26 July 2011

Game of Thrones 1x02: The Kingsroad

Well, then! Hello again. I said I'd post two every week, right? Guess it took me a bit longer than a week... Oh well.

The second episode is vastly more self-explanatory than the first, and I suppose I kind of exhausted much of the background by rambling on about every lore-related thing in sight. So the good news, this one will be short.

We start off with the Khaleesi riding with the Dothraki horde. It looks more like a small-time caravan than a horde, but you can blame Sean Bean for that. (Just kidding, but it really would have been nice if they had money for more impressive scenes.) Dany is a character who we meet when she is 14 (I think she is supposed to be 16 or 17 or thereabouts in the series) and she has lived a relatively uneventful life up to that point. I mean, there's the whole royalty in exile with a paranoid brother who sees assassins in every shadow thing, but whose family isn't a little crazy, right? Anyhow, she doesn't care about her lost throne since she was too young during the Rebellion (to be sure, so was Viserys, but he's a nutjob so nevermind him) and a lot of huge, life changing things happen to her during the course of the books, which define who she becomes very distinctly. So she's interesting because of how clear the cause-and-effect relationships are throughout the development of her personality.

Here, she is still shocked and traumatized, being sold by her own brother to a repulsive barbarian who subsequently rapes her. Nevertheless, she still tries to play the cards dealt to her, and adapt to circumstances, however hopeless everything may seem.

We get some Viserys being Viserys. Oh, Viserys! You Viserys, you. You're such a Viserys! I have no clue why, but I just love this guy's seedy, overenthusiastic grin.

The Lannister scene pretty much establishes the family food chain. Tyrion is at his best here- the unique Tyrion wit, at once imaginative, clever, insightful, turning the issue on its head without being a smart alec. We also have the other defining trait here- in Jaime's words: "My dear brother, there are times you make me wonder whose side you're on." I mean, you know he's loyal to the Lannisters. Except he isn't. Except when he is. Except those times he isn't... But that's not mentioning the times he is... And then there's the times...

The Queen visits Bran to pay her respects. The interesting thing is, she comes off remarkably sincere, in my opinion. Anytime I watch that scene, for a second, part of me thinks that maybe some part of her is sorry for the whole thing, and does want to be a more positive influence on the people around her, except she doesn't believe she can change herself now and she's in too deep to do it anyhow. But then again, Cersei is a master manipulator, and it's just like her to fake sincerity to such an absurd degree... But you just never know. It's one of the things I like about Game of Thrones; every so often a pair of characters meet, and based on their pre-established roles you know they're gonna act one way, but they suddenly almost have a change of heart, but nothing concrete, really. And then that passes and they carry on like they did before, and you're left wondering if the change of heart was ever sincere and simply reversed afterward, or if the whole thing was a deception throughout. It's one of those "weird feeling" moments I have sometimes, and Martin's presentation of it is just so eerily familiar.

And, while Lena Headey may not pull off everything perfectly, she's certainly great at looking wistful.

Next we have a *groan* Jon chapter. For some reason I just never liked Jon much. He's boring, he has plot armor, and he's the closest thing to a "humble, well-meaning warrior guy who saves the world and turns out to be the long lost heir to the throne" archetype. I don't think he saves the world, or at least he hasn't so far (spoiler spoiler, boo hoo) but I don't think he even does anything wrong at all either! I mean... He's just perfectly principled. He has no crises of identity. He's never tempted to betray his own identity. He's just... He happens to be a guy who always acts like he ought to, in circumstances that happen to be permissive to this. I dunno. It's just weird.

Catelyn is a horrendous bitch to him in this scene, too. I think unduly so. Jon's ancestry is a bit of a mystery, you see. The kind of mystery that shouts "Chekhov's mystery, git your main plot point right here folks, Chekhov's mystery!" from the rooftops with a loudspeaker. It's just so obvious that his parent(s) -Ned may very well not be his father at all!- are extremely important and will shape the climax of the story... Except the Gurrm never really does anything with it! It doesn't go anywhere. And Cat's disproportionate disdain of him is pretty much the main contributor to that air of importance. I mean, geez. So the guy is your husband's bastard. Newsflash, every other lord has them in droves! It's not accepted, it's expected! So what if your hubby had one slip? Fine, chew his head off. Why take it out on the poor boy? Not like he had any say in it. And besides, he just worries about his half-brother, your son. What the hell, Catelyn.

Anyhow, there's more sappy Jon stuff, and then we get to see King Bob talk about his great love of cuntry. The question of our white-haired friends comes up, and Ned puts on his trademark honor before reason routine.

We get yet more Jon, and I have to say, it's a bit of a Mortonian choice there. I mean, the thing you save by going to the wall, you're not allowed to use because you're on the wall! Harsh, man.

There's the iconic scene of Catelyn catching an assassin next. It's an event that pretty much serves as Cat's finest moment, and also sets in motion much of the events of the first two books. One strange thing here, they never suspect that the knife might have been sent to frame the owner. Everybody seems to assume that things are exactly what they seem like, and Luwin at least should have been cleverer.

Meanwhile, lovely lesbian fan service. It is known. Dany also decides to be quite a bit more proactive with her husband... This part never felt quite right to me. Maybe it's just too quick a flip from battered child-sex slave to passionate lover. Adapting to circumstance is one thing, but just everything about her quick acceptance of Drogo implies that she's... Well... A bit of a whore. But then again, the books take place over quite long time periods, and this fact is even less obvious in the series- it's probably been weeks or even months from the opening shot to this one.

We get some more lore with King's Landing as the backdrop. A lot of people were dissatisfied by Sophie Turner's ability to play Sansa. Personally, I think she's okay, she's not terribly great but then again Sansa is really uninteresting, it's the things happening around her that make her book chapters worthwhile. In this scene, though, she's kinda bad. Or rather, the bad is really easy to see- Sansa is meant to be naive, stubborn with her silly girly fantasies, and extremely well mannered. Sophie's expression while apologizing to Sir Ilyn is more of a petulant, delinquent teenage girl's desperate attempt at holding the laughter in. That's really what's wrong with Sophie, and why it's not that big a deal- she plays Sansa like a petulant teenager, and most of the time it works, because most of the time Sansa is a petulant teenager. It's just that, every now and then she isn't, but Sophie sticks to her usual thing in those rare moments as well. I do hope she gets better eventually.

And following that, we finish up with another mini-event, leading to a closing shot of Ned shooting the dog. Tune in next time for more shameless politics, callous hypocrisy and wanton animal cruelty!

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