The Old Gods and the New
|"The Old Gods and the New"|
|Game of Thrones episode|
Jon Snow cannot bring himself to behead the wildling Ygritte.
|Episode no.||Season 2|
|Directed by||David Nutter|
|Written by||Vanessa Taylor|
|Featured music||Ramin Djawadi|
|Cinematography by||Martin Kenzie|
|Editing by||Oral Norrie Ottey|
|Original air date||May 6, 2012|
|Running time||54 minutes|
"The Old Gods and the New" is the sixth episode of the second season of HBO's medieval fantasy television series Game of Thrones. The episode is written by Vanessa Taylor and directed by David Nutter, his directorial debut for the series.
Theon Greyjoy has taken Winterfell following his prior gambit at Torrhen's Square. Declaring himself prince and Lord of Winterfell, Theon convinces the current lord, Bran Stark, to yield after promising not to harm the castle's inhabitants. However, when Ser Rodrik Cassel is captured outside of Winterfell and brought to Theon, the knight contemptuously spits on him. Theon moves first to imprison Ser Rodrik, but Dagmer Cleftjaw insists that Theon need personally execute Ser Rodrik, making him to pay "the iron price." Theon hesitates, but ultimately does so, despite the urgings of Bran and others at Winterfell. Theon is unable to execute Ser Rodrik with one blow, and has to repeatedly hack at him to decapitate him. Later, the wildling servant Osha seduces Theon, offering herself in exchange for her freedom; unbeknownst to Theon, Osha's seduction is a ruse to allow her and Hodor to spirit Bran and Rickon safely out of Winterfell.
In the Westerlands
Robb Stark again encounters the field nurse Talisa. As they talk flirtatiously with one another, Catelyn Stark arrives at the camp. Discovering that the nurse is Lady Talisa Maegyr from the Free City of Volantis, and sensing Robb's attraction to her, Catelyn firmly reminds her son that he is not at liberty to pursue romance: in return for Lord Walder Frey allowing the Stark armies to cross the Twins, he has promised to marry one of Frey's daughters. The Starks then receive the news of Theon Greyjoy's betrayal and the execution of Ser Rodrik. Furious, Robb declares that he will recapture Winterfell, but Lord Roose Bolton advises Robb that if he marches back to the North now, he will lose what he has gained against the Lannisters. Bolton proposes sending his bastard son with the forces he has left at his stronghold, the Dreadfort, to end the Ironborn occupation of Winterfell. Robb reluctantly agrees, but demands that Theon be captured alive so that Robb may understand Theon's treachery before he personally executes him.
Beyond the Wall
The Night's Watch expedition, led by Qhorin Halfhand, reaches and captures a wildling watchpost. The wildlings are all killed, aside from Ygritte, a single female prisoner captured by Jon Snow. After Ygritte boasts of the growing wildling army, Jon offers to execute the prisoner before rejoining the rest of the group. However, Jon finds himself unable to kill Ygritte, and his resulting hesitation allows her to escape. Jon is able to recapture Ygritte, but now finds himself separated from the main party. With night fast approaching, Jon is forced to sleep in the open. He refuses to make any fires, but is convinced by Ygritte to huddle next to her in order to share body warmth.
In King's Landing
Myrcella Baratheon is sent to Dorne as part of her arranged marriage alliance with House Martell, with the royal entourage going to the harbour to bid her farewell. While the royal entourage is returning to the Red Keep, unrest in the royal city reaches a breaking point: King Joffrey Baratheon is struck in the face with manure hurled by the crowd, and he reacts by ordering his guards to kill everyone in the crowd. A riot ensues and the royal family is forced to flee for safety. Tyrion Lannister slaps Joffrey for his foolishness and tries to take control of the situation, but the Kingsguard refuse to obey him. Trapped outside, Sansa Stark is nearly gang-raped by several men before being rescued by Sandor "The Hound" Clegane.
Lord Tywin Lannister grows increasingly exasperated at the incompetence of his advisors and men-at-arms, who have let sensitive military information slip into the hands of Stark loyalists by confusing addressees. Tywin observes that his cupbearer Arya Stark can read better than many of his knights, something he finds unusual because Arya later tells him her father was a stonemason. Arya's effort to conceal her true identity is further endangered when Petyr Baelish unexpectedly arrives at Tywin's chambers for a meeting. Forced to wait at the table and serve wine, Arya tries to conceal her face from Baelish. Although he notices the cupbearer after she nervously spills his wine, it is unclear as to whether he recognises her as Arya. Later, one of Tywin's knights, Ser Amory Lorch, catches Arya with a stolen parchment detailing war orders concerning her brother Robb. She manages to escape him, then finds the assassin Jaqen H'ghar, who is still masquerading as a Lannister guardsman. She implores him to kill Ser Amory without delay to repay the second of the three "lives" he owes her. As Ser Amory enters Tywin's chambers to expose Arya, he drops dead with a poisoned dart lodged in his neck.
Daenerys Targaryen meets with the Spice King, one of Qarth's ruling Thirteen. Daenerys's entreaties to the Spice King for ships are rebuffed as he is not moved by her passion alone, but rather tangible promises. Later, returning with her host Xaro, Daenerys and her entourage suddenly discover the dead bodies of Qartheen guards and her own khalasar strewn around Xaro's mansion. The trail of bodies leads to her antechamber, where she sees that her handmaiden Irri has been killed and her dragons have been stolen. The dragons are then seen being ferried to a tower by a mysterious hooded figure.
"The Old Gods and the New" is the second episode scripted by the season's new addition to the writing staff Vanessa Taylor, adapting the material taken from the following chapters of George R.R. Martin's original work A Clash of Kings: Arya VIII, Daenerys III, Tyrion IX, Bran VI, Jon VI (39, 41, 42, 47, 52). Also, the opening scene with the ironborn taking Winterfell uses elements from three different chapters: Theon IV, V, and VI (51, 57 and 67).
Some of the most significant changes from the books include Jon not letting Ygritte leave after refusing to execute her, the executions of Rodrik and Irri (in the books Rodrik is not killed until later, and Irri is still alive by the end of the fifth book), and Arya using her second wish to kill Amory Lorch instead of Weese, a cruel understeward who does not appear in the series. The Reed children have not been introduced yet: in the books they aid in Bran and Rickon's escape from Winterfell. Furthermore, at this point the Qarth storyline is only loosely based on the source material, as the theft of Daenerys' dragons does not occur in the books.
This episode features the introduction of Rose Leslie playing the Wildling woman Ygritte. The producers had seen her in Downton Abbey, where she had played Gwen Dawson, and they had admired her ability to do Northern accents. The Scottish actress used a Yorkshire accent in Downton Abbey. She was also trained in basic stage combat at the London Academy of Music and Dramatic Art and was eager to play the most physical aspects of her role.
Two prominent recurring guests actors had their last appearance in the show. Winterfell's master-at-arms Rodrik Cassel (Ron Donachie) and the Dothraki handmaiden Irri (Amrita Acharia) were killed, and in both cases their deaths in the series was far earlier than their deaths in the original books. Acharia was surprised when she found out that Irri died, but felt that the death served a purpose making Daenerys more isolated. A scene depicting how Irri was strangled was actually filmed but was not included in the final montage. The actress revealed: "I think it's hard to be strangled onscreen because obviously to an extent to make it look real, you really have to be a bit strangled. So I had massive bruises on my neck the next day. I was proud. Battle scars."
The episode's interior shots continued to be filmed at Belfast's The Paint Hall, while the scenes at Winterfell and Harrenhal were filmed at the sets built at Moneyglass and Banbridge, respectively.
At Dubrovnik, the production used the seashore between Fort Bokar and Fort Lovrijenac to film Myrcella's departure, the Pile Gate's inner gateway for the riot scene, the inner terrace of Fort Lovrijenac for the refuge where the royal family hides from the mob, and the Rector's Palace for the atrium of the Spice King in Qarth. In this later location, the bust of the Croatian 16th century seaman Miho Pracat can be clearly seen.
The viewership of the episode's first airing held steady, obtaining 3.879 million viewers and a 2.0 among the 18-49 demographic. The repeat was watched by 0.832 million additional viewers, also in line with last week's rating In the United Kingdom, the episode was seen by 0.870 million viewers on Sky Atlantic, being the channel's highest-rated broadcast that week.
Upon airing, the episode received overwhelming critical praise. Review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes surveyed 14 reviews and judged 100% of them to be positive with an average score of 9.3 out of 10. The website's critical consensus reads, "Thanks to a balance of thrilling action, complex character work, and a savage twist, 'The Old Gods and The New' justifies its deviation from the source material." IGN's Matt Fowler gave the episode a perfect 10 out of 10, noting that "Book purists will certainly have their gripes, but I found 'The Old Gods and the New' to be nothing short of an intense triumph; (sic) filled with tons of cruelty and shock." Todd VanDerWerff of The A.V. Club gave the episode an "A" and called it one of the best episodes of the series. He commented on how the plot was diverging more and more from the novel, but argued that the heart of the story was kept and that the changes were necessary in order to explicitly express what in the novel was characters' internal monologues. He also praised the thematic unity of the episode, achieved by making the large number of character arcs take place in the course of a single day.
Jace Lacob of Televisionary echoed the above sentiments, calling the episode by far the best of the season thus far: "All in all, 'The Old Gods and New' represented a massive achievement for Game of Thrones, a stunning display of well-crafted dialogue, subtle acting, deliberate pacing, and glorious setting, and the firm establishment that the show's continuity is well and truly separate from that of the novels." In particular, he praised the scenes between Arya and Tywin, as well as the riot in King's Landing and the near-rape of Sansa.
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