Monday, April 23, 2012

"Bronn, the next time Ser Meryn speaks, kill him."

Thus, the line of the night in an up-and-down episode of GoT; delivered, as usual, by Tyrion, who has all the best lines in the book, too (at least until Dance of Dragons, where Jon steals what may be the line of the series, to date.) That's replicating a pattern, but other elements of this episode are quite new. One of the most notable, of course, was the introduction of Harrenhal and Qarth in the opening credits. However, I also noticed that even though Pyke, Winterfell, and The Wall were all shown, there was no action in any of those sites. The credit locations haven't always exactly matched the episode's scenes, but that's the largest departure that I can recall. Furthermore, since in the books, Renly had moved to Storm's End to confront Stannis' siege, would it have been so difficult to identify Storm's End as where Renly's camp had been hanging out, rather than on some unknowable part of the coastline? What follows is dark and full of spoilers...

I feel like there's a bit of preachiness seeping into the script here (and, admittedly, it could be frustration from a very disappointing Mad Men episode spilling over the banks) but it's clear that a motivation for many of the women in the storyline has become "Why must everyone be fighting?" It's as good a question to ask as any, of course, but the story has already presented sufficient cause for at least some combat to be taking place (the Mountain riding rampant across the Riverlands, Joffrey being Aerys, Jr., Stannis basically starting a religious war), so it's kind of a specious one. But, since the question has been asked, the show proceeds to reinforce the whys even moreso than before with a couple scenes that are bordering on the gratuitous: Joffrey mistreating Tyrion's gift and the Harrenhal torture scene. Certainly, there's nothing wrong with continuing to point out what a sociopath Joffrey is (played excellently by Jack Gleeson, who gives a sincere sigh of pleasure when one whore starts abusing the other) but after the throne room scene with Sansa, was it necessary to see another woman get the scepter treatment? And, of course, some evidence of what's happening at Harrenhal is important to Arya's story and to the possible introduction of Vargo Hoat and the Brave Companions (in addition to bringing about mention of the Brotherhood without Banners), but it just seemed to stretch it a bit far when we were re-entering the scene and spent a few seconds watching someone's head get hammered onto a stake. Yes, yes, the horrors of war. We get it. You do remember you only have 10 episodes to fit in over 1000 pages of story, yes?

Adding to the preachiness is the introduction of Jeyne Westerling (played by the lovely Oona Chaplin, granddaughter of the great Charlie and namesake of his wife) who claims to be from Volantis (odd and partially pointless, if true, as the Westerlings are bannermen to the Lannisters, providing some of the poignancy of her relationship with the King of the North) and who implicitly blames Robb for responding to the new Mad King in the same way his father did. Yes, it would be great if all problems could be solved by negotiation and passive resistance. It'd be especially great since the common people are the ones who suffer most in any war, not the lords/Congressmen who start it which is, indeed, one of the overarching themes of Martin's work. But this point is being driven home in the same way everything looks like a nail if all you have is a hammer. Surely introducing Jeyne as someone helping the wounded is as poignant a reminder of how devastating the war is as making her blame Robb for the entirety of it? Given that the Lannisters took the field first and unleashed the Mountain before Robb ever thought of leaving Winterfell, methinks the frustration is slightly misplaced. Of course, there's no way Jeyne would know that but the aggression which soon turns to romance bit makes their relationship more than a bit Hollywood for my taste.

Bringing this all back around to the other among the host of strong, female characters in the show, we find Daenerys, four episodes in, finally walking through the gates of Qarth. Xaro Xhoan Daxos looks absolutely nothing like I had imagined him, which is unusual for the show so far. Almost everyone else has at least been an approximation. Nonso Anozie looks too big and too normal. And he's missing the jewels in his nose. But that's not a huge problem. What bugged me even more was the first appearance of Roose Bolton without even a hint of eeriness to the man. Seriously, does this

look like the lord of the Dreadfort or does this? (Bottom left is Roose Bolton.) Again, it's not a disaster and certainly Bolton's seeming normalcy in public and... deviations in private are part of what make him who he is. But I think they missed a moment of one kind to introduce him. Of course, you can make a moment of another kind later by showing the true nature of this unassuming man who only talks about flaying people...

I know. Bitch, bitch, bitch. You'd think I hate the show. Tyrion's scenes were, once again, brilliant, as Dinklage continues to play the role of a man with a firm grasp of the rest of the world's short hairs to the hilt. But I hope the preachiness slowly leaches (no, leeches are Bolton's friends) out of the scripts as we proceed. I realize that's impossible for Catelyn's character, but every other woman doesn't have to be reproving all the time.

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