A day will come when you think you are safe and happy, and your joy will turn to ashes in your mouth.
Written by: David Benioff & D.B. Weiss
Directed by: Alan Taylor
Out of all the episodes of Game of Thrones' second season, this is the one that is the most review-proof, so don't be surprised if this review is a lot shorter than normal. "The Prince of Winterfell" is mainly concerned with setting the pieces on the chess board into place for the finale, but it's not without some enjoyable conversations. Besides, it's hard to not get excited when watching the likes of Tyrion and Stannis discuss the upcoming battle and the strategies both sides are undertaking.
It appears that Tyrion is the only one making a concerted effort to prepare for the battle. He talks with Bronn and Varys about where they believe Stannis will launch his attack and how they will defend themselves against his fleet. Meanwhile, Joffrey is too busy gloating about how he will put Stannis' head on a spike, when he should be talking battle plans with his army. It is truly sad how no one will give Tyrion the credit he deserves for all of the work he's done ever since arriving in King's Landing. Unlike Cersei, he is willing to put any sort of personal agenda aside for the sake of the Realm and protecting it from threats like Stannis Baratheon. Speaking of Cersei, she doesn't seem to care one bit that a battle is right around the corner; she mistakenly kidnaps the prostitute Ros, believing her to be the woman that Tyrion is sleeping with. This is probably what pains me the most about re-watching all of Game of Thrones: the character I personally hate the most, Cersei, performing all of these malicious acts and suffering no consequences for them.
Someone who does need to suffer consequences is Catelyn Stark. She did not kill Jaime Lannister at the end of "A Man Without Honor"; she freaking let him go. You know, for the girls. A frequent mistake of nearly every Stark has been their inability to kill or rightfully punish when the situation calls for it, and here, Catelyn Stark overplays her role as mother, willing to sacrifice what has been the Starks' most valuable asset in hopes that the Lannisters will go through with a simple trade. This decision by Catelyn does not sit well at all with Robb, and unlike Joffrey, who can't operate as king without being cradled by his mother, Robb is not fully influenced by his mother's words and actions, and he forces her to be put under constant guard. But one bad decision is followed by another: Robb meets privately with Talisa, confessing that he does not want to marry the Frey girl he was promised. Thus, Robb and Talisa have sex. No matter how heroic they may seem at times, the Starks are far from flawless, and the kind of decisions made by Catelyn and Robb in this episode are inevitably going to bring more trouble. It's not bad writing. On the contrary, the way the story is going, the Starks are creating some inner turmoil amidst all of the fighting going on in the battlefield, and that complicates everything even more.
Arya, on the other hand, makes one of her smartest decisions thus far. She overhears that Tywin is departing Harrenhal to go and assist in the battle against the Starks, and so she scrambles to find Jaqen H'ghar and give him Tywin as her third and final name. Unfortunately, Tywin is gone by the time she does find Jaqen. Damn, if only Arya had decided to give Tywin's name earlier. At this point, all Arya has left to do is try to escape, and she smartly forces Jaqen into helping her and her friends by naming Jaqen himself as the third and final name. Jaqen agrees on the condition that Arya un-names him, and he indeed proves once again to be a man of his word, killing the night guards and allowing Arya, Gendry, and Hot Pie to escape.
In regards to the Stark family, I think this episode gives us a fine example of how Arya differs mightily from the rest of her family, and not just because of her tomb-boyish personality. Unlike Catelyn (and Robb to some extent), Arya doesn't seem to mind killing people. In fact, she relishes in almost all opportunities she can get to start a fight and slay anyone who dares to get in her way. As the series progresses, we'll get better examples of how this is true with her, so look forward to that later down the road.
Honestly, I think that's about it for this episode. Nothing too fancy or dramatic, just getting ready for the finale that promises a lot of blood and character drama. The most this episode provides is helping us paint a better picture of nearly each member of the Stark family, and based on the decisions made by Catelyn, Robb, and Arya, it's easy to tell that Arya is in a good spot, while Catelyn and Robb are heading towards a sinister future. The game board now has all of its pieces set up in their rightful places. Time to see how many are going to get knocked down.
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