Stars: Peter Dinklage, Lena Headey, Nikolaj Coster-Waldau, Michelle Fairley, Emilia Clarke, Iain Glen, Kit Harington, Liam Cunningham, Isaac Hempstead-Wright, Richard Madden, Sophie Turner, Maisie Williams, Alfie Allen, John Bradley, Jack Gleeson, Charles Dance, Rory McCann, Stephen Dillane, Natalie Tena, James Cosmo, Jerome Flynn, Conleth Hill, Sibel Kekilli, Gwendoline Christie, Gemma Whelan, Donald Sumpter Joe Dempsie, Oona Chaplin, Rose Leslie, Tom Wlaschihar
David Benioff & D.B. Weiss, series created by David Benioff & D.B. Weiss, based on George R.R. Martin’s “A Song of Ice and Fire”
Alan Taylor
HBO, Sundays @ 9 PM
May 20, 2012

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It would be hard for anything to measure up to last week’s GAME OF THRONES episode “A Man Without Honor.” Sensibly, “The Prince of Winterfell” doesn’t try – it’s more of a calm between storms type of affair, with everyone getting ready for one battle or another, or several at once.

At Harrenhal, Lord Tywin (Charles Dance) takes his men and heads out to do battle with the forces of Robb Stark (Richard Madden). Arya Stark (Maisie Williams), still trapped at Harrenhal as a serving girl, makes a deal with the mysterious Jaqen H’ghar (Tom Wlaschihar) to help her and her friends escape. Jaqen accomplishes this by killing the night guards.

Robb is furious to find that his mother Catelyn (Michelle Fairley) set their prisoner Jaime Lannister (Nicolaj Coster-Waldau) free in the dead of night to prevent him from being killed by angry soldiers and thereby endangering Robb’s sisters/Catelyn’s daughters, who are in Lannister hands (only Sansa really is, but Catelyn and Robb don’t know that). Robb has Catelyn put under tent arrest. Later, Robb finds solace and love with the healer Talisa (Oona Chaplin).

Stannis Baratheon (Stephen Dillane) is sailing his warships for King’s Landing. He promises to make his loyal and very smart knight Davos (Liam Cunningham) Hand of the King.

The current Hand of the King, Tyrion Lannister (Peter Dinklage) is trying to figure out how to prepare King’s Landing to withstand a siege. His sister Cersei (Lena Headey) means to punish Tyrion – and make sure that he protects her son, King Joffrey (Jack Gleeson) – by holding Tyrion’s lover hostage, but Cersei doesn’t realize she’s got the wrong prostitute. Tyrion and the woman put on a little show for Cersei. In private, Tyrion confesses his love to Shae (Sibel Kekilli), who laughs off his concern for her safety but promises to be his.

In Winterfell, Theon Greyjoy’s (Alfie Allen) more battle-experienced sister Yara (Gemma Whelan) arrives with her men and calls her brother an idiot (using stronger language than this publication allows). It’s one thing to conquer Winterfell, quite another to murder the two young lords – Bran and Rickon Stark – for having run away. Now every man in the North will want Theon’s head. Yara urges her brother to return home, but Theon refuses. Loyal Stark family retainer Maester Lewin (Donald Sumpter) overhears a conversation between Theon and his chief adviser that suggests what Lewin later discovers is true – Bran (Isaac Hempstead-Wright) and Rickon (Art Parkinson) are alive after all. Theon couldn’t find them and killed two farm boys in their stead. Lewin doesn’t realize that Bran hears him discussing the matter and now blames himself for the other boys’ deaths.

Beyond the Wall, Jon Snow (Kit Harington) is rescued from slaughter by his Wildling captors by Ygritte (Rose Leslie), the woman he previously spared. Jon finds that Qhorin (Simon Armstrong) has also been taken prisoner – the rest of their scout group is dead. The prisoners are being taken to the King Beyond the Wall, the enigmatic Mance Rayder. Meanwhile, the rest of the main Rangers party is with Sam (John Bradley) as he uncovers a buried relic of the First Men – which has shielded a Ranger’s cloak and possessions, left behind to be found by fellow Rangers.

In Essos, Daenerys (Emilia Clarke) persuades her worried but devoted protector Jorah (Iain Glen) to take her to the House of the Undying, where her dragons are being kept.

Some of the scenes are better than others. Dinklage and Headey are both reliably wonderful, and their scenes are always full of emotion and spark. Further, watching Dinklage’s Tyrion and Conleth Hill’s Lord Varys take each other’s measure is the stuff of fantasy snark legend. The two men aren’t sure if they like one another, know they don’t trust one another and yet also realize they thoroughly understand one another. It’s great stuff and both actors shine.

Williams is likewise continually impressive as Arya, and the character as written also keeps surprising us in good ways. Seeing her figure out to trap Jagen within his own code makes for a remarkable sequence. We’ll miss the scenes between her and Dance’s Tywin, though.

The sequence with Yara and Theon almost makes us feel sorry for the ever-outmatched Theon and genuinely sympathize with Yara, who seems the only surviving member of her family with common sense and compassion. The writing here is particularly sharp, highlighting everything we’ve thought about Theon’s blunders thus far.

It’s a great relief that Bran and Rickon are still alive – Hempstead-Wright is likable as grave young Bran and we also can’t help but feel that Lady Catelyn needs a bit of a break (she’s got enough problems without losing two boys). For other reasons, we’re glad that Jaime Lannister is still in the story. His actions are frequently horrible, but Coster-Waldau is so inventive and the character is so continuously surprising that we’d hate to lose him.

The seduction scene between Robb and Talisa is charming, especially as both actors listen to one another. Whether this will have a major effect on the plot or is primarily there to fulfill what seems to be the show’s sexual mandate we can’t yet tell, but it works well in any event.

There’s a slightly meanwhile-back-at-the-desert/glacier quality to the scenes both in Essos and beyond the Wall. Of the two, at least we learn something new about Daenerys, who considers the dragons to truly be her children and is certain she will have none born of her body. While it may be important to know later on that Ygritte intervened to rescue Jon Snow, at present it seems as though the beyond the Wall storyline could simply skip ahead to meeting Mance Rayder, instead of giving us the Wildlings grumbling about Jon and Qhorin.

Overall, “The Prince of Winterfell” is a solid episode with a lot of good material.

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Article Source: Assignment X
: TV Review: GAME OF THRONES – Season 2 – “The Prince of Winterfell”


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