“You think you can beat me in a fair fight?”
The problem with many serialized plot-heavy shows is that there is sometimes too much set-up with not any indicator of when the pay-off is going to be. In “The Prince of Winterfell” the plots are coming together in preparation for the season climax and the anticipation to see the season’s endgame is at an all-time high. The pieces move yet again, and all the sides are one move away from winning the game. This leads to a lot of waiting, but in “Game of Thrones”, waiting is often better than the action as we get to enjoy some of the more human moments of the series.
“Game of Thrones” has always been a very bleak show and there has never been any real resemblance of a happy moment. Even moments of small victories like Tyrion’s promotion to the Hand of the King by his neglectful father always have a sense of doom to them. Robb and Talisa’s moment of passion is probably the only truly happy moment in the series so far. Sure Robb is backing out on a promise to the Frey’s by doing so, but in this moment, the two simply just want to forget about their troubles and share a night with each other. It is a scene of freedom as they both neglect their assigned roles society has given them and explore their personal desires and dreams instead.
While the major players prepare for battle and death, other quieter moments shine, notably the scene with Jaime and Brienne beginning their journey to King’s Landing. Jaime’s cruel comments and Brienne’s stoic nature provides some hilarious dialog and character development. Playing two very confident characters against each other is rewarding as they consistently try to destroy the others pride. In the books, this is by far my favourite storyline in the series and it is great to see the show do it justice with its superb casting and writing. Scenes like this work well as they engage the viewer with new storylines even if they do not feature their favourite characters or familiar settings.
“You enjoy playing the game, and you play it well”
As a large battle approaches, Tyrion and council as well as Stannis and Davos prepare for war. Due to the charisma of all the actors involved these planning scenes are very engaging as opposed to dull and drawn out. Jerome Flynn and Conleth Hill as Bronn and Varys do a superb job at squaring off their characters’ wit against Tyrion’s. Bronn has a very blunt view of the world that contradicts and plays off well against Tyrion’s idealism. Varys acts as middle ground as his motives and goals remain unclear. Seeing the three of them plan a battle is fascinating, as victory would mean something different to all of them. Meanwhile, Davos and Stannis’ dynamic is completely different but equally engaging. Davos wants to serve his king and Stannis wishes to fight to take what is legally his. Stephan Dillane’s cruel and calculating portrayal of Stannis makes him hard to root for but very easy to watch. It is going to be interesting to see if the battle is as engaging to watch as the preparation for it.
“The Prince of Winterfell” is as good of set-up for the season’s final stretch as last years imprisonment of Ned Stark. All the elements of the major political player’s plots have been set-up over the past several episodes and this episode funnels them into one storyline. “Game of Thrones” has avoided having its set-up episodes be boring by making the characters as engaging as the plot. If the promos for next week are an indicator, than “The Prince of Winterfell” has been the perfect set-up for the episode people have been waiting for the entire series.