The final episode of the first season of Game of Thrones, “Fire and Blood,” aired last night, and delivered both of the things it promised in its title. Bloggers Ellen B. Wright and Theresa DeLucci are here to react to the final episodeand the season as a whole. Spoilers ahead.
Season two starts filming in about a month and will air in spring 2012. Who’s biting their nails waiting to see what will happen next? (And who’s immediately going out and buying the box set of the book series?)
Ellen B. Wright: Unsurprisingly, this episode was mostly a reaction to the rather cataclysmic events of last week, but that didn’t make it any less affecting as we whirl from place to place to see where everyone is waiting for the second season to start. The very first thing we see is Ser Ilyn Payne’s bloody sword.
Arya is heading north to the Wall with Yoren as Arry the orphan boy, nothing left but Needle and a (pretty adorable) new haircutand a new awareness of how dangerous she can be.
Bran and Rickon are still left at Winterfell, disturbed by dreams of their father in the crypts that turn out to be more eerily appropriate when Luwin gives them the message he’s just received. Dark wings, dark words.
Robb has his bannermen, but at first they mean little compared to what he couldn’t save. “I’ll kill them all!” he cries before collapsing into Catelyn’s arms. Later, they debate whether to throw their lot in with Renly or Stannis, but Greatjon Umber spits on both of them: “There sits the only king I mean to bend my knee to!” he declares, pointing his sword at Robb. They declare him King in the North.
Catelyn is left with the prisoner she had hoped to trade for her husband. She and Jaime Lannister talk of justice and revenge. He wonders why, if her gods are so just, the world is full of injustice. “Because of men like you,” Catelyn says, daggers in her voice. “There are no men like me,” Jaime replies calmly. “Only me.”
Jon is feeling the tug between his vows and his family, just as Maester Aemon warned. He tries to leave the Wall, and only his friends chasing him down and reminding him of his vow save him from becoming a deserter. “For this night and all the nights to come.” Lord Commander Mormont, no fool, knows what Jon is feelingbut he also knows better than most what things are rising beyond the Wall. “Do you think your brother’s war is more important than ours?” he asks, and we leave Jon riding with a group of black brothers north of the Wall.
Poor Sansa may be feeling it worst of all, still stuck at court now that all her illusions have been stripped away. Joffrey offers to give Sansa Robb’s head once he defeats him. “Or maybe he’ll give me yours,” she shoots back. Because Joffrey’s mother taught him never to hit a lady, he has Ser Meryn punish her. Sansa considers pushing Joffrey over the edge, but Sandor stops her and wipes the blood from her face.
Tyrion is going to King’s Landing to be Joffrey’s Hand in Tywin’s place. At least Tyrion seems to have the essence of being Hand to Joffrey’s King down: “Heads, spikes, walls.”
Dany may have lost more than anyone in the last few episodes. She wakes to find her son is dead, born scaled like a lizard; the khalasar is gone; and Drogo is silent and still, if still breathing. Furious, Dany questions Mirri Maz Duur. How could she do this, after Dany saved her life? The maegi lists the things she lost before Dany saved her. “Why don’t you take another look at your khal?” Mirri Maz Duur asks. “Then you will see exactly what life is worth, when all the rest is gone.”
Dany brings Drogo inside, bathes him, reminds him of the life they shared. When nothing will get through to him, she reaches for a pillow and holds it over his face.
They build a pyre for Drogo, and put the dragon eggs on top. Jorah is afraid that Dany will burn herself on the pyre, too, but that is not what she intends. She frees the slaves who remain and asks them to join her khalasar. Then she has Jorah tie Mirri Maz Duur to the pyre and she sets it alight. Once the fire is burning, Dany slowly walks into the flames.
The next morning, the fire has burned out. Jorah, no doubt fearing the worst, walks into the ashes. Dany is curled up in the middle, naked and covered in soot but unhurt. And around her are coiled three baby dragons: the eggs have hatched.
It says something about the great job HBO has done with this show that even though I knew from reading the books (almost) exactly what was coming, I was still anxious to sit down in front of the TV every Sunday night to see what they’d do next. (Also, to see how friends and family members who were coming to the story for the first time would react!) Game of Thrones seems to have done an equally good job drawing in existing fans and new ones, which is about all we can ask of an adaptation.
The casting was pretty much universally phenomenal, starting, of course, with Sean Bean as Ned and Peter Dinklage as Tyrion, the castings that got everyone to sit up and take notice. There were more unexpected bright points, too, though: Maisie Williams as Arya and Isaac Hempstead-Wright as Bran matched my mental picture of those characters so exactly it’s as though they were conjured up out of thin air to fit the parts. Nikolaj Coster-Waldau and Lena Headey made a ruthless yet somehow sympathetic pair of Lannister twins. Richard Madden made me sympathize with Robb Stark in a way I never had before. Aidan Gillen is such a convincingly slimy Littlefinger that I’d probably run screaming if I ever saw him in the street. Iain Glen so completely inhabits the character of Jorah Mormont that when I started rereading A Game of Thrones shortly after episode eight aired, it was his voice I heard when I read Jorah’s lines.
It’s been a good ten weeks, and I can’t wait for next April.
Theresa DeLucci: I love HBO for the quality of their original series, but damn, I hate them for their long hiatuses. True Blood will just not fill the fantasy void in my TV lineup. I’m sad that this series will go on without Sean Bean’s Eddard Stark because Sean Bean being cast in this show really got me to finally get around to reading the books. But there’s just so much cool stuff coming down the pipeline.
Like dragons. Multiple DRAGONS. That last scene pretty much summed up the show. Boobs and dragons, tastefully done. I was on pins and needles, eager for what I knew had to be the last scene of the season and eager to see if the show could pull it off with as much emotional weight as in the books. And praying the CGI dragons wouldn’t look so goofy that non-fantasy fans enjoying the show would vow not to return next season. (Spring 2012. Gah.)
I was not a fan of Dany at the start of the season and especially not Khal Drogo’s introduction, but I warmed up to the storyline somewhere around episode five. I still think trying to capture all of the emotional depth and nuance from the book was an impossible task for a one-hour TV show. I was nearly as upset with book-Drogo’s death as I was with Ned’s. I didn’t quite feel that here. But the books are always there. For television, they did pretty good. Not my favorite storyline, like it was in the book, but this last episode was some great payoff. I mean, come on. Dragons. I am really rooting for Dany to return to Westeros and burn down every last living Lannister.
An aside: never challenge Jason Momoa to a blinking contest.
My second favorite cliffhanger of the evening was Jon and the rest of Castle Black going north of the wall. This show has so many great cinematic moments and that was really rousing. Can’t wait. TV-Jon doesn’t have my love the way book-Jon does, but the supporting cast at the Wall and the hardships the Night’s Watch face from north and south are so compelling, I can overlook the Hipster Jon Snow moments of Emo. His frustration is totally understandable, but I think Kit Harrington kicks it up a click too far. The war the Night’s Watch is facing is even tougher and more important than Robb’s, in the grand scheme of things. I love Mormonts wherever they may be. Smart men.
Littlefinger and Varys remain a witty, mysterious pair. While I never pictured Litlefinger so brazen in his scheming, I do love the scenes between him and his rival Varys. You know these two are the closest thing each other has to a friend. The scenes written especially for TV have been some of my favorites, in fact.
Poor Robb, and all of the other surviving Starks. At this point in time, Sansa’s definitely got it worse. Joffrey gets more disgusting and cruel every episode. Since Tyrion is returning to King’s Landing as the new Hand, maybe he’ll lay the smack down on his repulsive nephew some more. You can tell Tyrion’s smart because he wasn’t overjoyed at being given the position, considering the turnover rate of Hands. He can’t afford to become shorter by a head. Peter Dinklage had better get an Emmy nod for his performance this season; wish there was more of him last night. Since Game of Thrones is airing on HBO and not basic cable, I’m hoping a few cast members get some well-deserved recognition.
Maisie Williams as Arya has been one of the standouts, from her first scowl to that last stolen look at King’s Landing as she marched north, incognito in an adorable Beatles haircut. The children of Game of Thrones have as much depth and drama as the adults and you fear for them, alone in such a hard world. I was straining to see the three criminals Yoren was bringing to the Wall in chains. I’m guessing the hooded one was a certain Faceless Man who has yet to be cast? (Some audition reels leaked online but seem to have been taken down now.)
So, having read the second book, I’m really curious to see what the second season’s shape will be. I’m hoping they speed up some storylines at least. (Not a major spoiler, but there’s a serious amount of walking in A Clash of Kings.) I wonder what will be cut for time and budget next year. I wonder if the audience for Game of Thrones will grow. Will more people pick up the books during the long hiatus?
At least A Dance with Dragons is less than a month from publication. I want more!
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.)
Ellen B. Wright lives in New York, where she works in publishing and takes an excessive number of pictures.
Theresa DeLucci is an alum of Clarion West 2008 and her short fiction has appeared in ChiZine, Morbid Outlook, and Tear magazine.