This week on HBO’s Game of Thrones, two roads diverged in a godswood and Ned Stark wishes he took the one least traveled by Lannisters. Meanwhile, Daenerys shares what I think is supposed to be a tender moment with her new husband. Episode spoilers ahead.
Wow, new opening credits already. Goodbye, Pentos, Land of the Billowing Gauze Curtains. Hello, Vaes Dothrak. Well, almost. We’re getting there.
The same can be said for the next two big locations, King’s Landing and the Wall. We’re getting there. This was a transition episode and way more exciting than last week’s round of introductions. And I didn’t watch a 12-minute preview of this episode. It was all fresh. We still haven’t met everyone yet, but we’re getting to know the main cast a lot better.
In Winterfell, we learn more than a month has passed since Jaime pushed Bran from the tower. Damn, those direwolves grew! And Bran is alive. I take back what I said last week about Catelyn Stark having a quiet strength. She has (understandably) fallen to pieces as she waits for her son to wake up from his coma. More than that, she seems really wishy-washy about Ned taking on his duty as the new King’s Hand and heading south. Last week, she wanted him to go after her sister’s letter warning of Lannister treachery, now she wants him to stay.
It’s hard to be super sympathetic towards Catelyn when she treats Jon Snow so coldly. There’s no acceptable reason to take out the anger you feel for your husband’s infidelity on an innocent child. She’s actually nicer to Jon on the TV show, if you can believe it. How can anyone hate Jon Snow? He’s like the best brother ever. The affection shared between him and Arya is touching. Again, misfits tend to hang with other misfits. I much prefer Arya’s needle to Sansa’s. “Stick them with the pointy end.” Been waiting to hear that.
The next best brother in Westeros is Tyrion Lannister. He knows what Jamie and Cersei are about. What he plans to do with that knowledge is anyone’s guess at this point. Did he send the attacker to finish off Bran? Doubtful. Tyrion’s too smart for such a stupid, obvious plan. Not to say that he has something against hitting children. He became my favorite character when he slapped that brat Joffrey. I think he only slapped the prince twice in the book, but I hate Joffrey so much, I’d watch him take a hundred more non-canonical slaps to his smug face.
The drama on the King’s Road broke my heart. Ned should turn around and go back to Winterfell right now. Only two episodes in and already we’ve repeatedly seen that nothing in this world is fair, especially to children. Bran gets pushed off a tower, Mycah the butcher’s boy gets run down by the Hound, Arya has to send her direwolf away, and Sansa’s direwolf gets punished for Joffrey being a sniveling sadist who calls an eleven-year-old-girl one of the worst words ever. How cold was Cersei in that judgment scene? I thought we were getting a softer version of Cersei when she had her earlier heart-to-heart with Catelyn. But she’s cruel and calculating. I kind of hate Sansa, too, for wanting to be a queen like Cersei. Some role model to sell your own sister out for. And some Prince Charming. You think Sansa will learn something from the execution of her direwolf? Poor Ned. It was painful to watch him walk up to Lady at the end.
I’m glad Tyrion went with Jon to the Wall, to “piss off the edge of the world.” Again, he and Jon have a great conversation. What is Jon’s story, Tyrion asked. It’s an epic fantasy; there’s got to be something special about Jon’s mother and why Ned keeps it a secret. I think Jon wants to have a place in the world and if he can’t be an official Stark, he can take up a calling Stark men have been following for centuries. But he looked about ready to wet himself when he actually saw the Wall for the first time. Can’t blame him.
Speaking of Stark men, I’d like to point out how much I enjoy the casting for Benjen. He looks like David Wenham and he’s even a ranger, too. There must be a niche section of the Screen Actor’s Guild for big-nosed fictional siblings of Sean Bean. (This is not to suggest that a strong profile is in any way a negative.)
Meanwhileand this is where recapping and reviewing gets tough—completely unrelated to all of the cool intrigue at Winterfell, the Wall, and on the road to King’s Landing, we get the Daenerys storyline. I took issue with the way Khal Drogo was turned into a savage rapist last week. Here, it’s pretty much more of the same. Less nudity, now that we’re out of the pilot. Getting raped is Dany’s storyline. That and looking blank. These were actually some of my favorite chapters from the book, but without any sort of inner monologue, this thread is totally nonsensical. We see Drogo having sex with a crying Dany (that was in the book,) then in the next scene, she’s asking how she can make him happy? And Dany’s awkward reaction to her servant girl’s sex talk felt like watching a Middle Ages version of Cruel Intentions. I’m really waiting to be won over by Emilia Clarke’s performance. Dany’s still learning to come around to the Dothraki way of life, so I think it was too soon to have her try to dominate her husband in bed, like a fierce khaleesi. Without that depth of emotion, Dany’s still weak and Drogo is still inscrutable behind his frown and guyliner. Their sex scene had zero heat. Really disappointing when the actors are so attractive. And the courtship was so lovely in the book.
Overall, three out of four storylines are getting so great. Next week: the Wall. Finally! King’s Landing! At last!
Share your thoughts below, but please be warned that book spoilers may be discussed. For a true spoiler-free zone, please visit Leigh Butler’s ASoIaF read. (Though the TV show has now outpaced the novel chapters in the Read.)
Game of Thrones airs Sundays at 9pm ET/PT on HBO.
Theresa DeLucci is an alum of Clarion West 2008 and her short fiction has appeared in ChiZine, Morbid Outlook, and Tear magazine.