Season 1 rewatch episode 6 “A Golden Crown”
I’m rewatching Game of Thrones Season 1 in anticipation of Season 2 beginning April 1 2012. This is the sixth post in this series and covers the episode "A Golden Crown". 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"
We open with Eddard Stark awakening from a fever dream to find Cersei Lannister and Robert Baratheon hovering over him. It’s an evocative sequence and particularly a tease to those who have read the books and are hoping for a flashback sequence out of Eddard at some point. Robert’s forceful attempt at resolving the conflict between House Stark and House Lannister is a showcase for Mark Addy. He gets to show Robert’s brutality towards Cersei and his resistance to being manipulated by her. We get insight into how he so easily commands loyalty when he makes his heartfelt explanation to Eddard that he chose him as a brother. Finally we see his inability to face up to complex problems and his reliance on drinking and hunting as distractions. His plan to order Eddard to make peace and then disappear is woefully simplistic given the situation.
Showing the hunt in progress is one of the weaker scenes in the episode and comes at the mid-point. Robert’s hunting party seems woefully small and the absence of horses further undercuts his status. I understand that it exposits Lancel giving Robert plenty to drink. It also helps to contrast Renly’s clear view of the past with Robert’s romanticised reliance on former glories. I think the scene has merit on the page but that the production could not do it justice within the limitations of their budget.
The grim reality of Eddard’s weakened state is immediately contrasted with two of the season’s most mystical scenes to date. First Daenerys re-establishes her resistance to fire by placing a dragon egg in a brazier and retrieving it unharmed when Irri is burned when she touches it. Second we see a dream of a three-eyed crow from Bran’s perspective. This is an effective distillation of a series of dreams Bran has throughout the book. The crow dream is well put together and evokes the otherworldly atmosphere necessary.
Dreams are dispelled as Bran awakens to Hodor delivering the saddle that Tyrion designed. His happiness at riding for the first time since his injuries is undercut by his brother Robb facing up to the responsibilities of being the Stark in Winterfell. Theon urges him to call his banners and garners some sympathy when Robb cruelly reminds him of his position as a captive. Bran’s joy is also short lived when the Wildlings capture him. Introducing Osha as someone who is willing to kidnap a child for profit is a bold move. The short fight sequence establishes Robb as a skilled warrior in his own right for the first time but it is again Theon who comes out better by being decisive enough to end the standoff between Robb and Stiv with a well placed arrow and assertive enough to defend the action when Robb calls him reckless. Theon also gets a goodbye with Ros which repositions her character to King’s Landing as well as giving some insight into the effects of the impending war on the smallfolk.
I think Sansa’s point of view scene in this episode suffers in the context of the adaptation. It serves to show her as somewhat indoctrinated by the Queen and Joffrey by pointing out her immersion in Southern culture and allowing her to demonstrate some of the brattish, self obsessed behaviour we recognize from Joffrey. I think showing her become cruel under their influence is not a bad thing and re-establishing her misguided feelings for Joffrey is important in the context of the episode given its role in helping Eddard to make his realization about Joffrey’s lineage. I thought at the time the scene was also setting up Sansa unwittingly betraying Eddard by revealing his plans to send her back to Winterfell to Cersei. The show drops this plot thread from the novel and this scene consequently diminishes in importance. I do enjoy the show’s willingness to show flawed human characters as the book does and letting Sansa be a real teenaged brat to her Septa is no bad thing in my opinion. I commend Gleeson for showing enough softness that we can believe Sansa falls for his apology even when we know his mother made him do it.
Maisie Williams again has the easier task in this episode, giving us the viewpoint we need to laugh at Sansa’s childish love for Joffrey in her later scene. She also gets the majority of our sympathy for the girls following their father’s injury by showing how disturbed she is by the events in her scene with Syrio. Williams does a good job of playing as Arya as near to tears throughout her talk with Syrio. but nevertheless instills her usual charm. Bean is once again excellent at showing the wheel’s turning in Eddard’s mind. I love the detail from Bryan Cogman’s commentary that he went to the trouble of actually writing every page of the lineages book we see. It is good to know the creative people behind the show are putting so much detail and effort into their craft.
Peter Dinklage gets to showcase his comedic talents with a series of three scenes leading up to his release. He plays well of Ciaran Birmingham as the brutish jailor Mord. His delivery of Tyrion’s well judged manipulation of Mord into getting him the audience he needs is excellent. Showing his failure to pitch the idea at Mord’s level first of all before taking another approach clearly demonstrates his ability to use words as tools. Mord’s reaction to Tyrion’s claims of riches is hilarious but Tyrion gets the best bit of their scenes “Sometimes, possession is an abstract concept.” He continues to deliver comedy gold in his confession scene. Dinklage deserves every one of his acting awards. The script and a competent performer would make this scene funny but Dinklage adds notes of defiance, fear and desperation to the scene.
The comedic confession of Tyrion stands in stark contrast to the Riverlands refugees arriving at court. I love the characterisation Pycelle gets from the scene showing his impatience with the refugees simple nature and the subtle hints of his loyalty to the Queen by questioning Eddard’s decision. I think this scene could have been improved by showing us Clegane sacking the Riverland’s earlier in the episode. Having established Clegane’s actions the need for expository stage whispers from Littlefinger is obviated. Bean redeems the scene somewhat with his rousing delivery of Eddard’s indictment of Clegane. I think it is a good decision for the adaptation to use this sombre scene to separate Bronn fighting for Tyrion from Tyrion’s confession. The action of the fight scene works better having allowed the humour of the confession to fade.
The early scene of Daenerys establishing her otherworldliness in terms of her resistance to fire begins a neat arc of juxtaposition within this episode. Throughout the first half of the season we have seen Daenerys grow from a meek girl into a confident woman through her relationship with Drogo and his people. In this episode her rise accelerates while Viserys begins a rapid plummet. The scene of Daenerys eating a horse’s heart as the Dosh Khaleen and the Khalasar watch manages to be both disgusting and uplifting. Momoa and Clarke show great chemistry when he lifts her from the dais at the end of the scene. Iain Glen’s description of the significance of the event, the presence of well established supporting characters like Irri, Doreah and Rakharo and the heartfelt announcement and repetition of her son’s name have the cumulative effect of showing us the love Daenerys has won from the Dothraki. Our seeing this coincides with Viserys realizing it for the first time which is a fine piece of writing. All this in a single scene and Glen manages to convey his own desire for Daenerys while guiding us through the rest of the action as Mormont.
The Dosh Khaleen scene shows us clearly the ascendance of Daenerys and is followed by another that sets up the fall of Viserys. Harry Lloyd has done excellent work at shading in the damaged nature of Viserys and showing us that while he is arrogant, entitled and abusive he became that way for a reason. He shines again here when Viserys tells Jorah how he has longed for the kind of love he saw Daenerys getting in front of the others. His weakness of character is sympathetic but not redemptive. Despite being understandable his jealousy and sudden awareness of his loss of power over the only person who has respected him leads him to increasingly desperate actions. Trying to steal the dragon eggs and flee Vaes Dothrak is ill considered but having been forced to back down by Jorah he comes up with a far worse plan. Lloyd blends pathetic and dangerous neatly in his last scene. His drunkenness is clear, if not overplayed. Clarke silent stare as she slowly decides that her brother is worth far less to her than her new family is excellent as is the coldness of the truth she fools Viserys with. Her lack of emotion in the sequence even as Viserys begs her to save him is chilling. Her dismissal of him as no true dragon neatly references her first scene tying together a great episode.