Game of Thrones: A Golden Crown

This is my first recap as a fan of the both the TV and the book series. I was itching to learn what was in store for the citizens of the Seven Kingdoms and knowing that the answers were out there waiting was just too much temptation! I caved and bought book all the books. I’m currently halfway through “A Clash of Kings”.

A few quick Book to TV observations:
– While the events of the first six episodes followed the plotline of the books quite closely, the point-of view was different. The chapters in the books are told from the perspective of certain characters: Ned, Catelyn, Jon, Bran, Arya, Sansa, Tyrion, and Daenerys. The story unfolds only through their eyes and as such the books don’t really delve into the psyche of other characters. But the TV series features scenes between characters who don’t have their own book chapters. We’ve seen private moments between Cersei and Robert, Baelish and Varys, Theon Greyjoy and his whore, etc. It’s nice to see more depth in some of the key players.

-Focusing on other characters has also allowed the TV series to play down the role of the Stark children. Maybe they weren’t confident that child actors could carry the story. But considering how prominently Arya and Sansa feature in the books, I feel like we’ve barely gotten to know them in the TV series.

-I wouldn’t necessarily say the series has done a great job identifying and explaining the supporting characters so far. I know it’s challenging to service so many people, but the series keeps drawing people into the plot without any background info. It gave me a headache to sort it out for these recaps, but everything was perfectly clear in the novels.

Anyway, it’s kind of interesting to have watched the first part of the series without prior knowledge and then look back on it after reading the book. On to the task at hand!

King’s Landing
Ned wakes up in a feverish state, still recovering from his vicious leg spearing at the hands of Jaime Lannister’s men. He finds the King and his cold Queen hovering over him. Robert seems genuinely concerned, but Cersei is fuming about Tyrion’s capture. I’m sure she’s actually more peeved that her brother-lover has fled the city and there’s no one around to scratch her itches.

Robert is fed up that everyone can’t just get along. He wallops Cersei across the face for sneering at his hesitance and calling him a pansy. He then demands that Ned arrange for Tyrion’s release, make peace with Jaime and resume his duties as the King’s Hand. Robert has decided not to accept his resignation. “I’m the king. I get what I want.” He seems utterly exhausted, as if that the last thing he wants to continue doing is running a kingdom. Robert loves Ned like a brother, but he’s run up an insurmountable tab with the Lannister family and he literally can’t afford to piss them off. He’s escaping to the forest for a hunting trip, hoping to relieve his stress by spearing some dinner. Tossing Ned the Hand’s badge, Robert tells him to put it on or “he’ll pin the damn thing on Jaime Lannister”.

In Robert’s absence, Ned presides over the kingdom, listening to horrific tales from villagers who have been attacked by mysterious cloaked riders. They burned their fields, raped and butchered their women and “covered our children in pig shit and lit them on fire”. The ring leader is described as a giant man who can take the head off a horse in a single stroke. Since horse beheading just happens to be the favourite pastime of Sir Gregor “The Mountain” Clegane, Ned orders him executed. But “The Mountain” is merely the hammer, not the first who wields it. Tywin Lannister’s ‘mad dog’ would not act on his own. The Lannisters are flexing their muscles in response to the Stark’s insolence in capturing one of their own. There’s no denying that the Seven Kingdoms are on the brink of open war.

Ned is worried for the safety of his girls and makes plans for them to sail back to Winterfell. Poor Sansa is crushed because Prince Joffrey is playing nice with her again. Her sappy romantic nature keeps her from recognizing his inner sleaze and she still dreams of becoming his queen. As she whimpers and begs to be allowed to stay, she inadvertently smacks him over the head with the truth he’s been searching for – the truth Jon Arryn died for. Sansa screams that Joffrey is “nothing like that old drunk king” and she’s going to give him beautiful babies with golden blond hair. Ned is visibly shaken. He runs off to his chambers to pour through the book on the history of the Seven Kingdoms. The section on the House of Baratheon confirms his suspicions. The ‘seed is strong’ in the Baratheon males; their children have always been born with black hair. So while King Robert might have a myriad of black haired bastards scattered throughout the city, he does not have any true born children by Queen Cersei. I’m not claiming to be a genius, but shouldn’t everyone have figured this out ages ago? Would Robert and the other members of his family really not realize that every other male relative had black hair? It really shouldn’t take a book to cause suspicion.

Bran tries out his fancy new saddle and rides right into the clutches of some crazy Northerners. They’re running scared from the supernatural creepies beyond the wall and looking to cause some trouble. One of them holds a knife to Bran’s throat but Theon Greyjoy shoots an arrow through his heart. Despite the fact that he saved Bran’s life, Robb is angry at Theon for taking the risk. The only surviving attacker is a woman, Osha. Robb spares her life and takes her as a prisoner.

They’ve been highlighting Theon’s growing resentment for the Starks for the last few episodes. Theon has been a ward of Ned Stark since he was a child, but he’s technically a prisoner, taken as insurance to keep his father Balon from rebelling against the Kingdom. He occupies a frustrating position – high born by birth with nothing to show for it. The people who have raised him and cared for him are the same people who fought his family. Where does he really belong and who do his loyalties lie with?

The Vale
Tyrion is not sleeping well in his mountainside cell. Guess a good night’s rest is hard to come by when one wrong roll will plunge you off a steep cliff! After suffering through a few sucker punches, he manages to convince the oafish prison guard, Mort, to bring him before Catelyn Stark and Lysa Arryn in exchange for a purse full of gold. Once he’s secured his audience, our resourceful little imp plays them like a fiddle. He demands a trial by combat, which Lysa agrees to. After all it IS the King’s Law. She picks a champion from among the loyal knights clamoring to impress her. Any of them could easily best a dwarf right? But Tyrion isn’t planning on wielding his own sword. He should have the right to choose a champion as well. In a room full of vengeful enemies, he doesn’t exactly have a large selection, but he was counting on Bronn, a sell-sword whom he bonded with on the long journey to The Vale, to volunteer. Bronn doesn’t disappoint and offers to stand for Tyrion. As the battle begins, Bronn dances Lysa’s valiant knight right into a trap and starts to carve him up like a Christmas turkey.

The creepiest thing about this scene was Lysa’s crazy son. How unnerving is he?!? He’s like an unhinged little shrieking psych patient. What in the hell happened to this kid to turn him into such a bad seed? It can’t just be the breast feeding. The knight loses and Bronn kicks his mangled body through the moon door, but the devil child is not satisfied watching the knight fall. How come he can’t make the ‘little man fly’? “Not this little man. This little man is going home,” Tyrion quips. He’s won the right to walk free and true to his word he leaves Mort with his gold. I totally wanted to stand up and cheer!

Across the Narrow Sea
Daenerys is preparing for motherhood, which in the Dothraki world involves chowing down on a horse’s heart. And WOW – reading that scene was a lot less revolting that watching it. I was grossed out and kind of curious about the logistics at the same time. What about all the valves and tubey bits? would those go down the same way? Would they be chewy, stringy, fatty? Ewww, why am I even thinking about this?!? Daenerys is a total badass. She impresses her horse lord husband and floors her skeptical brother by keeping every bloody bit down. Her unborn child is proclaimed “the stallion who mounts the world”; a khal of khals who will unite all the world’s people into one giant Khalasar. Daenerys names him Rhaego and the Dothraki people chant his name exuberantly.

Retrospectively I’m actually very impressed with Harry Lloyd’s performance as Viserys in this series. As nasty, arrogant and sniveling as he is, Lloyd has brought more depth to the character than there is in the books. He’s less a petulant child and more of a tragically clueless man whose hubris is his undoing. The bewildered expression on his face as he watched the Dothraki clan cheering for his sister, totally floored me. He says, “They love her,” like he’s surprised and scared at the same time. He finally gets it. The sister he essentially forced into slavery has become a strong leader, adored by her new people.

Viserys sneaks into Daenerys’ tent and tries to make off with her dragon’s eggs, but Sir Jorah catches him in the act. I actually felt sorry for him and I didn’t at all while reading the books. Viserys is utterly unlikeable, hateful even, but he’s been that way his whole life and he doesn’t know how to be anything else. All he’s ever wanted is the throne that was stolen from his family. He feels he deserves ‘royal’ respect, but he’s never gotten it. And then his delicate, soft spoken little sister stumbles into a whole new world and is effortlessly revered. “I’m the last hope for a dynasty. The greatest dynasty this world has ever seen. On my shoulders since I was five years old. And no one has ever given me what they gave to her in that tent. Never. Not a piece of it.” Sir Jorah’s loyalty has swung completely over to Daenerys and he refuses to let Viserys leave with her precious dragon’s eggs.

Later, Viserys bursts into a Dothraki feast, drunk, ranting, and waving a sword around. Daenerys yet again tries to protect him, begging Sir Jorah to calm him down. But he presses his sword to her growing stomach and threatens to cut out her son if Drogo does not give him the crown he was promised. At that moment Dany is utterly done with him. She quietly tells him, “You shall have a golden crown that men will tremble to behold,” and steps back to let the Dothraki take him. He got his crown alright, but it was a lot more than he bargained for. Khal Drogo dumps a necklace into a pot of boiling water, melting it into liquid gold. He overturns the pot over a screaming Viserys’ head and the gold melts and morphs to his face as he dies. At least that’s what I assume happened since he was dead when I peeked out from the quilt I was cowering under.

Random Goodies:
-Syrio forces Arya to practice sword fighting even though she’s upset about her father and the death of his men. Fighting doesn’t happen when we’re ready or in the mood. “There is only one God and his name is Death and there is only one thing we say to Death – not today.”

-King Robert is leading his hunting party through the woods, going on and on about the good ‘ol days of philandering. “Back in our day, you weren’t a real man until you’d fucked one girl from each of the Seven Kingdoms and the Riverlands. We used to call it making the eight.” Renly drolly says, “Those were some lucky girls,” and rolls his eyes behind his brother’s back. HA!

Photo Courtesy of HBO

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