After the initial excitement of the Purple Wedding and other early-season delights, GoT seemed content to spend a few middle episodes setting up where things stand, and where various people stand in relation to one another. “First of His Name,” though, feels like an end to the middle, if that makes sense. By the end of this episode, we know where things stand. Now we can to look forward to watching them fall.
The Theme of the Week is resignation. In an episode comprised almost entirely of new material, the numerous two-person scenes focused on one character prompting another to realize that they are inhabiting the “new normal” of post-Joffrey, post-Meereen, post-Red Wedding, etc etc, life.
In King’s Landing, that means Cersei realizing that Margaery might be an ally, not just for her family’s money but in her ability to positively influence Tommen. Cersei, not known for her mercy, was as graceful as any mother could be while speaking to her son’s widow and other son’s prospective bride. With the burden of loving alive-but-evil Joffrey gone, Cersei seems to have resigned herself to being a better mother to Tommen than she had been, and to missing Myrcella. Is she equally resigned to marrying Loras? About that, I’m not sure.
I’m unsure of Sansa, too. She was more open with Littlefinger than she had been in any of the King’s Landing scenes of the past couple seasons, but her late-night chat with Lysa reminded Sansa of exactly what is at stake for her, all the time: she is a marriageable young woman, a powerful alliance waiting to happen. Lysa wants Sansa to marry Robyn, and Sansa’s face as she resigned herself to once again being a pawn in someone else’s marriage games was heartbreaking.
Last we saw Robyn, he was a young boy inappropriately suckling at his mother’s breast. Now he’s just as close to mommy—but perhaps no longer suckling?—and given to discarding lovely gifts like the bird that “Uncle” Littlefinger got for him. In my review of “The Lion and the Rose,” I argued that GoT was making an implicit comparison between Joffrey and Ramsey Snow. We can add Robyn to that list of young men whose privileged upbringing has led to entitlement but no responsibility. Although he is not actively sadistic, his casual disregard for others bodes ill.
Cersei said that everywhere, people hurt little girls. As much as that made me think of this t-shirt, the sentiment is true in the world of Westeros. But the emphasize on gender underscores an interesting divide among the characters of the young people on this show: young men are sadistic (Joffrey, et al.), nobly sacrificing (Bran), or blank slates (Tommen). Young women are treated like vaginas on legs. (Legs optional.) Characters like Sansa, Cersei, and Margaery have to deal with how others treat them; characters like Joffrey, Bran, and Tommen have to deal (or not) with how they treat others.
Arya and Brienne are the only women whom others don’t treat like that, and both characters have assumed masculine characteristics—like pants!—but done so out of a resistance to fussy domesticity rather than a resistance to being objectified. Only Dany consistently makes her own way, rejecting traditional models of leadership or wifehood (or even “motherhood,” if dragons count). Now, she is resigned to waiting to invade Westeros so she can learn how to lead.
I don’t want to dwell on the gender dynamics of this show—well, okay, here’s one interesting link, and now I promise I’m done—so let’s turn to Brienne and Pod. Brienne finally resigned herself to the joy that is Pod the Squire, and although their scenes were not necessary at all, I was delighted to see that we will get occasional comic relief from two of my favorite mismatched (and therefore perfectly matched) characters.
The biggest resignation, though, might be the burning of Craster’s Keep after the death of the mutineers. I’ve always seen Craster and his Keep as a bizarro combined versions of Tom Bombadil and the Last Homely House in The Hobbit: Craster was the border beyond the border of the Wall, the last chance to turn back. As interesting as it was to see that Jojen will die by fire, that Bran has the ability to possess Hodor, and that Locke wanted to steal Bran but died before he could, I was most interested in the attention given to the burning of Craster’s Keep. What made that scene so significant that it merited being the last shot? A rejection of the rape culture that GoT has paid so much attention to this season? Or a reminder that there is no turning back, no DMZ between the Night’s Watch and the Wildlings, nothing but fire and—ahem—ice, resigned to destroying each other?
Grumpkins and Snarks:
• The crowd at Tommen’s coronation seemed to be genuinely pleased. You may not have been able to hear them, but they were cheering "Hooray for King Not-Joffrey!"
• Appropriate amount of time to mourn a psychopath brother and husband: two weeks. Thus Spake Tywin.
• Did anyone else want Arya and the Hound to start painting one another’s toenails and talking about boys while watching The Breakfast Club?
• So: Littlefinger coerced Lysa into poisoning her husband. Although that makes Lysa’s willingness to kill Tyrion back in Season One even more disturbing, I realized (when I tried to make it fit into my review and couldn't) that knowing who killed Jon Aryn is utterly irrelevant except to show us how tricky Littlefinger has always been.
Three out of four butchers named Cleon, His Imperial Majesty
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Josie Kafka reviews The Vampire Diaries, True Detective, Game of Thrones, and various other things that take her fancy. She is a full-time cat servant and part-time rogue demon hunter. (What's a rogue demon?)
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