Monday, May 16, 2011

Game of Thrones 1.04: "Cripples, Bastards, and Broken Things"

“Distrusting me was the wisest thing you’ve done since you climbed off your horse.”

“Cripples, Bastards, and Broken Things,” as the title would suggest, had a general theme of people not fitting in. Bran Stark doesn’t fit in his new life of being unable to walk. Ned Stark doesn’t really fit in the cutthroat world of King’s Landing. Jon Snow doesn’t fit in the world of crude ex-prisoners at Castle Black. Arya Stark doesn’t fit in the woman’s life for which society says she is destined. Daenerys no longer fits among her brother’s family. The world depicted in “Game of Thrones” is harsh, however, and doesn’t take to outcasts or differences kindly. Some of these characters will find a way to thrive despite not fitting in, but I am sure that many will instead meet a tragic end. That’s just good storytelling. Despite being tied together thematically, this episode still continued to be very heavily a set-up episode. By the end some events happen that will obviously have big repercussions down the road, but history quizzes between characters is still the norm.

The opening of the episode sets up the episode’s theme nicely. Bran is dreaming that he’s able to walk, and he follows a bird (a raven, I think) around the grounds of Winterfell. When he wakes up, however, he’s still in his bed with his nurse watching over him. Theon Greyjoy interrupts a conversation with the nurse to let Bran know he has a visitor. We then cut to the main hall of Winterfell, where Robb is talking to Tyrion of all people. Robb vacillates between being hostile and trying to keep up an air of courtesy. Tyrion can tell that he’s not really welcome to spend the night at Winterfell, but he has a gift for Bran. The gift is plans for a saddle that Bran can use to continue to ride horses, even without the use of his legs. Tyrion claims that the motivation behind the gift is simply that he has sympathy for fellow “broken” people. Bran seems happy about the gift, at least. Before leaving Winterfell, Tyrion takes time to mock Theon for essentially being the Starks’ lackey. Theon is the son of a nobleman of the North who tried to rebel against Ned. He became Ned’s ward as a sort of collateral to make sure another rebellion would not happen. So really, the conversation between Tyrion and Theon was pretty much just to download some of this history to the viewers.

Up at the Wall, we meet yet another new recruit to the Night’s Watch. His name is Sam, and to say he wasn’t a talented fighter would be an understatement. He doesn’t really want to fight, and the other men just beat him up. Jon tries to put a stop to it and stick up for Sam, and it mostly just earns him ridicule. Jon can take care of himself, though, so he doesn’t seem to mind. He seems to become especially determined to help Sam when Sam explains just why he wants to join the Night’s Watch. His father did not want him to be his heir, so he gave Sam a choice. Essentially, either join the Night’s Watch and disclaim his inheritance, or die. Of course the way Sam’s father put it was even more sinister. He was going to make the death look like a hunting accident. Jon uses his direwolf to keep Sam safe from the other Knights while he’s asleep, and he also arranges it so the other Knights let him win easily at practice. This obviously annoys the Captain just a bit. This plot, while it seems kind of surface, does lead to some good character development for Jon. Jon and Sam talk about sex, and Jon mentions that he had a chance to have sex with a prostitute once, but he decided not to, because he didn’t want to bring another bastard into the world. The Captain interrupts the conversation to give us another round of stories about just how horrible Winter is for Westeros, especially at the Wall.

My favorite plot of this episode involved the Dothraki. Through conversations with Ser Jorrah, Daenerys learns that Viserys’ plan probably won’t work. The Dothraki have never crossed the Narrow Sea, and if King Robert uses warfare techniques that are at all modern, he’ll win. There are no hordes of commoners eagerly awaiting Viserys’ return- they care more about where they’ll get their next meal. Meanwhile, Viserys is enjoying a bit of bathtub time with a prostitute he hired to be one of Daenerys’ maids. She asks him about dragons, and he enjoys telling her stories he learned as a child and stories about the dragon skulls that used to be on display in the Red Keep at King’s Landing. His mood sours when the prostitute asks what happens to the skulls. Then Viserys just gets nasty, saying she wasn’t hired to make him sad. Viserys’ mood sours further when Daenerys sends one of her servants to call Viserys to dinner. He interprets that as her sending a whore to give him orders. He gets very abusive, saying that Daenerys has “woken the dragon,” but for the first time in her life, Daenerys fights back. She has taken strength from her position in the Dothraki community, and she threatens to cut off Viserys’ hands if he ever hits her again.

Most of the episode, however, takes place in King’s Landing. The upcoming tournament in honor of Ned’s installation as Hand of the King is causing trouble. The Small Council is begged to provide extra security, and Ned obliges from his personal guard. After the Small Council meeting, Ned talks with the Grand Maester about Jon Arryn’s death. The Grand Maester mentions that Jon Arryn was looking for a specific book before he died- a history of the houses of the Seven Kingdoms. Basically, a book of really detailed genealogy. Ned continues his investigation by talking with Peter. They discuss Ser Hugh of the Vale, who had been Jon Arryns squire but was knighted soon after Jon Arryn’s death. Petyr advises Ned not to question Ser Hugh of the Vale himself (there are spies everywhere in King’s Landing), but send his most trusted man to do the job. Ned sends the captain of his guard, but Ser Hugh is just a jerk to him, pulling rank and refusing to answer any questions. Ned also pays a visit to an armorer Jon Arryn visited just prior to his death. The armorer tells Ned that Jon Arryn wanted to see “the boy.” Ned now wants the same thing. The boy works for the armorer, and because of his dark hair and other distinguishing features, Ned instantly recognizes that he must be a bastard son of King Robert.

The Stark daughters are both having a tough time of it at King’s Landing. On his way home from a meeting, Ned runs into Arya, who just wants to talk about her sword fighting lessons. Then she wants to know about Bran’s future, considering Bran will never be able to walk. Ned assures Arya that there are plenty of ways Bran will be able to make a living. When Arya says she wants to be lord of her own hold of land, Ned says she’ll marry a great lord and have many children. Arya says that’s not at all what she wants for her future. Meanwhile, Sansa is worried that her typical woman’s future won’t be happening. After her teacher quizzes her on some Westerosi history, Sansa reveals that she thinks Joffrey hates her. The teacher reprimands Sansa to stop dwelling on the direwolf incident.

The climax of the episode is the big tournament. Sansa is watching from the stands and sitting with Petyr. Which is kind of squicky, considering how he feels about her mother. There’s a big joust between Ser Hugh of the Vale and the Hound’s older brother, who is known as the Mountain. The joust seemed cool and exciting until the Mountain pierces Ser Hugh’s throat and Ser Hugh falls to the ground, with blood spurting out of his neck for just a bit too long for my taste. As Sansa looks on horrified, Ser Peter tells her the story of how the Mountain caused the burns that scar the Hound’s face. Then he tells Sansa not to tell anyone this story, because if she does, she’ll probably be killed. Like I said. Creepy! Why did he tell her that story if it’s so sensitive? Speaking of the object of Petyr’s affections, we end the episode with Cat at an inn on her way home from King’s Landing. Who but Tyrion enters and wants to spend the night. Cat, believing Tyrion organized the attempts of Bran’s life, uses her father’s connections (the inn is near her ancestral Tully home) to draw up a mob against Tyrion.

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