GOT- “The Old Gods and the New”

Another Sunday, another episode of Game of Thrones, wherein the HBO writers decide they’re not just going to modestly stray from the book, but hop into an all terrain 4X4 and drive it right off the map. This week’s episode makes some of the grandest departures from the novels so far, leaving me curiously puzzled and (for the first time) a bit disturbed–though not enough to stop watching. That’s crazy talk!

In Winterfell, Theon’s treachery has just begun. Poor Bran doesn’t know what to do, as his father’s former ward comes over the castle walls and takes Winterfell for the Greyjoys and the Iron Isles. Theon meanwhile plays the reluctant villain who knows in his heart what he’s doing is quite foul, which only makes him that more treacherous–because he does it anyway. This will include his taking the finest whiskered head in the realm, Ser Rodrik, an act that also displays his weakness (worst. head. chopper. ever.). The perpetually eyes-downcast wildling Osha manages to trick Theon with his kryptonite, slit a horny guard’s throat and make off with the young lordlings, two dire wolves and one Hodor. All nicely done, but puzzling because in the books the architects of this plan are Meera and Jojen Reed, who are very necessary for all sorts of other reasons as the storyline progresses. How the HBO writers plan on solving this conundrum will be interesting to see. Best line of the entire Winterfell sequence was Ser Rodrik’s last words: “Gods help you Theon, because now you are truly lost.” Best prophetic curse if I ever heard one.

In King’s Landing, following the departure ceremony for the young princess Myrcella to Dorne, Cersei makes a not-so-veiled threat at Tyrion about taking away someone he loves. This is an obvious reference to Shae, which makes me go back to some missing features of the book. I’m going to assume that since I haven’t had many glimpses of the chatty Varys hiding out in secret room passages, that both Chatya and Alayaya won’t be in this storyline. HBO has Summer Islanders disappearing in some places and reappearing unexpectedly in others–go figure. Anyway, on the way back from the ceremony the proletariat of the city go straight ape-sh*t and begin attacking the royal procession. After tearing a priest limb from limb (literally), they almost end up raping Sansa, who is finally saved by Sandor Cleagne. Some more changes from the book here, but near inconsequential. What was much more important was that we got to hear the Hound Dog, say “Little bird.” This will be the beginning of a rather creepy relationship.

Beyond God’s back, across The Wall, it’s still cold as hell. Jon Snow and bunch finally meet up with some wildlings and have a good tussle, whereby we get introduced to Ygritte. Unable to bring himself to kill the young wildling warrior woman, Jon ends up having to chase her down, and the two (naturally) end up having to spend the night–captor and captive–huddled together for warmth. She tries to do the spooning-push-back move on Jon, who is quite alarmed because men of the Night’s Watch aren’t supposed to be having *any* of the sex. Still, you know nothing Jon Snow…

At Harrenhal, Arya continues to play Tywin Lannister for the fool. This almost goes awry with the arrival of Petyr Balish (who seems to be popping up everywhere in this series) who manages to hold his crafty tongue. Arya has some brief exchanges with the elder Lannister about their respective daddy memories, and makes her second wish to Jaqen H’ghar–who promptly replies. We also get glimpses elsewhere of Robb Stark, and the somewhat mysterious Telisa-who-might-likely-be-Jeyne (get on with it already!). When the youngest Stark learns of Theon’s treachery, he makes plans to ride off and take his former friend’s head himself. However Lord Bolton convinces him to stay put, and to let some men from his Dreadfort take the castle instead. Frying pan, meet fire.

Lastly, in what was a major divergence in events from the book, Daenerys Stormborn’s continued begging in Qarth is dramatically interrupted when she returns back to the villa of Xaro Xhoan Daxos to find her servants slain–among them Irri. This need to kill off Irri is puzzling, though actress Amrita Acharia has hinted the death of her character will signal the emergence of a new-new Daenerys–though I thought that’s what we saw at the end of the last season. This “new Daenerys” theme is likely behind the other grand part of this scene, the theft of her dragons. Though this never occurs in the book, we see her stolen dragons carted upon someone’s back climbing the stairs to a grand tower. The tower is likely the House of the Undying and the thieves (or their paymasters) are undoubtedly the wizards who live there. We can thus assume this is gearing us up for a showdown with Daenerys, and that the writers (not satisfied with the motives for this clash given in the book) have decided to heap on that added cinematic theme of vengeance. This is intriguing on the one hand, but somewhat vexing on the other–as its making one of the strongest characters in the book come off as easy to take advantage of and fool. The Mother of Dragons can’t even protect her own young? And according to the previews for next week, she’s going to have to send Jorah Mormont after them? Meh. I’m no book purist, even if I notice the changes. Some don’t matter. Some enhance. But this one, at least right now, I’m feeling some-kinda-way about.

We’ll see where all of this goes in the last few episodes. Till next week, wherein we’ll likely get to hear Xaro Xhoan Daxos tell us his rags-to-riches Horatio Alger story…again.

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