Game Of Thrones Season 2 - Episode 2
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"The Night Lands" is the second episode of the second season of HBO's medieval fantasy television series Game of Thrones, and the 12th overall. The episode was directed by Alan Taylor and written by series co-creators David Benioff and D. B. Weiss. It first aired on April 8, 2012.
The episode's plot continues storylines from the season premiere: the Night's Watch caravan heading to the Wall is interrupted by a pair of City Watch guards looking for Gendry, the Small Council receives the terms proposed by King in the North Robb Stark, Daenerys waits in the desert for the return of the three riders she had sent out, and Theon Greyjoy returns to his homeland of the Iron Islands.
Also introduced, in this episode, are the three caged recruits, traveling with the Night's Watch caravan. The three characters were briefly seen in the last season's finale, played by uncredited extras. For this season they were, Andy Beckwith as Rorge, Gerard Jordan as Biter, and the German actor Tom Wlaschiha as the mysterious Jaqen H'ghar of the free city of Lorath. Wlaschiha had not known of the show before auditioning on tape from Berlin, but was able to screen a few episodes during a meeting with the producers and director Alan Taylor. He quickly became an enthusiast, reading the first books of the series within a couple of days.
The ratings of the episode remained steady with the last week's season premiere. The number of viewers of the first airing reached 3.76 million viewers, with a rating of 1.9 in the relevant 18-49 demographic - just a little behind the series record of 3.9 reached in the last installment in what commentators considered a strong accomplishment. In the United Kingdom, the episode was seen by 0.851 million viewers on Sky Atlantic, being the channel's highest-rated broadcast that week.
It first premiered on April 2, 2012, via the online service HBO GO in some European countries, including the Netherlands, Poland and Slovenia. The day after the release of the rating of this second episode HBO announced the renewal of the show for a third season.
"The Night Lands" received positive reviews from critics. Review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes surveyed 12 reviews of the episode and judged 83% of them to be positive with an average score of 8.5 out of 10. The website's critical consensus reads, "Moodier than the premiere and full of dark intrigue, 'The Night Lands' introduces viewers to exotic new locations in Westeros and delivers some pivotal character moments." Matt Fowler of IGN rated the episode 8 out of 10 and called it "a satisfying follow-up to the premiere filled with less-than-monumental happenings." He referred to the episode as "a great place-holder episode", comparing it to the first-season episode "The Kingsroad". In a review targeted at those who have read the source novels, The A.V. Club's Emily VanDerWerff gave it an A- and remarked: "This is a strong and confident episode of the show, and it takes us easily enough from the Red Wastes to Beyond the Wall to Melisandre and Stannis having sex on a giant exposition table, seemingly without breaking a sweat." She also commented positively on the themes of the episode, which she believed were the definition of good leadership and the negative side of patriarchy. In addition, the reviewer thought that the episode was indicative of the series turning from "a ridiculously entertaining show" to "something on the level of Breaking Bad or Mad Men.
On the other hand, WhatCulture's Patrick Koch was more critical of the episode. In his ranking of the first 40 Game of Thrones episodes (seasons 1-4), Koch placed "The Night Lands" at number 40, calling the Greyjoy plotline on Pyke "supremely non-interesting." Simon Abrams, writing for Slant Magazine, gave the episode a mixed review compared to the premiere, referring to "The Night Lands" as "a bit of a let-down" and "not as thematically cogent as last week's episode." In his episode recap for Enter