In the first season of Game of Thrones we saw a slow but deliberate increase in tension and pressure right up to the final two episodes which practically exploded with a wealth of promise. Now, however, it feels more like a broken down ride at a dodgy fun fair, with a pace which stammers and stutters that it makes the good turns feel let down by the more distracting ones. The series still has a massive number of good points, but it is going to need them to keep us interested up to this season’s brutal conclusion.
In the North, the wildling Osha has helped to orchestrate Bran’s escape from the fortress at Winterfell, which forces Theon into some pretty desperate and shocking actions to maintain some semblance of control on a quickly deteriorating situation. Theon is no stranger to brutality, but seeing his descent into near madness this week felt like crossing a line, and reminded us of that same brutality which we were shocked by in the series opener. Further north, Jon Snow manages to land himself in a predicament of his own with the beautiful Ygritte, and their verbal sparring manages to be both humorous and insightful into the motivations of the wildling people.
In the war with the Lannisters, the Starks find themselves entrenched on all possible sides. Rob Stark is lodged with the armies of Tywin Lannister and is forced to contend with the attempted escape of the his enemy’s son, Jaime. Seeing Nikolaj Coster-Waldau return to the infamous role, Jaime is a brilliant moment for this episode and for the first time we get to see a glimmer of the cruel and ghastly nature as the Kingslayer, which helps make up for the schizophrenic pacing. Seeing the elder Tywin converse so easily with the young Arya also felt quite satisfying, especially when we saw Arya manage to evade his piercing questions and keep her identity secret. Finally in the proverbial belly of the beast, we went to Kings Landing and saw Sansa experience her first ‘flowering’ and a surprising heart to heart with Cersei, who imparted some womanly wisdom to the younger princess.
Finally in the east, Daenerys has suffered a loss and her precious draconic children are stolen by mysterious factions within the desert city of Qarth. The loss has galvanised her determination and forced her to reunite with ally Ser Jorah Mormont. But as she tries to regain her power, she is forced into an uneasy alliance and learns that her dragons had been taken by the mysterious warlocks of the house of the Undying. The final act of betrayal came as a complete surprise however, and shows how the changes to the storyline might in fact prove to be a welcome eye surprise for lovers of the book series.
The pace has suffered in this episode and as such the whole instalment feels marred by the lack of significant progress in the story arcs. That is not so say that there wasn’t some beautiful moments to behold, but it felt like the slowing of the pace had become something of an elephant in the room. Ultimately however, the show is in the final run of episodes and it will be over before in almost no time at all. With this in mind, Game of Thrones needs to push itself in the next few weeks if it wants to keep its place as a top show.
Game of Thrones airs every Monday night at 9pm on Sky Atlantic HD.
Featured image: Nikolaj Coster-Waldau as Jaime Lannister. Photograph: Courtesy of HBO.