Friday, May 4, 2012

Game of Thrones 2.01: "The North Remembers"

“The girl is right. What a man sows on his nameday, he reaps all year.”
-The Hound

I am so very happy that “Game of Thrones” is back on television. While it seems like they might be trying to tell too many disparate stories this season (a problem HBO shows commonly run into because of the channel’s “tv season as novel” approach to television), there were enough good moments that I thoroughly enjoyed the season premiere. Robb and Tyrion were the real stars of this episode. Robb has really come into his own as King in the North. He forcefully commands his bannermen, and he makes serious demands of the Lannisters, but he also has the good sense to seek his mother’s counsel as well. Every time Robb has a kick-ass moment like when he was reading his list of demands, I just want to jump up and cheer. Tyrion likewise appears to be coming into his own as the new Hand of the King. He’s determined not to repeat Ned’s mistakes, and I love how he’s just owning his power.

The episode opens on Joffrey’s name-day, and of course he’s holding a violent, gladiator-style tournament in his own honor. One of the fighters is drunk, and just to show us what a cruel asshole he is, Joffrey has his minions force-feed the fighter more wine. Sansa is kind of upset about this and makes the mistake of voicing her horror and what she’s seeing. The Hound has to cover for her to keep Joffrey from torturing her in retaliation. Sansa manages to convince Joffrey to make the knight his fool instead of continuing to torture him. Just as things are looking especially grim, Tyrion arrives on the scene! Tyrion is pretty much the only Lannister I can stand, so this development was quite welcome. He banters a bit with Joffrey, Sansa, and the Hound, and then he walks off, leaving a very confused Joffrey. We continue Tyrion’s entrance of awesome over at Small Counsel, where, big surprise, Cersei’s being a bitch. She thinks that with winter coming, all the peasants should be locked out of King’s Landing. Tyrion walks in on the meeting, and when Cersei finds out he’s the Hand, she pitches a fit and throws everybody out. Tyrion makes it clear that the Lannisters are losing the war, and if Joffrey listens to him, the tide might turn. He’s really enjoying the fact that Cersei is the sibling who is the disappointment at the moment.

We spend much of the rest of the episode doing quick catch-ups with as many of the other characters as can be fit in. Up in Winterfell, Bran and Maester Luwin are taking audiences like a King would. It’s odd that a little kid has to take on this responsibility, but you have to grow up quickly in Westeros. The Maester does much of the work of fixing the problems presented, but Bran has to be there because he’s a Stark. When he’s not playing interim Lord of Winterfell, he has dreams from a Direwolf’s perspective. He gets Hodor and Osha to take him to a pool of water from the dream, but it doesn’t really help him figure things out. They talk about a red comet in the sky, and Osha says it means dragons. Speaking of dragons, over in Essos, Daenarys and the remains of her Dothraki horde are in a desolate area called the Red Waste. They are stuck there because there are dangers in all directions and Dany’s dragons aren’t big enough to fight yet. Things are so bad that Dany’s horse even dies. Ser Jorrah tells her she needs to be strong, so she has three of her bloodriders go out on a scouting mission.

North of the Wall, the Night’s Watch is on their “figure out what the heck is going on with all these creatures and, oh yeah, find Benjen Stark too” tour. They stop for shelter at the house of this really super creepy guy who marries his own daughters (he has many daughters). He says that the “King Beyond the Wall” has amassed a huge army, and the army is marching south. He also doesn’t like Jon because he thinks he’s uppity and judgemental about his lifestyle. Lord Commander Mormont gives Jon a talking-to about his attitude, warning Jon that he needs to learn to follow if he’s going to lead one day. I really want to like Jon more than I do, but when he gets into one of his emo teenage mope sessions, it’s kind of difficult.

Next we get an introduction to some new characters by visiting Dragonstone, the keep of Stannis Baratheon, the actual, legitimate King of Westeros who doesn’t really have power yet because everybody hates him for being such a sourpuss. On the beach at Dragonstone, a sorceress, Melisandre, is doing some ritual in the dark involving fire. She’s telling a legend of a king pulling a sword from fire, and she has Stannis reinact this. Some of Stannis’ older advisors, including Davros Seaworth, are not at all happy about this because it involves worshipping the Lord of Light instead of the Seven. His advisors try to convince him to make an alliance with either Renly or Robb, but Stannis is not interested. He wants everyone to bow to him alone because he is the rightful king (which he is, even if he’s a bit of an ass). One of Stannis’ advisors tries to poison Melisandre, but he just ends up poisoning himself instead.

We next pay a little visit to Robb and his army. Robb pays a visit to Jaime, who is still imprisoned, and his banter shows just how whip-smart Robb has become. And he’s still ridiculously hot, too. And the hint of a Scottish accent. And I could go on, but this is already kind of bordering on embarrassing for a 28-year-old lawyer. Anyway, Robb tells Jaime that he knows the truth both about Joffrey’s parentage (Jaime is Joffrey’s dad/uncle…yeah, it’s kind of gross), and he knows that Jaime and Cersei were responsible for Bran falling from the tower back in early season one. Robb calls his direwolf to the scene to give Jaime an extra little scare. Robb’s other standout scene in this episode finds him delivering his peace terms to a lower-level Lannister. Again…so freaking hot. And I will now attempt to no longer be a teenager in the presence of Richard Madden. After he delivers his terms, Robb confers with his top advisors, Theon and his mom. Theon wants Robb to ask his father for ships, but Robb is not sure that’s a great idea, considering Theon’s dad was once on the wrong side of a rebellion. Cat sure thinks it’s a bad idea. Robb, however, asks her to go negotiate with the younger Baratheon, Renly, who also wants a shot at being king. Cat reluctantly agrees to take on her new mission.

Back in King’s Landing, we get a little scene to reintroduce us to Tyrion’s secret girlfriend/personal prostitute Shaye. They have a conversation about how everyone lies in King’s Landing. Which really isn’t new information, but I guess we had to reintroduce Shaye somehow. Meanwhile, Cersei asks Littlefinger for his help in finding Arya, who has escaped King’s Landing and is moving farther away from the capital every day. Littlefinger doesn’t want to hurt the daughter of his childhood crush, so he tries to threaten Cersei with his knowledge of “twincest” (that Cersei and Jaime have regularly slept together for years). In response, Cersei calls in her guards to threaten Littlefinger right back. Countering Littlefinger’s assertion that “knowledge it power,” she says that, instead “power is power.” Littlefinger isn’t the only person confronting Cersei about twincest. Joffrey starts asking her about it too. Joffrey is rather abusive in his manner of speaking to his mother, and it’s a very interesting contrast to how Robb and Cat interact.

The episode ends on what is probably the most disturbing plot twist of the series thus far. Yep, even more disturbing than twincest and the touchy-feeliness of Viserys and Daenerys at the beginning of last season. The Lannisters have apparently ordered a “let’s kill all of Robert’s bastards” marathon of violence. We visit the whorehouse where Ned discovered one of Robert’s bastards who was just an infant girl last season. The Goldcloaks murder that baby in cold blood as her mother looks on screaming and the rest of the ladies at the brothel look on in horror. The Goldcloaks then head to the armor shop where Gendry, another of Robert’s bastards, used to work as an apprentice. Gendry’s former master is threatened by the Goldcloaks, but Gendry is nowhere to be found. He’s out on the Kingsroad with Arya and Yoren, headed for the Wall and a life with the Night’s Watch.

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