Sunday, July 14, 2013

GoT Review: 1x04

Season 1, Episode 04: “Cripples, Bastards, and Broken Things” 

I: The two themes I want to focus on this week are completely at odds with each other: unhappy bastards and kick-ass women. The “cripples, bastards, and broken things” are all defined by their limitations. We’ve got Bran Muffin’s heart-wrenching dream at the begin of the episode. (I totally fell for that fake-out.) It was nice to see Tyrion’s empathy towards Bran’s plight. He has his faults, but I’d argue that he’s one of the kindest characters on the show. Of course, Tyrion also suffers from major daddy issues. I think I counted three complaints about his dad in a minute. Not to belittle his disability (no pun intended, seriously), but he is a male Lannister. As he pointed out last episode, he is lucky enough to be a rich cripple. I think Tyrion could accomplish a few things if he cut down a bit on his carousing and used his wit to his advantage. 

We meet another not-really-bastard this week: Human Samwise Gamgee! Harsh treatment by his father, but I’m wondering if there’s more to that story. He might not have been the bravest of sons, but could he really have been that much of a failure? I’d read up on him, but I’m afraid of running into spoilers. Regardless, it’s nice to see Jon find a friend. Even though Ned treated Jon pretty decently, he certainly wasn’t viewed as a real Stark. I wouldn’t blame Jon for feeling screwed over, and it’s obvious that he empathizes with Sam on that account. Still, I’m worried about Samwise. It is a harsh world beyond the wall, especially with those snow-zombies. 

Finally, let’s talk about the actual bastards. We met the king’s bastard son working in a forge. Even though Jon Snow was raised with the Starks, it’s easy to draw parallels between him and blacksmith boy. As the sons of rulers, they should have their pick of powerful positions. Instead, they’re semi-banished into learning trades. Harsh, right? Until you compare them to every woman on this show. For starters, there was that heartbreaking scene with Arya. Doris, I definitely agree with your praise of Maisie Williams. It’s one thing to find an adorable and spunky child actress. It’s another to find one who can sell a scene like that one. The only grown women we’ve seen this show are married to powerful men or servicing powerful men. Arya may want to become a warrior, but that seems pretty unlikely. However, as Catelyn Stark showed this week, there are many types of war. Even though we know Tyrion didn’t push Bran out of a window, it was great to see her take charge and use her intricate knowledge of the kingdom to cash in on her loyalties. I kind of wish she was right, if only so I could see her be a complete badass. 

Speaking of badassery, let’s not forget Daenerys. We finally saw her stand up to Superblonde without an army behind her. She’s starting to realize that she’s the one with the power, not Superblonde. They’re both the children of a dead, mad king, but only she is a Khaleesi. I don’t know how much these women will be able to use their newfound assertiveness, but it was nice to see them being generally awesome for an episode. 

D: I too was impressed and proud of Dany, Catelyn, and Arya, all of whom tackled their problems- Superblonde, the attempted murder mystery, and gender inequality, respectively- with unflinching resolve. ( I guess we shouldn’t leave Cersei out since she’s a pretty formidable lady, too, even though she uses her powers for evil.) To add a third theme to our review, I think that the importance of history to these characters cannot be understated: everyone is obsessed with the past. Half of the time, they’re reminiscing or taunting each other about past conflicts or the since-deceased victims of said conflicts. Ned Stark plays Nate the Great in a key plot throughout this episode as he attempts to uncover the circumstances of the prior Hand’s death, while Catelyn draws from historical allegiances to call upon the House of Tully’s political allies. Less subtly, we also heard plenty of in-your-face stories ranging from cannibalism during the long winter to the Targaryen dragons to burning your six year-old brother’s face because he was playing with your toy- for once, NOT Joffrey! 

While I admit exposition is more tolerable in a British accent (thank you, Aidan Gillen, for a very charming Littlefinger), the writers of GoT have thus far failed to understand the technique of “show, don’t tell.” I think this one of the reasons why I’m not (yet) enjoying this show as much as other people seem to be. For me, what makes a television show great is an interesting ensemble of characters who have consistent personalities (ahem, Glee) but demonstrate personal growth (ahem, Big Bang Theory); most importantly, these characters need to act and react to one another so that their respective storylines are interwoven into a unified whole (again, Glee). Unfortunately, this is not something we’ve seen on GoT thus far: The Night’s Watch and the Dothraki both keep to themselves, far away from the Starks and the Lannisters, such that the three narratives feel very disconnected. Were it not for those convoluted histories of war we keep hearing about, the stories would be completely disparate. Since we’re only four episodes in, I’ll try to be patient and sit tight, but I would like to see more interactions occurring between distant characters and especially across warring Houses.

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