Monday, April 18, 2011

game of thrones recap: 1.01

Queen Cersei does not do drab people

I said I was gonna do a Game's recap, and by George (hahaha get it?) I'm actually gonna do it. With commentary on which outfit was the most fabulous, of course. But first off, here's what happened:
The show opens with a squad of Night's Watch passing through The Wall into the appropriately named Wilds, on a mission to track a group of Wildings that were passing too close to the Watch's domain. But of course, if that's all that they found, that would be boring, so instead this merry band of misfits (led by an appropriately douchey nobleman) finds the Wildings dead, seemingly ceremoniously dismembered. And then on top of THAT, they come back to life, and tear the rangers limb from limb. Except for one terrified boy, who forsakes his duty and runs for the hills instead of returning to Castle Black to warn the rest of his brothers in arms.
However, in doing so he signs his own death warrant, for as his commander explains before they all get torn apart is that a brother of the Night's Watch can't leave The Wall, and if he deserts, all that is left for him in the south is death. This is exactly what happens to this boy when he is caught by the men of the warden of the North, Lord Eddard Stark (Sean Bean). We are introduced to the rest of his family as well: wife Catelyn, the five trueborn Stark children (Robb, Sansa, Arya, Bran, and Rickon), and his bastard, Jon Snow. Considering the breadth and depth of Martin's novels, the show has relatively little time to introduce people. But time is definitely not wasted on this show, and I think one of the good things it has done so far is managed to introduce the characters without actually TELLING us outright who they are in very little time. The Stark children are introduced in about 5 minutes, and it's fairly apparent what each child's role is in that family in those short five minutes. Arya is the tomboy and mischief maker, Bran is the aspiring warrior, Sansa is the lady, and Robb and Jon are the supportive older brothers (but not so supportive they don't make fun of their siblings, because honestly, that is the one other thing older brothers are for, no?). Although the look Lady Catelyn shoots at Jon at the end of the scene makes it very obvious how much she enjoys having him there.

Lord Stark, being the honourable man he is, beheads the deserter himself, and takes his three eldest sons along with him. We learn that in the North the lord himself always carries out the executions, for they prescribe to the Old Ways that have largely been forgotten in the South. The deserter tells Ned about the "White Walkers" that he saw before he ran away, and is little more than a babbling idiot at this point. Ned tries to shrug it off, saying that these creatures have been gone for thousands of years, but it's pretty obvious he's more worried than he's acting. However, he doesn't have long to ruminate on this before he receives more bad news: Jon Arryn, the Hand of the King (basically the King's right hand man and most trusted advisor), has died suddenly, and King Robert and much of his court are on the way north to Winterfell. Both Ned and Catelyn immediately see that the king is coming North to ask Ned to be Hand, and neither seem particularly happy about it, but hosting a king is no small feat, and preparations take precedence. Oh! And the Stark children find their direwolves, sigil of their House, a creature of myth that also hasn’t been seen below the Wall in millennia. I’m not sure that direwolves are supposed to be that adorable, but they made me squeal every time I saw them and their cuteness. There is even a runt for Jon Snow.

So, direwolves found and grudgingly allowed to live by Ned, the King finally arrives at Winterfell, and we are more thoroughly introduced to his family: Queen Cersei, her brothers Jaime and Tyrion, and their son Joffrey. Ned and Robert immediately fall back into the brotherly camaraderie of their youth (they were wards together at The Eyrie), and head down to the crypts at Winterfell, where Robert asks Ned to be Hand (as expected), that his son and Ned’s daughter Sansa be married, and it is revealed that Robert is still madly in love with Ned’s long deceased sister. A lot of people thought that Mark Addy was an odd choice for King Robert, but I thought he was wonderful, especially in the scene in front of Lyanna’s grave, where he played his love for her with genuine sadness and regret. It is also while down in the darkness that we learn that the Targaryens, the House who ruled the Seven Kingdoms before Robert took it from them, still have descendants alive and well in the city of Pentos.

We cut to the villa of Magister Illyrio, where Daenarys and her brother Viserys are being hosted, and learn that the young Daenarys is being married off to a barbarian king she has never met in order for her brother to gain the armies to take back what he sees as “his kingdom”. Harry Lloyd, the young man who plays him, does so to perfection, with just the right amount of arrogance, creepiness, and incompetence. I particularly love the scene where Dany is presented to the Khal, who says nothing and rides away, and Viserys runs down the steps flailing “DID HE LIKE HER!? WHAT’S GOING ON!?” Daenarys herself is utterly passive and without agency, and when she tries to speak up, is quickly put back in her place, despite the fact that she is terrified of her new husband and his people. But of course her brother cares for nothing but power, and the wedding proceeds anyway, with neither of them knowing anything of either the Dothraki tongue or its people. Personally, I felt the wedding itself was a little lacking, coming off as pretty tame despite the entrails and what I am going to call ‘shag dancing’. It didn’t seem like there were enough people there, and it kind of seemed weird that it was in the middle of the day, and it reminded me of almost any time there were Amazons on Xena (but not in a good way). I think there was a more elaborate wedding in the original pilot, but the whole thing had to be reshot when Daenarys was recast, and I think the budget for the second go was scaled down considerably. But anyway, Dany receives a few wedding gifts of note, the first being several books of poetry and legends from the Seven Kingdoms knight, Ser Jory Mormont. She also receives three petrified dragon’s eggs from Magister Ilyrio, and a beautiful white horse by her new husband that would look just like her if Daenarys were a horse. However, she still goes into their wedding night fearful and crying. Again I was kind of disappointed that they left her there, because in the books the Khal turns out to be a much more tender soul than his culture or manner suggests, but HOPEFULLY this is made clear in the next episode.

So, after the wedding there is a big banquet feting the King at Winterfell, but of course it is not a happy time for all of the guests, mainly Cersei (whose husband’s face is in a serving wench’s bosom the whole time), Jon (who is banned for not being a trueborn son), and Ned himself (who is fretting about what the Night’s Watch deserter said to him about White Walkers). Oh and the Starks receive a message in the night from Catelyn's sister, the wife of the late Hand, expressing her fear that her husband was murdered by Lannisters. This doesn't stop Ned from taking the position though, nor from them marrying Sansa off to Joffrey. The episode is ended with Bran discovering the Lannister twins in a very er, compromising position while the King and the rest of the household are out on a hunt, and Bran is tossed from the window in the twins’ hurry to try to cover it up. This is the secret matter they were discussing earlier at Arryn’s funeral in King’s Landing, the thing that the Queen hoped he had not told her husband. In short: INCESTUOUS INTRIGUE.

Other notes:

  • Love the opening sequence and I think the theme song is perfect
  • The wall looks amazing and not fake at all. I’m pretty impressed with al l the CGI (especially for a TV show); it looks more like paintings than hastily cobbled together polygons.
  • The standout performance so far for me was definitely Lena Heady as Cersei. She plays her like a lazy lioness waiting for her prey to move before she rips them apart: polite, but you can tell there’s something very scary under all that hair and pretty clothing. I also really liked Jaime. I was sceptical when I saw Nikolaj Coster-Waldau in stills, but he totally has the Jaime smart alec swagger down. And Peter Dinklage was hilarious PERFECTION as Tyrion. And Maisie Williams is so cute, so perfectly Arya.
  • EW were those Jon Arryns’ organs on display in cups at his feet during his funeral??
  • The Godswood is beautiful. I wish I had one.
  • OK, so that half naked shaving scene was DEFINITELY for the ladies in the audience. I will give you that one New York Times. But I honestly didn’t get some reviewer’s bitching about the nudity and violence in this show. I’m pretty sure Deadwood had more nudity and violence in the first five minutes. It’s all definitely less gratuitous than True Blood.
  • God bless Emilia Clarke’s “woman’s body.” I hope they don’t make her starve it all off over the course of the seasons.
  • I also loved how everyone actually looks like they could be related to those they were supposed to be related to.
  • Oh and OUTFIT OF THE EPISODE has to go to Cersei, when she first arrives in Winterfell (see above). She is like BITCHES I WILL SHOW YOU HOW TO DO FUR. THE QUEEN DOES NOT DO GREY.
Sorry things got a bit lengthy, but dang, A LOT happened in an hour.

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