I suggested to the guys on the board that, since I was no longer reading it, I'd post some thoughts here about Game of Thrones, as many of them have become fans in the last year-and-a-half since the HBO series began. Obviously, there are colossal spoilers below for anyone who hasn't watched or read the books...
I think they conveyed the sense of idleness that permeates the Baratheon/Tyrell alliance. Although the HBO Renly is very different from the book Renly, they both are lacking the same sense of aggression that made Robert the warrior king that he was (or tried to be; far better the former than the latter.) It's all nice and well to assemble 100K men-at-arms and knights, but it's a far cry from an actual army until you have a leader capable of taking it somewhere. Catelyn gets the pleasure of pointing that out on her walk with Renly. Gwendoline Christie was excellent as Brienne, though, and I'm glad they skipped the renaming of Renly's Kingsguard. Given the fact that they're giving free rein to Renly's sexual preferences, rather than overt allusion in the books, the "Rainbow Guard" would have been way over the top. It's a bit much even in the books.
On the one hand, I like that they've introduced Margaery as a smart, capable woman. OTOH, I like the subtlety with which Martin moves her in the books. Even though there is no frank admission of Renly's love for Loras in Clash of Kings, she's presented as clearly knowledgeable about the reality of her marriage and the people around her. Again, this is one of those things that you'd be hard-pressed to imply in a 10-episode TV series (like Melisandre's relationship with Stannis and Craster's arrangement with the Others), so they kind of have to lay it out in the open (as it were.) I think this change to Margaery is unfortunate, but nowhere near as disastrous as the one to Stannis (who was, regrettably, absent from this episode.) With this in mind, it will be interesting to see how they present the Queen of Thorns if she appears next season, as her character is all about subtlety and vague menace. I hope they go into a bit more detail about House Tyrell, as well.
Just like in Clash of Kings, Tyrion is killin' it and, likewise, Peter Dinklage has completely assumed the role of leading man this season. I noticed a lot of people thrilled with his lines and actions in the first two episodes, but this was the one where he really seemed to grow into his own as Hand. The Myrcella situation played out just like in Clash and they preserved a lot of the dialogue, including the moment with Varys ("I've decided I don't like riddles."), which was great to see.
The resolution to the Craster change from last episode was acceptable, although I think they're twisting the "even the good guys make cynical choices in this world" knife a bit too hard. It was obvious when Sam confronted Jon about the fact that Gilly is a person last episode. Having the moment of shock for Jon while Mormont as much as admits that he knows what Craster is up to was unnecessary, IMO. It could have been done much more casually and much faster. We get it, already.
It was certainly good to see Sophie Turner (Sansa) get something out of a script other than shock and dismay. The scene with Shae reminds the TV-only audience that Sansa is still Sansa and not entirely a sympathetic character. I think Shae is being presented as a bit too obvious a fish-out-of-water, though. If this is going to be a secret that is kept from Cersei, the handmaid that flounces around, clearly irritated by her role, is going to be the talk of the servants' quarters pretty damn soon; putting aside the clearly not-Westeros origins.
The Ironborn stuff is still great. Every note of interaction between Theon, Balon, and Yara/Asha has been spot on. While some people complained about the fact that Theon had to be convinced to betray Robb, I think that makes it have more impact. Theon was portrayed by Martin as a petulant irritant from beginning to end (rhymes with 'meek'...), while HBO Theon, although arrogant with the local prostitutes, was showing some genuine ethics and honor in his dealings with Robb. Having to abandon that in order to be accepted by his family makes his decision less of an Eddard-error by Robb and more of a tragedy for Theon. And Aeron Damphair! Woo hoo! But why were the banners gray-blue? Is House Greyjoy so impoverished that they can't replace the banners when they get that badly sun-bleached? Lame.
Bran's scenes were great for two things. First, we got to see Hodor's acknowledgement of it being Bran inside Summer when the latter was walking around. Second, we got to see Maester Aemon actually talk about the maester's chain and its different links, which is a first for the TV show. Isaac Wright-Hempstead continues to impress as Bran, but I find it kind of odd that they still haven't mentioned Summer's name. They, of course, missed the classic line from the first book when he awakens in order to provide a different dramatic moment when Lady is killed last season. But, at some point, you'd think the TV audience would like to know that the wolf has a name.
Finally... Yoren is dead. Too bad. I really didn't care for the character much in the books, but Francis Magee has been brilliant in the past two episodes, sharing the best line honors with Tyrion this time ("I never really cared for crossbows...") Just as Natalia Tena has impressed Martin enough as Osha for him to expand on her part in the upcoming Winds of Winter, one wonders whether Yoren would have gone out so quickly if Martin had had a chance to watch Magee play the role. I think they fumbled the end a bit, as the ordinarily brilliant Maisie Williams (Arya) sounded very wooden when declaring the corpse of Lommy to be Gendry. I think she could have played it sounding a bit more emotional and we could have stopped to look at her while saying the line before moving to the body. But that may be a director thing, as it was the first time for Alik Sakharov in the command chair, even though he's been director of photography on other episodes and many other HBO series.
Anyway, solid episode all around, although I'll be eager to see Dany finally reach Qarth next week.