Mon
Jun 20 2011 10:56am

Game of Thrones episode review: “Fire and Blood”

Fire and Blood

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 episode—and 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 haircut—and 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.

Fire and Blood

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 feeling—but 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.

24 comments
Kristoff Bergenholm
1. Magentawolf
Well, this is definately a series that I'll have to get my hands on once it hits the shelves..
David Thomson
2. ZetaStriker
I also rather liked the added Pycelle scene in that final episode. "The thing you need to understand about kings" seems to be that whoever is currently in power seems like the greatest king ever. I also liked how they show him faking his limp. It provided a nice comedic break while emphasizing everything we hate about that absolute tool.
efrost
3. efrost
I wanted to point out that although a small detail from the book, I thought it was a nice detail that Ser Ilyn Payne cuts Ned's head off with his own sword. Sort of the ultimate insult piled upon the already devastaing injury of having to forsake his honor only to have his head cut off anyhow.
Mari Ness
4. MariCats
Now I want a little baby dragon. They are just SO cute! And such strategically placed fashion accessories, too!
efrost
5. sofrina
loved all the extra stuff: the bard having his tongue cut out in the background, maester pycelle's behind-the-scenes (couldn't even understand what a frail old man was doing with a whore), robert's bastard being forced to join the night's watch, sam getting knocked off his horse.

sansa's bit of defiance was nice, esp. after that vulgar line about putting a son in her. is she under constant guard or something? why is she not trying to make a run for it? roz is coming and going from the castle like a breeze. i'm not suggesting she dress up like a whore, but scrutiny seems kinda casual in the red keep. i'm surprised neither sister has said a word about the other. aren't arya and sansa concerned for one another?

i feel the worst for robb and john at this point: the one saddled with all the responsibility and the other bound to the wall. i imagine part of john's struggle is that he is desperately rooting for robb to save ned and the failure must be extra crushing when he can never know if his presence would have helped or not. certainly john is better second than that nut greyjoy. (why does this guy keep making suggestions that go against the plan? he was at the table.) anyway, i keep thinking that robb would also really appreciate having his almost-twin on-hand at a time like this.

i hate arya's haircut. awful wig. not that her real hair was much to speak of.

q: what do baby dragons eat?
Bradley Beek
6. beeker73
What do baby dragons eat?
In the book, they eat breast milk. It may have happened in the show too, and I was watching for it, but I couldn't tell for sure.
efrost
7. cranscape
I'm glad they kept Jon's attempted escape and then the scene where he is reminded how important the work at the Wall is. The kids are playing at war in the south, but the real battle is and always has been north of the Wall. Robb seems like he gets to do the heroic stuff and Jon gets seconds best yet again, but what's beyond the Wall doesn't care if Lion, Wolf, or Stag rules the south. Jon is part of something bigger than all of that and for some reason I feel better knowing there is a Stark there too.
efrost
8. sofrina
@6 - great, another crazy nursing scene...

i have to wonder if the dragons are the ideal weapon against the others...
Justin Golenbock
9. jgolenbo
If there's any one thing I can say about this show, it's that its made the wait for aDwD practically disappear. I was so hooked episode to episode that almost the first thing I thought after the closing credits of the season was "huh...the next book is out in 3 weeks." i can't remember the wait ever going by this fast!

Some end-of-season actor shout-outs:

-Michelle Fairley as Cat Stark/Tully. I thought hers would be a tough role since she is so often in the background but Fairley has done an excellent job as the emotional rock behind the entire Stark family. Her walk to the woods w/ the Stark host bowing after learning of Ned's death was heartbroking and she pulled just enough out of it without going overboard.

-John Bradley as Samwell Tarly. SAM!! I will never be able to read the books without hearing his high-pitched crack every time he gets emotional. Aww, what a friend...the rest of the wall boys are also good.

-Rory McCann as the Hound is starting to grow on me. He's an interesting character and an intimidating presence...exactly how i imagine him

Question for commenters more in the know than me: have any interesting castings been announced yet for s02? Blackfish, Stannis, Davos, the Reeds or any Wildlings?
efrost
10. mochabean
prior comment seems to have vanished into the ether and I don't want to risk the dreaded double post so let me just say thank you for the wonderful recaps. Can't wait for aDwD and Season 2
Chin Bawambi
11. bawambi
Great first season.
An aside: never challenge Jason Momoa to a blinking contest.
LOL funny

BawambioftheCastleBlackSnows
efrost
12. sofrina
ohohoh! and cersei and her naked cousin?! she was cheating on her husband with her brother and on her brother with her much younger cousin?! :speechless:
Rikka Cordin
13. Rikka
This season was so well done that I have very high hopes for next season.... but the amounts of characters they will need will practically grow exponetially by the episode and I'm interested in seeing how HBO will handle that. Got a long ways to wait though... But still, JACQUEN!

Lancel is becoming exactly what I pictured him becoming: annoying.

I think Rory McCann has potential to portray the Hound in a way that is very true to the books, where I've always felt it's so hard to know how to feel about him.

Aidan Gillen is possibly my favorite standout-from-nowhere in the casting department because he has been spot on from day one. And his part's only going to get more interesting, though I guess he'll be gone a good bit in season three... The Varys and Littlefinger scenes are perfection every time though.
efrost
14. L. Lawson
Great writing here, but I must spar with one point: "That last scene pretty much summed up the show. Boobs and dragons, tastefully done."

Those two items do not, in any way, sum up GoT.
Claire de Trafford
15. Booksnhorses
Much joy for an amazing adaptation; much sadness for the wait for the next one. But, hurray, DwD is out in a few weeks and I'm feeling even more enthusiastic than I thought possible.

What a great episode this was. Roz definitely deserves a spin off series, and the look on her face throughout Pycelle's monologue was priceless, as was her 'oh, never mind' comment when she realised he had no idea what she was on about. I read somewhere that this discussion on kings might have been aimed at Littlefinger through Roz, but I can't help but feel that Pycelle - much as he thinks that he is hot stuff and on the ball - is really just a fading memory of cunning, putting on a pose but losing the keen intellect he must once have had.

Robb has given me back my love for the character that I had lost through my impatience with his later mistakes, and I really love that all the children have been aged up. To me it makes them that little more believable. Rickon, for instance is now old to control Shaggydog and to give that crypt scene some weight, but young enough to be overlooked. I always loved Jon and the scene where Pyp et al recite the vows in the wood was shiverific. Arya - amazing. Sansa - totally believable I think to anyone with any experience of 13 yr old girls, and again the increase in her age makes it more real to me. Bran was also brilliant and I loved his scenes with Osha - I hadn't warmed to Tonks before this scene but now she is Osha to me.

Shae I can't get a grip on. Too pouty for my taste and not winsome enough; I'm not seeing Tyrion's fascination with her. A naked Lancel I needed like a hole in the head; poor Cersei, driven to such acts of desperation (I must say I can't blame her for her twincest, Jaime is very yum) and I think that you needed to have read the books to understand that scene properly.

The Littlefinger/Varys scene was also fantastic - both actors are great. Just what IS Varys's motivation? I hadn't thought about this much but he really is such an outsider, what's in it for him? Littlefinger is a bit more cliched minor noble with chip issues.

Cat - Michelle did a great job with her is all I'll say, particularly in her grief for Ned.

Goodbye sexy Drogo - I'll see you in Conan.

And the final scene paid for all. Small gripes - the pyre didn't seem to really burn enough to show how brave Dany was being, and we didn't hear the eggs cracking. At first I was a bit miffed that she had kept her hair (loved the braiding btw, need to try that out on daughter) but on reflection it makes it more magical that she is totally untouched. And as for those adorable baby dragons I'm in the queue for a genetically modified one as soon as the mad scientists can produce one. The last shot was amazing.

Well done HBO, I salute you.
Theresa DeLucci
16. theresa_delucci
@10 Thanks! It's been fun!

@11 No casting on those characters yet, though I did see some awesome audition tapes from unknown actors for Jaquen, Balon, and Davos. They disappeared though. I know it's far down the line, but I vote Viggo Mortensen for Damphair.He's just a total Greyjoy.

@12 First I thought Lancel was a girl, then I thought it was the scrawny Knight of Flowers! Someone said Lancel looks like Prince Valium from Spaceballs and I have to agree. He's just got a Lannister look like Joffrey that makes him instantly irritating on sight. How much is Robert turning over in his grave?

@13 Aiden Gillen isn't from nowhere! He's from The Wire! Which is the greatest show I've never seen yet but all of my friends have! Heh. It's so hard to catch up on show not on Netflix instant. Or HBO Go. Stupid Time Warner.

@14 It's a joke. Like a sentence could cover a whole series. But you have to admit, a naked chick with dragons has the potential to be unabashadley cheesy and over-the-top if not given the right emotional weight.
Grant Bester
17. Jockey
@9 IMDb has Gerard Butler listed as Stannis. Don't know how accurate that is though
Chris Palmer
18. cmpalmer
Wasn't that Jaquen in the wagon at the end? I haven't rewatched the episode, and my memory may be faulty, but wasn't he one of the chained up prisoners in the wagon going to the Wall?

Also, was the actor playing Mance Rayder in the Winterfell banquet in the first episode?
David Thomson
19. ZetaStriker
Biter and the other guy were cast, but Jaquen was hooded and hidden because he didn't have an actor yet.
Joe Vondracek
20. joev
Spring 2012?? If HBO follows GRRM's cue, it'll be another 3 or 4 years before the second season airs...
Theresa DeLucci
21. theresa_delucci
@Don't even joke about that! Haha. No, HBO is pretty reliable. Though wasn't there that one time when The Sopranos got delayed for a whole year or something?

@18 No actor for Jaquen or Mance yet.

@17 Gerald Butler? What an odd rumor. I can't picture it.

Winter-is-coming.net gets some great scoop on things like this. I know I'll be visiting often during the summer.
efrost
22. serious77
I was curious... for those that have read the books, did anybody want to jump into the scene when everybody was declaring for Robb and call Theon out as a liar and a traitor as he pledged his allegiance? (and, for that matter, kick him around a little!)
Rob Munnelly
23. RobMRobM
Misc thoughts on an excellent close out to an excellent show (and thanks for an excellent recap) :

@17 - Gerard Butler on Imdb was an internet prank.

@22 - not interested at all. Theon believed every word he said, IMO. At the time, of course.

I'm in the "Jacquen had a hood over his head because he wasn't cast yet" camp.

I'm torn re Shae. I like the actress as being both gorgeous and compelling in personality but... I see Shae as more quiet and winsome. This one is a bit too in your face for my taste.

Mark me down as one who liked the Pycelle scene. It lays groundwork for a development upcoming in Season 2 and adds a plausible layer not apparent - but also not foreclosed - in the books.

Rob
Michael Maxwell
24. pike747
I agree just about one hundred percent with the comments in the review. The casting, at times, is scary good. As you said the "Old Bear" owns this role. Really like Arya and Tyrion as well.

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