Game of Thrones: A Golden Crown

“Thunk.”

It’s hard to go wrong with Jane Espenson. She’s written for nearly every show we cover (including the upcoming Torchwood: Miracle Day), and she manages to inject humor into even the most dire of situations without ever losing the tone appropriate to a specific show. She succeeds because she seems to have an incisive understanding of the characters she writes for: her episodes reveal new aspects of old friends in a way that makes those aspects seem familiar. Above all, she lets her characters make jokes (rather than the slapstick approach of the author making the character a joke) and she trusts our basic human impulse to giggle nervously in the face of despair. In case you can’t tell, I loved this episode.

I’m in the odd position of having waited a week to write the review (see below), and I was surprised to realize earlier today that I didn’t remember much happening: rather, I remembered Tyrion’s jokes, Ned Stark finally cracking a grin, and that sly throne room scene. Of course, I didn’t forget the golden crown that gives this episode its title, or the joust between Bronn and Lysa’s vassal, but the majority of this episode was about people talking, arguing, bickering, and generally getting on each other’s nerves.

If “The Wolf and the Lion” was structured in binaries, “A Golden Crown” is all about trios, quads, and more. Conversations, arguments, and physical fights all took place between numerous people. This could have been chaos, or many people standing around and awkwardly not interacting, but Espenson aced the interactions, the actors aced the acting, and the intensely expository nature of the previous episodes started to pay off tenfold. Did I mention I loved this episode?

Winterfell

Theon had a bit more to do this week: he’s quite a smarmy bastard, isn’t he? Then again, the urge to fight and kill seems to be sweeping more than just Team Greyjoy—the wildlings are fleeing the north North, the whores are fleeing the regular North, and everyone seems to expect chaos at any moment. Between the zombie hordes and the Lannister army, Westeros seems to be in for a frightening winter.

The Eyrie

I’ve watched the scene in which Tyrion almost falls out of the cell three times now, and every time my stomach has dropped. And then I’ve been overcome with laughter at his conversations with Mord, quoted extensively below. Look at how boring those quotes are, sitting dully on the page. But Madame Espenson trusted Peter Dinklage, and he delivered.

Little Lord Robin is all id, no ego, isn’t he? Less breastfeeding this episode, but still lots of nuzzling—I hope that child actor doesn’t develop some sort of complex. Best of all, though, was that damned spoon and Catelyn’s reaction to it. Lysa let her son tap his spoon without regard for it being the most annoying sound in the entire world, and Catelyn let it happen. This tells us that Catelyn assessed the situation off-screen. A strong sense that characters have lives off-screen is becoming my conditio sine qua non for watchable TV shows, and GoT has it in spades. Also, Tyrion’s confession? Perfect in every way.

Vaes Dothrak

Dany ate the heart of a horse. And suddenly I’m a vegetarian again.

In other news, Viserys finally got what he wanted: a golden crown. Those of us who have read the books have been looking forward to this scene eagerly—and it was my one moment of disappointment. I loved everything leading up to it: Viserys’s conversation with Ser Jorah, the nearly palpable fear and anger when he put the sword to Dany’s belly, even the brute force of Khal Drogo. But I wanted more gold, less “thunk.” It was hard not to laugh in that moment, even though everything that came before was so well played that Viserys seemed more tragic than petty.

King’s Landing

My two favorite scenes featured Sean Bean. One was a quickie: his conversation with Arya and Sansa, in which he told them they would go home, was the first chance we got to see that the Starks do, in fact, have a sense of humor hiding under their badger cloaks.

The other: the throne room scene. Finally, we get to see someone sit on the throne! And it’s not the king, but rather the realm’s most just and loyal man, hearing of the terre gaste caused by Lannisters, but unable to fight them because of the spear wound in his thigh. The Fisher King metaphor wasn’t overplayed, but as subtle allusions go, it’s quite fruitful in terms of understanding everything at stake in Westeros and the brewing Stark/Lannister war.

Wounded or not, Ned still managed to lob a shot across Tywin Lannister’s bow. Gregor Clegane (aka “The Mountain,” the guy who decapitated his horse last week) has been playing the brigand in the riverlands, trying to blame the Tullys (Catelyn’s family), but obviously doing the Lannister’s dirty work. Ned’s decision to go threaten Tywin with attainment was a bold move, as was his decision to send Beric Dondarrion to roust Gregor Clegane from the woodsy lands in the center of Westeros.

Littlefinger lost no time in pointing out the stakes of Ned’s decision, either. At first, I thought Littlefinger’s asides were obnoxious exposition. Then I realized that the character was being intentionally annoying and obtuse—I think he thought Ned wouldn’t realize it, either. Ned did, but it doesn’t seem to have colored his view of Littlefinger. Ned doesn’t realize that everyone has his number, which means he doesn’t understand most of the people around him.

And, finally, Ned figured out what we’ve all already guessed: Joffrey is not Robert’s son, Cersei is an adultress, and Jaime is both uncle and father to his twin sister’s son.

Bitter Peaces:

• Cersei: “I shall wear this like a badge of honor.”
Robert: “Wear it in silence, or I’ll honor you again.”

• Tyrion: “My family is rich! We have lots of gold! I’m prepared to give you lots of gold!”
Mord: “No gold!”
Tyrion: “Well I don’t have it here.”
Mord: “No gold! F*** off!”

Tyrion: “About the gold…”
Mord: “No gold!”
Tyrion: “Listen to me! Sometimes, possession is an abstract concept…” [I’m laughing as I type that line. It’s very Xander, in a way.]

Tyrion: “Have you ever heard the phrase, ‘rich as a Lannister’? Of course you have. You are a smart man.”

• Tyrion: “You want specifics, I suppose. When I was seven, I saw a servant girl, bathing in the river. She was forced to return to the castle, naked and in tears. If I close my eyes, I can still see her tits bouncing…When I was 12, I milked my eel into a pot of turtle stew. I flogged the one-eyed snake. I skinned my sausage. I made the bald man cry—into the turtle stew, which I do believe my sister ate. At least, I hope she did. I once brought a jackass and a honeycomb into a brothel…”
Lysa: “Silence!”
Robert: “What happened next?”

• Syrio: “If you’re with your trouble when fighting happens, more trouble for you.”

• Viserys: “If I sell one egg, I’ll have enough to buy a ship. Two eggs, a ship and an army.”
Ser Jorah: “And you have all three.”
Viserys: “I need a large army.”

• Renly: “I suppose it was all rather heroic. If you were drunk enough and found some poor riverlands whore to shove your prick inside and ‘make the eight.’”
Lancel: “More wine, your grace?”
Renly has certainly been influenced by Ser Loras. (See above, re: characters having lives off-screen.) Lancel just makes me laugh. How did they find such a perfect actor for that role?

• Sansa: “I don’t want someone brave and gentle and strong. I want [Joffrey]!”

• I want to grab Ned Stark out of Westeros, tie him down, and loofah that oil and dirt off of his face.

• Sansa is turning out to be rather bitchy. I guess gaining a whole kingdom for the price of a direwolf will do that to a girl.

• Speaking of direwolves, where are they? I miss their oversized ears.

• Theon’s and Tyrion’s prostitute has left the North and is heading south. As she keeps appearing, I assume she must be important.

• List of the dead: Viserys, assorted wildlings.

There’s no excuse for an episode review being this late. And, really, I have no excuse. But I did spend all seven days feeling horribly guilty.

Four out of four riverland girls.

Josie Kafka is a full-time cat servant and part-time rogue demon hunter. (What's a rogue demon?)

8 comments:

Mark Greig said...

You're not the only one who loved this episode, Josie. It was another fantastic episode of what is shaping up to be one fantastic season. But I am getting a little freaked out by how much Aidan Gillen is starting to look more like Gary Oldman.

Jess Lynde said...

This was the one that finally hooked me. I'm now completely engaged in the show for itself. Fantastic.

I disagree that Viserys's Golden Crown was any sort of a letdown. I loved that scene. Especially Dany's closing remarks and the look on her face as she said them. "Fire cannot kill [harm?] the true Dragon." Even though I knew what was coming, my heart was in my throat the whole time. Very satisfying.

Except for one thing. I've really enjoyed Harry Lloyd's performance as Viserys, and even though I was thrilled (and simultaneously horrified) by the bestowing of the Golden Crown when reading the book, here I found myself somewhat sad that we won't get to see him anymore. It's a minor complaint really.

It's becoming incredibly painful to watch Ned make bad choice after bad choice. It's too bad he couldn't have been at Tyrion's trial at the Eyrie. Because he could seriously use a lesson in the dangers of fighting with honor. Especially when you're opponents have no compunction about playing dirty.

I don't think Roz the prostitute is important. She's just the creators' favorite exposition whore. Resigned sigh.

Paul Kelly said...

Tyrion's "tits bouncing" confession was absolutely hilarious. In spite of his accent, that whole speech was delivered to perfection.

Sooze said...

Fantastic episode!

Jess, I too will miss Harry Lloyd.

For those of you who have read the book...your opinion if Viserys met his demise too soon in the TV version? Was there more "time" in the book to really grow to despise him? Even though the show did depict what a despicable person he was, I felt that he spent more time on-screen as a pathetic person than a villain...so even though I felt some satisfaction at his end (which was awesome and totally surprising, not knowing what was coming), I still felt more sorry for him than jumping up and saying "Yay, got his due!". I was just wondering if the book spends a little more time fleshing out his horrid-ness. Perhaps it is just having to do it in 6 episodes rather than a few hundred (?) pages.

Tyrion's confessions were just hilarious.

Ned, Ned, Ned...gotta love him though.

Great review Josie!

Jess Lynde said...

I remember loathing Viserys pretty quickly. We only ever see him through Dany's eyes, and even though she often tries to make excuses for his behavior, it's still clear that he's an utterly horrible bastard that has subjected her to years of physical and mental abuse.

I actually liked him more on the screen than in the book. Harry Lloyd brought more depth to him, for one thing. And he managed to make the evilness a little bit enjoyable to watch. Whereas on the page he's just an entitled d-bag, whom I immediately hoped would meet a horrible fate.

That was my experience, anyway.

Gus Brunetti said...

Much like Jess, this was the episode that hooked me for good. At first it was like a party with too many people and nobody I knew; I was just overhearing the conversations and not making much of it. Now I'm talking to them. Not all of them, but enough.

Josie, I prefer that you take your time to write a good review, as yours tend to be, than delivering a half-assed one on time. I'll always wait anxiously for them. I was actually kind of worried something had happened to you. Glad to have you back:)!

And I'm not the only one who minds the hair http://nikkistafford.blogspot.com/2011/05/game-of-thrones-ep-6-golden-crown.html . Thank God the characters are likeable.

I haven't read the books, so what I'll say is purely speculation; but I'm so sure it's true, it's borderline spoilerish: is Dany the last dragon? She didn't get burned by the eggs on the grill; also, in the pilot, she took that extra hot bath.

Let's have some fun with Ned's decisions? (some may be considered spoilers for those who haven't watched Ep7) http://www.buzzfeed.com/donnad/introducing-stupid-ned-stark

Harry Earle said...

What a brilliant episode :D And I didn't know any of the latin in your review Josie - did you spending the week learning the language?! ;) I am also glad that nothing was wrong, and that your review was the usual high quality.

My favourite scenes were the coronation (of course) and Sansa with Joffrey, I loved how it was played pretty straight with a heartwarming score, so taken in isolation (or more pointedly, through Sansa's POV) it could have been a cute reconciliation. But given what we know about Joffrey, it was completely chilling.

ChrisB said...

"If “The Wolf and the Lion” was structured in binaries, “A Golden Crown” is all about trios, quads, and more." I was really interested to read that, because I took it slightly differently. I agree that it was often about more than one person, but I saw it as about siblings, both real and chosen.

It opened with Cersei having a go about her brothers -- real siblings for whom she obviously cares. It was also an excuse to say some pretty inexcusable things to her husband. While I would never, never condone a man hitting his wife, there was the tiniest bit of my soul which thought she deserved a quick slap. What a wretched thing to say in front of your husband, not to mention his best friend.

One of Cersei's brothers, Tyrion, had another a good example of brothers -- real and made. He chose his real brother, Jamie, to be his champion. But, when the chips were down (and how!), Bronn stepped up to the plate and saved the day. Will these two now become closer?

We had the wonderful juxtaposition of the scene with Robert and Renly on the hunt, barely able to stand the sight of each other. On the other hand, we have Robert leaving Ned in care of his throne, saying to him "You are the brother I chose." Even I, who has never read the books, can see that Ned on the throne was the beginning of the end, but it was an interesting turn of events that put him there.

Likewise, we have Robb with Bran and Theon. Robb obviously cares deeply about Bran and is willing to literally lay down his sword for him. But, it is Theon, who has been raised in the same household, who comes through at the end. I found it interesting that Robb was so irritated by this act. And, I thought the scene with Theon and Ros was a wonderful insight into just how lonely Theon really is.

Moving on to the sisters. For the first time, I get the sense that Catelyn knows that Lysa has gone around the bend. I agree with Josie that it all took place off screen, but it is sad that she has lost that ally. And, for the first time we see Sansa and Arya fight on the same side of an issue. Granted, they still annoy each other, but they were sharing a common goal.

Finally, we have Dany and Viserys. Kudos to Emilia Clarke, not only for eating that heart which must be a chore no matter what it was made of, but for the final scene. I watched it three times, as the look in her eyes when Viserys threatens her child is incredible. She shuts down -- he is dead to her from that moment on, which is why I think she allows such an horrific end for him.

I could really feel the narrative ramp up in this episode. I feel as though all the pieces are in place to take us through to the conclusion of this part of the story.