I wonder, will Game of Thrones ever produce a self-contained episode? If so, will it be like "The Kingsground"? While the series is only two episodes old, Benioff and Weiss didn't introduce any more characters and, thus, allowed viewers such as myself (who never read the book) to feel comfortable within the world of Westeros and to know and understand the various characters better. Now, I used the word self-contained in the broadest sense of the word because "The Kingsground" is hardly self-contained as it advances several stories and deepens the mythology of Westeros, its kingdoms, the political divide as well as the law & order of the land. After all, it's only the second episode of the series.
The conclusion of "Winter Is Coming" introduced the audience to the incestual side of the Lannister siblings through the eyes of ten year old Bran. Jaime wanted to protect he and his sister's love, so he pushed Bran out the window and let the child fall to his imminent death. Only, Bran didn't die. The boy lays in one of the towers in his father's home, comatose and possibly paralyzed for the rest of his life. While Winterfell hopes for the best, Jaime and Cersei await the inevitable death of the child, thus securing their secret once more. Jaime goes as far as to hire a butcher, or hit man, to kill the child but that fails. Following their failure, the Lannisters don't have many more scenes. The most interesting aspect of the story doesn't even involve the Lannisters and their lies. It involves the idea of fate and the difference between life and death. Broad themes but incredibly focused in the scenes revolving around Bran.
The Dire wolves were perceived as a bad omen when the Starks found them in the pilot. Ned wanted to kill the five wolves but, through the intervention of fate (or rather another character), their lives were saved because the number of dire wolves equaled the number of Stark children (with even a "bastard" wolf for Snow). Well, the wolves are more intrinsically linked with the Starks than the children, or viewers such as myself, recognized. When the butcher tries to kill Bran, his wolf protects his life as he slaughters the would-be assassin. Later, when Arya's inches away from Joffrey's sword, her dire wolf saves her life by biting into the arm of the prince. The significance and meaning of the dire wolves is a mystery. Perhaps, this is nature's way of protecting innocent children from evil men and women or maybe the dire wolves existence in the lives of the Stark family suggests a moral order that's kept well beyond the mortal kings and queens of Westeros but I doubt George RR Martin reduces morality to simple black and white in his novels. Regardless, it's nice to know that the innocent children of the Stark family have protection from the enigmatic dire wolves.
Their relationships with the dire wolves extends beyond mere protection and into life and death itself. Arya's incident with Prince Joffrey ended with discipline for the two children and the execution of one of the dire wolves (specifically, Sansa's wolf--Lady). Ned volunteers to execute the dire wolf because the wolf's from the North, and she deserves better than death by the hands of a butcher. His girls are full of tears, and Ned looks mournful as he pets the wolf one last time. Lady's death, however, happens at the same moment in which Bran awakes from his slumber. Coincidence or fate? I lean towards the latter because of the evidence throughout the episode. Besides the dire wolves, a number of characters refer to the gods and prayer. Cat, Bran's mother, sat in the room for, presumably, one month as she prayed for her son's life. Robert briefly brought up the idea of gods during lunch with Ned on the journey to King's Landing. Maybe divine intervention's carried out through those strange animals most adults don't want as pets.
Fate's a funny thing though. Cat's convinced that the Lannisters were involved in Bran's fall from the tower so she heads towards King's Landing to personally tell her husband about the new development. The incident between Arya and Joffrey brought Ned and Robert back to Westerfell to deal with the fall out. Cat expressed downright fear of being apart from her husband. Not just because the Lannisters, who they believe killed the Hand of the King, remained in Westerfell but because of Ned's one-time adulterous affair. For whatever reason, the fates want to keep Ned and the queen apart and that obviously means something in this world.
Meanwhile, Jon Snow leaves for The Wall. His departure re-opens old wounds within the heart of Cat. She's disgusted by his presence as he's as a constant reminder of Ned's adultery. Of course, her revulsion's why Jon decided to become a watch man at The Wall. Jon wants to be more than a bastard in the eyes of his step-mother and the whole of Winterfell. Before he leaves, he gives Arya a sword he made for her. Jaime Lannister plants seeds of doubt within Snow about The Wall but Snow ignores him. Tyrion, however, clearly points out that Snow will be serving with criminals--that The Wall's Night's Watch isn't full of noble souls, just those who didn't want castration. The Wall's sort of Westeros' rock of Sisyphus. No one believes that dangers lurk behind The Wall. The dominant opinion is that the threat's have disappeared, that men have protected Westeros from nothing for the last 8000 years. Jon Snow can't catch a break. With a desire to be more than what he is, he's unknowingly signed up for a life with rotten criminals with rotten souls. Absolute blood's crucial in Westeros though. If Tyrion had any other name, he would've been left to die in the woods because he's a dwarf.
Speaking of Tyrion, the character stole the spotlight in episode two. He's become sort of a mentor to Jon Snow because he relates to the bastard's Other-ness in Westeros. Beyond that, the episode gave Tyrion some depth. The pilot introduced a character who prefered the company of prostitutes and the presence of a book. Episode two explained why he's such an avid. Tyrion's mind needs books like Jaime's sword needs a whetstone. And Tyrion has a sense of loyalty. He slaps around Joffrey after the Prince makes light of Bran's situation.
I feel like this review's largely incomprehensible so far because I'm darting between various thoughts and ideas about what happened without saying much about anything, so I'm going to transition into Other Thoughts for the sake of more focus:
-Daenerys began her sexual awakening storyline in this episode. One of the women Viscerys bought to take care of his sister. Last week, I wondered if she would morph into a Buffy-esque figure of female empowerment and strength but I think such a role's reserved for little Arya. Daenerys' arc's different--it's more about power and control. The woman on top position teaches control and power. I don't think Viscerys thought about the possibility of his sister possessing more power than he. Also, we learned the exiled Jorah Mormont is a fugitive for selling bandits into slavery. Viscerys promised he wouldn't be punished for such nonsense under his rule.
-Robert and Ned learned of Daenerys' marriage to the Dothraki lord. It makes Robert's blood boil as he recounts the history between he and the Targaryen family. The scene's notable for what we learn like how some kingdoms refer to the King as usurper--he has enemies beyond the Targaryen family. The Mad King treated Robert's sister brutally. Ned also spoke briefly about the mother of Jon Snow with a mournful and pained expression. Also, Jaime Lannister killed The Mad King--something to note.
-David Benioff and D.B. Weiss wrote the episode. Tim Van Patten directed it.
-Overall, I loved "The Kingsroad." I'm still getting used to the narrative structure of the show, its characters, the world, etc but I thought episode two was outstanding.