Reaction: Game of Thrones (2×01)

I got behind on the Spring 2012 cable TV season because of finals, but I’m still here! Starting next week, I’m going to be posting my “starter” reviews two episodes at a time until I catch up with the air schedule for this season of Game of Thrones. :D

2×01

Previously on Game of Thrones: the entirety of season one! It’s a decent montage, actually, though of course notably lacking in Joffrey slaps and Mirri Maz Duur.

The show opens up with a duel being held in King’s Landing, high up on the stone catwalks above the courtyards, Joffrey eagerly watching with his stupid asymmetrical cape and stupid jauntily angled crown and stupid smug face. A knight in a bestial-looking helmet (The Hound, of course) is winning, viciously landing several blows on the other until he falls with a crash, to what I’d guess about three stories below. Ooh.

Everyone except Sansa seems to be enjoying themselves, though. Joffrey asks, “Did you like that?” I don’t know if he wants her to be unhappy, or simply in agreement with him– and neither does Sansa, so she stares at Joffrey for a second and replies, repeating his own response, “…It was well-struck, Your Grace.” When he sneers that he’s already said that, all she can do is quietly assent. Still, she’s learning.

A second duel is called for, and one of the knights has not shown up on time. When he does, his armor is ill-fitting and dingy, he’s fat and sloppy, and, of course, late, on top of admitting to showing up kind of buzzed already. You can’t drink all day if you don’t start in the morning! But Joffrey feigns a kind interest in the man, and offers him a drink of his own wine, and what can the knight do but say he’d be honored to accept? Still, everyone has to know Joffrey is a little shit– look how he’s wearing his crown– and Sansa bristles with tension while the slightly-dim Sir Dude just thinks he’s about to have an awesome day.

Sansa’s right, of course. Sir Dude is manhandled into a kneel, a horn shoved in his mouth with a barrel of wine upended into it, and within seconds is struggling against drowning from the onslaught. “You can’t!” Joffrey stares at Sansa incredulously. Excuse you?! Uh, that is, what she meant to say was… it’s… unlucky? After all, it’s his name day and everything, ordering someone killed can’t be good karma. Joffrey thinks that is a peasant superstition, which Sansa doesn’t bat an eye at, but Sandor has Sansa’s back, so the young king is all, “Fine, I’ll kill that fool tomorrow, then!” The barrel of wine is pulled out of the knight’s face and he vomits everywhere, of course, when Sansa has an Idea.

“You’re right, of course– he is a fool, you’re so clever to see it. He’d make a much better fool than a knight. He doesn’t deserve the mercy of a swift death.” Joffrey looks at Sansa like, “Not sure if want?” but he goes along with her suggestion, falling into her ploy to make him think he thought up the whole thing to begin with. The knight thanks Joffrey and Sansa both profusely. But now look! Enter Tyrion Lannister, stage left (well, stage left if Joffrey’s chair is pointed at the “audience,” anyway, but stage right as far as cinematography goes). In less than five minutes, Tyrion openly mocks Joffrey, is affectionate with his other niece and nephew, openly mocks The Hound, and pisses Joffrey off by expressing his sympathies to Sansa for Ned Stark’s death. Sansa quietly agrees with everything her betrothed says yet again, decrying her father and mother and brother as traitors, and claiming she is “loyal to [her] beloved Joffrey.” “Of course you are,” Tyrion says, sounding slightly shocked, and then excusing himself to get to work. Joffrey freaks out a little bit– what the hell, work? WHY ARE YOU HERE??

Cersei, who despite recently taking the demotion from Queen Regent to Dowager Queen in an attempt to save Lannister face and retain power re: claims of illegitimacy (which, considering who Joffrey is, she might have been better off just taking that PR hit and running things herself), is still pulling a lot of strings behind the scenes, is having a meeting with a few lords, some of those old Maester guys, Baelish, and the well-connected eunuch. Someone busts out a leutistic raven, which I guess is like the Punxatawney Phil of the ASoIaF-verse, because word from up North is that it’s been a sweet ride while it lasted, but Summer is over and Winter is coming. Littlefinger says they only have enough grain stockpiled for King’s Landing for a five-year winter, and if it’s any longer than that, welp, there’s just going to need to be less people, won’t there? But part of the reason the city’s so crowded is refugees fleeing the shifting-front Stark-Lannister war, and Cersei’s all, “JUST HAVE YOUR PARENTS BUY YOU MORE CROPS, WHAT THE LUMP.” Kick those peasants back into the fields where they belong, son!

Tyrion rolls in at that exact moment, which is in-character for him to do, being the annoying and nosy sibling and all, but when he seats himself at the head of the table opposite Cersei, she starts to get irritated. “What are you doing here?” Thanks, the vacation was great! Those Hill People, man, they really know how to party. “What are you doing here, this is the Small Council.” Oh, that? Has Tyrion mentioned he’s the new Hand? Daddy Lannister passed the title along to someone actually in the field, so to speak, since Cersei has proven she’s not good with remote management. Cersei kicks everyone else out, and then is very huffy and uncooperative about the idea of her little brother outranking her, until Tyrion tells her her one redeeming characteristic is her love for her children (and her cheekbones), and that it’s something she and the Starks have in common. He lets her know they can probably get Jaime back in trade– for the two surviving Starks in King’s Landing. “…One.”

…Say what? Oh, um, yeah, about that. Cersei had three Starks in custody, but she lost one and had another’s head cut off. Cersei starts to say how she tried to stop that one, but Tyrion cuts her off. “You failed.” He gives her a calculating look, and grins at his sister. “Must be hard for you– to be the disappointing child.” Tyrion’s got his work cut out for him.

Back at Casa Stark, Bran is suddenly the patriarch, which means listening to the complaints of the locals, many of whom are elderly and seem to think little of the younger three generations. Bran is very over it; aren’t you a grown-up, dude? GET SHIT DONE, what the hell, MOTHERFUCKER, I’M, LIKE, NINE YEARS OLD. Are you literally standing here complaining about shoddy decades-old architecture, and it’s Bran’s problem now because even though you could have addressed it before Winter, now you can’t because Ned Stark got himself killed? Interrupting the awkwardness, Bran’s own old-guy advisor is like, “Thank you, put in a work order, we can put four union Masons on loan for you, have a nice day.” Bran’s still pissed, but his advisor reminds him that these are his duties now, and this is his citizenry, however crusty and annoying they may be– so he sits up straight and pays better attention to the next man who comes up to speak. Bran can be an alright kid when he’s not being creepy and ominous.

Speaking of which! Bran is dreaming again. He dreams of running through the woods around Winterfell, seeing a red comet in the sky, running past the white tree to a pool and seeing a reflection of himself as his Dire Wolf. The next morning, he has himself carried there in a papoose on his large mute White Barbarian’s back, while the captured Barbarian woman quickly figures out what this whole field trip is about. They talk back and forth about what the comet could mean– if it’s about Summer, or Winter, or Ned, or the war. “Stars don’t fall for men,” the Barbarian woman retorts. “Red comet means one thing, boy. Dragons.”

Bran has been let down onto the ground, and crawls over to the pool, where he sees his own reflection staring back at him. “The dragons are all dead. They’ve been dead for centuries.” He muddles the surface of the water.

In the desert, Daenerys and her baby dragons and her khalassar are having a rough way to go of it. The sound of flies, of course, is piped in, as with Khal Drogo’s “undeath” scene. (Daenerys is also in heeled boots, which seems impractical and culturally inappropriate for the Dothraki. Also, either the visual effects people or Emilia Clarke were off on her line-of-sight for the dragon she’s feeding on her shoulder, because she seems to be looking slightly above it– but that’s more of a distracting post-production thing than a storytelling complaint.) Anyway, everyone is filthy. One of the Dothraki slaves asks Daenerys what her brother said about dragons? “My brother didn’t know anything about dragons. He didn’t know anything about anything.”

Distracting her from that bitterness, one of the horses up ahead just straight up drops. Daenerys runs up to it, and then makes a wide-eyed pouty face at Ser Jorah, who shakes his head. “She was Drogo’s first gift to me.” Umm. I’m going to throw out there that, while I understand Dany has realized a lot of power and alliances through this “marriage” with Drogo, so some attachment to that relationship comnceptually makes sense, I find it very troubling and weird how loyal she is to this idea of Drogo actually as her sun and stars and all that when 1) he is a child rapist and 2) she has no such qualms about her brother, though admittedly he didn’t even respect her as much as an object as the Khal did (to her brother, Daenerys was a pawn; to Drogo, she was the potential mother of his heir). Jorah just nods. Daenerys is sad; she promised her khalassar’s enemies would die screaming, but how can you make starvations scream? Does the Red Waste ever end? Well if you keep on heading east, eventually, you should hit China. Just sayin’. But to the south are the Lazarene, who I am going to assume are this ‘verse’s Middle Easterners/North Africans, and to the west are more Dothraki, and both of them will just kill everybody and steal the dragons. “No one will take my dragons,” Daenerys says, with more certainty than she’s said anything else this episode.

Ser Jorah tells Daenerys she has to be her dragons’ and her people’s strength, and Dany tells Jorah that he’s her strength. Aww. She calls up three Dothraki dudes, Rakaro, Aggo, and Kovaro, and in what sounds like horribly-accented Dothraki (I can’t tell if this is deliberate linguistic badness or a dialect-coaching thing or what) and tells them to take her horses and scatter in each direction to look for cities, people, water, anything. Still, she pulls Obi-Wan Rakaro aside specifically, telling him he’s her last hope, he’s blood of her blood, he’s never failed her, etc. “This is a bad time to start,” he replies in the Common Tongue, and looks down at her fondly before mounting his horse and riding off in search of Anything Not the Red Waste. Aww…?

Beyond the Wall, Jon Snow and Co. have ridden into a Wildling village. One of the other Knight’s Watch guys exposits, being a Northern man himself; it’s hard times for this village, and don’t even think about looking at any of the women– they’re all Craster, the town head’s, daughters and wives. And then he has more daughters by them, and marries them, too. Jon Snow visibly starts at this. Remember that one time when he was talking about the Vows to join up at the Wall, and how he’s a virgin because he couldn’t even bring himself to have sex with a prostitute, even if he paid, and even if it was Roz, because he never met his mother, but he’s got sisters, and, like, women are people, too, and that includes sex workers, and what if they were just like his mom and sisters? And everyone mocked him for that? Yeah. Not that this makes him secretly feminist or anything; women are people, but they’re hardly men (though he did give Arya a sword, which has turned out swimmingly for her). Still, Samwell is mildly grossed out, but the first guy just shrugs, like, “Well, Craster’s still alive, isn’t he? Do you see any other Wildlings around? He’s doing something right.”

Jon Snow glares at the building Craster lives in. “What happens to the boys? …He marries his daughters– what does he do with his sons?” THOSE ARE DANGEROUS AND NOSY THOUGHTS, JON SNOW. Still, that’s not enough for him, so Jon heads over to where a sort of casually threatening meeting is being held, I think in a stable or something?, and Craster wants Southern wine in exchange for shelter. John interrupts, because he considers himself a Northerner and a Stark, but Craster’s like, “You’re all Southerners, pretty boy, and by the way you are a BASTARD,” and Mormont tells him to sit the fuck down and shut the fuck up while the men do business. He does as he’s told, but between Ramin Djawadi’s score and Kit Harington’s extremely good work re: facial microexpressions, you can see Jon’s anger and revulsion build while he takes in the women crouched around the edges of the building, and watches Craster extort more and more goods while talking more and more smack about Mance Rayder, who is apparently some kind of traitor to the Knight’s Watch, and about generally getting to have sex while everybody else in attendance can’t/won’t– including, at one point, grabbing one of his “wives” by the ass and demanding that she tell the Knight’s Watch how content they all were in their little incestuous enclave. “This is our place. Our husband keeps us safe,” she recites. “Better to live free than die a slave.” Craster finally agrees to let the Men of the Wall stay, but that any man who lays a hand on any of his wives loses that hand– and he’s noticed Snow staring him down, and if he keeps that shit up, he’s going to get his eyes gouged out.

Mormont plays it very cool– “Your roof, your rules”– while Craster fidgets anxiously, itching to punch Jon in his observant grille, but once they get outside, Mormont has some words. “WHO AM I?” Lord Commander. “And who are you?” Jon Snow. “Who ARE you?” Your steward? “You want to lead one day? Well, learn how to follow.”

It’s grown dark, and the red comet is still burning in the sky, somewhere at some craggy-looking cliffs with statues of dragons looking out into the ocean. An old man in robes and carrying a torch runs, panting, along the beach, towards a gathering of other torch-carrying figures circled around a fiercely red-headed woman dressed all in red. She is preaching aloud to her god, that they will burn wooden idols of the false gods for Him, “for the night is dark, and full of terrors.” The running guy hands his torch off to someone else and gets in to the front row for the spectacle. Darkness will fall heavy on the world, the stars will bleed, the seas will freeze, and the dead will rise in the North, according to Melisandre, the woman in red. Yo, Summer’s over, for real. The one priest-guy wants her to stop– the man next to him acknowledges his feelings and all, but Stannis Baratheon is here, and, um, it’s not a good time for this.

The Running Priest doesn’t care for that answer. He runs up next to Melisandre and interrupts her speechifying. “Is this how you treat the gods of your fathers? Are you so eager to spit on your ancestors?” No one steps up to agree with him. “You smell of fear,” Melisandre says, quietly, and touches the priest’s face. “Fear and piss and old bones. You want to stop me? Stop me.” The priest steps aside, seeing no one will help him save his faith. The effigies continue to burn. Stannis pulls a flaming sword from the heart of one of the old gods, completing a ceremony making him the Lightbringer of Melisandre’s religion’s books of prophecy. Everyone takes a knee, except for the one heartbroken priest; “For the night is dark, and full of terror,” they all repeat.

After everyone else heads inside, the priest and the other man he had been talking with hang back. Stannis claims kingship now, just like every other anyone with a title and a piece of land since King Robb died, but the priest thinks loyal service should be about telling hard truths, like, “I think Melisandre might be a heinous blasphemer leading you down the path of spiritual corruption,” or, “Can we really afford to go to war over you deciding you are a god-king right now,” or, “All your friends suck (except for me and my man Davos),” or any number of other incredibly awkwardly blunt statements. Davos is like, “…You might want to reconsider that last one, I ain’t in it,” and walks away to join the others.

Inside, Stannis is having a declaration drafted about how he declares himself king over his brother Renly, and he’s dibsing the Iron Throne of Westeros now, so loyal up, guys; how Joffrey’s an incest-bastard (by Sir Jaime Lannister the King-Slayer, because, hey, the man’s a king-slayer, but titles still mean something, gosh); how he and Ned Stark were totally tight; and scratch out that bit about King Rob being a “beloved” brother, he was a prick. We can’t make ourselves liars, now. Stannis… is an interesting gent. The priest, however, is very obviously poisoning a glass of wine, and Davos is very uncomfortable with this. We can see you, dude. Still, Stannis is like, “Send: All, CC: All, BCC: All. You get three copies, you can’t pretend you didn’t hear me, son.” Davos thinks he should join forces with Renly, or at least Robb Stark, but Stannis thinks that’s gross, kill it with fire, and Melisandre’s all, “But the Lord of Light stands behind him, so Stannis really doesn’t have to do anything at this point? Idk why we’re even still talking about this.”

The priest interrupts to apologize, and says he was wrong, then declares a toast in honor of the One True God. “Don’t,” Davos whispers. The priest pats his shoulder on his way over to Melisandre, and takes a swig himself before handing her the glass. She smiles at him while he struggles with the effects of the poison, shaking and getting a nosebleed, and beginning to drown in his own blood as Melisandre drains the glass completely, never breaking eye contact. He falls, a pool of blood spreading below him. Melisandre, however, is fine. “The night is dark and full of terrors, old man. But the fire burns them all away.”

At Robb’s army encampment, the King of the North enters the cage he’s had built to house Jaime Lannister, tied to a pike. He is looking scruffy, and you can pretty much hear the fanfiction writing itself as Jaime accuses Robb of having a crush on him, or why not leave him somewhere for safekeeping? Uh, because your dad would find you? Fair enough. Jaime tries to insult Robb by calling him “boy;” but one snarl from Grey Wind, Robb’s Dire Wolf, puts him right in his place. Robb reminds Jaime that if he is a boy, he is a boy who has never lost a battle, which is better than losing three battles to a boy, let alone being captured and at the mercy of one. Grey Wind enters the cage. “You like ordering people’s deaths, huh? You like fathering bastard children and pushing little kids out of windows, huh?” Someone got a raven from Stannis! And then Robb leaves Jaime alone in the cage with his Dire Wolf. Jaime looks like he’s going to cry, but Grey Wind snaps his teeth an inch away from Jaime’s face and disappears in silence.

Meanwhile, Shae is overjoyed to be in King’s Landing, in the private quarters of the Hand. She loves cities, and how stinky and noisy they are, and how many people there are, and… no! NOOOO! Shae, you are a secret funny whore, remember?? STAY. INSIDE. Still, Tyrion and Shae have a sweet little moment that segues into Baelish and Cersei having a confrontation, of sorts, under the archways around the courtyard. A slave or servant child is scrubbing the tiles of the floor, the same one whose job it was to drag out the unfortunate knight’s body in the duel from the beginning of the episode. Cersei wants Arya found. Baelish is all, “Uh, did she go HOME?” Cersei’s like, “If I knew that, would I be talking to you? Jeeez. Just know there’s rewards in it, okay?” She notices Baelish’s self-made sigil is a mockingbird, because you gotta have a family crest, even if you start off a nobody. That reminds Cersei of this story, about a social-climbing guy who fell in love with, like, this smokin’ hot redhead, but she married someone else! Oooooh! Well, Baelish will do you one better, he’s heard of similarly tense situations even between siblings in the same family, and maybe those situations are better if you pay off people not to now about them, amirite? “Knowledge is power,” he says.

“Seize him,” is all Cersei has to say to that. Four burly armored dudes grab Baelish by the arms and immobilize him. “Cut his throat.” She laughs. “Oh, stop! Wait, I’ve changed my mind. Let him go. Step back three paces. Turn around. Close your eyes.” Baelish is visibly shaken. “Power is power.” Cersei says with a smirk, walking up to Baelish. “Do see if you can take some time away from your coins and your whores and locate the Stark girl for me. I would very much appreciate it.” She marches out, her soldiers in tow. The kid scrubbing the floor notes this, but continues his? her?? work.

Robb, meanwhile, is giving one of the Lannister cousins the run-down of his peace terms, to be delivered to Tywin Lannister, which include his sisters returned safely, the bodies of the war dead, and the bones of Ned Stark, to be placed in the Stark family crypt; and all claim to the Dominion of the North to be forever renounced by Joffrey and Cersei. A brace of “The King of the North!”s goes around, and the Lannister guy is dismissed. Theon, however, would like to speak privately with his friend for a minute. His point is that, okay, those terms are nice and all, but they’re going to be rejected; if you’re going to attack King’s Landing, you will need a fleet with ships, which Northerners, being landlocked, do not have a ready supply of. However! However. Theon is a Greyjoy. He was kidnapped by Ned Stark, even if he did grow up with the man’s kids for nine years, so now’s as good a time as any to go home to the Iron Islands and try to call in some favors, yeah? Catelynn isn’t keen on the idea of joining up with rebels, but Robb reminds her that he’s the rebel now, and as much as she’s stressed out by missing her daughters, Robb is feeling it too– but things are more complicated than that now. Cat can’t go home to the children she left behind, either. It’s time for everyone to call in favors, Southern girl, you’re going to the Stormlands to chat up Renly Baratheon. She eventually agrees, and Robb kisses her on the forehead, promising they’ll all be together again soon. She says Ned would be proud; but there’s a king in every corner now.

At King’s Landing, Joffrey has, for some reason, decided to redecorate the throne room. Cersei’s like, “…Fine, whatever, we will deal with this later. We need to find Arya Stark, the Starks won’t trade Jaime back for just Sansa.” Joffrey thinks they will, because they’re weak and put too much value on their women, and turns to walk away. Cersei insists that he should ask Pop-Pop Lannister to borrow some men, and Joffrey is over that noise. Kings don’t ask for stuff, mom, GOSH. Particularly not from old geezers who suck so bad at war that Jaime got captured in the first place, and, by the way, everybody’s in danger, why is Jaime so important? Which reminds him: “I heard a disgusting lie about Uncle Jaime the other day. And you.”

“Our enemies will say anything to weaken your claim to the throne.”

“It’s not a claim, the throne is mine.” Cersei goes, of course it is, my darling, no one believes such foul gossip! Who’s the most adorable child King? But Joffrey figures people must, if they’re spreading it, and he heard Robb Baratheon had bastard children. “What are you asking?” “I’m asking if he fucked other women when he grew tired of you.” SLAP! Joffrey audibly gasps as a second Lannister palm crosses his little weaselly face, and literally everyone in the room stops working and turns to stare. When Joffrey turns around, though, they’re all business, DON’T MIND ME, I SEE NOTHING. Joffrey gathers himself. “What you just did is punishable by death.” Cersei looks up, slightly afraid. “You will never do it again. Never.” She stands still as Joffrey walks away, looking small while he dismisses her.

Roz, however, is only moving up in the world! She’s in charge of a brothel, and a nice one– not some “five-copper bordy-house,” as she tells one of her new hires, showing her their employee training program and opportunities for career expansion. “Taste is everything here.” “Here” is one of Baelish’s many side operations, a fancy whorehouse for fancy clientele. Soldiers, however, are marching in and mucking up the place, storming occupied rooms willy-nilly. Bad for business, much? Daisy’s having an interesting first day, anyway. Roz wants to know what the fuck is up as two soldiers march a woman in with an infant in her arms; a bleeding informant nods at the soldiers who brought him in. One soldier hesitates, but the Lord Commander takes his own knife and plunges it into the baby himself. All around King’s Landing, any man, boy, or baby with Baratheon features (dark hair, light eyes) is being knifed, beaten, or drowned in an effort to get rid of any bastards who might lay claim to the Iron Throne– and a familiar blacksmith is being held over coals for information about Gendry, the bastard he sent away to join the Knight’s Watch to protect him and keep everyone’s nose clean. You will know him by his boar’s-head helmet, sirs!

Gendry, however, doesn’t know that someone’s out for his head specifically– or his new besty Arry’s. He lifts them both into a cart to ride at least partway into the North, but they won’t be fast enough to avoid the war from all directions even if they were fast enough to outpace Lannister soldiers. Like Cat said, there’s a king in every corner now, so even the North isn’t safe anymore.

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