Sunday, August 4, 2013

GoT Review: 1x07

Season 1, Episode 07: “You Win or You Die”

I: Well, there’s an accurate title. The Lannisters have just won a throne, and everyone else is dead or in very severe danger. We bid farewell to the king this week, who died as drunkenly he lived. As Ned put it, “No man could have protected him from himself.” For a man on the brink of death, Baratheon seemed more relieved than sad. Maybe he didn’t understand how fragmented the kingdom is, which would explain why he voluntarily puts Ned in such a perilous position. There’s also the factor that makes Ned different from everyone else: he’s the only person who prioritizes the kingdom’s well-being over gaining power. Unfortunately, things aren’t going well for Ned. Littlefinger is still hung up on his youthful love of Catelyn and betrays Ned in an action that is simultaneously shocking and completely predictable. I was hoping Littlefinger would be more of a Severus Snape type, but honor is in short supply in Westeros.

As if the Lannister-Stark conflict wasn’t enough, we’ve got the Dothraki planning to cross the sea and wage war. Daenerys is clearly figuring out how to manipulate the smitten Khal Drogo. It’s amazing to think how far she’s come since they were first married. I’m wondering if everything’s okay with her pregnancy since she hasn’t started showing yet. It’s hard to tell how fast time is passing on this show, but she must be four or five months along. After all, it has to take a while to set up a wine-based assassination attempt from a faraway land. Now-king Joffrey seems to have a lot of bloodlust, so it’s safe to say that the threats on Daenerys’s life won’t stop soon.

In other exciting news: We finally meet the Lannister patriarch! That opening scene with him and Jaime was pretty intense, so now we have a better sense of why the Lannister kids are so power-hungry. Also, major props to whoever did the sets and sound for the deer-butchering. Yes, the show has great performances and writing, but I think a lot of its greatness can be attributed to the detailed, “realistic” sets and costumes that bring this show to a different world.

D: Stupid, stubborn, honorable Ned. He couldn’t have just taken Littlefinger or Renly up on their offers, could he? No, he’s got to go “do the right thing” and support a king that nobody wants. Ned’s nobility is his best characteristic but also his fatal flaw: he’s so hellbent on playing the “game of thrones” by the rules that he hasn’t realized that no one else is playing fair. As Littlefinger points out in that absurdly excessive “I’ll Make a Prostitute Out of You” scene, you can’t beat those in power through honorable means. Ned’s in big trouble, but at least we’ll get to see more of Lena Headey, who is somehow able to portray the indomitable Cersei as the tiniest bit sympathizable. Kudos.

Although I do find the Dothraki scenes engaging, I have to say that Dothraki-land is kind of... well, ridiculous. I always get a Xena: Warrior Princess vibe from the sets and costumes, and the people themselves are more caricatures than characters. And let’s face it: Khal Drogo wears more eyeliner than Jack Sparrow. 
Guyliner: who wore it best?
My impression is that the Dothraki are modeled after the nomadic Mongol tribes of Central Asia (skilled warriors who lived in their saddles and followed their ruler, the khan- sound familiar?), but the show depicts them as little more than savage beasts. Through the eyes of the “normal”/white Targaryen siblings, we initially saw the Dothraki as “barbarians,” what with their violent sexual practices, scantily clad bodies, and grisly, gladiator-like duels.. Some episodes later, the Dothraki are slightly more humanized, but we still know little about specific individuals other than their general ferocity and loyalty to their khal and khaleesi. Even in this episode, Drogo’s reaction to the attempt on Dany’s life was no more nuanced than an impassioned stomp around the room while vowing revenge on the Seven Kingdoms, to the shrieks of a blindly adoring crowd. I seriously thought he was going to start beating his chest with his fists and howl “George of the Jungle”-style. Maybe I’m overanalyzing everything but this portrayal does seem limited and even a little problematic to me.

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