Season two finale time. “Valar Morghulis” seems fittingly ominous, translated from Braavosi as, “All men must die.” For a show that has relied on such a spectacular body count — including surprise corpses for the well-read — it is perhaps a shock that all our primaries will live to see another season. The title works nevertheless, since the recurring pattern this week is that most everyone is significantly imperiled, almost to the extent of a Twin Peaks-type parody cliffhanger. If last week seemed like a bunch of actors dicking around with polystyrene swords, this week we’re assured they’re serious.
Back in the season opener, I called out Martin’s obsession with power reversals; ever the trusty story design staple. Tyrion (Peter Dinklage) has been kicking names and taking arse all season, so we all knew it had to end badly for him: a vengeful Pycelle (Julian Glover) as carer can’t bode well. Last week Tyrion’s pop, Tywin (Charles Dance), rode in with everyone’s favorite jilted agro-fairy, Ser Loras (Finn Jones), saving the day and leaving Tyrion’s reputation in tatters, as well as half his face. Only problem: the whole season simplified Tyrion’s preparation for the defence of King’s Landing, left out his attempts to settle the populace, and the battle itself was malto-lamo, requiring none of his learned mental agility. The wildfire was actually Cersei’s idea. All this means a lower contrast reversal than might have been *sad face*.
A little bit Mark Hamill?
I’ve been critical of wanton spectacles of sex, violence, and violent sex this season, but Tyrion needed his face lopped off to represent the end of his lordling salad days, rather than the paper-cut that took place instead *slashy face*. This week he looked more puckered, but less monstrous than tough, and even a bit cool (Editor’s Note: A bit Omar Little, maybe?). Given attempts on his life, Pycelle’s wicked gleam, and the loss of his retainers, Tyrion’s sentimental decision to stay doesn’t ring true *face-palm face*. Having Varys (Conleth Hill) on side can’t hurt though, and we see a less servile performance from this puppet master as he seeks to infiltrate Lord Baelish’s (Aiden Gillen) camp via Ros (Esme Bianco). With such a full cast and fan-favorites sidelined, I still can’t figure why the show needs Ros at all, but this subplot will require further scrutiny next season.
Intelligent framing here bodes ill for the courtly status quo…
As Tywin’s horse shits on the royal steps, order is clearly restored in King’s Landing, and the pie is sliced for the heavy lifters. Sansa (Sophie Turner) has been cast aside in a show of royal political theatre, while the Tyrells have secured centre-stage via Margaery’s (Natalie Dormer) engagement to King Joffrey (Jack Gleeson). Book-Margaery is so clever but sweet, while vampy TV-Margaery might just be more than Joff can bear.
Rather than the subterfuge of book-Ser Dontos, TV-Baelish openly offers Sansa protection, which fails to convey a soft landing, even without the creepy references to her budding womanhood and his failed love for her mother Catelyn (Michelle Fairley). Will her passive aggressive skills serve her in this new predicament *awkward perve face*?
Fittingly, Cersei (Lena Headey) seems to end the season triumphant, though it’s a challenge for us to figure how she earned it. Book-Cersei is certainly a more dynamic force to be reckoned with, while TV-Cersei’s stories about her tribulations growing up suggest Tywin’s presence will not make life easy.