Game of Thrones S3E8 “Second Sons” Synopsis
Spoiler Warning: If you’ve yet to see this episode (S3E8 Second Sons) of HBO’s acclaimed fantasy drama, be sure to turn away now! We’ll be discussing major plot points and we’d hate to spoil the episode for you.
The Wolfling and the Hound
This week’s episode of Game of Thrones starts off with quite a bang, with the Hound’s recent capturing of Arya Stark–who fled from her captors the Brotherhood Without Banners right into the clutches of the Hound in the nearby woods.
Sandor Clegane (known by his proffered name “the Hound”) served as Prince Joffrey’s royal bodyguard and is one of Arya’s most hated and despised men in the entire Seven Kingdoms, and he’s one of the names in the revenge mantra that Arya recites every night. Arya might just have her chance to finish the Hound off once and for all, but when she’s given the chance to smash him with a rock, she hesitates, and Sandor reveals some of his honest yet scarred nature.
In his own way, the Hound is one of the most valiant knights in the kingdoms, even if he’s crass and downright cruel at times. Sandor isn’t one to hide his nature–he proudly exposes every nuance to his bloody skills with a blade, making him all the more dangerous as he’s completely immune to the political intrigues and coercion of the Game of Thrones that the highborn play.
On their way, Arya inquires about a nearby river, asking if its the Blackwater. The Hound says that its the Red Fork, and much to Arya’s surprise, he reveals that he plans to bring her back to the Twins to meet her brother, Robb, and her mother, Catelyn Tully. The Hound isn’t doing this for charity, though; he expects to be compensated for his “gift” with a hefty bag of gold.
Arya is initially confused as to why her mother and brother would be in the Twins, as the castle-fort is the home of House Frey, one of Riverrun’s sovereign houses. The Hound tells her about the planned marriage between her uncle (Lord Edmure Tully) and one of Frey’s oldest daughters, and that many of the north’s principal lords will be in attendance.
This further surprises Arya and she has no choice but to let the Hound carry her to safety, even if she hates him for killing Micah back in Season 1. The Hound is unmatched in swordsmanship and he’s a great protector, but his personality leaves much to be desired. The two head off for the Twins, riding on the Hound’s black steed and following the Red Fork.
The Second Sons
Meanwhile, across the Narrow Sea, Danaerys further investigates the possible conquest of Yunkai, the “Yellow City” and one of the oldest cities in Essos. The Yunkai’i, like the ill-fated Astapori, have practiced slavery for thousands of years: it has become ingrained with their culture and economy, and Dany despises it completely.
Her two loyal counselors and Queensguard, Ser Jorah Mormant and Ser Barristan Selmy advise her on taking down Yunkai, and they investigate one of the sellsword groups under Yunkish employ, the Second Sons. Selmy tracks down the leaders of the organization–which numbers over 2,000 men–and brings them to Dany.
Dany lays out her proposition for the crude sellswords–who reveal their rather disgusting nature quite early on in plain, lecherous performance. Dany is unphased by their words, and offers them glory, gold and more if the Second Sons cross over and fight for her instead of Yunkai, and gives them two days to think it over.
One of the three who is introduced, Daario, catches Danaerys’ eye, and will establish himself as an important character–at least for Dany–later on.
A Stag Among Dragons
Melisandre has just returned to Dragonstone with Robert Baratheon’s bastard, Gendry, and presents him before Stannis. Gendry is quite bewildered with the situation and has no idea why he’s been brought to the legendary castle-keep of the Targaryen bloodline, but Melisandre, with her sensuous promises, lays out a puzzling siren-song plot that seems to incorporate Gendry as an essential part of Stannis’ journey.
The Red Witch tells Gendry that king’s blood has power, and that he will play an integral role in the rising of kings. She furnishes Gendry with royal garb and a plethora of other luxuries during his stay, but they will remain short lived, as she all but promises the boy’s doom to Stannis.
Stannis is perturbed by the situation–the boy is his nephew, after all, of his own bloodline and name–and actually goes to see Davos in the prisons underneath the castle. Davos is quite surprised to see Stannis, and holds no rancor or ill-will against the supposed king. Stannis lays out what Melisandre plans to do to Gendry–one of her brutal fiery sacrifices in which many have met their doom–and Davos listens.
Davos then delivers the counsel that earned him his charge as Hand of the King, reassuring Stannis that he’s not a man who slaughters innocents for glory, and makes the claim that Gendry is his own nephew, regardless of the boy’s illegitimacy.
Stannis responds with the prophetic challenges that established him as the one true king, the very prophecy and legacy that ties him with Rh’llor, the fiery god of the east. Melisandre has foretold that the world will be engulfed in a daunting apocalypse known as The Long Night, where everything will be completely taken by shadow.
Stannis believes the prophecy as he’s seen a vision in the flames of a great battle in the snow, and he’s convinced that some of–if not all–of what Melisandre claims is real, and accepts the fate of Gendry as he must persevere in order to save the realm. Stannis then sets Davos free only if he promises not to raise a hand against Melisandre again, and like that, the Onion Knight regains his freedom.
In a way, it seems that Stannis needs some sort of moral compass and support other than Melisandre’s strange visions. He needs a man who he can trust, and Davos has always been the person who’s tethered him to his morals and his rigid sense of honor. Setting Davos free was more than just claiming an old friend–he’s trying to save the part of himself that made him an honorable man before he’s engulfed by the fiery prophecy of Rh’llor…
The Imp Weds a Wolf
It was revealed in Episode 7 that Tyrion is to be wed to Sansa in order to fulfill Tywin Lannister’s nefarious plan to lay claim to the north–as Sansa is a Stark, and the Starks of Winterfell reign above all other houses in the North. Both Tyrion and Sansa are extremely reluctant to go through with the marriage, however Tywin is not a man you betray–not if you don’t want your head on a spike.
The procession is to be held at King’s Landing in somewhat of a mockery of a real marriage, and the whole thing seems to be a cruel joke to Sansa. She has always had dreams of marrying a valiant knight with her family all around, a gala affair befit a lady of one of the greatest houses in the Seven Kingdoms. Now that Winterfell has been caught aflame in the War of the Five Kings, and that her brother–the current Lord of Winterfell–has been labeled a traitor and a rebel, Sansa is held hostage in King’s Landing as a valuable prize and bargaining chip for the enemy faction.
While Sansa remains innocent in all of this and a victim of horribly bad luck, there remains one saving grace in the situation: Tyrion is one of the most morally refined men in the entire realm–despite his lecherous nature that earned him his namesake as an “Imp”. The halfman will no doubt treat her well and do everything in his considerable power to protect her, and she will be showered with gifts and gold–but these are small solace to a woman who’s mind is all but broken after the promises of escape were torn from her; the ship remains a faint dream, a fantasy that has drifted away in reality as it had across the swells of the sea.
Now she must do her duty and play the wife to a man she finds physically repulsive (and even more so in the book series), but what he lacks in good looks, he more than makes up for in heart–something that Sansa will find out first hand.
Tyrion meets Sansa in her chamber in order to escort her to the procession, wherein the two will be bound in holy matrimony before the gods and men. The principal players of the political Game of Thrones in King’s Landing have all taken the opportunity to make appearances befit of their stature and standing: Cersei is “radiant” in garb that truly befits a Queen Regent, and Margaery Tyrell is nonetheless wrapped in expensive silks and cloth-of-gold to match.
Margaery tries to play nice in sycophantic tones to Cersei, but Cersei, ever the strong woman is having none of it. Instead of meeting Margaery’s efforts, Cersei alludes the Tyrell’s current standing to the ill-fated story of the Reynes of Castamere–a legendary tale that was cited any time a great house in the realm decided to try to thwart the Lannisters, as Lord Reyne did all those years ago.
For their open rebellion against the Lannisters, the Reynes of Castamere were slaughtered–every man, woman and child was put to the sword, and their bodies were hung up on the gates of Casterly Rock as a warning to anyone who might try to follow in their footsteps.
Cersei’s story hits home with Margaery, who tries to remain defiant–but the uneasiness is all too easy to spot upon her face. Cersei is an intimidating woman that radiates with power and austerity, much like her father, and it would be unwise to cross her–even in a small way.
“If you ever call me sister again I’ll have you strangled in your sleep,” Cersei proclaims to Margaery after her chilly re-telling of the fate of house Reyne.
Now the marriage proper begins, with Sansa walking alone across the steps and inner chamber of the Great Sept of Baelor, the principal sept and church of King’s Landing. As Sansa is the only member of her house, she has no family members present at her “wedding”, and she is forced to stand alone during the farce and accept her fate with some sort of modesty.
In a true slap to the face, Joffrey saunters up, saying that since her father Ned Stark is gone, and that as king Joffrey is the “father of the realm”, it’s his duty to give Sansa away. Sansa would like nothing more than to slide a sword through Joffrey’s heart, but she must endure this–and much more–before the wedding is through.
As a final insult and a display of his cruelty, Joffrey takes away the wooden footstool from Tyrion in an effort to humiliate him during this ceremony. Since Tyrion is a dwarf, he is not tall enough to “cloak” Sansa, a symbolic effort that’s re-enacted in all weddings of the realm. Sansa has to kneel in her beautiful dress, further humiliating the both of them in front of all the on-lookers.
Now we cut to the evening celebration of the wedding, wherein the bride, groom and the guests are dining and wining in splendor. Tyrion is downing wine in an effort to get quite drunk, and in the process makes a fool of himself–precisely his plan, as a means to get back at Tywin. Tyrion’s performance not only shames him, but also shames his name and his father, which is exactly what he wanted.
In any case, Sansa is disgusted and asks to be excused, trying to get some sort of reprieve. The reprieve is short-lived, however, when Joffrey intercepts her, offering his own “services” to Sansa, saying that his uncle will be too drunk to “perform” and instead offers to drop by and “give her a Lannister baby”. Sansa glares at him but is careful not to provoke the boy-king, as she knows the full brunt of his cruelty.
Afterwards, Joffrey insists on commencing the bedding ceremony–an age old tradition wherein both man and wife are stripped nude and carried to their beds by the guests, and they often stand by the door and offer ribald jests and cheers while the bride and groom make love.
Joffrey is, of course, doing this to humiliate his uncle and the woman he so loves to torment. Tyrion resists, saying that there will be no bedding ceremony. Joffrey insists further, and Tyrion finally lashes out with a full-on threat to chop off the king’s manhood with a knife.
Joffrey is taken aback and rage fills his face as a full-on tantrum is about to begin, and those usually end up with someone losing their tongue or head. Tywin has the grace to save the day–only because he wants Tyrion to deliver a Lannister baby upon Sansa–by saying that Tyrion is quite drunk and doesn’t know what he’s saying.
It works, and Joffrey relents, letting Tyrion’s obvious performance play its course as he further humiliates himself in front of the crowd as proof of his drunkeness, taking Sansa’s hand and leading her to his chamber to consummate their marriage.
Halfway through Tyrion opts for kindness rather than lust and tells Sansa that he can’t do this, not to her. Tyrion stumbles into a nearby couch and falls into drunken slumber, leaving Sansa with her pride and maidenhood; she’s already been humiliated enough.
Sam the Slayer
After a short cut to Dany’s acquisition of the Second Sons (and Daario’s heart) as well as a short visit in King’s Landing where Shae sees Tyrion’s faithfulness, we return to the cold wastes of the North in the frozen lands Beyond the Wall, where Sam and Gilly are trekking toward the bastion of the Night’s Watch.
The two find an abandoned wooden shack nearby a heart tree, the mystical Weirwoods with their pale bark and blood red leaves that have some sort of magical power imbued by the Children of the Forest.
Gilly is traveling with her newborn son heavily wrapped in furs, and both her and Sam learn to engage one another and initiate a lasting relationship that is solidified by their dire circumstances. They both know if they don’t find the Wall that they may die in the snowbound wilds.
Suddenly the ravens outside start squawking in profusion, and it becomes obvious that there’s something outside. Sam leaves the warmth of their makeshift camp to investigate, defying his cowardly instincts, inspired by some sort of courage to protect Gilly and her babe.
When he finds dozens of ravens all squawking in the branches of the heart tree, it appears as some sort of warning, and abruptly they all stop. This could mean one thing–White Walkers.
A lone White Walker this time, but no less deadly, and its come for Gilly’s baby. Sam tries to fend it off with his blade, but the deadman easily shatters the sword and sends Sam flying–which is no easy feat.
Out of desperation, Sam snatches at the obsidian dragonglass dagger that was given to him and stabs the White Walker in the back, but nothing could prepare him for what happened next: the White Walker screams in a death rattle, convulsing to the ground where it shatters like ice and is blown away by the wind.
Sam has just successfully killed the dreaded bane of the North–the very reason why all of the wildlings left their homes to push to the South. Sam the Coward, Sam the Pig, has just slain the scourge of legend, and has armed this generation with the knowledge they need to fight the war that is coming with the frozen wind.
Sam has earned the name Slayer, and will go down in history as a courageous hero of the Night’s Watch that killed a White Walker, and changed the course of the war forever…