While the first episode of season two launched us straight back into the warring world of Westeros, The Night Falls served as a reminder of just how gritty the series can be, with more racy sex scenes than sword fights.
It picked up where The North Remembers left off, with Arya fleeing north towards Winterfell along with Gendry, the only bastard child of Robert Baretheon that survived last week’s mass-slaughter.
Thankfully this was one of the few scenes in which everyone kept their pants on, as the burlier members of the caravan managed to scare away the royal watchmen looking for blood. Young Arya and Gendry are sure to be striking up a fledgling friendship, considering he’s the first to discover her true identity.
Jon Snow and the rest of the Night’s Watch are stuck in … disconcerted (to say the least) by their host’s incestuous tendencies. Against the Commander’s instruction, warm-hearted Samwell befriends one of Craster’s timid daughters, named Gilly (introducing Hannah Murray, who you may remember as waif-like Cassie of Skins’ first generation). Desperate to escape her father and save the life of her unborn son, she begs to accompany them on their journey beyond the wall. Whether or not they’ll agree remains to be seen as the episode closes with Jon following Craster into the forest to watch him do away with a baby boy, only to be clubbed in the head by the menacing brute.
Tyrion has returned to King’s Landing and is coming to terms with his role as hand of the King. Whilst he certainly showed Janos Slynt who was boss in banishing him to the Night’s Watch to make room for Bronn, it remains to be seen whether this much-hated imp is wicked enough to use his power to the advantage of the Lannisters. Cersei’s bitter exchange with her least favourite brother reveals the tension in their relationship; surmising that the biggest joke of all was that their mother died whilst giving birth to him. It’s fair to say that whilst it may be directed at him, her frustration isn’t entirely with Tyrion – rather, she’s hopeless to reign in her bloodthirsty son and spooked by the warning of the supernatural happenings beyond the wall. Lena Headley’s portrayal was so tender it almost made you feel sorry for the woman. She’s still a nasty piece of work though.
As if all of this weren’t enough, we were also introduced to two new characters upon Theon’s return to the Iron Islands – Balon and Yara Greyjoy. This merry little family reunion took a turn for the unexpected when Theon (and we, the mortified audience) realised that the sultry woman he’d been feeling up on the ride in was in fact his sister. Further to that disappointment is the news that instead of taking charge of his father’s army to fight alongside the noble Starks, he’ll be forced to trail behind in battle against them – the very family he’s come to consider his brothers. Something tells me Balon is another powerful ‘king’ not to be messed with.
The goings-on at Littlefinger’s brothel were frankly too crass to warrant much further discussion. Suffice it to say that the voyeuristic peek into this medieval bordello made for an eye-opening couple of minutes.
Daenerys is still stuck in the desert with her band of not-so-merry horsemen, her most promising soldier having returned as no more than a head in a bag. This isn’t likely to discourage the dragon queen though, here’s hoping that those baby dragons come into play sooner rather than later.