Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Game of Thrones 1.02 -- "The Kingsroad"

Well sports fans, here we are again for episode two. What did everyone think? I’m still quite struck at just how well GRRM’s world has been translated to the small screen. At some stage we need to have a discussion about how television has become more cinematic than film, and how when it is willing to take on complex narratives, its storytelling capabilities leave movies in the dust.

Don't forget, these posts are cross-posted on this blog and Nikki's, so go give hers a look.

But for now, I again give the stage to Nikki for the un-booked reaction to the most recent Game of Thrones.

“There’s a war coming, Ned. I don’t know when, and I don’t know who we’ll be fighting, but it’s coming.”

This is the episode where the seemingly perfect marriage between Catelyn and Ned shows its deep cracks. As Catelyn sits by Bran’s sickbed, she’s in mourning not only for the son who is gravely ill, but for a marriage that is in danger as well. Ned is leaving her, much the same way he did when he went away and came back with Jon. This is also the episode where Catelyn begins to piece things together and believes the Lannisters had something to do with Bran’s fall out of the window. Considering her mama bear personality (and her wicked fighting skills), I’m thinking this is about to get really interesting.

Listening to Queen Cersei and her brother saying it would be merciful for Bran to die rather than live a cripple is disgusting. I loved the look on Jaime’s face when Tyrion said, “I hope the boy does wake; I’d be quite interested in what he has to say.” I’m thinking at this point this could go one of several ways: Bran dies (that wouldn’t be much fun… and by the end of the ep we know that’s not the case); Bran awakes and tells them everything (also not much fun); Bran wakes and tells only a couple of key people who then know the secret and could use it against the Queen; Bran wakes and has some sort of amnesia.

Cersei gains a wee bit of sympathy from us for telling us about the child that she lost. There’s a sadness to her that seems to permeate her constantly… even when she was “involved” with her brother at the end of the previous episode, there was a melancholy to even that act. But with the whole “butcher’s boy” incident, she loses that sympathy again. She’s cold-hearted, probably knows her wuss of a son is telling a lie, but she figures killing a direwolf (and the butcher’s boy) will bring the Starks down a peg. But clearly the act of killing the animal has the opposite effect. It would seem that not only are the direwolves connected to their immediate owner, but to each other, and all of the owners. The death of Lady sparks the reawakening of Bran, and now the REAL fun begins.

  • Tyrion slapping Joffrey over and over again. This is where we started to love him. The Hound says, “The prince will remember that,” and Tyrion replies, “I hope SO. If he forgets, be a good dog and remind him.”
  • Arya receiving her sword from Jon. “It’s so skinny.” “So are you.”
  • The direwolf taking on the intruder in a most grisly fashion, before setting itself up as Bran’s lookout.
  • Watching Daenerys take over and find a connection with Khal.
  • Joffrey becoming a simpering little wanker at the tip of Arya’s sword. Ugh, I hate him.

Did You Notice:
  • The sets of the courtyard are incredible, from the blacksmith area to the stables.
  • Arya’s direwolf is called Nymeria, after a warrior queen.
  • Arya seems closer to Jon, Ned’s bastard son, than her full brothers and sisters. Jon seems to understand her better than the others. In fact, when we see the next scene when Jon goes to say goodbye to Bran (amidst the seething loathing from Catelyn), Jon seems to care deeply for both his young half-siblings.
  • I wonder what the story is about Ned and Jon’s mother. There’s obviously a story there. Ned’s face changes completely when the king asks about her. The king acts like he won’t talk about her because he feels badly about what happened, but it seems more like he won’t talk about her because he still cares about her.
  • The spread Ned and the king have in the field is awesome and hilarious. Imagine… there must have been an entire coach just devoted to carrying the food.
  • Whoa, Catelyn’s got some fight in her!
  • The wall… is… TERRIFYING.
  • I was a little confused about the journey Ned and the king were on. I thought they were heading south (Ned appeared to be saying goodbye to Catelyn in a rather final way) and I couldn’t figure out how they were both suddenly back at Winterfell. But now I’m thinking they were just taking Jon to the point where he’d head off to the Wall.
  • Those direwolves grow FAST. I’m assuming more time has passed than it seems. I’m curious to know, from the readers, if the book jumps, too, or do we see the immediate reactions from Ned and Catelyn when they find Bran’s body?
  • How old is Daenerys supposed to be?

And now, back to Chris.

In the comments for my last post, Nikki asked me if, as I watch Game of Thrones, I ever wish I hadn’t read the books—so that I might experience the series without knowing what was coming. When I replied, I said I was more intrigued to see how people who haven’t read the books would respond to the twists and turns of GRRM’s story. But while I was watching “The Kingsroad,” I found myself trying to imagine how I would enjoy the series if I was ignorant of the story.

It is a difficult task, doubly so because I am currently re-reading A Game of Thrones for the purpose of these posts, so everything is quite fresh in my mind when I sit down to watch new episodes. I have to imagine it denudes the viewing experience somewhat, as there is no suspense for me, and I get impatient to see my favourite parts, some of which are several episodes away. And it sometimes felt, with episode two, as if it unfolded as a series of set-pieces rather than an organically evolving story.

That being said, I don’t wish to give the impression that I didn’t love episode two, or thought it wasn’t good—I thought it was excellent. Yet again, we are given a fantastic sense of this other world, from the lush riverlands to the Dothraki Sea, to the stark (ha!) life on the Wall. And the characters are deepening beautifully. I’m particularly happy that we’re leaving Daenerys-as-victim behind already. In a genre notable for its lack of strong women, GRRM gives us an embarrassment of riches, and Dany arguably rises to the top of that group. Based on previews for next week, it looks as though she faces down Viserys, a character who rivals Joffrey as, to use Nikki’s phrase, the simperingest little wanker.
OK—so, my itemized thoughts:

What they left out
  • Bran’s dream. For the un-booked, Bran’s waking is preceded by a complex dream in which he flies high above Westeros, seeing everything going on in the world unfolding beneath him—very reminiscent of Frodo’s god-view from Amon Hen—while a three-eyed crow enjoins him to fly. I kind of figured they would leave this out, but still hoped they’d use it, if for no other reason than to clarify the geography of Westeros.

What they added
  • Cersei’s sad story of her dead child. As everyone will by now have surmised, her platinum blond brood of children are not Robert’s but Jaime’s. In her story, she describes the child as having had black hair, indicating that it was Robert’s trueborn. In the novel, she speaks of having been gotten pregnant by Robert, but that she terminated that pregnancy in disgust. Here it seems to suggest that, once upon a time, she was genuinely in love with the king. Not sure if I like this.
  • Jaime’s taunting of Jon Snow. Just to remind us how hateful Jaime can be, and providing a great contrast for Tyrion’s honest pragmatism later in the episode. Nikolaj Coster-Waldau doesn’t overdo it—just a slight edge, enough to cut, but also subtle enough that at first you can believe he’s being earnest.
  • Catelyn’s weird-ass dreamcatcher. What the hell is that thing she was making at Bran’s bedside?
  • Catelyn searching the broken tower and finding Cersei’s blonde hair.
  • Doreah tutoring Daenerys in the erotic arts. This is only hinted at in the novel, and comes somewhat later. In the novel, Dany’s reversal of power in the bedchamber results in pregnancy—it will be interesting to see if they go that route next episode, or wait. I must say, I was impressed with how they handled this scene, as there must have been a temptation to go more over-the-top with it (as they would certainly have done on Starz). But there was no point at which Dany was anything but the curious ingénue, and Doreah the worldly mentor. No indulgent faux-lesbian romp here.

What they got exactly right
  • Jon Snow giving Arya Needle.
  • Ned and Robert. Though in the novel this conversation happens on horseback, the tone and feel of it is totally faithful. We really get a strong sense of this long friendship, and the deep love these two men have for each other—but also of their fundamental difference in character.
  • Bran’s would-be assassin. That scene was the highlight of the episode for me, and came just at the moment I was thinking “the pace of this episode is notably slower.” For the un-booked, it unfolded pretty much exactly as it did in the novel, right down to Catelyn grabbing the blade of the knife.
  • Arya and Joffrey by the river. OMFG.
  • Tyrion and Jon. I had forgotten the unlikely friendship these two forge in the novel. The conversation they have around the fire is pitch-perfect. “My brother has his sword. I have my mind. And a mind needs books like a sword needs a whetstone.” A sentiment to please readers, and pretty much verbatim from the novel. I love that the writers are actually using GRRM’s dialogue when they can.
  • Speaking of GRRM’s dialogue, Daenerys’ conversation with her handmaidens about dragons is pretty much exactly lifted from the novel.
  • Ned and Arya facing down Robert and Cersei. Such a great scene, and such a fabulous insight into Robert’s character—we see here why he’s such a bad king. Loves a fight, hates a confrontation. And FINALLY we see Cersei show us some of her malicious steel. ‘Bout bloody time.
Slightly disappointing
  • The Hound. Really? That’s the best you could do with his face? He’s not nearly as terrifying as he is in the novels.
  • Ser Illyn Payne. Ditto.

What I’m loving
  • Sean Bean. The Darcy Effect is taking hold: as I reread A Game of Thrones, I’m hearing his voice in my head as I read Ned’s dialogue.
  • Peter Dinklage. He continues to nail this role.
  • Direwolves. I freely admit, I teared up at the end when Ned killed Lady. And when Arya threw rocks at Nymeria to get her to run away. What breed are those dogs? I want one.
  • Mark Addy. As I have previously mentioned, he was the actor I was most concerned about, and he is proving all those fears wrong. His take on Robert is nuanced and subtle, no small accomplishment with a character who is literally and figuratively larger than life.
  • Iain Glen. Ser Jorah Mormont is described differently in the novel—bigger, bluffer, less attractive—but Glen brings to the role a sad grit. I am biased in this actor’s favour, I should admit, given that he played Hamlet in Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead.
Answers for Nikki
  • Time passing: when Catelyn musters everyone in the Godswood, she alludes to Bran having been asleep a month. And in the novel, the preternatural speed with which the direwolves mature is frequently remarked upon.
  • They’re not back at Winterfell, but are miles to the south. They take up residence in a local noble’s castle when Arya runs off. For those who have looked up the map online, they’re in the vicinity of the forks of the Trident.
  • In the novel, Daenerys is thirteen when she marries Drogo. They’ve aged all the young characters somewhat for the series. I don’t think they ever specify Dany’s age, but I would estimate it to be somewhere around sixteen.


Derrek said...

Another great blog. I'm really enjoying this non-reader/ reader analysis.

Chris - A friend tells me the dogs look like Northern Inuits because he has one and they look very similar. Oddly enough, his is named Ghost, but after the Call of Duty character and not Jon's direwolf... and he doesn't have red eyes.

You guys have touched on one matter that is starting to concern me... time. I'm hoping they slow things down a bit time-wise because they have done a few one-month jumps now and it seems to be confusing some non-readers. The books do a great job of drawing out the time it takes to travel Westeros. It takes roughly a month to travel from King's Landing to Winterfell and around a week from Winterfell to The Wall (I think), but in the show they just say it and don't show it. I know they have a lot to tell in only ten episodes, but one of the main points the creators and actors keep raising his the depth of each character that you experience, but you get that depth from trudging through the many chapters of a person's story... like Bran's coma. In the show he is unconscious and awakens all in one episode.

I look forward to your posts for the rest of the season and I hope you keep it up for season 2.

baduljp said...

En la primera temporada me dejo un buen sabor de boca, me parece que es una de las mejores serie de la actualidad, Game of thrones es una súper producción de la talla de cintas cinematográficas con la única diferencia de que el final esta muy lejano.

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