5.05.2014

Game of Thrones S4E5 “First of His Name” [Thirteen Things]



SPOILERS AHEAD

1)   Seven Hells! I can’t believe the season is already half over. You basically wait an entire year and then it’s half over in one month. Past that, I’m growing increasingly frustrated with the opening credits just not having the variation and custom narrative tailoring that previous seasons seem to have had. I mean, why show The Dreadfort or Dragonstone in this ep and not The Eyrie? Lame.

2)   “First of His Name” is ostensibly about the coronation of King Tommen, but that belies the theme of this week’s show. Westeros might be a man’s world, but this episode was all about women of power allowing themselves a moment of vulnerability to get things done. There’s that alarming moment when Cersei steps into frame to interrupt the flirty looks between Tommen and Margaery. Now, the audience has been so conditioned to expect fiery barbs from Cersei that it’s a shock when they don’t come. I’m going to say that this scene is the best in the episode and I attribute that to those sideways glances that Natalie Dormer keeps shooting Lena Headey, studying Cersei to see if it’s some verbal trap or actually genuine emotion. Dany and Jorah’s scene also continues this theme of powerful women allowing themselves moments of vulnerability. Like Cersei’s scene with Margaery, it’s not about projecting overt power. Short of professing love for him, Dany does Jorah the hugest solid by excusing everyone but him and having a real heart to heart about what’s next with her longest and most trusted advisor. We see this action of strong women becoming vulnerable in one way or another all through the episode, Cersei with her dad, even Lysa’s weird sex screams in their own way, Arya at Needle-point, Cersei with Oberyn, etc. It’s tempting to think that Cersei may be showing a true moment of vulnerability, that with the death of her beloved son, maybe she really is just tired of all the fighting and wants peace. But, it’s also easy to track that Cersei is just biting her tongue as she strategically makes the rounds to grease the wheels with the three trial judges. 1) She makes nice with Margaery knowing it’ll get back to judge Mace Tyrell as she acquiesces to a Margaery/Tommen pairing. 2) She is extremely pliable with her father, judge Tywin Lannister, agreeing to wedding dates, her betrothal to Loras, and the importance of the family legacy with no pushback whatsoever. Finally, she finds common ground with judge Oberyn Martell in their love of their daughters and share a moment. Knowing the complexity of Game of Thrones though, it doesn’t have to be binary. Cersei doesn’t have to be genuinely emotionally vulnerable OR just playing the game, the best read is her doing both at the same time.

3)   I like Dany getting a little dose of what King Robert Baratheon knew all too well, that conquering is sometimes much easier than actually ruling. But, instead of getting sloppy drunk, whoring it up, and delegating it all away to capable Hands, she actively wants to gain that experience and will actually attempt to rule as a sitting “Queen” in Slaver’s Bay. The location of this scene even sort of forward-echoes that sentiment, shot at the top of the Meereen Pyramid, it’s almost as if she’s holding court in her own Red Keep with her de facto Small Council.

4)   Littlefinger running down the history lesson about The Bloody Gate in The Eyrie is just great, laced with subtext about capitalizing on your strengths to overcome odds despite otherwise modest abilities (a harsh lesson first instilled by Brandon Stark), and the cinematography is just gorgeous. Sansa with that cloak over her head looks like she just stepped out of a Vermeer painting. I loved the simple line “Welcome back, Lord Baelish.” It makes the audience go: “He’s been here before? He’s been here before. Oh, he’s been here before alright!”

5)   It’s not quite GoT trademark sexposition, but Lysa Arryn blurts out another huge reveal concerning Petyr Baelish. In all her horny wild-eyed glory, she cops to poisoning her own husband Jon Arryn, at the request of Littlefinger no less(!), and generating the bogus letter to her sister Catelyn Stark pinning his death on the Lannisters, basically the catalyst for kicking the entire show into motion and all the awful shit that’s happened since. Once again, we get proof that Lord Varys was right, and something book readers are already hip to, Petyr Baelish is the most dangerous man in Westeros. Kate Dickie, who plays Lysa, is phenomenal in her ability to alternately channel moments of lucid near-believable warmth and then bouts of manic lunacy. It’s almost sad to see Littlefinger knowingly prey on a woman with a clear mental illness. Also? ALERT! We have been reminded of the presence of The Moon Door in The Eyrie!

6)   Am I the only one who noticed that characters are now pronouncing “Westeros” differently? Jorah and The Hound are now saying  it like “Wes-tuh-ross” instead of “Wes-ter-ose.” I wonder if this is just casual character interpretation or an actual purposeful course correction.

7)   I’m growing tired of the Pod humor already, but I did appreciate how Brienne perked up at the reveal of the young unassuming squire having killed a Kingsguard.

8)   That one-handed cartwheel Arya does when water-dancing! This makes we want to see Maisie Williams cast as the Jedi daughter of Han and Leia in Episode VII.

9)   “Everywhere in the world, they hurt little girls.”

10) For some reason, I really enjoyed seeing Locke skulking around Craster’s Keep. He’s obviously a man with some skill, the actor has a very engaging screen presence, and it’s further proof that even the bit players are fully fleshed out personas. Speaking of casting, the kid who plays Jojen Reed is outstanding. I love just watching that dude’s eyes and facial expressions, so much going on there.

11) Qarl openly mocking Jon for being taught proper fighting skills (true) by some old man in a castle (very true) and to fight honorably (all true) was fairly priceless. I mean, everything he says is absolutely correct, and Qarl basically wining this fight dirty Bronn-style, Wildling two-sword-style, spit-in-your-eye-style until Jon gets a little help is another indication about the Death of Honor in Westeros.

12) Bran warging into Hodor is the new Master Blaster. Hey, Locke! Who run Craster’s Keep? Hodor run Craster’s Keep. Louder. HODOR RUN CRASTER’S KEEP.

13) It’s only right that the episode ends exactly the way Jojen Reed foresaw it. It gives additional gravitas to the image of that Weirwood Tree.

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