I’m rewatching Game of Thrones Season 1 in anticipation of Season 2 beginning April 1 2012. This is the eighth post in this series and covers the episode "The Pointy End". 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 season is well and truly in its final stage here with Eddard under arrest in King's Landing, Daenerys and Drogo planning their invasion and Jon having sworn his oath to the Night’s Watch.
The overpowering of the Stark forces at the Red Keep is a brutal and effective opening and provides two nice send offs for minor characters. Sansa is shielded by Mordane while Arya has the more effective blade of Syrio Forel at her disposal. Syrio's fight with the Lannister men-at-arms and Meryn Trant was apparently made difficult for the adaptation by the design of the Lannister armor (according to the GRRM commentary for this episode) but it still looks great to me. I'm glad they included a brief glimpse of Vayon Poole loading the Stark wagons immediately before the attack, however it drives home the absence of Jeyne Poole from any of the King's Landing scenes. Sansa losing her friend is an acceptable loss of a minor character. Losing these small parts is an inevitable consequences of adaptation but I wonder if the show will suffer by not having Jeyne established for later seasons. The sequence also provides us with a brief interaction between Sansa and the Hound. It is welcome that they are establishing the link between them now. I think making Sansa aware of his back story ahead of him spending time with her is an interesting change for the adaptation. I'm glad they kept flashes of intelligence like Arya using her knowledge of the keep to escape and Syrio seeing through Trant's claims that he was sent by Eddard, it is important to maintain some heroic qualities in these tragic circumstances. of course Syrio's apparent self sacrifice to protect Arya is incredibly heroic. I think the scene of Arya's first kill was marred somewhat by the slightly wooden young guest star she was playing against - the young actors in the main cast are so good that worse turns stand out.
"Why is it no-one ever trusts the eunuch?" is a great line for Varys as he shows a degree of humanity to Eddard. Varys skill at disguising himself is another casualty of adaptation but again understandable as it is a layer of complexity that was not necessary for the show. Again this might come back to haunt them when it returns as a plot point later. I'm not sure I believe Varys' claims to serve the Realm but I believe he puts it higher in his priorities than most of his fellow courtiers. Cersei's theatrical staging of the small council convincing Sansa to write to Robb is a great scene drawn straight from the books. Interesting that Pycelle plays the bad cop. I wondered this time through if Littlefinger actively avoided that part in it to guard the relationship he is building with Sansa.
I think it is a mistake to cut from Sansa being manipulated into writing the letter into Robb receiving it. Filmic grammar dictates that another scene should be interposed to at least suggest the passage of time required for the message to reach Winterfell. Failing to do so here undoes some of the power of the end of the next scene with so many ravens leaving Winterfell. I understand the scene was rewritten for budgetary reasons (according to multiple interviews and the commentary) but showing one raven arriving would have set-up the later shot of so many departing. Robb calling his banners is the first in a succession of strong moments for the character in this end part of the series. Madden does a good job of showing his determination, conviction and fear with the scene.
Cutting from Robb’s orders to Catelyn receiving them is another failure to establish passage of time and indicative of some of the pacing issues generated by distilling just ten episodes from the novel. That said Kate Dickie is wonderfully creepy as Lysa and her refusal to help Catelyn is pitched perfectly.
I’m a fan of the detail found in the source material and would have loved to have seen the extended version of calling the banners that Martin wrote for his first draft. Nevertheless it makes sense to concentrate on a single bannerman to establish their initial reluctance to follow the unproven Robb. Clive Mantle is excellent as the Greatjon and his change of heart after having his fingers bitten off is a joyfully odd scene. Direwolf scenes are always welcome and spread thin so there is a lot to like in the feast scene. Topping it off for me is the display of heraldry including our first look at a Manderly banner and seeing a man with the Cerwyn axe embroidered on his doublet. Robb’s goodbye to Bran recalls the earlier multiple goodbyes of “The Kingsroad” and helps to underline the separation of the protagonist family. Rickon’s petulant disbelief at the possibility of his family returning is especially sad but I do worry that the show has failed to establish him until now which undercuts its significance. Bran’s exchange with Osha in the godswood is a nice little scene that I am glad they found room for. Tena has great presence in the role and setting up the godswood is an important bit of exposition that builds on the oath taking in the preceding episode.
I’m fascinated by the military side of things so Robb’s war council is an interesting scene. I wish the show could afford to show us some action in the Riverlands but understand that it is difficult for budgetary reasons and the absence of a main character from the region makes it prohibitive to audience involvement. Mantle continues to impress as the Greatjon during the council; gleefully course and boastful. Robb and Catelyn’s reunion is very well acted – Fairley does a great job of showing Catelyn forcing herself to exercise restraint before they are alone. Madden matches her by giving a window into Robb’s insecurity by showing his anxiousness about his mother trying to control him. His acceptance of the dire circumstances maintains his position as a strong character. His deft bit of trickery in terms of the size of his forces with the captured Lannister scout is a nice moment for the character too.
Tyrion’s journey suffers from similar pacing issues. He gets from the Vale to the Lannister camp here but then spends the whole of the next episode waiting in the camp. Tyrion’s high spirits having won his freedom, his matter of factness about his expectations of Bronn and his assertion that he “likes living” are all wonderfully played by Dinklage and Flynn makes a good deadpan foil. Cutting from their daytime journey to them being awoken while camping seems a missed opportunity – these scenes could have been separated and interspersed with the earlier cuts to create some sense of time passing. Pacing complaints aside the content remains excellent. Tyrion is on a massive roll from winning over Mord, then Bronn, then winning his freedom. He uses his momentum to talk the Hill Tribes around to his cause. Reaching the Riverlands so quickly is another significant time jump. The reunion between Tywin and Tyrion is a great scene, Dance continues to excel in the role and he matches up well with Dinklage. The scene achieves a lot in a short space of time. Tyrion catching up on news is a useful recap for the audience and overcomes the common television writers problem of forgetting that the characters are not as aware of the whole story as the audience. The scene is very funny between Dinklage’s reactions and Bronn’s line about his father.
I was interested to note that Bowen Marsh is given most of Jaremy Rykker's lines for the CSI Castle Black scene where Sam notices something off about the bodies. Neither Marsh nor Rykker has been established as much more than a nameless officer in the series at this point. I suppose Marsh will return later but given that the show doesn't establish Rykker's death and has cast someone in the role it struck me as strange. The great test of Jon's loyalty begins with the news of Eddard's imprisonment, glad they seeded that in this episode before furthering it later.
Jon’s impetuous attack on Thorne is a stupid move and creates some tension so it again seems odd to allow that to disperse by quickly moving on to his night battle with the wight Othor. The relentlessness of the assault is well staged. If anyone can tell me who the stunt performer is who plays Othor I’d be grateful. The burning of the bodies allows Sam to exposit a little on the origins and qualities of the White Walkers. Coupled with Osha’s scene this resonates the tension of the season’s prologue.
Daenerys’ objection to the treatment of the Lhazareen is a slightly problematic sequence for me. It shows her naïveté and cultural distance from the Dothraki in a seeming contradiction of the change we have seen in the character over the preceding seven episodes. At no point does she acknowledge her own culpability in prompting the raid by begging Drogo to invade Westeros which would have given her a better motivation to stand up for the Lhazareen. I do like the line Rakharo gets about the rape of the Lhazareen women being an honor – this is a character that has been established as sympathetic and I am glad they didn’t shy away from showing the views he will inevitably hold coming from a warrior culture. Having protected the women and Mirri Maaz Duur from further rape Daenerys is established as aware of the injustice done to them, it then seem naive of her to expect their loyalty and to trust Duur. Perhaps I am influenced by results based thinking knowing the eventual outcome here. The added fight between Drogo and Mago was a fine idea of Jason Momoa’s and establishes his credentials as a warrior. The arrogance with which he allows Mago to wound him is a nice touch. The argument finally sets up Qotho who has spent the majority of the season in the background which is welcome given the spotlight he receives in the next episode. I have read much speculation about the quality of care Duur afford’s Drogo. I think she poisoned the wound with her poultice but accept that it is not clear from either source.
I love the closing court scene. Again it progresses several plots at once. It shuffles the pieces in King’s Landing in the wake of Eddard’s arrest with Janos Slynt and Tywin Lannister getting new honors. It shows the first truly bad decision of Joffrey’s rule in the dismissal of the well respected and ultimately loyal Ser Barristan Selmy. Ian McElhinney does a fine job with Selmy’s indignation at the unprecedented interference in the Kingsguard. I also love that we see the six members of the Kingsguard in King’s Landing all in the same place. I wish there was one who was clearly much fatter so we could pick him out as Blount but I think it probably makes sense for the show to keep the majority of the Kingsguard interchangeable at this stage so they do not have to worry about casting and retaining guest stars. In terms of minor character detail my fellow editor Gonzalo84 has made me aware that this scene includes little acknowledgements from Sansa o Ser Aron Santagar and Lord Gyles Rosby which is a nice touch. It also helps to illustrate that the court are avoiding her as attainted by her father’s treachery. Sansa’s appeal is a nice closing moment – mirroring the previous episode in terms of location and showing how far House Stark have fallen in such a short space of time.
Overall this is one of the weaker episodes of this closing stretch. It has a strong opening and closing but it is hamstrung by having too much ground too cover. With the work it has to do I still feel some of the pacing issues could have been alleviated by better intercutting of scenes.