Sunday, May 18, 2014

Game of Thrones 4.05: "First of His Name"

“He’s only a boy. A good boy, a decent boy. He always has been. Who was the last decent King, I wonder? He could be the first man who sits on that throne in fifty years to actually deserve it.”

“First of His Name” was one of the more disjointed episodes of this season of “Game of Thrones” thus far, covering action in King’s Landing, the Vale, the North, and many other places in between and far away. Usually I get frustrated by these extremely fragmented episodes, because I’d just like to settle into one story and live in it for a little while. For this episode, however, I didn’t mind so much. Each of the individual vignettes was compelling enough that I want to move on to the next episode to find out what happens next in all of them. Now half-way through the season, all of the many plots are really starting to heat up. It is hard to believe that we’re already half-way through the season, actually. It feels like we just rejoined all of these characters!

Let’s start with some of the little things happening around Westeros before we get into the three more sustained plots. Across the Narrow Sea, Dany is having a council with Jorah, Ser Barristan, and Daario to plan out their next moves. Daario has procured a whole Navy for Dany, and she’s not as thrilled about it as one might think she would be. Jorah thinks that since Joffrey has died, now would be the perfect time to take Westeros. There is bad news also, though. Two of the cities Dany conquered have fallen back into the hands of slavers. Dany decides that since she named herself Queen over Slaver’s Bay, she needs to do right by the people and rule. She needs to learn how to hold on to smaller pieces of territory before she can even think of ruling the Seven Kingdoms. Smart girl, that Daenerys.

Two pairs of travelers also feature in a few short scenes. First, there’s Arya and the Hound. We first see them as they’re trying to fall asleep. Arya has to say her list of people she wants to kill before she sleeps, and the Hound finds this annoying. Surprisingly, when Arya tells the Hound the purpose of the list, and he finds out he’s on it, he is surprisingly chill about it. I guess he doesn’t think she’s much of a threat yet. Later, the Hound sees Arya practicing the dance-like sword play that Syrrio taught her, and the Hound thinks it’s kind of ridiculous. They have a painful conversation where the Hound tells Arya that Syrrio was killed in the battle of King’s Landing simply because his opponent had armor and “a big fucking sword.” The second pair is Brienne and Poddrick, who provide a little comic relief for the episode. Podrick is a terrible squire (he can’t even cook), but Brienne finally has a little begrudging respect for him once Podrick tells her how he killed someone in the Battle of Blackwater Bay to save Tyrion.

As always, there is plenty of intrigue happening in and around King’s Landing in this episode. The episode overall opens on Tommen’s correnation as King. Cersei catches Tommen and Margaery exchanging friendly smiles, and she immediately goes to work. I thought Cersei was going to try and shut Margaery down, but instead she has a very frank discussion with Margaery over how soon the Margaery/Tommen wedding can take place without looking disrespectful to Joffrey. Cersei also admits that she knew Joffrey was a monster (and Margaery is better off without him), but he was her first born, so there was nothing she would do about it.

Cersei goes to Tywin to discuss the particulars of the upcoming weddings. Margaery and Tommen’s wedding will happen in a fortnight, and Cersei and Loras’ wedding will happen a fortnight after that. Cersei and Tywin then have a very interesting conversation about the Lannister finances. Apparently the last Lannister gold mine went dry several years ago, and the Crown is currently being propped up by the Iron Bank of Braavos. Because of all the debt, Tywin says it is necessary that the Lannisters have a very strong alliance with the Tyrells. Still perhaps holding on to some hope that she won’t actually have to marry Loras, Cersei implores Tywin to find someone at the Iron Bank he can talk to and get them out of this mess. Twyin says that like all long-established institutions, however, there is no one “person” who can solve their problem at the Iron Bank. Cersei also has a very sad conversation with Prince Oberyn where they talk about their kids. Cersei wants Oberyn to take a boat she commissioned down to Myrcella in Dorne. Oberyn assures Cersei that Myrcella is well looked after and happy, but Cersei doesn’t quite seem to believe it.

The thing I liked most about this particular episode was that we got our first glimpse of the Eyrie in quite some time (since season 1 maybe?). It’s a kind of starkly beautiful place populated with a bunch of batshit crazies. That makes for good television! We see Littlefinger and Sansa arrive at the gates to the Eyrie. Sansa is instructed to cover her hair so that no one will recognize her for the fugitive she is. Interestingly, the guards at the gate know Littlefinger and enthusiastically let him enter the Eyrie. Lysa recognizes Sansa, and she assures Sansa that because she is a blood relation, she is more than welcome at the Eyrie, even if she is a fugitive.

When Sansa leaves the room, Littlefinger and Lysa start snogging, and we soon begin to understand the truth of their relationship. They have been sleeping together for years now (remember Littlefinger is an old Tully family friend). Through their conversation, we learn that Lysa, under Littlefinger’s direction, is actually responsible for Jon Arryn’s death, the event which sets off the whole chain of events we’ve been watching for the past four years. I was shocked by this, and I haven’t been shocked by anything on “Game of Thrones” for years thanks to the overexuberance of people who read the books before watching the show. It was kind of fun and squicky at the same time. Now that all the King’s landing business has calmed down, Lysa wants to get married to Petyr right away. He’s hesitant, she’s insistant. Poor Sansa has to hear Lysa’s wedding night screams from elsewhere in the castle later that night. Ew.

The next day, Lysa, who had seemed welcoming (which should have been suspect to me, considering we know she’s completely batshit) starts interrogating Sansa. Lysa starts complaining about how Littlefinger always preferred Cat, and she starts wondering why exactly Littlefinger was so insistent on rescuing Sansa. She accuses Sansa of having a sexual relationship with LIttlefinger, and a very tearful Sansa keeps reassuring her aunt that she is both a virgin and a terrible liar. Lysa finally believes Sansa, although Lisa believing isn’t much better. She crazily tells Sansa that soon she will be a widow (since everyone assumes Tyrion will hang for killing Joffrey), then she can marry Lysa’s equally crazy son Robin and become Lady of the Vale. Out of the frying pan and into the fire, eh Sansa?

We wrap up this episode with a whole lot of strangeness going down in the North at Craster’s Keep. Locke scouts the keep, and since he is apparently (I didn’t pick up on this at first) a minion of Roose Bolton whose mission is to kill all remaining Starks, he’s up to no good. He tries to divert Jon and company away from where he plans to take Bran. Meanwhile, Bran, Jojen, and Meera talk about how Bran’s destiny is with the Godswood tree Bran has been seeing. The mutineer leader (who is a real slimeball) comes into the hut where the three are held and starts threatening to rape Meera (because what else to people do in Westeros). The Mutineer leader is interrupted by the beginning of the Night’s Watch attack. In the middle of the chaos, Locke almost succeeds in nabbing Bran, but Bran enters Hodor’s mind and gets Hodor to kill Locke. So that warg thing has actually come in handy for once, instead of just providing interesting fodder for cinematographers!

Now free, Bran toys with the idea of reuniting with Jon. Jojen cautions against this, though. Jon would just take Bran back to Castle Black, and Bran wouldn’t be able to fulfill his destiny. Bran and company free Summer and head off in search of the elusive three-eyed raven that Bran has been seeing in his visions. Elsewhere in Craster’s Keep, Jon starts fighting the skeevy mutineer leader, and with an assist from one of Craster’s wives, he is successful in killing the slimeball. Jon is then reunited with Ghost, which is quite sweet. Jon and the rest of the Watch offer Craster’s wives the opportunity to come with them to Castle Black, but the wives want to make their own way. After burning Craster’s Keep to the ground, of course.

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