Game of Thrones has ended, and one of the last true “water-cooler shows” is gone. I was never at said water cooler, because I have not had a job for most of the show’s run (and now I’m barely working, so it doesn’t really count), but you could find GoT discussions all over the internet, which made it difficult for someone like me, who likes the show very much but also likes to binge-watch it at the end of each season. Avoiding spoilers was even harder this year, when you could barely go on Facebook without someone writing something about the show and some of my favorite web sites gave away spoilers in the headlines to their articles (thanks, dicks). It doesn’t matter too much to me – I’m never that concerned with spoilers, and, let’s face it, some plot points of these shows are so obvious I don’t know if they even count as spoilers. But I still don’t watch the show as it airs, so that’s been fun for eight years or so. While the final season was still airing, I asked my lovely wife if she’d like to re-watch the entire series before we watched the final season, and she was amenable (she had the same idea, so that helped). I know other people have done this, but they don’t write for this blog, do they? So I decided to give a brief recap/review of each episode, and then rank them. Good times! So let’s check out HBO’s epic ode to violence and boobs! Is there anything more ‘Murican than that? SPOILERS ahoy, naturally!
Season 1, Episode 1 (1), “Winter Is Coming” (first aired 17 April 2011). For a first episode of a sprawling drama, “Winter Is Coming” does a decent job, but it’s still a first episode, which are awfully hard to make great because so many introductions are necessary. The first scene and the last scene are the great ones, and in between, we get a lot of exposition. The opening is still chilling – the rangers north of the Wall find a camp of Wildlings that’s been slaughtered, and then they themselves get killed by the White Walkers. One of the rangers escapes, but he’s beheaded by Ned Stark (Sean Bean) for cowardice and deserting his post. The final scene, in which Bran Stark (Isaac Hempstead Wright) climbs a tower (after his mother clearly told him not to climb anymore!) and sees Jaime Lannister (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau, who was terrific in the short-lived New Amsterdam) banging his sister Cersei, the queen (Lena Headey, the best Sarah Connor?), which leads to Jaime pushing him off the ledge and down many, many feet to the ground, is also chilling, in a totally different way. In between, there are the introductions to the Stark and Lannister families and Ned’s close relationship to the king, Robert Barantheon (Mark Addy, who got the best scene in The Full Monty, and don’t you think otherwise!). The king and his family have come north because the “Hand of the King” – his main adviser – has been murdered, and Robert wants Ned to take the job, even though Ned doesn’t want to. We also meet Viserys Targaryen (Harry Lloyd), the son of the king before Robert (Jaime murdered that king because the king was insane), and his sister, Daenerys (Emilia Clarke, definitely not the best Sarah Connor), who are in exile in the East. Viserys is marrying Daenerys off to the ruler of the nomadic Dothraki, Khal Drogo (Aquaman!), in order to secure his army to invade Westeros, the continent where most of this story occurs. So there are lots of moving parts. The actors are strong, although there are some stand-outs. Peter Dinklage as Tyrion Lannister, the brother of Jaime and Cersei, is of course the best character on the show, and he’s already having a grand old time in this episode. Kit Harington as Jon Snow, the bastard son of Ned Stark, is one of the break-out stars of the show, but he doesn’t do much here except look pretty. Maisie Williams and Sophie Turner as Arya and Sansa Stark are good for their respective roles, that of tomboy and girlie girl. Lloyd is superb as the utterly douchey Viserys, but Clarke doesn’t do much as his sister except get naked and later get fucked by Drogo. All in all, a lot of place-setting, but a pretty compelling start, despite the showrunners trying to stuff as much as they could into it.
Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆
Season 1, Episode 2 (2), “The Kingsroad” (first aired 24 April 2011). This is an improvement on the premiere, simply because the writers and director can settle in a little and begin taking their time (although they still stuff each episode, they slowly but surely do it better). The big event at the end of Episode 1, Bran getting pushed from the tower, is central to a lot of the plot, as he doesn’t die, but lies in a coma, his legs smashed, for most of the episode. Foolishly, Jaime Lannister sends an assassin to kill him while his mother, Catelyn (Michelle Fairley), is still in the room (the killer thought she’d be gone), but Catelyn holds him off and Bran’s dire wolf pet (all the Stark kids got dire wolves as pets in the pilot) rips his throat out. I mean, Jaime and Cersei don’t want the kid to wake up and tell what he saw, but nobody thought Bran’s fall was anything but an accident before this, but now Catelyn knows someone is trying to kill her son (and she suspects the Lannisters, as she gets a letter saying the former Hand was murdered by them). It just seems sloppy by Jaime, but he’s pretty, not bright. Ned, meanwhile, has gone south with the king because he’s accepted the job as Hand (despite his wife warning him that a Stark going south is always bad news), and he takes along Sansa and Arya (why Arya?). Sansa is betrothed to Robert’s son, Joffrey (Jack Gleeson), and this episode is when we first get a good idea of Joffrey and what an absolute tool he is (Gleeson is apparently a wonderful dude, and he was often harassed for being such a douche on the show, to which I say: man, people suck, don’t they). Early in the episode, Tyrion slaps him several times because he doesn’t want to offer sympathy to the Starks because of what happened to Bran, and it’s still one of the more satisfying scenes in the show (and it’s practically Joffrey’s first scene; Gleeson shows immediately what a dick he is). Later, he bullies a peasant boy who’s helping Arya train in sword fighting, and Arya hits him and then her wolf bites him, and he goes crying to his mother, who has Sansa’s wolf killed (Arya told hers to run off, which it did). Oh, and the peasant is killed, too. It’s really an awful sequence, but it shows how horrible the Lannisters really are. Jon Snow, meanwhile, has gone north to the Wall to join the Night’s Watch, the soldiers who make sure the Wildlings and other things north of the Wall don’t come south. Tyrion goes with him, which means they get to spend some time together. Daenerys, meanwhile, figures out how to please Khal Drogo sexually, and their relationship gets better. This is a good episode, although we’re still feeling things out. Clarke does a better job here than in the pilot, and we can see how she’s subtly trying to free herself from her brother’s orbit, which would have dire consequences for Viserys. Meanwhile, there’s a scene between Cersei and Catelyn that Lena Headey kills, as she tells Bran’s mother about the death of her son and how devastated she was, and we believe her even though she’s staring down at a boy she wanted killed. The show does a pretty good job of making the characters complex, and this is just one example of it. Even Joffrey, who’s horrible, is still a boy trying desperately to act like a man, and he gets nothing from his father (although we can already suspect that perhaps Robert is not his father) and nothing but coddling from his mother. No wonder he’s a monster. Overall, this is an improvement on the pilot, and it shows the potential the series has.
Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆ ☆
Season 1, Episode 3 (3), “Lord Snow” (first aired 1 May 2011). Another pretty good episode, as we reach King’s Landing, the capital of the “seven kingdoms” of Westeros and Jon Snow learns some things about himself at Castle Black, the Night’s Watch headquarters. At King’s Landing, we’re introduced to two of the more fun main characters on the show (and one of the most fun minor ones) – Petyr Baelish (Aidan Gillen) and Lord Varys (Conleth Hill, who looks utterly bizarre in “real life” with a full head of hair), both of whom are on the King’s council and both of whom are scheming bastards. Baelish (also known as “Littlefinger”) runs a brothel in town, and he once was madly in love with Catelyn Stark, so when she shows up to tell Ned about the assassination plot against her son, they are reunited and we can see that Littlefinger still carries a torch for her, which I’m sure won’t cause any trouble whatsoever in the future. Varys is someone who has a great deal of informers and therefore a great deal of information at his fingertips, and Hill plays him wonderfully. We also get some nice scenes between Ned and Jaime when Ned first enters the throne room and later when Robert Baratheon is talking about first kills. In the first scene, we learn that Ned’s father and brother were killed by the former king, Aerys (Viserys and Daenerys’s father), and Jaime watched. Ned is angry about this (poor Sean Bean – Ned is so self-righteous it makes my teeth hurt, and Bean has to play him like he’s constipated all the time), but Jaime does a good job deflecting him because Jaime wasn’t the only one who didn’t do anything about it. Later, Robert is talking about his first kill, and he asks Jaime about stabbing Aerys in the back. Jaime doesn’t rise to the bait (Robert implies is was dishonorable to stab him in the back), and Coster-Waldau does a nice job giving depth to Jaime (just like Headey does for Cersei). Again, the Lannisters aren’t admirable people, but they’re not inhuman, either. Up north, Jon thinks he’s better than everyone in the Night’s Watch, but Tyrion is able to make him see that he’s being a dick. They share some really good scenes together – Harington is still no match for Dinklage, but he acquits himself well – before Tyrion has to leave. Meanwhile, Ned’s brother Benjen (Joseph Mawle) prepares to ride out north of the wall to scout, and I’m sure we’ll see him again in a few episodes with some important news! The meat of the episode really comes from the Dothraki plot, where Daenerys begins to have stirrings of real leadership – she gets upset by the way the Dothraki treat their slaves, and the Dothraki are beginning to accept her as their queen. When her brother threatens her, they take her side and humiliate him, which he, being a dick, doesn’t handle well (Lloyd, as I mentioned, is really good in this role, and in the only other thing I’ve seen him in, he’s also kind of a dick, so he taps into a reserve of dickishness inside himself really well!). The third fun character we meet in this episode is Syrio Forel (Miltos Yerolemou), the fencing master Ned gets to teach Arya to sword fight. He’s awesome. I’m sure he’ll be fine for the entire run of the show!
Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ½ ☆ ☆
Season 1, Episode 4 (4), “Cripples, Bastards, and Broken Things” (first aired 8 May 2011). The show still hasn’t hit its stride (it kind of does with Episode 5), but it’s still good, especially because the showrunners are starting to allow their very good actors to just do their thing. Tyrion, for instance, antagonizes Theon Greyjoy (Alfie Allen, who is of course world-famous for killing John Wick’s dog) – a hostage of the Starks’ who was brought up by Ned and is generally accepted into the family even though he’s kind of a dick – needlessly, and while we might think that this sets Theon down a dark road and is kind of pointless (plus it’s stuff that Theon already knows), hearing Peter Dinklage sneer the entire time is just sheer joy. Meanwhile, Daenerys is starting to stand up for herself, and her fierce takedown of her brother is Emilia Clarke’s finest moment so far (it’s Harry Lloyd’s, too, as Viserys is honestly stunned at what’s happened to his sister). Tyrion also shows himself to be a fairly decent dude, as he figures out a way to assist Bran in riding a horse … before, of course, Catelyn Stark foolishly takes him prisoner for trying to kill her son on the flimsiest of evidence (but that scene is the first appearance of Bronn, played with aplomb by Jerome Flynn, so yay!). Ned Stark dominates the episode, though, which is why it’s not as strong as it could be – Sean Bean does wonderful work, but Ned is just so damned serious and stupid that it’s hard when he’s the focal point. He gets the same history book that his dead predecessor got and tells the “maester” – the quasi-monks who handle the book larnin’ in Westeros – that he’s researching his predecessor’s death, which of course gets back to Littlefinger. He tells Littlefinger he didn’t trust him when he first met, and Lord Baelish tells him that’s the smartest thing he’s done since he reached King’s Landing. Littlefinger admits that he’s not trustworthy, yet Ned can’t help himself later on. He also finds one of the king’s bastards, Gendry (Joe Dempsie), which won’t be a problem at all at any point in the future, I’m sure. Overall, it’s a good episode, but it still feels like we’re getting established. Luckily, we end with Gregor Clegane, the “Mountain” (Conan Stevens, the first of three actors to play the character), “accidentally” killing the knight who was once the squire of the murdered Hand, which is a nice way of showing what happens to anyone who thinks they can help the Lannisters and not die horribly, so the episode ends on a fun note. But it’s still a bit of place setting, which is fascinating but not all that exciting.
Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ½ ☆ ☆ ☆
Season 1, Episode 5 (5), “The Wolf and the Lion” (first aired 15 May 2011). This is the best episode so far, partly because some shit happens and partly because the showrunners give the very good actors they have working for them some very good meaty scenes to chew on. Ned and Robert have two great scenes together, the first where they’re bantering like the old friends they are and the second where Ned quits as Hand because Robert wants him to arrange the assassination of Daenerys and her unborn child, something Ned won’t do (it’s unclear if, when Ned talks about killing children, he means the unborn child or if he still considers Daenerys a child, but it’s kind of six-of-one, half-dozen-of-the-other). The contrast between the two conversations is striking, and it’s the most interesting Ned has been (as I’ve mentioned, Sean Bean plays the character well, but he’s just so frickin’ noble that he becomes boring). Meanwhile, Robert has a superb conversation with Cersei about their lives together and Robert’s love for Ned’s sister, Lyanna, who has been dead for years and who was stolen from Robert by Rhaegar Targaryen (Daenerys’s and Viserys’s older brother). Both Mark Addy and Lena Headey are amazing in this scene, and we get a good sense of both the simmering hatred and grudging respect they have for each other. Petyr Baelish and Lord Varys also have a nice conversation about their spies and what they know, and it’s fun to see these two dudes circle each other like sleek, evil cats. Meanwhile, Catelyn takes Tyrion to her sister’s castle, the Eyrie, where she plans … something. It’s unclear, and Catelyn, being one of the weaker characters so far, doesn’t seem to have much of a plan. Her sister, Lysa (Kate Dickie), breastfeeds her far-too-old child and has gone around the bend a bit, it’s clear, after the murder of her husband (John Arryn, the dead Hand whose death Ned is investigating), and she really, really hates Lannisters, so she chucks Tyrion in a cell (with a beautiful view of the sheer drop into the valley). This causes problems, as Jaime Lannister confronts Ned about it at the end of the episode, after Ned has already quit his job (but hasn’t left the city because he had to go see another illegitimate child of the king’s, which was wildly stupid of him). It’s a good confrontation, as Jaime is supposed to be a great swordsman but he hardly ever fights his equal, and Coster-Waldau does a nice job showing the fear in his eyes when he realizes that Ned might actually be better than he is. A soldier steps in a spears Ned in the leg in a very unsportsmanlike way, so Jaime can have Ned dragged away without finding out who the better fighter is. Man, Ned, just get the hell out of the city! Oh, and the Mountain briefly fights his younger brother, Sandor, the “Hound” (Rory McCann, who was in Hot Fuzz, really?). That’s pretty excellent.
Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ½ ☆ ☆
Season 1, Episode 6 (6), “A Golden Crown” (first aired 22 May 2011). After the very good “The Wolf and the Lion,” we ease back a little until the end, when suddenly things get ramped up a bit. Viserys Targaryen is the first “main” character to die, and it’s done very well, as Harry Lloyd never gets the credit he deserves for the work he did on the show, because it was so brief and he was such a douchebag (Jack Gleeson and Alfie Allen had this problem, as well, but I would argue that Lloyd is a better actor than those two). We have to believe Viserys not only deserves what he gets (which is easy, because the writers set out to make him a jerk) but also that he might not totally deserve it, which is far harder. Of course, the instant he threatens his sister’s unborn child, he’s a dead man, but Lloyd sells the tremendous expectations placed upon Viserys since birth as a scion of the Targeryens (Rhaegar, his brother, was first in line, but of course death is a fickle thing in this world, so naturally Viserys would be groomed as a king as well), a burden he couldn’t handle, especially with an insane father and a rebellion which drove him from the country when he was still in his youth. He’s basically a boy playing king, not understanding the deadly currents around him, and when he cries out for “Dany” as he’s about to die, Lloyd shows how lost he really is, and while he certainly deserves what he gets, there’s a small part of us that can’t help pity him. That’s why the show can be so good – no villain, really, is 100% horrible, and Viserys is the first example of this. Daenerys, being a woman, had to learn quickly how to fit in with the Dothraki, and she shows in this episode how well she already has. Viserys didn’t think he needed to, and he got molten gold (which melted awfully quickly, didn’t it?) poured over his head. If Jorah Mormont (Iain Glen), the disgraced member of an old family who has slowly become Daenerys’s confidant, had seen her terrifying face at the very end of the episode, he might not be so keen to hitch his wagon to her. Daenerys is moving toward being a better person, with her concern for the downtrodden, but she’s also becoming scary as fuck. The rest of the episode is good, although not on par with the final scene. King Robert convinces Ned Stark to stay on as Hand, and while Robert is off on a hunt, Ned gets a bit goaded by Littlefinger to declare Tywin Lannister an enemy of the crown (to be fair, Ned didn’t need a lot of coaxing, because Ned is all about honor and shit like that that gets you killed). Sansa, meanwhile, makes a random comment about Joffrey that makes Ned (who’s obviously never heard of Punnett squares and recessive genes!) realize that Joffrey isn’t Robert’s kid, which will definitely get him killed if he starts making noise about it. Good job, Ned! Meanwhile, Tyrion gets Bronn to fight for him to prove his innocence (we don’t need no stinkin’ evidence if we have trial by combat!), and Bronn gets the best line of the episode when Lysa Arryn says he didn’t fight with honor. “No,” says Bronn, looking down through the hole in the floor through which the man fell hundreds of feet to his death, “he did.” Yeah, Bronn! And I really hope Mord the jailer went off with Tyrion’s purse (which Tyrion promised him) and bought a nice house and found a nice woman (or dude, whatevs) and lived a happy life. But I have a feeling he drank or whored or gambled it all away. Come on, Mord, invest!
Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ½ ☆ ☆
Season 1, Episode 7 (7), “You Win or You Die” (first aired 29 May 2011). Good old Ned Stark. Honorable Ned Stark. Honest Ned Stark. UTTERLY STUPID NED STARK!!!! Here’s what Ned Stark does in this episode: He tells Cersei Lannister that he knows she is committing incest with her brother, that the heir to the throne isn’t Robert Baratheon’s son, and that she pushed his son Bran off the tower, crippling him. He also gives her time to leave the capital before he exposes her. This is a woman who’s managed to have sex with her brother for at least 16-17 years (depending on how old Joffrey is supposed to be, and of course, they were banging long before that) right under the king’s nose and was willing to kill a child to keep the secret; does Ned think she’s going to panic and run just because he says so? Then, Robert gets gored by a boar and is dying, and he makes Ned the regent. This is more on Robert, and there are no witnesses, but at least Ned has it all written down, because that matters. But, in that same meeting, he doesn’t tell Robert that Joffrey isn’t his son, because he doesn’t want to make the king’s last moments worse. You’re playing for your life, Ned, make the damned idiot uncomfortable! Then he alienates one of his few friends, Renly Baratheon (Gethin Anthony), by insisting that Renly’s older brother, Stannis, should be king next because Joffrey doesn’t have a claim. Renly wants to be king himself, and he points out, rightly, that Robert himself had no claim until he led a rebellion, so why is Ned so insistent upon the correct line of succession, especially when Stannis isn’t “king material,” according to Renly? (Renly isn’t really king material either, but his point is that Stannis is a soldier, and soldiers don’t necessarily make good kings, which is a fine point.) Then, Ned trusts Petyr Baelish, even though Littlefinger told him a few episodes ago that the smartest thing Ned had done in the capital was to mistrust him, Littlefinger himself. Petyr basically tells Ned that he’ll betray him, more than once, yet Ned trusts him (Littlefinger pointedly tells Ned that he’ll do whatever the person with the most money tells him to do, and Ned KNOWS that the Lannisters have more money than anyone). Then, Ned strolls into the throne room and tries to arrest Cersei, even though he sees Joffrey already on the throne and Cersei already in a position of power. He saw with his own eyes what a little shit Joffrey is, yet he thinks Joffrey will just throw over his mother because Ned says so. For this, his men are all killed and he’s taken prisoner. Fuck, Ned, you moron.
Ned’s stupidity knocks this episode down just slightly, because it is really tense, and the build-up is terrific. It’s implied that Robert was, if not killed by the Lannisters, at least given something in his wine to make him slow, because that’s just how Cersei rolls, yo. Lena Headey, meanwhile, has that great scene in the beginning with Sean Bean in which she gives the episode its title and says some things that Ned might have been wise to listen to, as well as sort-of giving a good justification for incest (as creepy as it is, she really sells it). Charles Dance shows up as Tywin Lannister (he’s skinning a stag, because of course he is) and tears Jaime a new one, and with that one scene, we get why the three children of the Lannisters are so awful and even why Cersei and Jaime might turn to each other for love, as twisted as it might be (Dance apparently stripped the actual dead stag on the table several times – multiple takes were required, I guess – which is just another reason why Charles Dance rules). Jorah Mormont, not realizing that Daenerys might be as crazy as her brother, decides to switch sides and throw in with her, and a convenient assassination attempt convinces Khal Drogo to invade Westeros. There’s a lot going on, in other words, and if Ned weren’t so very, very stupid, the episode might rank higher. But it’s still very good television!
Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆ ☆
Season 1, Episode 8 (8), “The Pointy End” (first aired 5 June 2011). After the intense ending of the last episode, this one slows down again, giving us a weaker episode, as now that Ned’s in prison and isn’t standing around being honorable and Robert Baratheon is dead, there’s no one for Cersei to play off of, and she spends the time dominating her son and Sansa, turning them to her will. It’s kind of unfair to send Sansa in to talk to the queen and all her advisers, and while that’s kind of the point, it does weaken the conversation a little. There’s a lot of maneuvering in this episode, as Robb Stark (Richard Madden) finally steps to the forefront, as he’s off to fight a war to rescue his father, while Tyrion ends up at the Lannister’s camp with a bunch of hillpeople (to whom he promised riches as long as they didn’t kill him) in tow, and Jon Snow fights a White Walker. It’s not a bad episode, and there are some terrific scenes. Syrio Forel defending Arya when the Lannister knights come to kill her (with a wooden sword, no less) is amazing, and we don’t actually see Syrio die, so I live in hope that he’ll be back in the final season to claim the Iron Throne (okay, it’s 99% certain that he’s dead, but let me live in hope!!!!), Jon’s brief battle with the zombie thing is tense and exciting, and Daenerys’s scenes are really well done. She doesn’t think about the nuts and bolts of acquiring ships to invade Westeros, so she’s really upset when the Dothraki do what the Dothraki do, which is slaughter a bunch of people and enslave the rest. She rescues a bunch of women from the warriors, which pisses them off because they didn’t get to rape the women. They complain to Drogo, who tells them to stick their cocks somewhere else (lots of “cock” talk and – in Hodor’s case – exposure in this episode) – in sheep, maybe? One dude challenges him, and while Drogo fights him without weapons and still wins, ripping the dude’s tongue out, he gets a wound on his shoulder that everyone seems to think is a flesh wound, but on television, when you make a big deal about something that seems inconsequential, you can bet it will be consequential. Luckily, one of the women Daenerys rescued knows some healing (she was a priestess in the temple), so Daenerys asks for her help. I mean, asking for help from a woman whose town and home was just destroyed and whose friends and neighbors were killed by the order of the very man you’re asking her to help – what on earth could go wrong? Oh, and Joffrey is a shitbag. Of course.
Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ½ ☆ ☆ ☆
Season 1, Episode 9 (9), “Baelor” (first aired 12 June 2011). Nothing much matters in this episode before the final scene, because that elevates this into the best episode of the series so far, but it does have to rescue it a bit. Again, it’s not that the rest of the episode is bad, because the characters are still compelling and things do happen, but man, that ending. Earlier, we get Tyrion “leading” the hillpeople into battle but getting knocked out before he can even leave the camp, so he (and we) miss the entire battle, which turns out to be a distraction anyway, as Robb Stark and the main army are off fighting Jaime Lannister’s forces, and they end up capturing him, which means – yay! – they can trade him for Ned! (I imagine that early in the show, HBO didn’t film battle scenes – they did eventually – because of budget constraints, and it’s not the biggest deal in the world, but it’s the tiniest bit annoying. They make up for it, though, which is nice.) Robb was there because his mother had struck a deal with Walder Frey (David Bradley), who controls the only river crossing between the northern area and the south. Catelyn pledged Arya’s hand in marriage to one of Frey’s sons (he has a lot of them, because he bangs every human woman in the area, it seems) and Robb’s hand to one of Frey’s daughters. I’m sure that will work out fine! So Jaime is in the hands of the Starks, Tywin is pissed, and things don’t look good for the Lannisters. Meanwhile, Drogo’s wound is getting worse, and Daenerys is getting desperate. Jorah tells her Drogo is going to die, soon, and she asks the priestess she saved last episode to save him, even if she has to use blood magic, which the Dothraki are NOT okay with. One of Drogo’s men pushes Daenerys down, which makes her son come early, and Jorah carries her into the tent where the priestess is doing horrible things. We’ll get more magic in the show before long, but I like it better this way – hinted at but never shown. All we get is a quivering tent and some weird howls, and it’s terrifying. Daenerys knows that if Drogo dies she’ll be in trouble, but she ignores Jorah’s advice to run away because she loves him. And at the Wall, Jon Snow learns that the old maester is really Aeron Targaryen (Peter Vaughan, who died at 93 a few years ago), the uncle of the Mad King, who didn’t abandon his post in the Night’s Watch when the Targaryens were being wiped out. Jon wants to go south to help his family, but he decides to fulfill his duty. This episode is all about the conflict between family and duty, and Jon is really the only one who chooses duty, and he comes out of it the best. Of course, the final scene brings this all home, as Ned chooses his family and confesses to treason in the hopes that Joffrey will spare him and his daughters. Cersei, who’s far smarter than her son, freaks out when Joffrey decides, nah, on second thought you gotta die, Ned, because she knows what a shitstorm it will bring. That final scene is superb, from the way Ned sees Arya and tells the Night’s Watch dude to shield her from what’s about to happen, to the Night’s Watch dude grabbing Arya and doing just that, to Sansa believing her father is about to be saved and her face going to pieces when it’s not to be, and of course, to Ned’s execution itself, when he realizes he sold his last bit of honor for nothing. It’s an amazing scene, and if Game of Thrones wasn’t a great show before this, it became one right then.
Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆
Season 1, Episode 10 (10), “Fire and Blood” (first aired 19 June 2011). In what will become a recurring theme for the show, the penultimate episode of each season is the one in which the big event occurs, and then the finale is everyone reacting to it. The first season does end dramatically, though, which I’ll get to, but for the most part this episode features people reacting to Ned’s death. Jon Snow wants to ride south (again), but his friends convince him to stay, and really, the White Walkers are a far bigger threat than Cersei anyway. Robb is proclaimed King in the North by his men, who have no interest in swearing fealty to a southerner (there’s a hint in the air that the southerners are effeminate, and while homosexuality doesn’t come into the show all that much, the implication of the sissy men of the South is present a lot). Tyrion is told be Hand of the King by his father, and he’s kind-of falling in love with Shae (Sibel Kekilli), which means nothing good for either of them. Arya is given a haircut to disguise her gender and meets Gendry, who’s also leaving the city (he claims it’s because his master threw him out, but I imagine Ned told the Night’s Watch recruiter – Yoren (Francis Magee) – to find him and get him away, because his life ain’t worth a plugged nickel if Cersei finds him). And Joffrey shows Sansa her father’s head on a spike (her tutor’s, too, but she’s not as bummed about that), and we get the first time Sansa shows anything other than simpering: Joffrey says he’ll kill Robb and give his head to Sansa, and Sansa, with icy malice, says, “Or maybe he’ll give me yours.” It’s a great line, and Sophie Turner sells it beautifully, and it instantly makes Sansa a more interesting character. Joffrey, like Ned, underestimates the fury of a woman. Ned didn’t think Cersei would be as devious as she is, and Joffrey doesn’t think Sansa will do anything about the grudge she holds. Yeah, maybe he should rethink that. The episode, though, belongs to Emilia Clarke, as Daenerys turns into the Mother of Dragons. She stupidly trusted the priestess, and it turns out that her unborn child was the price for “saving” Drogo (why didn’t Daenerys think of that?). The child was stillborn (and monstrous, if we believe the priestess), and Drogo is alive but brain-dead, and Daenerys has nothing. At least the horde left her alive when they abandoned her with the ex-slaves and other dregs of the Dothraki. She builds a pyre for Drogo after smothering him (in a terrific scene by Clarke, weeping as she says goodbye to the Khal – poor Jason Momoa, having to just lie there!), places the dragon eggs by his head, lashes the priestess to it, and sets it on fire. While the priestess, who claims she wouldn’t scream, does just that, Daenerys walks into the pyre. Jorah thinks she’s committing suicide, but she knows she won’t burn. In the morning, she’s sitting in the ashes with three baby dragons (so cute!). Yeah, shit just got real. It’s a terrific way to end a very good first season, and sets the table nicely for season two. (Although why Robb didn’t just send pieces of Jaime to King’s Landing until he got confirmation that his sisters were safe is beyond me – start with his sword hand, maybe his penis, a foot – come on, Robb, your father was noble and got killed, so all bets are off, man!)
Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ½ ☆ ☆
Let’s break it down a bit!
Ranking of Season 1 Episodes:
1. “Baelor” – Ned’s death is clearly the high point of the season.
2. “Fire and Blood” – Daenerys becomes the Mother of Dragons, among other cool stuff.
3. “The Wolf and the Lion” – Ned falls from favor, briefly, but mostly just excellent actors doing their things.
4. “A Golden Crown” – Viserys’s death shows that the show isn’t pulling any punches.
5. “Lord Snow” – First appearance of Littlefinger, Varys, and Syrio Forel!
6. “You Win or You Die” – Lena Headey and Sean Bean kill it in their conversation.
7. “The Kingsroad” – Tyrion slaps the shit out of Joffrey.
8. “The Pointy End” – Syrio Forel dies!!!!! NOOOOOOO!!!!!
9. “Cripples, Bastards, and Broken Things” – Catelyn Stark takes Tyrion prisoner and basically ruins her entire family and the entire realm in the process.
10. “Winter Is Coming” – A solid pilot, but has to do so much heavy lifting that it drags a bit, until the shocking ending.
Average Rating: 7.1/10 stars
Median Rating: 7.25/10 stars
So that’s Season One. Tomorrow I’ll get into Season Two!