Game of Thrones 3.02: Dark Wings, Dark Words

SPOILER WARNING: Whether you’ve read all five books or only watch the series this post is for you. I have read the books (multiple times) but I will not go beyond the scope of the TV series (save a wink or a nod every now and then that only my fellow readers will catch on to). All events that have occurred in the TV show up to and including yesterday’s episode are fair game.  You’ve been warned.

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

After the season premiere, “Valar Dohaeris,” got us caught up with all our favorite characters, this week’s episode was devoted to table-setting. Or, well, it would’ve been if this was any other show. Instead, “Dark Wings, Dark Words” began placing all those narrative dominoes for the characters lucky enough to appear in both episodes while embarking on the same “hey, remember these guys?” quest for Arya, Bran, and the rest of the folks we’d yet to see.

As we all know by now, Game of Thrones has a sprawling world and the biggest cast on TV, but despite it being nigh impossible, the writers are generally able to link all those storylines with a shared episodic theme. In the case of “Valar Dohaeris,” which is high valyrian for “all men must serve,” that theme was the idea of servitude. We got no such link this week, but that doesn’t mean the writers couldn’t find a way to bounce gracefully between all those separate characters and locations. It wasn’t so fancy as a shared theme, however. Instead, the characters in one scene would mention somebody’s name, and then we’d be whisked away thousands of miles to see what they’re up to. One scene for instance was centered around Robb and Catelyn, but when they brought up Theon Greyjoy, suddenly we’re in some dungeon watching the dude get tortured. The same concept was utilized throughout the episode, and while it’s less seamless than a fancy thematic connection, it got the job done.

ep2branjojenhodor

Bran Makes a Friend (or Two)

Things begin inside Bran’s head. The Three-Eyed Raven (or Crow for my fellow book readers, yeah, I don’t know why they changed that either) has shown up in his dreams again. He attempts to shoot it with an arrow, complete with the same encouragement he got from Jon, Robb, and his father while practicing marksmanship way back in the pilot. Bran misses, and a new character shows up to tell him he can’t killed the Crow—er, Raven—because “the Raven is you.” We later discover the new guy is Jojen Reed, son of Howland, one of his brother’s bannermen and his father’s oldest friends (Howland even saved Ned’s life during the Rebellion). Jojen, it seems, knows a thing or two about Bran’s premonitory and wolf-inhabiting dreams. He experiences the former himself and knows enough about the latter that he can help Bran take control of his skinchanging abilities. Sounds like a pretty good friend to have if you ask me.

Meanwhile, Jojen’s sister, Meera, and Osha have an unexpected bonding of the warrior women moment. Osha mocks Jojen for needing his sister to protect and do the fighting for him, to which Meera responds, “Some people will always need help. That doesn’t mean they’re not worth helping.” As with so many lines on this show, this one has a double meaning: Meera’s talking about her brother, but she’s also referring to Bran, who they’ve come so far to help. Osha, of course, has already been helping Bran despite the fact that he’ll “always need help” because she’s recognized how special he is.

Read the rest of this entry »

  

You can follow us on Twitter and Facebook for content updates. Also, sign up for our email list for weekly updates and check us out on Google+ as well.

Game of Thrones 3.01: Valar Dohaeris

SPOILER WARNING: Whether you’ve read all five books or only watch the series this post is for you. I have read the books (multiple times) but I will not go beyond the scope of the TV series (save a wink or a nod every now and then that only my fellow readers will catch on to). All events that have occurred in the TV show up to and including yesterday’s episode are fair game.  You’ve been warned.

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

Each of Game of Thrones‘ first two seasons followed a structural pattern, one which will be repeated in the newest season. Episode nine, of course, brings us the season’s “woah moment.” Whether it’s Ned Stark losing a head or the Battle of Blackwater Bay (not to mention the doozy they’ve got in store this year), episode nine leaves the story forever altered. The finales that follow are dedicated to picking up the pieces. Episode ten shows each character’s reaction to the “woah moment,” cramming in conclusions and cliffhangers—the beginnings of the plotlines to come. Each season’s premiere, then, is about picking up where we left off and setting the table for where we hope to go, building on the foundations laid in the previous season’s finale (yes, even season one was building on “a previous season,” the events that came before it just happen to be a hypothetical one we didn’t get to see firsthand). The call and response of the show’s finales and premieres echo the necessary warm-up phase in each subsequent installment of George R.R. Martin’s “A Song of Ice and Fire.”

It shouldn’t come as a tremendous surprise then that the titles of last season’s finale, “Valar Morghulis,” and yesterday’s premiere, “Valar Dohaeris,” are also a call and response. In many places on the continent of Essos, Valar Morghulis is a customary saying, traditionally answered by Valar Dohaeris. The former translates to all men must die in High Valyrian, the latter to all men must serve. With so many widespread and disparate storylines, it’s often difficult to find a single recurring theme in an episode of Game of Thrones. The closest you’ll come in the premiere can be found in the translation of its title: the all encompassing nature of service in the world of the show. Or, as Bob Dylan put it, everybody’s “Gotta Serve Somebody.”

ep1beyondthewall2

Beyond the Wall

Everyone remembers the exciting ending of the second season: Three horn blasts and Sam coming face-to-face with a White Walker on a dead horse leading a hoard of Walkers and Wights. It’s no surprise then that “Valar Dohaeris” picks up right where we left off in the series’ first cold open. Now as we all know, full-on battle scenes are expensive. Most of last season’s budget went towards “Blackwater.” Most. Towards one episode. It detracts from the episode’s potential for action, but as I’ve mentioned premieres are meant for table setting, and the producers have plenty of things to spend money on more important than this one battle. So as we’ve seen numerous times throughout the series, we get what amounts to a fade to black, the ringing of swords, and fade back in just in time for the plot to move forward. Immediately after rescuing Sam, Lord Commander Mormont asks if he sent the ravens, and berates him when he finds out he didn’t, saying, “That was your job, your only job.” Recall the theme of servitude, Sam is a man of the Watch, and in this at least he has failed in his duties. With only a fraction of the men of the Watch who left for the ranging still breathing, Mormont announces that they need to return to the Wall: “It’s a long march. We know what’s out there, but we have to make it, have to warn them, or before winter’s done, everyone you’ve ever known will be dead.” Such is the duty of the men of the Watch, they serve the kingdoms, they are “the shield that guards the realms of men.”

Read the rest of this entry »

  

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.

Read the rest of this entry »

  

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.”

Read the rest of this entry »

  

Game of Thrones 204: Garden of Bones

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.

I don’t think there’s any question that “Garden of Bones” is the best episode of the second season so far. There’s so much to discuss, so let’s just get right into it.

“Game of Thrones” has the best opening sequence on television. Not only is it awesome, it’s educational. We all know that the show has the potential to be very, very confusing. So it’s only fitting that its intro shows a map to help get our geography in order. Each week, any new locations are added into the sequence. This week there was Harrenhal and Qarth, “the greatest city that ever was or will be.”

This intro lets all us fans know that after a week-long wait, it’s finally “Thrones” time again. Sometimes it feels like it would be more appropriate if this was the show’s opening.

The Battlefield

“Garden of Bones” opens with a fart joke… or does it? There was all that buildup just so the guy could “break wind,” or so we thought until another kind of wind, Robb’s direwolf Grey Wind, pounces on them. We see Robb with a number of his men, the screen fades to black and we hear cries of “The King in the North!”

There will be those who complain that many, in fact most, of the battle scenes occur off screen (we all remember Tyrion getting knocked out before the Battle of the Green Fork towards the end of last season). This is going to be a fact of the show, and I’m here to tell you why the haters are wrong.

In the books, Robb is not a point of view character. All we see of him is through Catelyn’s eyes and thus many battles are not witnessed firsthand. Battles are handled similarly in the show, and it’s not an issue. David Benioff and Dan Weiss, the showrunners, are working on a limited budget in terms of both money and time. Let’s consider how much the CGI for the dragons and direwolves must have cost. Do we really want them blowing that money on every little fight? Plus, Weiss and Benioff have 10 episodes to adapt a 1000-page novel. This show is driven by characters, not action or plot. We can’t be wasting valuable screen time on action scenes. I can promise you this: there is only one battle that you need to see this season, and you’ll get every brutal second of it. The author of the books, George R.R. Martin, wrote that episode and they spent a month (as opposed to the standard 10 days) filming it.

Read the rest of this entry »

  

Related Posts