Game of Thrones recap/review: Second Sons

The Bear and the Maiden Fair recap/review

This is, I’m predicting, the calm before the storm. A relatively sedate episode, we didn’t see some of our key characters, includiing Jaime Lannister and Robb Stark (first sons). I predict they’ll be back next week, and it won’t all be pretty. Instead, in Second Sons, we were introduced to the band of fighters who go by that name, as well as spent time with second sons including Tyrion and Stannis.

King’s Landing
King’s Landing was the site of much of the action of this episode, although it was light on action and heavy on setting up characters for future falls (I think).

Sansa gets ready for her wedding to Tyrion, who pays her a visit before the ceremony, reminding her he won’t hurt her and that she shouldn’t be afraid. It’s a sweet moment, and well worth remembering that Tyrion has always treated Sansa well and stood up for her, even against Joffrey.

Speaking of Joffrey, he decides to walk Sansa down the aisle, and then takes away Tyrion’s step stool, making the moment Tyrion has to place a cloak around Sansa’s shoulder very, very awkward. As the guests titter and Tywin looks at them disapprovingly, Tyrion finally manages to get the deed done, and lo, Tyrion and Sansa are wed.

The rest of the celebrations go about as well as can be expected, which is to say not well at all.

Tyrion gets rip roaring drunk in order to forget about the fact that Sansa is really, really young (ages mean something different in the Seven Kingdoms than they do in our world), and that his real love Shae hates him.

Meanwhile, Joffrey corners Sansa and threatens to rape her (that’s what I got from that scene) before saying that she and Tyrion must perform some sort of bedroom ritual, which Tyrion drunkenly refuses i.e. by telling Joffrey he’s a little s***. Silence reigns, before Tywin steps in and sends Tyrion and Sansa off to the bedroom.

Where Sansa proceeds to start undressing (after taking a fortifying drink of wine). Thankfully Tyrion stops her. Even in his drunkeness, he’s still noble, and tells Sansa he won’t sleep with her until she wants him to. And then he falls into a drunken slumber on the chaise lounge.


It’s there that Shae wakes him in the morning, her displeasure quickly allayed when she strips the bed and finds it completely clean – there’s no sign of Sansa having lost her virginity the night before.

One down, two to go – Cersei and Loras, and Joffrey and Margaery are still to wed. While Sansa and Tyrion are busy being miserable, Cersei and Margaery are locked in a power play, and, much as I hate to say it, Cersei wins this time, threatening to kill Margaery if she calls Cersei sister again. She’s not the only Tyrell Cersei bests – Loras is also put in his place by Cersei when he tries to make conversation with her. It seems the Tyrells aren’t doing so well this week.

Dragonstone
Melisandre returns to Dragonstone, accompanied by Gendry. She introduces him briefly to Stannis before sending him off to make himself comfortable. When Stannis asks why she doesn’t just kill Gendry, Melisandre tells him it’s better to do it with stealth.

Or, you know, nakedness. Visiting Gendry, Melisandre first gives him wine, before stripping him and starting to have sex with him. It’s all a ploy though, and within moments Gendry is tied to the bed, and Melisandre is sticking leeches on him, with one in a really uncomfortable place.

Meanwhile Stannis has freed the Onion Knight (who’s been learning to read). Davos Seaworth confronts Stannis, saying he knows the would-be king only freed him so he could provide a balance to Melisandre’s madness.

He doesn’t succeed in this episode. Stannis and Davos head to Gendry’s room, where Melisandre takes the leeches off Gendry (his blood will ruin kings), and Stannis then proceeds to chuck them in the fire. There’s one for each usurper (in Stannis’s opinion) king – Robb, Joffrey and Balon Greyjoy.

We all know Melisandre’s blood-magic has worked before, so it’s not looking too good for those Stannis has named.

On the road
Arya wakes up and spots the Hound is still asleep. Taking a big rock, she’s about to hit him with it when he tells her that she’d better kill him with that one hit, otherwise he’s going to hurt her. It’s not the best start to this buddy comedy, and isn’t much competition for Tyrion/Bronn or Jaime/Brienne.

Still, it picks up when the two are traversing across the land on a horse, and Arya asks where they’re heading. She’s sure they’re going to King’s Landing, but the Hound informs her he’s taking her back to Robb and Catelyn, who will no doubt pay him handsomely for Arya’s safe return. In that moment, the smallest of smiles appears on Arya’s face, as she realises she might just see her brother and mum again. And the Hound puts the pair in the running for funniest twosome on the show by making a quip about how if Arya doesn’t try to kill him again they might get to their destination faster.

Yunkai
In her attempt to take Yunkai Daenerys tries to enlist the help of the Second Sons, a mercenary army ruled by two men – Mero and Prendahl na Ghezn – and their sidekick Daario Naharis.

Mero attempts to seduce Daenerys by threatening her, and she offers the trio a deal to fight with her. They head back to their camp, where they do the equivalent of picking straws to work out which of the three will kill Daenerys.

The short straw falls to Daario, who sneaks into Daenerys’ tent while she’s having a bath, and then reveals he’s killed Mero and Prendahl na Ghezn – by dumping their heads on the floor. Nice. Seems he’s not just a pretty face.

Daenerys climbs out of the bath, and Daario proceeds to swear allegiance to her, and to her heart.

An interesting point on nudity here. So often the female bodies in Game of Thrones are looked upon as objects of lust. This time, there’s an element of that, but Daenerys uses her femininity and her body, and her lack of shame over it, to show how in control she is. She doesn’t rush to cover up, instead she uses her body as a symbol of her power.

Somewhere dark and dingy
No Theon Greyjoy this week, but no doubt he’s still being horribly tortured.

Beyond the Wall
Yes, I know this usually comes at the beginning of my recaps, and it’ll be back there next week, but since the episode closed beyond the Wall, I thought I’d put it at the end.

Samwell Tarly and Gilly are still making their way to the Wall, and find shelter in an abandoned hut, where Samwell attempts in vain to make a fire, while persuading Gilly to give her baby a name. He cycles through various names, balking at Gilly’s suggestion of Craster – in her sheltered world Gilly never got the chance to learn many boys’ names, and is unaware of the etiquette with forenames and surnames.

There are a few really important things about Gilly and Samwell’s scenes together, even though they may be brief. 

Gender has always been a really important part of Game of Thrones, and the show constantly throws traditional gender roles and imbalance out of the window, even though its characters live in a very traditional world in some ways.

Here, we see Gilly going from a weak woman under the control of an overtly “manly” man (Craster) to taking on some of the traditional male qualities in her relationship with Samwell (lighter of fire, less sentimental about names). Meanwhile Samwell takes on more traditionally female roles and behaviours (showing deep affection for the baby, letting Gilly guide him on obtaining warmth and shelter). It’s a role reversal that continues the Games of Thrones tradition of strong women, but it’s a slightly tampered down version of that tradition. 

We do see Samwell briefly take on the “manly” role of being a fighter (although we’ve seen female fighters including Arya and Daenerys so this is not a purely male domain) when he kills the White Walker. Soon, though, Samwell is back to acting less traditionally masculine, as his solution after killing the White Walker is to run away.

Samwell also brings up the importance of names, arguing that giving the baby a name will make him easier to refer to. Names carry a lot of weight in the Seven Kingdoms. People are referred to by their family names more often than not, and just a name can tell you a lot about a person – a Lannister is out for themselves, a Stark is noble, a Baratheon a fighter are just some of the roles associated with certain names. And of course, your lineage is also dictated by your name, just ask Jon Snow. 

Usually, names are bestowed through the family line, but here, Gilly and Samwell get to choose the baby’s name from scratch. Samwell is determined not to name the baby anything bad (or to curse him with the name of the father), so throws out suggestions of Craster and of using his own father’s name.

What’s in a name? That’s what Shakespeare once asked. Characters in Game of Thrones would probably say: “A heck of a lot.”

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