Game of Thrones Revisited: 2.08 The Prince of Winterfell
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, continues with latest season two episode The Prince of Winterfell.
Warning: There may be spoilers for seasons one to seven...
Like a number of episodes in season two, the expanding multitude of storylines and characters makes The Prince of Winterfell a bit of a plate spinner. While there continue to be some terrific character moments and the odd, low-key twist, this is another instalment that spends too much time checking in on every plot pot without really giving them the attention they deserve.
One brief scene to check in on how a frantic Daenerys is doing in Qarth? Check. A brief foray to the Fist of the First Men to see how long absent Sam and the other Nights Watch are doing? Check. Even Jon and Qhorin Half-hand's capture by the wildings doesn't do much. There's a lot more set up of course; the discovery of the dragon glass by Sam will be invaluable later. We see the bond develop between Jon and Ygritte develop as she repays the favour and saves his life. The debut of wilding warrior Lord of Bones is pretty cool though.
Even the scene between Stannis and Davos seems rather arbitrary, just to remind the audience that they would be leading the attack on King's landing next week. There's nothing here that really feels like a development of those four plotlines, except to give each main character a little screen time.
The better part of the episode deals with the four warring camps; Robb's camp, Winterfell, King's Landing and Harrenhal.
In the first, Robb and Talisa grow closer as he discovers that his mother has set Jamie Lannister free in exchange for her daughter's lives. This episode sets up the fantastic partnership that is Jamie and his captor Brienne and there's a brief glimpse of the greatness to come in season three. But the main focus is on the bourgeoning new romance; between imprisoning his mother and facing off against the disputes of Lord Karstark, who's son was murdered by Jamie, he finds solace with the nurse from Volantis. Interestingly, the moment he learns she is noble born, he's ready to cast off his vow to the Freys, though there's far more to it than that. It's a tender, passionate moment as they succumb to their feelings, though admittedly it isn't the most riveting storyline.
Theon's descent into nothingness continues; the arrival of sister Asha is not the proud moment he was hoping for, though at least she seems genuinely worried for him (and she should be, knowing what is coming). The episode does deliver another little twist at the end, with the reveal that Osha, Hodor, Bran and Rickson have actually double backed on themselves and are hidden beneath Winterfell itself.
Perhaps the biggest regret of this episode is that its the end of the wonderful duo that is Arya and Tywin as he rides from Harrenhal as the invasion of King's Landing looms close. It's thanks to the oddly respectful relationship that they have shared that Arya isn't able to give Tywin's name to Jaquen until it is too late; it's a dangerous game she plays given Jaquen his own name, but it's the powerplay she needs to help her, Hot Pie and Gendry make their escape from the ruined city and all its horrors.
The best stuff is reserved for King's Landing; after the sweeter moments between Cersei and Tyrion last episode, she's back to her most scheming as she drags in his whore as revenge for sending Myrcella away. There's a delightful twist in the reveal that is Ros and not Shaw that she has had imprisoned and beaten, leading to a moment of genuine heartfelt passion as Tyrion rushes to check that Shae is safe and well. The tragedy of their relationship won't end for a while yet. As for Ros, she continues to remain a rather bizarre creation for the television show; I'm not sure whether the prostitute is supposed to be the audience's in road, travelling from Winterfell in the very first episode to King's Landing now, but it's an odd one for sure.
Varys and Bronn do not have enough screen time, but both get more to do here, bantering with Tyrion. The spider gets an amusing scene as he joins the King's Hand as audience to Joffery's bold assertions that he would ride into battle and cut Stannis a smile from ear to ear; the new mad king is such a spiteful little shit that you almost want to see him try and inevitably fail miserably.
The Prince of Winterfell suffers from too much plate spinning and not enough focus. Season two has enriched its characters, sparking them off each other and this episode is no different, but it also feels like a holding pattern before the big battle to come. Fortunately that is a doozy of an episode...