It's better to be cruel than weak
Written by: David Benioff & D.B. Weiss
Directed by: David Nutter
Having been taken captive by the Starks near the end of season one, Jaime Lannister has had next to nothing to do throughout season two. That is until now, in the episode named from Catelyn Stark's statement to the Kingslayer: "You are a man without honor." So even though this is an episode named for Jaime Lannister, "A Man Without Honor" is the perfect name to embody the series of dishonorable acts we see done by various men, not just Ser Jaime. Needless to say, it's a thoroughly unpleasant series of events, even though there's not very much swinging of the swords.
Theon takes the cake for most despicable crime done in this episode, and the "Oh I messed up big" look on his face as the episode ends tells you all you need to know. Time and time again, Theon will look for any way to try and prove that he is not as insufficient as everyone makes him out to be, especially now as he attempts to be the menacing new ruler of Winterfell. Theon shows the Winterfell residents the charred remains of two children as a warning of what will happen should anyone defy his rule. Burning children ought to be the last straw for Theon, but don't completely ignore the guilt on his face; he may not be completely gone to us.
Sadly, there is no guilt from a few folks over in Qarth, where Daenerys gets some good news and bad news about her dragons. The good news is that the thief, Pyat Pree, reveals himself, telling Daenerys that he has her dragons in the House of the Undying. The bad news? Xaro Xhoan Daxos declares himself to be King of Qarth, revealing to have an alliance with Pree, who multiplies himself and slits the throats of the remaining eleven members of the Thirteen. The man who told Daenerys through several monologue about his rag-to-riches progression through life, and that he could grant Daenerys the Seven Kingdoms if agreed to marry her: he lets the power go to his head, swiping practically all of it in a matter of seconds. Yes indeed, Xaro Xhoan Daxos didn't know when enough was enough, and because of how much more wealth and power he wanted, he was willing to sacrifice his own honor to obtain it. In summary, Pyat Pree being revealed as the thief was no major surprise, but the way that Daxos and Pree go about killing the rest of Thirteen just like that was certainly a bit of a shock.
Well, you know what, I know of at least one person in Game of Thrones who is still alive and would never bring dishonor to their house: Jon Snow. Despite constant teasing from Ygritte about his lack of sexual experience, Jon sticks to his vows and never lets her get under his skin. Though Jon doesn't do anything to suggest that he is starting to reconsider his decision to take the black, I like what they do here with the back and forth between him and Ygritte. I think this is Jon's first true test to determine if he really is a man of the Night's Watch: a beautiful foreign woman being held prisoner challenges Jon to see if he can live with being celibate for the rest of his life, living out his days on top of a giant wall of ice. In a world that's rampant with sex, agreeing to never lie with a woman sounds like the worst thing ever. Jon doesn't let that bother him, though; he was raised by an honorable man in Ned Stark, and thus, he will always do what he thinks is right.
Nothing going on in King's Landing or at Harrenhal has too much to do with having no honor. Tyrion and Cersei have a discussion in which Cersei feels she is being punished with an unstable Joffrey, due to her having incest with Jaime. I suppose we could make an argument for Cersei also having no honor because of her decision to have incest, but that's better suited if you take into account everything that happens with her throughout the series, not just this one episode. In Harrenhal, Arya and Tywin discuss Tywin's desire to leave a legacy, as well as Tywin advising Arya on how to talk more like a commoner. Tywin is such a grandfather to Arya, it's a shame that they are of opposing Houses.
Finally, we get to Jaime. Alton Lannister (Karl Davies) is thrown into the same pen as Jaime, and the two engage in a conversation that grows boring rather quickly, while droning on far longer than it has any right to be. Game of Thrones is susceptible to a boring monologue or two here and there. For the most part, D&D and the other writers make conversations constantly interesting to listen to. Everyone now and then, however, a dull one slips in. Thankfully, Jaime kills the boredom by killing Alton and then the jailer. Jaime's freedom is short-lived, as he's re-captured off-screen (a bit of a cop out). When Catelyn goes to personally visit Jaime later on, deriding him as a man without honor, Jaime responds by stating that his vows required him to defend the innocent, obey his father, and serve the king, but because his father hated the king, and the king killed the innocent, his vows got all messed up. Jaime then insults Catelyn by stating how he has only been intimate with Cersei, and that she hates Jon Snow because he is a living example of Ned's infidelity. The scene ends with an enraged Catelyn demanding for Brienne's sword. So Catelyn is just going to kill Jaime right then and there.....or does she?
This moment between Jaime and Catelyn is another great example of why it's unwise to view the Starks as pure heroes and the Lannisters as pure villains. There is so much more to these characters than meets the eye, and here, Jaime is given the chance to defend his actions and prove to us that he isn't doing dishonorable things simply because he's an asshole who wants to watch the world burn. Maybe he hasn't done a whole lot (yet) to get us to like him, but that doesn't mean Jaime has ever acted unreasonable. It's a revealing of more gray areas to a seemingly black and white character, and it's a small sample of what makes Game of Thrones transcend beyond a mere battle of good versus evil.
So while not entirely flawless, "A Man Without Honor" is a strong, character-driven episode that brings deeper insights into some of its already well-established characters, while not holding back too much on the gruesome imagery. Whenever a season needs to take a bit of time to relax from all the fighting, this is the kind of episode we should hope for. Then again, a word like 'relax' is completely out of place on one of these Game of Thrones reviews, because it doesn't take long at all before we're thrown right back into the madness.
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