Buy on Amazon!
(Spoilers below for the second episode of Game of Thrones season three).
Unlike the first episode of the third season of Game of Thrones, Dark Wings, Dark Words doesn’t center itself around a single theme. Instead a lot of time is spent focusing on developing the existing characters, while introducing viewers to a lot of new ones.
Although many previous episodes of the show focus on individual themes interwoven throughout the plots of individual episodes, this episode may begin to signal a change in the show’s structure. A recent interview with the creators David Benioff and D.B. Weiss had them quoted as saying, “Themes are for eighth grade book reports.” With this quote it may be safe to expect a focus on individual characters now that many of show’s themes have been laid out over the previous two seasons.
With the episode Dark Wings, Dark Words character development takes center stage. Many of the new characters that are introduced bring up old issues that previously had never been expressed by the “already established” characters on this show. The end result is some very powerful scenes and some great new characters to look forward to.
Dark Wings, Dark Words and Continuing Themes and Aspects From The Previous Episode
The phrase dark wings, dark words is a common expression in Martin’s books. It refers to bad news being brought by the messenger trained ravens in the Game of Thrones world. Sure enough many characters in this episode get bad news: Robb and Catelyn discover Winterfell was put to the torch and Bran and Rickon are missing, Catelyn learns that her father is dead, and Olenna and Margaery learn from Sansa that Joffrey is a monster.
This isn’t a recurring theme, so much as it is a recurring idea. Since the Lannisters have won the Battle of Blackwater, and since the Greyjoys have invaded the north, bad news has long been expected to reach many of the show’s protagonists. Bad news is in effect a continuation of one of the sub-themes of the previous episode, where characters like Tyrion had to suffer losing his inheritance along with all of the respect and power he obtained by being Hand of the King.
Dark Wings, Dark Words is a continuation, or a part two of the first episode in some respects. The exploration of serving in the previous episode is continuously brought to the forefront by Brienne who is taking Jaime to Kings Landing in exchange for Catelyn’s daughters. Presumably this sequence of scenes with Jaime and Brienne was meant to be seen on the previous episode, but was bumped to the second episode due to time constraints. Brienne’s loyalty to Catelyn and the task she was given continues with the theme of service that was central to the first episode of season three.
New Characters, Long Lingering Emotions
Game of Thrones answers a lot of lingering questions that viewers were left with in previous episodes of the show: What is the significance of Bran dreaming himself into his direwolf, how does Sansa genuinely feel about Joffrey, how is Margaery going to co-exist with Joffrey, and what happened to Theon Greyjoy? The second episode also explores some long buried emotions, such as why does Catelyn hate Jon Snow?
The answers to most of these questions are brought out through conversations that are spurred on by the addition of many of the new characters introduced in this episode. As new characters are introduced in many of the shows plots, they bring about a catalyst for change and they help the previously established characters explain oddities that are happening to them, or they allow them to express repressed emotions.
Olenna Tyrell’s Impact on Sansa and Margaery
After the long suffering abuse Sansa faced at the hands of Joffrey over the past two seasons, there had never been any moments for viewers to see a genuine reaction from Sansa about her harsh treatment. Enter Olenna Tyrell, Margaery and Loras’s grandmother. Along with Margaery, Olenna slowly coaxes the truth about Joffrey out of Sansa. It provides the first genuine and heartfelt reaction we’ve seen from Sansa about her cruel treatment by Joffrey.
Olenna Tyrell’s conversation with Sansa shows that she has a knack for playing the game of thrones, while simultaneously showing she is compassionate and cares about her granddaughter and the fate that soon awaits her. Olenna being a new character not only acts as a catalyst for giving viewers a genuinely powerful emotional moment for Sansa, it also (a short while later in the episode) shows the person that is presumably responsible for teaching Margaery how to play the game.
Margaery’s cleverness is showcased in her first lengthy one on one scene with Joffrey where she is summoned to his bedroom to wish him well on a hunting trip. The danger of this encounter is played out immediately in the music and in the set up of the scene. When Margaery enters the bedroom Joffrey is sitting there with his crossbow, which should immediately remind viewers of the last scene Joffrey was in where he had two beautiful women in his bedroom with a crossbow… you know the scene where he forces one prostitute to beat the other to death while he holds a loaded crossbow at both of them.
The danger Margaery is in is immediately apparent. Unlike Sansa, who never had anyone to teach her how to play the game, Margaery expertly diverts Joffrey’s hostile questions about her previous marriage to Renly and her loyalty to him. Not only is she able to successfully brush away Joffrey’s accusations, she is able to even begin to seduce his affections by feigning to be ignorant in simple matters (previously revealed in the episode as a quality Joffrey believes makes women intelligent). After learning about Joffrey’s cruelties through rumors, and eventually having those rumors all but confirmed by Sansa, Margaery presumably begins to pretend to be a monstress to Joffrey’s monster. As Margaery holds Joffrey’s new crossbow she utters this hair-raising quote:
“I imagine it must be so exciting to squeeze your finger here and watch something die over there.”
The end result of Margaery’s game playing with Joffrey is one of the few (and very creepy) smiles we see from Joffrey, as he appears to look on Margaery in approval. At the end of this sequence the importance of how Olenna Tyrell raised her grandchildren becomes apparent. She is a significant new supporting character that is important to the development of one of the show’s emerging major characters, Margaery Tyrell.
Bran and the Reeds
The concept of warging is introduced to the viewers via the viewpoint of Jon Snow, the new character Orell, and the Wildlings. Warging is an ability that can be learned by certain people where they are able to possess the bodies of animals and control them with their minds. The significance of Jon’s discovery is actually laid out to viewers in Bran’s plot thread shortly after he meets Meera and Jojen Reed, when Jojen tells Bran that he is a warg.
This explains the significance of the dreams where Bran is in the physical body of his direwolf, Summer. Although Bran doesn’t know how to warg while he is awake, it opens the potential for him to learn something new that could be very vital and important to himself and potentially the Stark family down the road. It also gives Bran the chance to do something physical, which had never been possible since he lost the use of his legs.
What turns out to be more interesting is Jojen’s explanation of the Three-Eyed Crow. When Jojen first appears, in Bran’s dream at the beginning of the episode he tells Bran he can’t kill the crow because he is the crow. Later in the episode Jojen tells Bran that the crow represents Bran’s ability to see things. By see things, Jojen means Bran can see things currently going on anywhere in the world in the present, he can see events in the past, and he can even see events in the future. Not only can Bran do this, but Jojen can, too, which means Bran is going to be learning a lot of new things that could potentially turn him into a very powerful character.
Little is said about Meera Reed, Jojen’s sister, other than she carries the weapons and protects him. Later it’s implied in the episode that Meera will be protecting everyone. After Osha makes light of Meera having to protect Jojen, Meera’s responds with,
“Some people will always need help. That doesn’t mean they aren’t worth helping.”
Meera makes this statement while a beautiful shot encompassing Bran, Hodor, and Jojen emerges: all three of these characters will always need help, and it appears Meera is here to help them.
The addition of the Reeds brings about significant new changes in Bran’s life, and they help elaborate on a lot of newly introduced magical concepts to the show. It is clear from the onset that Jojen will be important to new information that will have to be accessed by Bran, and Meera will be important to his survival.
Catelyn and Talisa
Talisa may not be a new character to the show, but she has been a newer character that has had little screen time. Like the already newly introduced characters in this episode, Talisa works to help develop the characters of Robb and Catelyn and push forward their development.The major impact Talisa has on Robb is through the act of their marriage. The consequences of Talisa entering the lives of the Starks begins to be explored in more depth for the first time in this episode. The significance of Talisa’s marriage to Robb is stated by Robb’s bannerman Lord Karstark, who tells Robb that his marriage is going to cost them the war. Robb refutes this statement and challenges Karstark to reiterate his faith in the cause of the North, which he doesn’t do all together, but rather reiterates his quest for vengeance. Karstark’s frank honesty and Robb’s dismissal of it illustrates the conflict that Talisa is causing between Robb and his bannermen.
Talisa also prompts an exchange with Catelyn that allows viewers to explore some of the issues that are troubling the Stark matriarch. Catelyn essentially tells Talisa that she believes she is the cause of all of the Stark’s misfortune due to her inability to keep a promise she made to the Gods many years ago. The promise Catelyn couldn’t keep was she would allow Jon to become a Stark if the Gods spared him from the pox. The pox Jon Snow caught was brought upon him by Catelyn’s initially praying to the Gods for his death.
This exchange of dialogue reveals how important faith and religion are to Catelyn, which is something that has only been subtly hinted at before with Catelyn’s quickly uttered religious expressions and with Catelyn’s sewing/creating of religious themed icons. It also reiterates her hatred for Jon Snow and that fact that she could never get over Eddard’s infidelity. Throughout this exchange Catelyn never seems to embrace Talisa with any kind of affection, always keeping her at cold distance, which reinforces the point that Talisa is causing a discord between Robb and the people that serve him.
Thoros and Arya
Thoros is introduced to Arya, Gendry, and Hot Pie as one of the leaders of the Brotherhood, a group of rebels that the Mountain and Tywin Lannister were hunting during their stay at Harrenhall. Perhaps, more significantly, the Brotherhood was the group that the Tickler kept referring to while he tortured people for information there.
Thoros doesn’t tell us much about the Brotherhood, but his appearance shows us how far Arya has developed as a character. Despite her traumatic experiences, Arya’s bravery, which is borderline foolish, is shown twice each time she threatens to kill Thoros. Arya’s second threat results in her being humiliated by Thoros as he easily knocks her sword out of her hand.
Despite these setbacks, Arya is quick to refute Thoros when he calls her and her companions children. After what they’ve seen at Harrenhall, its hard to call Arya a child, her innocence is completely lost and her refute to Thoros’ claim that she is a child is a wake up call to anyone who thinks being a child is something that is merely determined by a person’s age.
Arya also demonstrates the ability to lead a number of times during the episode. Gendry and Hot Pie look to Arya to lead their answers when Thoros begins to question them how they managed to escape Harrenhall. Arya is the first person to come out from behind the wall to confront Thoros, and she leads the entire conversation with the Brotherhood that follows. Finally we see Arya unsuccessfully try to lead Gendry and Hot Pie past the Hound without being recognized.
Unlike Sansa, Arya does appear to have less trouble lying convincingly. Arya may not have been able to convince Thoros that their was no one hiding behind the wall with her earlier in the episode, but she does manage to convince Thoros that Gendry worked himself, Arya, and Hot Pie out of Harrenhall through his skills as a blacksmith. Arya and her companions are allowed to go on their way as a result of this story, that is until the Hound identifies her as Arya Stark.
New Characters to Spur On The Development of Older Characters
The primary function of the second episode of the third season was to introduce viewers to new characters in the show. The function of these new characters right now appears to be supportive, and throughout the episode they bring out previously repressed emotions or introduce new ideas to the already established characters in Game of Thrones.