I’m rewatching Game of Thrones Season 1 in anticipation of Season 2 beginning April 1 2012. This is the tenth post in this series and covers the season finale "Fire and Blood". As before spoilers for the whole of season 1 and the book A Game of Thrones will follow so please don’t continue if you haven’t watched the whole first season. I will avoid spoilers from later in the book series though so if you are only watching the show have no fear that I will spoil events still to come in the adaptation.
The earlier posts are:
- "Winter is Coming"
- "The Kingsroad"
- "Lord Snow"
- "Cripples, Bastards and Broken Things"
- "The Wolf and the Lion"
- "A Golden Crown"
- "You Win or You Die"
- "The Pointy End"
Such a gruesome opening image; the greatsword Ice dripping blood and Eddard’s head being lifted in the background. The horrific imagery is salt in the wound of the viewer and rams home the tragedy of Ned’s death. The opening continues on this theme by showing the impact on Ned’s children. Sansa’s faint, Arya’s haircut and Bran’s dream all come in quick succession. I’ve never noticed before that Bran is wearing a fish brooch in his scene, perhaps the same one he was toying with in his geography lesson. Bran gets to offer a little more information on the rebellion in the crypts before they are surprised by Rickon and Shaggydog. I think this comes a little late in the season but is a nice touch and seems like something Bran might talk to Osha about. I am glad they kept Rickon sharing the dream with Bran. I hope the show gives him a bit more to do than the books have so far. Robb is the last of the Stark children to react, seen through Catelyn’s eyes. Her promise of revenge is actually quite scary.
A small continuity error noted on this run through; In Marillion’s court appearance there are five members of the Kingsguard on the dais with Joffrey (including Clegane and Trant) and a further four at the back of the room. The show clearly established in the last episode that there are seven total so they overdid their extras here. Joffrey’s brutality is resonated through his punishment of Marillion and this helps to consolidate him as a character to be feared. His torturing of Sansa with the display of the heads gives Sophie Turner her finest moment of the series. She shows Sansa’s own brand of strength in her refusal to cry when Joffrey forces her to look. She makes it a believable contrast with what we have seen of Sansa to date. The jeopardy she is in is palpable. Clegane’s intervention when she moves onto the walkway is a nice moment and our first insight into his relatively sympathetic side.
The grimness finally relents as Robb’s bannermen respond to Eddard’s death by proclaiming him the King in the North. This transitions the episode into its second act, moving on from the immediate impact of Eddard’s death to the set-up of the War that will underpin the second season. A further very minor nitpick this time through. We are introduced to Lord Jonos Bracken who argues that they should follow Renly. In the books Bracken follows the seven and has a long running feud with his neighbours House Blackwood who still follow the Old Gods. It is strange that he laughs along with the Greatjon’s joke about the southern gods being wrong. I suppose Catelyn takes it well too so perhaps it is all forgiven based on their shared enmity for the Lannisters.
Catelyn continues her stoicism and desire for vengeance into her meeting with the captive Jaime. Fairley does a great job with the physicality of hitting Jaime and her silence in the face of his initial jibes is chilling. Coster-Waldau nails this scene capturing Jaime’s arrogance. His matter of fact admission of guilt melts Catelyn and she finally shows some emotion when she asks him to explain why. It’s a smart cut to go from Jaime imperilled to Cersei already sleeping with Lancel. It creates a little more sympathy for Jaime’s situation in the audience. Establishing Lancel and Cersei here is also useful set-up for the second season and laying the groundwork for the transition is something this episode continues to do well.
Charles Dance continues to shine as Tywin. His barely contained rage is palpable but he also manages to convey the subtle shift in Tywin’s view of his son as he gives cogent counsel while his other bannermen bicker about peace terms. Dinklage feeds on this and imbues Tyrion with surprise at his father’s sudden respect before being brought low by his orders about Shae. Marrying the exposition about the state of the war and Tyrion’s new role as Hand of the King with this subtle shift in Tywin and Tyrion’s relationship is excellent writing. I’m less of a fan of Shae’s indignant reaction to the proclamation but it does give Tyrion a chance to give voice to his own feelings about his father.
[[File:Drogo.png|thumb|Drogo in a vegetative state.] After being absent for the first act the show returns to its cliffhanger from “Baelor” a little late having focused (appropriately) on Eddard’s death. Daenerys faces tragedy of her own on multiple fronts with Duur’s revenge taking shape as the loss of both Drogo and her son Rhaego. I felt that Duur seems more concerned with preventing future violence here while she came across as purely malevolent and vengeful to me in the books. Daenerys killing Drogo is a difficult moment to stage. Euthanasia is controversial but Clarke definitely manages to convince me that Daenerys believes she is acting in Drogo’s best interests.
It’s interesting that the show also leaves Jon out of the equation for the first half of the episode. It seems a slight disservice to his relationship with Eddard to not show his reaction in sequence with his half siblings and showing his departure is a short scene that would have fit reasonably well in that section. Separaring it by more than one scene from his friends catching up to him would have created the impression that he had gotten a little further. Pyp, Grenn and Sam’s appeal to their new brother and the recitation of their oaths achieves a nice balance of humour and emotion. This is largely due to John Bradley’s excellent performance, his squeak as Sam rides into a tree branch is hilarious. Jon’s return to the wall seems a contrasting view of Mormont from James Cosmo; his gruff acceptance of Jon’s brief departure is a nice contrast to the fatherly role he took before. His announcement of the great ranging being brought forward is a smart move and gives Jon’s arc a more triumphant final note. This contrasts usefully with the tragedy of Eddard’s story. Djawadi’s score is excellent in selling the moment here.
The scene with Pycelle and Ros serves as a brief respite from the tragedy. I think his rambling does not quite play as humorously as the writers had hoped. Esme Bianco does really sell Ros’ impatient reaction though. Like Bran’s earlier thoughts on Lyanna’s staute this also serves to deliver some additional backstory about King Aerys II along with Pycelle’s thoughts on Robert and Joffrey. The reveal that Pycelle is feigning much of his frailty is another welcome bit of insight into a supporting character and further set-up for the second season. It is probably the best look the show gives at the Maester’s chains, better late than never. It is paired with another small council insight with more sparring between Littlefinger and Varys. Their adversarial relationship in the series is one of the best additions to the source material and seems truly like something that would fit into the books if the point of view constraint were lifted. I am not sure this scene tells us much but a reminder of the political climate is never a bad thing.
Transplanting Arya’s encounter with Hot Pie and Lommy to King’s Landing and bringing it forward from the second series is a wise move. I think giving viewers an idea of where the second season is headed is more important that having additional cliffhangers in the wake of the death of Eddard. Despite the show's efforts to demonstrate its plans for its ensemble I have still read numerous concerns about how the show will work without Eddard. I think they’ll do fine with an ensemble that includes such strong young actors as Maisie Williams.
Completing the triumvirate of uplifting endings is the one that was actually present at this stage in the book. Daenerys quiet belief in her plan to hatch her dragon eggs is well played and along with Mormont’s concern that she is suicidal it adds tension to this final sequence. The reveal of Daenerys and her dragons is a great end note, filling the viewer’s mind with ideas for the potential of the next series. Again Djawadi’s score is excellent. I’m looking forward to seeing what he does with more time to work on the second season. Of course I’m looking forward to everything about the second season at this stage!