They really can't all be winners. With a show like Game of Thrones, a huge part of the challenge faced by the writing staff each week has to be simply figuring out how exactly they want to parse out the massive amounts of story that have to be conveniently fit into season-long blocks with episode-long installments. As such (and this is definitely something upon which I've touched before), we're going to have some instances of table-setting. This can be somewhat problematic, though, for a show with only ten episodes to its season. When GoT hits its stride, all that happens is that we have a harder time going back to those relatively perfunctory episodes in which the pieces are put into place for whatever bit of awesomenss is about to come next.
Relative to the rest of this season, "Second Sons" was about as perfunctory as it gets.
While I wouldn't call this one a bad episode, necessarily, it was definitely bogged down by thing that were just sort of happening, and wasn't helped by some of the flattest writing the series has seen thus far.
Danaerys is still moving along in Essos, picking up people to fight for her, and currently dealing with the people of Yunkai. Her whole journey and Grey Worm's addition to the cast have added a great degree of depth and emotion to that particular storyline, but this episode's events just sort of happened, removed from any kind of stated motivation or emotional significance. Moments of levity are great and all that, but not when they're just filling time, which is what a lot of Dany's storyline seemed like in this episode.
Her meeting with the captains of the Second Sons, for example, was probably one of the weakest things I've seen the show do in a good, long while. I get that it's supposed to be light, funny, and set up the fact that Dany is going to probably have that one guy's head on a stick at some point in the near future, but the painting is done with broad, easy strokes that made me feel like I could have written that scene. Then, Daario shows up, having killed his other two captains, and pledges himself to Dany. The scene in which he breaks into her tent was pretty tense, because at that point, we thought he was going to actually kill her.
But than, "Nah, nevermind. I'm super into you."
Back in the west, Tyrion and Sansa get hitched, but the episode takes almost its entire running time to actually get to the wedding and then wrap things up, opting instead to illustrate the conflict Tyrion feels about marrying Sansa, and his commitment to making sure that she's not tortured any more than she already has been. Which is all well and good, but doesn't make for an insanely compelling hour of television when it's nudged up against the other stuff that's just sort of...well, happening.
Melisandre gets naked! She bangs Gendry a little bit! Gendry has King's Blood, and we need another couple of scenes to talk about that! Stannis and Davos show up (after their gratuitous scene, which could have basically just comprised of, "Hey, I'm gonna let you go if you'll be nice to Mel," followed by, "Word, whatever...but you probably shouldn't kill some innocent kid; that's really not your bag.") and then do some cursin' with leeches full of Gendry's dickblood! But all that stuff just happens, and we're going to have to wait an episode or two to find out what's going to come of all of it.
Cersei fucking. hates. Margaery! And is a total bitch about it! Surprise!
This episode of Game of Thrones is one that's rife with setup. It's an important part of the medium, and part of the limitations that are imposed by it, and it's entirely likely that we're going to have an absolutely killer couple of final episodes rounding out this season. Setup, then, isn't a bad thing, and is something of a necessary evil, but usually it can be don e in a way that's a bit more engaging than "Second Sons."
Oh, and also...
• Seriously, Sam. What the fuck, man?
• "I am the god of tits and wine!"
• The Hound is definitely one of my favorite characters, at this point.