Monday, May 5, 2014

“Game of Thrones” Season 4, Episode 5: First of His Name

Posted By on Mon, May 5, 2014 at 12:22 AM

The “previously on ‘Game of Thrones’” segment ran for seemingly minutes, and included scenes that went all the way back to Season 1. So you knew this episode was going to be fairly wide-ranging. Indeed, it touched on many story arcs, and in hindsight most of them revolved around the female protagonists of this sprawling story.

-In King’s Landing, the Westerosi spun the “Who Is Our King This Week?” dial and the pointer landed on Tommen, so he was officially crowned. At the coronation, Margaery gave the little king tasteful bedroom eyes, while Cersei gave the would-be queen ample sideeye. The two women engaged in a surprisingly civil discussion about Marg’s intentions with Tommen (she lied and told Cersei she hadn’t even thought about next steps; that may come back to bite her in the ass), as well as Cersei’s own arranged marriage to Gay Loras. If you were getting the Nothing Good is Going to Come of This feeling from their talk, you are wise.

-Cersei was quite busy this week, as she also had another surprisingly level-headed chat with Tywin about the impending marriages that segued into a discussion about the realm’s serious debt problem. The Iron Bank of Braavos is essentially the “Game of Thrones” analogue of China, in so far as Westeros has taken out quite a bit of gold from it in recent years, and has no actual plan for paying it back. This is a fairly low-key subplot in the books that is being brought to the forefront in the show, which I find fascinating (and we’ll get lots more on that next week). Cersei also had a conversation with Oberyn Martell. Cersei was attempting to shore up Oberyn’s support against Tyrion at his trial, but it led to a discussion about what the world does to little girls. Oberyn referenced both his deceased sister and his own eight daughters,Cersei talked about missing her daughter in Dorne but also obviously mourned her own lost childhood, as well as her dead son. This is around the part of the books where Cersei becomes more human, though not necessarily more sympathetic. That’s arguably less critical in the show because Lena Headey has always played the character with more nuance than she is depicted as having in the books.

-In Slaver’s Bay Daenerys learned about the death of Joffrey, and seriously considered taking her recently won Meereenese navy and finally crossing the Narrow Sea to conquer Westeros. But she also discovered that her revolts in Yunkai and Astapor have already been overturned, and the cities are once again under the control of slave masters -- and they all want her dead. In what will be a defining decision for Dany, she opted to not head back to her homeland just yet, and instead to stay in Essos to rule as a queen and get the slave situation fully sorted out. Note that it was Ser Jorah who cautioned Dany against heading back to Westeros for the time being. His logic may be sound, but are his motives strictly in Dany’s best interest?

-In the Vale, Littlefinger and Sansa arrived at the Eyrie. Or rather, Littlefinger and his niece, Alayne, did. That will be Sansa’s alias during her stay in the Vale, since the capitol wants Sansa Stark tried for regicide. But Sansa is allowed to disclose her true identity to noted crazy person Lysa Arryn, her aunt, as well as her derpy cousin, Robin. Once again Sansa is out of the frying pan, into a smaller, crazier frying pan, because while Lysa might be batshit, she’s not stupid. She knows that Littlefinger obviously wants Sansa as part of a messed-up fixation with Catelyn. During a deeply uncomfortable scene she grilled Sansa about what Littlefinger has done with her/wants with her. And pity Sansa even more, because she had to endure listening to Lysa’s excruciating sex sounds after Lysa forced Littlefinger into a hasty marriage -- and Lysa is a screamer. Also of interest: Lysa admitted that she was the one who poisoned Jon Arryn, and that she sent Cat the letter blaming the Lannisters. And she did that and more under Littlefinger’s orders. Given that those are the events that literally kicked off this whole series, it really puts Littlefinger’s reach and cunning into perspective.

-Elsewhere on the road, Brienne discovered that Pod is a shitty squire but an honorable guy, even if he can’t cook a rabbit to save his life. And Arya practiced her Braavosi water-dancing sword technique before being brutally knocked down by The Hound. First, I want someone to mash up her practice scenes with Irene Cara’s “Flashdance (What a Feeling).” Second, their little détente is effectively over, as Arya made it clear to The Hound that she still intends to murder him, and The Hound made it clear that he doesn’t see her as much of a threat. Jerk!

-The major setpiece of the episode was the wholly-for-the-show siege of Craster’s Keep, where the rebel Night’s Watch had been being awful to Craster’s daughter-wives and, as of last episode, holding Bran and his crew captive. We got clarification on the Locke/Vargo Hoat scenario: it was definitely supposed to Vargo, likely working for Roose and Ramsay Bolton to abduct Bran and…I honestly have no idea what they wanted to do with him. It was a moot point, because Bran warged into Hodor and killed the son of a bitch before he got the chance. Bran also had the opportunity to interact with Jon Snow, who was leading the group to silence the ex-Watchmen. But Jojen Reed pointed out that if Bran reconnected with Jon, he would never go north to meet the Three-Eyed Crow, and that is his destiny. (As an aside, this episode helped to dissuade me about believing a fascinating theory I read about Jojen. I am intrigued about that whole burning thing, though.) After also rescuing Summer, Bran and crew continued their trek north, still no Coldhands in sight. That is really disappointing to me.

Jon Snow and the non-psychotic Watchmen made fairly short work of the bad brothers, with Jon having a serious fight against that gratingly bad actor who was in “Pacific Rim.” He was also reunited with his direwolf, Ghost, who should pee on his clean clothes for months after Jon essentially ditched him last season. This entire plot seemed like an excuse to get a major battle sequence into this episode, and to cocktease a Jon/Bran meeting (which we already had last season with the wildling attack at the dragon queen tower). It did seem to wrap up the Craster’s Keep arc, with the Night’s Watch torching the whole pad while Craster’s daughter/wives turned down the offer to go back to Castle Black. Instead the romantic in me hopes they become the Westeros equivalent of the Mandrell Sisters, a singing/dancing touring act. I bet Gilly plays a mean jingle Frisbee.

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