Game of Thrones Review: “Baelor”

Alright people, can those of you claiming that Game of Thrones moves at a glacial pace and doesn’t go anywhere please shut the hell up now?

This was in fact the most eventful episode to date with major events happening across every corner of the map. Speaking of a map, if someone could point me in the direction of one relating to this series, it would be much appreciated, as I think it would help me process the world better.

So yes, this will be a hotly debated episode I’m sure, one that had a major event happen that’s unprecedented in almost any TV show. Unfortunately, it had already been ruined for me by malicious readers posting spoilers, so please, continue in the trend of last week, and people who have read the books kindly keep any key information to yourselves. Hopefully the vast majority of you got to be surprised, and I’m sad I’ll never get to know how that moment might have felt. Now let’s begin.

The kingdom is on the brink of war as Ned is held hostage in the tower dungeon under the watch of King Smallmouth and his party of ass kissers. His only friend appears to be Varys, the eunuch, whose name I accidentally spelled right on the first try. He tells Ned to play the game, to admit his crimes so that his daughter’s may be safe and he can live the rest of his days in exile. And throw away his honor? Not so! says a forever proud Ned. The best line of the night by far was his:

“You think my life is some precious thing to me? That I would trade my honor for a few more years of…what? Of what?”

Funny how things work out.

Further north, Rob is planning on how best to assault the Lannisters, but comes across an obstacle in the form of what I believe is a bridge that he needs to cross to further advance. It’s run by a pervy old lord who only lets them through if Lady Stark promises that Arya and Rob will marry one of his sons and daughters respectively. Rob agrees with a grimace on his face, and I wonder how soon that new plotline will spring up.

Even further north, Jon Snow is currently getting pats on the back for his zombie killing abilities. His commander even gives him his family sword as a gesture of thanks and a symbol of how he views the boy. But his newfound acclaim fades quickly from his mind as he learns his brother marches to war. But before he runs off to join him, he’s stopped by an old man, one he learns is a relative of the Mad King, and once in line for the throne himself. A Targaryan that slipped through the cracks, and one that knows the pain of losing a family.

Across the sea, the other remaining Targaryan is dealing with problems of her own. Khal Drogo has fallen sick with an infection due to the scratch he received defending his Khaleesi’s honor. I found this pretty suspicious as even though this is something resembling the Middle Ages, if the wound was being specifically cared for, I have a hunch the witch doctor woman might be to blame. But no, Daenyrs turns to her once more, and she says that he’s so far gone that he can only be saved through dangerous blood magic, and finally we get our first real taste of “spells” in this series. This ritual apparently involves slitting a horse’s throat and summoning demons into a tent where no one is supposed to enter, so when Daenyrs waltzes in to have her baby when she goes into labor, I have a feeling some bad things are about to go down. Will we see a cursed Khal Drogo? A cursed baby? A cursed entire family? I don’t know, but I’m guessing that the Dothraki threat probably just got even more dangerous.

Apparently blood magic is…bloody.

Back to the present day battle, we finally learn what the limit is on how far this show can take things. I always marvel at how insane the production value is on Game of Thrones, and the pilot alone was rumored to cost HBO $20 million. But unfortunately, despite all the costumes and landscapes, we can NOT afford to have an epic Lord of the Rings style battle that takes place onscreen. 50,000 men fighting just isn’t something in the budget, so we only get to see the lead up and aftermath to these big battles, and I can’t really blame HBO for that.

So we learned that Rob is a better strategist than we gave him credit for. He was indeed misinforming the scout that he was marching south with 20,000 men to go after Tywin, though I wonder if the scout saying he was captured and released should have raised a few red flags. Rather, Rob sent 2,000 men to their deaths (ouch), and attacked Jaime’s army instead, decimating them and taking Jaime prisoner. A perfect trade for his father, yes?

Welllll, in an era with no cell phones, it might turn out to be unfortunate the Lannisters in King’s Landing didn’t get that news. Ned is brought before Joffrey, and since I knew what was about to happen, the most shocking part of the scene to me was that Ned finally abandoned his honor and lied his ass off in order to attain mercy.

But mercy he did not receive. Because when you give a teenage idiot control over the entire kingdom, he’s prone to make stupid decisions. He shrugs off the “soft-hearted womanly” advice of Sansa and his mother to banish Ned, and instead orders him to be beheaded on the spot. And then it actually happens. No one swoops in to save him at the last minute, he pulls off no miraculous escape. He simply puts his head down and accepts his fate, and so Game of Thrones killed off their main protagonist.

I’ve very rarely seen any show do this (I’m struggling to think of even one example offhand), and I’m sure it would have been a pretty jaw dropping moment had I not known it was coming. It was incredibly sad to see him go, and it’s even worse knowing that in his final moments he abandoned his core principles that were the cause of his predicament in the first place.

But what I’ve come to realize over the past few episodes is that this show is such an ensemble, Ned’s death doesn’t really even matter that much. It does in terms of plot, as I’m sure that a full-on war will be declared and Joffrey and his contingent are not long for this world. But in terms of the show, these past two episodes where Ned has been all but nonexistent have actually been some of the best there have been so far, and between Rob, Jon, Arya, Daenyrs and of course Tyrion (whose plotline was incredibly well written this episode, though I didn’t get a chance to really touch on it), I think the show will be just fine without him, and his death will propel it into an even greater frenzy now that “it’s on” between the Starks and Lannisters, and the White Walker and newly demonic Drogo threat still lurks.

A great episode, but again, I’m sad I’m not as shocked as I know I would have been. Please don’t post spoilers in the comments, and I’ll be able to start enjoying myself again, not knowing what’s ahead.

 


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