Monday, June 13, 2011

Game of Thrones Ep 9: Baelor

Just when you thought TV couldn’t surprise you, along comes this week’s episode. I’m still freaking out over it almost 24 hours later. And because of the nature of it, we decided we simply couldn’t wait until Wednesday to post our thoughts on it. As always I’m joined by Christopher Lockett, who must have been bursting with anxiety knowing what he did about Ned, watching the n00bs like me talking about how maybe Ned will join with this camp or that one. He’s reviewing the episodes from a reader’s perspective, and as I joked with him on email this week, it would have been interesting to have watched the ep together to catch the look of shock and horror on my face, matched by the look of bemusement on his as he anticipates my reaction. Unbelievable. So, because he’s been so patient and amazingly spoiler-free, I’ll let Chris start us off this week. (And be sure to check out his blog, where he’ll simulpost this blog post and host his own comments.)

Chris: So, kind of a boring episode, eh? Nothing really happened, just your usual run-of-the-mill stuff. Certainly nothing to shock the n00bs. ;-)

But seriously, folks … Ned’s TOTALLY UNEXPECTED execution is the moment, in reading the novel, when you suddenly think “Holy shit, this guy plays for keeps.” And that realization sort of comes in stages, as the actual beheading is described vaguely enough that you spend much of the rest of the novel waiting for the revelation that he’s not actually dead. I’ve had several acquaintances finish A Game of Thrones and say, “OK, so this is a Gandalf thing, right? He ‘died,’ but is going to come back in the second book?” I’m pretty happy they didn’t really leave anything to the imagination in the series—now I don’t have to be all mysterious about whether or not Ned actually got it, or worry about having “Yep, he’s dead” be a total spoiler.

Yep, he’s dead. And just a word of warning for those embarking on reading the series: do NOT get too attached to any of your favourite characters. NO ONE IS SAFE.

But of course, the shocking finale of the episode threatens to eclipse everything else that happened, and, all things being equal, this was a pretty eventful episode. And also an episode that warrants another of my “what they changed” lists:

• Shae—in the novel she is not “foreign.” I don’t know what that change bothered me, but it did a little. I kept waiting for Tyrion to guess, in their drinking game, “that accent is fake!” and have her relent and start speaking like the Westeros girl she is in the novels.
• And yeah … that drinking game was not within ten city blocks of the novel. A nifty device to reveal stuff about Tyrion, but it totally screwed up the pacing of an otherwise gripping episode.
• Tyrion getting accidentally conked on the head and missing the battle. That bugged me a little—in the novel, he fights; and his hillmen aren’t in the vanguard, they’re on the left flank, as Tywin assumed they would collapse in battle and entice the northerners into a charge that would leave them enveloped.
• Also, they missed a chance to use one of my favourite of Bronn’s lines: encouraging Tyrion before the battle, he says, “A little man like you with a large shield? You’ll give the archers fits.”
• In the novel, Robb did not sacrifice two thousand men, but sent a healthier host south to engage Tywin Lannister and then retreat, as a diversion, while they took on Jaime Lannister’s force.
• Also, I don’t know if this gripe fits under “what they changed,” but—snow in the Riverlands? Seriously? That strikes me as a HUGE continuity error.

OK, I think that’s enough for that list. What would you like to talk about, Nikki? :-)

Nikki: OK. Breathe, Nikki… BREATHE.


OK, I think that was a rather calm response, don’t you??

I have been watching television for many years, as you all know. I have been WRITING about television and studying it for many years, as many of you know. In that time, there are certain things I know to be true: when a character pops up out of nowhere with a tiny role, but the part is played by a giant of film or television, that is going to become a recurring character (unless it’s on 30 Rock and the cameo was touted in commercials for weeks leading up to it); when a character has been built up with such a rich history surrounding him, and a clear path of right and wrong drawn before him, where you can see how he could join forces with this camp or that one, you know he will remain a focal point of the show; you do NOT kill off your lead… you don’t kill off Jack Shephard on Lost or Buffy on Buffy or Sydney Bristow on Alias because, as mentioned earlier, if much of the show’s plot and mythology has been built around that character, you don’t have much of a bloody show without him/her; when that lead is in terrible peril and you know there may be a way out, there is ALWAYS a way out, especially if people who side with that person are not immediately present in the scene… in which case they shall come swooping in at the last second, lopping off the executioner’s head and saving the day; when you have SEAN BEAN in the lead, you don’t kill him off!!!!!!!

OK, sorry… I’m kind of becoming hysterical again. I think I can say there hasn’t been an ending of an episode that has shocked me the way that did. The end of Lost’s season 5, when Jack dropped the bomb and they didn’t show what the frak happened and just ended the season there… that made every fan scream in frustration. But the events themselves weren’t a shock. I’ve seen characters get killed off, and that was upsetting, but that’s reserved for the end of the series and not near the end of the FIRST BLOODY SEASON!!!

Simply put (in case all of this maniacal ranting wasn’t clear) that ending shocked the hell out of me. My hands were tightly clasped over my mouth, my eyes were gaping open, and I screamed a crazy person’s scream (thank goodness for those hands over the mouth). My husband and I gawped at each other, and I think he may have spoken first, saying, “They killed him!”
“No!” was all I could say once I let out that breath I’d been holding in.
“I can’t believe they killed him!”
“That didn’t just happen. Back it up and let’s watch again.”
“They killed him.”
“How is… what… why would… oh my GOD.”

Honestly I don’t know how I’m going to get through the rest of this week’s post. So much for analysis. I’m just rambling on and on with my reaction. I’ll turn it back over to Chris while I continue to try to get my head around this, because I still have SO much more to say but I’m bogarting the action with my shock and awe. (And by the way, for the record, I think it was a BRILLIANT move on the part of the writers, not a mistake, because I will never, ever forget that moment of television watching…)

Chris: Hee.

I think I speak for all (or most) GRRM fans when I say just how cathartic that moment of television was. Everyone I know who has read the novels invariably says something along the lines of “I can’t wait to see people’s reactions when they kill Ned.” Because it really is something of a game-changing moment—as I said above, it’s the moment when you realize GRRM ain’t your grandma’s fantasy writer. It is akin to the end of The Murder of Roger Ackroyd when you discover that the murderer is SPOILER (yeah, not going to give that one away here)—a brilliant moment of generic rule-breaking.

And as long as we’re on the topic, can I gush for a moment over how well that scene was done? It was handled perfectly, from Arya’s arrival to the emergence of Ned, to Joffrey’s sickeningly self-satisfied grin when Ned calls him the true king, to Cersei’s look of horror when she realizes what Joffrey is doing … and finally to that heartbreakingly long moment of muffled silence as Ned realizes that he is about to die. It was all more or less exactly as it is described in the novel, except for two things: Ned spotting Arya crouching at the base of the statue, and telling Yoren that she is there. (For those who didn’t understand the communication, the statue is of Baelor the Blessed, the holiest of the Targaryen kings—Ned shouts “Baelor!” at Yoren, who then spots and rescues Arya). I must say, I loved this little change: it gives Arya and Ned one last moment of connection, and reinforces for Ned just why he’s agreeing to this travesty of his honor. It plays as a beautiful foil to Maester Aemon’s little lecture to Jon Snow on honor versus love; in the end, Ned chooses love, love of his children. Jon’s stipulation that his father would “Do whatever is right, no matter what” then becomes an interesting philosophical question—did Ned do the right thing? Was it right to choose his daughters over his honor?

Whatever the answer, it was for naught, and Joffrey shows his autocratic, capricious ways. He will come to plague his family with his willfulness as the books proceed. I hope everyone has a stomach for his repulsiveness—it finds way more outlets for expression in book two.

Assuming, Nikki, that you’ve caught your breath by now, what did you think of the episode’s other shocking moments? Which, admittedly, seem only mildly surprising next to Ned’s decapitation.

Nikki: I think it will be several days before I’ve caught my breath. I think I need to watch it again, just to see the end part. (On a completely random side note, my daughter watches the excruciatingly awful “Suite Life on Deck” on Family, and the other day it had the first funny line I’ve seen, where one guy tells this group of environmentalists that the captain has capitulated to their demands, to which ditzy London — who always misunderstands big words — exclaims, “Oh my GOD, they cut off his head?!” Heh.) Anyway, what I found in this episode, now thinking back on it, was that many of the scenes were there to help bolster up the very expectation I was suggesting they tore asunder with Ned’s death. Khal Drogo appears close to death, and I do NOT want him to die, and said to my husband, “They CAN’T kill him off, not after everything we’ve gone through with him and Dany”… and they seem to have found a way around that. Tyrion is knocked unconscious in battle, and the next thing you see is him appearing to be floating above the battlefield, tricking the viewer momentarily into thinking he’s dead and having an out-of-body experience… one I didn’t fall for simply because he’s Tyrion, and you simply can’t kill HIM off. We see Catelyn ride into the Walder (sp?) fortress, and we know she’s probably not in any grave danger because, well, she’s Catelyn, and they won’t kill her, right?

Now I’ll never rest easy. I’m thinking Drogo and Tyrion and Sam and Arya will be in a massive battle to the death next week at this rate. Cripes.

So that is perhaps why they added in the Tyrion scene. But as you say, I would have much rather seen him do battle, especially since we’ve seen him bludgeon a guy to death with a shield. :::shudder:::

But back to Ned (see, I just can’t let it go… Lost has taught me nothing), aside from the shock that ending gave me, I’m really saddened by that final, terrible, beautiful few moments of his life, which at the time I didn’t realize were his final ones. He sees Arya crouching on that statue (and THANK YOU for explaining the name of the statue, because my big question of the week was, why was the episode called Baelor? Is there any tie, by the way, to Baelish?). There’s a look of pain and shame on her face, and of course, anger that her father is spouting such blatant lies. I kind of hated Sansa in this scene, who, on the one hand, is trying desperately to save her father’s life, but on the other, is allowing him to compromise his very soul with those final words. Joffrey made his pronouncement, and Arya made her move. As she was weaving her way toward the stage, I began yelling, “Come on, Arya! Show us what those dancing lessons taught you!! Arya for the WIN!” I was so convinced she would be his savior. Silly me. But now, with a clearer head, I know she would have walked to her own death, and her father’s and possibly Sansa’s, too. Stopping her was the only thing that could have been done in this scene.

But my heart broke when Ned looked out to that statue one last time and she was gone. The one person who seemed to share his soul was gone, and he would never look at her again. Heartbreaking.

You remember what happened to Viserys a couple of episodes back? That’s child’s play compared to what I want to happen to Joffrey, that sniveling little toad excrement.

So… once word gets over to Ned’s son and his army of bannermen, I’m wondering how long Jaime Lannister is for this world…

Chris: Speaking of that bit where Tyrion seems to be floating over the ground, can I call foul on the director for totally ripping that whole thing off of Gladiator?

I loved all the Drogo/Daenerys parts of this episode, just as I did in the novel. It’s such a harrowing sequence as we realize that however powerful Dany has become, however much she has come into her own, her power as far as the Dothraki are concerned is entirely dependent on Drogo. Jorah’s urgent entreaty for them to flee at first seems cowardly until he explains what is at stake: the khalasar is held together solely by Drogo’s strength—once that strength ebbs, the whole house of cards threatens to come down. And yet Dany hangs on, desperate, willing even to trust to blood magic. And … well, we’ll see how that works out next Sunday.

We also finally get to see Jorah’s own skill with a sword, and he proves himself not as nimble as his Dothraki foe, but tougher—delivering the killing blow while his enemy’s blade is literally stuck in his hip. It’s an interesting little preview of what a war between the Dothraki and Westeros might look like.

But to return to Tyrion, what did you think of his confession during the drinking game? I reiterate my annoyance with the drinking game sequence, but it was really there to reveal one of the defining moments of Tyrion’s life, and the root of his antipathy to his father: his short-lived marriage, and the horrifyingly cruel way in which Tywin ended it. Again, though I disliked the scene the story was embedded in, I thought Dinklage’s retelling of it was heartbreaking.

(Also, now that Shae has made her appearance I can say without fear of spoilage that I had wondered if perhaps the ubiquitous Roz was going to show up as the whore whom Tyrion takes on in the field. But no—she stays in King’s Landing, which means there’s a more likely role for her in season two).

Nikki: Yes, that Dany/Drogo scene was rather disheartening. She’d come so far, and I’ve said in past weeks that she’s gone from being this character who is the object of the story’s misogyny, whether from her brother or husband, to one of extreme feminine toughness, rising above her outsiderness and becoming one of the Dothraki. The scene of her eating the heart was the peak of her power among them, and is the moment when Viserys noticed it and realized she has power because she is loved and respected, and he doesn’t have what she does. But he was wrong. She’s only powerful, as you say, as Drogo’s wife. Nothing more. She means absolutely nothing without him, Dragon or no. I admired her strength in refusing to let the Dothraki rape and pillage, but by taking that away from them, they are certainly questioning their Khaleesi. I hope we see the Dragon emerge next week. ;)

I also want to say on a sidenote that I really enjoy listening to the way the Dothraki language is delivered. Dany says it with some ease, but with a very different accent than the Dothraki use. Drogo speaks it so quickly it’s as if it was the actor’s native language, and the man who challenged her in the episode over and over again (I can’t remember his name) spoke it less gutterally, but with the same accent as Drogo. The way he said “Khaleesi” was entirely different from the way Dany says it, or the way that slave girl said it who worked for her (and who was English-speaking). What a nice, subtle touch.

While there are moments where Dinklage’s English accent doesn’t quite work for me (he seems to say so many of the words with an affectation and a sneer, but in a way that works for his character), I thought his retelling of that story was, as you say, heartbreaking. One wonders if Tyrion is such a sexual character – it’s how we were first introduced to him, after all – because of the way he was treated when he was 16. Perhaps with that woman, his “wife,” he felt like a whole man for the first time in his life, and he’s been attempting to recreate that by cavorting with other whores. Or, could it be some sort of self-punishment, sleeping with so many whores because he’s resigned himself to the belief that he will never find a woman who is not a whore who will actually love him? I just love this character, and that story added a much deeper layer to him this week.

Incidentally, I was reading this week’s Rolling Stone magazine (a book I’d been editing for the past year was reviewed positively in it!) and there was a brief interview with Dinklage. My favourite part of the article was where they talked to Lena Headey, who plays Cersei, who said she’d been very aware of Dinklage’s other roles, and when he walked in the room she was prepared to meet a man who was small. What she wasn’t prepared for, she said, “Was that he would be THAT hot.” Hahaha!

While it doesn’t compare to the shock of the ending, I must say the other gasp moment in this episode was finding out the old blind man (notice how I don’t use names because I simply can’t keep track of them all) at the Wall was, in fact, a Targaryen! Another fascinating backstory!

So, with only one episode left to go, does it feel to you, a reader of the book and someone who’s aware of what is still left to cover, that they are rushing things at all? While the pace is much quicker than it was earlier, and while I do believe there are a lot of things they may still have left to cover, I’m really enjoying the pace, but I wonder if fans of the books feel differently?

Chris: No, I actually think they’ve done an admirable job in pacing the story. When I first heard it would be ten episodes, I was a little concerned that it would be rushed … but I’ve never felt that it has been. I would in fact go so far as to hold up GoT as an example of how to adapt a novel to the screen—with the exception of one or two missteps (which, frankly, might just be me being cranky), the realization of GRRM’s narrative in televisual format has been exceptionally well done. And really, the proof is in the pudding—the fact that so many people I know who haven’t read the novels (like your own lovely self) are absolutely LOVING the series.

I will say nothing about what is in store for Dany next week, aside from saying—don’t worry. All her growth and strength has not been for naught, and the sense that she relies absolutely on Drogo for her power is … well, again, I’ll wait for next week. Suffice to say: the Daenerys we met in episode one would have fled with Jorah. The Daenerys we have now is an entirely different woman.

I agree with you entirely on how smart the writers have been with the Dothraki language. I can’t recall if this has come up before, but they hired a linguistics professor to invent the language. A lot of GRRM’s uber-fans—the type who teach themselves Klingon or Sindarin—asked him for Dothraki grammar and vocabularies so they could learn the language. To which he had to reply, with chagrin, that he had invented all of about seven words. So the achievement with the language in the series is astounding, and Jason Momoa in particular has been particularly impressive with how fluent he sounds. Not just a piece of beefcake, that fellow. It almost makes me want to go see Conan the Barbarian.

So … one more episode left. I am so going to miss this series when it is done, and will have to rewatch it from the start several times just to fill the hole it’s going to leave (that the Seven for PVRs). I’ve been thinking through several article ideas that will give me an excuse to go back and rewatch it under the guise of “research” … there is, I think, certainly something to be done comparing this series to The Wire.

Any final thoughts, Nikki?

Nikki: Only that while waiting for your final missive to come back to me, I was doing an image search for pictures of this episode (they always seem to pop up a few days later, so the pickins were slim) but when I search for “Ned Stark execution” there was a photo of Ned holding the sword in that first episode, and I realized that’s the parallel scene to this one. In that opening episode, the man runs into camp and claims to have seen the white walkers and the wights. Ned doesn’t believe him, and in his black-and-white world, says the man must be executed if he’s suspected as a traitor. Here the sword comes back around, taking Ned’s head because he was too honest and told Cersei what he had discovered, and didn’t act when he should have. Oh Ned…

I, too, will miss this show… I can’t believe we have to wait another year for the next season! I will also miss our discussions; this has been a lot of fun!

I cannot wait for next week’s episode, because I want to know what will happen to Dany… to Sansa… to Ned’s son and his army… to Cersei… to Jaime… to Drogo… and to Jon Snow. So many people revolved around Ned, so I’m interested to see what happens when the centre is gone.


Michele in NL said...

OH MY GOD!!!!!!!! I cannot believe that happened. I just watched it tonight and I am still in utter shock. I, too, was thinking that Ned was the star of the show and wouldn't be killed. My jaw is still on the floor somewhere.

With the shock passing, I do have to agree with you, Nikki. I think the killing of Ned was brilliant. I will be on edge every time that a character I like is in danger...and that's a good thing. There are few shows that have ever drawn me in like this and I will never forget that moment.

Chris: While they may have left out one of your favourite lines, I have to say I loved it when Bronn told Tyrion to "Stay low."

The Question Mark said...

No! NO NO NO NO, Ned, you beautiful bastard, you can't die!!!

All hysteria aside, I have to give major kudos to GRRM for making such a bold storytelling choice. There are very few writers who have the cojones to kill off characters. Especially MAIN characters. Especially THE main character. Especially one-seventh of the way through their story! It's a gutsy move, but it works like a charm; our hysterical reactions are living proof of that.

Once again, Dinklage knocks it out of the park when recounting Tyrion's sad back-story. Hearing it just makes me love him more, and makes me wish more gruesome fates on Jamie and Tywin.

Oh, and Nikki, your completely undoctored and totally natural picture of Joffrey sitting on the throne was delightful. Does it come on dartboards, as well?

Question for Chris: the blood magic performed on Drogo was intriguing to say the least. Does magic play a bigger role in the books to come, or does GRRM sort of leave it in the background as an enigma?

Andrea said...

After the execution, I screamed, "What the f*#k?!!" Holy crap, I never thought they would kill Ned!!
Am I wrong, or was the guy who Catelyn went to see (I'm also bad with most of the names!) the guy who played Filch in the Harry Potter movies? It sure looked like him. If yes, then that will make 2 HP alums. I'll then wait for Draco Malfoy to appear and kick Joffrey's ass! :-)
If they kill off Tyrion, I will really be pissed!!

Christina B said...

Nikki--I'm sorry. I'm so sorry (that's a Doctor Who reference you'll get soon!).
It was killing me to read your hopes for Ned each week and not say anything. I knew you were about to get your heart broken (like I did with Doyle recently!) and I just couldn't fix it! :(

Like I mentioned on Facebook, I've read the books twice. I knew exactly what was about to happen...but seeing it actually play out on screen made it so much more powerful. I cried and cried.

I completely agree with Chris. The scene was just perfect.
I LOVED the added touch of Ned seeing Arya and shouting "Baelor!" at Yoren.

I also want to say that at the end, when Ned didn't see Arya on the statue, I like to think that was somewhat of a relief for him.
He knew Arya was safe, away from the Lannisters and wouldn't have to see her father beheaded.

Things I hated (and again, I agree with much of what Chris said!)--

Shae is ALL WRONG! I dislike the casting SO MUCH!
She should be much prettier and much softer and much more playful and yes, not foreign and just more believable in general.
I hope she grows on me but I doubt she will.

HATED that Tyrion got bashed in the head and was left out of the battle.

The drinking game was just silly. But I can see why they had that scene. It was perhaps the best way they could come up with for how to tell Tyrion's story.

I also want to reiterate in big, bold letters what Chris said...NO ONE IS SAFE when it comes to GRRM!
That character you love and can't live without?
Yeah, harden your heart and don't love any ONE of his characters!

As a lover of the book series, I'm very, very pleased at how well it plays out on the screen.
I'm so impressed with how they put it all together and left almost nothing out.
I have to say that this is one of the best book-to-screen adaptations I've ever seen.

I'll miss it when it's gone too!

Chris in NF said...

Andrea: THANK YOU! Yes, Walder Frey is played by David Bradley, who was also Argus Filch. It was driving me crazy when I was watching that scene, and checking IMDb didn't help, as they didn't have his reference posted yet.

Christina B: Yep. You, me ... we're sympatico on all this. Do you have July 12th circled on your calendar?

Unknown said...

Nikki just want to point out that the execution that Ned performed on the man that fled the wall had nothing to do with whether or not he believed him but the fact that he left his duty and by law his life is now forfeit. The fact that he didn't believe him goes more with these "White Walker's" have not been seen in Westeros for some 8000 years. Though something did ring true as he mentions the dead man's repeated ramblings to his first ranger of the nights watch of a brother Benjen during the dinner for Robert and his royal party.

Just want to thank you and Chri for getting this up so early this week as your recap is along with Alan Sepinwall's recaps are my favorite to read and I really enjoy reliving these moments with a newbie while Chris helps remind me of the details of what I read...

Zach Z

Jon Stueve said...

RE: Ned's execution. The parallel there is how Ned explained to his youngest why He had to do the execution. It was His responsibility to carry out the sentence.

Contrast that with Jowlery's order to have the executioner bring him Ned's head. An abdication or responsibility, and the kind of thing you'd expect from a *spit* Lannister.

JJ said...

This is the moment we book readers have been waiting for, and it did not disappoint. I feel it's the right choice to have Ned lie and call Joffery the true king at the end. It proves he really is just a man, not some larger-than-life personification of Honour'n'Duty, which makes all the other decisions he made -- especially the mistakes -- more meaningful.

Also, can I give a shout-out to the wonderful child actors on this show? Maisie, Sophie, and Jack have been hitting their roles out of the park since day one, and the big scene in this episode wouldn't have been the same without them. Great job, everyone!

Collywobbles said...

Wow....just wow. Another amazing (and sad) episode! Funnily enough, Ned's execution reminded me of how the writers of Lost considered killing Jack in the Pilot. But...I never would've thought that such an integral character would be offed so early in the story, and I must commend GRRM's bold move. I'm getting quite sad that the season is already ending, I can't wait to see the reactions of the Stark family. I mean, even Cersei didn't see that one coming (am I right or did anyone else think otherwise?).

Does anyone know if each season is based on one book? I'm thinking of picking up Book 1, but I don't want to come across any spoilers for season 2...just because I'd love to keep the suspense going on!!

Unknown said...

@Collywobbles: yes the first book and and first season line up extremely closely timeline wise, they are both shaping up on ending on the exact same scene...actually the show more spoils stuff for later books and or minor things that you only pick up on through study of the nuance and details of the writing, e.g. Renly and Loras's gay relationship, or who Arya hears plotting while hiding in the dragon skull, since the book gives you very little on who those two people are that are talking...

Batcabbage said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
JS said...

Question: Should I get HBO just to watch this show?

I haven't spoiled myself by reading any reviews or comments or blogs. I've already missed out on the first 5 episodes of The Killing and will have to wait until it comes out on DVD.

So, worth $10 a month?

Batcabbage said...


Nikki Stafford said...

JS: I second Batty. YES YES YES. (OK, apparently I second and third it.)

Zach: Excellent catch. Am I right in remembering that Ned specifically called him a traitor? I do like your parallel a lot that Ned wielded the sword himself and forced Bran to watch, while Joffrey got someone else to do it for him.

Another thing I meant to mention in my post and completely forgot to: When Ned walks up to what is essentially his gallows, he walks past Littlefinger, who has a smirk on his face. It made me think that he figured he had Ned where he wanted him, and could use him later. But if Joffrey tricked both Cersei and Sansa, is it possible he tricked Baelish, too? I haven't rewatched the scene (I stupidly deleted it and now must wait for a repeat) but I wonder what his face looked like when Joffrey did the about-face.

EsDee said...

@JS - YES!!!

This episode was just brilliant.

So, (as I may have mentioned in an earlier post), I was attempting to read the book as the show progressed - reading after an episode and trying to stop where the episode stopped so as not to spoil myself. I did manage to not spoil myself for this, I looked at the book sitting there and almost didn't want to pick it back up and read what I had just witnessed. Darn that GRRM!!!

Unfortunately, once I did pick the book back up last night, I read straight through to the end...just could not stop. (the Ned scene truly was captured perfectly on screen.) As for the rest of it, I wish I hadn't have read it all (no suspense anymore)...but I can't wait to see how HBO pulls it off.

Nikki and Chris - Your recaps and analysis just keep getting better and better...I am sitting at work laughing aloud and my coworkers think I am nuts.

Chris - So, should I read the 2nd book before next season, wait, or try a "read along" as I did this year? I can't decide. Truthfully, I just don't think I can wait to see what happens next!

Chris in NF said...

JS: Yes. That's what I did. :-)

Nikki: I think it's a stretch to say that Joffrey "tricked" anyone with his decision to execute Ned after all ... to say that would imply he had schemed it, and, really, that loathsome boy isn't that clever. He's just willful and autocratic and, as we shall see in season two, well nigh sociopathic.

EsDee: as the Old Gods are my witness, I couldn't tell you which would be better. Though I will say that I don't believe my enjoyment of this series has been less for having read the books. All I can say is that if you, having now read the first novel, actually can resist running immediately to the bookstore for A Clash of Kings, you have WAAAAAYYYYY more willpower than me.

Christina B said...

Nikki--In the book, EVERYONE was shocked when Joff made the decision to kill Ned.
He told no one that he was going to go against what they had decided.

Chris---YES! It's been circled since they announced an actual, FIRM date! ;)

Jazzygirl said...

I am still REELING over this episode. In fact, I feel like I could still cry over it. I've had that little feeling in my stomach ever true grief, I keep saying to myself, maybe if I watch it again, he really won't be dead. *sigh* But, like Nikki, LOST has taught me nothing. LOL
I also knew I had to get on HERE and join in. (Wasn't able to yesterday unfortunately). When it was over, my hands were clasped over my mouth as well, and I KNEW Nikki was having the same reaction. LOL
I loved both your recaps this week. I wish I could say I feel better but now that everyone is saying don't get attached to ANYONE, I feel extremely unsettled. See, I DO get attached. A LOT. Now I feel like when I watch any episode, I'll be on edge...which is clearly what the writers kudos to them...but it also makes me want rant and scream!!!
UGH I have to go back to the last scene. WHY?!?!? I LOVE Sean Bean! And Nikki voiced it perfectly: you "can't" kill off the main character that is the center of many others?!?! OMG I felt for Aryia. Her face was so heartbreaking. And yes, when Ned looked up and she as gone. I felt simultaneously relieved that she would not witness this and sadness for Ned that he would not see her again.
I DO believe Joffrey tricked everyone. And I was a little surprised that his mother said "NO!" to him. She always seemed so ruthless. I'd like to think no one else knew. And Nikki, thank you for that picture of Joffrey! LMAO!!! The actor that plays him is amazing.
Anyway, that's enough for now. I can't wait for next Sunday and the only solace I'll have for losing this show is that my other favorite show is starting the following week!! :)

Nikki Stafford said...

Chris: I'm sure in the books you get some more insight into Joffrey's thinking or not thinking, but purely going by the show itself, it did appear that he was tricking everyone. He watched Sansa grovel, he gave her hope and told her to get her dad to vow fealty to him, he watched as Ned climbed the gallows and made his pronouncement, and then he announced that, yeah, about that, screw him, I'm killing him. There was no sense that he'd just decided on the spot to have him offed. I think it was absolutely premeditated (but again, that's just based on the TV character and not the book one). In my eyes, he absolutely tricked everyone. He knew Cersei and Sansa would be shocked by his actions. (Unless, of course, Cersei is in on it, which is a very real possibility...)

humanebean said...

Fantastic episode. Having not read the books (yet), I sometimes get the specific feeling that I am missing something important in backstory or character development or atmosphere that has been more fully drawn in the novels. This episode, though (and the last) did not give rise to this feeling - I thought the action and the plot movement combined perfectly with the characterizations and performances to deliver the story in and of itself without further ado.

That being said, I have to take one step away from the pack here and say the unthinkable: I was not *shocked* at Ned's death. (I may be completely alone, here) Having watched Ned's struggles to understand and deal with the world at Court and react to the machinations of the Council and Cersei ... I had a sense that Ned was becoming the symbol for the Old Way, honor and fealty and faith in leadership and valor to carry the day. Given the constant allusions to Winter coming, the return of the White Walkers, the fall of the existing order and the failure of his efforts to "do the right thing" ... I wondered whether his death would be necessary to show the chaos that was coming.

Well, there's that and the fact that I've been watching too many episodes of The Wire! My favorite movies and shows of late have been those that defy convention and present unexpected outcomes for both good and bad characters. As a matter of fact, I just finished watching the penultimate episode of Season 4 of The Wire, the part of each season where writer George Pelecano delivers powerful and often fatal insight towards the fate of some of the series most central characters. As a matter of fact, around my house, the phrase "I've just been Pelecanoed!" is a popular expression of forehead-smacking dismay.

That being said, I thought the episode handled the set up for Ned's death brilliantly. "I learned how to die a long time ago." I was hoping against hope that he would stay true to his honor and damn the consequences but felt sure that he would put his daughters ahead of his honor in the end. I did particularly enjoy the dismay that Joffrey's cruel and impetuous proclamation brought to the faces of all around him. I was profoundly moved by the stillness of Ned's acceptance of death and grieved for his last glance towards the statue - where he was likely torn between his hope for a last look upon Arya's face and the desire to know that Yoren has spirited her away to safety. I have to say thanks to Chris and Nikki for explaining that bit - I didn't understand that Ned was communicating something to Yoren and thought with sadness that Yoren had just turned away from him on his march to his judgment.

So much else to comment on in this episode but I've gone on long enough for now. Can't wait for next week's stirring conclusion ... and to hit the library up for the first book in the weeks to follow. RIP Ned Stark and kudos to Sean Bean's season-long performance. Hee brought an unforgettable character to life with tremendous vitality, portraying Ned in all his noble and stubborn glory, ultimately undone by the ability of other, lesser men (& women) to work their evil designs on the good and true.

brooding gecko said...

Hey all.

I just have to point out the amazing work the kid that plays Joffrey is doing. I'm betting he isn't getting served at restaurants cause of what his character did to Ned. Also, the effect of him deciding to kill Ned to everyone by surprise, to such an extent one could almost imagine the crew in the set going wtf?? and we would get shots of camera men and sound engineers looking at each other like it was a live event. It was really really well done, is the point i'm trying to get across

Unknown said...

About Joffrey and his trickery...well in the books at this point you don't really get all the reactions of the rest of the small council as it is told from Arya's perspective in the crowd, I thought it was interesting that Littlefinger was the only one in that didn't try to rush to Joff to change his mind even the Varys came running to plead with him. It is expected that everyone wanted Ned to go to the wall and the war to end and that Joff would just listen to his Mom but I wouldn't put it past Littlefinger to have planted the idea that a true King would never suffice a traitor to the realm to live even in exile...

Anonymous said...

I REALLY hope Sunday we get the scene where Cersei and Joffrey get the news that Jamie is now in the clutches of Ned's wife & son.


-Tim Alan

SenexMacDonald said...

Nikki and Chris - all I can say is how my husband, Justin - who Nikki knows - has been asking me since episode 2, the following: Who is my favourite character? and Don't get attached to anyone. :)

The man has read the first book, I know - not sure about the rest so he is using the show to remind himself of what he has read.

With this last episode, he had more than an idea of what was coming but did not spoil me for it.

I was not sure I was going to like, let alone love, this show after the first ep. Yes, great on exposition and more but boy, it just took off with the second episode and been running ever since.

I am head-over-heels in love with this show. And yes, I also screeched when the axe fell. I so could not believe that Ned/Sean Bean (the MAJOR character or so I thought) was dead! Wow...

I am of the belief that Joffrey decided this on his own (or did someone else influence him - I do not think it was his mother as I don't think she would have been able to keep from expressing her delight in such a thing) as everyone else seemed prepared for him to make the statement about Ned going to the Wall. As soon as Joffrey took a breathe after his initial proclamation, before beginning again, I had a sudden feeling that he was not going to stop there. I was so shocked at what happened next ... and I think everyone else was as well...maybe.

Can't wait for this Sunday. :)

SenexMacDonald said...

Oh, in case you want a sneak peak at Jason in Conan the Barbarian ...

EsDee said...

Chris -

No willpower, no willpower at all...just bought Book 2...

Chris in NF said...

EsDee: [best Mr. Burns voice] Ehhhx-cellent.

JS said...

Advice to 15 days younger self -- um, duh, get it, get HBO NOW!!

I am just catching up, and have been reading your exchanges - thank you so much, Chris, for suffering us n00bs. It is great to have someone who understands the detail comment along with Nikki, who pretty much has the same reactions I do. I sat here for a couple of minutes after the sword came down because I really did not believe it. I THOUGHT LOST had trained me, but I have been lulled into complacency. I kept expecting some sort of intervention, but I guess we now know a little bit of the shock his family will go through.

Also, I ordered all four books and plan to read SoIaF over my holiday in a couple of weeks.

This show is really amazing. The ability to tell this complex a story this effectively is the difference between writing books, where you can plot everything out, and having much less control on a straight-to-TV show. (Yes, I am still pissed G.R.R.M. dissed the LOST finale)