TV Review: Game of Thrones, S01E04 – Cripples, Bastards, and Broken Things

Show: Game of Thrones
GendryChannel: HBO
Episode: S01E04 – Cripples, Bastards, and Broken Things
Original Air Date: 8 May 2011
Spoiler Warning: Armed and active, for series and particularly for books

My reaction to most of this episode was, “Hey! Finally!” Hey! Finally the three-eyed crow shows up! Hey! Finally we see Grey Wind! Hey! Finally Ghost is being his amazing intimidating self! Hey! Finally some backstory on Theon! Hey! Finally we talk about the dragons! So, all in all, I’m pretty pleased with Bryan Cogman, who wrote this episode. He’s working in a good bit of the mythos, which gives the story such texture and richness.

This episode is aptly named, not just because we get Tyrion’s fabulous quote, but because it so accurately describes so many of the characters and situations. Bran’s just the most obvious. We then move on to Samwell Tarly, a broken, craven man, afflicted by a cowardice that the other men of the Night’s Watch treat like a disease, afraid it might be catching. Alliser Thorne, broken by his own bitterness and cynicism, driven to break others. Daenerys, who has been a lost girl her whole life, her spirit broken by her brother’s dominance, but who’s now finally turning the tables on him, putting the splintered parts of herself back together and forging something stronger out of them. Jorah Mormont, the exile. Jon Snow, the bastard, the most prominent of all the bastards we’ll meet in this series, who refuses to make more like himself. Gendry Waters, another bastard, one who makes things, things that are both beautiful and strong. Sandor Clegane, burnt and deformed and barely containing his rage at the world.

Not all of these broken things will manage to put themselves back together. Not all of them deserve pity. Not all of them are honourable. Not all of them use their brokenness to effect. Not all of them even accept or are aware that they’re broken. But they form an interesting theme, which this episode highlights particularly well. And it’s not just broken people – we’re starting to see much more. Broken marriages, broken promises, broken families. The Starks make – and will make – probably the best case study, though the Targaryens put in a fair play for it as well.

The scene between Doreah and Viserys is interesting for a couple of reasons. It shows a bit of humanity in Viserys… which he then immediately undoes. It’s a lot of backstory, and I can’t escape the niggling feeling that this scene was designed to keep those uninterested in exposition focused on Doreah’s pert breasts so that they wouldn’t switch the channel. I get it, Doreah; dragons make me hot, too. 😉 Harry Lloyd is still fantastic, though. I’ll be sorry to say goodbye to him soon, however happy I am to see the end of Viserys. I also wonder about having him talk about the skulls – are we still going to get to see them? That scene where Arya overhears Varys and Illyrio talking is so important in the books, but I wonder how it would play on-screen.

The Targaryen scene from this episode that we’re all talking about, of course, however, is Dany bitch-slapping her brother with a metal belt. I love that Dany’s strength is becoming visible – she’s not this pale, lifeless, soft thing anymore. She’s got muscles, and a suntan, even a little bit of a burn. She’s a little shaken by the realisation that she has more worth than her brother, that the only person she’s had to trust in, her whole life, isn’t worthy of it, isn’t strong enough.

One again, we get some more of Jaime, and his conversation with Jory reveals a lot. First, that he has respect for the sword – and little else. He only thinks Jory worth a moment of his time after realising they’d fought together at Pyke, and the men very nearly have a friendly moment, until Lannister prickliness gets in the way. Admittedly, Jaime’s got a lot on his mind at the moment.

And then, the tourney. Ser Hugh of the Vale wears the least practical helmet for jousting ever, and so I sort of don’t feel the least bit bad about his death. I mean, yes, he was murdered by the Lannisters, but my stars, he sure made it easy for them. I love how both of the Stark children stare unabashedly at his death, which happens practically in their laps. It gave me a smidgen more respect for Sansa for not coming over all faint-hearted. I also love how we get a quick shot of Myrcella looking all horrified, bless her.

So, I watched this episode with my mother, who may just be Tyrion’s newest biggest fangirl. She utterly refuses to believe he had anything to do with Bran’s crippling, and she loves how he dresses down pretty much everyone he encounters. (Also, his reaction to hearing about Lord Frey’s new wife is fantastic – as is his reaction to being accused of attempted murder). As such, she’s very angry with Catelyn for picking on the wrong Lannister. She’s also quite fond, however, of Petyr Baelish, which I feel shows poor judgment. I mean, even without knowing the books, he’s just so smarmy and smirky in the series – true to form, absolutely, and now that Aidan Gillen has introduced some modulation into his voice, he’s doing quite well, and there’s something really interesting to watch about his gait, the way he moves and holds himself – but I don’t find anything attractive about him. I also have no idea what motivates him to tell Sandor’s story to Sansa.

Like the previous episode, this one feels more thematic and more of a set-up. The story’s gearing up to go into high-action mode, but it hasn’t quite gotten there yet. I think they’re setting the ground well, though, and a slower pace at the beginning will serve them well. Once things really take off, expository breaks will be more jarring.

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