Sunday, May 22, 2011

Game of Thrones 1.05: "The Wolf and the Lion

“Oh? Did I kill him too? I’ve been a very busy man.”

I had heard from reputable sources that this episode is the best of the first six this season, but I have yet to love “Game of Thrones.” I don’t dislike it, but I think the pacing and the way in which this very broad, complex story is being told just isn’t working for me. I feel like this might have been translated better to a visual medium as a series of movies. I know it’s generally the HBO style to chop up a season with one big arc into “chapter of a book” style episodes, but maybe that just isn’t a style I like. I don’t like the other extreme either- procedurals where each episode is a self-contained unit. I think my preference is an episode that has a beginning, middle, and end but also moves a larger arc forward. There was more forward motion in the plot this week, at least, and fewer downloading Westerosi history scenes. This episode propelled the show more forcefully towards some inevitable major conflicts, especially the Seven Kingdoms versus the Dothraki and the Starks versus the Lannisters. I am definitely interested to see how this all plays out, even if I am tired of hearing quizzes on Westerosi history and characters circling each other and threatening each other without actually doing anything.

The episode picks up pretty much where the last one left off- the aftermath of Ser Hugh of the Vale’s death. Ned is looking over the body with several of his advisers, and it seems like he suspects foul play. Ser Hugh, as Jon Arryn’s squire, likely would have known whatever information it was that got Jon Arryn killed. Ned doesn’t have much time to dwell on this, though. He has other rather ridiculous things to attend to. Like trying to stop King Robert from jousting. King Robert is still intent on reliving his youth. Or he just wants to hit something. Probably both. Thankfully, Ned is able to eventually talk him out of it, although it doesn’t stop Robert from heaping some abuse on his Squire, the youngest Lannister sibling. The tournament continues, and Sansa is quite taken by the “Knight of the Flowers” who gives her a flower before he begins his joust. He’s up against the Mountain, and Sansa is petrified that he’s going to be killed. Amazingly, the Knight of the Flowers wins. Enraged by the loss, the Mountain throws a huge tantrum, cutting off his horse’s head (yes, you heard that right- they don’t skimp on the gore with this show) and moving to attack the Knight of the Flowers. The Hound gets involved and fights the Mountain for a minute or so until King Robert puts a stop to the mess.

Meanwhile, Cat and her entourage are taking Tyrion to her sister’s home, the Eyrie, to be judged for the alleged crime of arranging Bran’s murder. Tyrion rightfully suspects that as soon as word gets out about his capture, there’s going to be trouble. Soon enough, a full-on battle breaks out on the road. Tyrion begs to be untied so he can defend himself, and Cat obliges. Tyrion then proceeds to completely kick ass and kill a guy with a shield. Who says the small can’t be mighty? Things go from bad to worse once the group reaches the Eyrie. Cat’s sister, Lysa, has completely gone off the deep end, especially since her husband, Jon Arryn’s, death (which Tyrion warned Cat about, but Cat wouldn’t listen). She is seated in what looks like a throne room nursing her son. Who looks to be about 6-7 years old and is completely indulged in his every whim. Even though Lysa wrote to Cat to warn her about the Lannisters, she is extremely upset to see a Lannister in her home. Cat barely manages to keep Lysa from doing horrible things to Tyrion. Instead, Tyrion is placed in a holding cell.

Much of this episode is devoted to introducing us a little better to some of the story’s more minor (at least thus far) characters. Some time is spent early on depicting Ned’s ward, Theon Greyjoy. First we see Theon practicing at archery while Bran does lessons about the houses of the Seven Kingdoms and mopes about both not being able to shoot arrows anymore and that his mother has left. We then see Theon enjoying some time with Ros, who is apparently the most popular prostitute in the North. Besides going for the shock factor, all we really get out of this scene is that Theon seems to want more respect for being a Greyjoy than he gets. He complains about it at length to Ros, at least. We also get to know the Knight of the Flowers and Renly, the youngest brother of King Robert, a little better. They are lovers, and they have a conversation over shaving about how the Knight of the Flowers thinks Renly should be king, and he’s willing to begin to take steps to see that happen.

The rest of the episode is devoted to King’s Landing political maneuvering. There are lots of threatening conversations between characters, and finally some action, too. Ned has an extended conversation with Varys, the member of the Small Council who is most famous for being a eunich, who tells Ned that the King is doomed unless Ned saves him. Varys speculates that the King could be poisoned just like Jon Arryn was. He also says that the current popular theory is that someone paid Ser Hugh to poison Jon Arryn because Jon Arryn started asking questions. Later, when Arya is down in the dungeons chasing a cat as part of her sword fighting training, she overhears Varys talking to a higher-up from Pentos (across the Narrow Sea) about how Ned is getting too close to the truth and has already “found one bastard.” Varys speculates that soon the “Wolf and the Lion will be at each other’s throats.” Varys is just at the center of all the intrigue in this episode, as he has a notable conversation with Petyr, too. Each threatens the other, with Varys threatening to expose how Petyr helped the Starks realize a Lannister tried to kill Bran and Petyr threatening to expose that Varys was talking with someone from Pentos. Their circling is interrupted by Renly, who informs them that the King is going to be attending the next Small Council meeting.

Arya had a little trouble getting out of the dungeon, and she had to take a route that took her outside the Red Keep. She has a little trouble getting back in and essentially has to threaten the guards to let her pass. The guards first thought she was a boy, then thought her father was a drunk. When Ned and Arya are reunited, Ned is not happy that Arya wandered off again. Arya is very afraid about what she heard and tells Ned everything. Ned doesn’t really have a chance to react to it, though, because a member of the Night’s Watch arrives. Officially, he’s there to try to recruit more men for the Watch from the prison, but unofficially, he wants to warn Ned about what Cat has done. Ned finds out that a Small Council meeting has been called, and at first he’s concerned it will be about Cat taking Tyrion prisoner. It’s actually about Daenerys, though. Word of her pregnancy has made it to King’s landing. Robert wants Daenerys and her unborn son killed immediately, and the rest of the council agrees. Ned is the one dissenter, and he resigns over it. Robert is seriously pissed about this and goes on a long rant as Ned is leaving. Petyr catches up with Ned and offers to introduce Ned to the last person to whom Jon Arryn spoke before he died. That person turns out to be the mother of yet another of King Robert’s bastards, who also has dark hair like the bastard Ned met in the last episode. Jon Arryn had been tracking all of them down when he was poisoned.

After the Small Council meeting, King Robert tries to justify his choice to have Daenerys killed to Cersei. I found it interesting that even with their sizeable marital issues, Robert still seeks Cersei’s counsel. I guess he realizes the value of her Lannister-bred skill at manipulation. Cersei thinks Ned should be reinstalled as Hand and Daenerys should not be killed. King Robert, in response, goes on a rant about how his army is useless since it’s decentralized between the seven kingdoms. It’s a pretty similar rant to the one Joffre went on in the last episode. Then the conversation turns to their marriage, where they even seem surprised they’ve been together seventeen years considering they hate each other. Cersei takes the opportunity to ask about Ned’s sister, who was once Robert’s betrothed. Robert reveals that he can’t remember what she looked like, but because she was supposed to be his and was taken away, he’s still upset.

The episode ends on a pretty decent cliffhanger. Petyr and Ned step outside and are greeted by Jaime and a bunch of the City Guard. Jaime claims to be upset about Cat taking Tyrion prisoner and demands justice. He has the City Guard attack, and most of Ned’s guard, including the captain, who was actually a pretty cool guy, are killed very quickly. The captain’s death is especially gruesome, as he gets a blade to the eye courtesy of Jaime. Net gets into a full-on sword fight with Jaime, and one of the City Guard stab Ned in the back at an opportune moment. Jaime kills the Guard for his imprudence, partly because Ned is worth more alive and partly because I’m sure if he’s not going to be alive, Jaime wanted to do the job himself. Although the injury is serious, it doesn’t appear to be fatal, although Sean Bean has that look on his face that he had when Boromir got hit by all those Uruk-hai arrows at the end of “The Fellowship of the Ring.”

No comments:

Post a Comment