4.11.2014

Game of Thrones S4E1 “Two Swords” [Thirteen Things]


SPOILERS AHEAD

1)      I love the opening credits, generally speaking. Back when I knew next to nothing about GoT, and hadn’t read the books yet, and only decided to check out the first episode on a whim when it premiered because it was “that thing” that Sean T. Collins kept going on and on about, the credits sequence was basically what instantly hooked me, thinking “huh, this is going to be different.” The way it presented the world by being as physically inverse as it is thematically, the projection of the continents on the inside of a globe wrapped around the sun-sphere, the way that the clockwork mechanisms visually propped the cities up, mirroring the political machinations occurring within them. That said, I was a little disappointed not to see Sunspear in Dorne. It was great seeing the Dreadfort, but why show that and Pyke if nothing’s going to happen in those places and we don’t see any of those players in this episode? With the introduction of Oberyn Martell, I thought Sunspear was a lock. I also would’ve liked to see these places when it was appropriate, or look forward to hopefully seeing them in the future: Craster’s Keep, The Fist of The First Men, Shadow Tower, Highgarden, the Stormlands, and Casterly Rock. But, I realize the credits have limited run-time and just can’t cram everything in, as delightful as the prospect might be, though there are some odd inconsistencies with how places are used.

2)      I had to rewind the reforging of Ice in order to ensure I was seeing what I thought I was seeing. How great this was played, with “The Rains of Castamere” subtly intertwined with the regular Game of Thrones theme music.

3)      It seems like the consensus is that everyone’s “favorite” scene was at the inn with The Hound and Arya. I can understand that. By the end, Arya makes her kills and it’s a good example of how the show manipulates us and creates a conflicted emotional state. We’re so programmed to respond to righteous vengeance associated with a protagonist, and those moments for the characters we like are so few in GoT, that we’re half rooting for Arya, but the other half is thinking how tragic it is that this little kid is being socialized into becoming a cold-blooded killer. It was tough for me to reconcile that, and that's what the show excels at.

4)      Laura Hudson made a good point in her write-up of the ep at Wired, about how there just isn’t the prototypical good guy/bad guy divide in GoT. It’s been a foundational philosophical tenet of the universe forever. That binary divide is never suggested because real life isn’t that simple. Yeah, the show might ask us to believe in dragons, but it also never asks us to believe that “the good guys” must always prevail. There’s no such thing. The ostensible "protagonist" is as elusive a concept as the fairy tale notion that they must inevitably "win" in order to complete a storyline. So, characters are not shrouded in that “cloak of the protagonist,” as she put it. I thought that phrasing was brilliant. 

5)      My favorite scene was actually seeing Jon Snow appear before the council of Janos Slynt, Alliser Thorne, and Maester Aemon. There’s a significant change in Jon here necessary for the arc of his character. Leadership is sometimes about thinking outside the box, and breaking rules if the rules are stupid and need to be changed. Essentially, he’s like, yeah, I fucked Ygritte, killed Qhorin Halfhand, and we can sit here and debate all of your little rules that I broke, but meanwhile Mance Rayder is on his way with 100,000 wildlings, giants, Thenns, and who knows what else, to attack THIS motherfucking castle. Your Move, Night's Watch. It reminds me of how Stannis Baratheon has a similar thread: Yeah, I got my ass kicked at Blackwater Bay, I’m the rightful heir of Robert – though nobody seems to care, and we can all get sucked into this dumb war, but a REAL leader would protect the realm from the REAL threat. I’m going to act like The King. Fuck It. I’m going to The Wall. Aemon’s line made me laugh out loud too, was not expecting that deadpan delivery of “I grew up in King’s Landing.”

6)      It seems like we come in on the tail end of a conversation between Jon and Sam. He’s obviously learned of Robb’s fate and all that’s changed since he’s been North of The Wall, yet there’s no overt mention of Sam having encountered Bran. I understand the utility in getting in and out of scenes as early and late as possible, but dude, seems like Sam woulda’ been all Chatty Cathy bursting about Bran, though I’m sure it occurred off screen.

7)      Sophie Turner is an incredible actress. Maybe the most underrated on the show, and I love what she’s doing with Sansa. She’s probably where she’d absolutely least like to be, but whether she knows it or not, Sansa is learning to survive – physically, emotionally, and politically. I’m so taken with Sean T. Collins’ thought that when it’s all said and done, one day in the future we might just see Queen Sansa Stark sitting the Iron Throne, and the last surviving characters could partially comprise her Queensguard and Small Council. I don’t know how that squares with the R+L=J Theory, or the whole Three Heads of The Dragon deal, but it’s a great thought nonetheless.

8)      I didn’t mind the actor switch for Daario Naharis. If nothing else, this guy is way better to look at. The old actor sort of captured the over-the-top sexual lothario buffoonery that might be more true to the book, but I couldn’t stand looking at a dude who seemed like he just stepped off a porn set in San Fernando. At least the new actor, purely physically, looks like someone Daenerys could plausibly fall for. He’s a man and not a pretty boy. It just works better for TV. It’s also worth noting that plenty of actor switches have occurred, from The Mountain, to Tommen, to Beric Dondarrion.

9)      As interesting as they try to make it, and as terrific as seeing Master Kraznys get his due was (I mean, I’ve probably re-watched him say “You speak Valyrian?!” and Missandei shoot him THAT LOOK a dozen times now, I have a huge crush on Nathalie Emmanuel, by the way), and as much as I love seeing anything with Jorah Mormont and Barristan Selmy, I’m growing a little weary of Dany’s trudge from city to city. I understand it’s important for the development of her character arc, but the march from Qarth to Astapor to Yunkai to Meereen is becoming just as repetitive and monotonous as it is in the books. It’s why I had to sometimes fight the urge to tune out the stuff happening in Essos when reading. It’s interesting to see how they’re continually dealing with that on the show.

10)   I didn’t mind not seeing Theon/Reek in this episode, because he’s entering a period where he’s less interesting than he was. Theon’s fall is full of so much sadness and regret that it makes for great watching, less so the period he’s about to enter. It does make me wonder how much of the Greyjoy stuff going on back at Pyke at beyond will be eliminated in the show for the sake of clarity and time constraints.

11)   I found myself kinda’ missing Jojen Reed. Weird. Dude is just a phenomenal young actor, with such intense screen presence. But, hey, it’s a large cast obviously and you can’t get to everyone in 50 minutes or whatever. It’s also worth pointing out that there is SO MUCH ground this season has to cover in order to wrap up Book 3 and start to track events in Book 4. By my count, there are like seven MAJOR things this season has to get to, and I’m fairly certain it’ll start next episode (I have it mapped out in my head, what a nerd). At that rate, it’s nearly one MAJOR moment per episode. If they do this right, it’ll make The Red Wedding look tame by comparison.

12)   It was great seeing all of the dissention occurring within House Lannister. I mean, nobody is getting along. Tywin is so disappointed with all of his kids for different reasons. Cersei and Jaime are on the outs. Cersei can’t stand Tyrion. I’m looking forward to a conversation between Tyrion and Jaime.

13)   Olenna Tyrell is just a delight every time she’s on screen. Seeing her relationship with Margaery, the intelligence, and care, and charm of it all, it makes me think that this is an interesting juxtaposition, the Lannisters and the Tyrells. Both powerful, wealthy, well thought of families from the West with tons of influence. I wonder if the Tyrells is what rearing children with love and respect looks like, instead of fear and dominance like the Lannisters. Margaery and Olenna are like the flipped version of what people like Tywin and Cersei COULD have been.

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