TV REVIEW: Game of Thrones - Second Sons

A delayed review this time to cope with the two week gap instigated by the American HBO network, Second Sons nevertheless starts to ramp up the action for the two final episodes of the season.

The last three episodes in the series have been largely more about character developments, slowing down the action to ensure we know where each piece of the considerable Game of Thrones chess board is at the current time. However, it also meant that the pace was a little off and whilst the quality of the drama cannot be disputed, it did feel as if it was time for the show to actually go somewhere. Thankfully, Second Sons upped the ante just that little bit and though it may not have been action-packed, there was enough progression to pull us all back in again.

There were three major threads running through this episode, devoting screentime to those in King's Landing, Dragonreach and Yunkai with each dealing with some fairly big developments. Dany (Emilia Clarke) is preparing for war with Yunkai and is attempting to build her army up with the addition of mercenaries calling themselves the Second Sons. Clarke has grown from strength to strength in her performance and I just loved her cool composure in the scene with the three captains, including Daario (Ed Skrein) who eventually joins with the Khaleesi. She had one of the big moments in the Dracarys scene earlier in the season and her takedown of Yunkai promises to be just as eventful.

Perhaps the sweetest scene that the show has seen for a long time was the one between Tyrion (Peter Dinklage) and Sansa (Sophie Turner) preparing for their ill-advised and obligatory wedding. The oddest couple around, both seem determined to make the best of their situation and Dinklage and Turner played the awkwardness of the situation beautifully. This was then contrasted with the wonderfully catty scene between Cersei (Lena Headey) and Margaery (Natalie Dormer), both of whom seem to typify all those 'mother-in-law' jokes that went out of fashion back in the 70s.

More of a ritual humiliation than a matrimonial ceremony, the wedding was an affair in which words were barely spoken, but there was enough subtext there to get the point across. And of course it gave us another chance to really hate Joffrey (Jack Gleeson). Has there ever been a television character so universally hated as Joffrey? He's not in the series a whole lot any more, but that just seems to intensify my dislike. It's a good job he was then contrasted with Drunk Tyrion, who may be my favourite version of Tyrion and I like the character a great deal. In the most awkward family wedding in the history of awkward family weddings, a depressed, drunk groom was exactly what was needed. But then, his scene with Sansa was so wonderfully tender and gentlemanly that it further emphasised how complex the Imp is. 

The other character I've found myself disliking with great intensity is Melisandre (Carise Van Houten) and like Joffrey's fleeting yet memorable appearance, she cropped up in this episode to remind us just how evil she is, taunting poor Gendry (Joe Dempsie) with some standard nudity before applying some leeches to places leeches shouldn't be applied to. The melding of Gendry (Joe Dempsie) with the book character of Edric Storm (non-book people, don't look him up - spoilers abound) has been an inspired choice that means Gendry gets just a little bit more to do. It's a good move for the series and increases my confidence in Benioff and Weiss; they may have made some big changes, but the television story is working as a cohesive whole. Not an easy thing to do when you're tackling something as big as A Song of Ice and Fire.

Despite opening with an encounter with a White Walker, this season has been relatively low on the undead, though of course the constant threat remains. Therefore, the final scene was a (un)welcome return for the pesky little blighters in a scene that served as a chilling reminder of the biggest scare north of the Wall. With the sweet Gilly (Hannah Murray) and Sam (John Bradley) opening the scene, it was left to some squawking ravens to set the tone. The scene was genuinely chilling whilst also allowing for Sam to finally have his hero moment. I love the developing relationship between Sam and Gilly and I'm hoping we'll get to see a bit more of them, if not in this season, then definitely in the next.

This episode was also notable for the characters it did not feature, presumably because we're setting up for some pretty big moments for the last couple of episodes. Certainly, Jon Snow (Kit Harington) and Ygritte (Rose Leslie) are closing in on Castle Black with the wildlings and the Starks are on their way to the Twins for a big wedding. I also missed my favourite odd couple Jaime (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau) and Brienne (Gwendolyn Christie) after their bearscapade last week, but they've probably had more screen time than any other combination this season so a break was perhaps needed.

The Rains of Castamere airs on Sunday/Monday (depending on which side of the pond you happen to be) and tension and anticipation is already high. The ninth episode of the season has been traditionally the biggest, darkest instalment and this one has a lot to live up to after the masterpiece that was Blackwater (where of course, The Rains of Castamere was first sung). Something tells me it might just match up.

- Becky

You can read Becky's review for the previous episode, The Bear and the Maiden Fair, here.

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