Halftime continues with our daily Game of Thrones recaps in preparation for the release of season eight on Sunday, April 14. Here is our recap of season two.
Warning: This post contains spoilers for the second season of Game of Thrones
The death of Ned Stark (Sean Bean) late in season one undeniably set the tone for what was to come in season two of the worldwide phenomenon, Game of Thrones. Watchers quickly learned that all bets were off when it came to whether heroes or villains would win the day. Season two picks up with the Starks reeling from the loss of their patriarch, Ned. Robb Stark (Richard Madden) has been proclaimed the King in the North. Jon Snow (Kit Harington) is ranging north of the Wall. Arya (Maisie Williams) is on her way there as she flees certain death in King’s Landing. The Lannisters face rebellion on all sides, and within, as Cersei (Lena Headey) and Tyrion (Peter Dinklage) clash. Finally, Daenerys Targaryen (Emilia Clarke) emerged from the flames with three dragons and a new following. Season two continues the trend of mixing political intrigue with fantasy elements, and quickly sets up the new narrative.
Episode 1: The North Remembers (Ethan Cantrell)
Tyrion returns to King’s Landing with the news that he has been appointed as the acting Hand of the King in place of his father, Tywin Lannister (Charles Dance). During the massacre of any living bastards of the former king, Robert Baratheon (Mark Addy), Gendry (Joe Dempsie), a blacksmith and son of Robert, escapes north to the Wall to join the Night’s Watch. Back at Winterfell, it is interesting to see Bran (Isaac Hempstead Wright) as the interim Warden of the North, since he may have to take up the role if something happens to his older brother. During a trip to the Godswood, Bran sees a red comet, which Osha (Natalia Tena) says signifies the return of dragons to the world, a great connection between between the two disparate continents. Speaking of dragons, across the Narrow Sea in Essos, Daenerys is leading her young dragons and weakened khalasar through the Red Waste. Beyond the Wall, the Night’s Watch arrive at Craster’s (Robert Pugh) Keep. Craster informs Lord Commander Jeor Mormont (James Cosmo) that Mance Rayder (Ciarán Hinds), the King Beyond the Wall, is gathering a wildling army. The setup of Rayder as the future antagonist brings into question the legitimacy of the Night’s Watch in keeping out the invaders. Viewers are left wondering the extent to which Stannis Baratheon (Stephen Dillane) will go in order to conquer the Seven Kingdoms after his conversion to the Lord of Light. Robb holds a meeting with Theon (Alfie Allen) and Catelyn (Michelle Fairley), eventually deciding to send Theon to ask his father, Balon Greyjoy (Patrick Malahide), for military assistance. It is clear that the tense nature of the meeting foreshadows future disagreements between the leaders of the rebellion.
Episode 2: The Night Lands (Ethan Cantrell)
Back in King’s Landing, Tyrion questions Janos Slynt (Dominic Carter) about the massacre of all Robert’s children. It’s exciting to see Tyrion exercise the power of his position when he banishes Slynt to serve in the Night’s Watch, and gives the old position of Commander of the City Watch to his friend Bronn (Jerome Flynn). Melisandre (Carice van Houten) promises Stannis a son, despite Stannis’ hesitation since he has a wife, which only further made me question the legitimacy of Stannis’ means to the end of the Iron Throne. In the Iron Islands, it is frustrating to see Theon’s father, King Balon Greyjoy, reject Robb’s offer of an alliance, instead telling Theon that he does not intend to fight the Lannisters. On the Kingsroad, multiple soldiers arrive looking for Gendry as part of the order to kill all of Robert’s children. In a display of uncommon loyalty for the show, the Watch’s recruiter, Yoren (Francis Magee), sends the soldiers off without Gendry. Beyond the Wall at Craster’s Keep, Gilly (Hannah Murray), a pregnant wife of Craster, fears for her child’s life if they are born a boy. The reason for this is revealed in a disturbing scene when Jon later notices Craster going beyond the outpost to leave a baby boy for the White Walkers. The episode concludes dramatically when Craster sneaks up on Jon and knocks him out, leaving viewers eager to see how his story continues.
Episode 3: What Is Dead May Never Die (Ethan Cantrell)
After being knocked out by Craster, Jon is dragged back to the Keep and Craster kicks all the members of the Night’s Watch out of his home. Jon’s realization that Commander Mormont has known about Craster’s inhumane sacrifices to the Walkers all along comes as a startling revelation. South of the Wall, Catelyn Stark visits Renly Baratheon (Gethin Anthony), who has also laid claim to the Iron Throne, despite having a weaker claim than his older brother Stannis. In the Iron Islands, Theon learns of his father’s shocking plan to attack the now undefended North. Theon debates warning Robb, but ends up remaining with his family, betraying his childhood best friend. After this decision, Theon’s role switches to that of an antagonist. His desire to stick by his family is understandable. However, the Starks are arguably Theon’s true family since he grew up with them. Back in King’s Landing, Tyrion, never to be underestimated, executes an elaborate plan to reveal Grand Maester Pycelle (Julian Glover) as a rat. In the Riverlands, Lannister soldiers arrive again in search of Gendry, but Yoren refuses to surrender him to the soldiers. In what appears to be his last stand, Yoren rallies his recruits to fight the Lannisters but dies after fighting off multiple soldiers. As Arya is running from the battle, she sees Jaqen H’ghar (Tom Wlaschiha) still locked away, with a fire burning near him. Arya frees Jaqen, but loses her sword Needle, which her brother Jon Snow gave to her as a last gift before departing Winterfell for the Wall. After the battle is over, Arya demonstrates her wit, telling the soldiers that one of the nameless recruits they killed is in fact Gendry, in order to throw them off the scent. The soldiers’ commander Ser Amory Lorch (Fintan McKeown) begins to take the captives to the castle of Harrenhal, which Lannister forces currently occupy, leaving the audience unsure about what hurdles Arya will face next.
Episode 4: Garden of Bones (Roman Peregrino)
Robb wins a resounding victory for the North at the Battle of Oxcross over the Lannisters, yet I can’t help but realize this is the beginning of the end for the White Wolf. We start seeing tension between Roose Bolton (Michael McElhatton) and Robb, and we are also introduced to the character of Talisa (Oona Chaplin)—these are two major players moving forward in Robb’s story arc. In King’s Landing, Sansa is beaten and stripped by one of the Kingsguard of King Joffrey (Jack Gleeson), before mercifully being saved by Tyrion. Arya and her friends are brought to Harrenhal, which is currently led by Gregor Clegane (Ian Whyte). There, Arya, Gendry, and Hot Pie (Ben Hawkey) witness terrible torture of the other captives before it is stopped by the arrival of Tywin Lannister. Tywin decides to take Arya on as his cupbearer, unaware of her true identity. The meeting between Tyrion and Arya made me feel like a tennis spectator. I couldn’t believe he didn’t recognize her and I kept waiting for the shoe to drop. To the East, Daenerys arrives at the city of Qarth, and is nearly turned away after refusing to let the city’s rulers see her famous dragons. However, Xaro Xhoan Daxos (Nonso Anozie) steps in to allow Daenerys and her caravan to enter Qarth. It is doubtful that Xaro did this out of the goodness of his heart, and he is someone to watch as the season moves forward. Finally, the two remaining Baratheon brothers are closing in on conflict, as Renly and Stannis cannot come to peace terms. However, before the inevitable battle occurs, Stannis plays his trump card: The sorceress Melisandre births a terrible shadow monster which then moves towards Renly’s stronghold. When I say birth, I mean it literally. It was terrifying and disgusting, and it leaves the viewers on the edge of their seats.
Episode 5:The Ghost of Harrenhal (Roman Peregrino)
Stannis’ plan comes to fruition, as Melisandre’s shadow monster assassinates his brother, Renly. Stannis has always been advertised as an honorable man, and I was shocked to see what he was willing to turn to with his own brother. War has changed him, and not for the better. With his main rival out of the way, Stannis turns his attention to King’s Landing and the Iron Throne that lies within its gates. At King’s Landing, plans are being made for defense. Most notably, a cache of wildfire is hidden beneath the city as a last defensive resort. Tyrion seems dismayed at the possibility, knowing the reputation wildfire has; however, Cersei has no qualms and viewers know this is not the last they will see of wildfire. Theon and his force of Ironborn begin raiding the North, where Bran Stark now leads, further betraying the Starks. At this point in the season, I really hate this guy. Back at Harrenhal, Jaqen H’ghar reunites with Arya, and promises her three deaths in exchange for the lives she saved. Arya doesn’t quite realize the power she has, but when she does, her first choice, Clegane’s torturer, the Tickler (Anthony Morris), is soon found dead. Beyond the Wall, Jon joins a scouting group led by Qhorin Halfhand (Simon Armstrong) to learn more about the forces of Mance Rayder, and we finally see Jon begin to branch out from the core members of the Night’s Watch. Finally, Daenerys begins to interact with the nobles of Qarth and faces questionable intentions from all sides. Xaro Xhoan Daxos, Pyat Pree (Ian Hanmore), and Quaithe (Laura Pradelska) have yet to prove themselves trustworthy and, in my opinion, have just proven to be really really creepy. (look at this guy)
Episode 6:The Old Gods and the New (Roman Peregrino)
This episode is stained by death and bad news. Theon Greyjoy and his host of Ironborn quickly overthrow the forces of Winterfell and take the seat of the North. However, this is not an accomplishment. All Theon needed to do was take out a skeleton force and a crippled Warden (Bran). In fact, we see Theon lose support when he botches the execution of Ser Rodrik Cassel (Ron Donachie), Winterfell’s master at arms, and seemingly allows Bran and Rickon to escape. Farther north, beyond the Wall, viewers meet Ygritte (Rose Leslie), a wildling woman Jon decides to spare. At Harrenhal, Arya is nearly exposed due to her ability to read. However, before Lorch learns her true identity, he is killed with a poison dart just as he is walking into Tywin’s chambers. Jaqen strikes again! Arya is finally realizing what an ally Jaqen is and I am here for seeing one of the show’s top assassins in action. King’s Landing is in disarray, as the poor are angry over shortages of food. We see Joffrey make the situation worse by losing his composure and ordering his guards to kill the entire crowd. Every watcher who hates Joffrey (which I am proud to be a part of) must get a sense of pleasure to see him barely make it out intact. The episode ends with disaster for Daenerys. As she returns to her quarters, she finds her handmaiden and guards dead and the dragons nowhere to be found. She calls out for her dragons with tears in her eyes. Game of Thrones is known for its final scenes, but I can’t really think of a better cliffhanger.
Episode 7: A Man Without Honor (Nathan Chen)
Though Theon Greyjoy maintains his hold on Winterfell, cracks are starting to show in his armor. He ventures into the Wolfswood north of Winterfell with a pack of hounds in search for the Stark boys, but the trail seemingly goes cold and he orders Maester Luwin back to Winterfell. Beyond the Wall, Ygritte is Jon Snow’s captive The sexual tension between him and Ygritte escalates, as she makes fun of his virginity and offers him the chance to take her. Distracted, Jon lets Ygritte lure him into a trap set by the wildlings. This attraction between Jon and Ygritte is sure to complicate their status as enemies, and it becomes an important plot point as the series progresses. At Harrenhal, Tywin Lannister orders Ser Gregor Clegane to burn villages in the Riverlands as retribution for the attempt on his life. He also notices that Arya is highborn. Tywin respects Arya’s competence and intelligence. While conversing with Tyrion, Cersei reveals that she regrets sleeping with her brother Jaime Lannister (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau) and wonders if Joffrey’s temperament is a result of their incestuous relationship. Across the Narrow Sea in Qarth, it is eventually revealed that the warlock Pyat Pree stole Daenerys’s dragons. Pree entered into an alliance with Xaro Xhoan Daxos, declaring him the “King of Qarth” and directs Daenerys to the House of the Undying. In the Westerlands, Alton Lannister (Karl Davies) gives the Stark camp Queen Cersei’s rejection of the peace terms, and Robb Stark imprisons Alton with Jaime. Later that night, Jaime kills Alton to lure Torrhen Karstark (Tyrone McElhennon) into the cell, whom he strangles. After nearly escaping, Lord Rickard Karstark (John Stahl) demands Jaime’s life in exchange for his son’s, but Robb makes the decision to spare Jaime, losing the Karstarks’ support. This is a significant blow to Robb’s army, as the loss of the Karstarks and his home of Winterfell have made Robb appear weak in the eyes of his bannermen. Back at Winterfell, Theon returns with the charred corpses of two children, and Maester Luwin cries out in horror.
Episode 8: The Prince of Winterfell (Nathan Chen)
The episode opens with Theon’s sister, Yara Greyjoy (Gemma Whelan), riding into Winterfell without the men that Theon requested to hold the castle. Yara attempts to counsel her impulsive brother, but Theon’s pride rears its head again and he brushes her off. Beyond the Wall, Ygritte argues to spare Jon, while Qhorin (who was already captured) plans to make Jon a spy. The wildlings may be right when they accuse Ygritte of protecting Jon due to her attraction, contributing to the awkward dynamic between the two. In the Westerlands, Robb learns his mother freed Jaime to get Sansa and Arya back. Robb is furious and orders Catelyn under constant watch. He seeks Talisa’s company and they share intimate stories, eventually consummating their relationship. It’s clear that Robb is under a great deal of pressure causing him to make poor strategic decisions. Compounding the problem is Catelyn, whose devotion for her children is admirable but may play right into the Lannisters’ hands. At Harrenhal, Tywin is faced between defending King’s Landing from Stannis Baratheon, and defending his home of Casterly Rock, which Robb threatens. He decides to move west and he leaves Ser Gregor Clegane in charge. With this change in leadership, Arya has missed her chance to kill Tywin, so she gives Jaqen his own name and will only revoke it if Jaqen helps her, Gendry, and Hot Pie escape, which he does. In King’s Landing, Tyrion prepares the defense of the city and conjures up a plan involving wildfire. In the Narrow Sea, Stannis sails ever closer to his goal of King’s Landing and names Davos his Hand. In Qarth, Daenerys refuses Jorah’s advice of fleeing and goes to the House of the Undying to try and reclaim her dragons. In the crypts of Winterfell, Maester Luwin meets with Osha, and she reveals they doubled back to throw Theon off the scent. Luwin advises Osha not to tell Bran about the farm boys, but it is revealed that Bran has been listening the whole time.
Episode 9: Blackwater (Ethan Cantrell)
In King’s Landing, the city’s forces are preparing for the arrival of Stannis Baratheon and his attacking fleet. Before the battle, Grand Maester Pycelle gives Queen Cersei a vial of powerful Nightshade poison to use in case Stannis breaches the city. Watching this, it is hard not to see the Cersei’s despair given the impending attack. The ringing of bells alerts Bronn, the Hound and the rest of the Lannister forces to the arrival of Stannis’ ships in Blackwater Bay. The fleet continues further into the Bay, hoping to land at the Mud Gate and attack the city from there. However, Tyrion had previously created an elaborate plan to destroy the opposing fleet without direct engagement and with limited casualties for the defenders. The audience knows the danger posed by the single dark ship slowly approaching the attacking fleet. Tyrion throws a torch from his position atop the Wall, his signal for Bronn to fire a burning arrow into the bay at the flammable wildfire that now covers the surface of the water. With a dramatic fireball, the scorching wildfire burns through Stannis’ fleet, destroying many ships and killing many men, including Davos’ son. Impressively, despite heavy losses, Stannis and his forces continue to the Mud Gate in rowboats and begin an assault on the city. Tyrion commands the Hound to lead a counterattack outside of the gate against Stannis. During the ensuing fight on the beach, the Hound is paralyzed by the sight of a burning enemy soldier running towards him, demonstrating to the viewers that even the strongest fighters have chinks in their armour. After retreating back to the city, the Hound, clearly still shaken because of his fear of fire, abandons the battle, the city, and his position with the infamous line, “Fuck the King’s Guard. Fuck the city. Fuck the king.” Stannis’ men continue attacking, but Cersei demands that Joffrey return to the safety of the Red Keep, demonstrating her lack of concern for people she views as pawns in a greater game. Tyrion valiantly rallies the shattered defending forces, and counterattacks Stannis’ men outside the gate. In a surprising scene during the battle, a member of the Kingsguard betrays Tyrion and in an attempt to kill him, wounds Tyrion across the face before Tyrion’s squire, Podrick Payne (Daniel Portman), kills the traitor. While the fighting continues, Cersei sits on the Iron Throne contemplating using the poison on herself and her young son Tommen (Callum Wharry). However, for better or worse, Tywin Lannister and allies from House Tyrell arrive, driving back Stannis’ forces and preventing Cersei from using the poison.
Episode 10: Valar Morghulis (Nathan Chen)
In King’s Landing, Tyrion awakens to a gleeful Pycelle, who informs him that he has lost all his power. Knowing Tyrion, his fall from grace likely won’t last long, as he’s used his wits all his life to compensate for his relatively short stature. Meanwhile, King Joffrey is rewarding his subjects. Lord Baelish (Aidan Gillen) is given Harrenhal as a reward for bringing House Tyrell into the fold, and the heir to Highgarden, Loras Tyrell (Finn Jones), requests that Joffrey marry Margaery (Natalie Dormer). Joffrey obliges, and Sansa breathes a sigh of relief. Robb discusses his love for Talisa with Catelyn, who cautions him to be faithful to his betrothed, Roslin Frey (Alexandra Dowling). He dismisses her advice and marries Talisa in secret. This goes against everything that House Stark stands for, as Robb is breaking a sacred oath, and it will come back to haunt him. At Winterfell, Theon refuses Maester Luwin’s advice, and proceeds to give an admittedly rousing speech to prepare his men for battle. However, Theon’s first mate Dagmer betrays him—knocking him out to give to the Boltons. Meanwhile, Bran, Rickon (Art Parkinson), Osha, and Hodor (Kristian Nairn) are advised by a dying Maester Luwin to head north to the Wall. Across the Narrow Sea in Qarth, Daenerys enters the House of the Undying where Pyat Pree reveals himself and Daenerys is chained by magic, but a simple “Dracarys” is all it takes for her dragons to use their fire to unchain her and kill Pree. She pays Xaro Xhoan Daxos a visit afterwards, locking him in his own vault for betraying her and using the rest of his riches to buy a small ship. In the Riverlands, Arya and her crew happen upon Jaqen, who offers to take Arya to Braavos and train her to be an assassin. When she declines, he gives her an iron coin and tells her to tell any Braavosi the words “Valar morghulis” should she need him again. Though Arya feels a duty to her family, she’s clearly fascinated by the utterly mysterious Jaqen and his ability to kill. This thirst for knowledge will drive her in future seasons to become a great warrior despite her small stature. Beyond the Wall, Qhorin Halfhand realizes he has his opportunity to install Jon as a spy in the wilding ranks. He stages a mock fight during which he dies, and Jon gains the wildings’ trust and they head to meet Mance Rayder. At the Fist of the First Men, the warning call for White Walkers sounds, but Sam is left behind in a blizzard. The season ends with a Walker noticing Sam but moving onward, letting out a guttural, piercing shriek. The creatures that nobody ever believed in are coming for the Seven Kingdoms, and Westerosi reactions will determine if they survive or join the army of the dead.
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