Game of Thrones Revisited: 2.07 A Man Without Honour
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. A Man Without Honour continues to deliver great character moments while still delivering a shock or two as the second season heads towards the finale.
Warning: There may be spoilers for seasons one to seven...
The momentum of the last episode continues apace here, delivering a series of character moments that showcases the series at its very best. There are some rich interplays and developments here; there aren't perhaps hugely momentous developments but not a moment is wasted and it still throws in a few surprises to keep the audience on their toes.
A Man Without Honour is the first time the infamous line "you know nothing Jon Snow" is mentioned as the interaction between Jon and Ygritte continues to delight. The poor man is shocked by her openness and her ability to speak her mind. While it was fun to see him awkward around the subject of sex, it's their discussion over what freedom means that resonates the most. She might be a wilding, but she has her own choices and isn't restrained by laws and oaths. There's certainly sense in what she speaks and Rose Leslie continues to make an impact, having fun with the role. She certainly makes Jon's storyline more interesting, something that will develop into season three.
Daenerys continues to flounder through her time in Qarth, raging against Xaro Xhoan Daxos with her self entitled arrogance. There is clearly some maturity needed, as what is presented here in season two manages to undo some of her growth from season one. But this will come later. Here she finds herself caught in a trap of conspiracy and bloodshed. The scene in the council chamber is laughable until things take a more sinister and bloody turn.
Pryat Pree openly revealing he stole the dragons and then announcing his allegiance to the 'King of Qarth' Xaro was a great twist, the assassination of the rest of the council and Daenerys, Jorah and Kovarro's escape a thrilling moment and one that I had quite forgotten. While Pryat might be the most sinister player in Qarth, I was also reminded at the mystery behind Laura Pradelska's Quaithe, a character that seemed to be setting up something really interesting before ending up going nowhere as the series progressed. The biggest fault of the Qarth storyline is that it is filled with rich personalities that barely impact on the overall plot.
The episode also gives us a little more of the wonderful interaction between Tywin and Arya. These scenes are some of the gems of the second season. There really is a sense that Twin is already started to guess the true identity of his serving girl; with all the talk of differences between noble and low born girls, he is keenly aware that she is not some simple blacksmith's daughter. But it is also clear that they seems to genuinely enjoy each other's company; Tywin seems enthused by the discussions with her that he couldn't have with his officers and she is seemingly too comfortable in the way she banters back. Their conversations, particularly from Arya's side, are still filled with tension that she might get caught but it is clear she enjoys the game as much as him.
Her sister Sansa, meanwhile, continues to suffer. Haunted by nightmares of her attempted rape in the alley last episode, the Stark girl also faces the very real nightmare that her 'flowering' will allow her bare King Joffrey's children. There was something heroic in Shae's futile attempts to hide it, but the real surprise is in how Queen Cersei treats her when she learns the truth. Cersei seems to genuinely understand Sansa's fears and her wisdom, as flawed as it may be ("more you love, the weaker you become") comes from a mother's heart.
Cersei later even seems to lament her sins to brother Tyrion is a rare moment of openness and empathy between them, as she voices her fears over her murderous, mad son while her brother consoles her with the fact that two of her and Jamie's three incestuous children are in fact good and pure. It's easy to forget that there were moments in these early seasons where you genuine felt for Cersei and her plight. She was always a villain but she was also sympathetic as a character and not the cold, broken person we see sitting on the Iron Throne come season seven.
The titular 'man without honour' of the episode is Jamie Lannister, who after spending almost the entire season imprisoned, chained and sitting in his own filth, finally offers some insight into his character. His 'chat' with the young Alton Lannister in the cell suggests that he has some wisdom to impart, making his brutal murder of the young squire all the more shocking. The fact that he will kill his own family member, as removed as he might be, shows just how dangerous this man still is.
Which makes his recapture, beating and imprisonment somewhat satisfying. But even then, when faced with the judgement od Catelyn Stark, he is defiant to the last, claiming that the fact that he has only lain with his sister actually makes him honourable, while twisting in Ned's own infidelity which led to the birth of Jon Snow. There's some great irony here, knowing what is revealed (as fan's long suspected) about Jon's true heritage in season seven.
Introducing and capping off the episode we have the long, sad, pathetic iron rule of Theon Greyjoy. There is a real sense of desperation as he hunts for the missing Bran and Rickon, realising his betrayal by Osha last episode. And yet again - the weakness of his character fails to prepare the audience for the shocks to come. Last episode it was the nasty death of Ser Rodrik Cassel, this time it is the cliff hanger ending as Theon proudly hoists up the burned bodies of two boys. It's a cruel trick on the audience but an effective one and ends the episode on a rather sour note.