Monday, June 13, 2011

TV: Game of Thrones - Baelor

Warning: MAJOR spoilers coming in this one, otherwise it'd be a one sentence review of the best episode so far.

Just quickly - I didn't review last week's episode due to work, this review might be a bit rough around the edges because I'm juggling a few things these next few weeks. 

Make no mistake, this was the best episode of the bunch so far. With both the Lannister and Stark families marching to war and the Dothraki dealing with power struggles and disturbing witches, this was an episode that wonderfully blended action, scares, thrills and ultimately a sad end to the honour of one.

Danys' hold of power over the Dothraki has been an issue for Drogo's men, they have trouble dealing with the fact that a woman commands control with her husband. Jorah comes to her aid with a sweet duel against the Dothraki as the witch performs a relatively disturbing ritual in an attempt to bring back Drogo from the brink of death after a wound received last week.

The primary focus, seem to be Tyrion, who's return to his fathers camp wasn't particularly welcomed. It's funny to see Tyrion's luck run out at the hand of his father, when he and the tribesman are assigned vanguard duties when they march to war. It's an interesting development for the fantastic character he already is, he seems fearless because of his luck, but when it runs out, his attitude shifts to something that shows genuine fear of being in battle. Just when you think he's done for, he cops a mallet to the head and wakes up post battle as a "warrior".

It's a tit for tat this week, with the death of Ned and the capture of Jaime at the hand's of the Stark's. My goodness though, the reveal of Jaime's capture after Robb's decoy attack sent to the Lannisters, was the single most satisfying moment of the season so far. Robb is showing a real savvy for strategic moves, but I feel that he's playing his cards a little too early, it's all well and good to show Tywin what he's dealing with, but the Lannister's are sneaky people and their father doesn't seem to be too different. I must say, Robb is now my favourite over Jon Snow just purely out of badassness, this is subject to change.

Speaking of Jon Snow, Sam finds out that Robb is leading an army to King's Landing and reveals it to Snow who considers a return to aid his family. We also find out that Master Aemon was actually in line for the throne at one point before his decision to move to the Wall. Heaping a bit of wisdom onto Snow telling him he has a choice to make - his family moving to war, or his new found family at the Wall. Unbeknownst to him is the death of his father, which leads me to believe that we might find him walking side by side with Robb to war.

But the the height of it all this week? Ned's death, which, given the circumstances, was definitely not expected when you were to trail what was planned for the series. David Sims over at the AV Club notes that HBO did a fantastic job at keeping it behind closed doors. Ned was in the middle of all the marketing and in the middle of everyones story but wow, I didn't expect him to actually go. It was extremely powerful in that it showed the final minutes of a father dying for his children's safety and after all he has done in trying to keep the kingdom honourable, he died at the hands of a family that upholds anything but honour. A very sad end to a troubled character and also some insane fuel for the Stark army.

In saying that, my sadness quickly turns to the hate I feel towards Joffrey who already starts abusing his power, by ordering the execution of Ned, contrary to his agreement with Sansa and his mother Cersei. His order was him just being ruthless and it will bite him in the ass when he finds 18,000 men knocking on the walls next week. He got the answer he was looking for from Ned in the form of his confession to the attempted assassination and assimilation of the throne, he's satisfied and I hope he's satisfied when one of the Stark's strangle the life out of him.

This episode was beautifully shot, with some fantastic coverage of character emotions and settings which really fuelled the punch packed by all of the critical scenes this week. Ned's death was so poignant because the composition of shots that built slowly and surely to his demise, Ayr's disappearance proof of her safety, the fleeing of birds, all of it in slow motion to really drive home that Ned was to be no more. So much praise to the creative team behind bringing Westeros to life and being able to convey everything with such authenticity.

I think it's a testament to how great this show has turned out over the last few weeks. There's an emotional tie to each character here, whether it be sympathetic or one of hate and it's important to have. From loud moments of cheer, to moments of utter shock and awe, it's a bit of a roller coaster and it's god damn enjoyable. Next week is going to be massive, and I tell you what, I can't wait.

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