The Ersatz Reality of Power
A Television Review by Akash Singh
NOTE: SPOILERS OCCUR!!!!!!!
The bells of war ring in the distance of King’s Landing as Stannis comes closer and closer to laying siege to the capital. The eighth hour of the second season, The Prince of Winterfell is ubiquitous with character who throughout the narrative come to the realization of how the power that surrounds them is ersatz, or at the very least far, far less powerful than they had imagined. Titularly, Theon has declared himself the Prince of Winterfell, but that title grants him absolutely nothing despite how impressive it sounds. His sister rides in with a dozen or so men, just absolutely shattering the perceptions he had created around himself. “You’re the dumbest c*** alive,” she thunders viciously, noting how the most valuable Stark hostages became the targets for Theon’s stupidity and were now hung in their charred forms. She admires the tenacity of the Stark children to run away as much as she realizes the precious situation that Theon has placed himself in. In the crypts beneath Winterfell, Maester Luwin finds Bran and Rickon alive as he tells Osha that Theon burnt the orphans at the farm to pass them off as the Stark children. Bran overhears their conversation, staring at the walls with a deadpan stare of misery. He’s the real Prince of Winterfell, but that didn’t prevent two innocent children dying at the hands of the Greyjoys. It’s just a title and more often than not, it matters little more than that.
Daenerys has discovered the hollowness of titles perhaps more than anyone else this season. Sure, she has dragons that are now kept within the House of the Undying. But what else does she have? Being a Stormborn of House Targaryen alone isn’t going to give you anything. The world doesn’t owe anything to anyone, no matter who you were born as. Daenerys has largely realized this reality, understanding she is even less without the dragons that will grow and give her the power she needs. Jorah wants het to go Astapor, but she commands him to take the House of the Undying.
Robb is King in North, but as much prowess as he displays on the battlefield, he displays an equal lack of understanding when it comes to the political spectrum, although in this episode he can be forgiven for at least one transgression. Despite his power, the biggest setback for him is the news that Catelyn released Jamie with Brienne in an effort to get Sansa and Arya back. She’s terrified from the news of Winterfell falling and that desperate paranoia grabbed ahold of her. Emotionally, she can hardly be blamed but this is a catastrophe. The second crash to the Starks happens with Robb’s buffoonery taking over his entire being. Him and Talisa confess their love for each other and they consummate their relationship. It’s a steamy sex scene but one that severely undermines Robb’s power if he takes it to the next step which we can assume he will.
Lord Tywin Lannister is the most powerful man in Westeros who lost his eldest son and several battles to a so-called boy who has proven incredibly apt at winning battles. He decides that at long last they have to confront the Stark forces once more, leaving Ser Gregor Clegane in charge of the ruined castle. Suddenly Arya runs to find Jaqen, caught unaware by Tywin’s abrupt departure. He rides out before Arya can find Jaqen and have Tywin assassinated. At long last she does, giving him his own name. Jaqen is taken aback but Arya says either he can kill himself or he can help her, Hot Pie, and Gendry escape. “A girl has no honor,” he says, a bit of admiration seeping into his voice. Arya shrugs nonchalantly. At midnight, as Jaqen promised, the three walk quickly out of the gates of Harrenhal, bodies of dead guards everywhere,
The King’s Landing sequences largely revolve around Tyrion and him planning the strategic defenses of King’s Landing before Stannis’s imminent arrival, which involve a lot of Varys and that immediately elevates the episode up a notch. Tyrion meets Cersei, where the notions of the power that he has as the interim Hand of the King quickly dissipate when Cersei brings in a beaten Ros, assuming she was the one whom Tyrion had fallen in love with. “QUOTE,” he thunders to a smug Cersei, his eyes seething with venom. Things don’t become easier for Tyrion as Joffrey grossly underestimates Staanis’s ability to defeat them in battle and Varys mentions that Daenerys has dragons and when those dragons arrive in the capital, “there will be nowhere to hide.” Tyrion wants to worry about the here and the now, leaving the worry about the dragons to when they actually arrive. He looks about at the siege preparations, shadows of terror crossing his face. For all the power and might of the Lannisters, death at the hands of Stannis seems terrifyingly imminent.
Great Moments Not Mentioned Above:
+Stannis demanding the other nobles respect Ser Davos despite his low birth is possibly the best thing Stannis has ever done
+While I loathe to see Stannis on the Iron Throne, I want to see Ser Davos get something close to a happy ending. The man deserves it
+Qhorin Halfhand’s trick is great foreshadowing to the catastrophe that will spill out at the Wall
+The dragonglass is great foreshaodwing, considering it won’t be used for quite a while and the show makes it look so calm and oblique so as not to call too much attention to itself
Title: The Prince of Winterfell
Written by: David Benioff & D. B. Weiss
Directed by: Alan Taylor
Image Courtesy: Fanpop