Game of Thrones: First of His Name

“Hodor! Hodor!”

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

Reminder: The comments on this episodes are appropriate for newbies. If you haven't read the books, you're safe! If you have read the books and would like to talk about upcoming events, please do so here, in our new Season Four spoiler thread.

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?)


Morgan India said...

Holy fireballs you got this out fast, Josie. I really, really liked this episode so I was looking forward to seeing your review.

It seems to be the weekend of Michiel Huisman. Not that I mind in the slightest :) And oh, Ser Friendzone's face when Day decided to stay in Meereen.

Next week, we get to see our beloved Chihuahua again. HOORAY!

sunbunny said...

Sansa got lemon cakes. Sansa smiled. This is all I care about.

Anonymous said...

Josie, love your writing. But how can you say that knowing who killed Jon Arryn is irrelevant? It basically kicked off the 'Game of Thrones'. Had he not been killed, the Seven Kingdomes would stand as a (semi-)united front against the threats from the North (White Walkers) and the South (Dany).

Josie Kafka said...

Anonymous, it is irrelevant in the world of Westeros. No one is asking who killed Jon Arryn anymore. And Lysa only revealed that information to Littlefinger, who already knew, so it seems that no one will know.

Jon Arryn being murdered is not irrelevant. Littlefinger having murdered him changes nothing but, as I said, our opinion of Littlefinger's craftiness.

Juliette said...

I think for non-book readers the knowledge of who killed Jon Arryn is very relevant to their understanding of the characters (and would be even more so if the show hadn't assassinated Jaime's character two weeks ago, since it was one of the non-book-readers main objections to him - other than Bran, obviously. I promise I'll stop complaining about that soon). I can see what you mean, though - it doesn't make much difference anywhere else at this point, as Ned and Catelyn are both dead.

I was really hoping Locke was gonna chop someone's hand off before he got killed ;)

I was also really hoping for a brief Stark reunion :( I'm sure Jon wouldn't have stopped Bran from going north and it would have been so satisfying. They dangled it in front of us, then they took it away. Humpf.

I love that Cersei has got her wish at last - Tywin's so pissed off at both her brothers, she's his confidante now. Lena Headey is killing it this season (though she does that every season).

That tiny little micro-plot about Brienne relenting and letting Pod help her with her armour comes straight out of one of Matthew's early plots with his valet in Downton Abbey (probably not deliberately, but it's very similar). That made me smile.

Juliette said...

Oh, and I've lived in a flat with very thin walls - I really felt for Sansa!

Juliette said...

Oh yeah, one more thing - maybe they should give Tommen a Nobel Peace Prize for Not Being Joffrey ;)

Jess Lynde said...

The Brienne and Pod pairing is indeed paying dividends, and I am happy. Even though the deviations North of the Wall amounted to little more than filler, I am still happy because Pod is a terrible rider and neglected to skin the rabbit before attempting to cook it, but Brienne still managed to recognized his value. Yea! :)

Freeman said...

Satisfying episode. It was nice to see two jerks bite it in one episode, no pun intended in Karl's case. Hodor got his moment to shine, though I suppose it was very much against his will. It was also nice to see Sansa not have to suffer for at least two minutes. Obviously that wasn't to last, as she had to learn her aunt was bonkers somehow.

Funny thing, when they first showed Robyn in the episode, the shadows on his face made it look like he was starting to get a shade of facial hair. Which, if he had would've made his dynamic with his mother even more hilariously inappropriate.

Maybe things are finally not going to be as squeaky clean for Dany anymore. Unless she wipes out every last vile person in the vicinity, she's going to need to find some trustworthy people to watch over these places she's liberated before she can cross over to Westeros, or else everything she's doing will have been rather pointless.