Thursday, May 5, 2011

Game of Thrones 1.03: "Lord Snow"

“People have been swinging at me for years, but they always seem to miss.”

I found “Lord Snow” to be another rather dry episode of “Game of Thrones,” more focused on downloading world building information to viewers that moving the plot along or having compelling character moments. This time, it was information about the politics of Westeros. Some of the layers were peeled back from the more glossy (but not entirely glossy) picture we had seen of Westeros in the first two episodes. We see the extent of the corruption that was only alluded to in the first two episodes, and we see just how important family loyalty is in this very harsh world. While I didn’t love this episode, I’ve heard that things start to pick up soon, so I’m willing to stick with the show a bit longer. I’m hoping that once the producers feel the audience has a good enough understanding of the world of Westeros, the dialogue on the show will become more organic and the plot will begin to move at a more rapid pace.

The episode opens with King Robert, Ned, and the rest of Robert’s entourage arriving in King’s Landing, the capital city. Ned is called to a meeting of the King’s top advisers, called the Small Council, almost as soon as he steps through the gate. The young man who delivers the message asks Ned if he’d like to change into something more appropriate for the meeting. Ned just gives him a look of derision and heads for the meeting. I guess that’s supposed to show that because he’s from the North, Ned doesn’t care much for ceremony. On his way, Ned finds himself in the throne room. He has a bit of a war of words with Jaime, who is sitting by the Iron Throne. The whole thing can really only be described as a dick measuring contest that also happens to download some information on the Mad King (the Targaryen who was king before Robert) and his death caused by Jaime to viewers.

The Small Council meeting really exposes the extent to which things are wrong in Westeros. First we meet Petyr Baelish, who already knows Ned. In fact, Petyr grew up with Cat and once had a thing with her. He’s pretty shameless about reminding Ned that he might still have a thing for her. He’s also played by Aidan Gillen, who played Mayor, eventually Governor Carcetti, loosely based on Baltimore Mayor, eventual Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley, on “The Wire.” I had to mention that because, as I’ve said on this blog before, “The Wire” will never die! We also learn that Westros a financial mess. The Crown is in a lot of debt, much of it to Tywin Lannister, father of Cersei, Jaime, and Tyrion. King Robert doesn’t show up at Small Council meetings, but he dictates frivolous things, like a tournament in honor of Ned’s installation as Hand, that are going to make the financial situation worse. Ned says he’s going to put a stop to this sort of thing, but I don’t think he’ll be very successful.

We then get a brief interlude where we see just how indulgent Cersei is of Joffrey and begin to get a sense of the importance of appearances in Westeros. Joffrey, after being embarrassed in front of her, doesn’t want to marry Sansa anymore. Cersei tells him that he’s marrying Sansa, but he can sleep with anyone else he likes, and the world will be exactly how he wants it. Joffrey then goes on an anti-North rant, declaring that when he’s king, he’ll raise a royal army and bring the North under control once and for all by installing a Lord loyal to him. Cersei gently but firmly shoots him down, making him think through the problems with his plan, especially the fact that the Northerners recruited to his army are unlikely to go to war against their families. Her basic argument is that there’s a time and a place for everything. She also reminds her son that everyone who isn’t a Lannister is an enemy.

We also see in this episode that the Night’s Watch isn’t all it was cracked up to be, either. They’re a rather rag tag bunch, mostly criminals who accepted joining the Watch as an alternative to the sentence they would have otherwise received. Jon Snow fights a bunch of the members of the Watch to prove his worth. They aren’t big fans of him, because they all think he’s rather elitist. The Commander of the Watch talks to Tyrion about how he doesn’t have enough men to properly guard against foes like the White Walkers, and he begs Tyrion to take word back to Cersei that the Night’s Watch needs more resources. Tyrion still seems skeptical that such protection is really needed. Despite their ramshackle nature, or maybe because of it, Jon is impatient to advance up the ranks and become a ranger like his uncle. His uncle gives him a reality check, saying that he won’t get anything that he hasn’t worked to earn.

Back in Winterfell, Bran has woken up. His nanny is watching over him and trying to tell him stories to pass the time. Bran wants a scary story, so the nanny helpfully downloads to the viewers information on just how bad winters in Westeros can get. They can last several years, encourage the White Walkers to move south to inhabited areas, and cause nobles and peasants alike to freeze to death. Robb interrupts this tale to talk to Bran a bit, and in their conversation, we find out that Bran claims to not remember a thing about the accident, and the doctors think he’s going to be paralyzed. Bran is petrified at the idea of being paralyzed for the rest of his life and tells Robb he’d rather die.

On a lighter note, Ned has a family feud to quell amongst his daughters. Watching rough and tumble Ned try to be a dad all on his own is kind of amusing. Arya and Sansa are in the middle of their lessons, and the instructor complains to Ned that Arya isn’t very lady-like. Arya and Sansa get into yet another argument about what happened with the butcher’s boy and Joffrey, and Arya is sent off to her room. There, Ned discovers her practicing with Needle, the sword Jon gave her in the last episode. Ned is a little troubled by the fact that his daughter has a sword, but he eventually decides to encourage her interest. He also tells her to patch things up with Sansa, because, again, staying loyal to family is important, especially in a dangerous, corrupt place like King’s Landing.

Cat arrives at King’s Landing fairly quickly, and she is immediately met by what look like two guards. They take her to a building, and inside is Petyr. The building is one of his brothels, and he thought Cat would be safe there. Cat’s kind of offended that she was taken to a brothel, but she’s grateful to Petyr for looking out for her. Petyr has a friend who is a weapons expert look over the dagger that was used in the recent attack on Bran and Cat, and he doesn’t recognize it. Petyr recognizes it, though. It used to belong to him, and he lost it to Tyrion. Cat is more convinced than ever that the Lannisters are behind the attempts on Bran’s life.

We can’t have a proper episode of Game of Thrones without a brief interlude to see what the Dothraki are up to. Daenerys has another information downloading conversation with Ser Jorah, and then she decides she needs to take a little break from riding. She commands the horde to stop until she’s ready to rejoin them, and Ser Jorah compliments her on acting like a queen. Daenerys walks into the trees, and when she’s by herself, Viserys tries to attack her. He’s horribly offended that she would try to command him to do anything. Other Dothraki soon arrive on the scene and offer to kill Viserys if Daenerys wishes it. Daenerys is horrified at the thought of her brother being killed, even if he is a despicable human being, so she calls them off. Viserys tries to complain to Ser Jorah, who ignores him, and the horde reconvenes to keep moving. The Dothraki make Viserys walk as punishment. Later, one of Daenerys’ maids figures out that Daenerys is pregnant. Ser Jorah is in the middle of trying to sell weapons to the Dothraki when he finds out, and he says he needs to leave urgently. I’m not sure what he’s up to, but it seems like Dothraki/Targeryen offspring was not in the plan.

Word of Bran waking up gets out quickly, to both King’s Landing and the Wall. Petyr brings Ned to Cat, where they have a rather sweet reunion, and Petyr also offers to help the Starks find out the truth about the attack. Jaime and Cersei understandably freak out a bit at the news of Bran’s recovery. Jaime assures his sister that he would have no problem killing everyone else in the world until they were the only two people left. Which is more than a bit creepy and psychopathic, if the incest wasn’t already bad enough. The episode ends with Arya getting her first swordfighting lesson, which was a pretty fun scene. Ned looks on, amused at first, but then he realizes his daughter could actually be pretty good at it.

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