Game of Thrones S1E5 review
|REVIEWS - TV|
GoT gets back on track...
"The Wolf and the Lion"
Another week, another puzzling episode of Game of Thrones; puzzling not in content, but in consistency of quality. Last week I began to feel GoT was making a steady decline in quality, spreading itself too thin across too many platforms, trying desperately to tell too many stories at once. This week, then, was a pleasant surprise.
It was a pleasure to focus almost entirely on King’s Landing and the political dynamics of court as well as Ned’s continuing struggle to uncover the truth of his predecessor’s death. It felt as if the writers had heard my plea in last week’s review to return to a more Ned-focused narrative, and they certainly delivered. It was also a treat to get some more screen time with Varys, who it must be said is played beautifully by Conleth Hill. Particularly pleasing was the scene between Littlefinger and Varys as they quipped and exchanged theoretical threats while smirking and calling each other friends.
The second day of the Hand’s tourney took place with King Robert eager to ride out and test his mettle as a warrior. Clearly having delusions, he’s eventually talked down by Ned, who argues that any man riding against Robert would sooner fall off his horse than risk knocking the King off his. It seems Ned has forgotten about Jaime Lannister. The tourney itself was a showdown between Ser Gregor “The Mountain” Clegane and Ser Loras Tyrell, the Knight of Flowers. This was our first look at the Knight of Flowers, and he is every bit the ponce he is in the books. A nice piece of casting. When Loras manages to unhorse The Mountain, Gregor cuts his horse’s head off in a fury then starts attacking Ser Loras. Enter Sandor Clegane, Gregor’s brother who swiftly steps in and begins a tense duel with Gregor. This was an action-packed fight scene that actually had me on the edge of my seat, despite knowing the outcome and the swordplay was certainly entertaining to watch.
The one scene featuring Bran at Winterfell with Maester Luwin was a clever way of grounding audiences once again in the mythology of the Seven Kingdoms, as he recited the sigils, words and lords of the different regions of the realm as well as giving Theon Greyjoy some screen time and insight into his somewhat inflated ego.
Meanwhile, the first noticeable alteration to the credits came by taking us to the Eyrie, a fort famous for being impregnable and the seat of House Arryn. Catelyn still holds Tyrion prisoner, believing him responsible for the attempt on Bran’s life, but as Tyrion points out, only a fool would send an assassin to do the deed with his master’s weapon. Before Tyrion has a chance to make any more sense, the travelling party are attacked by the local hill tribes. The action that takes place has certainly stepped up in quality since some of the earlier battle scenes witnessed in the first two episodes. Particularly satisfying was Tyrion poking holes out of a tribesman’s face with the butt of a shield. When it comes to blood, guts and sex, GoT certainly doesn’t pull its punches.
Once at the Eyrie, it quickly becomes evident that Lysa Arryn, Catelyn’s sister, has lost what was left of her addled mind. Openly breast-feeding her six year old son, she bluntly calls for Tyrion’s imprisonment, saying he is responsible for her husband’s death, shoving him into one of the Eyrie’s infamous sky cells. Not quite as severe as described in the books, the cell is a paradoxical prison in that it offers freedom: by way of a thousand foot drop. To my surprise, the producers, set design and art department did manage to pull off the spectacular feel of height and scope that the Eyrie has in the novels and I was suitably impressed by the sky cells in particular.
At the meeting of the Small Council, Varys announces that he has had word from Ser Jorah Mormont that Daenerys Targaryen is with child. Robert is concerned enough to actually attend the council meeting and urges action against Dany by way of assassination. Ned, ever the honourable moralist, abjectly refuses to take part in any plot against Daenerys and immediately resigns his position as Hand of the King, telling Robert he’s no longer the man Ned knew. The words of House Baratheon, Ours Is The Fury, come into full force here as Robert shouts Ned out of the Council Chamber, threatening to put his head on a pike above the castle walls. Finally the episode came to a rather bloody climax as Jaime Lannister arrives outside a brothel where Ned has been questioning the mother of one of Robert’s bastards. Ned, no longer Hand of the King, is all but powerless against Jaime and his men, and while Ned and his guards manage to fight off a few of the Lannisters, ultimately the battle ends with Jaime skewering Joey, Ned’s right hand man, through the face with a knife. Ned and Jaime finally come to blows in a heated battle that was great to watch and another example of entertaining swordplay, but ends with one of the Lannister guards shoving a spear through Ned’s leg and outright cheating. Jaime rewards said guard with a smack to the face, clearly appalled at this breaking of the rules of combat.
The absence of Jon Snow and Daenerys may have by keenly felt by some fans, but their omission from this episode felt justified, even necessary. In the novels it can often take a long time before we’re returned to characters that have recently had interesting developments, and the fact that the writers seem to be applying this same thought process to the TV show is absolutely a positive thing. Besides, it will make the eventual catch-up with Jon and Dany that much more interesting, particularly if the writers dedicate almost an entire episode to them as they did with King’s Landing this week. This new approach to the pacing gave a much needed breath of life into the show and some clearly defined focus – it might even have made this the best episode yet. Here’s hoping it sticks.
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