I'm not going to do a full review on this one for the simple fact that Lady Slynt is in labor and so I'm shuttling back and forth to and from the hospital awaiting the arrival of Mini-Slynt #2 (that won't be his real name). Still, a man has needs, and as such I watched Game of Thrones: Dark Wings, Dark Words today. For an hour - that, once again, felt like fifteen minutes at the max - I was whisked away and enjoyed most of it, and definitely disliked some of it.
Like with the previous episode, the scenes that mirror the books the most, stand out as the best - Lady Olenna Tyrell's dialogue (and acting), for one. Martin's dialogue is already so good in the books and the proof lies in her scene; and in the scenes I mentioned in the post on Valar Dohaeris. Jaime and Brienne's banter in their first scene was brilliant though, even if Martin didn't invent it - but it is very close to Martin's anyway. I am thinking specifically of Jaime's one-liner about Renly and the Iron Throne.
So, highlights were the aforementioned Grandma Tyrell and Brienne and Jaime bantering, but there were was more goodness to be had; Theon Greyjoy's predicament is portrayed with just the right amount of horrid, and actor Alfie Allen plays it so well - and the last scene must certainly come as a surprise to book readers and I've noticed the speculation is well under way on the great Interweb. Of the many changes they do in the series, the re-arranging of story lines I feel is one of the wiser. To my surprise, I warmed quickly to the Reeds. Also to my surprise, Bran is no longer a boy. This episode had a lot of beautiful landscapes to show, giving it - at least in Bran's scenes - that sense of awe and grandeur not unlike Middle-earth in tone and atmosphere, a more adventurous feel perhaps, and it was great, as were the direwolves, the costumes etc. Brilliant scenes - with one minor caveat; why does Osha suddenly not want to hear about Bran's dreams, and why have they decided to call it black magic? Sounds kind of strange.
Robb and Catelyn's scenes interested me the least in this episode, mainly because they were not that interesting to me personally. I did like how Robb and Jeyne W are about to kiss when Roose Bolton enters. That actor is great! What a voice! They sure like to remind us of his existence I have no idea why. Catelyn is once again played to perfection by Michelle Farley, and no I did not mind her story about Jon Snow. To me it sounds like something that easily could have been in the books. It doesn't change anything, as I've noticed some people claim. Cat's reaction when Robb talks about Winterfell...fantastic work.
I like how the scenes often change when a character is mentioned, like when Cat says, "Have you heard anything from Theon at all?" and then we shift directly to Theon having fun with nails. This happens several times in the episode and it really gives the episode some needed "flow".
Jack Gleeson does a great performance too in this episode as Joffrey Baratheon, there is more to him in this episode than what we usually see. Now there's several kinds of wickedness. Sansa is good too, especially when Ser Loras appears and I can feel the book come to life as she is starstruck by the Knight of Flowers. For the first time, I am buying what's-her-name-Anne-Boleyn Margaery Tyrell - she really does a great job in this episode but of course she's got some material to work with when she confronts Joffrey who's all aroused by a crossbow.
Blink and you'll miss the Jon scene with Orell ; nice scene, they should have added some dramatic music when Orell says "dead crows" to give it more flair, I think. A better and more poignant scene is Sam almost giving up, with Dolorous Edd's honesty ("Aye, we left you. You're fat and slow..."), and the Lord Commander's way of dealing with the situation. Good scene. That guy playing Sam is so good. Perfect choice.
And then we have what I really didn't like about the episode. Arya Stark's scenes. All right, I did not dislikeactual story of A Storm of Swords - I really missed Tom Sevenstrings, Lem Lemoncloak, Jack-be-Lucky; how hard could it be to give one of the background characters here a missing eye and another a yellow cloak? Also, how did they see Gendry and Hot Pie, that was weird. Now, the new guy playing Thoros of Myr surely does a great job and I buy the character - but not as Thoros of Myr (nice to see that Anguy made the names list, though). I am well aware that they need to cut down material for time constraints, but I'd rather see three seasons of A Storm of Swords so that we could get Arya's journey more alike to what actually went down in the books (it would also give them more time for other crucial book scenes not in the show, think Riverrun). Maissie Williams does a fantastic job as usual. I would have loved to see them first meeting Tom et al, before meeting Thoros et al. Maybe I feel so strongly about this because this is where I am in the re-read. But I can't help but hope that people that like the show go on to read the books.
Next dislike goes to Tyrion and Shae's scene. It's awkward - not in the acting, but in the dialogue. I can't make sense of it. Why would she call him a pervert and tell him he wants Sansa when there's been no indication of this from him at all? They are playing up her jealousy (and I suspect this is because of an upcoming event) but I can't buy it because her reasons are weak. Some dialogue is repeated verbatim from season two, and the scene could have been constructed differently to make it more believable. If they want Shae to be jealous, all right, but give her a good reason.
The return of the Hound also left me a little cold, though I can't pin-point exactly why. It's not so much that it is not how it happens in the book, but the way it is done. I believe he could have been re-introduced in a more interesting way, is all.
And finally, my pet peeve of the episode, the final scene on the bridge feat. Jaime Lannister and Brienne of Tarth. It lacks a line from Jaime reminding the audience that he's shackled, that he's the greatest swordsman of the realm but realizes that his time in the dungeon has seriously hampered his ability; yes, there is heavy breathing, but it doesn't come across believably. He could have been non-chalant in the beginning, "May I remind you I am of the Kingsguard..." or "I'm the best swordsman of the Seven Kingdoms.." and then, as she continually beats on him he could tell her she's strong as an ox and looks like one too, you know, more banter in the duel. The duel itself also didn't look very convincing.
But what I like the least about the scene is that they are picked up by Bolton men and not the Brave Companions. The scene also lacked emotional punch, I feel. They should have ended it just a little later methinks; as Martin did in the chapter, where it ends with the sword flashing above Jaime and then his scream. It's a cliffhanger of almost Falling Bran-like proportions and they decided to skip it.
So, it turned out into something of a review anyway, and I am left with a fairly good episode and the things I am the most displeased about are things - characters, really - that are missing. The Brave Companions, arguably too detestable to be shown on TV, and the lot Arya falls in with on her adventures. Yeah, we can't have it all and I'm happy with what we're getting. I think it's another solid episode, not as good as the first one of the season. It feels more like Episode I - Part II, but I'm looking forward to the third episode already with glee. And I am very very curious about how they are going to handle Riverrun which has been absent for so long yet was so prominently featured in the books.
I think I give this one a 8.2