After last week’s blistering cliffhanger seeing the fallout this week was a real game changer for long time lovers of this series. Far from the alliances and establishment of dynasties we saw near the end the first season, this time we see the divisions of friends and potentially the seeds of ruin for many of our favourite characters.
In the occupied bastion of Winterfell, Theon’s treachery has earned him the ire of his own people, and while he seeks to control the ever destabilising situation he only manages to destroy what little power he may have been able to gather. Even when he reached out for support from his sister, Yara, he found no help, only pity. Alfie Alan has been spot on in his portrayal of the prince turned conqueror, and seeing him near the end of his arc, he is able to evoke a more quiet quality which reaches much further than his brash rages ever could. This shift in tone is surprisingly compelling and shows some talent that the young actor had not yet displayed.
In the far north Jon Snow and Qhorin Halfhand are in the captivity of the wildlings and being kept alive for their information and knowledge of the Night Watch’s movements. The oaths of fealty that Jon took are slowly put to the test as Qhorin prepares Jon for one final mission in order to preserve the safety of the Seven Kingdoms. Meanwhile, back in the south, Tywin’s forces are on the move for a battle against Robb Stark which leaves young Arya desperate to find her one ally Jaqen to provide his assistance in one more desperate plan, to escape Harrenhall and make there way towards Winterfell, and her supposed safety.
In King’s Landing the final preparations are under way for the great battle between the forces of Stannis Baratheon and the armies of Joffrey under the power of Tyrion Lannister. Stannis’ forces outnumber the city forces, which leads the imp to put together a new plan to turn the tide in the coming battle. He is also forced to contend with his conniving sister who will do anything she can to claim what little control she can, and protect her son from almost certain death. We have said before is that Cersei has become like a lioness herself, but her lack of control over events has made her more dangerous and reckless than ever before. Meanwhile in the East Daenerys goes to the House of the Undying, to claim back her stolen dragons from the warlocks of Qarth and once again reassert her power and status as the ‘mother of dragons’ and a conquerer in her own right.
The pacing in the story arcs was kicked into high gear this week as all the forces were moved into place for a final battle of epic proportions. Fan’s of the book series will know that next week’s penultimate episode will represent almost all of the developments that have come about thus far. This episode is brilliant in creating the much needed tension that will make the next episode all the sweeter, and with the fractures already beginning to show in each front, then the coming battle will threaten to blow apart every single character.
All the tension was absolutely delicious this week, and the stakes are higher than they ever were before. If next week’s installment is even near the quality of this episode then we will be satisfied. With a final twist which helped to reaffirm the cunning of the forces of the Starks, this episode felt as though it finished too soon, but with plenty of promise still to come.