TV Review: Game of Thrones S2E5

Warning: full spoilers follow.

“I’d have better luck debating the wind”.

Carrying the freshly-squeezed, newborn smoke-baby(?) of Stannis and Melisandre, it would seem the wind had no interest in humoring Renly Baratheon (Gethin Anthony) with a debate. Just as quickly as it had arrived last week, this swirling mass of shadow swept into Renly’s tent and thrust a dagger through his unsuspecting heart, thus providing Game of Thrones with its first truly surprising death of the season.

“How is your foot?”, Renly asked a member of his camp, a few episodes ago. Seeming like a throw-away moment, and occurring at the start of a larger scene with Catelyn Stark (Michelle Fairley), it’s as easily missed as it is forgotten. In the world of Game of Thrones however, where each character is scrambling for screen time and every moment is precious, this kind of banter is anything but idle. It was specifically included to establish Renly as a man of the people. A sympathetic, likeable type for the audience to get behind. Exactly the type of guy this series likes to punish.

Game of Thrones has long since established that, as Arya (Maisie Williams) so astutely put, “anyone can be killed”, and though not as significant as that of Ned Stark, the loss of Renly Baratheon shocks mostly for how abruptly it puts an end to the numerous sub-plots that were tied to him. No longer will the show be concerned with the facade surrounding his dubious marriage to Margaery Tyrell (Natalie Dormer). Gone, is the prospect of further developments on his love affair with her brother. The potential alliance with Robb Stark (Richard Madden), and the story of Renly’s own claim to the Iron Throne have, naturally, both died with him. Perhaps this was series author George R. R. Martin’s point – that death is messy and inconvenient, and will rarely offer the courtesy of allowing resolution for loose ends. Baffling as it is, kudos are once again deserved, for defying precedents set by other shows and allowing a the death of a major character to interrupt his own storylines, rather than serve as their climax.

Across the Narrow Sea, Daenerys (Emilia Clarke), at long last, has a real storyline. After spending the better part of four episodes traipsing through the Red Waste, she finally escapes not only its scorching heat, but the ensuing narrative limbo. Having closed last season with the spectacular birth of her dragons, it’s been disappointing that she’s had so little to do so far this year. Thankfully, plenty has already happened in Qarth, and the city looks to have been worth the wait. In addition to an exotic new location, it’s great to see the relationship between Dany and Ser Jorah (Iain Glen) is being fleshed out, and their awkward scene towards the end of the episode was well handled.

Having only spent one episode in the city, it already seems as though Dany will be well occupied for the rest of this year. Though Qarth may appear full of golden statues and glamorous parties for now, it will undoubtedly reveal it’s darker side soon enough.

Game of Thrones airs Tuesday nights, 8:30pm on Showcase. Click here to see more of our reviews for the series.

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