Nikki: And welcome to Week 6 of the Nikki Stafford/Christopher Lockett rundown of this week’s instalment of Game of Thrones. I’m Nikki Stafford (excitedly waving from my desk), your TV guide of a select few shows over here at Nik at Nite, and that is Christopher Lockett (sagely nodding while sipping his scotch) over there at An Ontarian in Newfoundland. Together we’ll discuss the show with me talking about it as a newbie to the world of George RR Martin, and Chris as the longtime fan of the books.
Well, let’s start at the end of this episode, with a scene that most viewers will never forget: Viserys finally getting his golden crown. I LOVE this scene, even though it’s terrifying and gory and graphic, but how often do you see a truly vile character really get his these days? Viserys was worse than usual in this episode, mostly because he went from Mr. All That to realizing that maybe he’s really not. He watches Daenerys as she eats the horse heart (ew), and is held aloft before her adoring followers... and that’s when he realizes, oh my GOD she has adoring followers, and he has none. “Who can rule without wealth or fear or love?” he asks as he decides to make a break for it. The Dothraki aren’t a people who will follow his rule as his army, and so instead he decides to steal the only valuable thing Daenerys has – her dragon eggs – and get another army (one that would no doubt eventually rise up against the Dothraki).
We hear all sorts of predictions of what Daenerys’s son will be like, and at the end of the episode, she says bluntly that Viserys couldn’t have been the Dragon, because a Dragon can’t be hurt by fire. So, does that make her the Dragon? Perhaps her son? Chris, I was interested in what the scope of the books is when it got to this scene. Are we only watching the very beginning of a very long saga that will cover decades, or is it still moving along in a methodical pace? Is this just the first generation of the series or will the books continue to follow these people? (Now, try to answer THAT one without spoilers!) ;)
Chris: The heart-eating scene is brilliant, not least because the first shot of Emilia Clarke, with the blood on her mouth and her slightly manic grin, makes her look like a very sexy zombie. Or some kind of flesh-eating succubus. Either way, that whole sequence was beautifully done, and manages to be faithful to the novel while conflating the sequence with Viserys’ realization of his isolation (well observed, by the way). Ser Jorah was great in this episode, especially in terms of his quiet yet fraught dignity when he faces down the larcenous Viserys with the dragon eggs.
I can be relatively spoiler-free when I say that over the first four books, GRRM isn’t doing any long-term, multigenerational things. In fact from the start of A Game of Thrones to the end of A Feast for Crows (which I am just now in the process of rereading—not unpredictably, rereading GoT has sucked me back into the other books ... and now I have to wait until July for book five! Wah!), only about two or three years elapse. Now, GRRM has said some cryptic things about the timeline of A Dance with Dragons, so this may change. But as of now, we’re still in the thick of it with all the characters you know and love from GoT. Well, most of them. ;-)
And there is simply nothing I can say about Daenerys’ child that wouldn’t be spoilery. So you’ll just have to wait and see.
Can I add here that though this was an AMAZING episode, with all sorts of cool and mind-blowing moments that we’ll undoubtedly get to, that my hands down favourite moment was Arya’s look of horror at Sansa’s fairy-tale dream about her and Joffrey, and her appalled exclamation “Seven hells!” Heh. I don’t know where they found Maisie Williams, but that young actress is superlatively good. Arya is one of the best characters in the novels—if not in fact the best, which is saying a lot—and I was concerned that they wouldn’t be able to find a child actor who could do her justice. And not only is she doing her justice, she is going beyond and making Arya her own ... something few adult actors can do with a complex, nuanced character adapted from a novel. It’s a shame she gets killed by the sassy robot at the end of book one.
OK, I was lying about that last bit. Seven hells. Heh.
Nikki: You are evil. I should pour YOU a golden crown. ;) I agree, Arya is fantastic. In fact, in a complete aside, our family got a new female kitten this week and were on the hunt for a name, and a friend who has been reading these blog posts suggested Arya. I didn’t go with it, but I thought it was a great suggestion, especially her connection with cats. That scene with her sister is hilarious... the woman with Sansa notices she’s changed her hair style and seems quite happy to be integrated into the world of the Lannisters, and she’s right. Do you sympathize with Sansa, or do you find her rather annoying? I wonder if you get more of her own thoughts in the books... in the show, there are times when I think she deserves Joffrey. I did absolutely adore the line, “I don’t want someone brave and gentle and strong. I want him!” Hahahahaha... that’s like saying, “I don’t want to be with someone who’s smart and good-looking. I’m happy with you.”
Speaking of great lines, check out the back and forth between Cersei and Robert after he slaps her across the face:
Cersei: I shall wear this like a badge of honour.
Robert: Wear it in silence, or I’ll honour you again.
Yikes! As we’ve discussed before, I really do think the king is a washed-up, ineffectual ass, and despite Cersei’s Lady Macbeth tendencies and general miserable nature, I don’t blame her given the husband she’s had to be with all these years. Ned is a much more effective ruler in that scene where he actually holds court and DOES something when a civilian comes before the council with a problem. I loved that scene, and you could tell Littlefinger was relishing the fact he actually got to write down something interesting for a change.
Ned seems to be coming to the realization that his old friend is incompetent as well, which could be why he makes such a drastic ruling in that scene. Of course, from the conversation he has with Sansa, he begins to put things together and realizes that while the Baratheons all have hair of black, his “children,” as the old Brady Bunch song used to say, “Have hair of gold, like their mother, the youngest one a douche.” (I could be remembering that song differently.) That was a big moment. I can’t wait to see what he does with this information.
Chris: Sansa is one of the key POV characters throughout the books, and her development is quite nicely done. She is irritating for the balance of book one, especially when seen from someone else’s perspective. She’s still in the irritating phase in the series, but if they hold true to the book, she’ll get substantially more sympathetic by the end.
On rewatching the episode this morning, I caught the little smile that Ned and Arya share at Sansa’s oblivious comment about Joffrey. Arya is so totally her father’s daughter, even more so than in the novels.
And yes, there were some amazing lines in this episode. The one you quote between Robert and Cersei is actually taken verbatim from the novel, as is his threat to make Jaime Lannister Hand if Ned throws it in his face again. Among my other favourite lines were Tyrion’s confession about jerking off into the turtle stew, “Which I do believe my sister ate. At least, I hope she did,” and his attempts to bribe the gaoler Mord. His first attempt, when he talks about wealth and ownership being an “abstract” thing had me howling, as did his slow, precise “Because you’re a smart man.” Also, Bronn’s word’s after he wins the duel:
LYSA: You don’t fight with honour.
BRONN: No. [indicates where Vardis fell] He did.
But I think my favourite line, and it’s one the writers added themselves, was Syrio’s comment “There is only one god, and his name is Death. And there is only one thing we say to Death: not today!”
One of the great themes running through this episode was the contrast between effective leadership and not. King Robert, we see again and again, is a moral coward—fearless in battle, but quails before any sort of difficult decision. We saw it when Cersei browbeat him into killing Sansa’s direwolf, we saw it in his inability to see reason on the question of the remaining Targaryens, and we saw it when he basically begs Ned to settle the dispute with the Lannisters in such a way that (1) Jaime will never be called to account, and (2) he won’t have to deal with the sticky question of standing up to a man whom he owes a vast amount of money. It sort of goes without saying that if he’d been sitting the throne when the despoiled peasants petitioned him, he’d have fobbed them off with vague promises. Ned’s condemnation of the Mountain and Tywin Lannister was ballsy.
Across the narrow sea, we see a similar contrast between Viserys and Daenerys. I think your reading of those scenes is spot-on. Viserys continues his downward spiral unto death, but we see Dany maturing and, as Jorah observes, becoming more queenly. Is it just me, or does it seem that Emilia Clarke has lost some weight? In her face, at any rate—she looks older, leaner, as if she’s lost her baby fat. And she is more poised now. The look in her eye when she tells Viserys that Drogo will give him his golden crown is both heartbreaking and chilling. She knows Drogo’s intent right away even as Viserys is cheerfully oblivious, but does not flinch from it.
Nikki: Absolutely. There is a hardness in her face, but also a determination that she’s doing the right thing. And, at the same time, you can tell this is difficult. He may be an ass, but he’s also her brother. However, he’s an interloper who claims to be the Dragon, when he’s not. Back in the fourth episode a couple of weeks ago, Ser Jorah tells her that her other brother was the last dragon, not Viserys, and so in this moment she has this look like, “Fine. You’re the real dragon? Prove it. If you are, this won’t hurt a bit.” But she knows if it DOES kill him, he died a charlatan and a fraud, and the world’s better off without him. Amazing scene. Probably the most vividly memorable of them all (except for the horse being decapitated... that still gives me the heebs).
The scene of Tyrion’s champion fighting the other man is excellent, and worthy of mentioning that when HBO sends out the screeners, they’re not always complete. Often there will be a scene where you can see flashing in the corner, “Temporary audio” or “Temporary VFX” and it’s usually very minor, like the wind whipping around the Wall that’s not as harrowing as it will ultimately become. But in the Tyrion scene, when the queen’s sister’s champion is bested, he fell through the hole and sort of laid there, flailing his arms while a green screen appeared behind him and “Temporary VFX” flashed in the corner. My husband and I were laughing, and we got the gist even if we didn’t quite see what happened, so I was looking forward to seeing the drop for reals this time.
Tyrion’s confession is brilliant, as you say. As are his discussions with the aptly-named “Mort.” (I wondered how long it would take for Mort to get clunked on the head after Tyrion leaves the castle so someone else could take his purse.) As Tyrion marched out, my husband and I said in unison, “A Lannister always pays his debts.” LOVE it.
Did you notice that the man who steps up as Tyrion’s champion is actually the same guy who was at the inn when Tyrion was captured by Catelyn? I happened to be rewatching the fourth episode again this week with my father, and sure enough, the champion is the one who, when Tyrion walks in and demands a room, clinking his gold piece on the tables, holds up his hand and says, “You can have my room.” Strange that the same person has stepped up twice to help out Tyrion when it was needed. I never would have noticed that if I hadn’t gone back to see the earlier ep.
My last question to you is, we’ve now twice seen Bran’s strange dream of the three-eyed raven. I guess you can’t really say what it is without spoilage, but is that dream also in the books?
Chris: I hadn’t noticed that Tyrion’s champion—Bronn—was that same man. I looked for him later when they were fighting on the way to the Eyrie, because Bronn becomes a fairly significant character as the novels go on. He’s a great character, actually, doubly because he never loses his simple mercenary pragmatism. He fights for Tyrion here because he knows he’ll be well paid, and he stays by Tyrion’s side for a long time for the same reasons. But he’s no fool for honour, and—mild spoiler—when the time comes in book three, he refuses to stand for the Imp.
There are a number of things we haven’t yet discussed, and since you’ve left the last comment to me, I think I’ll run through them before answering your question about Bran.
- Robert’s admission that he never loved his brothers, and that Ned was the brother he chose … oh, so heartbreaking. Poor Robert. Poor stupid, cowardly, oblivious Robert. You should have made Ned your Hand so long ago.
- Catelyn didn’t have much to do in this episode, but I have to give her credit for some great face-acting throughout Tyrion’s “confession”—in particular, the look she gives her batshit sister when she realizes they’ve all been played by him.
- Syrio! I love Syrio.
- The scene between Joffrey and Sansa was utterly cringe-inducing. Seeing him playing the gracious prince (at the behest of his mother, no doubt) and Sansa’s buying of the act, was painful to watch. So much so that on my re-watch, I fast-forwarded through it. Seven hells, indeed.
- King Robert’s excruciating monologue about the good old days, and how simpler it all was. A bit heavy-handed, perhaps, but it did a nice job of showing the fissures between him and Renly, and also set up a necessary plot point.
- I love love love how the penny drops for Ned. The first part, when Sansa points out that Joffrey is nothing like Robert, is exactly how it happens in the novel. Ned’s perusal of the “ponderous tome” is implied in the novel, but not depicted. Watching him realize Jaime and Cersei’s incest is brilliant. Can’t wait for the next instalment.