Sunday, March 25, 2012

Game of Thrones, Season 1, Episode 4: Cripples, Bastards and Broken Things

I will begin by again linking to HBO’s most excellent guide to the 10,000 characters on this show, to help people keep up with who is who.

We begin in Bran’s dream, following a raven with a third eye, before he wakes up in bed with his Dire Wolf, Summer and his aged nursemaid. Theon Greyjoy comes up to see him and, after disrespecting the old woman, he orders Hordor to carry Bran down to visit Tyrion who has arrived down from the Wall. While Robb’s hospitality is rather lacking (and Tyrion, always ready to sharply correct people) notes it, Tyrion has a design for a saddle that will allow Bran to ride. Yes, Tyrion beings the awesome yet again.

Tyrion denies the hospitality and decides to retire to – yes, a brothel. He also takes the chance to poke Theon Greyjoy – the poking allows a skilllfully inserted infodump on Theon’s origin’s – the last surviving son of the Lord of the Iron Isles, their rebellion against Robert was put down and as part of the peace, Theon was handed to the Starks as Squire/Ward/Hostage. Tyrion also, astutely, realises

Up on the wall with the Night Watch, a new character arrives – Samwell Tarley. Far from an adept warrior – he is saved from bullying by the master of arms by Jon. We learn more about Sam and his history – and his father who drove him to take the black because he was deemed unfit to succeed his title. Jon decides to protect Sam and works with the other recruits (and coerces one with his little doggy) to stop anyone hurting him on the practice fields – which everyone does much to the annoyance of the trainer.

Sam and Jon get are alone and talking – and the subject turns to… prostitutes. And the fact they’re both virgins (really? Not the most expected of discourse). Can we not have 5 minutes pass without the subject turning due prostitute? Jon doesn’t have casual sex because he’s an illegitimate son and he doesn’t want to inflict illegitimacy on other children. They’re interrupted by the fighting trainer – an unpleasant man but making it clear how hard it will be up on the wall when it’s winter, with severe storms after 10 years of summer against the Wildlings who are hard, tough men.

Meawhile, Daenerys has arrived at Vaes Dorthrak, the horselord’s city to which Viserys responds with disdain and contempt – which Daenerys objects to which is very nice to see. Daenerys also discusses how the Dorthraki could fight the Seven Kingdoms – if they could cross the sea. Ser Jorah believes the Dorthraki would win in open combat, but they have no ability to siege the castles of the Seven Kingdoms

Viserys is enjoying a bath with a female attendant (obligatory Game of Thrones breast shot) and take the opportunity for an info-dump. Now normally when I say “info-dump” about a book or series it’s a bad thing – it means clumsily recounting world building without any good reason for the telling. However, Game of Thrones is extremely good at weaving the info-dumping into the narrative. Here he tells of the dragons the Targaryens rode when they originally conquered Westeros. After a moment of bonding, Viserys reveals himself to be the vile man he is, yet again

Daenerys invites Viserys to dinner where, yet again, he shows how repulsive he is, refusing to accept questions or requests because they may be seen as commands, refusing to accept gifts and striking out in petulance. Daenerys has grown a lot though, smacks him back and makes it clear he’ll kill him next.

She’s confides this with Ser Jorah and he makes her face a lot of truth about her brother –how he is a shadow of what his forbearers were, how Viserys could never reconquer the kingdoms and has no ability as a ruler – he can never take them home. And the solid truth that the common people do not care who rules the kingdoms, don’t care who is in control or who the king is.

Back to Kings Landing, Sansa is being given a tour of the throne room by Septa Mordane. With Sansa threating because Joffrey doesn’t like her and worrying what she’d do if she had no sons – only daughters. Every time Sansa’s character appears I cringe. But we also get some history recounting – including the death of Ned’s father and elder brother at the hands of the last Targaryen king, the act that spurred King Robert and the Starks to rebel. Sansa is also still not happy with her father over the death of Lady.

Ned has his own problems as Hand of the King. The expensive tournament the kingdom can’t afford is causing the city to fill with adventurers causing brawls and similar problems. Ned has a solution and of course prostitution and brothels are mentioned in the conversation. It’s nigh on an obsession  on this show. Ned also has the chance to talk to grand Maester Pycelle about the very sudden illness that killed him. Ned learns Jon Arryn was after a book – a dull tome on noble houses’ lineages. Jon  Arryn also died with the last words “the seed is strong”.  

We see Ayra with her sword training and discussing what will become of Bran now he’s awake with Ned – and more gender roles pushed on Arya. She can’t be a lord, she will be defined by who she marries and the sons she has. Something Arya rejects – that isn’t her.

In intrigue Petyr Baelish passes on information to Ned – that Jon Arryn’s squire was rapidly made a knight, Ser Hugh, after Jon’s death for no apparent reason. He also points out to the naive and trusting Ned (northerners being a much more straight forward people) that there are so many spies around that he couldn’t investigate himself – so he has to send agents to question Hugh – and an armourer that Jon Arryn visited several times before his death. Baelish tries to hammer home how foolish it is to trust anyone – including himself. Of course, such subtlety is lost on Ned and after his guard captain is rejected by Hugh for not being a knight, Ned does his own investigating to the blacksmith’s to find the boy Jon Arryn spoke to – one of King Robert’s illegitimate children.

Meanwhile King Robert himself is having sex with several women while Jaime is on guard, so he can hear that the King is cheating on his sister, the Queen. Nice people. Cersei and Ned have a little confrontation – Cersei unimpressed by Ned’s stubborn following of Robert’s orders even though nothing will change him

In Kings Landing, the tournament begins. We have some introductions of new characters (2 Ser Cleganes – the Hound and the Mountain) – and the first joust. Ser Clegane the Mountain (and champion of the Lannisters) versus Ser Hugh – Jon Arryn’s squire who Ned wants to interview. Guess who ends up dead of a tragic accident?

On the road to the North, Catelyn Stark runs into Tyrion Lannister in Tully lands – the lands of her father. She gathers the people in the Inn, vassals of the Tullys and uses them to imprison Tyrion – accusing him of murdering Bran. Still without evidence – oh dear, Catelyn has taken a second Spunky Trophy.

Some thoughts:

Tyrion remains awesome with his empowering, sensible words that are always a treasure. Hordor, however, is another problematic element here. Clearly a man with learning difficulties he is treated as a pet, perhaps less, by the other cast. A walking platform to carry Bran around really.

And we have prostitutes prostitutes and more prostitutes. Yes prostitution always is and was very common – but the fact that every single episode needs to involve a brothel at some point is getting ludicrous, especially since all these prostitutes are largely anonymous, replaceable objects. I’ve seen economic maps of regions that centre on the local commerce and showing how it shaped the land – mining, lumber, etc. If we looked at one of the Seven Kingdoms it would centre on prostitutes.

And Samwell – we don’t see many fat people on the screen and now we have 2 recurring characters – Robert the King and Samwell. Sadly, both fit different stereotypes. The king is self-indulgent, has no impulse control, is drunken, gluttonous and crude. Samwell is physically inept, cowardly, weak, lazy and bookish.

Catelyn – her decision making is… flawed to say the least. Having just discussed with Ned and Petyr how they need evidence to accuse anyone of Bran’s attack she chooses to seize Tyrion in a public tavern without any chance to inform Ned of her plans without a shred of evidence.