Friday, April 29, 2011

Game of Thrones 1.02: "The Kingsroad"

“Starks have manned the Wall for thousands of years, and you are a Stark. You might not have my name, but you have my blood.”

“The Kingsroad” continues many of the plots set up in “Winter is Coming.” For all the material I understand needs to be covered in this season, it felt a little bit like treading water. We got some good insight into some of the characters (always appreciated), but the plot didn’t really move. There’s lots of talk about how war is coming, but it doesn’t seem like it will really be coming any time soon. Dothraki are still milling about across the Narrow Sea waiting for the right omens, I suppose, and Robert, Ned and their crew start thinking about making their way towards King’s Landing, reminiscing about times gone by. Things are a little more exciting back at Winterfell, where Jon Snow, Ned’s bastard son, is getting ready to leave for the Night’s Watch, and more tragedy befalls the Stark family. In the second half of the episode, we can see cracks start to form in the relationships between the three Westerosi families we’ve been following so far.

The episode opens with the Dothraki on the move. Sort of. They’re just doing their usual roaming thing. Daenerys is having some trouble adjusting to her new life, and Ser Jorrah is teaching her about the Dothraki and helpfully (and sort of dryly) downloads a whole lot of information about the Dothraki to us viewers. Meanwhile, Viserys says he’s sticking around with the Dothraki until he gets what he was promised- an army and the Iron Throne of Westeros. Khal Drogo just walks into Daenerys’ tent and has his way with her whenever he feels like it, and this understandably upsets Daenerys quite a bit. She draws comfort from looking at the dragon’s eggs she was given as a wedding gift. The dragon is her House sigil, after all. Daenerys ends up asking one of her attendants, who was once a prostitute, how to better satisfy Drogo. The attendant obliges with a lesson, and she makes Daenerys realize her worth, in a way. Daenerys finally realizes that her foreignness to Khal Drogo is probably what drew him to her, and the next time he enters the tent, he takes her on her terms, instead of “like a slave” as the attendant would put it.

Most of the drama of this episode happens on the Westeros side of the Narrow Sea, though. Early in the episode, we get to spend some quality time with the Lannisters, which I appreciated. Sure they’re skeevy and quite possibly evil, but it was nice to get a chance to see what makes them tick. Tyrion wakes up in a barn, as you do, thanks to the prodding of his nephew, Joffrey. Joffrey is a little brat, and Tyrion impresses upon him (by repeatedly slapping him) that he needs to offer his sympathies to the Starks because of Bran’s accident. Bran, by the way, is still alive, but in a coma. Tyrion and Joffrey then join the rest of the Lannisters for breakfast, which is really where you see that despite all their nefarious machinations, they have their normal family moments, too. When the younger Lannister children leave, Tyrion insinuates he knows that Jaime and Cersei were behind Bran’s accident. His loyalty is with his family, though, so he’s not going to be telling anyone else about his suspicions. He is, however, taking a trip to the Wall with the Night’s Watch. It’s basically going to be a sightseeing trip for him.

Cat is taking Bran’s accident very hard. She essentially hasn’t left his bedside since it happened, even though the doctors say he’s out of the woods. Before leaving for King’s Landing, Cersei pays her a visit that does some work towards humanizing her. She tells Cat that she had a son who died of a fever at about Bran’s age, and this situation brings back painful memories for her. I guess that explains why she protested Jaime’s desire to make sure Bran couldn’t spill their secret. I think Cat appreciates the show of empathy, but she’s too distraught to really acknowledge it. King Robert’s party is due to leave Winterfell, and Cat really does not want Ned to go. He says that he really has no choice, he has to do what Robert asks, but Cat disagrees. Even though Cat is really upset about it, Ned is still going to go to King’s Landing and become the Hand of the King.

Ned isn’t the only one leaving Winterfell. Jon Snow is leaving with his uncle to join the Night’s Watch. Jaime takes a chance to be even more of a jerk by making fun of Jon’s choice to join the Night’s Watch. He, and later Tyrion, both mock the idea that there are creatures on the other side of the Wall from which Westeros needs to be protected. They mock creatures such as the White Walkers, even though we know they exist thanks to the opening sequence of the pilot episode, saying they are really more the stuff of legend. Tyrion’s mocking of the job was much more good natured than his brother’s. He and Jon sort of bond during the journey to the Wall, both being outcasts. Before he leaves, though, Jon has to say all his goodbyes. As he says goodbye to Arya, he gives her a sword. Then he goes to say goodbye to the still comatose Bran. He tells Bran that when he’s better, he can come visit him at Castle Black, home of the Night’s Watch. Cat gets really huffy and tells Jon to leave. The most profound goodbye is between Jon and Ned, though. Ned says that even if he doesn’t have the Stark name, Jon is a Stark, and his joining the Night’s Watch is upholding a proud family tradition. Jon asks if Ned will tell him about his mother, but Ned says that will have to wait until the next time they see each other.

Early on in their journey on the Kingsroad, Robert and Ned share a meal and some banter about the old days. Mostly about the women they slept with before (and sometimes during) their marriages. Robert seems to want to recreate the good old days, but Ned is happy with where he’s ended up in life and wouldn’t want to go back. The conversation turns more serious when they receive a message about Daenerys and Khal Drogo’s marriage, though. Ned doesn’t see why it’s a big deal, but Robert sees it as the bad omen it is. He knows that means Viserys could cross the Narrow Sea with an army of Dothraki at any time. He tells Ned there’s a war coming. Ned is kind of skeptical, but Robert is speaking ominously, so it must be true!

Meanwhile, back at Winterfell, Cat is being even more annoying since Ned and several of her children have gone to the Kingsroad. She refuses to take on any of the duties of managing Winterfell, and she continues to refuse to leave Bran’s room. Robb, the oldest Stark son, has to keep Winterfell running in his father’s absence. Rob is begging Cat to finally leave Bran’s room when he looks out the window and sees a fire. He rushes to help put it out, and while he’s gone, an assassin enters the room. The assassin’s objective was to kill Bran, but since Cat is there, he’s going to kill her too. Cat puts up a valiant fight, but just as she’s about to be overcome, Bran’s direwolf rips the heart out of the assassin and saves her. This incident finally inspires Cat to leave Bran’s room, and she begins to investigate Bran’s fall. When she looks in the tower from which he fell, she finds a long blond hair. This leads her to call a meeting of her most trusted advisers out in the Godwood. She tells them she suspects the Lannisters are behind Bran’s fall and that they still intend to kill him. Add in the evidence that the assassin’s weapon was way too fancy for a man of his station, and the advisors agree. Cat goes from insisting she’ll never leave Bran’s room to insisting she must personally deliver this message to Ned at King’s Landing. That can’t end well.

Things are already not going well for the Starks who are on their way to King’s Landing, and Cat hasn’t even arrived with the incriminating message yet. Joffrey and Sansa go for a walk, and they come upon Arya and her friend the butcher’s boy play-sword fighting. I guess Joffrey thinks he can win some points with Sansa by “saving” her little sister, so he proceeds to try to punish the butcher’s boy for “hurting” Arya. He starts to use his sword to cut the butcher’s boy’s face, and Arya tries to put a stop to it. Joffrey is enraged by her imprudence, and he begins to attack her instead. Arya’s direwolf comes to the rescue- the wolf bites Joffrey on the arm. Joffrey goes into petulant little boy mode and just starts crying. The whole scene is wonderful at showing how these individuals, Joffrey and Sanya, who are being treated as future rulers of Westeros, are really still just kids.

Arya and her direwolf run off, because Arya knows this situation is going to be nothing but trouble. Out in the woods, she begs her direwolf to run away because the wolf will be killed if it is found. The wolf is reluctant, but obliges. Ned had been searching for Arya, and he is extremely upset to find out that she has been found by the Lannisters and taken directly before the King without informing him. He bursts into a room where King Robert is trying to sort out what happened. It’s all a he said, she said. Joffrey claims that Arya and the butcher’s boy beat him with clubs, then set the direwolf on them. Arya rightfully denies it. Then Cersei brings Sansa in to give testimony. After being warned that lying to a King is a serious offense, she just says she doesn’t remember what happened. Robert thankfully sees reason and leaves Ned to handle Arya’s discipline, while promising to discipline Joffrey. Cersei is determined to see blood, though, and she demands the death of Sansa’s direwolf, since the direwolf that actually caused the injuries is nowhere to be found. Robert doesn’t object. Ned, feeling an obligation to a fellow creature of the North, is left to carry out the grisly deed.

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