Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Game of Thrones Ep 10: Fire & Blood

Here be dragons.

In what seems like no time at all, here we are at the end of the first season of HBO’s brilliant Game of Thrones. Not since Lost have I gotten so many emails and messages from people asking, “Where’s your post on this week’s episode?!” We’ve actually been posting on Wednesdays from the beginning (last week was an exception because Chris and I had an excited flurry of emails back and forth right after the episode and had it ready for Monday). And while I would have loved to have gotten it up earlier, I’ve been in Boston on holiday for the past few days, as my Facebook followers know, and as I posted there, we got back to Toronto on Monday night just after 9, raced to our house, calmly thanked my stepmom and dad for their help watching the kids for a few days, gave them gifts, waved goodbye, closed the door, and then ran like lunatics to the television and had the theme song running before we’d even brought the suitcase into the house.

Priorities, you see.

As always, I am joined by Christopher Lockett (who was dying for me to watch the episode and was counting down the minutes until I would so he could get going on this), who has read the book and has been explaining the adaptation from a readerly perspective all season, and who is simultaneously posting this over on his blog, where you can read a second round of comments. So, because of his extreme patience in the matter, I’ll turn it over to him for the first word.

Chris: Well, I am devastated. I don’t know what I am going to do next Sunday. I think I can however safely say, and I will say this very quietly and only once, WELL FUCKING DONE, HBO. So often is fantasy brought to either the big or small screen completely ruined in the process (I’m lookin’ at you, Earthsea!). Peter Jackson, happily, reversed that trend with the Lord of the Rings trilogy; and HBO has pulled off something magnificent with Game of Thrones.

(Quick TV geek digression for Nikki’s benefit, re: casting for the upcoming The Hobbit. Evangeline Lilly of Lost and Lee Pace of Pushing Daisies have both been cast? Are you kidding? ).

But back to GoT … where to even begin? I think I’ll begin with the huge pleasure I have had these past few days reading people’s Facebook status updates after watching the finale (the winner is my former student Ashley’s blog post . Incidentally, half the images from the episode I’m putting in this post are stolen from hers), and talking to people who have not read the books. SO MANY great moments from the novel translated beautifully into the episode: Robb being hailed as King in the North; Jon’s brothers of the Watch reciting the vow to him; the Lord Commander revealing he knew of Jon’s attempted flight (“Honor set you on the Kingsroad. And honor brought you back.” “My friends brought me back.” “I didn’t say it was your honor.”); Arya facing down the boys with Needle; Tyrion being sent to act as Hand; Sansa finding some steel in her spine; Daenerys killing the shell of Drogo; and of course DRAGONS.

Deep sigh. It was all done so well, with such a deft touch. I wondered, going into the episode, how they would begin. And that opening shot with the bloody sword, and Ser Illyn picking up Ned’s head to brandish before the crowd; Sansa fainting; and Yoren cutting Arya’s hair and his repeated insistence that she is now a boy. I had been concerned about Yoren when we first met him—he seemed so different from the novel’s depiction, a hearty and hail-and-well-met kind of fellow. But seeing Ned Stark executed took the good humour out of him, I think, and his tough love where Arya is concerned is much closer to what we see of him in the novel.

Of course, the question I want to ask you is about the last moments of the show, but we should probably save that for the end. So let’s begin a little more innocuously: I really, really hope that in season two they continue with the Littlefinger/Varys show. That conversation, like all their conversations over the course of the season, was an invention of the writers. I have quite come to love the way Baelish and Varys have these little mini-plays where they poke and prod each other and reflect on the nature of power and ambition. What do you think?

Nikki: While the ending of this episode, however surprising, seemed muted compared to last week’s jaw-dropper, this was a great finale that definitely set up many, many plot points for season 2.

Oh absolutely, the conversation between those two keeps you on your toes throughout. Listening to those two talk is like watching a chess match: you know at one point there’s going to be a trick, and one is going to topple, but you don’t know when that moment is coming, or which one will be victorious. Their wits are evenly matched, with Littlefinger lobbing an insult at Varys, who’s unhurt by it and lobs something back, and Littlefinger is equally unfazed by what Varys just said. Those two are fantastic, and the actors play it brilliantly.

I like that you said Sansa found steel in her spine, because that’s almost exactly what I exclaimed when she verbally spat in that little sniveling idiot’s face, when I said, “Yes! Sansa has a spine after all!” Of all the siblings, she truly is trapped right now. Moments after we saw her faint, we see her on the sidelines of the court, red-eyed and done up in her finery with her crazy halo hair matching Cersei’s, and I thought, she just can’t escape. These people are her worst enemies, and she’s still betrothed to that piece of shit. Cersei looks uncomfortable all the time now (for the little we saw her in the episode), and I LOVED that Sansa forced herself to look at her father’s face, and instead of recoiling, she found power in it. She didn’t do what Joffrey wanted her to do in this scene. At first when I saw her look down, I thought she would throw herself over the edge of that bridge, until she took a step forward. Damn the Hound for stopping her, although he was right to do so. I’m actually quite fascinated by the Hound, to be honest, and hope he plays a significant role in the next season.

I also enjoyed the scene where we find out the old fart (whose name escapes me) isn’t an old fart at all, but a spry man pretending to be old and decrepit. That scene was very amusing, but if he were able to be with Roxanne, she had to figure there’s SOME life in the old guy!

Arya making the long walk north pretending to be a boy – alongside Robert’s bastard son, no less – should provide some very interesting fodder for the next season. My first question to you is, does book 2 pick up immediately where book 1 left off?

Chris: Not exactly. The prologue of A Clash of Kings takes us to the island of Dragonstone, where we meet Stannis Baratheon for the first time. And then the first chapter of the novel proper is Arya walking north with Yoren and the rest of the Night’s Watch “recruits.”

And you are correct in assuming that Arya’s journey north is compelling and, as you say, excellent narrative fodder. I don’t think I’m giving anything away when I say that the journey ends up being, ah, more circuitous than was planned at the outset. ;-)

And the old fart whose name you’re forgetting is Grand Maester Pycelle … the scene was interesting, and a complete invention. At first I wasn’t sure what to make of it, but I kind of liked it in the end … he is about as much of a schemer as Littlefinger and Varys, so it’s kind of cool that they’re establishing his dotage as just a façade. Which will be good for the next season—he and Tyrion have quite the showdown, heh.

Speaking of everyone’s favourite Halfling, what did you think of the interaction between Tywin and Tyrion? We know quite well at this point that Tyrion is one of the smartest (if not the smartest) character in the series … obviously his father sees in him some value, even as he despises him for his whoring and the sin of being a dwarf. Again, not giving anything away in saying that this sets up Tyrion’s principal plotline for season two—he takes his wildlings to King’s Landing, and has the unenviable task of trying to rein in Joffrey’s worst tendencies.

Nikki: That was a great scene, especially the look on Tyrion’s face when it slowly dawns on him that his father is complimenting him. I loved the line, “I took you for a stunted fool,” with Tyrion’s response, “Well, you were half right.” I cannot WAIT to see him try to be the Hand of THAT king.

How old is Joffrey meant to be when he becomes king, do you know? Is he about 15 or older than that? I couldn’t quite remember how old he was said to be at the beginning of the series.

But as the new king rises, it’s time to talk about the other king falling, and the death of Khal Drogo. What a devastating moment. It reminded me of a scene in a later season of Buffy (because of our ongoing Buffy Rewatch, I don’t want to give anything away), where someone wants to raise the dead and is warned that what you bring back might look like them, but it isn’t actually them. Daenerys asked for Drogo’s life, and she got it, but that’s not what she meant. I was on the verge of tears watching her begging her “sun and stars” to come back to her. I thought perhaps there would be a strange scene of the sun appearing to rise in the west and he’d come back to her, but it wasn’t meant to be.

And the very end was interesting, because early in the season, I can’t remember which episode, she places a dragon egg in the fire and picks it up, but it doesn’t hurt her hand. I remember saying to my husband, “Maybe the eggs are like popcorn and they’ll pop open and the dragons will jump out.” Of course, when Daenerys herself was walking toward the pyre that image was the LAST thing on my mind, and all I could think of is when Daenerys was told in last week’s episode that once Drogo was dead, she was nothing, but man, if that woman survives the pyre burning, they’ll be loathe to walk away from her! So when Ser Jorah walked up to her and she lifted her head, I thought that was the miracle. Until something popped up behind her and I thought, “Oh my GOD she spilled water on Gizmo and there’s a Gremlin behi— no, wait… OMG it’s a dragon.”

A freakin’ DRAGON.

Oh, take THAT, Joffrey!!!!!!

Chris: In the novel, Joffrey is thirteen. I think he’s supposed to be fifteen or so in the series.

What I love most about GRRM’s storytelling is how consistently he subverts your expectations. Ned is the hero? He’s going to escape to join Daenerys? NO! BAM! He’s dead. Drogo is going to cross the sea with Daenerys and reclaim her kingdom? NO! BAM! He’s dead. But then into those shocked spaces he instead advances less expected, and better plots … Dany seems to lose everything, but emerges from the fire with dragons. Ned is killed, but his son is crowned King of the North. Jon Snow finds himself in the vanguard of the only war that really matters.

And so on.

This final episode was really emotionally charged for me, and not just because I knew what was coming … the final bit with the dragon appearing over Daenerys’ shoulder was simply perfect, and I rewound and watched the last three minutes no fewer than half a dozen times. The emotional timbre of the scene was pitch-perfect, with Jorah’s shocked and amazed expression as he, and everyone around Dany, sinks to their knees to pledge themselves to her. That is the moment that she becomes a queen.

The death of Drogo, however, is genuinely heartbreaking, because of course he does not die at first. Seeing him as an empty husk is worse than seeing him fall in a fight; and the ambivalence we feel when Mirri Maz Duur unapologetically admits that she knew exactly what she was doing is emblematic of the way the series (and the novel) never panders or gives us clear-cut rights and wrongs. Drogo’s khalasar DID commit atrocities—they did take women to be raped, even in spite of Dany’s intervention, and enslave half a village and slaughter the other half. Of course Mirri Maz Duur didn’t want Drogo’s son to be born, and none of Daenerys’ best intentions can change the woman’s hatred of the Dothraki.

I also have to give props to Sophie Turner. Playing Sansa is something of a thankless role, as she had to be bratty and annoying for the better part of the season while everyone rhapsodized in reviews and online about Arya and Daenerys. A question that frequently came up among the n00bs was “Does Sansa ever get less annoying?” And the answer, of course, is a resounding yes. She has learned hard lessons, and the hatred on her face when she faces down Joffrey at the end makes up for all her previous simpering.

And as long as we’re on the topic of thankless roles, let’s not forget to give a shout-out to Jack Gleeson, whose excruciatingly hateful portrayal of Joffrey was brilliantly done—and spot on, as far as the novel goes. And unlike Sansa, he gets no redeeming moment … we end the season hating him even more than we did at its outset.

So there we are. Big sigh … Now we have to wait a year, or however long it’s going to take HBO to get season two together (pleasepleaseplease do not pull a year and a half hiatus, a la The Sopranos … it was bad enough waiting six years between books).

Take it home, Nikki!

Nikki: Wow, the last word on such a fantastic season. I didn’t say anything about the King of the North scene, but yes, that was amazing, and I loved the look of pride on Catelyn’s so recently anguished face, as well as her earlier promise to Jon that they will go to King’s Landing, find Sansa and Arya, and then kill all of the Lannisters (the women in this episode are SO strong). And while I hope Jaime Lannister gets beaned in the head by a few more boulders along the way, I found the scene between him and Catelyn to be intriguing when he simply tells her the truth when answering every one of her questions about Bran… all except that last “why?” of course.

I can’t wait for next season, and I plan to read the first book now to see for myself what the show was based on (but I’ll have the opposite experience of you, because my reading will be coloured by the way the TV characters are now in my head, whereas your viewing of the show was influenced by what you’d read). But the way they’ve left it, I’m not sure if I’ll be able to wait on reading the second book.

But the one thing that will hold me off from reading that second book is the chance to do this again with you. I want to extend a huge thank-you on behalf of myself and my readers for agreeing to do this every week with me, giving us your insight without spoiling what was to come (where else could we get the perspective of a GRRM fan and still have Ned’s death be an absolute shock?) and making this a much richer experience for all of us. I do hope we can do it again on the second season.

Until then, may the warm winds blow from the South, may the Dragon make her way to King’s Landing, may the King of the North prevail, and may Joffrey cut himself with a razor, trip and fall into a vat of peroxide, break both his legs on the way in, end up in a half-body cast, and have the inside of that cast invaded by fire ants.

Ah, I knew playing “Worst-Case Scenario” in public school would pay off some day…

See y’all in season 2!


Christina B said...

First, I want to say what a pleasure it's been to 'listen' to you both every week!
I'll miss it very much!

Now, onto my thoughts...

Chris, as usual, you took the words right out of my mouth.
I am so, so impressed with HBO's rendition of this series. They just couldn't have done it any better.

I was SO worried about how they would do the dragons...but they got that bit SPOT on!

I do have a few thoughts on season/book 2--
Without spoilers, I can safely say that 'A Clash of Kings' is much more deep and elaborate.
I'm wondering if they might actually split book 2 into 2 seasons, spanning season 2 and 3.
This would also solve the problem of the books being written and released much more slowly than HBO can put out seasons.

Although they probably would have announced it if that was the case, right?

humanebean said...

Well done, Chris and Nikki! Thanks to both of you for sharing your individual perspective on coming to the HBO series in your own way. I thought this first season was extremely well done, the characters grew in depth and range with each passing week, and the pacing of each episode grew more assured as we raced to the excellent final episodes.

I am in queue at the library for the first book in the series and can't wait to read more about this fantastic world. Thanks again, Chris, for giving us just enough context from the books without spoiling us for the exciting developments to come in the series. And, as always, thanks to YOU, Nik, for hosting the entries and sharing your endless passion and delight for the experience of discovering the world of Game Of Thrones. Bravo!

Anonymous said...

Winter is coming

Unknown said...

Just want to start off by saying thank you and Chris for providing such great insight and an entertaining read every week. The two things I was looking forward to the most in seeing was the king of the north scene witch was just as goosebumb inducing as when I read it and the Dragons, which looked amazing.

Speaking of fantasy adaptions and HBO who have just pulled off an amazing adaption they also just got the rights to adapt Neil Gaimen's 'American Gods' which might be an even more ambitious fantasy novel to screen adaption than this was. But HBOhas me sold after Game of Thrones phenomanal first season.

@Christina From what I heard that season 2 and book 2 will also be a one season 10 episode adaption. Which is going to make for an even tighter and more action packed season. I believe it can still be done and done well I wish they 12 or 13 episodes but trust I have in the creative team after what I just watched these past 10 weeks. Now I heard George RR Martin say that book 3 would need to be split into 2 seasons...

karoliina said...

Dragons were so great in the end - in the book they didn't make much of an impression for me, but that's probably because I was still in the mourning for Ned Stark and was all for direwolves (and a shoutout this week for Shaggydog!), but now I'm all goosebumped from the beginning for them (though I've read the books and know they'll be just fine). I really hope you will find a way to talk about the next season as well as it has been immensely enjoyable reading your discussions, even though I can't see how it should be possible for Nikki to read only one book.. maybe you can consider a minor mindwipe later?

The Question Mark said...

What a spectacular end to a grandiose, above-and-beyond season of an absolutely fascinating TV show (there, I used every adjective I know in one sentence)!

Chris, thank you so much for being part of these ten discussions with us! I recently picked up the first two books in the series, and Im anout 40% through Book 1 (it's great, by the way, a stellar read even to those who've already seen he show). However, like Nikki, I'm undecided as to whether I want to actually start reading Book 2 before the second season begins. I'm dying to know what happens, but if I read, I'll spoil the TV experience for myself! This is indeed a conundrum. What does everybody think? I need some true fanboy/fangirl opinions to help me out here.

I think everyone following GoT on Nik at Nite should keep their eyes peeled for any news regarding season 2's release date or casting, and give everybody the 411 so we can start planning our schedules ahead of time. For instance, I'm itching to know who is going to play Stannis.

For my final word on Game of Thrones Season 1: Daenerys has been my hot platinum-blonde princess crush since the pilot episode. After all of the glorious ten hours of television I've witnessed in this show, seeing a naked Emilia Clarke covered only by BABY DRAGONS is the icing on the cake! I demand a poster (from GRRM, HBO, Penthous magazine, ANYONE) depicting "Naked Emilia Clarke Covered in Baby Dragons".

Christina B said...

Question Mark-- I vote to wait on book two.
But I'm also betting that you won't be able to wait after you finish book one. You'll NEED to know more. ;)
Unless, of course, you have some crazy willpower.

Unknown said...

@Question Mark: I think that decision whether to go on to book 2 or not becomes easier to answer after finishing reading the first one. I think it comes down to how you enjoyed the structure and writing of the book to tell the story, because they both get the main ideas across in either medium just in different ways. I would vote for to keep on reading as the show does a wonderful job of bringing the rich world that Martin created to life and enhanced the nuances to the show from my knowledge of having read the story. Sure you won't get the same shock and awe as seeing it for the first time on screen but those same emotions occur while reading. Take Ned's death while it wasn't shocking it was still just as devestating to watch unfurl because of the amazing acting done by Sean Bean, Maisie Williams, and Sophie Turner.

Also on a selfish note I don't everyone to catch up by reading all the books because new viewer reaction to the twists and turns Martin's stories tell bring me much enjoyment...

Chris in NF said...

First of all: thanks to everyone here for their kind comments. It has been a HUGE pleasure to do this with Nikki, not least because I get to interact with her amazing readers.

Second: I have to say I'm with Zach on the whole books issue. I did not find my experience of the show denuded AT ALL by having read the books. In fact -- and this really is just how indicative of how AWESOME the series has been -- I have taken great pleasure in seeing aspects of GRRM's vision augmented by the writers' additions (case in point: the Littlefinger/Varys show).

Third: I realized I didn't comment on the final Jon Snow bits -- where he's show saddling up to ride with the Watch IN FORCE north of the Wall. On rereading the novel, I was reminded what a great moment that was when Mormont says it ... and I thought it was so well done in the final ep. Thoughts?

Joan Crawford said...

I love it to death that you called a guy who goes by "Grand Maester" an Old Fart. Khaleesi is the best title ever and if ever I own a bunch of cats (but what are the odds of that happening?) I am going to name at least one of them that. The Hound is quiet interesting. I imagine he'll disappoint us greatly before finally doing what needs to be done - and not a moment too soon would by my guess. As for watching the final scene over and over again, Chris... yup, those were some nice dragons on that lady ;)
I *really* like Tyrion and I am eager to see how far away from his family the Lady of the Night (I really do not mean this in a jerk-way. I like her but I honestly can't remember her name!) leads him. It'll be interesting to watch Tyrion's character develop, I wonder will he continue to be desperate for his father's approval (pretty much everyone's Achilles' heel) or will he go his own way?

VW: For imp


maria said...

Thank you so much for such a wonderful conversation for Season 1. Like the rest, I cannot wait for Season 2. It was a beautiful journey through GoT the first season with you two guiding us on the twists and turns of the episodes and the books. By episode 4 I could no longer hold my curiosity and took to reading the book. For me it did not lessen the visual and emotional impact of the scenes onscreen knowing what comes next. Rather for me the enjoyment in reading was how the chapters of the book would visualize on TV. Sorry we cannot see the battles, but..well, budget and all...we do have our enormous imaginations!
Thanks again Nikki. After LOST, we begin a new chapter. Awesome!

Witness Aria said...

Thanks for all the great write-ups! What a terrific show. Can't wait for the next season.

And I just have to mention one thing that made me OMG that wasn't mentioned: Lancel!! How old is that kid? Damn, Cersei, WTF?

Batcabbage said...

So Batkitty and I only kept up with GoT until episode 4, when other things like life and The Witcher 2 and LA Noire got in the way, but I kept aquiring the eps through wholly legal means and we just did a whole season watch over the past three nights, with four eps, four again, then the final two.

Holy freaking shit, this may be the best novel-to-tv show adaptation EVER. Watching all the eps back to back was probably the best way for us to do it, as there was a lot of 'What was that guy's name?' and 'Why are those two f**king? Aren't they brother and sister? They're TWINS?! Ewwwwwwwww.' going on when we watched the first four eps week to week. Also, during that time I read the first two books, and am 200 pages into the third one right now (I'm finishing this post to go keep on reading until bed time in 6 hours). I loved the whole series, I loved the finale, I loved Dany (she just gets better), and I LOVED the scene between Tywin and Tyrion.

There were a couple things I didn't like. I know this is an episode late, but I hated that Tyrion got knocked out before the battle, I felt cheated. I also don't really like Shae in the show. In fact, I think that the whore from Winterfell who travels to King's Landing (and who was with Pycelle) seems a bit more like the Shae I read in the book. Not looks, or accent, or whatever, just her character. I think they got Shae wrong.

@The Question Mark: I'd be very surprised if you got to the end of the first novel and didn't read straight on to the second. I read way too much as it is (it's a compulsion), but I put down book one and immediately picked up book 2. Did the same with book 3, and when I finish that in a week I'll pick up book 4. I just HAVE to know what happens next. I reckon you will too.

@Miss Joan: As for watching the final scene over and over again, Chris... yup, those were some nice dragons on that lady ;) LMAO! I've never heard them called that before.

Thanks for posting on this, Nik and Chris. I've loved your back and forth, and I've loved a reader's perspective (I said to Batkitty 'That was different in the book' so much over the last three nights I'm lucky she didn't belt me ;). So what's the next show you're gonna post on that's not Buffy, Nik? True Blood starts next week. Perhaps a weekly recap maybe perhaps please please please? :)

Monica said...

I haven’t watched every episode but really love this show. I was really happy with the way everything was laid out and love watching the growth of the characters, Daenerys and Arya especially. It’s going to be a long wait for season two but at least I can play catch-up. I’ll be using my employee subscription to DISH to go to and watch the episodes I missed on demand. Hopefully that will help ease the pain of the long wait

collywobbles said...

Could someone clarify how we know that is Robert's bastard son walking with Arya to Castle Black? Think I may have missed that bit.

Anyways, thank you both so much for writing these reviews!

I cannot wait until Season 2! I'm picking up the first book with the intent to read one after each season, but we'll see how much willpower I have..

Jazzygirl said...

Loved loved it! Thank you Nikki and Chris for the discussions! I plan on going back and rewatching the entire season now that I "know" who everyone is. They three us right into the storylines in the beginning and I found myself constantly saying " wait who is that again?" and the twins fuckinv didn't help! Lol! I also think j missed the critical explanation of how exactly Dany is a dragon?? Little confused there, Not happy that Drago is dead btw. Anyway, great season!!

EsDee said...

Thanks for the great discussions everyone! It has been such a pleasure watching and reading with all of you.

Jazzygirl - I am with you...I am ready to go back and re-watch every episode now and just savor and enjoy - now that the figuring out is over.

Have a good summer all!!

verif. word: "submudde" - somebody with a cold.