Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Game of Thrones Season 3, Episode 1 : Valar Dohaeris

It’s back! It’s back! It feels like forever! In fact it’s so long that even my memory is creaking trying to remember the gazillion and three names! Which is why I love that HBO have given us these nifty guides, which are most nifty indeed.

Sam, Mormount and the Nights Watch
It’s bloody cold! He runs through the driving snow and wind until he finds one of his fellow night’s watch – beheaded and frozen. And behind him approaches one of the undead, all skeletal and not cold, with a great big axe. It swings the axe at Sam – and a giant white wolf (I assume Ghost) leaps on the undead, knocking it down. Even with a wolf nibbling on it, the undead still tries to reach for Sam –until it is set on fire. Courtesy of Mormount who has a large number of men with him. Not overly impressed with Sam’s snivelling, he asks if Sam sent the ravens. He’s even less impressed that Sam didn’t – since it was his only job. They have to march back to the Wall to warn everyone, or everyone will die.

Jon Snow, Ygritte and the Wildlings
It’s bloody cold here as well, their group approaches a vast Wildling camp – in which Jon the Pouty stands dumbstruck to see his first giant – he’s a big guy. Ygritte is amused by his shock. The gathered people are not happy with Jon’s presence and throw things at him for being a member of the Night’s Watch and Ygritte continues her taunting commentary as they lead him to Mance Rayder, the King beyond the wall.

inside Mance’s tent, Ygritte tells the men gathered – including one tall man regarded with respect, that Jon killed Qhorin Halfhand and wants to join them. The big man is impressed and surprised that he killed Qhorin. Jon gives the man his name – and kneels and calls the man “your grace” much to the amusement of everyone in the room. A less impressive looking man from the side of the room walks forwards and tells Jon to stand – they don’t kneel beyond the wall. He tells the Lord of Bones and Ygritte to leave him with Jon. This is the real Mance and the man he knelt to was Tormen Giantsbane (more names to remember!) Lots of questioning follows in which Mance tries to learn why Jon Snow wants to join the Wildlings and Jon tells of seeing what took Crastor’s child in the woods, one of them. This inspires Jon to join the Wildlings because the lord Commander already knew – and didn’t act – and he wants to battle the White Walkers, to fight for the living.

Kings Landing: lots of people!
Game of thrones has been on for a full 10 minutes so it’s about time we saw some breasts! Ah yes, it wouldn’t be Game of thrones without endless numbers of gratuitous female nudity, alas. Bron is enjoying himself with a prostitute (of course! Is 80% of Game of Throne’s female population prostitutes?) and is interrupted by a messenger who summons him to see Tyrion.

Tyrion himself is examining his new scar when Cersei comes to visit. He looks through the peephole and sees she’s brought 2 guards with her who he’s not willing to let in. She points out if she wanted to kill him a wooden door wouldn’t really stop her. He lets her in and the sparring begins, she commenting on how her father saved them (him a little bitter because his incredible role in saving the city has been overlooked) and her making a snide remark about how small his new room is and how he doesn’t need much room; he counters that he wasn’t attacked by rebels and how she makes the same joke as the Grand Maester. She’s there to ask why Tyrion is going to see their father and Tyrion talks about how he has been laying there, his face split in half and not once had Tywin come to visit him (there’s a wonderful semi-sarcastic remark for how his father cares for him, which is both sarcastic and cynical but also sad and rueful, it’s really well done). Cersei cares because she thinks Tyrion may slander her as he has before. And by slander, she means “tell the truth about what a horrible person I am”. Tyrion points out it’s not slander if it’s true, she counters with “you’re a clever man but not half as clever as you think you are” to which the rejoinder is “still makes me more clever than you.” Give it up Cersei, bandying words with Tyrion never ever ever works. Having been well and truly served, Cersei leaves, just in time to stop Bron cutting a hole through her guards to get to Tyrion.

Bron and Tyrion takes a walk in which Bron complains about how little money he’s getting now, Tyrion invokes friendship but, ultimately, Bron is a mercenary. And Bron may be the only one who can bandy words with Tyrion.

Tyrion goes to see Tywin who, perhaps learning from the lessons of others, stays in silence while Tyrion makes open comments about how he was the hand. Tywin focuses on Shae – him having a prostitute “bedding harlots and drinking with thieves”, of course Tyrion has the perfect response “occasionally I drank with the harlots.” Quite a moderate response considering what he managed in Tywin’s absence. It seems that Tywin finally breaks Tyrion’s reserve with his indifference about Tyrion’s wounds and Tyrion sums up what he did while everyone else was failing and finally says what he wants – to be named heir (since Jaime, being a kingsguard, is banned from wife or titles). He wants Castlery Rock, the seat of House Lannister. Tywin does make concessions on the rewards they haven’t given him, the chambers they’ve stuffed him in – but will never ever let Tyrion be heir. Tyrion asks why and Tywin blames him for killing his mother in child birth, heaping all kinds of almost demonic derision on Tyrion’s head. He speaks evilly about how he hates to see Tyrion “waddle about” with the Lannister symbol and generally how he holds Tyrion in contempt. He throws in a threat for Shae before Tyrion leaves.

At the docks, Sansa is playing a game with Shae, making up stories about where the ships are going, despite Shae making it clear she doesn’t want to play. Lord Baelish arrives to further enmesh Sansa in his schemes with the promise of getting her out of the city. While they talk, Ros (who manages Baelish’s affairs) talks to Shae, trying to find fellowship with another woman she thinks is a prostitute who has managed to climb the ladder like she has. She asks Shae to watch out for Sansa – including against Baelish.

And yay we have to catch up with Joffrey in his enclosed litter being carried through the streets, followed by Lady Margaery Tyrell (Joffrey’s new betrothed) in her own little carry box who causes a brief upset by stopping the procession. Joffrey, of course, hates that she dared to have a thought without consulting him (oh Joffrey Joffrey, Margaery is going to eat you for breakfast). She walks out among the filthy streets, uncaring of whether she ruins her dress, while Joffrey, seeing the crowds, decides to stay hiding in his enclosed litter.

Margaery has gone to a gathering of orphans to hand out toys and food and niceness (oh she’s up to something) showing that while Joffrery may be a nasty little monster, at least Margaery knows the value of good PR; she tells the orphan matron to come directly to her should she need anything for the kids who gather round her adoringly. Joffrey looks on through the bars on his box.

It’s formal dinner time – with Cersei arriving with Joffrey and Margaery with her brother Loras. Joffrey complements Margaery’s dress but Cersei snarks about her being “cold”, and returns compliments about her own metal-work dress with how it’s useful to wear armour as queen – or even before. She asks about her orphanage visit and Loras is quick to talk about how charitable Margaery was in Highgarden.  Cersei warns of the mobs – including the one that nearly killed Joffrey (alas, only nearly) but Joffrey objects to Cersei’s drama. Margaery quickly turns the conversation to all the food High Garden brings to the capital

Let me unwind the subtext:
Margaery: I’m sweet and wonderful and lovely
Joffrey: Oh you are and I feel uncomfortable because I’m a worm
Cersei: yeah right, not buying what you’re selling, let me slut shame you and have some veiled threats
Joffrey: sorry Cersei, totally team Margaery now, sucks to be you
Margaery: oh but I’m just wonderful and let me remind you again how much we’re propping up your sorry little regime.
Joffrey: She’s so wonderful.

I do like me some quality political intrigue.

A Rock in the Middle of the Sea & Dragonstone: Ser Davos
On a rock in the middle of the sea, Ser Davos, the Onion knight (going by the missing fingers on his hand) isn’t looking so hot and has been there a while (or possibly was burned by the alchemical fire during the dramatic siege of Kings Landing). He signals a passing ship for help. They send a boat but before picking him up they ask who he served – which king? Davos, always a man to stick to his principles, says Stannis. They throw him a rope.

The ship belongs to Salador San who greets him, welcomes him and commiserates with him over the death of his son. Davos wants to go to Dragonstone, to Stannis, but there’s nothing for Salador there. Davos protests he swore to Stannis but Salador objects – he agreed to 30 ships in exchange for wealth and glory – and he gave the ships. He doesn’t see why they should go to Stannis because not only does he not owe him anything but Stannis has gone off the deep end, ignoring everyone around him except Mellisandre – whose not the most positive of influences since he’s taken to burning people alive for funsies. Davos still wants to go and slice Melisandre’s heart out – Salador San sums that up as “if you fail, they burn you. If you succeed they burn you.” So I’m guessing that’s not a vote of confidence. Davos keeps beginning and Salador San says that when he dies he’ll gather Davos’s bones in a sack for his widow to wear round her neck – a reference to Davos’s fingers and his habit of putting honour and loyalty before basic common sense.

Ser Davoss arrives at Dragonstone and goes to see Stannis and asks to speak to him alone. He declares they are alone and then let’s Malisandre do all the talking – calling those they burn alive infidels and asking what he would do to them (Davos says nothing – he doesn’t kill people for the gods they worship) she adds that not only is she not their enemy (hah) but that she could have saved everyone from the wildfire if Davos hadn’t talks Stannis into leaving her behind. Davos tries to give her a good stabbing but the guard intervenes and gets Davos sent to a dungeon. Can’t say Salador San didn’t wan you.

Harrenhal: The Stark army
Rob and his forces are moving on Harrenhal, but Robb things the Lannisters will keep running rather than defend Harrenhal’s ruined walls. In harrenhal they find 200 north men slaughtered and left to rot – much to everyone’s horror. Lord Karstark continues to be bitter about his sons being killed by Jaime Lannister and Catelyn the Spunky then deciding to let him go but Lord Bolton (the sinister one) has sent his best hunters after Jaime. And Catelyn is still under house arrest in case she has another brilliant idea (I hope they’re keeping her away from sharp objects, writing material and, preferably, her brain). When she leaves, Talisa speaks up for her and they find a survivor.

On a Qarthian ship
Daenerys’s dragons are growing fast, as Ser Jorah notes to Daenerys, but she’s not happy, they’re not big enough so she needs an army; which is why they’re going to Astapor, which has the Unsullied, some of the greatest soldiers in the world. Daenerys objects because the Unsullied are slave soldiers – to which a visibly impatient Ser Jorah asks if she has a better plan. Then mocks the sea-sick Dorthraki on the ship, Daenerys objects because they’re the first Dorthraki ever to get on a ship and will be able to convince others – but Jorah counters that the Dorthraki value strength above all and until she’s strong she won’t have a Khalasar.

They arrive at Atropos where they have to speak through an interpreter as the boss man tries to big up how amazing the Unsullied are. The interpreter dopes a skilled job with the translations which is fun to watch, dodging the insults, putting nice words on harsh sentiments and cutting through flowery bullshit. The Unsullied are trained from the age of 5 and only 1 in 4 survives the training. To prove their toughness and loyalty, he cuts off the nipples of one of the warriors, who neither moves nor twitches.  As an extra bonus the Unsullied must win their shields by going to the slave markets with a silver coin and killing a new born baby before its mother’s eyes. Deanerys is furious that they think a silver coin can pay a mother for the child’s life and he says that the silver is for the baby’s owner, not mother. They have 8,000 to sell. Which means they have killed 8,000 babies.

Well that pretty much sums up Atropos as place that needs dousing with dragonfire. Daenerys is disgusted and wonders what kind of person she’ll be if she buys slaves; Jorah doesn’t think the slaves lives are going to be any better staying in Atropos than with her – someone who won’t mutilate them to make a point. While Jorah and Danaerys talk and Jorah bigs up what a kind slavemaster she’ll be, they’re followed by a man in a black cloak and Daenerys is distracted by a small playing child.

The child rolls Daenerys a ball she’s carrying and motions for her to unscrew it. Daenerys laughs and begins to open the oh-so-obvious trap (really lady? There was a price on your head, you know!) and the man in the cloak grabs her arm, causing her to drop the ball. Jorah grabs at the man. Daenerys, on the flaw sees the ball open and an iridescent scorpion thing crawls out and scuttles at Daenerys – being stopped only by the cloaked man stabbing it. He chases the child which hisses and shows black teeth – before jumping over the edge of the pier and disappears without making a splash in the water. Ooookay that’s some more creepy. She reappears on a building behind them – oh that’s some extra creepy. Daenerys assumes the warlocks are behind it.

And the saviour? Ser Barristan Selmy, the former head of King Robert’s Kingsguard, humiliated and sacked by Joffrey the Prat. And one of the greatest swordsmen in the Seven Kingdoms. And he just called Daenerys “my queen”. He apologises for failing her family, not protecting King Aerys and wants to join her Queensguard.

Damn, if Daenerys continues to pick up all the people Joffrey pisses off she’ll have an army in no time.

Ok, first episode… it was the first episode of a new season.

The thing is, of course, that Game of Thrones is Huge, It has a squillion and one characters, it has a gazillion storylines, so much has happened in so many places at once that it is incredible work to keep up with them all. And after a hiatus – like the gap between seasons – you need a refresher course. And this episode did that perfectly right; when I saw Daenerys on a boat I wondered “wait, what?” and then the show reminded me and it all came back. Rob in Harenhal was another and Catelyn being imprisoned – I needed reminding of all this and this episode did a really good job of that, reminding me where everyone was and what they were doing

It doesn’t make for an exciting episode, but it is necessary to get us back into it so we won’t be confused when all these plot lines move on.

Tywin’s speech to Tyrion is beyond vile and shows the full contempt he faces from family – but if there’s one thing Game of Thrones has shown us time and again is that Tyrion is the only Lannister worth a second of his time – and while Tywin scorns Tyrion for his disability, he embraces Cersei, and Joffrey who we’ve seen are beyond vile. The statement is awful but it is also part of an ongoing comment of how truly unfair and wrong treatment of Tyrion is and how Tywin is even damaging his own side by holding back his most skilled and capable family member.

Oh look, we have POC – and they’re exotic, alien and evil cruel slave owners whose barbaric ways offend and disgust the Uber White and Delightsome Aryan Princess Daenerys. This is the third stop on the Daernerys mixing with the scary dark barbarians mystery tour.

This episode also reminds us of Game of Throne's need for gratuitous female nudity. Yes we only saw one naked woman which is something of a record – but think how unnecessary that scene was. Bronn  could have been drinking, sleeping in or feasting and each would have got the point across – he’s a man who enjoys his pleasures and isn’t quick to leap to commands. In fact, the next scene walking with Tyrion made the same point. The scene was unnecessary. But it looked like someone went through the script (assistant director in charge of boobies, I think) and said “What the hell?! There are no tits in this episode! Get the writers back in here and ram some breasts in here somehow!”

This is a show that has had vast battle scenes of opposing armies and it’s probably still used more extras as prostitutes than it has extras as soldiers.

Y’know I have a creeping suspicion that when the epicly long Song of Ice and Fire ends it will be “and the White Walkers kill everyone, because they were too silly to live. And no-one was sad”. Except maybe Margaery, who will be ruling the White Walkers; because.