This episode should have been called “Fathers and Sons”. The two father-son conflicts are heartbreaking, even though the conflicts involved characters I don’t really know yet and are not particularly attached to (Davos Seaworth and his son) and a character I don’t really care about from Season 1 (Theon Greyjoy and his father). Add to that the story of a man so desperate to have a son that he’s willing to do something he wasn’t tempted to do for … umm … pleasure.
Davos Seaworth and Matthos Seaworth
Davos is trying to convince Salladhor Saan, a pirate, to join Stannis’ army (Stannis has the smallest army at the moment among the contenders for the Iron Throne). Matthos is visibly not comfortable with this, even though his father was once a smuggler himself. (Matthos is the guy from the first episode writing the letter Stannis dictated announcing Stannis’ claim to the Iron Throne). The subject turned to religion, when Matthos, angry that Salladhor doesn’t seem all that impressed with Stannis, started a rant about Stannis being the rightful king, chosen by the one true god etc etc. Salladhor’s retort? He’s been to a lot of places, and everywhere he went, people are always convinced their god is the one true god. “The one true god is what’s between a woman’s legs”. Hah! Borderline sexist, but I might end up liking this Salladhor guy.
Davos and Salladhor sealed the deal, and poor Davos has to continue the religion convo with his son. Matthos wants his father to learn how to read so that he can read the holy books (and be more of a believer, I suppose). Davos said he wished he can believe in god, but he’s been everywhere and seen people pray to every god there is, for rain, for wind, for home, and it never worked.
Matthos: But you always came home.
Davos: I wasn’t praying.
Matthos: But I was. Every night when you’re at sea, I light a candle, and I prayed, for you.
Ahhhhh, this is heartbreaking. What is a father supposed to say to that? “Sonny, your prayer meant nothing, that wasn’t what kept me save”? Of course not, so Davos tried changing the subject.
Davos: You want me to have a god? Fine. King Stannis is my god. He raised me up and blessed me with his trust, he gave you a future I could never have imagined. You know how to read, you’ll be a knight someday, you think a fire god commanded all that? It was Stannis, only Stannis.
Of course this also explains the backstory between Stannis and Davos, and the root of Davos’ loyalty.
Theon Greyjoy and Balon Greyjoy
Theon managed to convince Robb to make Theon’s father the King of Iron Island once again, if Balon Greyjoy agreed to help him in his rebellion. Unfortunately, daddy didn’t take to the offer too kindly – no one gives me the Crown, I will take it myself – and basically flipped out when Theon said the offer was his idea, and that Robb listens to his advice and thinks of him like a brother. This is further proof for Balon that Theon’s loyalty is with the Starks now, and he has forgotten that Ned Stark killed his brothers during the Greyjoy’s rebellion. See, this is why the whole “taking someone’s son as a hostage so he won’t rebel” thing never made much sense to me. Having raised Theon basically like one of the family, would Ned, or Robb, really be willing to kill Theon if his father does rebel? And Theon’s father, after not seeing his son for so long, and suspecting that Theon’s loyalty has changed after living with the Starks, isn’t it possible that he won’t really care all that much what happens to this son?
There’s also the added complication for Theon that he had not foreseen, probably because of his attitude towards women (he seems to think they’re only good for his pleasure, enough said). Much to his surprise, Theon’s sister Yara is now basically their father’s trusted heir. Theon’s feeble opposition (But she’s a woman! How can she lead an attack?) is laughed off by his father, and Theon seemed so stunned by this that he almost missed the other thing his father was saying – Yara will not be leading an attack against the Lannisters, but against another target. I’m guessing Winterfell is the actual target? With Robb and most of his men gone to war, Winterfell would be very vulnerable at this point. So, where would Theon’s loyalty lie? With the Starks, or with his father? I’m thinking the “sis got the position I should have had because I’m the only surviving son” would grate on him so much, Theon would be willing to do anything to regain his father’s trust, the Starks be damned. Oh Robb, you should have listened to your mother when she said this is a bad idea. Why did you trust Theon so much?? (My brother, the big tease that he is, told me I will be saying that a lot this season – Oh Robb! Why didn’t you listen to your mother?)
Stannis and Melisandre (and the promised son)
Stannis is complaining to Melisandre that the Lord of Light hasn’t really done much to help him in his quest to be King, even though he’s burned all the idols of the old gods the people used to believe in, and he’s recited all the words praying to the Lord of Light. Yeah … I don’t think real faith works like that, Stannis, faith is not supposed to be quid pro quo. Melisandre then basically took off her clothes and told Stannis he hasn’t given himself completely yet to the Lord of Light (the implication being, that will only happens if Stannis has sex with her). Stannis is not interested – he has a wife, he took a vow, etc etc. Melisandre talked about how his wife is sickly, and unable to give him sons, but Melisandre can, and will, give him a son. (The obsession with sons, rather than children in general, is icky and disturbing, but I guess it’s one of those “this is the culture these people were living in at the time”). And suddenly Stannis is interested! What turns him on isn’t a beautiful naked woman offering herself to him, but the naked woman promising to bear him a son. Hmmm. I think I would be inclined to feel more charitable towards a man who strays because of lust and a momentary weakness of the flesh – that seems very human. But this …. this is more disturbing somehow. Stephen Dillane is just so brilliant as Stannis though, I can’t keep my eyes off this character. The way Stannis is almost in tears when he said “a son?”, the pure desperation in his “union’ with Melisandre. It’s clear that Stannis is a more complicated and ambiguous character than the always honorable Ned Stark, but he’s my Ned Stark this season, the character I’ll keep watching the show for. (Please, please don’t tell me he’s going to die too?!)
Fascinating convo between Tyrion and Cersei, about what ruling is all about. To Tyrion, it’s about the loyalty of the people you rule, and how cruelty and indifference (like letting your people starve, Cersei, or killing babies because you suspect they are the late king’s bastards, Joffrey) won’t engender loyalty. To Cersei, it’s a bit different:
Cersei: You want to be Hand of the King, you want to rule, this is what ruling is. Lying in a bed of weeds, ripping them out one by one before they strangle you in your sleep.
Tyrion: I’m no king, but I think there’s more to it than that.
Cersei: I don’t care what you think! You’ve never taken it seriously, you haven’t, Jaime hasn’t. It’s all fallen on me.
Well obviously from a moral and ethical standpoint, Tyrion has the better argument (killing babies and letting people starve = bad, FYI, Cersei). But even looking at it from a purely pragmatic point of view, Cersei’s view of ruling is only effective once you have consolidated power, when you’re the indisputed ruler. When you are at war with various other factions to keep the power, it’s not really wise to alienate the very people you’re trying to rule.
I can’t believe Gendry is the only one who suspects that Arya is a girl. But pretty smart of her immediately telling him she’s not just any girl, she’s Ned Stark’s daughter. She’s going to meet up with Jon Snow at some point, right? Maybe I’m going to care more about the Night’s Watch storyline if Arya is a part of it. Jon Snow is so bland, even Theon is a much, much more intriguing character than him at the moment. Daenerys and her people are still stuck in nowhere land, with little food and water. Magic dragons, when will you grow up and destroy her enemies? This is a bit shocking even to me, but I’m not really liking Littlefinger in Season 2 so far; he seems to have lost his usual cunningness, and his gratuitous cruelty to the grieving prostitute is not a very smart move. Yes, he can be cruel and sadistic, but he’s usually smarter about it than this.
Still no Renly, his wife and his lover the brother-in-law (aghhh, I can’t wait for this storyline to start!) And no Robb, Catelyn and Jaime this week. I wish the show would cool it a bit with some of the more explicit scenes. Some scenes do serve a purpose – the Stannis-Melisandre one for example tells us a lot about Stannis in just a few seconds – but some of them, especially the ones in Littlefinger’s establishment, feel very gratuitous and not really relevant to the story.