Game of Thrones: “The Night Lands” Review: She’s My Sister?

Game of Thrones: “The Night Lands” Review: She’s My Sister?

By adminWednesday - April 11th, 2012Categories: UncategorizedTags:, , , , , , ,

In “The Night Lands”, Warhammer tabletop gaming nerds have their fantasies come to life on the small screen. We are also introduced to Lando Calrissian and a sibling relationship that would gross out Luke and Leia Skywalker. And no episode is complete without power struggles pitting half-man against half-man as Tyrion and Varys play the Game of Thrones.

The second episode of the new season opens up with an older Arya watching shiny royal guards trying to serve a warrant against a veteran knight of the Night’s Watch. As often is the case with serving warrants, the royal guards are forced to retreat after one of them nearly gets their junk stabbed by the unappreciative knight. Although this scene was entertaining, we couldn’t help but think what was going on with the stupid expression that the royal guard next to the warrant giver was wearing.

The next scene cuts to a power struggle pitting half-man (the castrated yet all-knowing Lord Varys) versus half-man (the vertically-challenged and charismatic Tyrion Lannister). The eunuch reminds Tyrion that this isn’t his first rodeo and that he’s seen Hands of the King come and go like the honorable yet headless Ned Stark. This exchange hints towards the lessons that the new Hand of the King is going to have to endure and how complex the Spider’s web of loyalty can be.

Afterwards the show cuts to the desert where we see a dehydrated and chapped-lipped khaleesi and her guard. One of their explorer’s horses returns with its rider’s head sitting in a bag. The mother of the rider hysterically mourns the loss of her son and, more importantly, the loss of his ability to join his ancestors because his body was not properly put to rest through a customary fire burial. The rider was assumed to have been killed by his fellow men because they would not serve a woman like Dany. While the viewer becomes aware of how dire the khaleesi’s situation is, and we get more cultural clues about the Mongol-like Dothraki, the scene’s ending with the mother screaming felt more annoying and cliche rather than hammering our emotions.

If you have been seeking more vengeance for Ned Stark’s untimely beheading, this episode had a scene with just desserts. After enjoying a hearty meal, Tyrion exposes Janos Slynt, leader of the guard revolt against Ned Stark, as an honor-less and untrustworthy mercenary. Tyrion strips the guard of his title and sends him to the wall, and puts a new grunt in charge. But like Pete Towhnshend says, this is a case of “Meet the new boss, same as the old boss”. Tyrion asks the newly appointed grunt if he’d be willing to kill a baby that was sitting alongside his mother, and he replies that he would if the price was right. The short Lannister knows more than ever just where the loyalties in the Game of Thrones is going to be, and that’s in one’s selfish gain. Again we miss the selfless and honorable Ned Stark character.

Theon, a playboy of the Greyjoy family, nearly gets it on with two women in this episode alone, and one of them turned out to be his warrior woman of a sister named Yara. It was a sequence where even Luke and Leia Skywalker would be grossed out since the warrior woman knew all along of the incest she was daring for. Not only that, their father shows his disappointment in his son who has attained his shiny armor through paying for it with gold rather than earning it on the battlefield.

In this episode we are also introduced to one of the few black speaking characters of the series, Salladhor Saan, who is like a mix of Lando Calrissian and Han Solo. In fact, his scene plays out like two scenes straight out of Star Wars: A New Hope. The grey-haired Dave Seaworth is Obi Wan and his young apprentice is Luke. Instead of talking about how Han Solo has seen all sorts of religions and none would make him believe in something all-encompassing like the force, Salladhor Saan shares such a view on the old gods. The Luke character becomes whiny and pouts while Dave Seaworth remains calm and cool in dealing with the smooth talking pirate and reaching a deal for Lord Stannis Baratheon.

More power struggles are seen within the Lannister family as Tyrion suffers a low blow from his sister Cersei. In this scene it’s revealed that Joffrey was the main mover in slaying the babies from the first episode, and that the populace is divided 50/50 on the matter. Cersei hits a low note when she compliments Tyrion’s joke-telling, only to say that his jokes would never best his first, which was his very birth that killed their mother. Tyrion reminds his sister that it was his mother too, and again we are left rooting for the half-man that is more of a human being than anyone else on the show so far.

The next scene shows Dave Seaworth telling Lord Stannis Baratheon of the news regarding Saan’s ships. Seaworth is asked to leave and the witch Melisandre then lives a fantasy every Warhammer tabletop gamer has had as she seduces Stannis into having sex on their miniature war-gaming table.

In true HBO fashion, the show ends with a cliffhanger as Jon Snow sees Craster feeding a baby to a huge humanoid creature that looked like it could take on the Undertaker. Snow looks onwards only get knocked out by the old man.

Visually, the second season shows off its budget once again during Theon’s voyage home to the Iron Islands. The castles stand on coastal rocks, which although are begging to get shot at by warships, is still an impressive architectural sight to behold. The dire wolves that liked to hide off camera in the first season is again put proudly on display, and the initimidating white cannine looks as big as a miniature pony.

All in all this episode felt like the opening moves of a chess game where the pawns are being put into place. These seemingly boring openers will show their value as they open up the paths for the big movers to come into play, however this episode is a forgettable hour of the series. While it’s still a quality piece of entertainment, it’s an episode that doesn’t warrant repeated viewings.

Arbitrary Review Rating Number : 79%

Note on these reviews: We here at Comical Absurdity are huge fans of HBO’s Game of Thrones. While we shamefully haven’t read the George R. R. Martin’s novels they are based on, we will stand ready each week to give you our thoughts on the television series that made Sean Bean’s head roll.