With Season 2, Episode 6: "The Old Gods and the New," Game of Thrones departs further from the A Song of Ice and Fire book series than it ever has before, and the result is one of the most enthralling and action-packed episodes to date. Almost every single scene is gripping; this is Game of Thrones at its very best, with plot and character merging into a thrilling hour-long story that grabs you from the first second and doesn't let go.
Read on for Wetpaint Entertainment's review of Game of Thrones Season 2, Episode 6: "The Old Gods and the New.”
Winterfell: Theon Is a Giant Dick
We open with Maester Luwin frantically sending out a raven because Winterfell is under attack — by Theon and his men.
That's right: Theon's big plan was to take the very castle in which he was raised, because, as he explains to Bran, he can't fight for his father and the Starks, and he picked daddy dearest. Family values, yay? Bran declares he will never yield control willingly, but then Theon sits down on his bed and carefully explains that if Bran cooperates, Theon won't hurt anyone, and if he doesn't, well...
It's a surprisingly gentle moment — if it weren't for the words coming out of Theon's mouth, you could believe it was just a loving sibling explaining an important life lesson to his younger bro. “Did you hate us the whole time?” Bran asks. Theon's response is a look of pain.
Lesson learned, Bran declares Theon the new Lord of Winterfell. The men don't like it. Even Maester Luwin is defiant when Theon tells him to send off two ravens — one to Balon declaring the victory, the other to Yara asking for 500 men — but the real trouble comes when Master-at-Arms Ser Rodrik shows up, all fight. He calls Theon disloyal (fair point) and spits in his face. Theon wants to throw him in the dungeon, but his ever-helpful First Mate points out that's not the iron way. Theon is wracked with conflicted feelings, and even gets a classic angel/devil moment, with Luwin representing mercy, the First Mate brutal murder. Guess which one Theon picks.
He's at least shamed into doing the deed himself, which he fails at, miserably. He hacks away at Rodrik's head in a moment of extreme pathos and blood. This scene, shot in the rain, with Bran screaming in the background while Theon strikes the final blow, is one of the best of the season. Alfie Allen brings it; his internal conflict is so clear, it's hard to hate him even as he betrays the people who once treated him as family.
Later, the wildling Osha proves she is incredibly smart by playing to Theon's greatest weakness — his libido, which is even more of a liability than his desperate craving for approval. She seduces him and then, as he's sleeping, sneaks off, murders one of his guards, and spirits Bran and Rickon off to safety. Go Osha!
Harrenhal: Evading Capture, One Murder at a Time
Arya has an eventful episode at Harrenhal. First, she narrowly escapes notice when Littlefinger swings by the castle to propose that the Lannisters ally themselves with the Tyrells. She serves wine while Tywin considers the proposition — he seems undecided (also he clearly despises Littlefinger and his slippery ways) — and there are a couple of moments where it looks like Littlefinger almost makes the connection, but the pieces never quite click into place. He's too busy creating plots within plots to realize he has a huge player right under his nose. Way to go, dude.
Later, Arya and Tywin have another bonding session, in which Maisie Williams once again keeps her own again Charles Dance, which is truly impressive. This girl is going to own Hollywood one day. Tywin confides that he taught Jaime to read because the Kingslayer is dyslexic (which is a great detail), and then goes on about his father, who almost destroyed the family name in his weak old age. Arya takes the opportunity to steal some troop orders off of his table. What, exactly, does she plan to do with this info? Does she think she can get it to Robb?
It doesn't matter, because she's caught by Amory Lorch, who runs off to tell Tywin what he saw. Arya breathlessly dashes through the castle seeking out Jaqen. “Amory Lorch!” she shouts out. “NOW!” Jaqen protests that you can't rush a perfect murder, but he gives in and kills Amory via dart literally in Tywin's doorway. FANTASTIC. This action-packed scene manages to be both nail-biting and hilarious, a balance that's hard to achieve.
North of the Wall: Jon Snow, the Awkward Virgin
Beyond the Wall, Qhorin Halfhand gives Jon a lecture on the nature of the Night's Watch. The wild, dangerous north is the real enemy: they've always been at war, and they'll always be at war (what is this, 1984?), because the north is a force that doesn't surrender. They'll give their lives to protect the south, and no one below the Wall will ever know or care. So … that's cool.
After that nice life lesson, they attack a party of wildlings in a burst of swords and arrows. Jon almost kills one. But wait! It's a girl! A hot girl! With awesome red hair! Whose name is Ygritte, which is a cool name! Qhorin is not impressed by her feminine charms, especially when she's unwilling to explain what the wildlings are up to, so Jon volunteers to kill her while the others go ahead. Which … why? Why don't they just wait?
Anyway, Jon fails to chop off Ygritte's head, and she leads him on a merry chase through the mountains as the sun goes down, and it has got to be the single most gorgeous chase scene in the history of TV. He catches her, but has no idea where his buddies are. Way to go, Jon. This is a great plan.
It gets too dark to go on, so Jon ties Ygritte up, and when he refuses to light a fire she suggests they cuddle. You know, for warmth. And also sexy times, since she then starts to grind up on him through their furs. Seriously. Just like, wiggling her butt, clearly trying to turn him on. Jon is so awkward about it, and it is one of the funniest scenes of the show. The poor boy looks more scared of this sexually bold girl than he ever was of the zombies and the crazy incest Wildlings and all that. Did Ned never give him the talk about the birds and the bees?
Robb's Camp: Bad News Spreads Fast
Jon isn't the only Stark kid getting his flirt on this episode. Robb reconnects with the pretty nurse from Episode 4: "Garden of Bones." She tries to pretend not to be of noble birth, he jokes that she's a spy. It's all very cute.
Sadly, the fun doesn't last. Cat shows up just in time for mother and son to receive word that their home has been attacked. Cat is all I TOLD you not to trust the damned Greyjoys! Why does no one even listen to me? Robb, hurt and angry, wants to turn the whole operation north, but Roose Bolton (who we met on the battlefield in Episode 4; he's the one that's pro-torture) suggests Robb send word to Roose's bastard instead. The bastard, who is still up north, can reclaim Winterfell in Robb's name, and Robb won't lose ground against the Lannisters.
This sounds like a reasonable plan, and for perhaps the first time in the history of this show someone in power actually listens to the reasonable plan. Robb agrees to stay put and let Roose's bastard deal with Theon, with the caveat that Bran and Rickon's safety is made a priority, and Theon is brought to him alive. Sounds good, right? Despite Theon's betrayal, the Young Wolf is doing well.
King's Landing: Literally Every Single Person in the World Hates Joffrey
In King's Landing, Tyrion follows through on his plan to send Myrcella to Dorne. Cersei is upset about it, but otherwise the sendoff goes smoothly. Which is good for Myrcella, because as soon as she leaves all hell breaks loose.
As the Lannister party heads back to the castle, the crowd gets a little rowdy, and someone pegs Joffrey with a dung patty, because — well, do you really need an explanation? It's Joffrey. Everyone wants to do that. Unfortunately, it's Joffrey, so he completely overreacts, sets his knights on the people, and causes a riot. A terrible, horrifying riot.
Things that happen during this riot: Many people are killed, The High Septon gets literally ripped to pieces, and Joffrey rants and raves like a crazy person. Most of the main characters get to safety quickly — sadly, The Hound protects Joff, so he's okay — but Sansa is chased down an alley by men with ill intentions.
As soon as they're safe, Tyrion sets into Joffrey, berating him for being both idiotic and vicious. Then he slaps him! Which almost makes the rest of this worth it. Every episode should include Joffrey getting slapped. Tyrion tells Joff that if Sansa is lost, so is any hope of getting Jaime back, but Joffrey still won't send his knights out to find her.
Fortunately, Sansa has a guardian angel: The Hound, who saves her from brutal rape at the last second by ripping her would-be rapist's guts out. This scene encapsulates so much that is fascinating about this series. Sansa finally gets saved by a knight in shining armor just like in the songs, but it couldn't be less romantic. The horror she's saved from is gritty and dark, the man who saves her is scarred, and the saving was bloody and brutal.
Later, Sansa shares a moment with Shae where she reveals her complete confusion about what happened. She doesn't understand why those men loathe her, when she hates Joffrey even more than they do. Shae, far from being comforting, just tells her not to to say things like that. Trust no one, Sansa. No one.
Qarth: Winning Takes More Than Words
Dany proves her talent for dramatics once again when she attempts to borrow boats from the Qarth merchant who tried to have her barred from the city. She declares that she would pay him back threefold after she wins the Iron Throne, but, being a smart businessman, he considers that investment too risky. Sure, she's the Mother of Dragons and all that, but she lacks an army, allies, or really anything other than a fiery spirit and some really small dragons. Dany makes her usual declarations, but while her talent for public speaking remains unrivaled, the merchant is unmoved. Big talk just doesn't cut it in Qarth. These people are capitalists who care more for logic than big ideas.
Worse: Dany sulkily returns home, only to discover her compound has been attacked, and her dragons stolen. What!? It's a twist!
- So hey, we saw Tonks naked this episode. Cool?
- Tywin's disdain for Littlefinger is great. His no, duh reaction to Littlefinger declaring that chaos creates opportunity was particularly good.
- Tywin seems really concerned about Jaime's welfare. He may have been a dick of a dad, but he does love his kids … or at least his house name.
- Joffrey yells at his own little brother for crying over their sister leaving. He is the worst person ever. Just. The. Absolute. Worst.
- “I want these people executed!”/“They want the same for you.” True facts, Hound.
- The Hound to Tyrion, on saving Sansa: “I didn't do it for you.” Awesome.
- Tyrion line of the week: “And now I've struck a King. Did my hand fall from my wrist?"
- It looks like Robb is starting to fall in love, but we should remember his hand was promised to one of the Freys as the price for their cooperation last season. Women aren't the only ones not free to follow their hearts in Westeros.
What did you think of the episode? Let us know in the comments!
Catch the next episode of Game of Thrones on Sunday, May 13 at 9 p.m. ET/PT on HBO.
Rebecca Martin is an editor at Wetpaint Entertainment. Follow her on Twitter @BeccaMartin47.