Sunday, May 29, 2011

Game of Thrones 1.06: "A Golden Crown"

“Sometimes possession is an abstract concept.”

I think “A Golden Crown” is my favorite episode of “Game of Thrones” thus far. This isn’t surprising considering it was written by Jane Espenson, who has written beloved episodes of Joss Whedon’s shows such as “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” (“Band Candy”), “Angel” ("Room w/a Vu”), and “Dollhouse” (“Briar Rose.”). Espenson has also written extensively for "Battlestar Galactica" and was the original showrunner for that show’s spin-off, “Caprica.” This episode has intriguing character interactions, but it also propels the plot forward in a significant way. There were shocking twists and fun banter, and all of it affected the plot. I think Tyrion’s journey in this episode played the most to Espenson’s strengths, as he used his cunning and wit, as opposed to physical strength, to get himself out of a very messy situation. While it could be brutal in its violence at times (the whole show can be, really), there was a lightness to that storyline that really let Espenson shine. The final twist of the episode, where we say goodbye to the wonderfully creepy Harry Lloyd as Viserys, also played to Espenson’s strengths. While I realize this twist was conceived by “A Song of Ice and Fire” author George R. R. Martin, the wordplay inherent in Viserys’ fate sounds like something Espenson would dream up herself if given the chance, evidenced by her often punny episode titles.

The episode begins, again, not long after where the last one ended. Ned is in bed recovering from the leg wound inflicted by one of Jaime Lannister’s men, and he wakes up to a rather horrid sight. King Robert and Cersei are looking over him. This doesn’t exactly give Ned much of a chance to get his bearings before dealing with the serious consequences of the escalating Stark/Lannister feud. King Robert wants to get this whole feud worked out immediately, but he seems to want to achieve that by getting Ned to give into everything Cersei and the rest of the Lannisters (and Robert himself in the case of Ned’s objection to killing Daenerys) wants. He wants Ned to send a raven to Cat ordering her to free Tyrion, he wants Ned to not take any action against Jaime, and he wants Ned to stop whining about Daenerys. Ned complains that this doesn’t seem quite fair considering Jaime and his guard openly attacked Ned and his guard out in public. Cersei interjects, going right into the mode she was in after the big Joffrey/ Arya/ butcher’s boy incident. In other words, she starts weaving outrageous lies about Ned being the one to attack Jaime. Luckily, Robert sees right through his wife and doesn’t let her get too far into her lying, nagging show. He’s had enough, and he slaps her. I normally don’t condone violence towards women of any sort, but I actually cheered after that slap. Cersei is just so incredibly vile and gives a bad impression of women everywhere that I was just glad to see her leave the room. Robert re-installs Ned as Hand and basically gets everything he wants.

The least interesting plot thread of this episode took place in Winterfell, so I’ll get that one out of the way next. Bran’s special saddle is finally ready, so Robb and Theon take Bran out into the woods to try it out. While Bran is happily riding around, Robb and Theon argue about whether or not to raise an army against the Lannisters in response to the King’s Landing incident. Theon thinks raising and army is the way to go to protect the honor of the House, but Robb quickly reminds him that it’s not Theon’s House. Again with the “Theon doesn’t belong here” motif. If there’s any way to grow a traitor in your midst, that would be it. While Robb and Theon are arguing, Bran rides off, and he finds himself surrounded by thieves. They are wildlings from north of the Wall. One of them was played by Natalia Tena, aka Tonks from the Harry Potter films, which I thought was pretty cool.

Robb swoops in to save the day just as the thieves are cutting Bran off his saddle. He kills one thief and takes another hostage just as the other thief takes Bran hostage. Theon solves that problem by shooting an arrow in the back of the thief holding Bran. Robb is kind of pissed about this- I guess only a certain amount of bloodshed to save your brother is acceptable in the Stark honor code. Theon’s isolation grows near the end of the episode when he passes by his favorite prostitute, Ros, sitting on a cart headed for King’s Landing. Ros is leaving the North because she thinks the Stark/Lannister feud will lead to a war that will take away most of her clients.

Of course there’s plenty of political intrigue happening in and around King’s Landing. King Robert and Renly are out on a hunting trip, mostly so King Robert can kill things and talk about the good old days, but I was very happy to see Renly question whether or not the old days were really so good. Dragons burned cities and armies were at war. Meanwhile, back at King’s Landing, Ned has to sit on the Iron Throne in King Robert’s place. A peasant appears before him claiming that his village has been destroyed, and the attackers, led by an unusually tall man, left dead fish behind. Peter slyly reminds Ned that fish are the sigil of House Tully, Cat’s House. Ned knows from the description of what happened that the perpetrator is the Mountain, and after only a little provocation from Petyr, lets loose with a very harsh judgment. The Mountain is to be stripped of his title, found, and executed, and Tywin Lannister, head of the Lannister House and the Mountain’s employer, is to be summoned to King’s Landing to answer for his bannerman’s crimes. Since Tywin Lannister is pretty much bankrolling King Robert at the moment, this is a bold and dangerous move.

Because he’s rather blatantly stirred the pot and provoked the Lannisters, Ned wants Sansa and Arya to go home to Winterfell immediately. They both complain bitterly about that, Arya because she wants to continue her swordfighting lessons and Sansa because of Prince Joffrey. Ned tries to placate Sansa by saying he’ll find her someone else to marry who is more worthy of her, but since Joffrey recently apologized (most likely at his mother’s command) and gave Sansa a necklace, she’s still smitten. Sansa starts going on about how Joffrey is a golden haired Lion so unlike his father (even though the Baratheon sigil is the Stag, while the Lannister sigil is the Lion), and this makes the wheels start turning in Ned’s mind. He consults the book Jon Arryn was reading right before he died and realizes that all Baratheon children before Joffrey had black hair, not blond. Clearly, Joffrey is not actually King Robert’s son.

My favorite plot of the episode was Tyrion scheming his way out of his imprisonment at the Eyrie. Tyrion bribes the guard to get an audience with Cat and Lysa. This is a very funny sequence where Tyrion has to convince the guard that even though he doesn’t have any gold on him at the moment, he will be able to pay as soon as he’s freed. He has to use commonly known phrases about Lannisters, such as “a Lannister always pays his debts” to finally convince the guard. Tyrion tells Cat and Lysa that he wants to confess his crimes and begins a long list of transgressions that conspicuously don’t include attempting to murder Bran or murdering Jon Arryn. Cat and Lysa cut him off just as he’s starting to tell a story about bringing a jackass and a honeycomb into a brothel. Robin wants to hear the rest of the story, and for once I have to agree with the creepy, annoying kid. I want to know what happened, too!

Lysa, of course, wants to resolve the matter by holding a trial where her son will be the judge. Tyrion, thankfully, recognizes this for the ridiculousness that it is and requests a trial by combat instead. The knight Lysa selects to be her champion is a little reluctant to take on the task, because he thinks the size difference between himself and Tyrion would make it not a fair fight. He agrees to fight if Tyrion can name a champion as well. Tyrion tries to name Jaime first, which I found funny because it means Tyrion doesn’t mind risking Jaime’s life to save his own, but bringing Jaime to the Eyrie would take time, and Lysa wants to have the trial that day. One of the fighters Cat picked up at the inn agrees to be Tyrion’s champion. The fight sequence is quite impressive, because the Eyrie doesn’t have an executioner. The loser is pushed out the moon door in the center of the hall. After a rather long battle, Tyrion’s scrappy, street fighter style champion wins. Lysa chides the champion for not fighting honorably, but he takes the high road and instead commends his now dead opponent for fighting honorably himself. Tyrion, now a free man, gets his purse of gold back and promptly tosses it to the guard.

We finish by rejoining the Dothraki for the most shocking plot of the episode. Daenerys is in her tent, once again fascinated by the dragon’s eggs she got as a wedding gift. She picks one up, places it on a fire, and picks it up again when it’s hot. One of her servants, convinced her Khaleesi just injured herself, yanks the egg from Daenerys’ hands. The servant is burned, but Daenerys is not. Later, Daenerys continues to prove her toughness in a Dothraki pregnancy ritual where she has to eat an entire horse heart. I think the idea is that if she can’t eat the whole thing, something will be wrong with the baby. Daenerys succeeds in eating the heart, and the crowd cheers adoringly. Viserys is quite jealous about this, I guess because he feels that as “rightful king” he’s the only one who should be getting any adoration. He tries to take the dragon eggs from Daenerys’ tent, but Ser Jorrah stops him. Ser Jorrah can’t stop Viserys from leaving, but he can keep him from stealing the eggs.

Later, Viserys, who is by now very drunk, crashes a big feast being held in Daenerys’ honor. He’s making an ass of himself, but the final straw is when he pulls out a sword and threatens Daenerys. Bloodshed is strictly forbidden in the Dothraki sacred city, and threatening the Khaleesi is even worse. Khal Drogo says that Viserys will have his wish- a golden crown. This is quite deliciously literal. Khal Drogo puts gold jewelry in a kettle and melts it down. Then, after telling Daenerys not to watch (she doesn’t listen to the request), he pours a big heaping ladleful of the molten metal right over Viserys’ head. He doesn’t survive, but he doesn’t lose any blood. So Khal Drogo gets what he wants (Viserys’ death) without breaking the traditions of the sacred city. Quite ingenious, really, although the scene is quite graphic and disturbing. There is no crying by Daenerys over her brother’s death. More steely than ever, she says that Viserys was no Dragon, because if he was, fire would not have killed him.

No comments:

Post a Comment