Game of Thrones
Game of Thrones Season 4 Episode 2 Review "The Lion and the Rose"

Greg Tito | 15 Apr 2014 00:00
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The Boltons are just terrible people, and this episode makes a great case for the masters of the Dreadfort taking over as the new villains of Game of Thrones. Ramsey Snow starts the episode off with a horrific sequence in which he is hunting a human girl through the woods, taunting her all the while that he will let her be free if she can escape the forest. You might be hard pressed to recognize her with her clothes on, but one of the girls from last season who participated in Theon's torture is with her lord - Ramsay calls her Myranda so at least we have another name to add to "the list". Theon, now known as Reek, shuffles along behind the other two, clearly broken.

The sequence is shot horribly well, with a deliciously suspenseful moment of silence when the girl believes she may have evaded her hunters. Then the baying hounds track her down and eventually Myranda shoots the prey in the leg with an arrow. There's a bit more comedy in how Ramsay portrays his villainy than Joffrey - Snow plays Myranda's apparent jealousy over the prettier girl as an in-joke - but the whimpering, obviously panicking girl, is overwhelming to watch. Thankfully, the audience doesn't witness the girl being ripped to shreds by Ramsay's dogs, but Reek does, and seeing his reaction is actually worse, I'd argue.

Roose Bolton and his modest retinue returns to the Dreadfort, and Ramsay is there to welcome his father in the courtyard. Snow takes note of Wanda Frey's weight, and there's evidence of a smirk but little more. In the solar, Bolton reprimands his bastard for "flaying" Theon Greyjoy when the son of the Iron Islands was much more valuable as a hostage to trade for some territory. There's a brief shot of a map, in which the geography is explained a bit, but I wonder if casual watchers will miss what exactly was discussed. Essentially, the Ironborn - Theon's countrymen, including his sister Yara - occupy a stronghold that's very difficult to capture due to it being surrounded by deep marshlands. Fifty men with longbows and enough ammunition can hold the Neck against 100 times their number, so trading Theon would have allowed a diplomatic resolution.

The relationship between Bolton and his bastard is played well as a counterpoint to Eddard Stark's treatment of Jon Snow. In the Dreadfort, Bolton has his bastard act as lord in his absence, while Jon is shoved off to the Night's Watch. Of course, Roose Bolton has no legal sons, so his options are limited, but even he shows some remorse in giving any power to his obviously disturbed bastard. "I give you far too much responsibility," he says to his son. But then Ramsay surprises his father by showing Reek's barber skills, rewarding us with one of the most memorable scenes from the episode. The shaving scene is almost as shudder-inducing as Ramsay's torture scenes, because it shows just how broken Theon's spirit is. He could have cut Snow's throat when he learned of Robb Stark's death, but he's so afraid of his master that all he can do is pause and shake in fits before calmly continuing the shave.

I'm not sure Alfie Allen has the acting chops to pull off the transition from cocky prick to broken shell, but it doesn't help that he doesn't appear any different. In the books - and we're pulling scenes from book five A Dance with Dragons at this point - Reek is nearly unrecognizable after his torture. He is kept in dungeons for months on end, starved, forced to eat rats to survive, and Ramsay removes several of Reek's fingers. The process leaves a broken man who looks more like a hunched Maester than a lord. In the show, Reek still looks too much like Theon for us to believe he's really changed. We'll have to see how it plays out, but for now I do not believe the transition.

Bolton learns the Stark boys survived, and dispatches the guy who chopped off Jaime Lannister's hand, known as Locke, to find them. Reek says Jon Snow is at Castle Black, so we'll likely see Locke show up there this season. Ramsay and Reek will head south to try to win Moat Cailin from the Ironborn. All of this is outside the chronology of the books, and I'm interested to see if the reconstructed timeline starts to become confusing or not. In some ways, the show may end up with a better version of Martin's story than Martin's story actually was written - the author admitted he made a mistake in how he drafted books four and five, resulting in ten years of agonizing development that he still really hasn't really recovered from.

But now let us move south to King's Landing.

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