Archive for February, 2012

Episode 7 ‘You Win, or you Die’ rewieval

Posted in TV Show on February 6, 2012 by baereth

Daddy issues: Jaime, who up until now has been a cocky figurative bastard, has ‘em. And so would you, if your dad was arguably the most powerful man in Westeros. Tonight we finally get to meet Tywin, and what a first impression he makes, eh? If ever a show was worthy of a TV-NV (Not for Vegans) rating, it’s this one. Tywin has marshaled the Lannister forces – some 60,000 strong. While field-dressing a deer, he dresses down Jaime, lambasting him for constantly worrying about his image and his somewhat chivalrous nature (recall, dear viewers, how he struck down the guard who stabbed Ned in the back of his leg while they were dueling two episodes back). Tywin’s a realist, and while he may have some respect for those with noble aspirations , he has little use for them (Ned Stark? “Brave man. Terrible judgment.”) The Lannisters are all about seizing power whenever and however they can, and if the deer blood and guts all over Tywin’s hands are any indication, Tywin’s not afraid to get those hands dirty. Jaime is sufficiently cowed: “Are you going to say something clever?”, Tywin snaps and while Jaime looks at the deer and thinks “I thought they smelled bad on the outside“, he’s smart enough to keep it to himself.

Daddy issues: we don’t see a whole lot of Jon Snow and Theon Greyjoy, as it seems that (for now, anyway) they’re on the sidelines of the game being played down south. But their scenes remind us that they’re both trying to emerge from the shadows of powerful fathers. Jon is ready to take his Night’s Watch vows; he and the new recruits gather to listen to a rousing speech by Lord Commander Mormont, extolling the virtues and rewards of “taking the black”. Lousy weather! No women! Crappy equipment! Terrible food! Death around every corner! (On the flip side, there’s a 401K, which the Night’s Watch will match at 2%, and the break room has a foosball table.) If all of this wasn’t bad enough, Jon gets the shaft – rather than join the Rangers, Jon’s tapped to be in the rear with the gear, sent to be a steward with Sam Tarly. Not many opportunities to live up to being Ned Stark’s kid doing laundry and making coffee, he thinks – but because a Stark does the right thing, Jon takes his vows. (And gets a nice gift from Ghost in return – someone’s arm.) Theon Greyjoy, meanwhile, is overseeing Osha’s captivity. He fills her (and us) in a bit more about his whole deal – he’s next in line to run House Greyjoy and the Iron Islands. Osha isn’t impressed, and neither are we; he’s a prince of Not Much, in his own way a prisoner of the Starks, and all he has is a title.

Daddy issues: Dany is in a bit of a pickle. Yes, Viserys is dead but with his death, Drogo seems to have lost all motivation to conquer Westeros. The Khal and Khaleesi have been idling in Vaes Dothrak. We find Dany roaming the marketplace with Jorah Mormont (I mentioned that Jorah is the son of the Night’s Watch Lord Commander, did I not?) and her entourage. Jorah, it should be noted, receives a message from Varys telling him he’s been pardoned…which, hang on, how did Varys know where to find Jorah? Unless…anyway, the group runs into the most suspicious wineseller ever, who turns out to be the best would-be assassin ever, as he clumsily tries to get Dany to take a sip of his obviously poisoned wares. (Boy, did that sound like the worst innuendo ever. My apologies.) Drogo just found a reason to invade Westeros.

Speaking of motivation, we get a considerable amount of insight into Littlefinger’s. At his House of Ill Repute, Littlefinger is conducting a coaching session with Roz and Unnamed Prostitute #1, and he starts monologin’. (And yes, if this scene were a Spice Channel porno short, it would be called Monologgin‘. Two G’s. Get it?) Littlefinger, it turns out, hasn’t really gotten over Catelyn. Bad enough that she picked Ned’s brother over her – after Ned’s brother died, she married Ned. Being a bit of a non-physically-threatening person, Littlefinger snarls that if he can’t fight someone, he’ll fuck ‘em. Figuratively, of course. And so when he tells Ned that he’ll back his play, and that he can ensure that the City Watch will as well, we can’t help but be a bit skeptical. After all, he even warned Ned not to trust him.

Ned, meanwhile, is making his move. He tells Cersei that he knows the truth about her and Jaime. Cersei is nonchalant – after all, she says, the Targaryans were inbreeding for generations (which pretty much explains Viserys). More important, one does what won must to win power. “When you play the game of thrones, you win or you die. There is no middle ground.” (And again, I really like how Lena Headey plays Cersei – even as she declares this to Ned, there’s a hint of sadness and pain in her eyes, a hint of the terrible price she knows she’s paid to attain her status.)

Ned doesn’t have a whole lot of time to ponder this – Robert’s hunting party has returned, and the news is not good. Robert’s been gored by a boar, and doesn’t have a whole lot of time left. He dictates his last decree to Ned – upon Robert’s death, Ned will be Protector of the Realm, taking charge of the Iron Throne until Joffrey is fit to rule. Ned FINALLY does something smart – he replaces “Joffrey” with “rightful heir”. (Then again, he fails to grasp the implications of Robert having Lancel Lannister as a squire.) And now Ned has to deal with the succession question. He tells Renly the truth about Joffrey – but Renly is not next in line to succeed Robert. We’ve heard Stannis, the middle brother, mentioned a couple of times, and we learn a bit more about him via conversation. Stannis is the warrior type, not a beloved leader of men, as Renly claims to be. So Ned’s in a bind – does he back Stannis, or Renly? Ned had better figure it out, as Robert dies an offscreen death. We’ll pour some out for Robert, even though he’d likely protest that we’re wasting wine, dropping to the floor with a sponge, mopping it up and wringing it out into a glass.

And what happens next seems inevitable. Ned is summoned to the throne room. Joffrey takes the throne. Ned produces Robert’s decree. Cersei tears it up. Renly steps forward and stakes his claim to…wait, no, Renly’s taken his men and fled south. Not to worry! Ned has the City Watch behind him. And Ser Barristan! He’s a man of honor, like Ned! Surely he’ll do the right thing and stand by Ned’s side…no, he just kind stands there, slack-jawed. And then things go straight to hell. Ned Stark: brave man, terrible judgment. Swords are drawn, spears are thrust, dudes – mostly Ned’s – are impaled, and the truth is revealed in the form of Littlefinger’s dagger at Ned’s throat, and Littlefinger’s contemptuous, mocking sneer: “I did warn you not to trust me.”


Episode 6 ‘The Golden Crown’ rewieval

Posted in TV Show on February 5, 2012 by baereth

It’s pretty clear from the get-go that the plotting and scheming in the first 5 (Jeez, has it really been that many?) episodes is giving way to action – events, as they say, are unfolding at a rapid clip. Ned doesn’t have a lot of time to recuperate from last week’s spear-in-the-leg. He’s visited in the infirmary by Robert and Cersei, one of whom is slightly miffed that he’s still breathing. Cersei yells at Robert, something about “he started it” and “my brother and his 50 guys could’ve been killed by Ned and his three”, Robert gives her a Medieval Cable Drama “QUIET, WOMAN!!!” and a slap, and it’s like “The Honeymooners” up in here. (“One ‘a these days, Cersei – POW! Right to da moon!”) Cersei stomps off in a huff, and Robert and Ned share a quiet moment, which maybe isn’t what Robert wants. “Killing things clears my head”, he tells Ned, reappoints him as The Hand, and heads off to hunt some boar. That’s about as chatty as tonight’s episode gets.

“Hunt some boar” somehow does not make the list of masturbation euphemisms Tyrion fires off while declaring his innocence before Lysa’s kangaroo court. After bribing a slow-witted guard to get him in front of Lysa (and her messed-up kid Robin – whom I mistaken referred to last week as “Robert”, because that’s his name in the books, but everyone seems to have enough problems keeping names straight that the producers decided to cut you noobs a bit of slack), Tyrion confesses his sins. These included milking his eel, flogging the one-eyed snake, skinning his sausage, making the old man cry (how have I never heard that one before?) into a pot cooking the family lunch. They don’t include making the attempt on Bran’s life, and Tyrion demands a trial by combat. Bronn the sellsword (“sellsword” is the Westeros term for mercenary. The More Thou Knowest!TM) steps up to be his champion, facing off against Ser Vardis (in his heavy, heavy suit of armor). After a few rounds of Rope-A-Dope – Bronn simply runs around the chamber dodging Vardis’ blows until Vardis is exhausted – Bronn cuts him down and tosses him out the Moondoor (which, to my opening point, is way cooler than the book’s version – in the book, it’s simply a door in the wall). “You didn’t fight with honor!”, Lysa screeches, to which Bronn shrugs and replies, “No. He did.” Snap.

Ned is back as The Hand, and trying to make the most of his reinstatement. While sitting in for Robert (who’s off on his boar hunt), Ned hears the woeful tale of some villagers: Gregor “The Mountain” Clegane and his men have been out stirring shit up, and by that I mean “pouring pitch over the village children and lighting them on fire”, along with the usual raping/pillaging. If it weren’t abundantly clear from last week’s horse beheading, Gregor’s a bit of a loose cannon – a batshit crazy, monstrously evil one. What was slightly unclear was who he’s in league with; Gregor is sworn to House Lannister, and that’s a problem. Well, for anyone but Ned, who orders The Mountain’s knighthood, lands, and wealth stripped, and tells his guys to find Clegane and kill him. And did someone say Gregor’s boss is Tywin Lannister, head of House Lannister? Well, shit, Ned says, get his friggly ass down here too. Snap. Ned’s aware of the stakes, so he tells Sansa and Arya that he’s sending them back to Winterfell. Arya’s bummed that she may have to end her lessons with the awesome, Inigo-esque Syrio (she’s progressing quite nicely, still needs to work on her mental game). Sansa’s bratty whining about her fair-haired Prince Joffrey and how she wants to have his blond babies FINALLY has some point: I’m amazed that we did not literally see a lightbulb pop up over Ned’s head as he realizes why Jon Arryn was so obsessed with finding Robert’s bastards. Of course, we picked up on this a while back: they’re all dark-haired. Like Robert. Joffrey? Blond. Like Cersei. And Jaime. Urp.

Speaking of blonds…is eating a raw horse’s heart more fun? Than what, exactly? We return to Vaes Dothrak, and right off the bat, we learn something interesting about Dany. Like our boy Kirk Camaron, she’s fireproof. Dany seems to be somewhat obsessed with those petrified dragon eggs; she places them in the fire, gets them nice and scorching hot, then picks them up with her bare hands, no probs. She’s become quite the little badass. Viserys, meanwhile, has become even more of a twat. Realizing at last that the Dothraki haven’t taken to his particular brand of leadership, he attempts to make off with the dragon eggs – valuable enough, he says, to buy him an army. Mormont stops him, and advises him to chill the fuck out, lest bad things happen. Mormont’s gift for prognostication and my gift for understatement collide: Dany’s horse-heart eating ceremony (with at least one Dothraki yelling “WOLVERINES!!!”) is interrupted by that killjoy Viserys, who staggers in armed (bad idea), drunk (worse idea), and in a mood. He grabs Dany, holds a knife to her throat, and starts making bitchy demands. He wants his golden crown! (This is what we English minors call “foreshadowing”.) Khal Drogo says OK, OK, I’ll give your crown. His guys quickly subdue Viserys. Drogo throws his gold belt and some other gold trinkets into a very, very hot pot over a very, very hot fire. It is at this moment that a couple of questions spring into the viewers’ minds. Those who haven’t read the book: “Um, is Drogo going to to what I think he’s going to do?” Those who’ve read the books: “Is this going to be as gnarly as the book describes?” Me: “Who does that actor that plays Viserys remind me of?” Drogo picks up the pot of molten gold. (The answers: Yes, yes, and Jamie Kennedy.) Viserys, quite dead, falls to the ground with a satisfying thud. “He’s no Dragon”, she remarks. OH SNAP.

Episode 5 ‘The Wolf and the Lion’ rewieval

Posted in Season1, TV Show on February 5, 2012 by baereth

Who killed Jon Arryn? During the tournament, Ned is thinking that it might have been Ser Hugh of Bloody-Cough-upon-Deathrattle. For starters, he was wearing brand spanking new armor for his joust, not that it did him much good…or maybe whoever gave it to him knew that the neck area was unprotected. Then, of course, he just happened to draw Gregor “The Mountain” Clegane as his opponent. Clegane is not the best of sports, and his chopping the head off of his underperforming horse was easily the second most disturbing thing in this episode. The Mountain is an outright psychopath, and only his brother Sandor, The Hound  – if not Man’s Best Friend, then certainly Ser Loras’…ok, Ser Loras’ second best friend (hi Renly!) – has the stones to try and stop him. Ned has good reason to be concerned about King Robert – for starters, he’s got another bastard, and he’s really let himself go, both physically and mentally. Now, Ned also needs to worry about himself, as Varys confirms that yes, Arryn was most definitely killed, likely with a colorless, odorless, flavorless poison. Inconceivable? Hardly.

Meanwhile, Catelyn and her crew are marching Tyrion to the Vale, where Jon Arryn lived with Cat’s sister Lysa. Tyrion, not an imbecile, makes a pretty good case for why he’s not behind the attempt on Bran’s life – “What sort of imbecile sends an assassin with his own blade?” Along the way, they’re set upon by Hill People. During the fracas, he begs Cat to untie him so that he can at least defend himself – ah HA! He’s going to try to escape! Surprisingly, or maybe not, he does not – Tyrion’s playing a deeper game, and wants to learn more about what’s happening with the remnants of House Arryn. Either that, or he’s too short to climb up on a horse. There’s a pretty gnarly fight scene, in which Tyrion kills a guy by smashing his head in with the blunt edge of a shield, easily the third most disturbing thing in this episode. They’re then met by a group of soldiers from The Eyrie, the Vale’s main fortress, perched atop a mountain. Cat and Tyrion are taken before Cat’s sister and Jon Arryn’s widow Lysa, who is…ok, here’s the thing with breastfeeding. If the kid’s old enough to ask for the boob, it’s probably time to wean. If the kid’s old enough to play Wii Tennis while on the boob, well, there are greater issues at play here. Lysa didn’t get that memo, and so we get what’s easily the most disturbing thing in this episode, the shot of her breastfeeding her six-year-old son Robert. Robert Arryn, son of the late Jon, heir to The Eyrie and the Vale, is not entirely right in the head. (Glad I’m here to tell you these things, aren’t you?) He wants Tyrion tossed off of the Eyrie walls – “Make him FLY, Mother!” – but Cat intervenes, and instead Tyrion ends up in a Skycell, the three-walled cells of The Eyrie. No need for a fourth; it’s a long way down. And the floor slopes ever so slightly towards the open end. Sleep well, Tyrion!

So the myriad characters and backstories are being funneled into these two overarching plotlines, the implications of which don’t bode well for King Robert. And as Arya discovers, it’s every man, woman, and eunuch for him/her/shim self. On a cat-chasing mission, Arya (hiding inside a dragon’s skull, so, hey, guess dragons aren’t just metaphors for bleached blonde wanna-be-king’s inadequacy issues) overhears Varys and Illyrio (the guy from Pentos who plotted with Viserys to sell Dany to the Dothraki) discussing, among other things, the plan to kill Bran, the preparations for the Dothraki invasion, and the need to kill Robert’s current Hand because he may know too much. Varys and Littlefinger have a bit of a spat; Varys threatens to tell Cersei about Littlefinger’s role in getting Tyrion arrested by the Starks, and Littlefinger responds by bringing up that guy from Pentos that Varys has been hanging out with. Touche’.

All of this serves to hammer the point home: Robert’s surrounded by enemies, and he’s barely holding on to power. And that makes for some poor decision-making. At the council meeting, Robert announces that he’s learned that Daenerys is pregnant, and that’s enough to firmly convince him to have her killed. The rest of his council agrees – except for Ned, who’s going to have to do the deed. Ned hands in his Hand badge, and all of a sudden realizes that maybe King’s Landing is not the best place to be hanging around, what with a drunken temperamental king and a bunch of Lannisters who are probably going to be pissed when they find out that the Starks have arrested Tyrion. When Robert sits to have a glass of wine (or several) with Cersei, it becomes pretty clear that they both realize the bind he’s in: he’s dumped the one guy who tried to do his best by Robert, there’s a whole army of Dothraki waiting to sack Westeros, and Cersei – well, she could give a rat’s ass. So Robert’s got nobody watching his back: he’s pushed Ned away, his advisors are all looking out for themselves, and even his brother Renly is thinking about the Iron Throne, thanks in no small part to Ser Loras. Very convincing fellow, that Loras. Then there’s Theon Greyjoy; he and his penis appear briefly, and everyone’s favorite whore Roz reminds him and us that the Greyjoys made a play for independence, and we get the sense that if things do go south for Robert, Theon and House Greyjoy aren’t going to go down with him.

So it’s just a matter of time before swords start swingin’. After finding yet another of Robert’s bastard kids, Ned and his bodyguards find themselves surrounded by Jaime Lannister and his men. Jaime’s not happy that the Stark’s have seized Tyrion – and he reminds Ned that he’s no longer the Hand, merely a lord of “somewhere very far away”. Littlefinger threatens to summon the King’s guard – if Ned is killed, Jaime’s next. Fine, whatever, says Jaime. “Kill his men”, he tells his soldiers. And they do – alas, poor Jory, we knew him…well, about as well as we knew any of the show’s umpteen supporting characters. Ned and Jaime square off, and have a few swings at each other before one of Jaime’s men puts a spear through Ned’s leg. This pisses Jaime off – he decks the trooper who interrupted a good fight, and storms off, but not before warning Ned: “My brother. I want him back.” Ned collapses, from pain, and I’m guessing the realization that he’s in waaaaaay over his head.

Episode 4 ‘Cripples, Bastards, and Broken Things’ rewieval

Posted in Season1, TV Show on February 5, 2012 by baereth

One of the takeaways from Episode 4 were a couple of reminders that there are fantastical elements at work, even if they are at the periphery. Across the Narrow Sea, Viserys still labors under the delusion that he’s important. He tries to impress Love Slave Doreah with his dragon tales, and we learn that he may or may not have delusions of grandeur. You see, when Viserys’ Targaryen ancestors conquered Westeros, they had a little help. From dragons. Which they rode. The Targaryens also kept the skulls of dead dragons, and used them to decorate the inside of their castle. Now, the question is, is Viserys just telling Doreah about all this dragon stuff to get her all hot and bothered? Or is there some truth to it? (Also, if you caught Viserys’ shoutout to Dragonslayer, give yourself a +10 Sword of Invisibility!) We also learn a little more about the epic winters that Westerosians face, thanks to Thorne’s creepy tale of an ill-fated Night’s Watch mission north of The Wall, during the last winter. And winter brings White Walkers with it.

Our growing cast of characters – we meet a couple of new ones this week – doesn’t have the time for such talk. Dragons? Winter? Zombies? Alliteration? Feh. They’re too busy worrying about their own necks, which can be a tricky thing in a world where alliances can turn on a dime. Case in point: House Greyjoy, who tried to rebel against King Robert early in his rule. This is explained to us by Tyrion, who explains it to Theon as well. We’ve seen Theon sulking around in at least two of the previous episodes, and now we know why. The Greyjoys were defeated, and Ned Stark took Theon – heir to House Greyjoy – as his hostage/ward. Tyrion is passing through Winterfell on his way to King’s Landing; he gives Bran an unexpected gift, the plans for a special saddle that will allow him to ride a horse instead of a Hodor. Hodor? Hodor. Hodor is the big guy whose job it is to carry Bran around. Hodor’s pretty much the only one in the episode who doesn’t launch into an expository monologue, because all he says is Hodor. (I see a Game of Thrones Drinking Game coming on. Hodor!)

The Night’s Watch gets a new recruit, in the form of Samwell Tarly. Poor Sam. Not only is he not Sean Astin, he’s been sent to The Wall by his father, who gave him a choice: take the Night’s Watch oath, or go on a hunting trip with Dad and accidentally be killed. Sam is pretty bloody worthless, but Jon Snow feels sorry for him – daddy issues – and takes him under his wing. And if you’re a GoT purist and have been wondering where Jon’s direwolf Ghost went, he pops his head in tonight to scare the bejesus out of one of Sam’s tormentors. Jon is becoming quite the leader of men; this might not be the best thing, however, as we learn that the recruits will soon be getting their Night’s Watch assignments, and that doesn’t bode well for mouthy bastards, both literal and figurative.

Speaking of bastards, after watching the scene where a somewhat humiliated Jaime is forced to stand guard outside King Robert’s bedroom while Robert has a shag with at least three women, is anyone surprised that Robert’s got at least one bastard of his own? (None of these guys has heard of lambskin, apparently.) Ned suspects as much – he’s looking into the suspicious circumstances of Jon Arryn’s death, and learns that Arryn and his squire Hugh were poking around King’s Landing, looking for something – or  someone – shortly before Jon died. Ned learns that they were particularly interested in a certain blacksmith, and guess what – the smith’s apprentice is Robert’s bastard son. Given what we know about the Lannisters, if I were that guy, I’d be making tracks for The Wall. And if I were Ned, I’d step up my game – in a great scene, Littlefinger takes a stroll with Ned and casually points out who is spying for whom. (I’m gonna pause here and say that even if you’re on the fence about the show, the performances have mostly been great, and everyone brought their A-game tonight; Sean Bean’s really good at showing just how pissed/pertified Ned is over the whole situation, and Aiden Gillen – who plays Littlefinger – brings a great combination of charm and smarm.) More and more, we get the sense that Ned’s in over his head. This brings added poignancy to his scene with Arya; she’s really liking Syrio’s tutelage, and has no desire to be some noble’s incubator. Sure, Ned’s just letting her have her fun, but the Starks have enemies – like, say, the Queen – and Arya may well have to use Needle’s pointy end for reals.

But let’s forget all about the plots and counterplots and just have a nice time enjoying the tournament, shall we? Yes, nothing like sport to take our mind off of our worries. And this tourney promises to be something special, as we are introduced to Sandor’s (the Hound, guy with the burned face) big brother, Gregor. Big, as in “The Mountain Who Rides”. Gregor is the Charles Barkley of the Westeros jousting circuit; well, he’s probably less of a role model than Chuck, as he’s the guy who gave Sandor those burns, shoving his younger brother’s face into a fire after he caught him playing with his toy knights. Gregor’s first opponent is Ser Hugh of The Vale. It doesn’t take long for Gregor to unhorse Hugh, but damn, it does take a long, arterial-spurty time for Ser Hugh to die. Say, wasn’t Ser Hugh Jon Arryn’s squire, who might possibly know something about the mysterious circumstances behind Arryn’s death? And now he’s dead. Huh.

The last scene shows why I think this episode worked, and why the series is hitting its stride. Rodrik Cassel, his glorious BeardchopsTM, and Catelyn are returning to Winterfell; while enjoying a nice MLT (mutton, lettuce, and tomato sandwich – the mutton is really lean, the tomatoes are so perky, love that) at an inn, who should barge in but Tyrion and his men. Tyrion, of course, immediately recognizes Cat. And Cat immediately recognizes that at least four guys in the bar are soldiers serving lords that have sworn fealty to House Tully and House Stark – she’s a Lady, all right, and she rattles off the names of those respective Houses, letting both Tyrion and us know exactly what’s up. The episode featured a lot of characters talking a lot of backstory, necessary to give us an idea of the scope of the conflicts at play (Starks v. Lannisters, King Robert v. Targaryens) and pushing along a major theme of the show: that the past is prologue. For exactly one second we’re not sure if Cat’s gambit is going to pay off. Then swords are drawn and pointed, and Tyrion’s facing the business end. It doesn’t bode well for him. Come to think of it, arresting the Stark-hatin’ Queen’s brother on suspicion of murder? Doesn’t bode well for Cat, either.

Episode 3 ‘Lord Snow’ rewieval

Posted in Season1, TV Show on February 5, 2012 by baereth

Ned arrives at King’s Landing, and promptly receives a lesson in how Government really works: bread and circuses, dude. “The King shits, and the Hand wipes”, Jaime Lannister tells Ned, and it’s fairly clear that King Robert is enjoying the benefits of a high fiber diet. Ned shows up at his first official function, a meeting of the King’s Small Counsel – his Cabinet, of sorts. We’re introduced to Varys, King Robert’s spymaster; Petyr “Littlefinger” Baelish, Robert’s money guy; and Renly, one of Robert’s brothers. The group is planning a big tournament to celebrate Ned’s appointment as Hand; of course, they’re spending money they don’t have, and of course, the Lannisters are only too happy to loan the Crown more cash, because they really do want Robert to succeed and have no ulterior motives whatsoever. It’s just like Cersei says to Prince Joffery: “When you’re the king, you can do whatever you want and no one will have a problem with that.” Also, she hates being married to Robert, and she encourages the kid to go whoremongering when he’s old enough (14 being “old enough” in happy-go-lucky Westeros). Oh, and something about how everyone who isn’t a Lannister is their enemy. She’s like the best Cheerleader Mom ever. Yes, King’s Landing is a hotbed of sedition, all right. It’s a good thing King Robert isn’t just sitting around, getting drunk and reminiscing about the first guy he killed to anyone who’ll listen. Robert also seems to enjoy talking smack to the Lannisters – the same guys who are basically footing the bill for his reign, to the tune of some 6 million in gold. Robert the Wise he ain’t.

Also arriving at King’s Landing: Catelyn Stark, who is brilliantly disguised as “Catelyn Stark In A Schmata”. It takes all of two seconds for Lannister soldiers to recognize her and bring her to Littlefinger. Turns out Littlefinger runs a couple of whorehouses, and still has a thing for Catelyn. Littlefinger reveals that he knows who owned that pretty dagger that was used in the attempt on Bran’s life: it used to be Littlefinger’s, but he lost it in a bet to…Tyrion. Littlefinger does not reveal the origin of his nickname. I’m guessing it has something to do with his penis. Ned’s beginning to realize that he and his family are in some pretty shit; he sends Catelyn back to Winterfell, and hires a swordfighting trainer for Arya. Syrio Forel looks like he’ll be a great instructor, but he keeps using the word “boy” when he addresses her. I do not think it means what he thinks it means.

Meanwhile, up North, winter is coming, and this does not bode well for the men of the Night’s Watch. Understaffed, poorly trained, and ill-equipped, they don’t make a good first impression on Jon Snow, who promptly beats the shit out of his fellow recruits. They, being the good sports that they are, attempt to kill him. Luckily, Tyrion arrives, and with a few witty remarks, manages to teach everyone a lesson. Come to think of it, what exactly is Tyrion doing up at The Wall? Yes, of course he wants to take a 700-foot piss – that’s something that the Night’s Watch recruiters tout as a perk, along with the occasional meal of bear balls (“A bit chewy!”) which certainly makes one want to chance being killed by Wildlings, the cold, or zombies.  Despite his snark, mostly aimed at Benjen Stark, who’s preparing to lead a mission beyond the Wall aimed at gathering intelligence about what’s out there butchering his men, Tyrion is on a fact-finding mission, and we get the sense that he’s not as dismissive of the White Walkers as he lets on. (A word here about Peter Dinklage’s performance; he’s excellent again. If his accent seems to be a bit forced, I think that’s intentional – playing the part of  the foppish, tail-chasing “The Imp” suits Tyrion’s purposes nicely.)

Meanwhile, across the Narrow Sea, the long ride to Vaes Dothrak – it’s somewhat easy to forget that the Dothraki, Daenerys, Viserys, and Jorah Mormont are actually going someplace – takes the gang through what appears to be a massive marijuana forest. Dany is quickly figuring out that being the Khaleesi has it’s perks; she can, for instance, order the help to bring her some tasty, tasty cooked dog instead of the usual horsemeat, and she can have her asshole brother killed if he touches her again. Tonight’s big news: Dany is pregnant, and everyone is excited and says that it is the work of The Great Stallion, who is the Dothraki god, or possibly Khal Drogo’s nickname, which is certainly better than Littlefinger.

So things are rotten in Westeros. And here’s where that slowly revealed backstory comes into play. We learned quite about about the throne that Robert usurped, from an effective source: Jaime. Mad King Aerys was, it seems, literally so: when Robert goads Jaime about stabbing Aerys in the back, he asks Jaime about Aerys’ last words. “The same thing he’d been saying for hours”, Jaime replies, clearly reliving some very bad memories. “Burn them all.” And when Ned goads Jaime for being an opportunist and a coward, doing nothing while Aerys executed his father and brother, Jaime points out that there were 500 other guys who also got to watch, and none of them dared raise a finger to stop it. Aerys was crazy, but he had a grip on Westeros. Robert? Not so much.

Episode 2 ‘The King’s Road’ reviewal

Posted in Season1, TV Show on February 4, 2012 by baereth

We’ll start with Daenerys. The Dothraki are hitting the trail, and Viserys, Dany, and Ser (SIC, BTW – that’s how author George R.R. Martin spells “sir” in the books) Jorah Mormont are going with them. With naught to see but the vast expanse of the plains (“I spy with my little eye, something that is…green.” “Grass.” “No – the answer is ‘More grass’”) Dany has plenty of time to think. And eat horse jerky. Horse jerky! It’s what’s for dinner. Dany has an ally in Mormont, and she makes a new special friend: a slave girl who teaches her a few new sex tricks. The Sex-Is-Power Metaphor is an anvil, as are the numerous shots of those dragon eggs. Those symbolize Daenerys hanging on to the hope that she will come into her own power. Either that, or her desire for a dragon egg omelet, or dragon eggs Benedict, anything but horse jerky, because damn.

The Starks have problems of their own. Bran is not quite dead. Catelyn sits shiva over him, and people are encouraged to pop in and say hi, and maybe bring a nice kugel. Jon Snow, being the good bastard that he is, does just that, but to say that Cat is happy to see him is a gross overstatement. Cat and Bran also have another visitor, who pops in unannounced, as assassins are wont to do. Couple of things to note: first, grabbing a Valerian steel blade is not recommended, and second, direwolves do make good pets! And speaking of direwolves, Arya’s also turns out to be pretty loyal. She and her friend, Butcher Boy #1, are playing at stick-swords when Ironic Good Prince Joffrey and Sansa come across them. Whatever sympathy we had for Joff when Tyrion was smacking him around like a rented mule earlier promptly vanishes when Joff picks a fight with Butcher Boy #1. Those of you who were picking up a Draco Malfoy vibe, give yourselves a pat on the back and a piece of horse jerky. Arya rushes to defend her friend, Joffrey makes the mistake of knocking her down, and oh, boy, bacon bacon BACON here comes Nymeria. Of course, laughing at kids who get bitten by direwolves makes one a bad person, so I’ll just chuckle softly to myself. Ned now has this crap to deal with; Robert seizes Arya (and Ned’s reaction here is telling: he’s pissed, but he’s also very frightened, for reasons that will become clear later) and demands a resolution. Sansa doesn’t do much to convince us that she’s not a petty spoiled brat; she feigns ignorance over what happened down by the river. Finally, it all gets to be a bit much for Robert, who decides that kids will be kids. Let the parents deal with them. Oh, and kill the direwolf, any one will do, Sansa’s will be fine. And while they’re at it, might as well kill Butcher Boy #1. Now we see the violence inherent in the system!

Let’s pop over to the Team Lannister locker room. Tyrion gets all of the best lines; he’s a cynic, and he’s very, very smart. Along with putting Joffrey in his place, there’s a key scene in which he reveals to Jaime and Cersei that he sorta knows what really went down with Bran’s “accident”. And it’s pretty clear to us that Cersei and Jaime know that he knows. But! Tyrion knows that they know that he knows. And I suspect that Cersei knows that Tyrion knows that Cersei and Jaime know that he knows. I’m not sure what I just typed there. The point is, Tyrion’s a sharp guy, Cersei’s weaving a few webs, and Jaime’s kind of a douchebag.

So the pieces are starting to be arranged on the chessboard, as it were. It’s not really a surprise that Bran wakes from his coma. His timing kind of sucks, as two of his protectors have bailed on him. (Also, they’re running out of direwolves.) Ned and Jon hit the (Kings)road; Jon is headed north to join the Night’s Watch, Ned is going south to King’s Landing with Robert, and he and Ned have a nice moment father-bastard son moment before they part ways. If you’re starting to think that maybe Ned shoulda stayed at Winterfell, you get another piece of horse jerky: Cat discovers a long slender golden hair at the crime scene. Could it be Cersei’s? And could this mean…attempted murder?  Cat thinks so, and Ser Rodrik Cassel does as well – that was a pretty expensive knife, and no way could some random dude have gotten it. It had to have been given to the assassin, unless of course he killed the previous owner, or stole it. But that’s crazy talk. And as it turns out, Ned’s fear of what Robert might do to Arya was legit: Robert thinks that finding and killing Daenerys is a pretty good, if somewhat morally reprehensible idea. Robert senses that a war is coming, and he’ll do whatever is necessary to hang on to his throne.

Episode 1 ‘Winter is coming’ reviewal

Posted in Season1, TV Show on February 3, 2012 by baereth

We begin our tale in The North, at The Wall. The Night’s Watch (Jesus, these people do love their lofty titles) is tasked with patrolling the snowy woods north of The Wall, which guards the Seven Kingdoms of Westeros against…what, we’re not quite sure, but it’s probably not moose, even though moose bites can be pretty nasty. Three Night’s Watch Brothers are out looking for a group of Wildlings. One of the troopers finds ‘em, alright; all chopped up, their body parts arranged in a bloody circular pattern, and oh, there’s a little dead girl nailed to a tree. It’s not TV- it’s HBO! The freaked-out trooper rushes back to his comrades to tell them of his gruesome discovery. They suspect that the killers are either wolves, or perhaps other Wildlings, or a moose (a moose once bit the captain’s sister). When they return to the Wildling’s final resting place, of course it’s empty. And of course something that looks an awful lot like dead Wildling zombies with pretty, pretty blue eyes chases the Night’s Watch guys through the forest. There’s a pretty gnarly beheading. I’m guessing we’re gonna get a lot of those.

Up until the last five minutes, the rest of the episode is fairly light on plot, and mostly serves to introduce us to some of Westeros’ other people and places. First, we’ll go to Winterfell. Winterfell! It’s only a model. (All kidding aside, the show looks tremendous; the location shooting, costumes and armor, and CGI work are all pretty impressive.) Winterfell is the home fortress of Eddard “Ned” Stark, his wife Catelyn, and their kids – Robb, the oldest; Bran, his younger brother; Sansa, the older sister; and Arya, the younger sister. Also hanging around is the aforementioned Jon Snow, Ned’s bastard son. The kids spend their time doing things like climbing on the castle walls, making dresses, and watching Dad chop off guys’ heads. In arguably the best father-son moment since Kevin Costner played catch with Ghost Dad in Field of Dreams, Ned has Bran, Robb and Jon watch as he executes the surviving Night’s Watch Brother from the opening scene. (But not before warning Ned about the White Walkers, who must be the reeeeeeally slow-moving variety of medieval fantasy zombies, because how the hell did that guy get away?) Desertion is frowned upon in The North. “The man who passes the sentence should swing the sword”, Ned somberly tells his sons. “Now, who wants a McMutton Happy Meal?” On the way home, the Starks come across a half-eaten deer carcass, and a dead wolf  mother – a Direwolf, which, says Ned, is a giant wolf that lives in The North and is also the name of his Wolfmother tribute band – and her pups. Each of the Stark kids gets their own direwolf pup. Beats the hell out of the hamster my parents got me after they took me to my first beheading.

Let’s head south, to King’s Landing, where pretty Cersei Lannister and (IMPORTANT) her brother,  prettier Jaime Lannister, are hanging out by the corpse of the dead Jon Arryn. Jon Arryn, it turns out, was the King’s Hand. The King’s Hand, it seems, is the guy who does all of the King’s grunt work while the King is off drinking, feasting, and whoring. The King, one Robert Baratheon, needs a new Hand, and the Lannisters are pretty sure it ain’t going to be Jaime. A while back, the Lannisters and the Starks joined Robert Baratheon in successfully overthrowing Mad King Targaryen; Robert and Ned are good friends. In fact, Robert was engaged to wed Lyanna Stark, but she died at the hand of Mad King Targaryen. So Robert married Cersei instead, to strengthen his rule, and now looks to further solidify his reign by appointing Ned as his Hand. Jon Arryn, as it happens, was married to Catelyn Stark’s widow. On second thought, let’s not go to King’s Landing. ‘Tis a silly place.

We’ll flit across the Narrow Sea, where we meet the last of the Targaryen clan, Viserys and his sister, Daenerys. They’re as close as a brother who ogles his naked teenaged sister and a sister whose brother is about to sell her off to a bunch of Klingon-looking warriors can be. Viserys wants Westeros back, and he’s figured out a way to get it: wed his sister to Khal Drogo, leader of the Dothraki, a scary bunch whose idea of a good wedding includes a gangbang and eviscerating the guy who complained because he specifically requested the fish, not the chicken. The Dothraki army is huge, and fierce, and having his sister as their queen is just the ticket to getting that huge and fierce army across the Narrow Sea and over to Westeros. (And unless that Sea is reeeeeeeally Narrow, so are a shitload of boats.) Khal Drogo and Daenerys are “wed”; she gets some lovely gifts, including three petrified dragon eggs, because someone didn’t bother to check the registry.

All of this serves very little purpose, other than to lay the groundwork for what’s to come. Things start moving forward when the King and his posse arrive at Winterfell, and Robert asks Ned to serve as his Hand. He wasn’t kidding about the drinking, feasting, and whoring. There’s a fair amount of that. Cersei and Catelyn make small talk; Cersei is clearly not amused by King Robert’s drunken loutishness, and Catelyn clearly is. It’s also clear that they TOTALLY hate each other. It’s like the best episode of The Real Housewives of Westeros ever! Also attending the party is Tyrion Lannister, who unlike SOME epic fantasy Small People (coughelijahwood) is played by an actual Small Person (the great Peter Dinklage). Tyrion and Jon Snow share a moment. Also sharing a moment: Ned and yet another Stark, Benjen, a Brother of the Night’s Watch, who tells Ned that the dude he beheaded? Yeah, he might have been right about the White Walkers. Oops.

And then the spurs are put to the horse, as it were. First, Catelyn receives a letter from her sister, Jon Arryn’s widow: she says that Arryn was (gasp!) murdered, and it was the (no!) Lannisters that did it! This puts Ned in a bit of bind; such an accusation is not tossed out lightly, and if the Lannisters are making a play for the throne, it doesn’t bode well for the Starks. Next, while Ned and King Robert and the rest of the hungover guests decide to go on a boar hunt, Bran decides to go for a quick climb up the castle walls. He hears something that sounds suspiciously like a guy having sex with his sister, peeks into a window, and sees a guy (Jaime Lannister) having sex with his sister (Cersei Lannister). All together now: EWWWWWWWWW. Well, it’s terribly unfortunate that young Bran saw this: I mean, incest, yuck, but also the fact that hey, this is the QUEEN, and King Robert might not look too kindly on her banging some dude. Especially if that dude’s her brother. (Urrp.) But really, what’s Jaime gonna do? Throw the poor kid out of a five story window? Is he that big of a prick? Things he doesn’t do for love?