Monday, May 14, 2012

TRUST, BUT VERIFY: The villains spent a lot of time last night on Game of Thrones reminding us that they're villains. To wit:
Grandpa Lannister ordered a new round of pillaging in retaliation for his mistaken (but understandable) belief that he was the target of Jaqen H'gar's poisoned dart, and Arya got to see the consequence of the bargain that Jaqen offered her. Jaime Lannister shared a nice moment with his cousin (at least the third person this season, after Yoren and Renly, to expire moments after sharing a childhood memory, which should just serve as a reminder: never talk about your childhood in Westeros), then commemorated it by killing both Cousin Lannister and Torrhen Karstark. Theon caught, charred, and strung up his adoptive brothers, then set his eyes to extra-buggy when he realized both that he had completely lost control of his situation and that there's no way back from there. Xaro knew where the dragons were all along -- at Dean Pelton's house. Betty is still trying to poison Don from fifty miles away. And Ygritte seduced know-nothing Jon Snow into a canyon ambush straight out of the Tusken Raider playbook [uh, SPOILER ALERT for A New Hope]. Of our villains, only Cersei tried to mitigate the harm she caused, giving cold but solid advice to poor dumb Sansa, then admitting to Tyrion that having a bunch of kids with your brother doesn't exactly guarantee the best brood (Tyrion's comforting response, quoting Meat Loaf: "two out of three ain't bad.")

Jaime's speech to Catelyn, I think, is the closest this series comes to offering a thesis: What does it mean to be honorable when honor requires that you satisfy conflicting duties. Jaime has been saddled with the epithet "Kingslayer" for half his life, but the same people who say it use the nickname "Mad King" to refer to the monster that Jaime killed. So Jaime's declaration is that "honor" is just a word used to describe people who are on the same side as the speaker, when, really, it's just every man for himself. And from a production standpoint, the return to a focus on Jaime seems to mark a dividing line. The first half of this episode was full of natural light -- sunny encampments, light-filled Lannister meeting rooms, a pleasant walk for Bran, Hodor & Co. From the moment that Jaime's cousin lands in his cell, the sun goes down, the rain starts falling in the Frostfangs, the Stark encampments start sinking in mud. The war is about to get dirty, in ways both metaphorical and literal.

MIA: Littlefinger, Stannis, Davos, Melisandre, Jaqen H'gar, Samwise Gamgee, Joffrey.

Grammar and Usage Police: Tactics, not strategy.


  1. No to get all meta-liberal-artsy, but I found this episode notable for its brilliant use of one-on-one conversations. Almost the whole thing was consumed with fascinating discussions -- Cersei and Sansa, Tywin and Arya, Jaime and Catelyn, Jaime and Cuz, Jon and Ygritte, Cersei and Tyrion. All of these were both enlightening and entertaining. A reminder that, at bottom, the show is about great writing.

    Also:  I could listen to Dinklage say the word "tactics" all day long.

  2. Devin McCullen11:59 AM

    I don't know if Isaac's confirming something here or not, but the consensus in the newbie-safe recaps I've seen (Sepinwall, AV Club, Grantland) was that Theon had probably strung up the orphan boys sent to the farm. 

    I tend to lean that way myself, mostly because I know where I'd place my bet on Theon vs. 2 direwolves, but after all the "Just be aware that ANYBODY can die" warnings, I'm not counting anything out.

  3. Jordan12:18 PM

    I haven't read the books, but I have read comic books, and seen a bunch of movies, so I'm sticking to "If a main character died off screen, and you don't see the body (or can't make it out), it didn't happen."  Clearly anyone can be killed, but it's not like this show has shied away from violence.

  4. Also, it really seems like Bran's story, especially, has not yet run its course.

  5. isaac_spaceman1:30 PM

    I'm really trying to be newbie-safe here.  I didn't even use the word "book" this time.  My goal from here on out is just to take what's on-screen at face value. 

  6. Jordan2:03 PM

    The only reason I'm worried (although I still think they're [relatively] fine): depending on how you count them, there are between 5-7 Stark kids.  That's a lot.  I don't think we'll end the series--if even the season--with that many.  Here is my completely made up and sure to be completely wrong Stark Safety Chart:

    1. Jon Snow: The prologue to the series was ice zombies, he's our only point of reference beyond the wall.
    2. Arya: She's a ten year old girl (or there abouts) and is already the biggest badass on a show full of swords and zombies and dragons.
    3. Bran: Survived being thrown out of a tower, dreams of the future, possibly a werewolf.
    4. Ricky Walnuts: Meh.
    5. Robb: Noble, at war, doesn't always think things through. Sound like someone we know?
    6. Sansa: Something something lion's den.
    7. Theon: Oh Theon, what have you done?

  7. Watts2:21 PM

    "Ricky Walnuts" - love it.

  8. Andrew2:38 PM

    I would watch a feature-length conversation between Tywin and Arya. Those scenes with Dance and Maysie Williams are brilliantly subtle and tense. 

  9. Devin McCullen2:54 PM

    It may not have been a case of not wanting to show the violence, but just going for the shocking end-of-episode reveal. 

    And for Isaac, it's certainly not your fault that we don't know whether to take the show at face value. 

  10. Duvall3:44 PM

    Was Jamie's speech to Catelyn and Brienne a thesis on honor for the series, or for Jamie?  (A lack of mission statement, perhaps.) 

  11. isaac_spaceman3:45 PM

    Something like the opening scene of Inglorious Basterds.  I could see that. 

  12. Jordan4:09 PM

    Are you ready for your order?

    Uh, yes. The mutton, how do you prepare that?

    Tywin seemed to know an awful lot about the menu. I didn't understand a word of it.

    Hmm.  No, I don't really like mutton.  I think I'll have the quail.

    Oh, quails! I'll have that as well.

    So we talked for a while about my running and my killing, and about my friend Gendry.  And we talked about his son, Tyrion, and his twins, Cersai and Jamie.  Finally, I got around to asking him what he'd been up to in the last few years.

  13. isaac_spaceman4:12 PM

    For both, I think.  The supposedly good people in this show do terrible things, and the supposedly bad people do good things and are given the chance to explain their bad things.  Take this episode, for example.  Jaime calls Catelyn out for sending Jon Snow to the Wall for the crime of having been fathered by her husband.  Jaime hints at why killing Mad King Aerys shouldn't have been such a millstone around his neck (and Ned Stark gave more of the explanation last year -- it happened not long after Aerys tortured and burned Ned's father alive in the middle of the throne room for some imagined treason).  And Cersei all but says that everything she does is because she loves her children, even the one who's a monster, because a mother doesn't have a choice. 

  14. Rebecca11:28 PM

    <span> "The supposedly good people in this show do terrible things, and the supposedly bad people do good things and are given the chance to explain their bad things.  Take this episode, for example. "</span>

    Wait--how'd it get to be Wire Wednesday already?

    I thought it was interesting that, according to their conversation, Cersei has to love Joffrey but Sansa does not. The concept of a person being "worthy of love" doesn't really have a place in this series. Which fits well with the Jaime Lannister definition of honor.

  15. Some very interesting stuff this week.  I was especially intrigued by the conversations between Cersei and Sansa and Cersei and Tyrion, which added a lot of color and complexity to both Cersei's character and to her feelings about Joffrey.

    And, yes, I would add Arya/Tywin to my list of characters I'd like to see do the Amazing Race together.

  16. Emily5:59 PM

    Amazing Race Fictional Characters is maybe the best idea ever.

  17. Slowlylu1:43 AM

    Anyone down for a McNulty / Omar pairing?

  18. Or Cool Lester Smooth / Prop Joe?

  19. I wouldn't call Sansa dumb - just unprepared for her situation.  But she's smart enough to want to hide the evidence that she can now bear children, and smart enough to continue professing her love for Joffrey even when everyone knows she hates him.

  20. Emily3:52 PM

    CJ and Danny.

    Also, can we pair characters from different shows?