”In the light of the Seven, I now proclaim Tommen of the House Baratheon, First of his Name, King of the Andals and the First Men and Lord of the Seven Kingdoms. Long may he reign.”
It's kind of hard to believe that the fourth season of Game of Thrones is already half over. It's not that there hasn't been enough action to fill the first five episodes. On the contrary, each installment has contained at least one game-changing event. Time just flies when you're having fun. And what's more 'fun' than a Westerosi wedding? Okay, maybe a Dothraki wedding since one death would be considered a dull affair, even if the dead were a Khal. Things are a little different across the Sea. Three episodes after the sudden loss of yet another (some say irreplaceable) king, the Seven Kingdoms are still reeling and in dire need of some leadership in these troubling (fun) times.
Enter King Tommen Baratheon, the “First of His Name," another sensational installment of HBO's Game of Thrones. Season 4 has been excellent so far with changes to the show's weekly structure really paying off. There's been a lot less cutting back and forth throughout the duration of an episode with D.B. Weiss and David Benioff instead allowing events time to unfold in each location. It's been like watching little short films instead of (sometimes arbitrarily) jumping from here to there and back again. The first scene would establish the week's conflict before the second, and sometimes third, visit highlights the change.
”I will do what Queen’s do, I will rule.”
Nowhere are these structural changes more apparent than in Slaver’s Bay, as Game of Thrones has often told Daenerys’ weekly storylines this season in unbroken sequences. In "First of his Name" we catch up with the Khalessi leading her own version of the small council, as Ser Barristan, Daario and Jorah all have something to say about her future. Well, Daario actually has to start by explaining something he did in the recent past (not to mention why he did it without her consent) but his taking of Meereen's navy is the impetus for the council's planning.
That and Jorah's news that the cities Dany liberated on the way, Astapor and Yunkai, have fallen back into the hands of the slavers. Chains are being un-broken. This is also why some criticisms of her 'white saviour' storyline at the end of last season were perhaps a bit premature because her actions have only resulted in turmoil. So, will the only remaining Targaryen cut and run now that she's amassed a large enough army to invade King's Landing? No. Westeros will have to wait until the young queen has learned how to rule. A dress rehearsal half-way around the world.
”You know what’s wrong with honor?”
The action north of the Wall this week also took place in one long sequence starting with Locke doing a little reconnaissance for the small group of Night's Watchmen led by Jon who are on a mission to kill the mutineers at Craster's Keep. Lord Snow doesn't know that Locke is actually Bolton's pet rat and is up there sniffing around for Bran and Rickon. The former is being held captive by Karl from Gin Alley, which doesn't sit well with Jojen since he knows that there are bigger things awaiting Bran. Like the three-eyed raven and a giant Weirwood. The vision was lovely. Not sure what to make of the flaming hand.
And did you like Jojen's (not so) cryptic warning? That Karl would be buried by 'Snow.' Jon also learns another valuable lesson during the fight. You would have thought his time with the wildlings would have made him a less honorable fighter. Doesn't mean there still isn't a place for honor. Both Jon and Dany proved that this week, the former rewarded with Ghost's return. The hardship will continue for Craster's daughter-wives but at least they're free. Oh, and I told you that Bran was going to warg into Hodor in order to escape. I just didn't know it would be so rad. Although I did feel a little bad for the gentle giant.
”You don’t need to make formal alliances with people you trust.”
With the bulk of the series taking place in King's Landing, it's harder to have all of the scenes set there play out in one chunk and as a result the location often becomes like a framing device. Of course, in keeping with the structural changes, the entire second half of the "The Lion and the Rose" was staged solely in the capitol but the events of the 'Purple Wedding' warranted the special treatment. And as you might have guessed from the title, this week finally saw Joffrey's replacement crowned. Funny how no one was saying the words louder than Tywin. The grandfather is quite taken by the second son all of a sudden.
So is Joffrey's widow, even though Margaery doesn't want to admit that to Cersei. I loved the shot of the latter coming between the loving gaze from across the room almost as much as the following exchange between the soon to be 'in laws' of a few kinds. More weddings! This was Cersei's episode with her making the rounds to ensure that her surviving kids are safe and that Tyrion will pay for what she 'knows' he’s done. She secures Mance Tyrell's vote by sweet talking his daughter, Tywin's by appealing to his weakness for the Lannister legacy and, finally, Oberyn's by connecting their lost loves ones. Cersei also has the line of the series, telling the Prince of Dorne that they hurt little girls everywhere.
”Know your strengths, use them wisely, one man can be worth ten thousand.”
Cersei's comment is probably an appropriate tagline for the entire series but it's especially fitting for the events that unfold in the Eyrie. Sansa's journey has been pretty rough since leaving Winterfell for King's Landing (you know, cause she's a Stark) and yet it seemed like things might be getting a little easier for the spitting image of her dead mother. She finally got out of the reach of the Lannisters and made it to her aunt's house. Too bad her aunt is worse than Joffrey. No. I'm not kidding. She's the worst. And Lord Robin is the second worst. Petyr is definitely paying a big price for all this power he's accumulating.
Maybe he would have thought twice about getting Lysa to poison her husband and throw the Seven Kingdoms into chaos had he known sleeping with her would be involved. Yep, he's quite the player. Those screams would haunt me forever. If the ominous shot of the Blood Gate opening didn't let you know that Sansa's worries were far from over, the return visit for lemon cakes sure did. Yes, the events at the Eyrie were divided across the episode but it still felt more concentrated than it would have in previous seasons of Game of Thrones. The gate would have gone up and we would have cut to another location instead of having the following re-introduction to the Arryns take place immediately. The worst.
”Joffrey. Cersei. Walder Frey. Meryn Trant. Tywin Lannister. The Red Woman. Beric Dondarrion. Thoros of Myr. Ilyn Payne. The Mountain...”
The Hound and Arya's adventures continued this week and, even though it was another excellent installment for the odd couple, another pair of adventurers are threatening to steal the spotlight. More on the two short but charming scenes with Brienne and Pod in a second, first let's talk about the younger Clegane brother and his avenging sidekick. He keeps getting the best lines of anyone on the show as she keeps getting angrier and angrier with his nihilistic perspective, not to mention, uh, pricklier. That was a pretty brave move. Lucky all she got was a small bite.
The other travelling companions aren't nearly as well acquainted with each other as Arya and the Hound, however, watching them do it is very entertaining. I mean, it's not quite the same as watching Brienne and Jaime (or Tyrion and Pod, for that matter) but the writers found an elegant way of building trust between two of the most trustworthy characters. It was especially funny to hear Brienne try and release Pod from his oath given how important being an "Oathkeeper" is to the Lady of Tarth. I guess that's why they became fast friends. That and she was impressed that he killed a member of the King's Guard. What pair do you prefer?
”What good is power if you cannot protect the ones you love?”
The fourth season of Game of Thrones continues with Episode 6, “The Laws of Gods and Men,” next Sunday at 9 p.m. ET on HBO. Based on the novels by George R.R. Martin, the TV series was adapted by David Benioff and D.B. Weiss and stars Peter Dinklage, Kit Harrington, Emilia Clarke, Lena Headey and Nikolaj Coster-Waldau.
Those who have read GRRM’s “A Song of Ice and Fire”can head to the next page for a spoiler section and open comment thread... BOOK SPOILERS AHEAD: Everything beyond this point includes spoilers from George R.R. Martin's "A Song of Ice and Fire" novels.
”A Song of Ice and Fire” Speculation
All the smug bastards (our last name would be ‘Readers’) that have finished all five of George R.R. Martin’s “A Song of Ice and Fire” novels don’t want simple recaps of the Game of Thrones’ Season 4 episodes, they want to talk about how Benioff and Weiss have adapted the source material for the small-screen as well as the future of the HBO fantasy. On that note, I should also say that I’ve only read the series once (okay, some extended sections twice) so go easy on me if I screw up and/or if there’s something I fail to mention. Now. Winter is coming. And, if it wasn’t clear by now, so are SPOILERS. Final warning…
Readers are likely still reeling from last week's ending that went way off book but "First of His Name" did its best to bring us all back in with a lot of little nods. There were a lot of things in the fifth episode that felt placed there just for us, the most notable being the utterance of 'only Cat.' If you recall, those are the last words Littlefinger says to Lysa before she's pushed out the moondoor. And those screams? I did my best to imagine that's her 'flying' not, you know. Poor Sansa. I'd rather be in King's Landing getting tried for regicide.
In the capital, Benioff and Weiss are really ramping up the Margaery and Cersei rivalry that will soon become the political focus of that location once the Lannister men all leave the city one way or another. Another storyline that seems to be getting an early start, although not unexpected given the preceding events, is Brienne and Pod's journey to 'the Wall.' It's a destination that viewers can easily identify and it will still lead them into Brotherhood territory. It's no coincidence that Arya reminded everyone about Beric and Thoros this week, not to mention all the talk about Cat. Lady Stoneheart is coming, it's just a matter of when.
Speaking of 'a matter of when,' I thought "First of His Name" also made it clear that Ser Jorah won't be in the Khalessi's company much longer. I'm sure we've all been waiting for him to be banished from the friend-zone but I still think they will wait and line it up closer with Tyrion's arrival. He's still got to flee King's Landing and spend some time on a boat before the dwarf and the bear become a show. And Penny at this point seems just about as likely to be included as Coldhands.
Obviously, we have to talk a little about the action at Craster's Keep since the events north of the Wall continue to deviate the most from the source material. There was probably a collective sigh of relief when Jojen ensured that Bran and Jon would not actually interact with each other. Both killed mutineers, retrieved their wolves and went on their way. I think this was added to make the Stark boys look more heroic, why have Coldhands come in and do their work for them? Except that he sounded super cool. No pun intended. Oh, and flaming hand anyone?
There's probably plenty more to pick apart, so feel free to remind me about everything that I forgot in the comments...
Like I said, the fourth season of Game of Thrones continues with “The Laws of Gods and Men” next Sunday at 9 p.m. ET on HBO.