“Baelor” 1×9

I approve of this episode.  Spoilers ahead:

1. I think Varys can’t keep away from Ned because of his teeth!  Look how shiny they are in the darkness-it’s insane!

2. I don’t see how putting Tyrion in the vanguard is such a terrible thing.  You can’t have the savages who use their own fighting styles in the ranks with anyone else, you can’t hold them back anywhere because who knows if they’ll respond to your leadership-they really have to go first if you want to make good use of them, which of course Tywin does, as he is the sensible one.  Tyrion is only in the battle in the first place because the savages claim he needs to stay with them-ergo, he must be in the vanguard because that’s the only place the savages go.  Even if Tywin wanted to save Tyrion’s life because he thought of that son as a precious flower, there really wasn’t a way around it, if the Lannisters are to “pay their debts”.  Not that I’m saying there’s much love lost between the two, but still-it’s hardly this tyrannical act or anything.  I love Tywin.

3. Shae interests me.  I am really hoping she turns out to be, like, Jon Snow’s half-sister.  She told Tyrion exactly what he needed telling-he’s still young and stupid, a nearly-raped woman doesn’t invite another man into her bed that night, etc.  This show needs her!

4. Tyrion’s backstory is pretty awesome.  Also, it is interesting family dynamics-like those flashbacks of Bormoir, Faramir, and Denothor in Lord of the Rings.

5. GO, ROBB!  I kept wanting him to pull out a trick and HE SO DID.  I like this Stark leadership so much better!  He needs to learn that in order to keep his army’s morale up, he should just shut up and let them enjoy their victories for a little instead of immediately moving them on, but there is limited screentime.  Plus, he’s young and his sadness at the trick’s cost is worthy.  Carry on, you!

6. I don’t know why Dany is not more suspicious of this witch.  Also, I was expecting less supernatural goings-on and more earthly troubles.  They seemed to be heading that way until Jorah killed the antagonist, but then it just stopped.  I don’t know.  Perhaps they just couldn’t be bothered to pay other Dothraki actors to have the lines to keep up the earthly troubles.  In any case, Drogo is super gone to be just lying there not saying anything during the exchange between antagonist and Dany.  Sure sign not to believe in his survival.

7. Also, hello, Filch!  Glad to see you again!  I take it by your owl staff that you’re glad to fully fit in somewhere and have your own official magic pet.  The exchanges about your family life remind me deeply of Becky’s first employer in “Vanity Fair”, but you pull it off with more flair.  Also, engagement negotiations are the most fun, and funny, of this show.  I hope to see more of you.

On Ned’s Death: I’ve read some reviews that call it shocking.  I say that’s nonsense.  I knew he was a goner for several reasons: First, Arya was there and the clear connection between her and Ned through their eye contact and Ned’s immediate change of heart means that according to the Arya-is-cursed key to the series: Ned is about to die.  Have said that before.  Second, he didn’t just stick to “I am a traitor”, he admitted to plotting to murder the king.  With the angry crowd right there and the weight of laws, even if no one had wanted him to die, it would have been politically difficult to let him live without losing face.  Third, he’s played by Sean Bean.  Fourth, come on, what fun would it be if he lived?  He can get bundled off to the wall and cozy up with Jon Snow and Arya, or die less dramatically in a skirmish with bandits, or else get away and return the show to Winterfell and exactly where it started?  No.  He had to die and he had to die now, for the good of the show.  Besides, there’s a good thing going in Robb and I’m glad that he’ll get to carry on.

Moreover, I approve of Joffrey for having him killed.  As I said before, from that extensive confession Ned made Joffrey would have lost face if he’d given clemency.  For any new king that’s bad, but for a new, YOUNG king, that’s tantamount to declaring open season.  Sure, traitors and would-be murderers of me get to live, whatever-uh, no.  Also, you need the support of the crowd.  They are there to be angry at Ned, to like you, you give them what they want to see.  The popular opinion might be less valuable here than in other places, but Robert’s speech about the danger of common people proclaiming a Targaryen ruler if the Dothraki invade proves that the mob is still significant here.  Besides which, this was Joffrey’s big opportunity to show everyone, including his advisors, that he is not just his mother’s creature.  At this time Joffrey’s biggest political adversary is his mother-this declaration of her as not strong enough to be a ruler and public action against Cersei’s will proves that Joffrey is his own man.  This is a political move the boy absolutely needed to perform if he was going to truly rule as king, instead of being relegated to his mother’s puppet.  Tyrion’s quote “You mean my sister rules in King’s Landing” demonstrated how much Joffrey needed to step out from under her wing, and this was the perfect opportunity to do it.  The execution also sent a message to Sansa.  While this is less laudable, remember that Joffrey grew up with parents who were constantly fighting and wrangling over political matters.  To him, and indeed many others, it would seem far better to establish which person had dominance early on.  Then, Joffrey would think he’d be able to live out the rest of his life in relative peace with his wife, avoiding the pitfalls of his parents. People might compare his relationship strategy with others and find it wanting, but according to how Joffrey’s been raised and the relationships he’s seen, I cannot fault his thinking here.  In short, in this one brilliant coup, Joffrey showed the world he was a strong, independent king who values stability and the common people.  That is excellent.

“Kingsroad” 1×2

I am unhappy.

List of mostly complaints (and spoilers):

1. Arya and Dany seem to be the only characters with any intelligence this episode.  Arya knew what was going on with everything and did all that could be expected of her and more.  Dany’s life sucks and she’s still trying to grasp some sort of happiness, or at least more leverage.

2. My disappointment in Ned Stark is vast.  It’s like he’s still under the effects of the One Ring.  He doesn’t say anything to the point.  Walk in on your wife being a bitch to your son and don’t do anything to comfort either of them, ignore your comatose son, keep insisting that unpleasant things can’t happen even though they totally will, don’t say anything in defense of your daughter-bah!   Honor, my foot.  What he has is the pride and a will to see the world in familiar ways.  I think he was well served by having to kill Lady due to Robert’s unwillingness to stand up to his wife since, after all, Ned has the exact same issue when it comes to talking with his wife and arguing over what’s happening.  Both of them avoid it, and it will bite both of them in the ass, the frank king who at least knows there will be war, and the idiot pretending to be Honorable.  Nothing drove me so crazy tonight as reading all the people talking about how he acted honorably.  He’s a coward about facing unpleasant truths, about changing his ways, and about arguing with anyone he cares about.  Bring back Boromir, please.

3.  “There must always be a Stark in Winterfell.” = “There have always been Starkadders at Cold Comfort Farm.”  That is all.

4. Jon Snow seemed dumber by the line.  After last episode I was willing to let his slowness in failing to perceive the similarities between bastards and dwarves slip.   And what is my reward?  He wonders why people read, he boasts prematurely about his role, he still hasn’t learned that hearing ‘bastard’ must needs be all right in his world…

5. Cat needs to chill.  Jon Snow is leaving in a couple days, she couldn’t manage civility for a few minutes?  He’ll be gone FOREVER!

6. Ned’s goodbye to Snow=”Don’t make me have to behead you.”

7. What the hell was Jaime’s costume about?  Lapels and a longcoat seem hideously out of place with all the other costumes I’ve seen thus far.  Also, just generally they are the wrong era.  Is there a reason for this?  Perhaps the Doctor can be involved…

8. Joffrey is quite canon! Draco Malfoyish.  He makes the fanfic!Draco Viscerys seem wonderful.

9. I suppose I must allow that Cat immediately caught on to all the implications of the assassination attempt.  I suppose she can have some intelligence, too.  Hopefully her reunion with her husband will transfer some of that to him.  Geez, only the women have it in this episode.

10. On Cersei’s “black-haired prince.”  This is a lie?  This is about a child that Jaime killed out of jealousy and because he wanted his son to be king?  This is about a son that actually died naturally and her grief over him turned the king off of her and sent him back to the whores and things more zealously, thus pushing her back/into Jaime’s arms?  Whenever I hear her name I keep thinking of the Greek Circe who turned men into pigs and other animals.  So far she’s got a pig for a husband, a brother who’s selfishly pig-like over having sex with her, and a son who’s a cowardly swine.  I wonder if her cruelty would diminish and disappear if she could live in a matriarchal world?  It seems very directly, and justifiably, to stem from her hardships and turmoil over various men.

11. Tyrion puzzles me.  I like what I’ve seen, but so far what I’ve seen is so little.  I keep waiting to find him dazzling like all the other watchers seem to.  Slapping Joffrey does not a hero make, just a sensible prince.

12. Back to Ned-it’s not like he has no bargaining power!  If he’s going to run the kingdom for Robert, that means he’s got plenty of pull.  Why does he not start to exert it, if only in the name of the greater good and making sure his friend sticks to the principles of their mentor or whatnot?-that’d be actually honorable.

13. The Stark son still at home does have some sense.  I repose hopes in him.

14. Sansa is a little fool, but she’s been repaid this week.  I shall withhold judgment til I see how she deals with it.

15. And now, the single greatest question of the entire episode: WHY THE HELL IS ARYA GOING TO THE CAPITAL?  It’s not like the family’s going.  It’s not like the Starks would encourage her tomboyhood by bringing her to see the world, experience life, or learn about anything.  Even the sons are not going.  It’s not like there’s no one to take care of her back at home.  I’ve seen no evidence that there’s an incredibly strong bond between Arya and Ned.  There’s no marriage prospects for her yet that have been mentioned, and surely if there were they could be dealt with later, after her older sister’s wedding, and more importantly-Ned would not be advocating and abetting it by dragging her along so soon.  So, what the hell?

 

Also: I’ve seen a lot of discussion over the Khal/Dany scenes.  As someone new to the story, my reactions are: As I said in my review of the first episode, the sex between them is far gentler and overall better than I would have expected.  It’s certainly more respectful than Lucrezia’s marriage in The Borgias.  As for this one-it does seem clear that Dany’s desire to please her husband stems from self-preservation, both physical and mental.  She needs to do something, she needs to be someone, she needs to do what she can become a partner with her husband, if only so life won’t suck as much.  It made a very powerful statement to me and all of the actress’s expressions brought it life, courage, and spirit as far as I’m concerned.  Furthermore, Khal’s reactions to her and particularly the way they played the eye contact at the end of their scenes in this episode, led me to see sparks of tenderness, or at least a personal connection.  So, for those upset by the rapist aspect of this story-it’s going gently enough for a new inductee, remarkably so, in fact.  For those confused by the lack of romance between the characters-I totally saw it in there, or at the very least clear foreshadowing for such a story between them, so calm down.  For those of you saying that this situation is always rape, totally agreed.  It clearly does not make impossible other storylines here, at least if you’re not looking for them in specific ways laid down in the books.  That is all.