Contributor: Gregg Wright
Despite the fact that this episode feels like a low-key, transitional episode, I enjoyed it quite a bit. In some ways I even liked it better than the last one. It’s not quite as complex as the previous two episodes, and I think that having a bit of time to take a breather from the conflict and get to know the characters and the situation better was a big part of the episode’s appeal for me. The episode might not have worked so well if I wasn’t so intrigued by so many of the characters.
Ned Stark has arrived at King’s Landing with his daughters, Arya and Sansa. It is now that he must truly begin his duties as the king’s hand. Upon arriving, he meets up with some of the other members of the royal court. It’s here that we begin to see the stark differences (I could not think of a better word) between Ned and the members of the royal court. They’re used to indulging and living the high life, but Ned is of the north. He’s used to hardship and practicality, and he’s not happy about all the unnecessary spending.
As we saw at the end of the previous episode, Bran is awake. He claims to be unable to remember how he fell. I don’t really buy the amnesia bit. I think Bran is just afraid to talk, and will eventually come to his senses. I think the fact that Bran seems to have grown a lot more serious is telling. It makes sense that his experience, along with now being a cripple for life, have left him with a grim outlook on life. That scene with the old woman being prodded into speaking of “darker times” was fantastic, by the way. Completely awesome delivery. You can tell that she’s been around long enough to personally witness, or at least hear about first-hand, some pretty harrowing events.
The old woman’s storytelling wasn’t the only great build-up in the episode. At the Wall, Benjen Stark tells Jon Snow of some reports he’s not ready to accept, but can’t ignore. And even better was hearing those aging Night Watchmen speaking with Tyrion, warning of how unprepared they are for the coming winter. The Wildlings are fleeing south. Something bad is out there. One can only assume that it’s the White Walkers, whatever they are. This sense of growing dread has to be one of my favorite things about this episode. Having Tyrion on hand to listen skeptically to these accounts and superstitious warnings makes it all the more impactful. Having no foreknowledge from the books, I’m loving these revelations about how the summers, winters, and nights cannot be counted on to be the normally expected length. That’s creepy stuff, especially considering the other terrors the winters and nights seem to bring.
Speaking of which, Tyrion was as awesome as ever. As he made clear to Jon Snow in the previous episode, he’s had to make up for his size in other ways. He’s extremely intelligent and learned, and he’s seemingly impossible to intimidate, or defeat in a conversation. Without a doubt, he remains my favorite character on the show so far. I had assumed that he was going to remain at the Wall with Jon Snow, but apparently his stay was only temporary. It didn’t make sense to me that he’d be joining the Night Watchmen anyway. He’s above such things. It’s unfortunate that he won’t be around to provide encouragement for Jon Snow, though. Tyrion seemed like a highly beneficial influence, particularly in regards to developing Jon Snow’s sense of self worth.
The episode also provides some needed follow-up to the traumatic events of the previous episode. I’m glad to see that Ned Stark is still irritated about the butcher’s boy being killed. Arya is one tough little girl. She’s nothing like her older sister. Instead of responding with tears, Arya responds with righteous wrath. Ned seems to be finally recognizing Arya’s potential. He’s a bit wary of Arya having a sword at first.
I’m greatly impressed by this young actress, Maisie Williams. As I believe I’ve said before in another review at some point, finding actors/actresses of such a young age who can hold their own alongside older actors must be incredibly hard to find. And yet Maisie does so marvelously. Besides being wholly believable, she brings a fierceness to the role. She even pulls off the scenes of swordplay. I keep asking myself, where the hell did they find this girl? She’s carrying her scenes as well as the adults; perhaps better even, in some cases. Again, I can’t say enough good things about the casting for this show. It still seems absolutely perfect all around.
Dany and the Dothraki get a bit less emphasis, but I liked this week’s coverage of that story thread better than last week’s. Dany is beginning to realize how much power she has. And it helps that she’s actually made an effort to earn the Dothraki’s respect. I get the sense that she’s going to become quite the beloved queen before long. I mentioned before that I thought Ian Glein’s knight character, Jorah Mormont, would side with Dany when things got rough. And that’s exactly what happens here. I loved seeing Dany’s brother, Prince Viserys Targaryen, at the mercy of the Dothraki. The tables have really begun to turn for him. He threw his sister to the Dothraki, thinking he could simply use her to achieve his goals. But now Dany has a hoard of ruthless barbarians willing to do her bidding. This does not bode well for Viserys’s plans to wage war on Westeros.
I’ve liked Jorah Mormont from the start, but the character became even more interesting this week. Jorah is getting pretty close to potentially unseating Tyrion as my favorite character on the show. Ian Glein is pretty awesome in the role. I enjoyed seeing his interactions with the Dothraki. There seems to be one warrior in particular who he’s started hanging out with consistently, trading combat knowledge with. One gets the sense that Jorah is a pretty intense warrior himself, and as such it’s not hard to believe that he’s respected by the Dothraki.
At the risk of over-using the word “awesome”, how awesome was that sword-fighting master Ned got to train Arya? The training scene was easily the best in the episode. Syrio Forel oozes coolness and charisma. Another example of the brilliant casting on this show. I’m guessing that the book has more of an explanation of Ned’s connection with this man. But his introduction didn’t leave me needing to know more, immediately. I’m sure that will come about soon enough.
To have what is essentially a transitional episode that’s this interesting and engaging says a lot about my excitement for the show in general. I’m even feeling a bit more forgiving toward the music this time around, though I maintain that it’s the one element that’s not quite up to the standard set by every other aspect of the production. The future of Westeros may appear grim, but the future of “Game of Thrones” is looking very bright, indeed.