Tuesday, May 10, 2011
We're now well under way into the very first season of HBO's Game of Thrones series. It's been a mostly spectacular ride up to this point, with only a few minor quibbles here and there. Mostly due to the amount of back story they've had to cram down our throats to truly get this story rollin'. But it's really a lot of ground to cover from the book, so it's to be expected if not completely accepted.
Anyway, this Sunday we get the airing of Ep. 4, "Cripples, Bastards, and Broken Things." Looking at the title alone, it's kinda hard not to figure out what the focus will be on this time around. If I were to hazard a guess . . .
But, then, I've read the books so it really wouldn't be fair now, would it?
As I get the episode primed to run on my Tivo HD--along with two good friends to watch it with; one a reader, the other a non-reader of the books--I find myself once again at the edge of my seat waiting to find out what's in store for us now.
But as always, before I start writing off my scene-by-scene commentary as the action occurs on screen, please take a moment to read up on all my previous episodic reactions below. Trust me, you won't regret it:
Episode 1: "Winter is Coming."
Episode 2: "The Kingsroad."
Episode 3: "Lord Snow."
And now, without further ado, let us begin the show!
CRIPPLES, BASTARDS, AND BROKEN THINGS.
Recap of previous episodes. The most important of the recent developments to remember thus far is that Catelyn Stark now has proof from Littlefinger that the dwarf, Tyrion Lannister, owned the dagger that the assassin used to try and kill Bran with. She's on her way back to Winterfell now, having left Ned and her girls behind at King's Landing.
For yet another week, nothing has changed during the opening credits sequence. I mentioned last week that I didn't think it would, considering that by this point in the book the story was still relatively contained within the four major locations already established on the map. I get a feeling we'll see a certain new location added next episode, though. But I won't say which for fear of giving away the goodies.
Oh, and the theme score still rocks!
I see Brian Kirk directed this episode as well. He directed the previous ep. 3, after the first two were helmed by Tim Van Patten. I wonder if this will be the trend for this season? A new director every two episodes?
Hey--what??? Bran is fully recovered and shooting arrows in the courtyard of Winterfell? Oh, this must definitely be a dream! You can tell because, besides Bran miraculously being able to walk again, it's far too sunny for Winterfell. And, also, because Bran starts following a crow deeper and deeper into the bowels of the citadel. Which, c'mon, just SMACKS of plot telegraphing.
Oh-ho! The crow has three eyes! The third one is in its forehead. Of course, fans of the book know all too well the significance of this dream. But since this episode isn't going there just yet, neither will I.
Of course! So Bran wakes up in his bed still a cripple. Sorry, folks. I know how much you wanted it to be true, but it was just a dream.
But--hey! Look, it's Bran's direwolf! Aww, he's sitting there by his side, guarding his master. That's a nice wittle wulfie!
And yes! More Old Nan. Damn, I wish she had more lines. I love any scene this lady is in. She's so sweet and caring, but tells the most HORRIBLE nightmare-inducing stories to little boys. Even if those stories just happen to be true, doncha know? No wonder Bran is dreaming of tricloptic crows.
Theon Greyjoy enters the bedchamber, and Bran's direwolf gives a little snarl. Oh how fucking COOL is that? Nice foreshadowing for those of us who have read the books, but I think its significance is lost on non-readers. For some strange reason, not much has been shown or said of Theon up to this point. Strange. He's a fairly important character (moreso in books 2 and 3), so try to keep an eye out for anything he says or does from now on. Trust me.
Oooh, grrr! He just called Nan an "old bat." This fucker must die! Rip his throat out!
Oh. My. GAWD! Another fan favorite has just been introduced. HODOR!!!
Hodor is Old Nan's great grandson, or some other similar relation. No one really knows. He works in the stables and is not terribly bright. In fact, all he can say is his own name. Hodor? Hodor! But he is big as an ox, and about as strong as one, too! He loves Bran to death, and has taken very seriously his new duty to carry the little Lord around and serve as his legs.
Like Tyrion said in last week's episode: ". . . It's better to be a rich cripple."
Rob holds council as acting Lord of Winterfell in his father's absence. Oh wow -- Grey Wind sighting! So we now got two direwolf sightings in about as many minutes. Bran's direwolf is named Summer, btw, but for some reason the names have not been revealed for these animals yet this season.
Tyrion Lannister has stopped at Winterfell on his way south back to King's Landing. But he doesn't get a very warm reception. Hey, this *is* the North, halfman. What did you expect?
Ah, but Tyrion is still the man! He took a tense situation and turned it on its ear. He reveals blueprints he himself devised on the ride down from the Wall. The plans are for a special saddle to be made so that Bran may ride a horse just as well as anyone else.
"I have a tender spot in my heart for cripples, bastards, and broken things."
Damn, this guy is so AWESOME! And I love that little smile Bran gives him in thanks.
A little exchange between Tyrion and Theon Greyjoy in the courtyard. This wasn't in the book, but I guess this will serve to talk more about Theon's presence at Winterfell. See, he's Ned Stark's ward. This is in reaction to his father, Balon Greyjoy of the Iron Islands, having launched a failed rebellion against King Robert years earlier. Ever since then, an uneasy peace has existed between the sealord and the Iron Throne. Theon was fostered in Winterfell and raised with the other Stark children as a kind of insurance against that peace. His father has disowned him, though, because he's seen now as being more Stark than a man of the seas.
Up north at the Wall, we get another big character from the book. And big is right! This guy is quite the lard ass! Samwell Tarly has entered the scene, and his pudginess is something that does not go unremarked upon by the other recruits.
Aww, poor guy. He's like every D&D nerd who ever tossed a twenty-sided die and earned 3+ AGL for his mage. In other words, 70% of the readers of the books this show is based on! Hyuk, hyuk. Just kidding. :)
Lady Piggy! LOL, Ser Alliser is a right asshole, but he's got jokes. Aww, I feel so sorry for Sam. Jon is a righteous badass sticking up for him like that. Go Team Snow!!!
Across the Narrow Sea, Khal Drogo's khalasar has arrive at the ancient Dothraki capital, Vaes Dothrak. Wow, the Maltese landscape looks absolutely stunning as a stand-in for this ceremonial heart of the Dothraki culture!
Looks like Ser Jorah is back with the tribe after mysteriously vanishing off to Qohor last episode upon learning of Daenerys' pregnancy. He explains to the khaleesi why it is that he knows so much about the men King Robert relies on for advice: he once fought alongside them.
Hot-tub sexy scene, just in case viewers mistook for a second that they were watching any other channel besides HBO. Ewww! The sexiness is marred by the slimy Viserys getting sponged off by the somewhat hot handmaid who was teaching his sister the "forbidden dance, Cinemax style" two episodes prior. You know, the one with the pretty eyes? From the book, we know her name is Doreah.
Hmm, it seems she's lost her accent in two episodes. What gives?
My god, that was one agonizingly long and expository-laden scene! I just wanted to see more of sexy eyes! And by MORE, I'm pretty sure you know what I mean . . . *wink, wink* *nudge, nudge*
On the bright side, you now know way more about dragons than you did before this episode. Hooray. Suffice to say that they no longer exist in this world. Oh, and that Viserys thinks he's the "last dragon." That is he did until Bruce Leroy himself walked in, all a-glow, and flying dragon-kicked his ass out of that hot-tub! "I'm the master!" he screamed, before grabbing Vanity and exiting stage left.
Oh, and Viserys is still a dick.
"What did I buy you for? To make me sad?"
Oh jeez, another painful exposition scene! This time between Sansa and Septa Mordane, the Stark children's tutor. They walk through the throne room and gaze up at the Iron Throne. You know, I know that they have to convey all this information to those who didn't read the books. But some of this stuff is sooooo boring! Or is it just me? It's not so much the information that's boring, but the presentation of such. Oh well. I know how awesome things are about to become, so I can be patient. I just hope the rest of you can, too.
And, god, Sansa is being such a bitch! We need more Arya, and we need her NOW!!!!
Another boring scene. Janos Slynt, Commander of the City Watch, reports to the Small Council that more and more people are pouring into the city to see the Hand's Tournament, which Ned is still staunchly against. Turns out that all these people require more of the King's resources to police them. Men that they do not have to spare. Ned orders Littlefinger to find more coin to pay for more men, while graciously donating 20 of his own household guard to bolster the ranks for the time being. When the meeting's adjourned and everyone's leaving, Petyr gives Ned this tight-lipped, sarcastic little bow. Littlefinger, that prick!
Grand Maester Pycelle stays behind. This guy is old as FUCK! I bet he was old even back when Old Nan was trying on training bras for the first time. Eddie Murphy, wearing that red leather suit from Delirious, shows up and says: "Now that's old!"
Ned questions Pycelle about Jon Arryn, the previous Hand. Among other things, Pycelle reveals that Jon was obsessed with genealogies just before his death -- particularly those belonging to the great noble houses of the land. He gives Ned the huge tome Jon Arryn had been reading: The Lineages and the Histories of the Great Houses of the Seven Kingdoms.
Apparently Jon Arryn was very interested in this area of study as of late. Pycelle would often hear him repeating the curious phrase: "The seed is strong!"
Mmmm, looks like Ned has a right mystery on his hands. Time to put on your sleuthing cap and get your Sherlock on!
Hurrah! The angels rejoice! The boredom has been broken -- we get an Arya scene at last!
"Syrio says . . ."
LOL! She's barefoot and her face is so very dirty. Such a tomboy! Every scene this little girl's in is like a fresh summer breeze to push out all the stale, hot air of the previous scene. Have you noticed that yet?
Here Ned talks to her about Bran. Arya's heartbroken that Bran will never get to be a knight like he's always dreamed of becoming. She asks if she'll ever be Lord of a holdfast. Her father laughs at this, but Arya is quite serious. When Ned tells her she can grow up to *marry* a Lord, and have sons who will be knights and Lords of their own holdfasts, Arya does not like this. Not at all!
"No. That's not me."
Yeah, you go girl! Don't settle for that housewife bullshit. You've got a far greater destiny ahead . . .
More Wall action! Sam shows up to share a watch with Jon. Sam explains what an asshole his own Lord father was. Not satisfied with his son being more interested in books and poetry rather than more athletic pursuits, he threatened Sam with either the Wall or a convenient hunting "accident" so that his younger brother could inherit all the Tarly wealth and lands. Damn, that's some cold shit!
Heh, heh. Get it? Cold shit?
Hey, I'm off my A-game tonight. So sue me.
Ned and Petyr "Littlefinger" Baelish stroll through the gardens at King's Landing. Littlefinger reveals that he knows Ned is reading an "interesting book." He also suggests that Ned might want to talk to one Ser Hugh of the Vale. Ned has never heard of such a Knight. Littlefinger is not surprised. Until recently, he was Jon Arryn's personal squire. He was only knighted recently, immediately after Jon's death.
Ned: "Knighted for what?"
Littlefinger merely shrugs and smirks knowingly. Ned is suspicious that Petyr should be telling him all this. But the other man reminds him that he told Cat he would help keep him alive. He tells Ned to speak with Ser Hugh discreetly, and to also check out a certain armorer located on the Street of Steel. He might just find the answers to some of his questions.
Ned: "Lord Baelish, perhaps I was wrong to distrust you."
Littlefinger: "Distrusting me was the wisest thing you've done since you climbed off your horse."
Hot damn! That little exchange warms my heart! It makes me remember how great the dialogue is supposed to be in this show.
And . . . the plot thickens!
Ned and the Captain of his household guard, Jory, visit that armorer by the name of Tobho Mott. He's never named . . . but I remember this from the book, you see?
Ned discovers that Jon had come by on several occasions to talk with Mott's apprentice, Gendry, before his death. The boy has the distinctive dark hair and blue eyes of the Baratheon lineage. When Ned glances at the boy head on, it's like looking into the past back when he was a youth nearly this boy's age.
Back on the Street of Steel, Jory asks Ned: "Find anything?"
Ned, looking like he's been kicked in the balls, replies: "King Robert's bastard son."
Jory shows up at the King's chambers with a message to deliver from Ned. Jaime Lannister, the Kingslayer, is guarding the door while, um, a rather loud tryst is going on inside. Guess in Westeros they haven't yet discovered the sock on the doorknob rule. Jaime looks particularly pissed.
"He likes to do this when I'm on duty. Makes me listen as he insults my sister."
Jaime is an ass to Jory, but the Captain reminds him that they fought together once on the same side, back during the failed Greyjoy rebellion. This makes Jaime more amenable as he seems to respect anyone who's seen actual combat. The Kingslayer remarks that seeing Greyjoy's youngest at Winterfell recently "was like seeing a shark on a mountain top."
Jory: "Theon? He's a good lad."
Jaime: "I doubt it."
Heh, heh. Awesome!
But, damn! The King never does receive that message from Ned.
Too bad, that . . .
Back at the Wall, Jon is laying down the law when it comes to Sam Tarly, whom the other recruits have started calling "Lord Porkchop."
Yo! Damn, son! That's some mean shit right there.
Jon tells them that Sam is off limits to any more beatings. All seem to agree, except for Rast. That night, Jon and two other recruits--Grenn and Pyp--show up to where Rast is sleeping. Jon sics his own direwolf on Rast (hey, look! It's Ghost!!), and the boy wisely agrees to play along now.
The next day at training, no one wants to touch Sam. Which pisses off Ser Alliser to no end!
Yup, it's been confirmed. Just in case you forgot. Nobody fucks with Jon Snow!
And that makes THREE separate direwolf sightings this episode! It's like Christmas morning came early!
Yes! We get another "wake the dragon" moment from Viserys! LOL, what a punk ass bitch!
Good, he got bitch slapped by his own little sister and set in his place.
"The next time you raise a hand to me will be the last time you have hands!"
Hmmm, methinks this probably won't end too well for him later . . .
LOL! Sally on the side! I guess that must be the generic whore's name in Westeros. Back in episode 3, Catelyn Stark accused Littlefinger of treating her like some "back alley Sally" bringing her to a whorehouse like he did. Too funny!
Jon and Sam discuss their ongoing membership in the V-Club while cleaning down the tables in the mess hall, a fact which Sam finds particularly hard to believe of his hero.
Sam: "Didn't know where to put it?"
Jon: "I know where to put it!"
But as we learn, Jon has some serious issues with his status as a bastard.
Oh, and we also learn that this "back-alley Sally" named Roz is apparently the hardest working red-headed whore in all the North! Jeez! That's twice she's been referenced already in this episode, by two separate men.
Wow, I should've mentioned this earlier, but the actor playing Sam--John Bradley--is fucking AWESOME! I'm really loving his delivery of the dialogue, and the chemistry between him and Kit Harrington (Jon Snow) is great!
Aww fer fook's sake! Ser Alliser Thorne comes into the scene and ruins all the fun with his doom and gloom! Dude, we don't care you almost froze your ass off ice fishing beyond the Wall.
"Come the Winter you will die, like flies!"
You're supposed to hate Alliser's guts, but you have to admit he makes some sense. You can clearly see why he's such a hard ass, though. Eating your own brothers of the Watch -- now that's some nasty, depressing shit right there! Wonder if he was the same guy laughing his ass off when I saw the movie Alive for the first time in theaters?
Daenerys talks to Ser Jorah about her brother. She comes to the realization that Viserys will never take back the Iron Throne. He's too insane, like their father the Mad King was rumored to be.
My, my, my . . . foreshadowing's a bitch, ain't it?
The Hand's Tourney, at last! A lot of shit goes down in this scene in the book. I doubt they can cover it all in the remaining time we have left.
Eww! Sansa spies Joffrey and smiles adoringly at him. Joffrey is still upset that she saw him cry like a little girl after Arya smacked his candy ass around like her name was The Rock. So he sulks and turns away.
LOL! @ King Robert. He's already drunk off his fat arse--and still drinking!
"Start the damn joust before I piss meself!"
Cersei is disgusted by her husband's annoying self, so she gets up and leaves.
HOLY SHIT SNACKS! It's The Mountain That Rides -- Gregor Clegane! Damn, in the books this guy is the baddest, most sadistic asshole there is in all of Westeros. I'm kind of uneasy seeing him now, but it's about time we get introduced to this fucktard.
Littlefinger explains to Sansa and Arya how The Mountain and Joffrey's bodyguard, Sandor Clegane (aka, The Hound), are in fact brothers.
The Mountain and Ser Hugh of the Vale square off. It doesn't end so well for Ser Hugh. Damn!
That was one helluva gory death scene, and it all happened right in front of Sansa and Arya! Littlefinger, in a perfectly douche-baggy way, adds further insult to injury by retelling the story of how The Hound got so horribly disfigured on one side of his face. Seems that back when the Mountain was just a small hill, he didn't take too kindly to his kid brother usurping one of his favorite toys. So, naturally, he did what any older sibling would do in a similar situation -- he threw his little bro into the fireplace!
I know this scene is rather expository, but I actually like it. This story is not told in this fashion in the books, but I'm glad it got told now. This way you understand a little of where Sandor Clegane is coming from. Why he's not all he seems to be. There is a side of him that is still a hurt little boy.
Oh, and the relationship between the Cleganes is, shall we say, less than brotherly of course. Can't wait to see more on that score.
Queen Bitch, Cersei, shows up in Ned's chambers, ostensibly to patch things up between them. But it doesn't take long for the fangs to come out. Cersei points out that it doesn't surprise her Ned is so loyal to Robert. After all, it was his older brother who had been trained to be Lord of Winterfell. Ned was always trained to follow like a good soldier.
Ned: "I was also trained to kill my enemies, your Grace."
Cersei [long, steely pause]: "As was I."
Catelyn Stark and Ser Rodrik arrive at a roadside inn on the way north to Winterfell. She's traveling incognito so no one at the inn realizes her highborn status when they walk in and try to get some dinner.
A singer (named Marillion in the book) tries to sell them a song, but Rodrik is not having any of it.
Uh-oh. The proverbial shit has hit the fan! In walks the one man in all of Westeros who just so happens to be at the top of Cat's shit list right now -- Tyrion Lannister. Except, she's not at liberty to reveal herself at the moment. What is she to do?
Whoops! Tyrion just ratted her out. Of course he recognizes her right away!
It's funny to see Peter Dinklage's face go through the range of emotions his character must be feeling here. Remember, Tyrion doesn't yet know that he's been fingered as the one behind Bran's attempted assassination.
The dwarf quickly realizes that something is wrong, though, as Cat stands up and starts asking all the knights and soldiers in the room to state their allegiances to her father, Lord Hoster Tully of nearby Riverrun. When this is done, she points to Tyrion while addressing the loyal men who are now standing:
"In the name of King Robert and the good Lords you serve, I call upon you to seize him and help me return him to Winterfell . . . to await the King's justice!"
Wow, all that steel ringing as swords suddenly flash out of sheaths and encircle the poor little man. Hot DAMN that was some awesome sound effects!!!
Tyrion looks around, bewildered. Hmm, could this be a case of mistaken identity?
All he knows is, he's in a whole heap of trouble now!
That last scene more than made up for this rather lackluster episode, in my humble opinion. Again, just as with episode 3 last week, this one seemed like mostly talking and set-up. The scenes at the Wall were, as always, gripping and smooth-flowing. But many of the other scenes in here felt like back-story filler. This is fine, I suppose, if you want to make sure everyone is on the same page by the time the *real* action begins. But, damn, for those of us who have read the books it can be a bit trying.
Have no fear, however. Knowing where they are in the books now, the next episode I can almost guarantee will be the SHIZNIT! And the one after that, too. Oh man--it's about to be ON now, son!
It's curious that they didn't get to the rest of the Hand's Tourney. There's still some major stuff that needs to go down there, so I imagine we'll see this scene continued in next Sunday's episode. Something tells me that Brian Kirk will be the director on that one as well, seeing how we left off in the middle of things. I doubt they would have switched directors halfway through the Tourney shoot.
So, from here on out the intrigue really starts to get thick. Ned now suspects something is fishy about Cersei and Robert's relationship. At the very least, he's starting to suspect that the royal heirs may in fact not be Robert's children. But he needs more evidence before he can come to an official conclusion and bring it before the King.
Meanwhile, Catelyn has to decide what to do with Tyrion. Her father's lands are closest, but her sister might have more proof and is currently at the Eyrie, a holdfast located in the opposite direction. Traveling to her will be mighty dangerous, though, as the road there is plagued by bandits and backwater mountain clans.
Hmmm . . . decisions, decisions.
Despite this being a slow episode, I hope that by this point newcomers to the material will appreciate the focus on more character-driven developments rather than pure action stuff all the time. This is the bread and butter of the books, and why the series succeeds so well where other bloated fantasy epics fail.
I hope you all continue watching. Like I already said, the payoff should be coming up starting in the very next show.
In that vein, stay tuned next week for my reactions to Ep. 5: "The Wolf and the Lion".