Summary: Robb becomes King in the North after learning of Ned's death. Tywin selects Tyrion to represent him as Hand of the King in King's Landing while he battles in the field. Jon tries to leave to fight with Rob but Sam and the others bring him back. Jeor decides to go beyond The Wall with the Night's Watch. Dany wakes up to learn her son died in birth and Drogo has become a vegetable. She smothers Drogo and then burns Mirri in a pyre. She walks into the fire and emerges unharmed with three baby dragons.
The Good: All of the Stark reactions to Ned's death were very powerful. It was sad to see all of the main characters in grieving this episode, as even Dany was left in mourning. The episode was a bleak and dark end to the first season of the show as it seemed to be an endless barrage of the main characters in misery. Misery can be a powerful asset in storytelling, as it's a good way to make us connect with the characters and also provides emotional and memorable scenes. But misery is tricky because giving too much can provide the opposite effect and leave the viewers in agony, not willing to watch any more and put them through the pain. This episode understood this however and did well to ensure that there was enough hope to keep us engaged for next season where maybe things can get better. Robb and Catelyn are grieving Ned's death, but hope is created when Robb is declared the King in the North. Maybe he can kill Joffrey and the Lannisters and then everything can end up well. That is the hope that this episode expertly utilizes. The other storylines have similar problems which are overcome with glimmers of hope, including Jon accepting his new brotherhood in the Night's Watch and Dany overcoming her losses by birthing the first dragons that the continent has seen in thousands of years. There is hope that next season things can get better, and that's important to ensure that we are still compelled to watch more.
But things were terrible at the start of this episode. Take Joffrey, who is quickly beginning to develop into a fantastic villain. While I really want to learn more about his upbringing (see: The Unknown), what we have so far is more than enough to make us completely despise him. He is weak and cowardly, with a serious superiority complex; no bite to his bark. And yet somehow this terrible and weak human has become King of the Seven Kingdoms and is immediately abusing his powers to torture those who really don't deserve it. That one scene with Sansa is enough to despise the man in his entirety, but we have been treated to a full season of his awfulness taking our hatred of him to the next level. It's rare for a TV show to create a villain so terrible that I absolutely can't wait for him to get what is coming for him when he hopefully bites the dust. This is really good because it makes me look forward to something (Joffrey's death which will hopefully come soon), increasing my investment in the show.
I really like that in the span of one season we have learned all about Westeros before a chain of events has sent the continent into a civil war, with at least three different people wanting to become king, all of them with a strong following. It's an exciting hook for the next season as we will presumably get to see the war truly get underway.
Tyrion becoming Hand was a small moment I really enjoyed. It was surprising to see Tywin show something resembling affection for Tyrion, though I would suspect it is just to ensure that he cooperates. Also, it's nice to see that something potentially good awaits Tyrion as he will now serve as Joffrey's advisor. Considering their last interaction which involved several well-deserved slaps, I am excited to see where this storyline goes.
Dany's tragedy was fantastic in this episode. It was really sad to see her lose everything here, with her husband, son and army all getting away from her. Halfway through this season she had looked invincible as she fought her way to the top of the Khalasar, overcoming her brother. But now her inexperience has cost her as she made some critical mistakes in her approach to war. She just wanted everything to be the way she imagined it to be, and after her time as Khaleesi, she had gotten used to getting what she wanted. However this cost her as she estranged her Khalasar and created a bitter enemy in Mirri Maz Duur who successfully took away everything she cared about. It was a tragic fall which was painful to watch, particularly in this episode as she mourned the loss of everything she loved (see: Best Moment).
Mirri was a really well done character too and I completely understood why she would spend her remaining life trying to screw over Dany, who was responsible for taking everything from her. She was a good villain while she was around and her demise was satisfying as she screamed loudly despite saying that she wouldn't. Of course that final scene was also terrific as dragons were a huge reveal which makes me desperate to see Dany's path continue and for her to wreak havoc on Westeros.
Jon's storyline was really good too despite being short. There was genuine emotion as Jon's friends recited the vows to bring him back with them and I completely bought into the brotherhood which has been formed by Jon and his friends. The Night's Watch story has ben completely separate from the main storyline, but that was always the point as this storyline represents the impending doom which is coming upon the main storyline. Kudos to the writing for making me still care about the characters in this story too, making it clear that the story is more than just a prop.
One final thing I have enjoyed about this season as a whole is how the scenes that took place in the cold were very clearly in the actual cold, with cold breath and a chilly atmosphere. After watching "The Terror" which failed to adequately demonstrate the cold, this was very refreshing to see.
The Bad: While a lot of parts of this episode hit hard, I feel that it could have been even better. This season went at a brisk pace and we were never really allowed to breathe with the characters. If we had perhaps gotten 1 or 2 more episodes to slow the pace and attach us to the characters more, I suspect that this could have been even better.
The Unknown: Do dreams have meaning and significance in this world? Bran and Rickon's dreams were very curious.
What is Joffrey's past? Surely something must have made him such a terrible human being. I'm willing to wait to learn about him as he is pretty compelling at the moment, but I hope that there is something big to learn about his past.
Is Pycelle not as old as he lets on? It appears that everything he is doing is an act, likely to make him seem like more of an innocent individual. It's very interesting to learn this information.
Will Arya make it back to Winterfell with Yoren? She has a long way to go. It's significant that she ran into Gendry, as it could imply that he has a bigger role in the show than expected.
What was Jeor talking about that was happening beyond The Wall? What will the Night's Watch find when they go past The Wall?
Best Moment: Dany suffocating Drogo was such a tragic moment which was very emotional. This episode was so good at providing emotion.
Character of the Episode: Dany.
Conclusion: This was a great season finale, ending the storylines with a depressing bang while also setting up the next season in numerous exciting ways. A great way to end the season.
The season as a whole was tremendously enjoyable. The beginning had tons of exposition and the pacing was slow, making it tough to get through at times. But it was all necessary foundation for the rest of the story to work. Once the story started moving and the stakes and characters were understood, the show took off and delivered an exciting, tense and overall fun series of storylines which related to each other and bounced off of each other in unique ways, making for an interesting story structure. And then by the end of the season the show engaged my emotions and proved that it could hit hard like any other good TV shows. This was a very strong start to the show.
Summary: At The Wall, Jon is faced with a decision on whether to stay with the Night's Watch or go help Robb fight his war. Across the sea, Drogo's cut festers and he is on the verge of death. Dany gets Mirri Maz Duur to save him by doing witchcraft, which the Khalasar does not appreciate. Robb has to cross at The Twins and is forced to broker a deal with Lord Frey to marry one of his daughters in order to cross. Tywin's army is attacked by a small force and they win easily but it is a decoy as Robb has gone to Riverrun and captured Jaime. Ned confesses his treason and declares Joffrey as the true king but Joffrey has him killed anyways.
The Good: The opening Ned and Varys scene was just as fascinating as the last as it continued to play on Ned's current emotions while also building more mystery around Varys as a whole. The conversation didn't accomplish much, but it was terrifically written and engaging all the way. It was good to get a look at Ned's emotional state before his big scene at the end as it built up more tension regarding what he will do when called up in front of everyone.
That leads me to the biggest moment of the episode, right at the end when Ned actually does confess his sins. It was really surprising for me to see Ned debase himself to save his daughters, but also really powerful as it was one of the few genuinely smart things that the honourable Ned has done in the show. And yet it was all for naught because Joffrey had him killed anyways. This scene was terrific and did so much good for the series. For one, it succeeded in establishing that anything can happen, as the show's main character was just killed after nine episodes which is a huge shock. Secondly, it develops Joffrey as a major villain who we all universally want to see killed for what he has just done to the Stark family. And also, it was a terrific moment in a story as the only fate suitable for Ned after all of his mistakes was death. It gives a huge sense of consequence to the show which is terrific, as I always love shows which actually make characters face the consequences of their decisions. "Breaking Bad" was a terrific show for this reason and "Game of Thrones" is succeeding because of it as well. Furthermore, I love the tragic element of Ned's death as the honourable guy ended up being hated by everyone as he was executed, given no credit for the honour he holds.
The side storylines were fantastic in this episode too. I really loved Jon's brief storyline and it's the most excited I've been to see more of The Wall since the show began. I'm glad that the show has explored Jon's struggle with committing to the Night's Watch and abandoning his family, while also showing the turmoil that it's put him through. I especially loved the reveal that master Aemon is a Targaryen as it provides a great example for Jon showing what could happen if he chooses to abandon his family for the Watch. Furthermore, Aemon's story is quite horrifying and does a great job of telling us how it must feel to watch your entire family die while you are helpless to do anything.
Tyrion's past being revealed was another fantastic moment. His relationship with his father was just introduced, and this episode fleshed it out through Tyrion's backstory by showing how despicable of a man he is and how much he has ruined Tyrion's life, along with Jaime. The story was very sad and helps us sympathize with Tyrion even more to ensure that we aren't totally against the Lannisters as the show's best character is part of that family. I enjoyed the entirety of the drinking scene too, not only the story. "I Never" scenes in TV shows tend to be great as they get to show the personality of the characters involved while also giving us a little bit of their backstory. I also really loved how Tyrion couldn't predict Shae's life accurately which confused him, adding a lot of great levity. Though we don't know very much about Shae so far, I hope we get a lot more since she has made a big impact as a character so far and I would like to see her relationship with Tyrion develop.
Dany's story was very well done too. Last episode showed some cracks forming within the Khalasar and now with Dany bringing witchcraft into the mix, I suspect that we will have something big happening in the next episode. The show has done a terrific job of showing how Dany is slowly gaining the hate of members of the Khalasar, and here it finally explodes as Dany is completely alienated from everyone and Jorah is left protecting her, being forced to get into a major fight with Qotho. What I really love is that I have no idea what happens next, which builds up a lot of tension and excitement for the season finale.
Robb's story was another really good one. The problem of crossing The Twins was a great idea as it allowed us to grow attached to Robb as we see him face his first real test as a commander. His resolve also makes him immediately likeable as he is willing to do whatever it takes to save his father. As a side note, I also loved Walder Frey who was a brilliantly senile old man who was awful in all of the worst ways.
I enjoyed the way the show handled the battles too. As cool as it would have been to see a massive ground battle, it would have been very tough to do with the budget that this show has so I think they did a good job of avoiding the battles while still showing us how Robb outsmarted the Lannisters to put himself in an advantageous position. The reveal that he has captured Jaime is huge as he now has a Lannister to properly bargain with, though it may be too late seeing that Ned has been executed.
I liked the small moment of Jeor giving his sword to Jon and all of the Night's Watch wanting to see it and touch it. It was a great little moment of world-building.
The Bad: Nothing I would call as bad. This was a great episode all around.
The Unknown: Will Robb actually follow through and marry Walder's daughter?
What is Drogo's fate? Will he actually be brought back to life? What will happen to Dany now? I can't imagine anything good will come out of Jorah taking her into the tent.
When did Bronn go past The Wall and why? That interests me a lot and makes me want to see more of his history.
Will Jon choose to stay with the Night's Watch or leave?
Best Moment: Ned's death was a pivotal moment for the show.
Character of the Episode: Tyrion.
Conclusion: This was a terrific episode which progressed all stories in interesting ways which developed characters, added mystery and suspense and also gave us some powerful storytelling. The best episode of the series so far.
Summary: The Starks at King's Landing are executed and Sansa is captured. Arya escapes though Syrio is presumably killed. Sansa pleads for mercy for Ned and ultimately she gets her wish as Joffrey decrees that Ned will be spared if he confesses his sins and declares Joffrey as the true king. Robb gets word that Ned has been imprisoned and he goes to war with Catelyn. He marches south. Tyrion befriends the hill tribe and meets with Tywin's army, which is ravaging the Riverlands. Across the sea, Mago is displeased when Dany doesn't allow him to rape a girl from a village the Khalasar pillaged. Drogo fights Mago and kills him. At The Wall, two dead bodies are found but they come back as wights. Jon kills one which attacks Lord Commander Mormont's chamber.
The Good: This episode continued to deliver the exciting storytelling and non-stop action that was started in the last episode and I still really enjoy it. This episode felt really important because of that, and I think it's really impressive how the show has picked up ever since "The Wolf and the Lion".
The early sequence of the Stark men being executed was very well done, and it goes to show that Ned has lost all control and the Starks have been completely dominated, making King's Landing enemy territory. I enjoyed seeing Arya and Syrio fight back though and Syrio got to presumably die in great fashion, both saving Arya and giving her one final unintentional lesson about life and death.
Varys and Ned's scene together was also terrific. I loved Varys addressing how he is not a hero and is just trying to serve the realm (see: The Unknown), as it gives us more interesting information about who he is. The meat of the scene as the best part though as it all reflected on Ned's mercy, which ended up being his fatal flaw which has led to all of this happening. It's the perfect thing for him to contemplate as he sits in his cell and it paints a very sad image of what has happened to him since arriving in King's Landing.
Sansa was great in this episode. It's sad to see her be so easily manipulated by Joffrey and Cersei, still swayed by her foolish and childish belief that the Queen and King are both trustworthy and brilliant individuals. It's compelling to see her in such a hostile environment without realizing it as she tries everything in her power to save Ned from harm. It's really tense to watch as we understand that anything that Sansa wants can now only be given to her by Cersei and Joffrey, two monstrous individuals.
I loved seeing Robb get forced into a more major role as well since he has been a minor asset of the show so far. But the capture of his father forces him o take action, and Robb clearly shares his father's honour, recklessness and grit as he instantly calls his banners and goes to war. It's exciting to watch and also opens up yet another character arc as we now get to see the young Robb forced to immediately harden himself into a leader so he can command his army into battle.
Tyrion was sublime as always. I really enjoyed seeing him talk his way out of a problem with the hill tribe by offering them tools and gold, and in doing so he gets himself a new group of allies. This also leads to a very good scene where Tyrion meets his father and we learn of his relationship with Tywin while also getting some light-hearted comedy from Bronn and more war set up as Tywin tackles the immediate threat of Robb coming south.
The stuff at The Wall was really good too. I loved the wight attack as it was suspenseful, well choreographed and very engaging (aside from that one moment where Jon throws the lamp which featured some audio clips which were blatantly added in editing). The scene had my interest and paid off of 8 episodes of build up to the Night's Watch being confronted by the threat of white walkers directly. The rest of The Wall story was great too. I enjoyed seeing Jon unsettled and angry after learning about what happened in King's Landing, and it also nicely continued Jon's feud with Ser Alliser who continues to antagonize him. Also, I enjoyed Sam's increased role in the story as he has found his calling as the brain of the Night's Watch who has all of the knowledge. I'm pleased to see that he is more than just a coward.
I also enjoyed seeing Dan conflicted with the rape that the Khalasar does after looting a village. It's understandable that she would sympathize with the villagers for that and is unhappy with doing that much despite being content with stealing the money from the village. This conflict also led to a nice scene where Drogo finally shows what he is capable of as he dominates and brutally murders Mago.
Lastly, I really liked seeing Barristan retired by Joffrey. It's exactly the kind of evil thing that we can expect the Lannisters to do.
The Bad: Arya's scene where she kills the one boy was really badly done. It was too rushed to have any real impact, which was likely because the boy proved to be a terrible actor in the 12 seconds of screen time he had. I also don't really understand who he is, which detracts from Arya killing him. It seems like he was familiar with her which I don't understand.
The scene with Robb being questioned by the Greatjon was poorly done too because of a rushed pace. The scene's tone fluctuated far too quickly and that took me out of it. I also thought it was too excessive to have the Greatjon laughing moments after losing two of his fingers.
The Unknown: Where has Arya gone?
What does Varys mean when he says he supports the realm?
Will Ned actually confess to save himself? It seems unlikely to me.
Best Moment: Not much stood out, but I'll pick Tyrion's reunion with Tywin as there were some fascinating character dynamics present in that scene.
Character of the Episode: I'll go with Jon for having the most interesting character development here.
Conclusion: This was a very good episode with lot of solid story progression and excitement. Though nothing particularly memorable happened in this episode, it was gripping and engaging nonetheless.
Summary: At The Wall, Benjen doesn't return from his ranging. Jon is selected as a steward for the Lord Commander who wants to groom him as his successor. Across the sea, Dany is almost killed but Jorah has a change in heart and saves her. Drogo decides to go after Westeros. In King's Landing, Ned tells Cersei to leave before he tells Robert about Joffrey. Robert returns but he is wounded by a boar and is dying. He names Ned as Protector of the Realm. Ned gets options from Renly and Littlefinger to take power but refuses and decides to be honourable. Joffrey assumes the throne after Cersei disregards Robert's words. Ned gets the City Watch on his side courtesy of Littlefinger and tries to take down Cersei but Littlefinger betrays him.
The Good: This episode made terrific use of tension to succeed on a higher level than anything else that came before. While the show didn't engage my emotions to that next level yet, it had me more engaged, excited and on-the-edge-of-my-seat than ever before.
The main reason for this is Ned's storyline which was handled brilliantly. It was immensely tense seeing Ned confront Cersei early in the episode and it was surprising to see him directly address Cersei with his suspicions about Joffrey's lineage. It would have been smart for Ned to just quietly destroy Cersei after discovering the truth, but he is honourable and he wants to give Cersei a chance to flee which ends up being his undoing. We know that Cersei is aware of Ned's plan and will be plotting everything to make sure that she is able to trump whatever he tries, so that adds a lot of tension as we know that Cersei will be plotting during all of this time that we see Ned plotting.
The episode does a spectacular job of explaining why Ned loses this battle of wits. He is given multiple options, from Renly and Littlefinger, which all would give him a big victory, but Ned refuses, opting to be honourable and give the rightful crown to Stannis. His honour is his undoing and it's painful to see him making so many mistakes leading up to that final scene. We still root for him to overcome the evil Cersei, but there is this sinking feeling that he has dug his own grave. It adds a lot of tension to that final confrontation as well, especially as Ned appears to have a clear numbers advantage, though Cersei seems completely unfazed by anything that Ned does, setting up for that shocking final moment (see: Best Moment).
One bold move that I really appreciate this episode doing is killing off Robert. His character was interesting and had depth, but his death needed to happen to properly fuel the plot. Everything had pretty much been explored already about him, and we even got more about his relationship with Cersei in this episode. With his role in the story done, he needed to die and I think they did it in a very smart way. The manner of his death leaves us uncertain about the Lannisters (see: The Unknown), and also feels poetic as Robert's own unhappiness with his life has brought about his death. It's a fitting end for his character and did lead to some nice lines of dialogue in his final scene with Ned.
Tywin's introduction is another really strong part of this episode. His character oozes control like no other character so far, and I applaud the writers for introducing him the way they did, with him skinning a boar. It immediately shows how tough and gritty of a man he is as well as how serious he is, giving him a soldier-like vibe while he addresses Jaime and pretty much makes him look like a fool for everything he has done so far. Just a terrific scene overall as it sets up a character I'm very excited to see more of.
Lastly, I enjoyed the storyline across the sea. The assassination was some good drama and it nicely set up Jorah's decision to side with Dany instead of returning to Westeros. Furthermore, it was a logical way to get Khal Drogo to decide to attack Westeros as he is not going to take Robert's attempt at Dany's life lightly. While there is nothing spectacular here, it's all really solid stuff and it comes at a good time, as we are all yearning for Joffrey's reign as king to be cut short, and having a Dothraki army attack would be the perfect way to accomplish that.
The Bad: Littlefinger's scene in the brothel was too much with the pointless nudity and sex. It wasn't necessary and only detracted from the scene and annoyed me. That's a shame too because the content of the scene was great as it crystallized Littlefinger's motivations a little more, which helped the twist at the end make a lot more sense.
The Unknown: What happened to Benjen? Was that his arm that Ghost found? Is he dead? Will the Night's Watch search for him?
Did the Lannisters get Robert killed? Perhaps Cersei instructed Lancel to get Robert so drunk that he would likely get killed.
Where did Renly run off to at the end? Did he run away to escape justice or for another reason?
Best Moment: The ending twist was stellar and surprising, but it made so much sense. Of course Littlefigner would betray Ned as he has nothing but hatred for the man that wedded the woman he loves. Furthermore, it's a smart decision for him to side with the Lannisters, who currently have all of the money and power. Why be a hero siding with Ned where you have nothing when you can win the affections of the rich who may reward you with better stuff?
Character of the Episode: Ned, as despite all of his mistakes, it was still easy to root for the guy.
Conclusion: This episode didn't fix everything I wanted to be fixed, but it committed to the overall nature of this show. This show will be different and it will do everything to ensure that it is compelling with every storyline. An episode like this launches the plot into forward motion and it is very exciting to follow. There was so much to love about this episode, and that makes it the best one yet.
Summary: Tyrion gets Mord to bring him to Lysa to confess his crimes. Tyrion declares he is innocent and demands trial by combat. Bronn steps up for him and kills Lysa's knight to free Tyrion. Ned stands in as king as Robert goes hunting and declares Tywin Lannister an enemy of the crown after The Mountain ravages several villages. Ned discovers that Joffrey is illegitimate after he tells Sansa and Arya to go to Winterfell. Bran is attacked by wildlings but is saved by Theon and Robb. Viserys threatens Dany's child to try to get his army, but in response Drogo and Dany allow him to be killed.
The Good: This was another solid episode which progressed the story forwards pretty nicely. I think Dany's story had some of the best progression and storytelling as it had one major event which was a long time coming. That moment was Viserys finally crossing a line with Dany. Viserys has been a fascinating villain because he isn't mean or threatening at all, but rather he is pathetic and whiny, with no real power of his own. He was less of a villain and more of a nuisance and his inability to sport any type of power was always going to get him killed. Here he finally crosses the line, becoming jealous of everything Dany has that he doesn't. He threatens Dany's unborn baby, crosses a line and in that moment he is completely dead to her. After that we know what is coming, but the poor guy has no clue until he finally has his head melted with molten gold, ironically getting the crown he always wanted. What I love most about this sequence of events is how Viserys' pathetic nature and jealousy is almost sympathetic and because of that, combined with Dany's cold behaviour leading to his death, it makes us feel pity for his death. It isn't the feeling of a villain getting what he deserved, but a feeling of a nuisance being taken care of, almost akin to shooting a dog with rabies. It's shocking that these scenes are executed so well that our feelings for one of the most hateful characters so far can be somewhat swayed, and that is a sign of terrific writing.
Tyrion's storyline on the other hand is a little simpler, but because of that it is actually just as effective. In such a complex show, it is refreshing to see a story as simple as Tyrion's where he is stuck as an unfair prisoner, and is going to do whatever he can to fight through the injustice to go home free. In doing this, Tyrion gains my respect and adoration even more than he has so far, making him far and above the best character in the show so far. Every scene he was a part of became so much more charismatic in this episode, and it allowed for a very fun nature. Scenes like Tyrion trying to negotiate with the uneducated Mord or Tyrion "confessing his crimes" were fantastic because they brimmed with character as we watched this man try to use his wit and charm to get him out of the pickle he is in. As expected, it works and he wins the respect of Bronn who stakes his life on Tyrion's and fights for him in the trial of combat in a very well executed and exciting swordfight.
Speaking of which, the concept of a trial by combat is terrific for a show like this. What we understand about the judicial system in this episode is that it is extremely biased and unjust, which is very accurate to the times. In this world, it doesn't matter who is innocent or guilty, it just matters if the people in power want the victim to die or not. But the trial by combat works too because it's a good last ditch method for the guilty, and also fits with the world, as it naturally leaves a character's fate in the hands of the gods. The little details of the world like this are great ad it has been a blast getting accustomed to this world.
Ned's story is pretty good too. I liked the opening scene with Cersei and Robert as it was a good way to show how the Stark/Lannister conflict is endangering Westeros and is giving Robert a ton of grief as all logic goes out the window as these 2 families look for blood against each other. It's a conflict which can be avoided if Robert is to lay down some rules as opposed to just slapping Cersei to shut her up and to threaten to make Jaime the next Hand if Ned tries to quit again. But Robert leaves to go hunting and doesn't enforce anything leaving a chance for everything to go wrong, which is exactly what happens. Ned overreacts to The Mountain attacking some villages and declares the Lannisters as official enemies and putting a death sentence on The Mountain. It seems weird that Ned can do this without Robert's consent, but seeing that Lysa was about to execute Tyrion earlier, it makes sense with the rules that the show has established.
The last major moment of this episode was the reveal of Joffrey's true lineage, something which had been hinted at and foreshadowed so much, yet it was still impossible to figure out and a genuinely shocking twist which has huge implications on the show. As Joffrey isn't legitimate, it means he has no claim to the crown after Robert's rule ends, which is very big, as it could also pay off of Renly's claims that he should be king as he could perhaps be next in line. But I doubt the Lannisters would want to let Renly take the crown, hence it could possibly become a "game" of thrones. That's just me theorizing, but it certainly sets up for some very exciting storytelling down the road, which is exactly what I hope to get from a major twist like that.
One small thing I liked was the Dothraki ceremony. It was another great detail in a world full of detail, but it was also an effective way to showcase how far Dany has come in such a short amount of time, having earned a major position of power.
The Bad: The one problem with all of this is how the show doesn't seem to engage your emotions very much. The writing is tremendous, the world-building is so detailed, and the characters are simple and effective in their roles, and there re even more things which are done exceptionally well.. This show has everything necessary to succeed, and while I definitely think it succeeds, it just hasn't hit that next level for me. I enjoy what I'm watching, but I never feel myself getting emotionally invested in the storylines, and that' due to a number of things, be it the show's overstuffed nature, the many characters, the quick storytelling and the lack of scenes which are meant to let you sympathize with characters or truly understand them. I feel that the show needs to find a way to sort out these problems if it is to achieve greatness.
There were a few awkward moments here. For one, I didn't like Viserys' claims that Jorah is in love with Dany. This show has been really good to follow the "show, don't tell" rule of writing, but this one scene broke that as we haven't seen any evidence of Jorah loving Dany.
I remain confused by what Catelyn wanted to do with Tyrion anyways. She seemed content for him to just die, which felt really stupid and nonsensical to me. She can't possibly be 100% sure that Tyrion is guilty so why execute him? Also, surely she is going to consider the fact that Ned and her daughters are all in King's Landing at the mercy of the Lannisters at the moment, so shouldn't she value them? Family, duty, honour right? Also, you would expect the wife of honourable Ned Stark to be a little more honourable as to give Tyrion a fairer trial.
The Unknown: How was Dany not affected by the fire from touching the egg? Does that mean that she is the dragon? What does that mean anyways?
What is going to happen now that Ned has discovered Joffrey's illegitimacy? Surely he will do something to get the rightful heir on the throne. How will Robert take the news? I see a major domino effect coming from Ned's discovery.
Best Moment: There were a lot of great scenes, but I'll go with Tyrion confessing his crimes as it provided some great comedy while also building on one of the show's most charismatic characters and also showing him attempting to solve a problem he is facing. It's multi-purpose scenes like this which can be really impressive when done right.
Character of the Episode: Tyrion.
Conclusion: So much of this episode was well done and brilliantly executed with terrific moments, but the show is missing that emotional spark to get it to the next level.
Summary: Catelyn takes Tyrion to the Eyrie to see Lysa, who she discovers has gone off the rails. Tyrion is imprisoned there. Varys reveals to Ned that Jon Arryn was poisoned. Varys meets with Illyrio in secret but Littlefinger takes notice. Ned resigns as hand after Robert chooses to murder Dany. Littlefinger takes him to follow a lead on Jon Arryn but he is confronted by Jaime and his men. Jaime is angry about Tyrion and kills Jory and leaves Ned wounded.
The Good: This was a great episode with a lot of great scenes throughout which left me intrigued and excited for more.
There was only one scene which felt like it existed for exposition and that was the scene between Bran and Maester Luwin. The scene worked though as it was a good way to give us more of an idea of the world of Westeros and the families that live there. More information on the Greyjoys as welcome too. The show has frequently mentioned them, so I'm sure they will turn up soon. More importantly, the scene turned into a moment for Bran as he called out Luwin on the fact that his mother left him, which felt real and effectively called out Catelyn for doing something which I didn't think fit her character. At least the show has acknowledged it which makes it a little less bad.
Most of everything else was terrific though and it moved the story along really nicely. The follow-up on Tyrion's capture was great and furthered the story. Catelyn has taken him to the Eyrie but thankfully Tyrion never sat still and accepted his fate. He improved his situation and fought for his innocence, bringing up good points which make Catelyn seem like a fool for taking him in, which she most certainly was. However Catelyn being foolish for taking in Tyrion isn't a bad development because we know that her hand was forced when Tyrion called her out and she chose to take action on instinct, not on thought. And now she is facing the consequences as Ned gets attacked and Lysa proves to not be as sane as she would have expected.
I really liked the time they spent on the road too. Tyrion of course managed to gain the friendship of Bronn, one of the mercenaries by once more using his wit and charm. It fit his character nicely and I'm interested to see what role Bronn will play in the story. I also liked the hill tribe attack as it added some tension to the episode and gave us a hint at what action would be like in this show.
I really enjoyed Varys in this episode. The way his character is played is superb as he seems untrustworthy on every level yet he has charm and information which makes us trust him a little bit, similar to Littlefinger. I love the way that we are made to trust Varys after he gives information to Ned, but then immediately after we see him plotting some shady dealings with Illyrio (see: The Unknown), making us once more question our idea of what his motives are. Often times I hate when characters motives aren't clear, but when shady motives are used like this to create an atmosphere where nobody can be trusted, I'm all for it. The story is never about who they are as characters as much as it is about how these characters affect the story, which I think is a fascinating way to tell a story.
The one scene which exemplified my point about how these characters affect the story is Littlefinger's conversation with Varys. Both of these characters are minor and they are not people who the story directly focuses on, but they are characters with hidden allegiances and one single motive: to gain power. Because of that, they feel important as they have the ability to influence so many characters and the roles they play in the story. This one scene of them subtly blackmailing each other and trying to gain leverage was superb to watch and it shows us how good they are at manipulating and ensuring that they rise up in power. These dynamic characters may never be the most central to the story but they are perhaps the most interesting to watch.
Ned's story was great in this episode. As it was foreshadowed back in "The Kingsroad", Ned and Robert have come into conflict about Dany and what to do about her. Their blowout scene was well done and more importantly, I sympathized with both characters and understood why they took the stance they did on Dany and what to do about her. Furthermore, I bought into Ned resigning as Hand of King, as ill-advised as it was. Ned has always been an honourable man with a rather short temper, so I could understand his emotional reaction leading to him making a bad move which puts himself and his family in pretty major danger, especially with Tyrion captured by Catelyn.
I thought the final confrontation was very good too. While we don't quite understand the significance of it (see: The Unknown), I'm willing to wait to find out and I don't think I detracted much from the scene, which I thought was all about the Starks poor decisions finally catching up to them and potentially kickstarting a major conflict. The fight between Jaime and Ned was very tense and served as an exciting climax to a great episode which rapidly began to build tensions and conflicts within the story.
My favourite part of the episode was with Robert and Cersei however. I love the fact that the role of king hasn't been glorified by the show and it is shown that becoming king has done nothing for Robert and given him no peace as he is now more in pain than ever before as he can no longer do what he enjoys and is still left hurting from when he lost Lyanna. The conversation with Cersei did a terrific job of showing us Robert's pain and his mental state at the moment. Furthermore, we got to learn that Robert really isn't an idiot as he understand the threat of the Dothraki and has thought far ahead to think of how Viserys could take the throne from him. It also adds on to the significance of Dany's story since we are now aware that her actions could result in the destruction of the Seven Kingdoms, which makes her every move feel a lot more important to the story than it had felt before.
There were a lot of little things I enjoyed, which is a big reason as to why I enjoy this show so much. I love things like a man singing songs about Tyrion, the existence of a rogue hill tribe, Arya having to aggressively force her way back into the castle, and more. Every episode has had these fascinating little bits of information and character which I think have added a ton to the experience of the show.
The Bad: I didn't like The Mountain's outburst at the tournament because he got no consequences for attempted murder. I understand that it's meant for us to hate him, but it felt like he needed to have some sort of punishment for what he did, especially seeing that he attacked a wealthy man like Loras.
I wish we had a better idea of what Catelyn was expecting to do with Tyrion. Why does she want him at The Eyrie? How can her sister help her out? I don't understand all of this and that's a big problem for a central storyline.
This show is starting to have a gratuitous nudity problem. I don't think any bit of nudity was needed in this episode, yet we had at least 3 scenes with half naked or fully naked people to ensure we don't get bored. It's unnecessary and insulting to the audience.
The Unknown: Are Renly and Loras just talking or will they actually take a shot at getting Renly to become king? He could become a big player later. Also, who is Stannis? Another brother of Robert? Where is he?
Where are Varys' allegiances? Why was he talking to Illyrio? What information did they share and what are their goals? How did Littlefinger know about that? Could he potentially use this against Varys? That would be counteracted by Varys likely leaking that Littlefinger told Ned to suspect the Lannisters so perhaps not.
What are Jorah's motives? Does he just want to get into the good graces of Westeros again by giving away all of Dany's movements? How will it play out if he is discovered? He does seem genuinely fond of Dany though so perhaps he is a double-agent of sorts? We will have to wait until we see him again to find out.
What will become of Ned and Jaime? Surely Jaime will have to be punished for doing something illegal. I'm just interested to see what comes next.
Best Moment: Robert and Cersei's conversation as stellar.
Character of the Episode: Robert.
Conclusion: This was great episode with great plot movement, dramatic moments and an impressive pace. This was the most important the show has felt and it is an absolute blast to follow everything that is going on.
Summary: A fat coward named Sam joins the Night's Watch and he is picked on but Jon becomes friends with him and helps him get assimilated. Dany fights back against Viserys. Littlefinger gains Ned's trust by helping him with the Jon Arryn mystery. At a tournament, The Mountain kills Ser Hugh who was Jon Arryn's squire. Tyrion starts heading to King's Landing and runs into Catelyn at a bar. Catelyn accuses Tyrion for murdering Bran and he is taken in by her.
The Good: The ending of this episode was fantastic. Finally an event has happened which is bound to affect the story massively and start pushing the plot forwards. It looks like we are finally done getting exposition (for now at least), and I'm more than ready to get to the meat of this story. The final scene was done very well as it dramatically emphasized on Catelyn making the most of a bad situation where she got spotted by Tyrion, and it has resulted in her making a big decision to capture him.
The rest of the episode featured mostly just stories. Various characters kept telling their stories to increase our understanding of them and the world they are living in which is good for the most part. Sam's story was particularly good as it made us sympathize with him despite the fact that he appears to be totally useless. It also helps us understand why Jon would stand by his side and become friends with him, as Jon must pity him for having a father who doesn't care at all about him, while Jon had loving Ned as his father.
Alliser Thorne's story was another really good one and it served the story a lot. We don't know much about The Wall and what is behind it, so to learn more is a good way to spend our time. Alliser talking about the horrors he experienced in the cold is a great scene which helps explain why not many people want to join the Night's Watch and why it's considered a job for criminals to do, seeing that so many criminals are sent to Castle Black. Furthermore, the story also helps flesh out Alliser's character and why he is so cold (pun not intended) to the new recruits since he knows what they are training for.
I enjoyed the King's Landing scenes with Littlefinger and Ned a lot. I love that King's Landing has a different atmosphere from the rest of the show in that Ned can't trust anybody and feels like he is in hostile territory despite his position as Hand of the King. I was fascinated by Littlefinger explaining the way of the city and all the spies there, and it makes me question who is really on Ned's side and who is actually trustworthy. It even makes me question Littlefinger a bit, which is great development. Due to the abundance of spies everywhere, every character's conversations will likely have an air of tension to them.
Dany's story was fine as she finally snapped at Viserys. I do feel that it's really rushed and would have been better if it had time to breathe, but I still enjoyed it enough to put it in The Good.
The Bad: The big Ned/Cersei scene ended up being pretty anticlimactic. They didn't really accomplish anything or prove any point. Cersei just showed up, they exchanged vague threats and then Cersei left. It felt like a filler scene which didn't add much to he story, which isn't good for a story which already feels pretty cluttered.
Sam plays his role too well. It's a rare case of the actor who was cast being too good at his job as he plays Sam as so perfect of a coward that it feels like too much. But unlike Joffrey, Sam doesn't have a backstory which explains his personality and why he is the way he is. That makes his character less plausible and a little hard to buy into, detracting from every scene he is in.
I'll return to the stories for a bit now because there were some I didn't like. The Viserys scene where he was with the whore wasn't very enjoyable. First of all, it went far too long and wasted a good chunk of the episode without really telling us anything worth knowing. We understand that there are dragons in the world and there isn't any need for us to know the little details about dragons, especially when we are still trying to get down the names of characters, locations and more. It's jut not the best way to spend our time and it isn't that interesting either. Also, I was annoyed by the decision to give Viserys a naked whore, as it felt like the show telling us "here look at this pretty girl so you don't get bored during this long scene".
Jaime and Jory swapping stories is the other story scene that I didn't enjoy too much, and it's all because of the ending. The scene itself is very good as it helped further our understanding of the Greyjoys (see: The Unknown) and also served to help develop Jaime's character as a villain who is rather charming. Unfortunately they threw it away when Jaime suddenly inexplicably snapped at Jory for suggesting he hold onto the message. It was nonsensical and out of character, which felt like a hamfisted attempt at reminding us that the Starks and Lannisters don't like each other.
I wasn't sure how to feel about Hugh's death. While I do have a lot of questions (see: The Unknown), I wish that I had more clarity about how big of an event this was. Do things like this often happen? Will The Mountain be punished? Will there be any kind for justice for this? The show failed to give the scene meaning which is pretty disappointing.
As a nitpick, I didn't like the decision o have Littlefinger tell Sansa the story of The Hound. I thought he sat next to Sansa as an attempt to improve him relationship with the Starks or even because she reminds him of Catelyn. But instead he tells a creepy and dangerous story to her which makes me question why he did it. He didn't have to and it certainly wouldn't help improve his relationship with her as much as it would scare her.
The Unknown: What was with the three-eyed crow in Bran's dream?
Who is Hodor and why does he only ever say Hodor?
Why is Theon with the Starks? How did they acquire him and why did they acquire him? Was it from that rebellion which was frequently mentioned in this episode? Is he actually liked by the Starks or does he feel like an outsider? What is the significance of his existence? Will the Greyjoys come into play later? Also, I want more information on that rebellion that happened and failed.
What was Jon Arryn doing which led to his death? What was in the book he was reading? What was so important about Gendry and him being Robert's bastard son?
Was Ser Hugh killed on purpose by The Mountain or was it just a coincidence? Which family is he allied with?
The ending scene was interesting because we learned about a lot of new families. I doubt that the show explores all of them but I would love to see more details about the families, where they live in Westeros and who they are allied with.
Tyrion's capture is a very big development. What will Catelyn do with him now that she has him? How will Tyrion try to prove himself to be innocent? Also, how will the Lannisters react to this news? It can't be good for Ned who is in foreign territory now.
Best Moment: The ending was fantastic, so I'll go with that.
Character of the Episode: Despite his few scenes, I have to pick Tyrion. He's just so likeable and charismatic. I enjoy watching him in a way that no other character has achieved so far.
Conclusion: This was another solid episode, but it was more flawed than the others. However it does appear to be a ray of light as it seems like the story is preparing to push forwards and become more interesting and I can't wait for that.
Summary: Ned arrives in King's Landing and meets with everyone there, including Varys, Renly and Littlefinger. Catelyn arrives after and is taken in by Littlefinger, who identifies the dagger as Tyrion's. Catelyn trusts Littlefinger who offers to help her and Ned find out the truth behind whatever the Lannisters are doing. Jon arrives at The Wall and discovers that the Night's Watch are a struggling force of very poor fighters who are mostly criminals and disappointments. Dany settles into her role as Khaleesi and gains more power than Viserys. She is pregnant. Bran has amnesia and has been paralyzed.
The Good: This episode gave us loads of exposition and world-building as two of our main characters both went to new parts of Westeros that we haven't seen before and we were introduced to new concepts and characters all at once. While it's a bit crazy (see: The Bad), I am still enjoying the way the world is being fleshed out.
Ned's story had some very interesting developments. Significantly, we have learned that the kingdom is indebted to the Lannisters, which puts them in a position of high power which could be a potential obstacle. Furthermore, Robert continues to waste all of the money which can't possibly help things. It adds detail that Robert's reign can't have been a particularly good one and I'm uncertain that he is loved by his people which can be a big plot point in a series like this one. Also, we had a fantastic scene between Ned and Jaime which furthered their conflict with each other while also offering the insight I had wanted on the death of The Mad King, which we learned a ton about in this episode.
Jon's story at The Wall was really good too. His relationship with Tyrion bloomed nicely as Tyrion mentors him about the real way of the world in the way nobody has before. Jon has only been told about great things and being better than everyone but Tyrion gives him a more human lesson about the reality of the world, explaining how things really are. By the end of the episode Jon has changed his opinion of the Night's Watch, which makes for a good character arc which also serves to let us understand what the Night's Watch is and how The Wall functions. I do have a few questions about The Wall (see: The Unknown), but I think the exposition was overall given out well.
I enjoyed the white walker story that Old Nan told Bran. The world's mysteries and history are still fascinating to me, so to learn about things like The Long Night and White Walkers is really exciting for me as it helps me invest and become a part of this world.
I liked the one scene with Joffrey and Cersei as it helped to explain why Joffrey is such an awful person. Cersei's parenting has been less than stellar and Joffrey has just grown up to become an entitled fool. Clearly he doesn't care at all for Sansa so hopefully she can figure out his true ways before she gets caught in a genuinely awful marriage.
The Bad: Bran getting amnesia is way too convenient for the plot and I really don't like it. There needed to be a less clichéd reason as to why he wouldn't remember what he saw.
There are too many new characters now. While some interest me, there are so many characters to the point that I can hardly remember a lot of them. It's also harder when there are two new storylines being explored in the same episode.
Dany's story got the short end of the stick in this episode and her story felt a bit rushed. Just last episode she started to take advantage of her position, but now she is already in control and gets a big moment over Viserys already, and this is after just one episode of development. It's too quick and I would have much preferred to see more of her adjusting to her new role in life.
The show has an issue with engaging emotions. So far we have had three episodes of introduction and exposition without any real conflict or drama of any sort to make me really connect with the story. While the show has been fine so far, it is missing that spark and there needs to be more for the show to hit the level of greatness it is close to reaching.
The Unknown: What is Catelyn and Littlefinger's history? Littlefinger revealed some interesting details in his introduction.
Varys interests me a lot as he seems to be able to find information easily. I'm excited to learn more about his motives and who he serves since he is certainly a useful person.
Did Tyrion actually try to kill Bran? I doubt it. More interestingly, did Littlefinger lie about the dagger or did Tyrion lose it to somebody else? Or is it that Cersei/Jaime used Tyrion's dagger to cover up their tracks?
Is there anything significant with Dany being pregnant? It felt like a major reveal? Also why did Jorah react so much to it? He said he is going to Qohor, what is he doing there?
Who made The Wall and why? When and how did they acquire the necessary material to build it? Why is The Night's Watch so poor? What is the purpose of it anyways if nobody takes it seriously?
Best Moment: I really enjoyed Robert reflecting with Barristan and Jaime about war and their first kills. It gave us some great backstory on the characters, while also developing more about the history of Westeros.
Character of the Episode: Jon.
Conclusion: This was another solid episode which I enjoyed. The show is still dishing out exposition rapidly, but it remains enjoyable.
Summary: Dany begins to take more control of her situation and starts to win over Drogo with better sexual performances. Bran has survived. Jon leaves his family to go to the wall, and Ned promises to tell him about his mother the next time they meet. Tyrion joins Jon. Ned departs with the King and his daughters to King's Landing. Joffrey walks in on Arya sword fighting with Mycah. He terrorizes Mycah so Arya attacks him and Nymeria bites him. Nymeria runs away. Cersei wants justice and gets Robert to declare a sentence of death on Lady, Sansa's direwolf. Catelyn chooses to go after Ned after an assassin attempts to kill Bran. Bran later wakes up.
The Good: This was a very good continuation of the story as I continue to be hooked in by the world and the characters living in it.
I really enjoyed Dany's storyline in this episode. The show could have wallowed in her misery to make us sympathize with her, but instead we are able to do more than sympathize, as Dany refuses to play the victim. After just a few days she takes action, looking to make the most of her bad situation as Drogo's wife, and by the end she gets her reward as Drogo lets her take control of their intercourse, making it no longer a pain for Dany. This strength shown by Dany is a fantastic way to make us like her and root for her, as she appears to have incredible willpower to still gain power in whatever way she can. If Drogo can be subdued, that would be a huge thing for the Targaryens and they may pose a genuine threat to Westeros.
Their story is also tying in nicely to the main storyline as well. It's revealed that Jorah has bad blood with Ned Stark who banished him from Westeros, which could be a major conflict down the line. While the tie-in doesn't affect the story too much, it does suggest that both storylines will be playing off of each other, despite taking place on entirely different continents. While on the topic of Jorah, I'll also mention hat his relationship with both Viserys and Dany has been interesting so far and I'm excited to see what it will develop into.
The other characters in the main story were very well done too. Tyrion is immediately likeable as he has a sarcastic and entertaining vibe to him which hasn't been present in any other character. It makes him likeable and relatable as he comes off as the most modernized character on the show. It also helps that we see him disciplining Joffrey first up in this episode, which is certainly something we could use more of seeing Joffrey's cowardly and unsympathetic nature.
Jon's story was very good too. I liked seeing him say goodbye to everyone as it allowed us to get a good idea of his relationship with each of the Starks. I was particularly fascinated with his scene talking to Bran as he is clearly well-loved by Bran, but Catelyn still harshly sends him away, showing that there are large amounts of animosity between them. I was also pleased to see Jon talk to Robb afterwards, who asks if Catelyn said anything to him and he replies with no. Across two scenes which take up maybe 1 or 2 minutes, we learn a lot of basic things about Robb, Catelyn and Jon which is very impressive. The condensed nature of the show has helped the show accomplish a lot in these early episodes without slowing the pacing down to a halt.
I also really enjoyed the budding conflicts between Robert and Ned about how Robert rules the kingdom. The two have been interesting and exciting to watch as we learn more and more about their characters through conversations with each other, which also serve a double-purpose as they also help build the world and our understanding of how it works. I want to see where their storyline goes as its clear that there are sources of conflict between them, with their differing views about Dany, as well as Cersei who seems to be a manipulative Lady MacBeth type character.
The central conflict in this episode was by far the most gripping and enjoyable part though. The tension in the scene with Arya, Sansa and Joffrey was great and when Joffrey was take down it felt like a big deal despite it not being much because of what we have learned about this world. And naturally, the small confrontation had huge consequences as Lady was executed for Joffrey and Arya's conflict, and Mycah killed. Perhaps the innocent being killed as consequences for the actions of the rich will be a recurring theme in this show. This conflict helped establish that, and that will almost certainly pay dividends in the story later on by adding tension and excitement to other conflicts like this.
The Bad: Jon's goodbyes were a bit of a double-edged sword as I'm a little conflicted about them. They were good as scenes to introduce us to character relationships, but what good is that if the characters likely won't see each other for a long while? There are lots of characters, so other relationships should be prioritized. Furthermore, I don't like that the scenes were played for emotion, as it's hard to care for characters that you have only seen for like 15 minutes of screen time.
I enjoyed the mystery of somebody attacking Bran (see: The Unknown), but I didn't like Catelyn's reaction to it. Beforehand she wouldn't even leave Bran's side, and this was before she knew somebody wanted him dead. But now that she is aware he is in danger she chooses to... leave? It's ridiculous and I can't understand why her character would choose to leave him alone now instead of being even more clingy to him.
The show is doing a great job of progressing a lot of stories, but there is a bit too much happening. The show feels a little bit cluttered and I feel that it diminishes how enjoyable it is to watch. At the moment, I am watching the show because it fascinates me, not because I enjoy it.
The Unknown: Does Tyrion know about Jaime and Cersei's relationship? He implies that he is aware which is very interesting.
Who is Wyla? There is very clearly something significant about her but I can't figure out what.
We learned some fascinating tidbits about the history of Westeros. Apparently the Targaryens were former rulers, hence Dany and Viserys wanting to go home. But we learn that the last king wasn't loved and killed Ned's family which caused conflict. But more interestingly, we learn that this king had selected the father of the Lannisters as a trusted hand, yet he was killed by Jaime. There are a lot of details which don't quite add up and I want to learn more details about what happened.
Who did try to kill Bran? Was it really the Lannisters? That seems a bit too obvious to be true.
I really liked seeing the differing superstitions in the world. We got some interesting ones in Dany's storyline as the two maids talked about the moon. It's interesting stuff which adds a lot of world-building, but it also makes me wonder if any of these stories will have significance to the story.
Will Nymeria come back later?
What happens now that Bran wakes up? He will likely explain hat he saw and the Lannisters will be screwed. I'm interested to see the consequences for their actions, if there are any.
Best Moment: Robert's judgement scene was tremendous. What I loved the most is how all of the characters stayed true to what we know about them in this scene. No dialogue or action felt forced and that is a sign of fantastic writing. Furthermore, the scene has left the core characters involved with conflicts with each other which will presumably carry on throughout the series.
Character of the Episode: Robert.
Conclusion: This was another really well done episode. While the show hasn't gripped me emotionally yet, it's been fascinating to watch and I'm ready for more.
Summary: White Walkers attack the Night's Watch. A deserter arrives in Winterfell and is executed by Ned Stark. New arrives that the Hand of the King Jon Arryn died naturally but another letter arrives suggesting that the Lannisters murdered him. The King goes to Ned to offer the role of Hand to him. Ned's son Bran is climbing and sees Queen Cersei having sex with her brother and is pushed out of a tower. Across the sea, Daenerys is sold to Khal Drogo by her brother Viserys to help get an army to invade Westeros.
The Good: The opening sequence was a highlight of the episode. It was tense, terrifying and excitingly paced, setting the tone for the show immediately while also building a lot of interest It's a great hook which encourages us to give the rest of the episode a shot, and it helps us get our way through the wall of exposition ahead of us (see: The Bad).
The exposition was tedious, but it was also done impressively as a lot was introduced in this episode, and all of it in interesting fashion, ensuring that we weren't bored while watching. Our first characters introduced are the Starks and all of them are clearly defined so we can understand them. Ned is the strong, honourable leader, Robb is his son who is being prepared to take over, Catelyn is his wife who isn't a Stark but has essentially become one, Bran is the young son, Jon is the bastard, Arya is the young girl who enjoys boyish activities while Sansa is the girly-girl who wants to marry the prince. These characters lack depth of course, but that's to be expected in a pilot episode. What is most impressive is that all of these characters were introduced within 15 minutes without the episode feeling rushed. I expect that we will get more development for them later, but for now they are extremely effective in their roles.
I really enjoyed the arrival of the king. Robert certainly defied expectations as he was just a fat man who appears to love partying, hardly any kind of formal king. He was interesting immediately because of this and I was clamouring to learn more about him, so thankfully the show provided practically immediately. We learned about his history with Ned, his love for Ned's sister and his hate for Targaryens. In one great scene of two old friends reminiscing, the show has given us a character who we understand, with personality traits, desires and friendships. Sure he does need some more work, but for the first episoe, he is a surprisingly interesting character who I want to learn more about.
I like that the mentioning of a Targaryen immediately transitioned us to the Dany story. It would be easy for us to forget about who Targaryens are if they were introduced later, so this is a great decision. Even better, is the decision to stay with any for a good 10+ minutes so that we can be introduced to all the characters, conflicts and plotlines at once without feeling like we didn't get enough. And somehow while introducing all of this, the storyline doesn't feel like it's detracting from the Robert/Ned story across the sea as they are all equal in terms of quality.
The Dany story works impressively well, which I was impressed with. It could have easily been a secondary story which I didn't care for, but it gripped me. Targaryens were introduced as evil since Robert hates them and we can see that much from Viserys who comes off as cruel and dislikeable. But Dany is put in a position for us to sympathize with as she is played like a young child who doesn't have any drives in the world and is just being bossed by her brother. It allows us to sympathize with her and realize that the Targaryens may not all be so bad. I'm overjoyed that this show is demonstrating so much moral flexibility in its first episode, giving me hope that we can explore some of the fascinating morally grey areas which make so many TV shows so compelling.
The final scene was really good too. I was shocked to see Bran seemingly die so suddenly but it does give a huge hook to ensure that we tune in for the next episode to see more. Jaime came off so well early on and seemed a decent person while Cersei seemed to be the evil queen. But the shocking incest scene followed by cold-blooded murder completely changed that. Our opinions of Jaime have changed and the Lannister family can easily be seen as evil (and they are accused for the Jon Arryn murder to add on to that). But despite them being evil, I like Tyrion and I don't want to hate his character so I find myself conflicted about who to side with already. It's impressive that the show has delved so deeply into this morally grey area so early, and it serves as a fantastic hook to make us want to tune in again. Don't present us cheap cliff-hangers, instead present us with quality storytelling and that is what the show did here.
The Bad: This episode was overwhelming though. Too many names, too many locations, too many titles, and just a little bit too much in general. While the story has been compelling, it's tough to follow with so much happening at once and that makes it feel a bit tedious. I'm sure this show would be much easier to follow with a character guide of some sort to help you sort out who is who and what their role in the story is.
The murder of Jon Arryn is a bit too much information for my liking. The reveal would have been better suited for later on when we knew who the characters were so it could have more meaning. It would also help with the overwhelming nature of the episode by cutting out a bit.
The Unknown: What are the White Walkers and what is their role in the story? They seem so detached from everything, so I don't expect them to come into play until a little later. Also, where is that snowy area? The title credits tells me that there is a place called The Wall. Is the snowy area past The Wall?
Why did Jaime and Cersei kill Jon Arryn? How did they kill him? Surely they wouldn't have killed him themselves?
Will Joffrey and Sansa get married? How would that place the Starks int erms of power?
How does the overall world work? I'm very excited to learn more about Westeros?
Best Moment: The opening sequence was terrifying and the most engaging part of this episode. A perfect opening scene.
Character of the Episode: Ned.
Conclusion: This was a really great pilot. While not on the level of all-time classic pilots (Lost, The Walking Dead), this episode proved that simple and effective storytelling is a great way to get a viewer invested in a show. While this episode was messy, the storytelling was great and it makes me excited for more, and because of that, this did its job.
Just a university student who loves to watch TV. And criticize it like hell.