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Review #2544: Game of Thrones 1.7: “You Win Or You Die”

Posted on the 01 June 2011 by Entil2001 @criticalmyth

Contributor: Gregg Wright

The conflict in Westeros shows no signs of letting up. King Robert was the only thing holding the kingdom together. With his “accidental” death, and the subsequent power vacuum, everything is descending into chaos. It’s hard to imagine how any good can come out of this. Cersei has taken power (through Joffrey), Ned is powerless, and the Dothraki are preparing to invade Westeros. How can the kingdom protect itself at a time like this?

Review #2544: Game of Thrones 1.7: “You Win or You Die”

I entertained the thought that Littlefinger might really have a hint of selflessness in him, but his betrayal fits too well with his characterization. Ned knew better than to trust him, but he gambled on the hope that Littlefinger’s friendship with Catelyn would keep Littlefinger on his side. Even I knew better than to trust him, but part of me really wanted to. And I think that speaks to how well the character worked. That incredibly long scene of exposition (or sexposition, as I’m now calling these scenes) at the brothel was probably a bit overly gratuitous, but the dialogue from Littlefinger adds weight to his later actions.

Though it would have still fit with his character if he we hadn’t been given further insight into his motivations. There was already ample evidence that he was plotting to get Ned out of the way, so Catelyn would be his for the taking. His dialogue just serves to further emphasize the connection between his interest in Catelyn and his actions over the course of the season.

We hadn’t seen any of Jon Snow and Samwell Tarly for two episodes now, so I was glad to get back to them for a bit. And I’m sure the Dire Wolf fans were glad to see more of Ghost as well. I had to laugh at Samwell this week. I wasn’t that into the character at first, but my opinion is beginning to change. I was impressed that Samwell so easily figured out why Jon was made Commander Mormont’s steward. And I loved his reaction to hearing that Pip was previously a singer.

I suppose I’ve started to get a little bit bored of seeing Jon Snow stuck at the Wall. So I was as disappointed as he was that he didn’t become a ranger. Still, the disappearance and likely death of Benjen Stark, as well as the sense that the White Walkers are creeping ever closer to the Wall, present promise that something big is about to happen. I’m thrilled by all the conflict going on in the rest of the kingdom, but more than anything I just want to know what the hell those White Walkers are, and what they want.

It was mentioned back in “The Wolf and the Lion” that Jorah was working as a spy for the crown, but it didn’t really register with me at the time. It was only in this episode, when Jorah makes his decision to save Daenerys from the assassination, that it became clear to me. Jorah’s involvement with Dany and the Dothraki would have taken on a slightly different tone for me if I hadn’t forgotten about that. Outwardly, Jorah seems extremely loyal to Dany. His deep desire to return home has complicated things. But it seems that he’s ready to give up his pardon in favor of saving Dany.

There are a number of different, fairly obvious reasons for why he might do this. His brief conversation with Dany before the assassination attempt did a marked job of putting the whole season into perspective. In the end, all this talk of honor and lines of succession don’t really matter. The one who rules, the one who wins, is the one with the power to do so. This is why Ned’s efforts have been so sadly futile. The season has been making this point clearer and clearer with each new episode. Whether or not Jorah really cares about Dany, he seems to have recognized that Westeros would be better off with Dany on the throne. At this point, I can’t disagree with him, but I wonder whether it will be worth all the inevitable bloodshed.

This is the lesson that poor Ned needs to learn: that no one else is playing by the rules, so all that really matters is that the best possible person ends up on the throne. It’s possible that Littlefinger might even have decided against betraying Ned if he’d been willing to set aside his honor for a bit and work with him. Littlefinger makes it pretty clear that Stannis Baratheon as king would not be good for the kingdom. Better to go with Robert’s last wishes and let Joffrey rule for a while. They can always get rid of him if need be, when the time comes. But Ned just won’t back down, and insists on Stannis being the only possible option. Now I’ve got to admit, I still love Ned in spite of all this, and find him to be a highly sympathetic central character, which makes his complete failure to handle the situation at King’s Landing all the more tragic.

“Game of Thrones” is doing an incredible job of creating that horrible feeling of inevitability, that everything is going to end in ruin. There’s bound to be a lot more death before the end of the season, but what the final status quo will be, I can scarcely venture to guess. “Game of Thrones” presents a world that, while certainly depressing much of the time, contains a large number of absolutely fascinating characters, so many of whom we want to see survive and live to see a more peaceful world. But considering that more seasons, based on more books, are on the way, I don’t see that happening anytime soon.

Rating: 9/10

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