“If wars were arithmetic, mathematicians would be kings.” So says Littlefinger when Margaery Tyrell assures him that Renly will soon sit the Iron Throne because his army is the largest. The debate that has raged all season about where power comes from continues, as those whose claim to power rests in their numbers continue to be shown up by those who know how to use other things to their advantage.
Let’s begin with Tyrion, who is waging a war of wits in King’s Landing, seemingly against the entire rest of the power elite in Westeros’ capital. He has to keep Joffrey in check, work against his sister – the Queen Regent – and learn who he can trust, all while being able to exert nothing but his father’s borrowed power. And so far, given that he is up against so much, he has succeeded admirably. When Lancel comes to threaten him, Tyrion easily turns the tables by revealing that he’s aware that Lancel has been sleeping with Cersei. Lancel begins the scene full of swagger and cockiness, but ends it a blubbering fool, begging for his life. Tyrion certainly subscribes to the Littlefinger school of thought that knowledge is power, especially when the holder of the knowledge knows how best to wield it.
Across the Narrow Sea, Danaerys and her khalasar finally make it to Qarth, a city of wonder that desires to see dragons. Ser Jorah warns Dany that it has a bit of an unsavory reputation, and that those who oppose the city elders or do not bow to their whims meet grisly ends. When the elders ride out to meet Dany’s paltry khalasar, they dictate terms to her, stating that they will not grant her entry if she refuses. Even though Dany has dragons, they are still young and cannot fight, and her khalasar would be quickly crushed by the Qarthi if Dany tried to start a fight. The elders, with their superior numbers, believe that they have Dany at their mercy. But then she delivers a passionate speech about how, although she may be weak now, she has the world’s greatest trump card. And when her dragons are grown and ready to fight, she will level the cities of those who opposed her. The Qarthi can either make a friend now on terms they might not otherwise want, or they can make a very powerful enemy that will one day destroy what they see as the greatest city there ever was or ever will be.
And then there are the Baratheon brothers. On one side is Renly, the younger brother. He has never seen battle, but he has the largest army in Westeros on his side. He has marshaled the forces of both The Stormlands, his home, and The Reach, which is most populous of the Seven Kingdoms. On the other is Stannis, a hardened battle commander who is a legend for some of his victories during Robert’s Rebellion. But as Renly says, he is not well-liked, and “a man without friends is a man without power.” Stannis does have some very loyal followers, though, and he has Melisandre. This mysterious woman believes that Stannis has a deity on his side, and claims that will be enough to assure his victory. We don’t get the resolution this week, but the episode ends with a scene that indicates that she may not be wrong. (Of course, readers know exactly what is coming.)
Lastly, although this isn’t a numbers debate, the episode presents us with one other duality of leadership styles. While neither Baratheon has quite entered the fray yet, the Starks and the Lannisters continue their bloody war. On the battlefield, Robb Stark proves to be a merciful foe, refusing to torture prisoners of war, despite the requests of his bannerman Roose Bolton. At first, it appears that Robb is just being pragmatic; when Bolton suggests they flay a few captured soldiers from the Lannister side, he declines, reminding Bolton that Joffrey has his sisters and he doesn’t want to give him any reason to hurt them. But a conversation with a Volantene woman suggests that he truly is merciful and understands the role of the soldiers in war. The boy Bolton wanted to torture is most likely just a peasant who lives in The Westerlands and would lose his land and his head if he hadn’t taken up arms against the Starks. Robb fully admits that he bears no hatred for the boy, but he has to fight him in order to deal a blow to the person he does hate. Meanwhile, Joffrey continues to be a psychopath, and tortures Sansa in open court as revenge for Robb’s continued victories. Mercy is not a word Joffrey understands, and his reign will be one of terror, much like that of Aerys Targaryen.
· This episode featured a few rather large changes to the book’s events. Littlefinger arrives at Renly’s camp earlier than he did in the books, giving him a chance to speak with Catelyn again. His ability to blend truth with lies remains impeccable. He also gives Ned’s remains to Cat, which could complicate a minor plot point introduced in A Dance with Dragons. Arya will serve as Tywin’s cupbearer, which will put Tywin in a dangerous position (although I doubt they would change his fate from the books). And Tyrion provides Joffrey with some whores to work out some aggression. It works, but not in the way Tyrion intended.
· How great was it seeing Margaery effectively match wits with Littlefinger?
· How great was it seeing Catelyn compare the Baratheons to children and threaten to knock their heads together? She also brought up a great point: Both Baratheons, as well as the Starks, share a common enemy in the Lannisters.
· Stannis’ idea of justice: no good deed shall go unrewarded, and no bad deed shall go unpunished. No exceptions.
· Although Tywin doesn’t recognize Arya, he does recognize that she is a very intelligent girl who should probably be kept close.
Does anyone know when Daniel Dae Kim’s character is supposed to be introduced on The Legend of Korra?
When other people are always taking advantage of you, how do you respond? Do you lash out? Do you turn to anyone who will give you aid, even if the person asks you to commit a crime? Or do you resolve to rise above it all? Toward the end of the episode, Equalist leader Amon tells a sad story about why he is starting a revolution. He and his family were non-benders and were constantly at the mercy of a local firebender. But this plight isn’t specific to non-benders; Mako and Bolin lost their parents to a firebender and have struggled to survive ever since. All without targeting another human being.
“The Revelation” provides our first full look at just how decadent Republic City has become. A man in a top hat and frock coat calls Mako and Bolin “street urchins,” and child thieves akin to the Artful Dodger roam the streets. Multiple bending gangs in addition to the Triple Threat Triads we met in episode 1 run numbers and extort protection from non-benders (I failed to pick up on the fact in episode 1 that the targets of the Triads were all non-benders, which gave us evidence that the Equalists’ message isn’t based on nothing). People like the head of the Triads have a lot of influence over the city and have, in Amon’s words, amassed large fortunes by taking advantage of the weak. To Amon, this only includes non-benders, but the gangs’ corruption has negative consequences for benders as well.
After Mako and Bolin lost their parents, they joined up with the Triads so that they wouldn’t starve. Mako tries to justify this to Korra by saying that all he ever did was run numbers for them. She recognizes that Mako would have starved otherwise, but they both know that any affiliation with the Triads is wrong. This is why Mako has vowed that he and his brother would never get mixed up with them again. But they are still “street urchins” in need of money, and when a Triad rep gives a wad of cash and the least convincing speech ever about how “this one last job will be nothing crooked” to Bolin, he’s right back in. (An early scene once again shows just how out of touch Korra is with the world she’s supposed to represent and protect when she lightheartedly tells the brothers that she’s never needed money because people have always taken care of her.)
Speaking of Korra, her airbending skills have improved dramatically. We still haven’t actually seen her bend, but she was able to get through the training course without touching any of the pillars this time. But other parts of her journey to becoming a full-fledged Avatar still need work. Her first reaction to most situations is still violence; when she and Mako need information from the Equalist protestor from episode 1, she immediately threatens him. And then, when she gets her first fight against the Equalists, she learns that she’ll have to resort to other measures because they easily dispatch with her and Mako. One of the things I love most about this fictional universe is that the villains are extremely effective. The heroes are always in real danger and they don’t win every fight. The Aang Gaang probably lost more fights in Book 2 than they won. Here, when Korra and Mako give chase to some Equalists who have kidnapped Bolin, the Equalists show that they have been well-trained to deal with threats and leave Korra and Mako behind to lick their chi-block-induced wounds. Also, the fight was extremely beautifully animated and accompanied by incredible music.
As I said at the beginning, Amon and the brothers have similar backgrounds, having both lost their families to a firebender (are we placing bets on whether we’ll learn that it was the same guy?). But where Mako and Bolin first turned to help from an unsavory source, then decided to do things on their own, Amon has made it his mission to get revenge upon all benders. At a rally, he reveals his master plan, which shocks Korra and raises a lot of questions about what this world has come to. He demonstrates that he can energybend and remove people’s bending abilities. Tenzin comments that only the Avatar has ever had that power in the past, and Amon says that he learned the power from the spirits of the world. It’s more than likely that Amon isn’t sharing everything, and that the “spirits” explanation has some twist to be revealed. But some questions remain: Is some higher power trying to punish the behavior that has led to what the Equalists see as mass oppression? And, in a world where the Equalists have technology that can simulate bending, just how oppressed are they?