Game of Thrones 209: Blackwater

SPOILER WARNING: All events that have occurred in the TV show up to and including yesterday’s episode are fair game. I have read the books but I will not go any further beyond small hints that only fellow book-readers will catch on to. You’ve been warned.

Note: Because it can be hard to keep all the names and faces straight, the first mention of each character contains a link to a picture of them which will open in a new tab.

Alright, I know I say it every week, but that had to be the best episode of “Game of Thrones” yet. And why not? It was written by George R.R. Martin, the author of the books (just as “Baelor,” the ninth episode of the first season was, remember what happened then?), and directed by Neil Marshall, who’s written and/or directed a number of critically acclaimed films. Plus, it finally answered a few questions that have been dogging many viewers all season. Questions like “why don’t they ever show us any action scenes” or “where is this supposedly huge budget going if not to CGI dragons and direwolves?” Well, as I hinted at in my post about “Garden of Bones,” they were saving the (best) action for (next to) last. As for the budget, well, it went here, and here, and here. But mostly, it went here.

There was really only one location in this week’s episode. So I’m going to be using a format I experimented with two weeks ago, splitting the post up based on character and thematic groups rather than geography.

Stannis vs. Joffrey

One of the things that stuck out to me most was the contrast between Stannis and Joffrey, the two kings. One’s a Baratheon and the other’s a “Baratheon,” and depending on who in Westero you ask, one is a king and the other’s a “king.” But what really set them apart is the way they handled themselves in battle.

Where was Stannis during all that bloodshed? Why, on the front fucking lines of course. He was the first one off the ships and the first up the ladder. He lead the charge, cut heads in half, and had to be quite literally dragged away when it appeared that all was lost. Oh, did I mention that during all this the dude neglected to wear a fucking helmet? Yet despite having the best claim and being an all around badass, almost isn’t good enough, and another sits the Iron Throne. What’s his name again?

Fucking Joffrey. I know, I’m pissed too, believe me. Even though I knew the outcome of the battle I was still on the edge of my seat, hoping in vain for the justice that was denied me in the books. Let’s put aside all the terrible things Joffrey has done for a moment and consider only what he did during the battle. While thousands died in his name, brave King Joffrey ran away. Bravely ran away, away! When danger reared its ugly head, he bravely turned his tail and fled. Yes, brave King Joffrey turned about and gallantly he chickened out. Bravely taking to his feet he beat a very brave retreat, bravest of the brave, King Joffrey! Thanks, Monty Python. Seriously though, it was a whole lot easier to “drag” Joffrey away from battle than Stannis. “Does my mother have urgent business for me? No? Well I’d better go anyway, just in case.”

Whose Death is it Anyway?

We saw an awful lot of characters die last night, or so it appeared. Keep in mind that a “Game of Thrones” character probably isn’t dead unless you saw him or her die, as in you literally watched them draw their final breath. Plus, this is George R.R. Martin we’re talking about. It wasn’t just his writing skills that got him placed on Time Magazine’s list of the 100 most influential people in the world last year. His 16 straight mindfucker of the year awards no doubt played a part. That’s a joke. Don’t come crying to me if you found some strange pornogarphy after googling it, and please don’t e-mail me about your new fetish. Anyway, I’m not going to tell you who’s dead and who isn’t, that would ruin the fun. Instead, let’s look over how a few of the characters who might be dead spent their final hours.

First, let’s talk about Tyrion, whose early image as a jokester squandering his potential with drink and whores has all but disappeared. Last night was his moment to truly shine. As he tells Shae early on, while most others can leave or switch sides, Tyrion wasn’t given a choice. He’s a Lannister, seemingly the only one who gives a shit about the people of Westeros.

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Game of Thrones 206: The Old Gods and the New

SPOILER WARNING: All events that have occurred in the TV show up to and including yesterday’s episode are fair game. I have read the books but I will not go any further beyond small hints that only fellow book-readers will catch on to. You’ve been warned.

Winterfell

I for one am not a big fan of drawn out cliffhangers, as such the showrunners handled “the sea coming to Winterfell” very well. As was the case with Renly‘s death they gave us the aftermath right at the beginning of the episode, and what an aftermath it was. To quote Ser Rodrik, “Gods help you Theon [punkass] Greyjoy, now you are truly lost.”

There are no heroes or villains in Game of Thrones, no black and white, only shades of grey. You’ve got to give Alfie Allen credit for the way he’s playing Theon, you can see how unsure he is with every double take, quiver in his voice and tear in his eye. It really sets him apart from someone like Lord Tywin, who is so confident in everything he does.

The whole scene, especially Ser Rodrik’s death, was perfectly executed, pun intended. It really showed just how fiercely loyal the people of the North are to the Starks. The man who calls Theon a “steaming sack of shit” insists he serves the Starks, and right before Ser Rodrik is killed he tells Bran, “Hush now child, I’m off to see your father,” which is enough for him. After he says it he puts his head down and grits his teeth, completely ready to die. It takes Theon more than a couple swings to take Rodrik’s head, another impressive symbolic contrast between he and Ned Stark.

Beyond the Wall

Jon has lost his brothers of the Nights Watch and now has only the wildling woman Ygritte, who he could not bring himself to kill, to keep him company. There was a great parallel between Ygritte’s rubbing up against Jon and Osha seducing Theon. Each used their feminine wiles to get what they needed, Ygritte needed to stay alive (and perhaps convince Jon the free folk aren’t so bad) and Osha needed to escape Winterfell and protect the Stark children. In short, wildling chicks do what they gotta do.

Harrenhal

The interactions between Arya and Lord Tywin were not in the books, but after seeing the two characters’ (and actors’) chemistry, maybe they should have been. When Tywin jokingly tells Arya she should devise their next battle plan, she gets this little smirk on her face that fades into a look of pure terror the moment it’s announced Littlefinger has arrived. Just another brilliant moment for Maisie Williams, who continues to impress. I’m certain Littlefinger recognized Arya. Always a step ahead of everyone else, he’ll save that little tidbit until it’s most valuable. You know: buy low, sell high.

They’ve actually managed to humanize the cold, calculating Tywin, who’s seemingly the only Lannister save Tyrion who knows what the hell he’s doing. His discussion of teaching Jaime to read was fantastic. It goes to show that Tywin is just another man who loves his family; he’s doing what he can to protect them in the only way he knows how.

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Game of Thrones 205: The Ghost of Harrenhal

SPOILER WARNING: All events that have occurred in the TV show up to and including yesterday’s episode are fair game. I have read the books but I will not go any further beyond small hints that only fellow book-readers will catch on to. You’ve been warned.

Morning Announcements: It’s come to my attention that non-readers (and probably some readers too) have a hard time keeping all the names aligned with their faces. In order to help remedy that problem, the first mention of a character in a post will include a link to a picture of them. 

I almost can’t believe that a show exists where the opening sequence bears discussing week in and week out. But one does in Game of Thrones. No new cities this episode, but as the camera panned from the Wall across the Shivering Sea to Qarth, we actually got an up-close glimpse of the mysterious red comet. Now, all the best shows have incredible attention to detail, but I challenge you to find one that reaches “Throne’s” level in its opening sequence. Moving on.

Renly vs. Stannis, Littlefinger and the Tyrells

Well they certainly didn’t waste any time here, which is a good thing. After leaving us with a cliffhanger last week, not making Renly’s death the opening scene would’ve rustled my jimmies. Now all of us Stark supporters will be left wondering what might have been if Renly and his hundred thousand swords had been able to join forces with Robb against the Lannisters. Stannis is “pure iron, black and hard and strong, yes, but brittle, the way iron gets. He’ll break before he bends.” He will never align with the Starks as long as Robb insists on calling himself the King in the North.

You’ve got to credit the showrunners for the way they handled this. From the preseason trailers they made it seem as though Renly would have a tremendous part to play, which I’m sure made his sudden death that much more surprising. Plus, the CGI was fantastic, the shadow assassin actually looked like Stannis, as it should considering it’s his “son.”

Only Littlefinger knows what Littlefinger’s true motivations are. He knows that war is unpredictable, so he’s trying to be everybody’s friend. Problem is, nobody trusts him. His conversation with Loras and Margaery Tyrell was illuminating for all three characters. Lord Baelish asks Loras what he desires most. Loras responds, “revenge,” which Littlefinger has “always found to be the purest of motivations.” Perhaps a hint as to why he betrayed Ned Stark, who was married to the only woman he’s ever loved, Catelyn.

In this week’s “Inside the Episode,” the showrunners explained that House Tyrell is a “secret matriarchy,” in which the men are “handsome dopes” and the women are the “brains behind the operation.” Littlefinger asks Margaery if she wants to be a queen. “No,” she responds, “I want to be the queen.” Margaery is a saner version of Cersei, she’s not so conniving, but she’s certainly a player in the game of thrones.

King’s Landing

Back in the capital, Tyrion continues his attempts to restore order and institute justice, always quipping as he goes. Lancel tells him of Cersei’s plan to defend the city from siege using wildfire. Tyrion takes control of the plans, knowing that in the wrong hands, the volatile substance is likely to burn the city, and people, it’s meant to protect. On his way to the Alchemist’s Guild, he learns he’s being made a scapegoat for the city’s ills, because it’s easy to blame someone who’s different. Tyrion is incredulous, “Blame me?” he asks, “I’m trying to save them.” Story of his life.

The parallels between both Cersei and Joffrey and Aerys II Targaryen, the “Mad King,” are becoming increasingly clear. Joffrey is quick to punish anyone who questions his reign, or, you know, anyone he feels like punishing, be it Sansa, Ser Dontos, or a lowly bard. And like Cersei, the Mad King had a penchant for paranoia and wildfire. Last season, when asked what Aerys said when he stabbed him in the back, Jaime responded, “He said the same thing he’d been saying for hours. Burn them all.” In the books we learn that Aerys planned to burn the city, and everyone in it, rather than surrender. “Let [Robert] be king over charred bones and cooked meat… Let him be the king of ashes.”

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