“The Night Lands,” the second installment of season 2 of Game of Thrones, is a very strategic episode. There are no monumental events or ground-breaking twists, and even the insufferable Joffrey isn’t featured. There are, however, numerous moments that pave the way for high drama to come.
The episode commences with Arya and our first look at the caged Jaqen H’ghar. There is a great exchange between Arya and Gendry in which Gendry coaxes Arya’s true identity from her. Having only a brief spot in last week’s season premiere, it was great to see Arya on the screen again. There is a significant emphasis on The Night Watch in the episode as well – and not just Jon Snow either. Sam, the loveable loaf of the Watch, takes a liking to one of Craster’s wives (not to mention, daughters) and pleads with Jon to take her with them so Craster will not catch wind of the child she’s carrying. This would end up leading to the revelation of the episode: Craster has been giving his sons to the monsters from beyond the wall.
Tyrion Lannister once again steals the show with phenomenal exchanges with both Varys, who lead a slaughter of young boys in the prior episode, and Cersei. Taking full advantage of being the Hand of the King, Tyrion cleans house of Varys and teases the dirty secret of Cersei by stating that, according to Stannis Baratheon, Jaime has been “falling” on her repeatedly.
Speaking of Stannis, we are also given our first glimpse of Melisandre putting him in her back pocket. In an attempt to manipulate him, the Red Priestess seduces Stannis with the promise of a son – something his current wife cannot give him. Davos, Stannis’ loyal devotee, is also displayed as having reservations (and most certainly understandable ones) of Melisandre and the religion she promotes.
Theon Greyjoy, who we know as being a Stark by association (he was taken into House Stark following the failed uprising of his father, Balon Greyjoy, and raised as a close friend to Robb), is also featured in “The Night Lands.” Although Robb is not to be found in the episode, his work certainly is; Theon is travelling to his homeland of Pyke with the intention of persuading his father to aid Robb in his attacking of King’s Landing. The surprise here isn’t in Balon’s response, but rather that the young woman that Theon found himself groping, Yara, is not only his sister, but is proclaimed to be the true “Heir to the Iron Islands.”
No Joffrey, no Robb, no Bran, no problem for “The Night Lands.” The episode, while being merely a bridge for the high dramatics of which Game of Thrones is known for, is still highly entertaining. We are once again reduced to a mere two or three minutes of Daenerys’ story, but what we do see – Rakharo’s horse returning with his mutilated body – is quite the fantastic scene. The episode fails to live up to the intensity of the season’s premiere, but it’s just enough to keep the ball rolling with what has been a great start to the new season.
8 out of 10