TV Review: Game of Thrones, S01E02 – The Kingsroad

Show: Game of Thrones
NymeriaChannel: HBO
Episode: S01E02 – The Kingsroad
Original Air Date: 24 April 2011

Paths diverge in the second episode, as much of the Stark family and all of their guests depart from Winterfell, either for the Wall or for points South, leaving behind Robb, Cat, (Rickon, presumably, though we’ve yet to really see him), and Bran, still unconscious. Meanwhile, Dany and Viserys take off with the Dothraki, leaving Pentos (and civilisation) behind. So this episode is largely one of leavings and farewells — which is a bit interesting, for the second episode of a series. We meet everyone, see their relationships to each other, figure out how they’re all connected, only to see the ties severed

Tyrion, as I suspect will be true throughout the series, steals a lot of scenes. I giggled at him waking up in a bed of Australian shepherds in his first scene, and then he is so adorable with Tommen and Myrcella — both of whom are also lovely and charming, and who I hope we see more of. I love that Tommen giggles at all of Tyrion’s vulgar jokes. They seem to be keeping more of Tyrion’s dialogue intact than anyone else’s, and I’m so glad for that, because he has one of the strongest, most distinct voices in the series. It would be a damn shame to lose his snark.

But, seriously, watching Tyrion bitchslap Joffrey will Never Get Old. Here, enjoy a gif:

bitchslap

Hee.

Now then — They inserted a scene of Cersei “sympathising” with Cat, and, of course, we’re all wondering — did that first child of hers really die of a fever, or did Cersei poison it? I’m going with poison. I suspect this scene exists to establish the idea of Robert’s heirs having that famous coal-black hair. Meanwhile, Cat does despondent and tragically-obsessive quite well, which is good, since she’ll be doing a fair bit of that throughout the series. I’ll give her this, though, she puts up a damn good fight when it comes to the assassin.

I appear to be one of the few people in fandom not squeeing over the Jaime-Jon scene, and I suppose it’s because… I don’t quite know why it exists. These two characters never interact again. Not for the next four seasons, anyway. And it’s not as though they waste a lot of time thinking about each other. So, what’s the point? Just to set up more Stark-Lannister animosity? To preface the idea of the disdain the southron hold for the Night’s Watch? I’m just not sure. And not being a slash fan, I didn’t find it titillating for that reason, so, it didn’t do much for me. The Jon and Arya scene, on the other hand? Freaking adorable. I can’t decide whether I’m glad or not that they toned down the rancor in the scene between Jon and Cat, over Bran.

The episode moves fairly quickly through the events on the Kingsroad. I’m glad to see that more of the backstory gets revealed here, since I was concerned about that. We hear more about Rhaegar, more about the blurry events behind Robert’s Rebellion and the exile of the Targaryens, and we see how bloodthirstily blind Robert is when it comes to them.

We don’t see much of the kids on the road, so the Joffrey-Arya clash comes up fast, and the subsequent trial moves apace as well. This section of plot really kills any sympathy I might have for Robert having to deal with the poisonous nest of Lannisters. He’s just a coward, too pathetic to do what he knows is right, too apathetic to deal with his son and heir appropriately, too selfish to show any loyalty to the friend he’s dragging out away from home. Lady’s death saddened me, but I wonder if it would’ve had as much of an impact if I hadn’t read the book — we really only see Sansa with Lady in the one preceding scene (and I do think it’s telling that Sansa keeps Lady on a leash). What broke my heart more was actually having to see Arya driving Nymeria away. That’s something you only hear about in the book, so actually seeing it makes it so much worse — especially because we did see a bit more of Nymeria and her personality.

As sorry as I feel for poor Lady, though, I don’t feel the least bit sorry for Sansa. She brought that on herself. She sold out her sister and lied for the sake of that sniveling weasel Joffrey. She deserves everything she gets. (But, fun fact — Sophie Turner, who plays Sansa, ended up adopting the dog that portrays Lady, so the real-life story has a very happy ending).

I also find myself wondering how they’re going to handle the direwolves getting, well, bigger. They’re practically full-sized dogs already, and since they are, in fact, using real dogs for the filming… I wonder what sort of film trickery they’ll employ to make it seem like they keep growing. I enjoyed that they didn’t pull punches, though, when it came to showing Summer savaging the would-be assassin. I also love how Summer calms right down when the job’s done, all like, “What? Naptime now.”

And where the hell is Ghost?

Harry Lloyd continues to do a fantastic job with Viserys, so much so that he’s somehow making him less of the arrogant, entitled pissant and more just sort of pathetically deluded. It’s a nice touch, especially since otherwise I think he and Joffrey could quickly become redundant. I love Dany and her handmaidens. Getting to hear “It is known” makes me giggle, and I have to say, I really hope that phrase catches on.

There’s been a lot of discussion about Dany and Doreah and the sex instructions. Gratuitous lesbian visuals? Blatant fanservice? Maybe. But I liked it. I liked Doreah actually having something to do, because she’s very appealing, and I enjoy seeing a friendship grow between her and Dany. If that continues, it’ll also give Dany an outlet to convey some of those inner thoughts that were so close-kept in the first episode, and thus will explicate her to the audience more. I also like that you got to see a bit of fire out of Dany there — a hint of things yet to come, even though she’s still clearly not fully comfortable seizing the power which is her right. There’s still something deeply problematic about her relationship with Drogo, with how they’re portraying it, but we’ll have to see where that goes. Because it started out so brutal, I feel like if they try to make it look like it turns into love, what it’s really going to look like is Stockholm Syndrome.

As a final thought — I know a lot of people have talked about the opening credits sequence, how amazing it is, Emmy nominations, etc. But has anyone else taken a close look at what’s inscribed on the metallic bands enveloping the sun-like thing? Because… they tell the backstory. If you know what you’re looking for, that is, otherwise they’re pretty vague. But it begins with a volcano erupting (which is what we’ve all presumed at least part of the Doom of Old Valyria to be), and then — a dragon, and what looks like what might be waves — the migration of the Targaryens. In the second section (following the view of Winterfell), you see a stag, a wolf, and a gryphon tearing apart a three-headed dragon — referring to Robert’s Rebellion (though I don’t quite know the significance of the gryphon there, since the only gryphon-sigil I can think of is Connington, who was on Rhaegar’s side, and who isn’t a major figure besides; maybe it’s just a lion, which would make a lot more sense, but its head looks awfully beak-y). Third section, the stag crowned, haloed, with lots of other animals bowing down. It’s possible everyone else noticed this on the first run, and I’m just an idiot for not having noticed it in the first episode, but I’m kind’a geeking out over here.

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