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Game of Thrones: The Kingsroad

“Stick ‘em with the pointy end.”

Our Theme of the Week is the injuries that aren’t inflicted by swords, but by the blunter, crueler weapons: the refusal to acknowledge someone’s pain, disloyalty, and an averted gaze. Game of Thrones may be a pseudo-medieval knights-and-nations epic, but it’s not all swords and fire. Although there is an awful lot of blood.

Towards the Wall

Jon Snow has fled Wintersfell to join the Night’s Watch, the band of unwashed brothers committed to the ideals of celibacy and zombie-hunting. His primary motivation is his bastardy: he knows he cannot travel to King’s Landing with the “real” Starks, and he knows Catelyn will make his life horribly unpleasant if he stays home. His conversation with Jaime Lannister, however, revealed that he’s joining a valiant order who are utterly disrespected by most of the Southron lords as relics of a bygone age that believed in “grumpkins and snarks.”

Tyrion, ever the trickster, has decided to head north as well—he may be sick of his family, he may be on a quest for adventure and knowledge (to him they’re the same thing), he may be attempting to avoid confronting his siblings about what really happened to Bran. Likely, it’s a combination of all those possibilities. He seems to be acting as something of guide for Jon Snow, too: Tyrion is good with children and other frightened creatures, he rewards good behavior and does his best to discourage bad. (Can you tell how much I like him?)

Like Jon, Tyrion has been formed by a lifetime of slights and insults, but he attempts to turn those injuries into calloused scar tissue. Unlike Jon, Tyrion is fascinating. Jon will surely become more interesting soon, but right now his story feels like due diligence so that when he does transform into an interesting character with more than one quality, we’ll care.

Towards King’s Landing

Cersei did what Joffrey should have done: she expressed her empathy for Catelyn’s grief over Bran’s situation. Cersei also revealed, in a truly astonishing monologue, what pushed her away from Robert: her grief over a lost child, and her inability to give that grief its proper due. Cersei is very much the center of her own universe, though: she can empathize with Catelyn’s plight because she has been in a similar position, but she cannot permit any perceived harm to her children, and she’s willing to sacrifice the Starks to keep her Joffrey proud and self-righteous.

Cersei is either a terrible queen (because she lacks sympathy) or a wonderful one (because she knows the injury words, actions, and slights can do, and lacks sympathy). She is devoted to her children and her brother, but she barely gives Robert the time of day, and does whatever she can to undermine his relationship with Ned and the little Starks. She effectively masterminded the “trial” of Sansa, Arya, and the direwolves to draw Ned and Robert apart by playing on their lopsided devotion to their own children. Masterful, and evil. It would be hard to like Cersei if Lena Headey didn’t do such a wonderful job portraying her.

Joffrey doesn’t understand the subtle manipulations that Tyrion, Cersei, Catelyn, and others practice with such ease. He enjoys inflicting physical pain, and he gives full rein to that sadism. A prince should not slice up an unarmed butcher’s boy—it’s dishonest and ignoble, Princecraft 101 from the Draco Malfoy school of prissy little towheads. I can’t imagine he will ever see the power in sticking someone with the pointy end, and will never understand that there’s much more to statecraft—and life—than that.

Robert doesn’t seem to understand it, either. I’m not clear on whether it was Robert or Joffrey who ordered the Hound to ride Micah down and kill him, but this lack of subtlety and sympathy appears to be the one thing father and son have in common.

It was Arya’s act of cruelty that really did me in, though. She had to make Nymeria the direwolf think that she was unwanted in order to save her from being slaughtered. She had to be cruel to be kind, which just broke my heart. Such a little girl should have more faith in the world than that. Then again, maybe she shouldn’t, as Nymeria would have died if she’d been found. Arya is certainly a true Stark: she seems to have inherited Ned’s sense of the dark side of justice along with his tendency towards greasy-headedness.

And Sansa. Oh, Sansa. She slighted the Hound, then did him a kindness by treating him like a man rather than a walking wound. But then she ruined it all by picking her little prince over her sister.

Across the Narrow Sea

Dany’s growth in this episode was fairly incredible. Like Tyrion, she turned Drogo’s disrespect for her on its head, using her feminine wiles to remind him that she is worth real attention. Can she turn her bedroom victory into a real power-play in the Dothraki society? Will she continue to get darker than her hair, thus driving Gustavo crazy? And will we get more girl-on-girl almost-sex scenes? We’ll have to tune in to find out.

Back at Winterfell

Holy Hecate, that’s a lot of blood! Catelyn’s 30 days of grief finally ended, as someone set a fire to a disused part of the castle to pull everyone away from Bran’s bedside to kill him. After fighting off an armed man by grabbing the knife with her fingers (yeah, sister!) and CSI-ing the tower from which Bran fell, Catelyn figures out that there is something rotten in the state of Winterfell, and the Lannisters just might be behind it. Now she, too, is on a journey to King’s Landing, leaving Robb in charge of the North, and missing Bran’s awakening.

Bitter Enemies and Uneasy Peaces:

• Joffrey: “The boy means nothing to me. And I can’t stand the wailing of women.” [Tyrion slaps him.] “Ahh!”

• Tyrion: “A mind needs books like a sword needs a whetstone.” Did anyone else think: cross-stitch sampler!

• Ser Jorah has been exiled for slaving by Ned Stark.

• Ned and Jon talking about Jon’s mother. And, to avoid spoilers, I can’t say anything more about that.

• Another mention of Rickon, the littlest of Starks.

• I’m giving serious thought to keeping a running tally of characters that die. In this episode, Micah and Lady the direwolf, as well as all feeling in Catelyn Stark’s hands.

I’m going to say three out of four butcher’s boys. I want to leave wiggle room for future awesomeness.
Josie Kafka is a full-time cat servant and part-time rogue demon hunter. (What's a rogue demon?)


  1. Great review, Josie.

    I’m loving Game of Thrones but I feel the Dany storyline isn’t translating as well to the screen as the others are. Some parts of it just felt laughable, notably her lesson in seduction by whatsherface off Hollyoaks.

    One thing I’m still staggered by is how perfectly cast everyone is, even minor characters like Ser Ilyn Payne (guy is just creepy). For the moment the standout for me has to be Maisie Williams. She is exactly how I always imagined Arya would be and so much more.

    Can't wait until the next episode.

  2. "It would be hard to like Cersei if Lena Headey didn’t do such a wonderful job portraying her."

    Wow. All I'm currently feeling towards Cersei is contempt, with maybe a little bit of pity, but mostly contempt. We're supposed to like her?

  3. For me, the theme of the week was "waking up" or opening your eyes to reality (perfectly encapsulated by Bran finally opening his eyes). Dany's was a sexual awakening, but also about opening her eyes to her source of strength and attempting to take some small control of her situation. Jon had the scales torn off his eyes by both Jaime and Tyrion about what he was really getting into with the Night's Watch. Sansa got quite the eye-opening experience with her beloved prince and the queen she longs to be. Ned is starting to realize the true cost of his choice to be loyal to his king and old friend, plus he's discovering his friend isn't quite the man he believed him to be. (I loved the scene by the roadside where they discussed Dany's status across the sea.) And Catelyn pulled herself out of her stupor and woke up to the very real dangers that surround her family.

    Michael, I'm not sure we're supposed to like Cersei. But I think she at least has some interesting shades of grey. We can understand her motivations, if not her methods. Unlike her vile son, who's a spoiled brat, a simpering coward, and a horrid sadist. I completely loathe that kid.

    I'm not sure what to make of the scene between Cersei and Catelyn, and it is difficult for me to really discuss without getting into spoiler territory. I will say it is a puzzling departure from the book. I suppose it was meant to humanize Cersei, but it really just confused me.

    My favorite moment this week was Jaime's parting comment to Jon. "I’m sure it will be thrilling to serve in such an elite force. And if not — it’s only for life.” Given his own position as a member of the Kingsguard (an elite force that serves for life), I found his tone of voice when delivering this parting shot absolutely fascinating. I'm pleasantly surprised by the interesting shading we are getting with this character. I can't say I much cared for him at this point when reading the book, but Nikolaj Coster-Waldau is making him strangely compelling in the show.

    Josie, I think you meant to say that Sansa treated the King's Justice (Ilyn Payne) like a man after slighting him, not the Hound (Sandor Clegane). You meant the shorter creepy guy, right? Not the tall burned guy. BTW, I always pictured Payne as much bigger for some reason. I was shocked when the Hound revealed the short guy was Payne.

  4. Damn i wrote a comment but it got lost while posting.

    So to recap what i lost: the thing i most hate about Cersei is her love for her monster of a son Jofrey. I would be able to forgive the scheming, her incestous relationship, but not enabling that brat. I just hate parents who think their kids can do no wrong.

    Arya and Tyrion are just wonderful. The best characters from the book are also shining in the show.

    As for Jon's conversation with Jaimie. It's a bit sad that the vieverw of the show lack some background on Jaime at this point. Namely that he's in the Kingsguard. It's kinda funny, Jon now has more in common with both Lannister brothers then with the Starks.

    Catelyn did some CSI work but one of the best things about the book is that nothing is easy to prove. Not who killed Jon Arryn, not woh ordered the assasination attempt on Bran, not even the realtionship between the Lannister Twins. Even if somoene uncovers some truth he has a hard time convincing anyone because it's mostly word vs word, with truth dueling masterfully crafted lies. And with no means of distributing news like we have now there is no way to distinguish truth from gossip. ost of the conflicts are stem from this.

    Only 8 episodes to go. Why can;t we have at least 12 like True Blood. I hope the 2nd season will be longer (the book is so it might warrant more eps).

  5. In the first episode I was going through the motions emotionally, because I loved the book and it was surreal to see it come alive. I knew what was going to happen and even how it was going to end.

    I went into this episode much the same way, and then it happened. I got drawn in. I don't know exactly when, but when the episode ended in the place that made the most sense, I was a little shocked. My favorite characters have finally come alive to me. Arya, Tyrion, Dany, Ned, Jon... (well ok I'm still warming to Jon). So now I'm eagerly anticipating the wonders and horrors to come.

    I loved the scene with Cersei, and I completely understand it. It was required because of the format. It provided to very important details, why her relationship with her husband is not what it should be. And that she can lie to someone perfectly without batting an eyelash.


  6. There is also the possiblity that Cersei was actually lying about everything she said to Catelyn. A much more welcome solutions then" they cahnged it. :)

  7. I hope that's the case. If so, TVNerd is correct that it was a fantastic scene for establishing her lying bonafides. Because she seemed incredibly sincere.

  8. Thanks for mentioning, Josie. It *is* driving me crazy. Those eyebrows don't match!!!

    That said, I'm glad I've given the show another chance, because this episode made me like it a little more. Tyrion is awesome, mostly for beating Prince D-bag. I didn't like it when he did it, but retroactively cheered.

    Oh, Sansa, so much cuteness, so little personality! I really hope she doesn't marry Prince D-bag. Or better, marrying her would be the greatest punishment.

    I also love the dire wolves. I'm not exactly a dog person, but I'd love to have one. Poor Lady!

    I could follow this ep much better. But it astonishes me that people mention in the comments scenes I don't remember seeing! It's too much, too many names and faces, and many look the same. I'm glad Jon and the eldest Stark have parted ways, I could barely tell them apart.

    These reviews are helping a lot, though.

  9. Interesting! I saw Cersei has being honest, or at least telling the truth when she was talking to Catelyn. The way I saw it, Cersei was a young, naive, innocent girl who, if she didn't fall in love with Robert, at least was infatuated with the idea of being Queen (shades of Princess Diana). The death of her child affected her to such a degree that she was no longer able to love or respect her husband. And, is it just me, or does it seem odd to anyone else that every, single one of her children is blond -- not a dark hair there. Hmmm..

    I must congratulate the producers on the child actors they found to play these parts. The scene by the river and the trial could have sunk into farce with the wrong kids, but these kids can actually act. And for once, the kids in the story have to do more than stand around, look cute and utter banal comments every now and again. Well done!

  10. Is it wrong that Lady, the direwolf, getting killed was the hardest part of this episode for me to watch?


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