Since my very last post on this blog was a review for the book that gives this series its name, I hope it comes as no surprise to anyone that I finally got around to finishing reading A Game of Thrones. While it was a very satisfying read and I’ve already jumped into the second book A Clash of Kings, it does present a sort of problem for my reviews for this site, which is to stick to reviewing the television series and not allow my emotions towards the book to heavily color these reviews. I also have to avoid giving any sort of spoilers away for future episodes of the show since I know where everything else is finally heading. Well, anyways back to the show, tonight’s episode wasn’t quite as good as last weeks, but I would put it on the same level as the pilot, although it suffers from the pilot’s problem which is having to introduce an incredibly large number of new characters to the series and therefore doesn’t give much time to continue advancing the plot, although it does lay the ground work for a lot of the stuff that will happen later in the series.
This week’s episode is split practically all over the entire continent of Westeros as well as the land across the narrow sea, where Daenarys and the Dothraki make their way across the massive grass lands. Ned Stark has finally arrived in the capital, King’s Landing, and is almost immediately awakened to what a rat’s nest King Robert’s court is. A slew of new characters are introduced at the first council meeting, where Ned is immediately placed in charge and it is insinuated that Robert rarely ever takes an active part in governing. The two most important of the new characters that you meet are Lord Petyr Baelish, more often known by Littlefinger and Varys, a eunuch and the master of basically espionage and discovering hidden information. Littlefinger is played by the marvelous Aiden Gillen who I know mostly from the best TV show ever, The Wire, where he plays Baltimore Mayor Tommy Carcetti. It is outright stated that when Littlefinger was younger, he was much in love with Ned’s wife, Catelyn. Through Littlefinger, you learn the source of the knife that was sent to kill young Bran Stark in his bed. It belonged to Tyrion Lannister. In the book, you don’t find out until much later for sure that it wasn’t Tyrion. However, in like the very next scene of the show, you see Jaime Lannister and the Queen discussing how Jaime had the murder ordered. I kind of have to question that decision.
Back at the Wall, you see Jon Snow making short work of all of the new recruits who will soon be his brothers in the Night’s Watch. Jon has had castle training and knows how to use a sword, whereas most of the other boys were forced to be part of the Watch. Tyrion quickly humbles the boy and lets him know what an arrogant prick he’s been right before the other boys can beat the tar out of him in the bunks. At Winterfell, Bran has awoken from his coma but doesn’t remember any of what happened, and we get our first glimpses into the kind of man that Robb, his older brother, will grow into. In the land of the Dothraki, Daenarys finally gets a chance to put her absolute dick of a brother, Viserys, into his place and it is glorious and very rewarding. We also discover that she is with child, and that her relationship with Khal Drogo has become much warmer than his normal rapings ever since she decided to take an active part in their sex life. While the book handled Dany and Drogo’s relationship much different, I’m not necessarily going to call the show’s decisions bad, just different.
Other highlights from the episode include the first appearance of Syrio Forel, who becomes young Arya Stark’s sword fighting instructor after her father discovers the sword that Jon gave her in the previous episode. Arya’s plot arc over the first book is one of my favorites and this is one of the key turning points for her on the show. The scene where Tyrion pisses off of the top of the Wall is a nice little call back to him doing exactly what he said he wanted to in the last episode. And a scene where Jaime Lannister, King Robert Baratheon and the head of the Kingsguard Barristan Selmy share haunted stories of the first time they killed a man. This episode did a really good job of fitting in, naturally, the back story and history of Westeros in a way that didn’t feel too forced.
This episode was, unfortunately, a lot slower and full of less suspense and tension than last week’s episode. I know how action-packed and full of shocks and twists that the rest of the season will be so this doesn’t worry me at all. This episode had to exist in order to make sure that everything else made sense for the rest of the season, and once again, this episode was quite faithful to Martin’s orginal words, although this one, more than other two, had scenes that weren’t actually in the book. That’s ok though cause the scenes were all actually pretty interesting and added some needed character development to the different characters it was showing.
Episode Score: A-