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Sunday, June 12, 2011

Game of Thrones 1x9 - "Baelor"

Wherein Lord Eddard Stark met the pointy end.

It's been a couple of months since I read Ned's execution in the book and I was plenty shocked then. Ned Stark is the Hero of this story and has been since the beginning. With exceptions like Braveheart and Gladiator, movies and TV conditions one to expect a last second rescue or something to happen that would have saved Ned's life so he could then somehow turn the tables on the Lannisters, but that's not the kind of story Game of Thrones is.

I thought the show at least made a couple of key dramatic concessions that gave some small amount of solace and satisfaction compared to how George R.R. Martin wrote Ned's demise in the book, from what I recall:

I liked that Arya and Ned saw each other as she was sitting at the foot of the statue of Baelor, and that Ned passed Yorin from the Night's Watch and pointed him towards Arya. "Baelor." One word was all that was needed. Good TV/cinema writing. In the book, Yorin came out of nowhere and recognized Arya and took her away, all the while calling her "boy". Also, in the book, Varys and the rest of the Small Council looked on more passively when Joffrey swerved everyone. I liked how Cercei was shocked, tried to argue with her son, and Varys made a move to do... something... even though there was no stopping the beheading. It was all dramatized very, very well.

Joffrey is a scumbag. He was already a heel, but can a heel pull off an even bigger heel turn? Yes. Because that's exactly what Joffrey did. And he gets even worse.

Incidentally, the actor who plays Joffrey, Jack Gleeson, is the little blond boy Batman meets in the Narrows in Batman Begins. And I kept seeing the name Julian Glover in the credits: Grandmaester Pycelle, the old man in Joffrey's court, is the villain in Indiana Jones in the Last Crusade, the one the Grail Knight tricked. "He chose poorly."

Another example of George RR Martin zigging when you expect him to zag is the fate of Khal Drogo. It was only a couple of episodes ago when Drogo made his declaration that he'd invade and conquer Westeros to win the Iron Throne for his Khaleesi and their unborn son Rhaego, and now via a cut on his chest, he's all but a dead man. Will the Dothraki ever cross the Narrow Sea and kill the usurpers to the Iron Throne? Things aren't looking too good for that. The decisions Daenerys made to have the witch save Drogo's life also introduces forbidden black magic into the story, which has been relatively straightforward and "realistic" prior to now.

I think Game of Thrones is now the unchallenged record holder in depicting horses beheaded or throats slit on television.

Wonderful scene with Tyrion, Bron and Shae(!) playing the drinking game, with the reveal of Tyrion's previous marriage to a whore and how Jaime set up the entire thing. And how about Tyrion's first time "leading" his wildling friends into battle? Bron: "You're a shit warrior." HALFMAN! HALFMAN!

The drinking game was an added scene. Shae becomes very important to Tyrion, who falls in love with her. Also different was that in the book, Tyrion isn't comically knocked out by one of his own wildling's hammers conking him in the head. In the book, Tyrion leads the assault, gets pinned by his horse, and fights and kills, though a lot of luck plays into the success of the battle.

I liked the scene in The Twins where Catelyn met with Lord Frey, that creepy old dirtbag. First, Lysa in the Eyrie and now Lord Frey... it seems like the vast lands in between Winterfell in the North and King's Landing in the South is filled with some real ghastly weirdos.

On one hand, Robb Stark defeated and captured Jaime Lannister in battle. That's pretty impressive for a teenager. On the other, boy, does Robb give a downer of victory speech. Way to bolster morale there, Robb. Plus where is Robb's direwolf Grey Wind? Grey Wind should be running beside Robb in battle all the time.

Jon Snow receives Longclaw for his efforts in saving Mormont from the Other last week, then gets a good talking to from the blind old man, who it turns out is Daenerys' uncle and a Targaryen, but with no claim to the throne since he took the black and joined the Night's Watch. I feel like the primary duty of a man of the Night's Watch seems to be Talking Jon Snow Out of Doing Something Stupid.

There was a lot of debate in "Baelor" about how far one would place duty vs. the well being of someone you love.

Which brings us right back to Ned. He foreswore his honor and called himself a traitor, all to save his daughters' lives, and he got royally screwed. Boy, was Ned's face red. From his own blood. When his head hit the floor*. Sigh.

This gem from Damon Lindelof had to be shared:

No matter how bad LeBron feels tonight, Sansa feels worse.

*Oh, I neglected to mention that it's Ned's own greatsword Ice that was used to lop off his head. Fitting.