The eighth episode of the second season of Game of Thrones is slower than the past few, yet pieces in the game are clearly being moved into position for the titanic finale. As the title suggests, the conflict in Winterfell is highlighted in this episode, with the impulsive and desperate Theon Greyjoy as the centerpiece. Theon’s sister finally arrives with a crew of Iron Islanders, but not to provide him with backup. Instead, she says she has come to bring him home, mocking him for his poor decision-making in the sack of Winterfell and the hasty murder of Robb Stark’s brothers. Theon, stubborn as always, promises to hold Winterfell with or without his sister’s help. She makes one last attempt to persuade him via a heartfelt plea, but at the end of the episode Theon seems resolute in his decision.
As the story follows Theon’s troubles, it is revealed that Bran and Rickon are not the charred corpses hanging over the castle, but are instead hidden alive and well beneath Winterfell with the corpses of their ancestors. This is the biggest plot development of the episode despite the Stark children’s limited screen time. The other Stark boy, Robb, is busy courting the foreign medic he fell for earlier in the season. This storyline continues to surprise as the girl isn’t a character in the novel and their relationship seems to be developing rather fast. It may be that she is being brought in to replace Robb’s love interest that develops later in the book series. This is an interesting and welcome addition to the storyline that will keep fans of the books on their toes.
Another deviation from A Clash of Kings is Jon Snow’s capture by the wildlings. While this storyline seems to be headed in the same direction as the books, the circumstances by which Jon landed amidst the wildling band were decidedly different. Qhorin Halfhand starts instigating the situation that will eventually to a tough choice for Jon. He mentions the need for a “brother inside” then feigns an angry assault on Jon. In the coming 2 episodes Jon will have tough decisions to face regarding his future with the Night’s watch, and more importantly the fate of all of Westeros.
In King’s Landing, the Lannisters brace for impact as Stannis Baratheon sails in force. Still, the internal conflicts that plague their household are the focus of their interactions. Tyrion and Cersei have one of their most heated interactions yet. Cersei claims to have found Tyrion’s whore, referring to Shae, but reveals she has apprehended and beaten the wrong whore. Tyrion plays along still, and threatens Cersei in his rage, coldly claiming that he will hurt her when she least expects it. Later he talks candidly with Varys, revealing that he not only understands the game, he enjoys it. The next episode will determine whether Tyrion’s intellect is enough to overcome Stannis’s forces. Episode nine is the battle, the final confrontation, and the resolution of the tension that has been building all season. Look for it this Sunday on HBO.