The third episode of the second season of Game of Thrones brought the most engaging action and most dynamic plot developments the season has seen yet. Viewers finally got to experience Renly Baratheon’s character and explore his sizable war camp. Arrayed in bright colors and sprawled across the countryside, Renly’s host visually represented the massive army of “summer” knights described A Clash of Kings with impressive accuracy. Brienne of Tarth was introduced, a towering woman challenging the archaic gender roles of Westeros with her battle prowess. And what better way to introduce her than a clash between a woman and a gay man, both legendary warriors? This episode was all about gender boundaries and their roles in a medieval society. The gay knight in question was of course Loras Tyrell, brother of Margaery Tyrell, Renly’s queen. These three characters and their relationships are explored far more in HBO’s telling of the Song of Ice and Fire than they are in the source material. A love story between Renly and Loras that was only mildly hinted at in A Clash of Kings takes the forefront in this episode. The ramifications of this relationship on the dynamic of Renly and Margaery’s marriage are also more fleshed out. In one particularly cringe-worthy scene in this episode, Renly’s distaste is palpable as he tries and fails to consummate his marriage after a brief encounter with the bride’s brother. It is Margaery’s reaction, however, that is the most surprising. She acknowledges and accepts Renly’s affair with Loras, offering to do whatever it takes to make sure the king produces an heir. This surprising deviation from the book is exciting. Making Renly and Margaery more complex and important characters will certainly make the remainder of the series more compelling.
The third episode also saw Tyrion Lannister at his most clever and manipulative. In a wonderfully-shot sequence of scenes, Tyrion told each member of the small council a different story about where he was planning to send the queen regent’s young daughter, warning each member not to tell the queen. Then, when the queen confronted him about shipping the princess off to Dorne, he knew the old, seemingly harmless grand maester had ratted him out because the grand maester had been the only one to whom Tyrion had named Dorne as the princess’s destination. Continuing his streak of bold power plays, Tyrion confronted and promptly did away with the grand maester…for the time being.
In other important developments, Theon Greyjoy finally made his choice in a dramatic moment in the third episode. The climax of his identity crisis came as he sat alone in a dark room, holding a letter he penned to Robb Stark warning him of the impending Greyjoy invasion. The tension of the decision was heavy, but in the end Theon held the letter to the flame of a lone candle and watched as it burned along with his ties to the Stark family that raised him as a ward. In the end he was seen being baptized in the water of the shores of the Iron Islands. The end of the episode also saw some shocking developments in Arya’s storyline. The gold cloaks returned to collect Gendry, but found Yoren as stubborn as ever. As a result, Yoren took a crossbow bolt. In true badass form, he responded by slaying a number of gold cloaks before being brutally finished by their leader. The Lannisters then rounded up the young recruits, slaying a couple. This allowed Arya to cleverly pass off one of the dead boys as Gendry, saving him from discovery and the others from torture. This is a streamlining of Arya’s extensive, trial filled journey in the book, but it seems to be taking her in the same direction. The next episode should explore Dany’s story more, and see the forces that are converging from across the world converge in some interesting conflicts. For HBO’s recap of the season so far, check out this video: