Every ‘Game of Thrones’ episode, recapped, rated, and ranked: Season Two

After a solid start and an excellent finish, Season One of Game of Thrones set us up for some interesting stuff, as pieces started falling and moving. Ned Stark’s execution showed that no one is safe (Sean Bean was being set up as the hero, which was clever of George Martin, because then he could kill him and shock everyone), but there are still plenty of characters who could emerge as the hero (or do we need a hero, really?). So let’s dive into Season Two! SPOILERS ahead, of course!

Season 2, Episode 1 (11), “The North Remembers” (first aired 1 April 2012). The second season premiere isn’t that great, because like a lot of season premieres, it spends a lot of time setting things up. Daenerys has gone from bad-ass dragon mother to wanderer in the desert, unable to find a place to go. Joffrey is being horrible, of course, and Sansa has learned to hold her tongue around him. Tyrion arrives in King’s Landing to be the Hand of the King in his father’s stead, and he has a nice conversation with Cersei about how she’s messed things up. Robb Stark has a conversation with Jaime Lannister, who’s still not convinced that Robb knows what he’s doing. Theon says he can bring his father – who fought against Ned Stark – into the war on Robb’s side, but that has bad idea written all over it. Jon Snow goes north of the wall with the rangers and meets a dude who bangs his own daughters, gets them pregnant, and then marries the new daughters (Jon asks the pointed question about what he does with the sons, something Jon might not want to know the answer to). The best scenes are in Dragonstone, an island not too far from King’s Landing (it’s on the eastern edge of Blackwater Bay, at the head of which sits the capital) and ruled by Stannis Baratheon, who makes his debut in this episode. Stannis (Stephen Dillane, who made his television debut on Remington Steele, woo-hoo!) is the dead king’s younger brother, and he has a claim to the throne, considering that Joffrey isn’t actually Robert’s son. We meet him on the beach, where he’s burning wooden idols of the old gods and promulgating a new one, which is preached by a priestess, Melisandre (Carice van Houten), a hot redhead who certainly won’t be banging the king anytime soon. One of Stannis’s trusted advisors, Ser Davos (Liam Cunningham), is another great character – any character who gets old in Westeros has this “these young people and their stupid shit” face, and Davos has a great one. The scenes in Dragonstone are beautifully shot (at night with a lot of flames), and when an old maester challenges Melisandre with poisoned wine (which he drinks first to prove it’s safe), we get a great death scene and a nice hint that Melisandre actually is a bit supernatural. Other than that, the episode is the slightest bit dull, until the end, when the City Guard starts killing all of Robert’s bastard children. It’s not quite as good an ending as Bran getting pushed out of a tower, but it’s not bad. Luckily, Gendry is on his way north with Arya!

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ½ ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆

Season 2, Episode 2 (12), “The Night Lands” (first aired 8 April 2012). This is a better episode, not necessarily because more stuff happens (we’re still in the setting-up phase of the season) but because we get some good conversations with good actors, which is always interesting. Tyrion and Cersei have a good conversation after Tyrion sacks the head of the City Watch (the one who killed all the bastards), as Tyrion tries to explain why she shouldn’t piss off the people and realizes that Joffrey ordered the murders, not her. Tyrion also has a nice conversation with Varys, in which Peter Dinklage and Conleth Hill show off their acting chops very nicely, as neither character is the poor naïve idiot that Ned Stark was. Meanwhile, Theon arrives in the Iron Islands and makes a pass at his sister (he doesn’t know who she is), which is just so Theon (she knows who he is and enjoys embarrassing him). Theon is a big jerk, and Alfie Allen has played him pretty well so far – he seems like he’s redeemable, but he always says or does something that makes you hate him all over again, and his surrender to his father, Balon (Patrick Malahide, who has a cameo in EuroTrip, another reason why it’s a great movie, plus he was in an episode of The New Avengers in 1976, a show I remember only because it was one of the few that aired in Germany when I lived there) and Yara, his sister (Gemma Whelan), reminds us of how craven he really is. I do like how Balon is remarkably progressive, in that he doesn’t care who leads his navy, as long as it’s someone capable, so Yara has been in command since all his sons are dead or exiled. Up north, Jon Snow’s new best friend Samwell Tarly (John Bradley), a rotund dude who is a huge disappointment to his father and just wants to live in a library instead of defending the Wall, is crushing on one of Craster’s daughter-wives, the pregnant Gilly (Hannah Murray), but Jon Snow says there’s nothing they can do for her (Jon, showing common sense for once in his life). Later, Jon follows Craster (Robert Pugh) – who’s carrying a baby, presumably a son – into the forest, where he leaves it for some shadowy figure to pick up. Jon can’t do anything about it, because Craster sneaks up behind him and bonks him on the head. We also get some bonding between Arya and Gendry – two Lannister soldiers try to search the camp, but the Night’s Watch dude tells them to pound sand and they leave. Arya believes they were after her, but they say they’re after Gendry, so the two talk about it. Gendry still doesn’t know who he is, but Arya confesses who she is. It’s a nice, light-hearted (relatively) moment in such a dour show, and in the camp, Arya meets the always-hilarious Jaqen H’ghar (who always refers to himself in the third person as “a man”), so that’s fun. Jaqen (Tom Wlaschiha) will become important before too long. Finally, Stannis bangs Melisandre (big shocker there), mainly because she says she can provide him with a son. I’m sure that will work out all right. Overall, a decent episode, but nothing too special.

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆

Season 2, Episode 3 (13), “What Is Dead May Never Die” (first aired 15 April 2012). This is the first really good episode of Season 2, partly because it allows Peter Dinklage to tear into the script and also because it introduces two more amazing characters to the show. First, Tyrion sets a trap for the Small Council, as he tells the three men three different marriage plans for Cersei’s daughter, and whichever one the queen knows about will reveal the snitch. It ends up being Maester Pycelle (Julian Glover, who’s been working now for 60 years – good for him!), whom Tyrion promptly chucks into the dungeon where he can, presumably, plot to find the Holy Grail or something. Tyrion isn’t going to be dumb like Ned Stark, and he’s wonderfully oily as he outlines his plans to Pycelle, Littlefinger, and Varys. But when Cersei confronts him, he’s able to be blunt without being cruel, as he tells her that her daughter needs to be married, and she’ll be safer in Dorne than in King’s Landing, where Joffrey is busy making sure everyone hates the Lannisters (Tyrion might be a bit off with that prediction, but he’s not a fortune-teller!). Once again, Cersei is redeemed just a little because she cares so deeply about her children, but she also knows Tyrion’s right. Arya and Gendry, meanwhile, get captured by the King’s Guard, who kill the Night’s Watch dude (he went out like you expect, awesomely), but Arya manages to keep Gendry’s identity a secret when she tells the Guard they already killed him (she uses the convenient death of one of her bullies as a blind). Theon, meanwhile, chooses poorly (of course) when he decides to stick with his mean father and mean sister (I mean, Yara is awesome, but she’s mean to Theon) instead of running away and returning to the Starks, so he’s back with the Iron Islanders being a dick (Theon will be a dick anywhere, though), and that won’t end badly, I’m sure. But the highlight of the episode has to be the introduction of Natalie Dormer and Gwendoline Christie as Margaery Tyrell and Brienne of Tarth, respectively. Brienne defeats fancy-boy Loras Tyrell (Margaery’s brother and Renly Baratheon’s lover) in a tournament and demands to be made a guard of the king, which pisses off the misogynistic Loras (Finn Jones) and the other knights, but fuck those dudes. Brienne is not really very nice to Catelyn Stark (who’s there to enlist Renly’s help and begins by insulting him – nice move, Catelyn), but Catelyn still recognizes that she’s awesome. Meanwhile, Renly has recently been married to Margaery, but he hasn’t banged her yet (because of, you know, the gay thing), and she surprises him by knowing all about him and her brother and not giving one fuck about it. She tells him that she just needs to get pregnant, and if bringing Loras in to get Renly’s dick hard is the way to do it, well then that’s what they’ll do. Margaery is obviously going to be a contender for best contestant in Westeros, and while I know what brings her into Cersei’s orbit (and what happens to her), it’s still fun to see it unfold. Brienne, meanwhile, is just the tits. All of this makes for a strong episode as the season begins to heat up. Bring it on! (I wonder what happened to Natalie Dormer. She’s still working, but around the time she began on Game of Thrones, she seemed poised to leap into superstardom. She never quite made it, though. She’s still working, but she hasn’t quite been the big star it seemed she would be, and I wonder why. Oh well.)

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆ ☆

Season 2, Episode 4 (14), “Garden of Bones” (first aired 22 April 2012). This is a solid episode, as Daenerys re-enters the story (she took last episode off) and makes it to a city, Qarth, where the ruling council originally doesn’t let her in until one of them (hey, it’s Nonso Anozie!) says chill, dudes, I got this. That’s about it for the Mother of Dragons this week (except to wonder how Qarth gets its drinking water, as it’s in the middle of a desert), but the name of the episode, which refers to the area around Qarth (because that’s where they dump their enemies) serves as a metaphor for the entire episode. Arya is in her own garden of bones, stuck at Harrenhal, where it seems the Lannister soldiers just torture and kill people because they’re bored. She’s “saved” by Tywin Lannister, who shows up, recognizes her as a girl (not as Arya Stark, though, which is lucky), and makes her his new cupbearer. The “garden of bones” could also refer to the field where the Baratheon brothers are about to fight – Renly and Stannis have a not-very-friendly meeting, in which Renly tells Stannis what Stannis really should know, that literally no one in Westeros wants him as king – but which may not happen, given that Melisandre (with Davos’s help) sneaks near to Renly’s camp at night and gives birth to something horrible. Davos implies that it’s going to wreak havoc in the camp, but we’ll have to wait until next week! (It’s the final scene of the episode, and man, that thing crawling out from between Melisandre’s legs is really icky.) Early on in the episode, the title could refer to the scene of Robb’s latest victory, at which he refuses to torture prisoners and helps a young woman amputate an enemy’s leg so he won’t die. The woman is Talisa Maegyr (Oona Chaplin), and as they spoke, I just kept saying “Just keep walking, you two!” because I know what happens later in the show. She’s all “war sucks, you guys” and the men are like, “but fighting is cool, yo,” and things won’t get better from that. Robb has learned nothing from his father’s death and tries to remain noble, and we’ve seen what happens to nobility in this world. Come on, Robb! You haven’t even cut some pieces off of Jaime Lannister yet! Finally, Tyrion continues to show why he’s the boss, and he spirits Sansa away from humiliation in the throne room and enlists his cousin, Lancel (Eugene Simon), as a spy against Cersei because Lancel doesn’t want anyone to know he’s now banging the queen. The scene in the throne room is terrific – Joffrey is so evil, and Sansa pulls herself together so well, and Tyrion is so disappointed in his nephew and impressed by Sansa, and Bronn is awesome, as usual (he gets the best line in the episode, perhaps the series: “There’s no cure for being a cunt,” referring to Joffrey). Tyrion does make a mistake by sending some prostitutes to Joffrey, because he must think that Joffrey will have sex in the conventional manner, but someone who is willing to aim a crossbow bolt at his fiancée’s heart probably doesn’t get off with just regular sex, and Joffrey is no different. That won’t go well for the whores, I imagine, but that’s a plot development for another day! This is a solid episode, not as good as the previous one, but still good. The season is ramping up!

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆ ☆

Season 2, Episode 5 (15), “The Ghost of Harrenhal” (first aired 29 April 2012). Alas, poor Renly: we barely knew ye. Renly Baratheon seemed like a decent contender for the crown, but while he was well-liked and well-respected and able to draw men to his side, it also seemed like he enjoyed playing king without actually being one. His brother, Stannis, has the opposite problem – he seems like he would be a tough warrior, but he would not be loved or – possibly – respected. What Stannis does have on his side is a witch, and the thing she gave birth to last episode shows up in Renly’s tent as smoke, coalesces into a man-figure, stabs Renly, and then dissipates. That this happens while Catelyn Stark and Brienne of Tarth are standing there means that Renly’s soldiers believe they had something to do with it, so they escape and Brienne ends up pledging loyalty to Catelyn, who promises her vengeance against Stannis. It’s an impressive beginning, not as shocking as Ned’s death because Renly wasn’t as important, but still reminding us that no one is safe. Meanwhile, Maisie Williams shows what a good actor she is, and she stands off against Charles Dance – who’s very good and very experienced – and holds her own as his new cup-bearer. She also gets to tell Jaqen – the weird dude she rescued from the fire when she was captured – three names, and he will kill those people. She wastes the first one on the torturer, who, yes, was a big jerk, but small potatoes, really. Margaery Tyrell shows her steel, as she quickly mourns Renly and then tells Petyr Baelish that she wants to be “the” queen, and she’s the first real challenger to the true power in the kingdom, Cersei. Theon, being a douche as usual, whines about his lot until one of his men says they should just ignore orders and attack Winterfell. I’m sure that will work out fine. Over in Qarth, Nonso Anozie asks Daenerys to marry him, but she’s grown up a lot in the past year (or so of the show), and she doesn’t want to be bound to any man. Finally, Tyrion discovers that Cersei and/or Joffrey is having the “pyromancers” of King’s Landing make “wildfire,” which sounds not unlike napalm. Tyrion understands how horrifying it is, but he shows, once again, how unlike Ned Stark he is by telling the scientist that he wants to supervise the making of wildfire from now on, not Cersei. He certainly doesn’t want her to have it, but it’s still handy to have around. It’s a good episode, moving things nicely into place, but after the first shock, it coasts a little. Not badly, but enough to make it a little less good than the one before it.

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ½ ☆ ☆ ☆

Season 2, Episode 6 (16), “The Old Gods and the New” (first aired 6 May 2012). This is a pretty good episode, as things move nicely along and we get some cool scenes. North of the Wall, it’s important because Rose Leslie joins the cast as Ygritte, the Wildling whom Jon Snow digs. She doesn’t get to do much in this episode, but we really haven’t gotten too much with individual Wildlings except for the evil dude who marries his daughters, so it’s nice that we get someone who’s not just a villain. The big news, perhaps, of this episode is that Theon captures Winterfell, which ends any tiny amount of sympathy we should have for him (he’s not wrong about being treated poorly by his father and never really being accepted by the Starks, but he’s such a douchebag about it that it doesn’t matter that he has a point). The contrast between the way Ned Stark beheads the dude in the first episode of the series (granted, he had a better sword) and the way Theon hacks Ser Rodrick’s head off in this one is obvious but well done, and Osha’s (Tonks!) cleverness is, well, clever. Catelyn rejoins Robb in time to tell him that he needs to keep his dick in his pants because he’s pledged to Walder Frey’s daughter, and I’m very sure he’ll listen to her and not plow Lady Talisa. Another very good scene takes place in King’s Landing, where the populace riots as Joffrey and his entourage walk back to the Red Keep. Joffrey gets a faceful of cow shit, Sansa almost gets raped, the Hound kills the would-be rapists, and Tyrion gets to slap Joffrey again (any episode where Joffrey gets slapped is a good one). Joffrey fails to recognize the toll the war is taking on the common people, which isn’t surprising. There was a lot of talk about the horribleness of the nudity and the rape in this show, but Sansa’s predicament is, unfortunately, all too real for women in a society like this one. As much as they might accrue power (and Sansa doesn’t have a lot), they’re incredibly vulnerable, and I think the show does a good job of showing that. It’s uncomfortable, but it’s meant to be. Anyway, Maisie Williams and Charles Dance are still holding their masterclass in acting, as Tywin asks how Arya’s father died and she says, “Loyalty,” and you get just the slightest hint from Tywin that he knows who his cup-bearer is but isn’t saying anything about it. Littlefinger shows up and seems to recognize Arya as well, but he’s got his own thing going on, so he says nothing. Arya wastes another death on a random guard who’s going to report her theft of a report about Robb to Tywin – couldn’t she have just stuffed the paper in her damned pocket? Come on, Arya! So she only has one death left. It’s like wishing for a cheeseburger when you have a genie. Come on, Arya!!!!!

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ½ ☆ ☆

Season 2, Episode 7 (17), “A Man Without Honor” (first aired 13 May 2012). Game of Thrones is at its best when it has some action mixed in with all the politicking and world-building, which is why this is such a good episode. We get actors squaring off, sure, but there’s enough mayhem that it elevates the freighted words being spoken more than if “nothing” happened. For instance, whenever nothing much happens in Daenerys’s story, it tends to drag a little, because she’s soooooo far removed from the main action. So in this episode, her harsh words to Jorah Mormont when he tries to convince her that he’s the only one she can trust become more ironic when Creepy Warlock Dude and good ol’ Nonso Anozie (I know I should use his character’s name, but Xaro Xhoan Daxos is harder to remember than Nonso Anozie!) stage a coup and kill everyone on the Qarth council, even though they’re ostensibly Daenerys’s allies. Jon Snow’s story is kind of pointless right now, too, and poor Kit Harington is not as good as actor at this point as Rose Leslie, so even though Ygritte is really annoying (she tells Jon that he’s embarrassed, but I wish he would just say, “I’m just annoyed that you never shut up!“), she’s still more interesting than Pretty Boy (and she gets to tell him that he knows nothing, which becomes her catchphrase). But, all her distractions lead to Jon getting surrounded by Wildlings, so that’s all right. Where the episode shines is in the developments in the war. Theon tries to find Bran and Rickon (Art Parkinson starring as the utterly useless youngest Stark son), who have escaped, but he can’t, so he keeps getting more and more horrible, and it’s presented as a bit of a tragedy (which it kind of is; Theon isn’t as horrible as Joffrey, but he was treated poorly when he was a kid and doesn’t know how to act like a man, much like Joffrey). The end of the episode is supposed to be a big shocker, as Theon displays the corpses of two young boys who are supposed to be Bran and Rickon, but I know it’s not them (because I’ve already seen future episodes) and even when it aired, I didn’t buy it. But Alfie Allen really sells the moment, as even he looks terrified at what he’s become. Arya and Tywin, meanwhile, continue to have conversations, and Maisie Williams and Charles Dance are electrifying, as Arya keeps trying to hide things about herself and Tywin keeps figuring them out, but not enough that he can (or wants to) act on it. As I’ve mentioned, for all the good child/teen actors on this show, Maisie Williams is really above them at this point (Sophie Turner gets much better later, and you can see that in this season, but Williams is still better). Down in King’s Landing, Tyrion and Cersei have a heart-to-heart about what a bastard Joffrey is, and Lena Headey is devastating as a mother who can’t stop her son from being a monster, even if she had a lot to do with him becoming one. Her speech to Sansa about loving only her children (not Jaime, who’s the father of her children) is gripping, and when she breaks down in front of Tyrion, it’s amazing, because Peter Dinklage wants to console her but Tyrion doesn’t know how, and Headey shows that Cersei doesn’t really want him to anyway even though she needs it. It’s a terrific scene. But we also get the sudden violence in Qarth, Theon’s reign of terror, and an appearance by Jaime Lannister, who has a nice chat with his cousin, who’s been acting as courier between Robb Stark and King’s Landing, before brutally killing the cousin just so he can lure the guard into the cell and kill him and steal the keys. He’s recaptured, of course, but that scene – Jaime’s first in several episodes – is also excellent, because while some of the characters on the show are horrible but everyone knows they’re horrible, Jaime can be very charming, but he’s an excellent killer and it’s really all he’s good at. So that’s where we stand. Things are coming together, because the season is almost over, and much like Season 1, things come together very well, and this episode shows it.

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ½ ☆ ☆

Season 2, Episode 8 (18), “The Prince of Winterfell” (first aired 20 May 2012). Every television show is subject to ebbs and flows, and after last week, we get a bit of an ebb, especially because next week Stannis Baratheon lands at King’s Landing (according to the previews at the end of the episode!), and then shit will get real, presumably. So this is a calmer episode, and unfortunately, it’s also a transitional episode, so we get the end of the Arya/Tywin show without a really good send-off (Tywin is off to ambush Robb, while Arya, Gendry, and Hot Pie (Ben Hawkey) escape Harrenhal thanks to Jaqen’s intervention) and the next great pairing, the Jaime/Brienne show, doesn’t have the crackle it will later (although Jaime gives it his best, but Brienne isn’t having any banter). Arya, who has shown she’s one of the cooler characters, really blows it with her three wishes – this time she wants Jaqen to kill Tywin before he ambushes Robb, but Jaqen can’t do it fast enough, so she wants him to kill himself. She had a nice kill list, and she basically wasted it – Jaqen helps her escape Harrenhal, which might mean they’re square in the “three deaths” department? Yara, the cooler of the Greyjoy children, arrives in Winterfell and basically calls Theon to the carpet for his stupidity, but she does it wrapped around a nice speech about how she feels she needs to look out for her baby brother, which Theon probably won’t like because he’s a dick. Of course, we find out later that he didn’t actually kill Bran and Rickon, but substituted two boys in their places, which makes him, unbelievably, even more of a dick. Catelyn releases Jaime on the flimsiest of pretenses – the Lannisters might release their daughters if they get Jaime back – and Robb rightly yells at her and puts her under arrest, but he undoes almost every good thing he’s done in this show to bang Talisa even though he’s still betrothed to Walder Frey’s daughter … and Walder Frey does not seem like a reasonable man. Keep it in your pants, Robb! In King’s Landing, Cersei believes she has gotten revenge on Tyrion (for marrying off her daughter) because she finds his whore, but it’s the wrong woman – it’s Ros (Esmé Bianco), whom Tyrion banged when he was at Winterfell and to whom he gave a Lannister necklace, which is why Cersei believes she’s Tyrion’s special lady. Ros, nicely enough, keeps her mouth shut about it, but that can’t be a good situation. The thing is – Cersei should know better. Daughters in this world are simply marriageable assets, so her daughter was always going to be shipped off somewhere. And in this world, kings do fight with their troops, so Joffrey cowering inside during the upcoming battle would look terrible. Joffrey has been heir his entire life – has no one taught him how to fight? So even though Cersei is railing against Tyrion, he’s absolutely correct in his actions. Meanwhile, in Qarth, Daenerys is still not doing much. Jorah Mormont wants her to abandon her dragons and head to Westeros, but come on, Jorah – without her dragons she has no chance, so of course she needs them back! So this is not one of the best episodes, but it’s decent enough. There are a few other good scenes – Sam finds obsidian north of the Wall, which seems important, Stannis and Davos talk of a siege during the last big war and how horrifying it can be, and Bronn is delightful as usual talking about a siege from another angle. Calm-before-the-storm things have a tough balance to strike, because they have to promise a lot without actually delivering, and that’s the problem with this episode. But next episode – it’s battle time!

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆

Season 2, Episode 9 (19), “Blackwater” (first aired 27 May 2012). This is the best episode of the series so far by a decent margin – as good as “Baelor” was, it was really the ending that sent it over the top, but “Blackwater” is superb from beginning to end. I don’t think it’s just that the entire episode focuses on one event and one place – King’s Landing when Stannis Baratheon attacks – although that couldn’t hurt. It’s because we just know big things are happening, and while Ned Stark’s death was a shock and no shocking deaths take place in this episode, the idea that anyone could die at any time (which is often true, of course, but this is a big battle) gives this extra tension. Plus, we really don’t know if Stannis could storm the city. We think the Lannisters, who are the closest thing to antagonists in the show, are going to survive because they’re the only ones pretty much everyone hates, but we just don’t know. And everyone is fantastic in this episode, too. Cersei gets drunk (she’s becoming more and more of an alcoholic) and tells Sansa how horrible it will be when the Baratheons storm the city, while Sansa actually tries to keep everyone calm. Sophie Turner has done a very nice job growing into the role of subservient but subversive queen-to-be, as she tries to spur Joffrey into fighting in the vanguard by telling him how great it would be and how her brother would always fight in the vanguard. It doesn’t work, because Joffrey’s far too cowardly, but it’s a nice try. Jack Gleeson plays Joffrey beautifully, too, as he’s really made it clear what a scared boy he is, even as he struggles to show bravado. It doesn’t make us like Joffrey any more, but it’s to Gleeson’s credit that we even have any sympathy for the little shit. Tyrion ends up leading the charge, giving a great speech (“Those are brave men knocking at our door … let’s go kill them!”) after crippling Stannis’s fleet. The final horrible betrayal is that he saves the city, but before he loses consciousness, he realizes that Cersei told one of the King’s Guard to kill him. The Hound and Bronn have a nice chat – they don’t like each other, but they know each other is a good soldier – and then Bronn saves the Hound’s life when Clegane is paralyzed by the fire, which leads him to abandon the battle. I love that the Hound doesn’t leave because he realizes what a stupid king Joffrey is (he already knew that), but because he’s actually terrified. He would never say it, but Rory McCann shows it all in his face as he stands on the field and decides to change his entire life (because that’s what he does in an instant). Of course, part of the reason why this is a great episode is because it finally has a budget for cool shit, and Tyrion dumping napalm in the harbor and then lighting it, which blows up Stannis’s fleet, is one of the best scenes in the series so far. Davos is the only one that knows it’s coming, and he manages to yell futilely to his son at the other end of the ship before the green flame engulfs him. Davos is blown clear, and while I know he survives, it’s not known at the time. The explosion is amazing, and the faces of the people on the battlements are, too – Tyrion is reacting in horror to what he’s done, while Joffrey seems a bit too impressed. Then the action moves to the beach, and we get a lot of blood and gore, as this is the first true battle we’ve seen on screen. Finally, Tywin Lannister and the Tyrells show up and save the day, and the capital is saved for another day. It’s a breathless hour of television, and a high water mark for the show.

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆

Season 2, Episode 10 (20), “Valar Morghulis” (first aired 3 June 2012). This isn’t quite as good a season finale as the first one, but it’s still pretty good. After the fierce battle of Episode 9, we need to reset everything and wake up in the new world, so Tyrion waking from his wounded slumber is a good way to get us into things. Maester Pycelle is practically jaunty, having shed the stooped walk and halting speech that we know is an act but which no one else does, and Julian Glover, who doesn’t get to do too much on the show, has a lot of fun with it as he tells Tyrion that he’s, basically, fucked. Tywin is the Hand, as he was always meant to be, and it turns out the Cersei tried to have Tyrion killed on the battlefield. He no longer has a position, and it’s not like he can go out and become a warrior, so he’s screwed. Shae says they should leave and go to Pentos (on the other continent), but Tyrion loves being in the thick of politics too much, and so they stay, which might not be the best move. Other threads get tied up, as much as they can be on this show. Arya doesn’t go with Jaqen even though she wants to learn how to be an assassin – she feels responsible for Gendry and Hot Pie, so Jaqen shows her a magic trick and leaves, but he leaves the door open for Arya to follow him when she’s ready. Theon gives a great speech as Roose Bolton’s bastard’s forces surround Winterfell, one reminiscent of Tyrion’s an episode ago, but the Ironborn are sick of him, and just when he finishes, his second-in-command – the guy who goaded him to attack Winterfell in the first place – bonks him on the head and gets ready to deliver him to the enemy (just as Roose Bolton (Michael McElhatton) predicted they would). Robb, meanwhile, gets married to Charlie Chaplin’s granddaughter, which I’m sure will be all right with everyone. Jon Snow makes his play to get in good with the Wildlings, killing Qhorin Halfhand (to be fair, that was Qhorin’s plan) to prove that he doesn’t want to be in the Night’s Watch anymore, and it gets him an audience with Mance Rayder, the King Beyond the Wall, but we’ll have to wait until next season to see who they get to play Mance! Brienne kills some Stark soldiers because they recognized Jaime and were going to take him and because they killed some defenseless women and raped one of them, so she doesn’t take kindly to that. Joffrey, being a dick, discards Sansa and decides to marry Margaery Tyrell, which A) makes Sansa happier than she’s ever been in the show (she skips a little!), although her happiness is short-lived because it’s not like Joffrey will just let her go, and B) might be a mistake, given that Margaery is far more devious than Sansa is. Way out East, Daenerys gets the most impactful story, as she goes into the Tower of the Undying to get her dragons back and confronts some visions – she sees the throne room in King’s Landing in the middle of winter, destroyed, she goes beyond the Wall and sees a tent, in which sits Aquaman with their dead baby boy. She wants to stay with her family, but by now, she knows she can’t, so she leaves and finds the dragons. The weird warlock dude confronts her, but by now the dragons can spit fire, and they make short work of him. Daenerys’s story is always going to be tough to make interesting because it’s so far removed from the main action and the pay-off is so far away (we assume it’s coming, but when?!?!?!?), so it’s nice when it actually moves forward. She finds Nonso Anozie, who lured her servant into betrayal with promises of riches and good sex (presumably), and Daenerys, being queenly, locks them in his giant vault, which turns out to be empty even though Anozie told her he was vastly rich. She notes the lesson! The season ends with the White Walkers walking, which is a good place to end just to remind us that, yes, the humans are bad, but there are worse things in the world. Let’s get psyched for Season Three!

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆ ☆


Let’s break it down a bit!

Ranking of Season 2 Episodes:

1. “Blackwater” – The best episode of the series so far.
2. “A Man Without Honor” – Something actually happens in Qarth, Theon goes full evil, and the acting is great.
3. “The Old Gods and the New” – Ygritte debuts, and Tyrion gets to slap Joffrey again.
4. “Valar Morghulis” – A good finale in the aftermath of the Battle of Blackwater.
5. “What Is Dead May Never Die” – The first time we see Margaery and Brienne!
6. “Garden of Bones” – Melisandre gives birth to a creepy shadow demon.
7. “The Ghost of Harrenhal” – Renly gets killed.
8. “The Prince of Winterfell” – The beginning of the Jaime/Brienne show!
9. “The Night Lands” – Debut of Yara and Gilly!
10. “The North Remembers” – One of the worst episodes of the series is still pretty good.

Average Rating: 6.9/10 stars
Median Rating: 7/10 stars

Let’s slot in the episodes from Season 1, shall we?

1. “Blackwater” (S2E9)
2. “Baelor” (S1E9)
3. “Fire and Blood” (S1E10)
4. “The Wolf and the Lion” (S1E5)
5. “A Golden Crown” (S1E6)
6. “A Man Without Honor” (S2E7)
7. “The Old Gods and the New” (S2E6)
8. “Lord Snow” (S1E3)
9. “You Win or You Die” (S1E7)
10. Valar Morghulis” (S2E10)
11. “What Is Dead May Never Die” (S2E3)
12. “The Kingsroad” (S1E2)
13. “Garden of Bones” (S2E4)
14. “The Ghost of Harrenhal” (S2E5)
15. “The Pointy End” (S1E8)
16. “Cripples, Bastards, and Broken Things” (S1E4)
17. “The Prince of Winterfell” (S2E8)
18. “Winter Is Coming” (S1E1)
19. “The Night Lands” (S2E2)
20. “The North Remembers” (S2E1)

Average Rating for Season 1: 7.1/10 stars
Average Rating for Season 2. 6.9/10 stars

Median Rating for Season 1: 7.25/10 stars
Median Rating for Season 2: 7/10 stars

Onward to Season Three!


    1. Greg Burgas

      Tom: I doubt it. We’ve already watched all of Penny Dreadful, and we have so much else to watch doing a rewatch would be a pain (I wouldn’t have done it for GoT except we hadn’t watched the final season yet). It’s certainly possible, but we’d have to see what the reboot is like, because then maybe we’ll be inspired to do a rewatch!

      Thanks for the nice words!

  1. Jeff Nettleton

    The other Avengers connection: Julian Glover, who played in 4 different episodes, 2 of the Emma Peel run and two with Tara King (Linda Thorson). Also in For Your Eyes Only (Charles Dance works for Glover’s enforcer, Locque), as the villain, Kristatos. Glover worked a ton for ITV: The Avengers, The Saint, The Champions, Jason King, The Sweeney, Callan; as well as Doctor Who and Blake’s 7, for the BBC.

    You’d think that Carice Van Houten would be a bit miffed about the amount of nudity; but, it was probably tamer than working for Paul Verhoeven (Black Book), where she had to bleach her pubes, on screen. Then again, she’s Dutch and they seem pretty blase about it.

    Loved Liam Cunningham since I first saw him in the horror film, Dog Soldiers, as well as one of the later Prime Suspects (#6, as a photojournalist friend/lover of Tennison).

      1. tomfitz1

        Europeans usually have a different attitude towards sex compared to Americans.

        Carice van Houten said recently that now she’s a mother that she wishes that she hadn’t done those nudity scenes. (oops!)

        Interesting enough, Evan Rachel Wood said something similar about her scene in Mildred Pierce HBO mini-series (wishing that she hadn’t done it), yet she did nudity in Westworld.

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