GAME OF THRONES, SEASON 2: THE HEAVY METAL REVIEW — EPISODE 2.6, “THE OLD GODS AND THE NEW”
After developments in this week’s Game of Thrones, Ser Rodrik Cassel is no longer the head of Winterfell’s armed forces.
HBO’s epic fantasy series Game of Thrones is about power-hungry people with long hair and bloody swords, who worship Old Gods and consider a good decapitation the cost of doing business. So every Monday, Metal Sucks reviews the week’s episode in terms of how metal it is.
Episode 2.6, “The Old Gods and the New.”
Sharp-witted women were out in force on this week’s Game of Thrones. Shae – Tyrion the Imp’s girlfriend, a whore with a mysterious past – delivers the episode’s theme: “Don’t trust anybody. Life is safer that way.” No sooner has the rad theme music ended than we see what happens when you trust people: Long story short, the bodies start piling up. And let’s be frank: It’s about time.
The first half of Season 2 was more than a little slow. And while it’s understandable, especially considering the source material, you have to wonder if it’s necessary. A season of Game of Thrones, like many HBO shows, isn’t necessarily composed of ten hourlong episodes of TV. Sure, that’s how you consume it. But Game of Thrones, like far too many seasons of The Sopranos, plays more like a ten-hour movie.
So while, technically, it may be the equivalent of 45 minutes in an action movie, five hours is a long time to go without much violence and bloodshed. And if the final 10th hour of this season, true to HBO form, will be a cooldown and setup for the next season, that means if some shit was ever going to go down, this was the time to let it loose. And shit was loosed this week.
Before the first scene is over, the traitorous Theon Greyjoy has returned to the castle where he was raised and taken it by force. (Though, once again, the incursion takes place offscreen.) Next thing you know, Theon has to show his former friends that he is not to be trifled with. And he shows it by hacking the head off Rodrik Cassel, the Winterfell master of arms. Theon is hardly up for the job or up to it, and he takes four strokes and a kick to fully sever Cassel’s stout neck. Talk about poor execution.
Ironically, sometimes a move calculated to show how much balls you have proves just the opposite. Even with a tactical victory and one decapitation to his name, the armor-coated, blood-soaked Greyjoy isn’t very metal. Minor tangent: Theon is more like Tack from [the longhair stoner comedy] The Stoned Age: He’s a minor player who wants more than his due. And, believe me, he will get it, the fucker.
The TV adaptation continues abridging the book at a rapid pace, whether it’s due to restricted time or budget. When the action – or lack thereof – moves to Harrenhal, we witness an interesting scene that’s not in the books.
Young Arya Stark navigates around Tywin Lannister’s war room with nimble mental and physical dexterity, avoiding the visiting Petyr Baelish, that snake of a pimp who’s always sliming around, gaming everybody in sight. And this bit has something most of the show’s scenes lack: dramatic tension. Every move she makes counts. One false step and she’s hosed. All of a sudden, something could happen in this scene. It’s not a matter of events merely unfolding. And for a few tense minutes, the actions of everybody involved are consequential.
And the momentum carries through the episode. The body count goes through the roof this week.
Further north, the storyline set on the far side of the Wall continues gaining momentum. A band of the Night’s Watch dive into the white wilderness, on a seek-and-destroy mission. In the wilderness of the Frost Fangs, the death toll rises, and soon a warrior woman finds herself between a rock and a hard place, cold steel at her neck. Jon Snow fails two tests here, even if he has good reasons. Neither flinching from a beheading nor turning down a little bump & grind is very metal — even if the girl will very likely kill you. (Later in the episode, we see what happens when you succumb to the nookie.)
So Jon Snow, once again, asserts his honor, and makes a smart move for once. But by not killing anybody and not getting laid, he officially is no longer in the running for Most Metal Dude on the Show.
The Most Metal Dude in Game of Thrones – this week, at least – is the Hound, Sandor Clegane, King Joffrey’s bodyguard. Sandor is the big longhaired guy with a burnt face, who often makes it point to let people know that he’s not a knight – which explains why he has an actual functioning sense of honor. When – as sellsword Bronn describes him – the cunt of king is headed back to the palace, a mob pelts Joffrey with shit and riots. Mobs going wild are totally metal.
Joffrey, poncy little git that he is, snaps and says, “Kill them all.” Which may sound metal on its surface, but Joffrey said it with such a whine that he revealed himself to be just as big a poseur as Theon.
The mob then literally tears a high priest to pieces. But their, ahem, vigor quickly descends into the area of bad taste, when several hungry peasants chase down lady Sansa Stark, who may be a terrible person, but of everything she has coming to her, a sexual assault is not on the list. Right when things looks grave, the Hound steps in to save the day, and next thing you know, he’s up to his knees in blood and guts. Holding a guy up with one hand and disemboweling him with another is totally metal.
Back in Qarth, Daenerys Stormborn Targaryen Khaleesi Drogo Mother of Dragons is doing more non-dragon shit. She’s not feeding dragons, and she’s not burning witches, and she’s not riding some bad-boy horse lord who looks like a ‘roided-up Dave Navarro. And – minor spoiler if you’re going to read the books – if you like her as a character, but you thought her talking about politics, ships, armies, and alliances was dull, then you’d better get used to it, ‘cuz that shit ain’t gonna end any time soon. In the books, at least.
But when a good half-dozen Dothraki warriors turn up dead and her dragons go missing, it looks like the TV version is about to make one major improvement from the book’s story. Who has the dragons, and where are they taking them? I wish I could tell you. I guess we’ll find out next week… or will we?
Episode 2.6 Stats:
Decapitations: 1 (nearly 2).
Succumbing to Feminine Wiles: 3
Full Frontal Nudity: 1
Big-Assed Direwolves: 3
Dragons: 0. (Screeching little dragon babies hidden in a box do not count.)
Body Count: 10 on-screen, plus the house full of Dany’s dead followers. And even in these dark ages, Arya proves you can still order an On Demand kill when you really need it. Sure, we’ve made progress with our modern ways… but at what cost?
Rating: Very Metal.
So what did you think? Who’s the most metal character on the show? When Joffrey was pelted with shit, should they have shown it in slow motion, with some going in his mouth? Do you think the episodes generally work as a self-contained hour of television? Did the Sopranos fall off hard after Season 3, and would it have killed them to do something interesting with Furio?
SPOILER POLICY: Game of Thrones – the show and the books – is a helluva tale with some mindfuck twists that will rock your world, so please don’t ruin them for any new fans or casual readers. If you really need to reference one of the major developments that lurk in future episodes or later on in the books, please try be as vague as possible, and clearly label them SPOILERS. And if you’re new to the epic, be warned: If you read about the books or show long enough, you will learn something you wish you hadn’t, so just buy the ticket and take the ride.
D.X. Ferris wrote the 33 1/3 series book about Slayer’s Reign in Blood, writes & draws the webcomic Suburban Metal Dad, and runs Pentagrammarian, the world’s only heavy metal grammar & usage website (that we’re aware of). You can follow his bullshit on Twitter here, here, and here.