While magic and superstition were largely spoken of in the past tense during season 1, Game of Thrones has put these various notions front and center in season 2.
It feels as though, with the expansion of the kingdoms of Westeros, there also comes a deeper understanding of where the beliefs of this world's inhabitants lie. In 'The Night Lands' there is a distinct feeling that a separation between logic and mysticism has created a troublesome schism between knowledge and ignorance. As we see when Cersei (Lena Heady) once more engages in an ill-adviced battle of wills and wits with her younger brother, and newly appointed Hand of the King, Tyrion (Peter Dinklage).
The conversation reveals that Cersei belongs firmly to the camp that believes magic and the supernatural are relics of legend, not fact, while Tyrion has seen these unnatural things with his own eyes, so it's no longer a question of belief, as far as he's concerned. Of course, should Daenerys and her Dothraki ever make it alive through the Red Waste, such discussion over the existence of creatures thought extinct will certainly be rendered moot.
The notion of belief is further carried as Stannis' (Stephen Dillane) right hand man Ser Davos Seaworth (Liam Cunningham) is urged by his son to take up worship of Stannis' newfound god. However, Davos isn't interested in worship, he's more intent on following a man convinced of his own divine right to the throne, which is why he's enlisted the help of the pirate Salladhor Saan, for the use of his ships against Joffrey's illegitimate claim to be king – because in the end, no one can deny the power that gold wields.
This denial or acceptance of beliefs helps to not only differentiate the various kingdoms, but also give a decent glimpse at the personalities that lie within. But the notion of credence needn't be relegated to a higher power or unearthly creatures; sometimes it's as simple as where the other gender fits into the world.
Perhaps it was the excitement and sense of purpose felt by Theon Greyjoy (Alfie Allen) that caused him to run from woman to woman with a sense of ownership and right on the long journey home. However, after the rather cold and certainly revelatory reception granted to Theon by his father Balon Greyjoy (Patrick Malahide) and sister Asha (Gemma Whelan), perhaps Theon's sense of place has been altered, or at least put back to where it belongs.
Certainly, the notion of women as second-class citizens is felt the most by the men of the night's watch and their temporary host Craster (Robert Pugh). Jon Snow (Kit Harrington) and Samwell (John Bradley) are asked by Gilly (Hannah Murray), one of Craster's daughter-wives, to help her escape, for fear that the child she carries will be a son - answering the question posed by Snow in the season premiere of what Craster does with the males born by his various wives.
Of course, by the end of 'The Night Lands' we, and a snooping Jon Snow, get a hint that there is more to the absence of Craster's sons than immediately meets the eye.
Naturally, this being Game of Thrones, there is still plenty of maneuvering for various bits of power left floating around - mostly in the first of what will likely be many eloquently spoken showdowns in King's Landing between Tyrion and Varys (Conleth Hill). The threats came quickly, as one would have expected from Tyrion, but Varys held fast and proved his determination to remain unyielding in the control he has over various decisions made by those who lead in King's Landing.
Perhaps the threat of upheaval is felt most by Joffrey (Jack Gleeson) - though he doesn't appear in the episode - in his ordering of the murder of several children seen last episode. Joffrey's quest to retain his power is, however unlikely, most threatened by the survival of Arya Stark (Maisie Williams) and Gendry (Joe Dempsie), the bastard son of the Robert Baratheon. Should the pair make it to Winterfell, the Lannisters lose yet another opportunity at ransoming a Stark and, if the pursuit of Gendry continues to be as obvious as it has been, connecting the dots of Gendry's true father won't be too difficult for anyone to make.
The lack of Lannister discretion, and low regard for human life leads Tyrion to further tidy up things at King's Landing by removing the commander of the city's watch and placing Bronn (Jerome Flynn) in his place. Again differentiating himself from those who share his name, Tyrion addresses the ousted commander's lack of character and involvement in the death of Eddard Stark, and the children from last episode, with the line: "I'm not questioning your honor, I'm denying its existence."
The questions of morality held by Tyrion may soon find him even more at odds with his family, especially after he warns his sister the people may serve her now, but that won't stop an uprising should this destructive behavior continue. After all, winter is coming.
Game of Thrones continues next Sunday with 'What is dead May Never Die' @9pm on HBO.
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