A Dissertation of Ice & Fire – Episodes #2 & #3

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I must apologize for the lack of a show post last week. I was up to my eyeballs in providing coverage for the NFL Draft. But, I doubt too many folks that are into that will be reading this, so let’s move forward.

First off, after what was a pretty brilliant premiere episode, HBO went ahead and gave the green light for season 2 to move forward. It is believed that the sophomore effort will focus on the happenings of the second book in the Song of Ice & Fire saga, A Clash of Kings. This is, of course, fantastic news. If they’re really going to make an effort to film the entire series they need to move quickly. When you’re dealing with actors this young, especially the children, there is no time to rest on your laurels. But, onto the reviews for the 2nd episode of this first season of Game of Thrones.

With the conclusion of the premiere episode leaving you hanging, the big question all week was if the young Bran Stark indeed lived through his “fall” from the tower window. We find out quite early that he did and his comatose state is driving his mother, Catelyn, to delirium. We also see Tyrion Lannister teach his nephew, the repulsive Prince Joffrey, a lesson early in The Kingsroad… three times. Which had many a fan of the books pumping their fists…also, three times. After some interaction with Sandor Clegane, he heads to breakfast with his siblings and nephews. It was a particularly great scene, as you can really believe this group is family and has strong feelings of one type or another for each.

In a new scene not from the books, we see some interaction between Jaime Lannister and Jon Snow where he tells the young bastard that going to make his vows to the Night’s Watch may not be as glamorous as he thinks. Another alteration was that of Queen Cersei telling Catelyn how she once had a child with King Robert that she lost. I’m not sure if this change was made to make the audience view her as more sympathetic or to show how much of a lying, manipulative bitch she really is.

When we then see Jon Snow saying goodbye to all of the Stark brethren, it is quite touching on many levels. In particular, his parting with young Arya Stark where he gives her her very own sword as a parting gift. After quickly naming it “Needle,” she gives him a leaping hug that was nothing short of adorable. His goodbye with Robb and Bran are just as terrific. But met with nonreciprocating feelings by Catelyn who tells him to leave while trying to say goodbye to the comatose Bran. Another big change from the books, probably trying to make the new audience not completely despise Catelyn, the line, “It should have been you,” was taken out. Probably a bit of a nitpick, but it was a line in the book that cut pretty deep.

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Across the Narrow Sea, Daenyrus continues to not enjoy being the Khal’s Wife because of the forced sex. However, she employs the help of slave Doreah to teach her how to please her Husband. In what was shocking to me, HBO didn’t go explicit in what was expected to be a pretty hot girl-on-girl scene. HBO doesn’t usually pass those opportunities up. But I guess unlike shows like Spartacus, they realize that the story is enough to reel people in and don’t have to go so over the top on the sex. Anyways, this method works and her and the Khal enjoy their first moments of actual romance. It was delivered much different than the books, but they appear to have this one on track now going forward.

With Jon traveling to The Wall to take the oath, he gets a farewell with Father Ned as well. And we find out that Ned has never told Jon about his mother and her identity. But promises to tell him the next time they see each other. Ned then heads towards Kings Landing with King Robert while Jon is accompanied by Tyrion who wants to visit The Wall. They have quite a nice scene where Tyrion tells him, just like Jaime, that The Wall isn’t this glorious thing that he believes it is and that his sworn brothers are criminals, bastards and outlaws and not knights. A quite upsetting fact so far in Jon’s storyline is the lack of his direwolf, Ghost. For of all the direwolves in this series, Ghost has the biggest part. We see him for about 3 seconds laying down in the camp, but if you blink you’ll miss it. Hoping for this to be remedied soon.

The Bran storyline takes an interesting development when an assassin starts a fire across the courtyard in Winterfell and comes to put Bran down. Catelyn fights him off best she can, seriously cutting her hands on the blade before she is tossed aside. But as the assassin goes for Bran, his yet to be named direwolf takes him down and rips out his throat before calmly laying down next to Bran on the bed. This scene was executed almost perfectly from the novel. Zero complaints here and props to HBO for even showing the would be killer’s neck with a missing throat. Simply awesome.

tumblr lk7qhltnLW1qhu9p7o1 400Catelyn quickly deduces that Bran falling was no accident and tells Robb, Theon, Luwin and Rodrick that she must travel to Kings Landing to tell Ned. Robb wants to come as well, but is told that he is the Lord of Winterfell now and must stay to protect it. Rodrick insists that the Kingsroad is too dangerous to travel alone and rides off with her.

The next scene on the riverbank where Joffrey proves what a dickbag he is which results in Arya’s direwolf, Nymeria, taking a nice little taste of his arm for swinging his sword at Arya. He quickly shows what a little bitch he is and begins to beg Arya not to hurt him. She then throws his sword in the river and runs into the forest with Nymeria. Realizing that Joffrey will order her wolf put down, she heart-breakingly throws rocks at Nymeria to get her to leave her side. Another chapter that was translated perfectly to screen from the books.

Long story short, Sansa lies for her Prince and the Queen orders her direwolf to be put down. However,since Nymeria has fled, they simply order that any direwolf will do. And this is where Sansa finds out that karma is a bitch, as her direwolf, Lady, is the one that has been corralled.

The episode ends with Ned begrudgingly having to kill Lady in a scene that was just as hard to watch as it was to read. But I thought the show did a wonderful job in showing how the Stark children and their direwolves are connected. Right before Lady is executed, Bran’s direwolf is clearly sad and aware of what is happening. And right as Lady is killed, Bran opens his eyes awakening from his coma.

Overall, this was an excellent episode and many have called it better than the premiere. It was much faster paced and pulled in pretty much the same audience as the premiere, which HBO seems to be happy with. There was some outrage over one of the wolves being killed, but trust me…you haven’t seen anything yet. It gets MUCH worse with twists like that.

Here is some of my “Bests” of the night:

Best Overall PerformanceMaisie Williams as Arya Stark

It is hard to find good kid actors. Especially when it isn’t something where they just have to have one-liners and be cute. Maisie has quickly become the fan favorite of series readers and newbies. Her scene with Joffrey by the Trident was spectacular. As was her goodbye with Jon.

Best QuoteRory McCann as Sandor “The Hound” Clegane

Ned notices that Sandor has a dead carcass on his horse and it is indeed the butcher’s son, Mycah, whom Joffrey was abusing earlier. He ask the Hound what the deal is and he simply replies “He ran…not very fast” and strolls along with a quiet chuckle. I love dialogue ripped straight from the pages.

Best VisualThe Wall

We get another look at The Wall this time, but at a much grader angle. It is everything I imagined reading the books and more. Simply breathtaking.

Now, a review of the third episode, “Lord Snow.”

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As the episode title says, this one mostly focuses on Jon Snow and how The Wall is not as glamorous as he expected. It isn’t honorable men fighting bravely to keep the kingdom’s dark secrets at bay, but a bunch of criminals and farm boys who had nowhere else to go and are only looking for a way to keep food in the bellies. Snow, having been trained by Master of Arms of Winterfell, Ser Rodrick, he is light years ahead of everyone in his fighting skill set. Something that makes him quick to think he is better than everyone there, but his Uncle Benjen slaps him back into place by telling him that he is no better than anyone at The Wall. In the Night’s Watch, all men are equal. Jon gets off to a rough start with some of the locals after besting them badly while sparring, but by the end of the episode he is beginning to take the initiative in showing them how to sword fight. It won’t be the last of young Snow’s leadership at The Wall.

Back South, Eddard and his group is arriving at Kings Landing where he is quickly asked to join the Small Council, but first we get a glimpse of the throne room and the Iron Throne, which is just a sight to behold. Then a confrontation between Jaime Lannister and Ned that happens much later in the source material. However, it provided terrific backstory to their history and rebellion. Two terrific actors are put on display here and it does not disappoint. When Ned finally makes it to the small council, we are introduced to the cunning and manipulative Petyr Baelish, aka “Littlefinger.” This was a role that the casting of interested me greatly because he is such an important secondary character. And I must give credit to the crew for nailing it. Aidan Gillen is so perfect that I couldn’t imagine anyone else in the role now. We also meet Varys, a eunoch and rumor mongerer known amongst the people as ” The Spider.” In the same scene we meet Renly Baratheon, the King’s brother, for the first time as well as Grand Maester Pycelle. If it sounds like I’m throwing too many characters at you at once, imagine reading this series. I think HBO is trying to make this as manageable as possible, but it may require some supplemental material to keep everyone straight here. If you ever get lost about who is who and their family trees, I recommend heading over to Tower of The Hand to keep everyone straight. But be mindful of spoilers, because that will take the shock out of this series if you are a first time adventurer.

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A new scene that wasn’t in the books is a conversation between Queen Cersei and Prince Joffrey where she basically tells him it’s okay to be a tyrant ruler and a horrible husband. Young Joff doesn’t seem to mind either of these ideas much. The Kings Landing scenes are capped off with Ned giving some parenting advice to young Arya who is still very much loathing her sister, Sansa. He catches her playing with the sword that Jon gifted her and instead of getting angry, he agrees to let her learn to use the blade.

Next we get to see Bran for the first time since he awoke from his coma. May I just say that Old Nan, the wet nurse, is picture perfect from what I envisioned in my mind. And her story telling to Bran actually gave me chills before it was interrupted by Robb. We learn that Bran is indeed crippled from the waist down and will never walk again.

Catelyn and Ser Rodrick arrive at Kings Landing and are taken to Littlefinger’s brothel to keep their being there a secret. Petyr then fetches Ned and tells him that his wife is in Kings Landing and wishes to speak with him Ned becomes enraged when he sees he is being led to a brothel and begins to choke a bitch. Until Catelyn gets Ned’s attention and he lets Petyr go. A little more aggressive than the way it happened in the novel, but a kick ass scene nonetheless. After she tells Ned of her findings and suspicion of the Lannisters, we get a real goodbye that shows how much the two characters really do love each other. A very well done scene.

Across the Narrow Sea in Pentos, we see that Daenyrus is beginning to embrace the ways of the Dothraki and even begins making commands. This, of course, pisses her brother Viserys off who has always had his when when it comes to Dany. But her bodyguards are having none of it and knock him into submission and even ask if she wishes him dead for his abuse. She says no, but something tells me that he isn’t going to be too pleased with her from here on out. We also learn of her pregnancy and Ser Jorah seems to take a personal interest in this fact.

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In the final scene, we get probably my favorite part of the episode. I am speaking of the introduction of Syrio Forel, who is Arya’s dancing (what sword fighting is called in this series) instructor. This just might be my favorite minor role casting thus far. An absolutely brilliant scene with Ned proudly watching on, who is obviously having a recollection of the past or a vision of the future.

A much slower episode than last week which might have turned some viewers just looking for action off. Like I told a friend of mine on twitter afterwords, if that is all you’re looking for then this is not your series. There are battles and sword fights, sure. But they are few and far between and mean a lot more when they happen. This is a character driven series whose story is carried by the actors and their decisions over the conflicts. I’m very happy with the series adaptation so far and the only real problem I am having so far is the absence of Jon’s direwolf, Ghost, again. Hopefully next week.

Here is some of my “Bests” of the night:

Best Overall PerformanceMiltos Yerolemou as Syrio Forel

This was a pleasant surprise for sure. Yerolemou knocked it out of the park and actually made me wish his part was bigger in the story.

Best QuotePeter Dinklage as Tyrion Lannister

“Do Dornish Girl’s Count?” when asked by Yoren what the strangest thing he had ever eaten. Dinklage continues to absolutely own every scene that he appears in.

Best Visual The Throne Room in Kings Landing

The epic scope and size of the throne room was absolutely stunning. As was The Kingslayer’s (Jaime) golden armor.

Looking forward to this Sunday’s episode titled “Cripples, Bastards and Broken Things.” Some things to look out for are the introductions of some great characters such as Gregor Clegane, Sandor’s brother, also known as “The Mountain.” He’s a big dude. Also Hodor, who is key in helping the paralyzed Bran get around Winterfell. Ser Loras Tyrell, the Knight of Flowers, will also make his Thrones debut and the introduction to major character Samwell Tarly will certainly show up as well.

Some unanswered questions to look forward to are how Tyrion will be received back in Winterfell since he is the number one suspect of sending the assassin after Bran. Also, will Robert try to shape up and act like a King now that his best friend is Hand, or will he slip more into his drunken stupor? Will Ned make any progress on his investigation of Jon Arryn’s death? All this plus the King’s Tournament that is sure to quench some viewers thirst for some action. Hit the preview below.