May 29 2012
I wasn’t sure if Game of Thrones would actually air this week, as many shows take off during Memorial Day. But with only ten episodes a season and two episodes to go, there’s no time to stop and take a breath.
It’s unprecedented for an entire episode to be devoted to a singular plotlines, but it’s obvious the siege of King’s Landing couldn’t be relegated to a twenty minute long fraction of the show. It also marks the first time Game of Thrones has given us an actual battle. It was impressive for television, but after the epic war scenes we’ve seen in Hollywood from Helms Deep to the Hot Gates, it felt a bit lacking at times, all taking place on about a hundred square feet of beach.
All the available cash was very obviously dumped into the fantastic scene where Tyrion’s use of the Wildfire is finally revealed. The subsequent explosion was one of the most visually impressive sequences in the show’s history, and it was fantastic to see Tyrion’s genius in action.
The entire episode was incredibly tense, from the battle on the wall itself, to almost more so in the ladies’ chamber, where a drunken Cersei gradually lost control until she almost went all the way to infanticide. It took me a while to figure out the Nightshade wasn’t for Sansa, but for her, as I assume she would have taken a swig after she gave it to her son.
But alas she was saved from that fate, and the end of the episode seemed very un-George RR Martin to me. During the entire siege of King’s Landing, no one died? Well, no one relevant anyway. As nice as it was to have Tywin and the Knight of Flowers (“that’s for killing my Renly you bitch!”) come riding in to save the day, it’s an unexpected happy ending in a series that doesn’t usually have them. Well, it’s not happy if you wanted all the Lannisters to die I suppose.
I didn’t think Cersei was going to survive the night.
The only one who appears to be in dire straits is Tyrion, having been slashed across the face by a member of the King’s Guard. He’s very obviously not dead, but I have to wonder if he’s going to have that scar now for the rest of the show, Omar Little style. I suppose the more pressing question is who exactly put the guardsman up to it. Surely the orders were to kill the Imp during battle to make it look like an accident, but who issued such a command? It has to be either Cersei or Joffrey, but which one? I’d bet on the former.
This really was the Tyrion episode to end all Tyrion episodes. His bravery in the face of battle was a huge leap forward for his character, and it was great contrast to Joffrey who scampered away at the first sign of trouble like we knew he would. Tyrion’s speech to rouse the men was great, even if there were only about forty of them standing around due to budgeting constraints.
The battle was about as well done as they could manage. I can imagine it’s frustrating to try and show a battle between thousands of men, but only be able to show fifty at a time with no help from CGI. If a TV show every needed a movie-size budget, it’s this one. Normally with all the talking it doesn’t matter, but when we finally switch to battle, it takes you out of the moment a bit. I’m worried how it’s going to look when we start to have to have CGI dragons flying around everywhere.
Battleship gets $200M and Game of Thrones gets stuck with a dozen soldiers on a wall?
Other great moments included the confrontation between Bron and The Hound, though the two became brothers in battle shortly after. The Hound’s sudden cowardice and abandonment of the king was rather unexpected, even if we understand how scared he is of fire. I assume next season we’ll see the assuredly hilarious adventures of the Hound and the Dove as they trek toward Winterfell. Might they meet up with Gendry and Arya along the way?
All in all, this was a fantastic episode, budgeting issues aside. It really gave us our deepest look yet into each of the Lannisters, and who does what when finally confronted with actual battle, not just backstabbing.
I would not be opposed to other episodes in this format, say an entire evening spent up north with Jon and the Wildlings. The show has to bounce around between plotlines so much, each character featured doesn’t always get their due. No, not every week should be like this, but periodically for a particular epic event (like this one) I think it’s a good switch.
What did you think of the way the battle was handled? Of how it was all resolved? How fast is Stannis Baratheon’s head coming off? Speculate in the comments, and please, no book spoilers.
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