Having once again been seized by the gripping conviction that I will go off my head if Game of Thrones season 3 does not arrive RIGHT NOW, I shall content myself with nostalgically recalling the greatest moments of season 2 in anticipation of many more great moments to come.
‘Those are brave men knocking on our door…let’s go kill them!’
Tyrion exhibits the brilliant leadership qualities people have been trying to smother his entire life in an awe-inspiring rally speech to petrified troops at the battle of the Blackwater, thus showing that he is not merely capable of the side of ruling that involves hatching plots, spending hours buried up to the neck in paperwork and doing damage control after Joffrey’s latest imbecility, but of inspiring ordinary people to meet a terrifying enemy head-on. He achieves this by seeing the war from their perspective; commanding them to fight for their families and their city rather than for king and country; and by exhibiting an insane courage and confidence that he certainly does not feel. It is in this scene more than any other that we realise that we are watching a truly great man, and find ourselves quite prepared to jump up screaming with bloodlust and join in.
Arya versus Tywin
I’ve already written an entire article on the Arya-Tywin relationship, so I will not rehash my words. Nevertheless, this scene is simply too good to leave out. It’s the moment when Tywin is rewarded for his initial recognition of Arya’s intelligence and knowledge of the world; as well as an awful realisation for us in that the entire premise of the story, ‘Anyone can be killed’, is here pronounced, blandly and coldly, by an eleven year old girl who should be in the flower of her innocence, but has seen just as much death and known just as much misery as the average adult. This scene is Arya’s assertion of her individuality, but, through the exquisite chemistry between her and Tywin, we also know that it is a defining moment in the strange bond that exists between them.
Jon meets Ygritte
There’s something so beautifully dramatic about being in the full fire of battle and pulling the hood off an enemy to discover a girl staring out at you. Everything about this scene is so intense in a very sensual way; Ygritte’s head yanked right back to avoid the steel at her throat; her blazing eyes; the frozen landscape contrasted with her hair; Jon’s assertion that he’s a crow like his comrades, as though uncomfortable with her having recognised something in him he doesn’t know about himself; Ygritte’s whispered comment that Jon’s sword feels cold on the back of her neck; before he famously pulls out of decapitating her and gets a knee in the groin for his trouble. Jon runs wildly and blindly into a life beyond the Wall that is linked in the most profound way with his family’s past and with his own future. Like Ygritte, it’s tied to him and never relinquishes its hold.
No explanation required.
Theon is baptised
A majestic depiction of Theon going back to his own people, and though we know there is nothing but disaster to come, there is an exquisitely primal quality in that hard shoreline, the grey light and the waves that seems to be born again in the faces of Balon, Yara (Asha), Damphair and Theon himself. One is truly overtaken by the feeling that the Greyjoys have been here since the beginning of time, and that we are witnessing something cathartic and unimaginably ancient.
Tyrion and Shae post-Blackwater
Tyrion and Shae’s relationship in the TV series is a lot more touching than it is in the book, possibly because Shae visibly shares Tyrion’s feelings. Still, whatever Shae may do later on, this scene, in which Tyrion dumps all his justifiable self-pity on her and is met with a resounding ‘fuck you’ followed by commiseration, is emotional, moving and sincere. Uncharacteristic innocence seems to shine from Shae’s eyes as she pleads with Tyrion to leave ‘these bad people’ behind and come away with her to Pentos; and Tyrion’s broken voice and face dazzlingly express both his helpless addiction to ‘the game’ and the coming to the surface of his agonising self-loathing and his often childlike yearning to be loved by someone; by anyone.
Sandor asks Sansa to leave King’s Landing with him
HBO sprinkles a lot of sugar on this scene that is menacingly dark and frankly alarming in the book, but thankfully, comes out on top. This scene is the verbal manifestation of a long conversation that has taken place mostly without words, and when Sandor’s statement that he’s leaving is met with a shrill ‘Where?’ by Sansa, you can’t help but feel the corners of your mouth turn up at how much she makes them sound like an old married couple. When it gets to his offer to take her with him, however, things get a lot more intense as Sandor tries to shake Sansa out of her fairy-tale castle in the gorgeously-written declaration, pronounced to Sansa’s averted face, that ‘Stannis is a killer. The Lannisters are killers. Your father was a killer. Your brother is a killer. Your sons will be killers someday. The world is built by killers. So you’d better get used to looking at them.’ Sansa’s simple, childlike reply, ‘You won’t hurt me’ expresses a thousand things at once, but most essentially, their relationship at its most simple; that of victim and protector. Sandor’s reply, ‘No, little bird, I won’t hurt you,’ is an acknowledgment of that relationship; which if you think about it, is pretty important from Sandor’s side, since his only previous kindnesses to her have been by virtue of his deeds: most of his words have been just plain horrible. This mutual recognition between them is beautiful, and though it’s not one of the series’ most titanic or riveting moments, it’s certainly one of the most poignant.
‘You look much uglier in the daylight.’
Sure, it barely compares with some of the others, but I simply couldn’t resist. The electrifying chemistry and soon-to-be-characteristic arguing in this scene between Jaime and Brienne signals what is soon to become a grudging but utterly steadfast friendship in what is probably the most intelligent pairing of two people in the entire saga. It’s idealism versus cynicism, hatred versus utter bewilderment, innocence versus…well, whatever Jaime is. I hesitate to call him experienced.
‘The more people you love, the weaker you are…’
‘You’ll do things for them that you know you shouldn’t do. You’ll act the fool to make them happy; to keep them safe. Love no one but your children. On that front, a mother has no choice.’
It’s probably at this point that Cersei stops speaking to Sansa as she would to a little girl and begins to address her like an adult. The Cersei-Sansa relationship is a hugely complex issue that I don’t intend to embark on here, but let’s just pause for a second and think about what this scene actually means. It’s all about Cersei, that much is clear, and the advice that she passes on to Sansa comes from a lifetime of experience. And yes, it’s a cruel, hard inhumane thing said by an evil woman in a cruel, hard and inhumane world. Then, let’s look at Sansa’s facial expressions: sadness; shock. I think she’s seeing a vision of what she could become herself (of what she probably will become, if Littlefinger sinks his claws any deeper into her), and that’s what makes Sansa’s presence just as important in the scene as Cersei’s. We see this message of cruelty and selfishness transferred to the young and the innocent with very little trouble, and on Sansa’s face we see the fear, or perhaps even the premonition, of contamination by the same darkness that is destroying the world.
Got any favourite scenes that I left out? Kindly chastise me in the comments below.