Thursday, 8 May 2014

Game of Thrones Season 4 Episode 5 - "First of his name" (TV SPOILERS)


"Did ya learn to fight in a castle?!” | “He could be the first man in 50 years to sit on that throne and deserve it.”

Tommen gets his King on, Lady Arryn gets her kink on, Jon Snow gets his kill on and Arya gets, er, stomped on. Karl has a severe case of swordmouth. A couple of big events but otherwise another building block of an episode. Themes of the week are (a) the lives of Westeros’s women and (b) fighting dirty vs “waterdancing”. Plus a screwball theory from me about Daenerys Targaryen and Oberyn Martell joining forces (again, I haven’t read the books).

Name of the week: the Vale of Arryn’s “Bloody Gate” – the name says it all. Thou shalt not pass.

Pet theory: Martells + Targaryen link-up
I’m always fond of imagining the links between different members of GoT. Like what would happen if/when Daenerys met Aemon Targaryen (Night’s Watch)? He happens to be her grand uncle. However, that link-up doesn’t seem to have the firepower to change things. What does, however, is the link between Oberyn Martell and Daenerys Targaryen. Step forward Elia Targaryen née Martell…actually, she can’t, because the Mountain raped and killed her during Robert’s Rebellion. Oberyn has since been baying for Lannister blood. As she was a Targaryen, I can’t imagine Daenerys looking kindly upon that either. I know the Targaryens originally had some bad blood with the Martells, but the marriage should’ve ended that.

What if, just maybe, Daenerys assured him use of her army and dragons in return for some choice assassinations? Like, say, Tywin Lannister? Remember that the Red Viper is a master of poisons and he could surely do this. The only thing standing in his way would be the repercussions. But with Daenerys, her unsullied and dragons on his side, Oberyn would have all the courage and protection he needed (not that he’s particularly short of chutzpah anyway). He could be the Walder Frey in this Red Wedding, with Daenerys in Tywin’s role and Tywin in the Robb Stark role. Remember, you read it here first.

Main plot movements:
Lord Baelish – we discover that he is responsible for the act that really set off the entire story in the Game of Thrones.
Kings Landing/the Lannisters are close to being bust – Kings Landing and Casterly Rock have what you could call a cashflow problem, in that they have to keep paying interest but aren’t finding any new gold (or whatever it is they mine).
Daenerys putting Westeros-conquesting on hold – her previous conquests are sliding back into despotism and butchery, so she’s going back, to SORT IT OUT.
Night’s Watch + Jon Snow – Jon Snow is reunited with Ghost! Yes!! Also, the good guys have found the mutineers at Craster’s and butchered them all. Such heroes. Wait, who’s guarding Castle Black?
Bran et al – they’re free. And yeah, their scenes are still trippy and warg-y. Also, Locke + Hodor/Bran = broken neck for somebody.

We’re still yet to see: Gendry, Osha/Rickon and Yara.
Why does Lysa wail like a banshee during sexytime?!
Why exactly did Baelish have Jon Arryn murdered?

It’s easy to caricature Game of Thrones (“GoT”) as torture-porn in a literal and figurative sense: the good guys keep getting deper and deeper into trouble while the bad guys rule. The good guy list was: Tyrion (jailed for a crime he didn’t commit), Ned & Robb Stark (dead), Jon Snow (getting there but with difficulty), Daenerys (doing fine) and Ser Davos (jailed but now free). Then look at the bad guys: Lannisters (ruling the roost), Freys and Boltons (controlling the North), Baelish (holed up in an impenetrable fortress with a Stark and an Arryn) and so on. So it was odd to see a typical deus ex machine moment when Jon Snow’s men declared battle at Craster’s Keep just as Karl was about to “hurt” a young girl in the way Cersei alluded to earlier. Sometimes, people deserve to have their faith rewarded (guess where that’s from), particularly if they’ve sat through 3.5 seasons of unfair butchery of good guys. Anyway, let’s get stuck in.

“He could be the first man in 50 years to sit on that throne and deserve it.”

Cersei and Margaery – are we seeing an alliance? Compromise? What I do like about Margaery is her consummate professionalism. Because that’s what she is, a true pro. We very rarely see her true self, almost everything she’s said has been so disciplined and calm. It’s quite scary – she has a considerably cooler head than anyone in Kings Landing (relative to her duties, anyway).
On another note, we have another child king. Every time I hear “long may he reign”, I think…Joffrey died without doing even a couple of years!

Across the narrow sea

“I will not let those I have freed slide back into chains”

We get to see what seems to count as a strategy meeting with the Khaleesi, where she gets update with Westeros events. She seemed only somewhat interested to hear of Joffrey’s death, but more interestingly we heard some calculus of what she has to play with: about 10,000 soldiers (8,000 unsullied, 2,000 2nd sons) and 93 ships (which can hold 100 each). Oh, and 2 dragons, although nobody seems to talk about them anymore. 

Ser Barristan and Daario Naharis sound like they want to invade Kings Landing now, but Jorah as usual is the real voice of reason, making the point that 10,000 soldiers might take KL but is nowhere near enough to take Westeros or defend KL against the Lannisters’ allies. However, Ser Barristan makes the good point that the other houses will side with whoever they think will win. Remember, dragons. Dragons will win. So all in all an impromptu invasion of Westeros doesn’t sound too bad, but again Ser Jorah makes a good point: the slaves liberated by Daenerys have become, er, unliberated. And some madcap pretender has made himself emperor in Astapor.

The look on Daenerys’s face when she turns away was tremendous: at once “tired of this shit, I wanna kill more slavers” and “dammit, I’m gonna have to be good, aren’t I?”. One of my biggest criticisms of this storyline is that, well, it’s not a storyline. It’s jujst one roaring success after another and acts as the antidote to the politics-heavy climate of Westeros, as Daenerys doesn’t need to compromise or play politics. She has dragons, in an age when nobody alive has seen a dragon. However, her storyline does have the only feelgood factor to it, so that’s something. Anyway, Ser Jorah looks pleased to have maintained his “closest advisor” role. Here’s hoping that Daenerys will stay in and take over Essos and leave that shitpile Westeros well behind. About time we saw her get down to the dirty business of ruling rather than simply winning.

Lord Baelish, Lysa Arryn & Sansa

Thanks for oversharing (Lysa Arryn as we remember her).
“Know your strengths, use them wisely and 1 man can be worth 10,000”
Right off the bat we should mention the significance of Lysa admitting she killed her husband John, for Petyr. You know what this means, don’t you? This, right here, is the steaming pile of extramarital turd that kickstarted everything in the Game of Thrones. Cast your minds back to season 1 – why did Ned Stark come to Kings Landing? Robert Baratheon was suspicious about John of Arryn’s death and wanted Ned, a man of Stark-integrity (and note how naturally his head rolls across the floor) to investigate. Turns out it was all orchestrated by Lord Baelish, and definitely NOT because he wanted to schtup Lysa into next week (those sounds will never leave Sansa’s head). It turns out, then, Lord Baelish is a considerably more deadly character than I gave him credit for…not only did he kill the Hand of the King, but also a King. For all of Tywin’s ruthlessness, Tyrion’s intellectual firepower and Robb Stark’s sheer Starkness, Lord Baelish was the one spinning the top in his hand. Simply staggering. Good ol’ GoT. Anyway, despite all that, Baelish has the look of a man who thinks he might’ve made a mistake.

Later, we get a girl-talk between Sansa and Lysa, culminating in a harrowing cross-examination (or “mindfuck” if you prefer) of Sansa by Lysa, particularly in relation to what Petyr may have done with Sansa. A recurring theme in the episode is the sad comment that a lot of a lady’s worth in those times was measured by what was between her legs. Anyway, Sansa perks up slightly when Lysa tells her she’ll be the Lady of the Vale…if she marries Robin, Lysa’s son (who is also a little off-kilter, mind).

Tywin & Cersei

Cersei doesn’t want to get married to the flower Knight (or whatever Ser Loras is called), in the same way Baelish doesn’t really want to get married to the Lady of Arryn. However, Cersei’s reason is considerably more legitimate (Ser Loras being a “pillow-biter” and all). Also, only a fortnight for the mourning of Joffrey? The Lannisters really are ruthless. Allow me to direct you to some choice lines from Tywin:

On Margaery and Tommen’s forthcoming wedding: [there should be] “…no 77 course meals”.
On Robert Baratheon: He used to pat me on the back a lot. I didn’t trust him.”
On the Iron Bank of Braavos: “You can’t run from them…cheat them…sway them with excuses…”.
Tywin lets us in on some of the financial and industrial matters in Westeros: the mines aren’t producing any more mineral and the Lannisters owe a lot to the Iron Bank of Braavos. In season 1 we discovered that the crown itself owes half its debt to the Lannisters. So ultimately it all ends in a bank – what a surprise. Anyway, Tywin’s matchmaking is all a ploy to ensure that Lannister debt becomes Tyrell debt, and apparently, they’re quite rich.

As for the Iron Bank, this is the second time we’ve heard about them, the first being Ser Davos’s cunning plan (whatever it is). The Lannister empire seems to be built on debt, and Lannisters always repay their debts (whilst creating new ones). It was odd hearing Tywin sound quite resigned when talking about the Iron Bank, as a force that he cannot bend to his will. Normally, his hunger, killer instinct and pragmatism seem boundless, but here he was highly respectful, almost afraid of them. What happens when an irresistible force meets an immovable object? Why, this Iron Bank reminds me of the single greatest force mankind has ever known – the international bond markets. They can bring entire countries to their knees in a matter of days, in a way that the US, China or the UN can’t even dream of. Anyway. I wonder if this will have any interaction with Ser Davos’s plan, whatever it is…

Hound and Arya
We’ve heard about how ruthless the Braavosi are about chasing down debt, another talent seems to be poncy fighting. The Hound makes a number of references to them being greasy with a gratuitous use of the c-word. Anyway, it’s a bit difficult to place these scenes anywhere except “coming of age”. Arya learns to fight for real rather than waterdancing and, basically, the truth of the pudding is in the eating: if you live and your enemy dies, your enemy probably isn’t the greatest fighter ever. Speaking of the greatest fighter in Westeros…

Oberyn Martell & Cersei
“What good is power if you can’t protect the ones you love?”

This is a purely dramatic segment, as Cersei gets to talk about the human tragedy of it all. Oh, and she gets to tug on Oberyn’s children-loving-heartstrings, as she knows he’s on the panel to judge Tyrion. Clever little fox. We get to hear about Myrcella for the first time in a while, as she’s now a ward of the Tyrells. The only other ward we know of is Theon, and he turned out ok, right?! The theme of women and their bodies continues here, as Oberyn assures Cersei that Dorne is nice to children, but Cersei replies: “Everywhere in the world, they hurt little girls”. Powerful stuff, particularly speaking to war crimes and rape in particular (remember Elia and The Mountain). Cersei’s mother died when she was four, so she’s felt loss personally. These two actually seem like an appropriate couple, unlike…

Brienne of Tarth and Podrick
We get some great buddy comedy and then a typical Game of Thrones revelation, from way back when: Podrick tells Brienne that he had to kill a Kingsguard in order to protect Tyrion. Now Brienne knows someone in power tried to kill Tyrion and eventually everyone will know. One thing about Westeros: no secrets ever get buried forever.

The North

“I saw you die tonight…I saw your body burn…I saw the snow fall and bury your bones”
My, 2 consecutive episodes in the North, Messrs Benioff and Weiss really are spoiling us! So, a lot happened here. We saw more vague but portentous future for Bran, with a red tree that looked like it belonged in some sort of 18th century painting rather than GoT. I won’t speculate on this in depth but I suspect it may be related to the arrival of the Andals in Westeros. Or perhaps related to dragonglass, which they’ll use to fight the White Walkers?

Oh, excuse me. Sorry about this...
Craster’s Keep continues its licentious ways, with Karl getting ready to do some nasty things with Bran’s friends. However, for some reason, the time shift between Jon Snow saying “we move at sundown” and Karl’s scene seemed to have a time gap in between them, which seemed odd if not quite ‘wrong’. Anyway, we get a “just in the nick of time” intervention and Bran et al get away. We get literally a few feet away from the first reunion of two Starks for a long time, but in typical GoT fashion, we don’t get it. Apparently, we haven’t earned it yet – this would be a potentially significant moment. Also, Locke’s story ends abruptly, at the hands of Hodor. Atleast Jon Snow and Ghost get reunited! A special moment.

Jon Snow seems to suffer from the same problem as Arya in that he tries to fight pretty, while Karl fights pragmatically (a bit like Bronn, you might say). Anyway, help from a Craster widow saves his bacon. The motif of women, their bodies and their freedom comes along again as the women decide to take their chances on the road rather than go back to Castle Black (100 men and about 15 women? No chance). GoT seems to loosely model a medieval Europe, where women were traded, raped and used as commodities, and although it’s been shunted to the edges, it pops up every now and again. Like Lysa’s disgust at what the women do with their bodies at Littlefinger’s brothels. The women at the brothel seem relatively empowered. While the ones at Craster’s Keep have literally been used as objects, but ultimately the result is the same for all of them. Do you remember Roz? Remember how she died? In GoT, the tragedy isn’t always about swords and sandals.


Boobs of thrones: None.

Violence of thrones: 8/10. Massacre at Craster's and a case of swordmouth.

Biggest movers: ran from 0 to 3, Daenerys from 7 to 7.5 and Vale of Arryn from 3 to 4.5.

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