most harrowing though as the royal procession through the streets of King's Landing turns bloody and violent. King Joffrey is at his most despicable, demanded vengeance after being pelted in the face by a rotten vegetable from a disgruntled subject. His cries for death are the straw that breaks the camel's back; the High Septon dragged to his death by the crowd and having his arms ripped off to elated cheers shows just how out of control things are.
Worse still is poor Sansa who finds herself separated in the desperate flight back to the Red Keep. Her attempted rape is horrible to watch (and a cruel precursor to her fate in Wintefell years later). The fact that Joffrey would let her die shows just how much of a monster he is, while it is Tyrion who gets things under control, getting the Hound to save her at the last minute and then unleashing his rage at the king with the latest and very satisfying slap to the face. Lannister or not, it's hard not to be on the dwarf's side every step of the way.
Seemingly just as arrogant as King Joffrey is his word-be usurper Daenerys. This season does a solid job of undermining all her good work in season one; we've seen her demand entrance to Qarth on her birth right alone and her attempts to demand a fleet of ships from the Spice King are laughable. He might be a despicable, slimy figure, but she is no better. It's interesting that she is supposed to be a protagonist when all her demands and claim leave her party dead and her dragons stolen by the episode's end. The entire Qarth storyline feels like a waste of the Dragon Queen, but perhaps on retrospect, that is the point. The lessons she learns this season will help her when she leads the revolution in Slaver's bay next season.
The Old Gods and the New also marks the debut of wilding warrior Ygritte. The flame -haired warrior is more than a match for Jon Snow as his pursuit of her in battle sees him separated from Qhorin Halfhand and the rest of the Night's Watch rangers. There is great chemistry between Kit Harrington's Jon and Rose Leslie's Ygritte (it's easy to see why they became a couple during filming and eventually married). His innocent, good nature is new to her and her ability to speak her mind and takes what she wants is just as alien to him. The scene where she attempts to 'arouse' him as they cuddle up to get warm is very amusing.
The best pairing in season two continues to be the surprise relationship between 'cup-bearer' Arya and Tywin Lannister. Despite being mortal enemies there is a degree of respect between them; Tywin remains impressed by her intelligence and it is interesting that for all the people on the list and the people that she could ask Jaqen H'ghar to kill, the head of the Lannister family is not one of them. This was another great episode for both of them, threatened by the tense scene with Littlefinger as she tried to hide her identity while cleaning the table.
Having spent half a season re-establishing the world, there is a sense that Game of Thrones is really kicking things into high gear for the remainder of its second run. The Old Gods and the New feels the most accomplished episode of the season yet and the best is still to come.