(REVIEW CONTAINS SPOILERS. DEAL WITH IT.)
So, we’re passed the halfway point now in the first season of Game of Thrones. After spending the first half of the season setting up the show’s many characters, it’s obvious that the first season is now moving towards its inetivable conclusion. Not having read the book that this season is based on, I have no idea what that conclusion might be, though I suspect it’s going to be a violent one that’s going to leave a lot of the characters I’ve just gotten to know dead. To a certain extent, I’m happy that I don’t know what’s coming up. It allows me the thrill of discovery, if nothing else.
So, in tonight’s episode, there were two major events. One of those events was kinda cool and fun and contained everything that you would both expect and want to see from a show like this. The other event came at the end of this episode and was horrific, disturbing, excessive, and yet undeniably effective and watchable. (And it was topped off by one of the best lines ever uttered on television.) This event also gave this episode its name.
Let’s go in chronological order. The cool, fun event involved — no surprise — Tyrion. To be honest, I don’t pay much attention to or have much respect for the Emmy awards but seriously, if Peter Dinklage doesn’t get an Emmy for his work on this series then there is no justice. Accused of trying to kill Bran and facing the judgment of the wonderfully insane court of Lysa Arryn, Tyrion spends most of this episode cheating death and Dinklage brought exactly the right combination of arrogance and desperation to his performance tonight. Hopefully, if Dinklage gets his deserved Emmy nomination, they’ll show a clip of his “confession” from this episode. (Though I have to say that I am continually astounded and amazed by the sheer number of ways that boys have come up with to avoid saying “masturbate.”)
Tyrion demanded a trial by combat which led to a fight between one of Lysa’s painfully noble knights and Tyrion’s “champion,” Bronn. And, unlike most television (and move) sword fights, this fight actually felt real. Watching the two warriors, you felt as if they were actually fighting. It reminded me of the that episode of The Sopranos where you literally saw James Gandolfini beat Joe Pantoliano to death. It felt real and, for me, the sight of all that blood pouring out over that formerly pristine armor is one that I won’t get out of my head any time soon.
After the fight, Lysa accuses Bronn of fighting without honor, to which Bronn perfectly replied (while staring down at the corpse of his opponent), “No. He did.” And you know what? On the basis of that line alone, Bronn is now my fourth favorite character.
(By the way, I was reading another blogger who joked that Lysa’s legal system made more sense than the “ones they’ve got in Alabama or Texas.” And to that, I say “Fuck you, you goddamn elitist wanna-be Canadian Yankee asshole.”)
My favorite character — Daenrys — got to deliver a pretty great line herself and I’m not going to repeat it because, with my ADD-addled mind, I’ll probably end up misquoting her. However, anyone who saw tonight’s episode, knows what line I’m talking about. For me, Dany remains the most intriguing character on this show and the one who consistently manages to surprise me every episode. Tonight, her surprise was calmly watching as her annoying weakling of a brother Viserys get killed in such a grotesque and horrific fashion that you couldn’t help but feel a little sympathy for him.
That’s right, Viserys got his crown. Or, more to the point, Drogo pours molten gold on top of Viserys head and Viserys dies. And even though I was suspecting that Viserys would die, the brutality of it caught me off guard. To continue with my Sopranos comparison, the sight of Viserys afterward was just as shocking, to me, as the sight of Joe Pantoliano’s dead eyes staring up at the man who just literally beat the life out of him. Seriously, I couldn’t stand Viserys and all but now I’m kinda scared of accidentally getting trapped underneath a gigantic — but cracked — cauldron of molten gold.
Among the other memorable moments from tonight’s episode, Bran’s encounter in the woods nicely reminded us — as did this whole episode, really — that the world of Game of Thrones isn’t necessarily a pleasant one. I also continue to cringe whenever that creepy little Joffrey shows up. Seriously, I keep expecting him to start trying to drag people off to the cornfield or something.
I do have to say that I’m still waiting for Ned to really step up and impress me as a character. So far, he’s been a sympathetic but vaguely dull character. You watch him and you never doubt his good intentions but you do doubt his ability to actually accomplish anything. Sean Bean is a far more capable actor than he’s been allowed to show in the series so far and I’m betting (and hoping) that by the end of the season, Bean will get a chance to shine.
That said, I did enjoy the small subplot of Ned running the kingdom because (along with Lysa’s court), it further highlighted one of the reasons why I love this show. Every episode so far has featured various characters plotting and scheming and, in every episode so far, those plots and schemes have proven to be no match for the random whims of fate. If nothing else, Game of Thrones is turning out to be a great portrait of a society that has fooled itself into thinking that the randomness of life can somehow be regulated by tradition, ritual, and law. And who, out here in the real world, can’t relate to that?
As I’ve mentioned, I’m a newcomer to Game of Thrones. I have not read the George R. R. Martin novel that the series is based on (though I have read countless Wikipedia entries about every man, woman, and child to appear in the series) and therefore, I can’t judge how the TV series compares to the book. All I can say is that, having seen the first 6 episodes. Game of Thrones has so far managed to not only capture my interest but to hold on to it as well. I do have to admit that, during every episode. there’s been the occasional moments where I’ve had to think to myself, “Wait, who is that again and how is he or she related to everyone else?” But that’s hardly a criticism. Game of Thrones is a complex series and one of the few that will definitely benefit from multiple viewings once the first season is released on DVD. In the future, we may very well remember Game of Thrones as being The Wire of fantasy television.