I’m going home in a week which means my internship here in NYC is coming to an end. This is going to be a recurring theme in many of my posts for the next week because honestly, it’s the biggest thing on my mind at the moment. If there’s going to be any upside to me coming home, it’s that I’m not going to be doing as much work-based writing for the website where I’m a rock critic. I’m still going to be a contributing writer but it will mostly be long-term features like album reviews and interviews (less blog posts). So, if I’m doing less writing for work, it will be easier for me to find the energy to commit to this blog. I have a promise to myself that I won’t retire this personal blog until I get a full-time position writing about popular culture (and even then, the blog will be less retired and more just given a lower priority in my free time). Still, when I spend most of my week writing about music, I do find myself unable to muster the same enthusiasm to sit down and write some more during my free time. I just worry that it’s negatively impacting my writing because last night’s episode of Game of Thrones continued the serious momentum from last week (and wreaked havoc with the established canon of the series) and delivered another compelling and thrilling episode.

This episode segues mere hours after the events of last week. At Winterfell, Theon (and the rest of his men) wake to discover that Osha, Hodor, Bran, and Rickon are nowhere to be seen. He orders a hunt for the boys and promises Maester Luwin that he’ll hurt the boys for running away, but he won’t kill them. Beyond the Wall, Jon Snow wakes up in an almost equally bewildering predicament, snuzzled up against the wildling Ygritte (with his hand on her breast and apparently a serious case of morning wood). She taunts him sexually again until she realizes he’s a virgin and begins to take pity on him (all while still insulting him). At Harrenhal, Arya and Lord Tywin have the most tense tete-a-tete between an old man and a little girl ever when Arya’s ego and pride finally get the better of her. Tywin is executing prisoners trying to discover who assassinated Emory Lorch (an act of aggression that Tywin Lannister assumes was meant for him) and he recounts the story of a past Targaryen king and his dragon who conquered the unconquerable fortress of Harrenhal (and explained why the castle is a battered Mordor-esque ruin). When Tywin omits the actions of the Targaryen king’s sisters (who also rode dragons), Arya corrects him and keeps talking showing that she knows far more than any daughter of a stonemason. Arya only digs herself a deeper whole when Tywin picks up that her pronunciation of “my lord” instead of “m’lord” marks her as a high born girl instead of the commoner she pretends to be. Arya nearly fends off his perception until she tries to take the charade too far yet again and Tywin says she’s too smart for her own good but still seems to think fondly of his little cupbearer (because she reminds him of Cersei).

At King’s Landing, Sansa shows uncharacteristic humility and gratitude and tries to thank the Hound for saving her from the rapists. In typical Sandor Clegane fashion, he brushes off her compliment and tries to act like a heartless killer (though book readers know he has other, more complicated motives that we’ll sadly never hear on the show I fear). Sansa has a nightmare of her attempted rape only to awaken and discover that she’s had her first period which means she is now able to wed Joffrey and bear his children (which is an obviously terrifying though). Though she and Shae try to hide it from Cersei, she finds out anyways and offers some shockingly honest advice to her soon to be daughter-in-law. She straight up admits (basically) that Joffrey is a rotten bastard and tells Sansa that the only thing she can do is love her children. She doesn’t expect she’ll ever be able to love Joffrey. In Qarth, Dany demands action on her stolen dragons but is wise to not trust the offer of help from Xaro Xhoan Daxos. Ser Jorah returns (who was trying to find her a boat) and Dany orders him to find her dragons. Back beyond the Wall, Jon and Ygritte continue their argument over whose people lead a “truer” life and she makes a pretty convincing argument that the Wildlings may be a little more savage than the Westerosi but their lives are more honest. She tries to seduce him again and he has to put his hand on the hilt of his sword (not a visual double entendre I’m sure…) to get her to back off. It was all a ploy to get him flustered though and she tries to escape again, and this time she leads him straight into a wildling ambush. Ruh roh Rooby

At the camp of Robb Stark’s army, Robb has another sexual tension filled scene with the nurse who requests his help to procure medical supplies to see to the wounded. Later, the Lannister cousin who was sent to be a messenger to Cersei finally returns (in what seems like ages since he departed) informing Robb that Cersei rejected his offer of peace. The younger Lannister is sent to the same pen as Jamie (! he’s back!) where it looks like they’re bonding at first (and we’re seeing a sympathetic side of Jamie Lannister) when Jamie kills his cousin, one of his guards and attempts to escape his imprisonment. Back near Winterfell, Theon (who’s in a righteously pissed mood for fear that losing the Stark children will cost him all the respect of his family that’s he only recently earned back) stumbles upon a farm and finds a hint that the Starks may be hiding there. With a dark look on his face, he orders Maester Luwin to return to Winterfell. In Qarth, we discover that the warlock Pyatt Pree and the Xaro Xhoan Daxos were the ones that took Dany’s dragons as they stage a coup and eliminate the rest of the Qarth’s 13 leaving Xaro as Qarth’s King. Dany is told that her dragons are the the Tower of the Undying and she rushes off to rescue her children. In the Stark camp, Jamie is captured before he can get very far and Catelyn is forced to save his life from Robb’s bannermen even though she hates Jamie as much as anyone else. Still, she and Brienne confront a very hostile Jamie alone in his cell and she draws a sword on him. Finally, back at Winterfell, Theon drags Maester Luwin out to a public ceremony where Theon is preaching what happens when you disobey his rule when he displays the burnt and completely destroyed bodies of two children who we can only assume are Rickon and Bran.

I always feel like it’s a small miracle when I can keep my “recap” section of these reviews to just three paragraphs. That should speak leagues to how essentially absurdly complex the plotting of this series has gotten. You’d think that for an episode which only featured Tyrion in the shortest of scenes, the series would suffer, but it managed to get by just fine with very little Peter Dinklage (which could give credence to those who claim this season lacks any sort of identifiable center, but I’m perfectly okay with the sprawl of the franchise). The scenes between Maisie Williams and Charles Dance as Arya and Tywin were among some of the best of the season. Arya is incredibly intelligent and crafty (she’s had to be in order to survive), but she doesn’t realize that she’s trying to outsmart the only person in Westeros who could keep up in a battle of the wits with Tyrion, Varys, and Petyr Baelish. You can honestly see where Tywin is becoming affectionate of and attached to this cupbearer even though he knows she’s hiding some major secret. I highly doubt he’d keep her around if he knew she was Ned Stark’s daughter but it’s a sign of how much he respects her intellect (and her ability to surprise him) that he’s keeping her around despite beginning to see through all of her deceptions. Similarly, the scenes with Sophie Turner and Lena Headey (and later Headey’s moment with Peter Dinklage) were great at casting one of the series primary villains in a more realistic and sympathetic light. Headey nailed the whole notion of a mother who has to recognize that there is almost nothing worth loving in her son yet trying to find a way to love him anyways. It was heartbreaking.

This season of Game of Thrones has played much looser with the accepted canon of George R. R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire book series than last season did, and the number of differences isn’t even close. Season 1 changed plenty of things, but generally, they were just expanding on characters back stories in ways that were only hinted at in the books (Renly’s homosexuality) or they were giving us insight into characters who wouldn’t be that up-front for a long, long time (Jamie, Cersei) because they weren’t point of view characters yet (spoiler alert. sorry). I actually appreciated virtually every change in the first season except perhaps the addition of Ros whose only job seemed to be take her clothes off. Season 2’s changes are starting to seem a lot more arbitrary and I’m worried that the show is going to start accidentally creating major conflicts with the last two books (though they say the consult with Martin to make sure that doesn’t happen). I get some of the changes this season. Like, while I think the addition of a whole story about Dany’s dragons getting stolen is unnecessary, I know why they’re doing it. Dany really doesn’t do jack shit in A Clash of Kings. But, there are other problems where the show is killing off characters early, not introducing incredibly important major characters, and failing to to give minor characters the moment in the spotlight they need for their later earth-shattering moments to register that has me worried about how this show will hold together. For anyone who hasn’t read the books, do you guys even remember who Roose Bolton is? He’s been shown in a total of two scenes thus far but his importance later on can only be described as titanic.

Small quibbles about the foundation of the television series (and my worries that it will be able to remain faithful to Martin’s source material) aside, this episode was full of so many great moments and great insights into our characters that I only began to worry about these things after the credits rolled. How great is Downton Abbey‘s Rose Leslie as Ygritte? I wasn’t sure how I felt about her during last week’s episode but having a whole episode of her taking on Jon Snow philosophically and sexually, it’s clear to see that she was a perfect choice for the woman that will ultimately change Jon’s life (for better or worse remains to be seen on the show). She’s feisty, sexual, passionate, and emotionally explosive. She’s the perfect foil to the enormously reserved and guarded Kit Harrington as Jon Snow. How wonderful was it to have Nickolaj Coster-Waldau back as Jaime Lannister (realized I spelled his name Jamie this whole post but I’m not going back and fixing it). Jaime is another one of the series “big bads” (in a universe where moral ambiguity is the name of the game and then some), but Nickolaj Coster-Waldau gives him such a joie de vivre that he’s a wonder to have on screen. There’s such a dynamic element to Coster-Waldau’s performance that lends credence to the explosive possibilities of Jaime doing something completely unexpected at any given moment.

I’ve reached the 2000 word mark for this post which means it’s time for me to stop writing before I scare off any and all potential readers. That’s my rule of thumb. If I’ve typed an 8 page treatise (assuming the publishing standard of 250 words for a page), it’s time to draw my long-winded pontification to a close. Anyways, this season of Game of Thrones has without question found its rhythm, and if a certain scene from the book with Dany (which is one of my favorite moments of the entire series) finally happens next week, it will be another great episode. Plus, episode nine (two eps away for those that are math challenged) will be the long-awaited Battle for Blackwater and HBO has gone on record saying that’s where much of this season’s budget went. It’s one of the most tense and action-packed battles of the entire book series and it should make for one of the most epic hours in the history of television. I can’t wait. You won’t be disappointed.

Final Score: A