Valar Dohaeris introduced what may arguably be Game of Thrones most important season to date in tremendous fashion, slowly but surely reintroducing and building new plot lines following Season 2, whilst still slipping in the iconic moments of intrigue here and there. Dark Wings, Dark Words aimed to refresh the stories of those sorely missed in the opening episode; Bran’s escape from Winterfell, Arya and Co’s journey to the Tully seat of Riverrun and Brienne’s quest to return Jamie Lannister the Kingslayer to King’s Landing looked set to take the forefront of the season’s second installment. Keeping the audiences gripped, especially in the early episodes of a season, is an undeniably crucial task for any TV series; Game Of Thrones looked set to achieve this aim following Valar Dohaeris. Dark Wings, Dark Words fortunately didn’t fall short of the examples set by its predecessor, in fact it surpassed those examples.
The production quality of Game of Thrones – as with all HBO programming – is simply uncanny, especially when it comes down to the production design and cinematography. Dark Wings, Dark Words made this very evident on two occasions; the establishing shots and stunning greenery of the location in Bran’s three-eyed-crow dream were totally awe-inspiring for one. Much the same can be said of the Tyrell garden scene’s set where Sansa, Margaery and the newly introduced Queen of Thorns, Olenna Tyrell (Diana Rigg) , had a very intriguing discussion over cheese and lemon cakes.
Olenna and Margaery’s inquiry to Sansa as to whether or not the boy King Joffrey truly was the monster they had heard rumors about made it crystal clear that the Tyrell family are not content with naivety, and that they fully intend to play the Game of Thrones with the sole intention of winning. Plot intrigue aside Diana Rigg’s was a perfect casting choice for Olenna, she delivered her lines with the suitable wittiness and loveable condescension that totally matched the book character; I can definitely see Olenna quickly becoming a fan favourite. Sophie Turner was equally impressive, flawlessly depicting how petrified and reluctant Sansa was to talk of Joffrey’s cruelty in fear of punishment in such a way that it even unnerved me to hear her talk of it.
Margaery again demonstrated a real knack for dealing with some of the trickiest people, and the trickiest situations. In the scene with Joffrey and his beloved crossbow, Margaery somehow managed to achieve the impossible by defusing Joffrey’s anger at her for associating with the traitor Renly Baratheon, which was in no way a simple task. Natalie Dormer impressed me in this scene. She showed that in spite of her character Margaery having a deft hand for court manipulation she could still come close to cracking under pressure through the use of brilliantly subtle facial expressions and momentary stammering. The ‘Oh shit’ look on her face when Joffrey revealed he would make homosexuality punishable by death was priceless, and it also showed just how close and concerned the Tyrells are for one another.
Their tight knit family harshly contradicted the state of the Lannister household. Cersei is losing her handle on Joffrey week by week as the King slowly becomes more and more of an independent thinker. Joffrey’s dismissals of his mother appear to be another example of masterful foreshadowing from the Game of Thrones Screenwriters. I’m interested to see the imminent trouble that could unfold in Kings Landing with all the rising tension. When putting your hatred for Joffrey aside it is hard not to recognize how well Jack Gleeson performs the role, maintaining the asshole persona flawlessly in spite of his characters better developments.
Further North we saw Isaac Wright return to our screens as Bran encounters the surprisingly nimble Reed duo. The pair appear to have been sent by their elusive father Howland Reed to both guide and protect Bran. Jojen is focused on the task of helping Bran control and enhance his magical abilities whilst Meera serves to merely provide protection to the rag tag band. Although Thomas Sangster’s screen time was unfortunately brief in this installment the role of Jojen seems to fit him like a glove, he captured the boys friendliness and vague cockiness with sublime accuracy without the over exaggeration that is often apparent in young actors performances.
However I found it hard to judge Ellie Kendrick’s performance as Meera this week because it appears the shows scripting has altered her characteristics from the book, but it is too early to be totally sure of this, so for now Kendrick gets my benefit of a doubt as she was pretty bad ass.
Theon’s torture was given an early inclusion into the series in Dark Wings, Dark Words, which was a wise deviation to make from the books considering the issues that could’ve arisen with Alfie Allen’s contract in his absence. The allegiances and identity of his captor are surprisingly unknown to me because I can’t be entirely certain that deviations aren’t being made from A Feast For Crows. Although I have strong suspicions as to who it may be there is still a very welcome mystery lingering over the situation which is making the gradual unveiling far more interesting than I anticipated it to be; props to the screenwriter Vanessa Taylor for making it so.
Beyond The Wall the Night’s Watch and the band of Wildling’s each got very momentary showings, in spite of this one of the groups showings proved to be quite enticing. Jon Snow greeted us to the fantasy powers of the skinchanger this week through his introduction to the Wildling raider Orell (Mackenzie Crook). Skinchanger’s have the ability to take control of animals minds and bodies, an initially subtle connection inferred by a superb use of cross cutting between Orell and his Hawk, which he used to scout the massacred Night’s Watch at the Fist of the First Men that are undoubtedly going to be visited by the Wildling party in a few episodes time. Was their perhaps foreshadowing of Jon Snow being able to warg into Ghost in the future, like Bran does with Summer?
Unfortunately the Night’s Watch feature felt very lackluster this week. Samwell’s pitiable behavior has begun to wear on me a tad, and is proving to irritate me more than evoke any of my empathy. That said I still feel this is for good overall effect; male character’s in fantasy fiction are often portrayed as increasingly stale run-of-the-mill hero’s. Samwell Tarly wholly contrasts this character archetype which makes him one of the more interesting characters for a majority of the time, regardless of how infuriating he may be at moments.
Final Thoughts: Dark Wings, Dark Words was a thoroughly entertaining addition to the new season that demonstrated the Game of Thrones team, from the editors to the directors, are a wildly talented bunch in spite of nothing more than a few hiccups here and there. If you have any thoughts to add on this episode or perhaps disagree with me, let your opinions be heard in the comment section below!