Monday, June 13, 2011

Thoughts on HBO's Game of Thrones, Episode 9.

I am far too excited about last night's episode to wait a few days. As before, no recap, just commentary.

Here's a couple of recaps in case you want or need them. (I may add more later. Feel free to check back.)

Winter Is Coming Episode 9 Recap Roundup
Grizzly Bomb Episode 9 Recap (found this site while searching for screenshots; it was only proper to share.)

Last time I wrote about Thrones, I asked you a few questions...

What happened to Arya? Ah, she escaped into the city, living off of fat pigeons and brown stew.

Maisie Williams' acting was excellent. Even the subtle way she put a hand on her sword whenever she was going from one place to the next. Did you recognize the man in black? Joren, the recruiter from Night's Watch.

The Late Lord Frey
We finally meet Lord Walder Frey. While he doesn't have all the tics portrayed in the book, it was hardly noticeable. Excellent portrayal. We'll see more of him in the future, no doubt.

Robb Stark and Catelyn. Now there's been a few complaints about not showing the battle scene at Whispering Woods. But this scene is true to the books - you have to see the fear in Catelyn's eyes, for lack of getting internal monologue. That part? Excellent.

The aftermath? Well, it was clever dialogue, to be sure. But "1 on 1 combat"? - WHERE IS ROBB'S DIREWOLF? Jaime, would you fight Robb AND his wolf? No, Kingslayer, I think not. Fear would look good on you Nikolaj, even for a moment. You've got the range.

The sneak preview of the season finale means they're going to push forward Jaime's arc a little bit, otherwise he'd be captured for much of season 2.

This part of the story is going well - but again, the viewer is losing the impact of the Starks and their remaining direwolves (their banner symbol). A direwolf on the field of battle changes momentum tremendously. And men will talk.

Let's skip to Tyrion. In armor! Fighting his first battle!!

Then he gets trampled by his soldiers? WHAT?! Well, bloody hell. THAT's a notable departure. THIS was supposed to be the battle scene for this part of the story (not Whispering Woods). Knocked on the head by his own man - aww, I'm sorry Peter Dinklage. (But, war is here, you'll probably get another chance to fight. Maybe.)

Storywise, a clever tactic to keep Tywin Lannister and his superior skill and army occupied. But that's only going to work so many times...

In the meantime, we have a new whore. (Some folks thought that Ros would be our Shae.) Well, Shae is pretty and impetuous, like the books. Foreign, NOT like the books. No "sexposition" this time? A drinking game?? What do we call that, "drinxposition?" Ah well. The acting was top notch, but that was a lot of screen time to fill with stuff that wasn't entirely relevant at the time. Mind you, the Tysha story is important, but it could have waited. Undoubtedly, build up towards Tyrion's role in Season 2. Aside, Bronn is fantastic, no?

Jon Snow gets a sword, a reprieve from Thorne, and a lecture from the last Targaryen. Snow is a bit angsted, you know, and Kit Harrington is a bit more believable in the role than he was. Thing is, last week he's angsted about Uncle Benjen's horse coming back without a rider. This week, it's his half-brother has marched off to war. (And, since this isn't clear in the show, I must tell you that Valyrian Steel is a BIG FRIGGIN' DEAL. It's the family heirloom beyond all heirlooms. It's grandmama's priceless set of antique china, but medieval and functional.) The writers need to get to the part where Snow settles into his decision, whatever it is, so that he can carry the role that next season will have for him.

In clever editing, we go from the old Targaryen to the young hot one. This, too, is more or less close enough to the books. It may seem a little rushed, because it is. The viewer didn't get time to feel the angst of Drogo's quick descent into infection, and the numerous interactions Dany has with the witch. The Dothraki are a bit more hostile here than I recall them in the books, but this is nitpicking, truly.

Everything with Dany's arc has been carefully laid points and clues to prepare the viewer for the season finale. Yes, some of it was not according to the books, but here at the end, it's all still lined up. With the events that have taken place in the rest of Westeros, all eyes should be glued to Dany, and not just because she's cute.

For those of you who haven't read the books, this next part must have been a shock. But, even if you have, I have to agree with the Winter is Coming comment (linked above).
Wow, what an emotional ending. I was not expecting to be affected as I was. I knew the story, I knew what was coming, I thought it was the new viewers who would be shocked and appalled and I would just smile knowingly and say, “That’s Martin for you!” Instead seeing it play out on screen, with Ned trying to save his daughters only to have everything go horribly wrong and seeing Sansa and Arya’s reaction. I’m getting emotional again just thinking about it.
Aside, that is Ned's Valyrian Steel sword, "Ice".

To paraphrase Pulp Fiction, Ned's dead, baby.

Farewell, Sean Bean. At first I thought you might've portrayed Ned Stark a little too tough and rough, but by the end, I was convinced. I saw the conflict and emotion and the sheer stubbornness. We didn't get to really understand what was going on with you in the dungeons, but those dream sequences would have been pricy to produce. Thank you for giving Ned Stark some star power, for compelling people to feel his plight, and for once again championing the fantasy fiction genre. Kudos to you.

Also, good job little Joffrey in that scene. Truly, everyone hates your guts of course, but that scene would have been easy to botch. Damn good job.


As we approach Episode 10, it seems we have lost a lot of the series' star power. What does this mean?  The series is about the children. Children living in an adult world, under ridiculously trying circumstances. One by one, they lose the protection their parents offered them - or that protection becomes meaningless.

What becomes of the Stark children with Ned dead and Catelyn off to war? Does Winterfell become a giant point of vulnerability with all of the north marching south to war? And wildlings and White Walkers just beyond the Wall? What becomes of Daenerys if/when the mighty Khal Drogo dies and only one renegade knight to protect her?

Many people give up the series after the death of Ned Stark. Can HBO, the writers and producers, the young actors in lead roles - can they carry the series as well as the books compel the readers?

Fans of the books will continue to watch the series. We can't help it. We've read the story, many of us more than once, and it's a little geek's dream to see it come alive on screen. Between the series and ADwD coming out next month, this is all too good to be true.

But of those new to the series, not yet read the books, not yet knowing what wicked George R. R. Martin has planned for the characters that remain - will they stay along for the ride?

Next week's season finale has to be done just right, I think, to convince viewers that the characters that remain still have a lot of story to tell. Because, frankly, the next two books/seasons are infinitely more exciting than what has just taken place.

Enough of that seriousness. Here's an awesome reaction to Episode 9, courtesy of the WiC link above.

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