Sunday, May 1, 2011

Game Of Thrones "Lord Snow" Review

Winter is coming. This foreboding hovers over "Lord Snow." It begins with the old woman who tells a scary story to Bran because he prefers scary stories to happy ones. It continues between Ned and his daughter, Arya, as he tells her gently that she needs to be strong for the coming winter--she's a summer's child who never felt the cold or experienced the darkness of the winter, and he's worried. At The Wall, the thought of winter terrifies the experienced and withered men of the Night's Watch because the Night's Watch has become weak, undermanned and underfunded. When winter comes, they fear they won't be able to protect the seven kingdoms from the creatures that lurk behind the Wall.

The stories about the looming winter and the white walkers is awesome. In fact, storytelling's among the more prominent themes in "Lord Snow." Tyrion considers the stories from the North of The Wall as simply that--stories. Meanwhile, King Robert insists that Lannister the Senior and Jaime Lannister tell their respective stories about the first man they killed. Joffrey tells his mother what he'd do as the King of Westeros, how he'd invade the North and kill its people. Tyrion tells Jon the various stories of the boys who joined the Night's Watch--these boys aren't much different from the bastard. They, too, were cast aside and unwanted by the people in their lives. Each story has meaning on top of meaning. Through these stories, the various characters communicate something with whom they are speaking. It may be a lesson, a warning or both. In fact, it's mostly both.

Tyrion traveled with Benjen and Jon Snow for an unknown reason. Maybe he wanted distance from his incestuous siblings. In King's Landing, we learn that the dagger used by the assassin belonged to Tyrion. Cat's former lover, Peter, originally owned the dagger but he lost it in a bet with The Imp. The dagger doesn't make Tyrion suspect number one though. I digress actually. The point, Tyrion traveled to The Wall. He continually judged the men of the Night's Watch and their purpose. He believes that the Night's Watch waste their lives protecting the seven Kingdoms of Westeros from white walkers and other wildings; however, his tune slowly changes. First, Benjen lectures Tyrion about his judgments, his ability to dismiss the Night's Watch as a joke. On the contrary, Tyrion argues, he respects the Night's Watch; he simply has trouble believing in white walkers and other foul creatures. Benjen knows that Tyron hasn't seen what he's seen North of The Wall. If he had, Tyrion wouldn't be so dismissive. Later, the elder Mormont (I think) and another man plead with Tyrion to ask the queen to send more men to The Wall. Once winter comes, half of the present men will die. Incidents beyond The Wall suggests the existence of white walkers is no longer fable. The urgency in their voices possibly makes a believer out of Tyrion because he's no longer laughing or smiling.

It's one of the best scenes in the series thus far. The Wall's been somewhat of a mystery even with what happened in the teaser of the pilot episode. Earlier in the episode, Jon Snow was discouraged by the back stories of the men who make up the Night's Watch. He was discouraged that his father lied to him about The Wall. But, in actuality, it's not a lie. This scene, and the one in which Tyrion explained to Jon who his compatriots are, made The Wall as important as it looks from a distance. Furthermore, stories are just stories. One would be a fool to trust them without both sides.

King Robert's story has a much different effect. Whereas stories involving The Wall validated the military and its men, King Robert's story about the man he first killed communicated a message about how stories are written...sort of. Robert said that they never write about how those with fatal wounds shit their pants before death. That sentence seems representative of the spirit of the show. George RR Martin isn't concerned with glorifying wars, government and its leaders. Robert insists that Jaime tells him, again, what The Mad King's last words were. They were, "burn them all." The scene was loaded with subtext and meaning that possibly eluded me as a rookie in the world of Westeros. All I know is, Jaime's planning to kill King Robert. Robert knows that Jaime's envious of his throne. The scene felt like two men who communicated what they know about one another without openly stating it.

Joffrey, meanwhile, tells his mother what his plans as king would entail--nothing less than murdering the entire Stark family. The boy wants nothing to do with Sansa but his mother reminds him that he can choose to lay with the virginal girl or fuck all the whores he wants. What he cannot do as King is murder his own people, with armies that could kill him in retaliation. The kid's young yet, and he'll learn about the crown and the throne as the years pass. The lesson his mother wants him to take away from the conversation: do not trust anyone who isn't family. The scene's representative of the strongest part of the show--its portrayl of power and its characters' pursuit of power.

Ceresei's a rare powerful female figure in the series. The men dominate the scenes that involve the pursuit of power. But the other women in Westeros are learning. Some are young. Others are old. Arya shamefully held her sword when her father came into her room until Ned promised that he'd help her learn how to master the sword, to become a powerful woman. Meanwhile, Daenerys has more power than Viserys because she is the Khaleesi of the Dothraki's. This power surprises her, especially when she becomes the difference between her brother's life and death. Catelyn uses her influence over Lord Belshei (or Bolshei?) in her efforts to find out the truth behind Bran's fall.

The women are collectively motivated by something that happened to them. Arya expresses guilt over the death of Micah--the boy she invited to practice sword fighting with. Her hatred towards Joffrey motivates her to become more than someone with hope of power or force. Daenerys, of course, wants to be a good wife to Drogo but her contempt and disdain towards her brother no doubt motivates her to embrace her role as Khaleesi; however, the moments of empowerment are followed by sobering bits of reality. Ned watches Arya train with Sirio with a smile and then it becomes a worried expression as he hears swords clashing in his head, and he watches Sirio continually counter Arya's moves with a death blow. But, Ned, your daughter's just learning. Viserys, meanwhile, nearly killed his sister. It's a man's world still.

Other Thoughts:

-The King's court is $6 million in debt. Ned's wondering how in the hell the kingdom can be in debt. This piece of news doesn't bode well for the depleted ranks of the Night's Watch.

-This episode has a tremendous amount of exposition in those stories. David Benioff and D.B. Weiss integrated the exposition well into the narrative because the stories throughout the scenes had great meaning. I tried to cover the most important parts of the episode but I feel like I won't fully understand or, rather, appreciate certain scenes in "Lord Snow" until later in the series.

-Daenerys is pregnant already. That was fast.

-Robb had one scene with Bran in which he tried to figure out how Bran fell. Bran doesn't remember. The little boy admits he prefers death over being a crippled. With the Lannisters and the King back in King's Landing, Winterfell probably won't be too insane. But what the hell do I know.

-I think Cersei and Jaime's scene suggested that Jaime hired the assassin to kill Bran but maybe the dagger scene meant to imply Tyrion as responsible though it's doubtful. I just want to cover my bases.

-David Benioff and D.B. Weiss wrote the episode. Brian Kirk directed it.

-So far, Game Of Thrones is awesome. The writing in "Lord Snow" was terrific. If there are more speeches in the ensuing episodes then I'll be a happy man. Jon Snow, Tyrion Lannister and Arya Stark are stealing scenes in every episode. Actually, Kit Harrington, Peter Dinklage and Maisie Williams are stealing scenes. The rest of the cast is great as well. I look forward to watching and writing about the series every week.

THE YOUTUBE CLIP OF THE WEEK

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Originally, I titled the blog Jacob's Foot after the giant foot that Jacob inhabited in LOST. That ended. It became TV With The Foot in 2010. I wrote about a lot of TV.