Every week in the Game of Thrones TV Club, Rachael Larimore will IM with a different fan of the show about the goings-on in Westeros and across the Narrow Sea. This week she discusses "Second Sons" with Yahoo Sports writer and columnist (and frequent TV Club guest) Jay Busbee.
Rachael Larimore: Jay, I have to ask. When you go to a family wedding, do you encounter any brothers who are also your father-in-law, or any nephews who are also your grandsons?
Jay Busbee: Well, yes. But I live in the South. We're the Lannisters with banjos. (Sure wish someone had shouted "Roll Tide" when Tyrion escorted Sansa from the room.)
Larimore: Well, then I hope you have an aunt as delightful as Lady Olenna to keep it all straight for you! Tyrion and Sansa’s wedding was one of the sadder moments in a largely serious and depressing episode, and Lady Olenna provided some much-needed levity. As did Tyrion, but he had a much bigger job. He was the self-deprecating fiance, the badgered son, the angry uncle, and—ultimately—the decent and respectful husband. What did you think of the nuptials and the bridal couple?
Busbee: Tyrion is the most self-aware of anyone in the entire cast; he's known the burdens that lie upon him since he was a child. The rest seem to think they can elude, outrun, or outfight the demons that come for them. Tyrion understands that his life began as crap, so anything even slightly above that is an improvement. His tenderness to Sansa wasn't unexpected, but was still appropriate and gentlemanly in a world that frowns on such things. As for Sansa? I've never much cared for her character—too much of a blank slate—but then, that's kind of the point with her, isn't it?
Larimore: Yes, I've always felt that Sansa is the least interesting Stark, and she's been given the least to work with. I ached a little for Tyrion when she couldn't even muster any warmth for him when he came to her chambers and acknowledged that marrying him was just another kind of prison, or when he vowed that he would not hurt her. She’s dutiful, as she was raised to be, but she also has her pride, and the pride was winning out here. But then it all comes into focus in their bedchamber when he asks her her age, and she tells him 14. When you think about what she's been through in the past couple of years, and the fact that her new in-laws are responsible for the wreck her life has become—oh yeah, she’s 14—you can sympathize with her. At least I can. And she didn't go around embarrassing herself, like her evil former fiance, Joffrey. When he took Tyrion's stepstool away during the ceremony, I yelled at the television, "What a dick move."
Busbee: And that line about "Your father's not here"—somehow, he just gets worse every time we see him.
Larimore: Joffrey is a fool, and an evil one at that, but at least we know that he gets his threatening nature from his Lannister side. (Oh wait ... both of his sides are Lannister sides. Incest is funny!) But seriously, he gets a lot of his lesser traits from his mother. Could you believe the threatening tale she told Margaery about the social-climbing Reynes* of Castamere? Cersei is generally unlikable, but at least in previous seasons, she had some endearing moments, usually when she was trying to be sympathetic to Sansa. Now she's reduced to threatening to strangle her daughter-in-law. Can't say I'm a fan.
Busbeee: I noticed that as well, and the way she brushed off Loras was like kicking a puppy. The way she's been outmaneuvered at every turn by Tywin and disregarded by Joffrey has to have her seething. She was always a bit of a viper, but with no allies like Jaime to help keep her in check, she's got nothing to stop her in her fall to the bottom. As for her son, if there were any justice in Westeros, what's being done to Theon—over and over and OVER again—will look like a loving massage when compared to Joffrey's fate. (I say this having not read the books.)
Larimore: If we learned anything this week, it's that there is not much justice in Westeros, but there are plenty of prisoners. I thought there was an interesting parallel for the long-separated Stark sisters in this episode. They are both imprisoned by their circumstances, but they are actually in decent hands, all things considered. (And both are in the company of "second sons," a subtle nod to the episode title.) Arya has value to the Hound, so he is no danger to her—though you have to admire her pluck when she lifts a rock over his head. And Sansa, of course, is with Tyrion, who will at least not rape her or kill her.
Busbee: Arya remains my favorite character in the whole series. (I'm not even close to alone on this, I'd imagine.) This was a perfect episode to show that below the badass exterior--and, really, not much below it—there's still a scared little girl—notice how she had her arm around the Hound as they rode. I look forward to her reunion with Robb and her mother, mainly because Arya's probably the best fighting mind of all the Starks.
Larimore: The girls are OK for now. Gendry, however, seems to be in far greater danger with Melisandre. Tell me, of all the creepy sex scenes you've witnessed in Game of Thrones, where does the scene with Melisandre and Gendry rank? Above or below Jaime and Cersei?
Busbee: We’ve got to rank anything Joffrey does at the top, though I'm not sure those really qualify as "sex" scenes. And Cersei and Jaime … well, we didn't really know them way back in the first episode of the first season, so it wasn't quite the shock it perhaps should have been. Plus, leeches are never a good element to introduce in the bedroom.
Larimore: The leeches were gross but far from the worst of it. The power dynamic, and what we know about Melisandre that Gendry has no way of knowing—just made it very uncomfortable. I was glad for his sake at least that he was suspicious. And I'm glad that Stannis and Davos are back together. Their dynamic on the show is underplayed compared with the books, but I find them more compelling as a team than I do on their own. Their back story (Davos was a smuggler who aided Stannis during Robert’s rebellion.Stannis took his fingers for his smuggling past but also made him a knight) shows Stannis' humanity, which has been too little on display since he staked his claim to the Iron Throne.
Busbee: I hope Davos and Stannis both get more of a personality. I know it's the function of having 347 characters (with a new one introduced this episode!), but I feel that many of the characters get reduced to their most basic emotional characteristics, and get little opportunity to break out of that mold. Now, within the confines of the story, I'd love to see Gendry discover strength within himself that would make him a worthy challenger for—or possessor of, technically—the Iron Throne. As it stands now, though, he'd get torn to pieces by the Lannisters. Davos will hopefully have a hand in strengthening the boy's spine, because we can't look to Stannis for that.
Larimore: There are two characters who've shined despite their limited scenes, and that is Sam and Gilly. Samwell Tarly, who joined the Night's Watch because his father wanted his more macho second son as his heir, who could barely keep up with the Rangers as they escaped the Others earlier in the season, who is a mere steward ... Samwell finally had his moment in this episode. He's a man now! Not everyone loves the distraction the Others offer from sex and medieval power struggles in Westeros, but I think these two have a charming (if totally platonic) chemistry.
Busbee: We all want to think we'd be Jon Snow and Ygritte. Realistically, we'd all be Sam and Gilly, lost in the forest and terrified. Best we can hope for is some dragonglass of our own. Nitpicking here, but the CGI of the White Walker shattering was jarringly fake after the insanely creepy shots of it shambling up, just out of view within and beyond the trees. And good on Sam for coming through big at just the right time! Shame nobody will know it, but Gilly does, and maybe that's enough for our boy Sam.
Larimore: What, you didn’t realize The Others were phosphorescent when they met their end? At least he is dead and Gilly's son survived the curse of so many of his brother/cousins. (Again with the incest!) And now from dragonglass to the Mother of Dragons. Daenerys wants Yunkai, and she would rather have the city's sellswords fighting for her rather than against her. There were many great lines in this episode, but her confidence that she would get a meeting with the captains, because "soldiers who fight for gold can't afford to lose to a girl" was right up there. We've been along for every step of Dany's journey, from scared girl to wife and lover to khaleesi, but this season we've really seen her evolve. She’s been smart and cunning and fierce, but now we get to see her plotting more strategically. She’s clever.
Busbee: The most fascinating aspect of Dany to me has been the way she's been one step ahead of everyone--opponents, advisers, viewers. She knows exactly what she's doing, and every element of her plan is so far working smoothly (if sloooowly). Was a bit sorry to see Lewd Han Solo get his head chopped off so soon, but them's the breaks. Daario looks like he'll be a fine ally in between cover shoots for romance novels. Could love be the only thing that knocks Daenarys off her stride?
Larimore: Daenerys would be wise to heed the words of Robb Stark, if she could. As he said recently, "We've won every battle, but we are losing the war." The point being that you can do everything right and yet still be backed into a corner. So she must be wary. But if anything waylays Dany, I doubt it will be a pretty boy. However, Daario Naharis will make an interesting addition to her war council if she takes Yunkai, which is already getting crowded with Jorah, Barristan Selmy, and Grey Worm.
Busbee: She's embracing the Team of Rivals approach! Of course, Lincoln didn't have to worry about his cabinet cutting each other's heads off.
*Correction, May 20, 2013: The article misspelled the surname of the Reynes of Castamere. (Return to the corrected sentence.)