Okay, this is my third time to review an episode of Game of Thrones for this blog. I previously reviewed episode 2 and then episode 6. I always seem to end up reviewing episodes in which Drogo does something really brutal and makes me go, “Agck!” And tonight was no different.
So, when we last left Game of Thrones, the king was dying and Nedd had been appointed protector of the realm. Nedd was ordered to bow down to Joffrey Beiber but Nedd refused, saying that Joffrey was not the heir to the throne. This led to the creepy little brat demanding blood and suddenly, Aiden Gillen was holding a knife to Nedd’s throat and saying — in this wonderfully evil way — “I did tell you not to trust me.”
Last week’s episode ended with the promise of violence and the beginning on tonight’s episode delivered on that promise as the Lannister guards came for Nedd’s two daughters — Arya and Sansa — and cut down anyone unfortunate enough to get in their way. By this point, we expect the violence in this show to be brutal. Indeed, I think we almost demand it because each drop of blood shed onscreen serves notice that Game of Thrones isn’t just a “sword-and-sorcery fantasy.” Instead, it’s a show about real people, all of whom have their own motivations, personalities, and individual complexities. This show is a fantasy that feels real and that was especially evident tonight.
The casual and needless brutality of the Lannisters was emphasized by the fact that they were clad in anonymous armor and carrying metal swords while the majority of their victims were both without weapon and armor. If nothing else, this sequence left little doubt who the bad guys are and who the good guys are.
Speaking of good guys, I have to admit that I hadn’t given much thought to Syrio until tonight’s episode but I still had to hold back a tear as I watched him knowingly sacrified himself for Arya. There was something so incredibly poignant about the sight of him standing there with his broken wooden sword, facing down that faceless, armor-clad giant. For all the respect I give this show for not shying away from the brutality of violence, I was thankful that we didn’t see Syrio struck down. It allowed the character to go out with the respect that he had definitely earned.
From the moment this show began, I’ve been aware that Arya and (to a much lesser extent) Sansa are two fan favorites and this episode — perhaps for the first time since we saw Arya dealing with Joffrey Bieber in episode 2 — gave me some clues why. Though Arya was only in the first ten minutes of the episode, she also provided tonight’s most shocking moment when she killed a young boy with “the pointy end.” It was a well-played scene and one that once established that this is a fantasy with a very human dimension.
Arya escaped the Lannisters but Sansa — not surprisingly — didn’t. Instead, she was taken into custody. I have to admit that it’s easy to dislike Sansa. Previously, I’ve always thought of her as being the equivalent of those silly girls who go on twitter, change their last name to Beiber, and spend all of their time hating on Selena Gomez. It didn’t help that every time we saw Sansa, she was chasing after that little creepy Joffrey. However, at the end of tonight’s episode, Sansa partially redeemed herself by begging Joffrey to spare Nedd. I say partially because she still felt the need to say that she understood that Nedd must have done something wrong. Obviously, that was probably a diplomatic move on her part but I still found myself wishing that Arya had been there because she would have just ripped the little brat’s throat out. Still, this final scene was very well-played by both Jack Gleeson (as Joffrey) and Sophie Turner (as Sansa). Though it ended on a much quieter note than last week’s episode, the end of tonight’s episode carried a lot more emotional weight.
I think one reason that Arleigh wanted me to review this particular episode is because some much of it centered on the two sisters and the different methods they used to deal with the situation they found themselves in. Just by coincidence, I ended up watching tonight’s episode with my own sister, Erin. As usual, Erin and I both started to discuss which sister I was like and which sister she was like. And, as usual, we both wanted to be Arya.
Erin’s argument for being the most like Arya comes down to the fact that, like Arya, she’s athletic, not given to vanity, and has little use for the silly and superficial. My argument was that, like Arya, I’m the youngest. Yes, I’m afraid that’s the only argument I could come up with. As I watched tonight’s episode, I finally forced myself to admit that I’m not Arya. No, I’m just silly little Sansa, constantly flirting with the wrong guy, getting my entire family into trouble but, if nothing else, always looking good while doing so. That’s hard to admit because, ultimately, who wouldn’t rather be Arya?
After watching tonight’s episode, I can say that even though I would still rather be an Arya, I can at least be a little less embarrassed about actually being Sansa.
Though this episode was pretty much dominated, for me, by the two sisters, there was actually a good deal else going on. A few quick highlights:
1) In reaction to the imprisonment of his father, Robb Stark is gathering an army to lead a counter attack against the Lannisters. I have to admit that Robb hadn’t previously made much of an impression on me but tonight, he came into his own a bit. I’m still not really sold on him but he did show that he’s not quite as much of a cipher as I originally suspected. As well,
Robb Jon Snow had a great fight scene with a truly creepy assailant. (Yes,turns out that wasn’t Robb fighting with the assailant, that was Jon. Sorry, to be honest, neither Robb nor Jon have made a huge impression on me up to this point in the show. — LMB)
2) It was nice to the see the surviving dire wolves pop up on tonight’s episode and actually get to do something. I’m still angry about that wolf that was put down in episode 2. Hopefully, one of them will get another chance to bite Joffrey before the season ends.
3) Sometimes, when I think about Peter Dinklage and Game of Thrones, I’m reminded of how I originally assumed that Lost would be the Dominic Monaghan show. Once the show actually started, it quickly became apparent that Monaghan was just a distinctive member of an ensemble and one reason that I knew Lost was special was because this didn’t bother me. Monaghan, himself, was so good in his role and such a charismatic presence that you often times found yourself assuming that he had been in more episodes than he actually was. I often feel the same way about Dinklage. Even when he only has a few minutes of screen time, Dinklage’s performance dominates. Dinklage had some strong moments in tonight’s episode and I hope that Emmy voters will take note of how effortlessly he went from providing comic relief to showing some very real and genuine emotion when he heard that Robert was dead. Week after week, Dinklage is such a compelling presence that he almost gives the Lannisters an appeal that they wouldn’t otherwise have.
4) Okay, I’ve said in the past that Drogo is sexy and I’ve had a lot of people give me a hard time about that. Here’s my argument — yes, he’s a brute and yes, he does occasionally look like he should be sacking Rome in a 1960s biblical epice but he’s also a strong, powerful man who sees what he wants and takes it. And, sorry, that’s sexy. Add to that, his clear devotion to Danys and…oh my God, where to begin? But anyway, the fact that he’s hot doesn’t make it any more appealing to watch him rip someone’s tongue out of their mouth. Then again, how many men do you know who are capable of actually doing that? So, tonight’s episode left me conflicted on Drogo but, in the end, he and Danys remain two of the most unpredictable and complex characters that have ever appeared on a television screen. I don’t know that I’d trade places with Danys but … well, I probably would. Maybe just for a night…
5) Speaking of disturbingly sexy, Aiden Gillen (playing Littlefinger) may just be one of the great villianous character actors of the 2010s. He has the wonderfully perverse glint in his eye and he delivers every line with just the right amount of arch contempt.
6) Ironically, the original and interesting and compelling Game of Thrones is followed every Sunday night by its exact opposite, an aggressively hyped and overrated show called Treme. If I ever have to explain why Game of Thrones is one of the best shows on television, I’ll start by comparing just how real the people of fictional King’s Landing feel when compared to Treme‘s portrayal of the people of the very real city of New Orleans.
Now, as I’ve admitted in the past, I was a Game of Thrones virgin when this series began. I haven’t read George R. R. Martin’s original novel — though I plan to this summer — and what I know about the eventual direction of the series is pretty much limited to what I’ve read on Wikipedia. (If some total stranger put it in Wikipedia, it’s got to be accurate, right?) As such, I know — in the vaguest sense — some of what is going to happen if this series stays true to Martin’s source material. As such, watching these last few episodes have been a bit like watching a cryptic prophecy steadily start to make sense before your eyes. I’m now eagerly waiting for the final 2 episodes to see if the prophecies come true.