Film and TV

Game of Thrones: "The Night Lands"

Dear HBO,

I understand your desire to maintain what so far has been a fairly impressive ratings run for Game of Thrones (beating the fifth-season premiere of Mad Men as the highest rated scripted program a week ago). I'm also aware that George R.R. Martin's "Song of Ice and Fire" series relies heavily on doing the nasty. Indeed, sex figures prominently in many plotlines and is represented quite explicitly.

But ease up on the fucking.

You have a mere ten episodes to tell an incredibly dense and multilayered story (The Sopranos at least got 13 shows a season); we don't need to pay a visit to Littlefinger's brothel every week, or go overboard on inventing sexytime scenes that didn't exist in the books (see the extended entry). You've already been forced to truncate certain stories and delete characters; quit exacerbating that problem by shoehorning tits and ass in where they aren't required, like you did with those Sookie Stackhouse novels.

In short, quit trying to make this show into "Ye Olde True Blood." Thanks, now on to the recap.

Making up for last week's egregious oversight, we start off with Arya "making water" far from the rest of the men bound for the Watch. Here we get our first look at the three men Yoren is keeping in the cage. The first, Jaqen H'ghar (Tom Wlaschiha), is a deceptively polite fellow. His two companions, not so much. Jaqen notes (s)he has more "courage than sense" when Arya taunts one of them.

Two Gold Cloaks show up to harass Yoren and company, briefly panicking Arya (now going by "Arry"), but their warrant is for Gendry (Joe Dempsie). Yoren (Francis Magee) asserts his charges are property of the Night's Watch, using a dagger to the groin to emphasize his point. The Gold Cloaks vow to return with more men, to take Gendry back to King's Landing, along with Yoren's head. Gendry, we learn, is wise to Arry/Arya's true gender, but promises not to tell the other two of their foursome (Lommy and "Hot Pie"). There's a humorous exchange when Arya reveals her true identity and Gendry becomes flustered at having urinated in front of "m'lady." This, naturally, annoys Arya no end.

Tyrion returns to his manse to find Varys (Conleth Hill) chatting with Shae (Sibel Kekilli). They exchange forced pleasantries but the message is clear: Varys knows Tyrion's father, Lord Tywin, forbade Shae's coming to King's Landing and could use the information against Tyrion, who warns Varys, "I am not Ned Stark. I know how this game is played." Varys reminds him that he's outlasted several kings. And their Hands. He's got pretty big balls for a eunuch.

At the Small Council meeting, Cersei responds to Robb's terms predictably, though she drops her guard a bit when asking Ser Cleos about Jaime. And from the look on Littlfiinger's and Varys's faces, Stannis's "incest letter" has already made the rounds. They also receive Lord Mormont's request for reinforcements for the Wall, and while Tyrion would like to oblige him, the rest are predictably dubious about the dangers posed by "snarks" and "grumpkins."

Back at Craster's (5 Incest Way, North of the Wall), the Watch's ranging hasn't scared any of the randiness out of Sam (John Bradley), who shares some tales of ribaldry with Grenn (Mark Stanley) and Pyp (Josef Altin) while ogling Craster's daughter/wives.

Sam shoos off Ghost as the direwolf sniffs at one of Craster's...*cough* daughters, Gilly (Hannah Muray). Sam takes her to Jon with a sorry tale: She's pregnant and wants them to take her away from whatever horrific (yet unspoken) fate awaits the child should it be a boy. Jon says no. Sam pouts. Don't worry, Jon ends up finding out exactly what Craster does with those boys (hint: Old [Dead] Blue Eyes is back), and he gets a bash on the head for his troubles.

Across the Narrow Sea, one of Dany's bloodriders returns from his scouting mission. Well...his horse does, and his head. Guess I was wrong about them trying to stoke some romance between Daenerys and Rakharo. She assures his wife(?) he'll be riding with his ancestors in the night lands after he's properly burned. Hey, there's this week's episode title!

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Peter Vonder Haar writes movie reviews for the Houston Press and the occasional book. The first three novels in the "Clarke & Clarke Mysteries" - Lucky Town, Point Blank, and Empty Sky - are out now.
Contact: Pete Vonder Haar