Drinking and lust. No man can match me in these things.
Written by: David Benioff & D.B. Weiss
Directed by: Michelle MacLaren
Here is Game of Thrones bouncing right back from the shortcomings of "The Bear and the Maiden Fair": "Second Sons" comes at us with a much sharper focus and a more refined script, generating some more significant moments from the story lines featured. One of the those moments turns out to be arguably the most vital discovery in all of Westeros. Say what now? Okay, the better way to put it would be a discovery that is crucial to the survival of all of Westeros. The amazing thing is that the discovery happens basically in the middle of nowhere, with characters we would never envision making said discovery (unless you've read all the books and can watch season three looking smug because you know everything that happens).
Those characters making the discovery are none other than Sam and Gilly. Yeah, we haven't really gotten a chance to catch up with these two ever since the outbreak at Craster's Keep a little while back. These two getting together was never in doubt; why have Sam talk to this girl at all if they're not going to hook up at some point down the road? It's only another example of how unsubtle Game of Thrones has always been with its romantic pairings. Anyway, Sam and Gilly discuss what name Gilly should give to her son, but they're interrupted by a murder of crows who are able to give the two a heads up of a White Walker approaching them through the trees. Sam trying to face the Walker with his sword is the Seven Kingdoms versus the Army of the Dead in a nutshell: The Seven Kingdoms' mere swords are powerless against the magic of these undead beings. That is until....plot twist!: as the Walker walks towards Gilly to take her son, Sam runs towards the Walker and stabs it in the back with his dragonglass dagger. The Walker lets out a screech and disintegrates.
Samwell Tarly might as well have become one of the greatest heroes in all of Westeros. The death of the Walker is a shocking end scene that is one of the rare times that an episode leaves us with hope. The entire sequence is done at an almost rapid fire pace: Sam and Gilly have no time to prepare for the Walker's arrival, and they have no time to stand around and process what they just saw right after the Walker disintegrates. Everything happens so quickly, and it's a phenomenal tactic on the part of Michelle MacLaren, because we as the viewer have to take the extra time after the credits roll to fully process everything that we ourselves just saw. A huge moment like the death of a White Walker is not something we can gloss over; this is a game-changer. It's something that will have a direct impact on The Great War between the Living and the Dead.
So while we can marvel over the ending scene all day, there's still quite a bit that happens before that isn't the least bit lacking in terms of efficiency (albeit with much less shock value). Tyrion continues to get heated with Joffrey and defy the wishes of his father: Tyrion goes through with his arranged marriage to Sansa, but he gets incredibly drunk at the wedding feast, threatening to castrate Joffrey and defying Tywin's order to put a child in Sansa. There has been bad blood between Tyrion and Joffrey since day one, and "Second Sons" nearly puts it over the top between the two, until Tywin sends Tyrion away and assures us that there will be no scuffling between Tyrion and the King. Nearly every major event that has happened in King's Landing since the start of season two has pitted Tyrion in a personal fight of attrition against the Realm and the rest of his family. Not only does Tyrion's drunken rage in "Second Sons" promise us that there will be no mending of fences between him and Joffrey, it promises us that something is bound to get out of control and perhaps change the entire course of events in King's Landing.
There is a little bit of change happening meanwhile at Dragonstone: Melisandre returns with Gendry, and Stannis heads down to the dungeons where he frees Ser Davos, under the promise that he will never threaten Melisandre again. Stannis and Davos have a rich conversation about what should be done with Gendry, with Stannis whipping out a series of quotable lines about duty and the visions that were given to him by Melisandre. This is then followed by one of Game of Thrones' better uses of sex and nudity, as Melisandre seduces Gendry, tying him to the bed and using leeches to draw his blood, so that they can be ritually burned. The specific nudity and sex parts of this scene do linger a bit long, but it's all necessary considering what it means for Gendry and what it means for Stannis, trying to re-establish himself as the one who believes he will stand on the Iron Throne.
There is definitely a lot of foreshadowing at work, but the foreshadowing is almost nothing compared to the shock and awe of "Second Sons" final White Walker death scene, one that benefits from a quick pace that leaves viewers processing what they saw long after the episode ends. "Second Sons" as a whole benefits from fewer story lines while not repeating the same mistakes as "The Bear and the Maiden Fair". It's another example of the kind of skillful construction we expect from Game of Thrones, and this late in a season, we should always expect the best from start to finish.
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