Reinstated as the Hand, Ned sits for the King while Robert is on a hunt, and issues a decree that could have long-term consequences throughout the Seven Kingdoms. At the Eyrie, Tyrion confesses to his “crimes,” and demands that Lysa give him a trial by combat. Joffrey (Jack Gleeson) apologizes to Sansa; Viserys receives his final payment for Daenerys from Drogo (Jason Momoa).
Truth be told, this is our very favorite episode of the six we’ve seen. More than anything, I’d put this down to Daniel Minahan’s direction. It’s true that he makes a lot of use of very quick cuts for actions scenes, something that has become de rigeur in a lot of cinema, and it does obscure the action a little bit… but there’s something about the way he uses it that actually works to justify the quickness; it heightens the sense of chaos and uncertainty, making the violence seem all the more sudden and brutal. On top of that, some of his choices for quieter scenes are incredibly cinematic—the way he shows Bran riding alone in the wood as the wildlings stalk him, the gorgeous lighting of the scene where Joffrey gives his apologies and promises to Sansa—in a way that few other scenes have done before. Of course, how much this will change between the screener and the final, fully-graded and scored episode, we don’t know. But what we saw we really, really liked.
It’s not all just direction, though. While we leave off the Wall for another episode—allowing the story to concentrate just a bit more on fewer areas—the story keeps a pretty good pace, and there’s some really excellent scenes translated almost word-for-word from the novel. Cersei, for example, briefly becomes “our” Cersei, the one we had hoped and expected to see—the one with fire and venomous spite, the one who could mock Robert and suggest testily that he should wear a dress, and then tell him that she’ll wear the bruise he gives her in reply as a badge of honor. All too brief, perhaps, but still—it’s there, thanks to Martin’s writing, the screenwriters keeping it in place, and Headey’s delivery. It all plays out quite well, and makes us wish we had more of that obvious sharpness and strong emotion in Cersei in other scenes.
And then there’s some of the new entries. Or newish, as Ciaran Bermingham puts together a hilarious gaoler, Mord, whose interactions with Tyrion are terrifically energetic and amusing. “No gold! Fuck off!” is a classic. We suspect some of these terrific exchanges come from the pen of Jane Espenson (the third of the three non-D&D writers), who’s given co-credit with the Benioff & Weiss writing team. Though the scenes abandon the “magic of writing” approach to convincing Mord, the idea of Tyrion trying to explain a concept in terms of its being abstract just tickles our funny bone. Admittedly, someone’s also to blame with taking the various masturbation slangs a little too far—it just seemed to be endless—but we’ll forgive it for Robin Arryn’s precious, “And then what happened?” query to Tyrion’s story about taking a mule and a honeycomb into a brothel…
Besides Mord becoming more prominent, we got our first look at Natalia Tena (perhaps best known by many as Tonks from the Harry Potter films) as Osha. She’s a very different Osha, indeed! Younger and rather prettier than the original character, she plays her part in a slightly off-kilter way, which fits the eeriness of the scene where the wildlings creep up on Bran. In the screener, there’s very little additional sound, and no music at all, so we suspect it will play quite differently in its final form—how differently? No idea, we’ll have to wait until it airs properly in Sweden to see. The whole sequence, as we said, is well done… but you’ll notice the glaring ommission of the direwolves. Unfortunately, that’s a consequence of the previously-cited tight schedule and the fact that the young dogs used likely just weren’t able to be trained thoroughly enough to minimize loss of time.
Thematically, this episode largely shows the inevitable growth of tension in Westeros in the aftermath of the seizing of Tyrion and the attack on Ned Stark. Lord Tywin now begins to loom as a powerful, off-screen presence, one who’ll send his mad dog Gregor Clegane reaving through the riverlands out of pique… or is it more? One of my big questions this episode is actually the timing of Joffrey’s sudden apology to Sansa, weeks after episode 3 when we saw Cersei advising her son to do just that. Why now? Maybe—and this is just a thought—but maybe this is an example of Joffrey being prompted, because Cersei forsees that having a hold on Sansa may be important. It’s rather more foresight than we’re used to… but then again, it would fit the charater as written, and also some of the action on screen that won’t fully come into fruition until the next episode.
We get relatively less of Essos, but what we do get are some very key scenes. The “crowning” that gives the episode its name is very close to the scene in the novel (and, yes, lets not wonder too closely at whether gold would really melt that quickly [or at all] in a cauldron; suspension of disbelief, people!) and is beautifully handled. That flutter of Daenerys’s eyes when Drogo speaks—does she realize his meaning? I suspect so; certainly, in the novel she knows what’s going to happen. And Harry Lloyd… goodness! Beautiful acting in this scene, and even more so in his scene before it. An original scene, not from the novel, and it’s another that we suspect Espenson had a big hand in. Viserys comes across, for just a moment, as sympathetic, as the tragic hero fighting an impossible fight, ill-equipped, under-supported, and yet somehow still striving. It’s beautifully sad and pathetic. That scene is really greatly helped by Iain Glenn’s performance as Mormont, too, it must be said. “And here I stand,” indeed!
[Inside the episode]
This episode covers the following chapters of the novel: Bran V, Tyrion IV, Eddard X, Catelyn VI, Eddard XI, Sansa III, Daenerys V, and a single incident from Daenerys VI. Jon V and Tyrion VI are skipped over, their corresponding scenes moved into the next episode and the one after that, respectively.
Changes of note, chapter-by-chapter:
- Eddard X: What may be one of the most disenheartening decisions among readers, the “tower of joy” dream—a beautifully-written fever dream in which Eddard recalls he and six companions fighting three of Aerys’s Kingsguard at the end o the war—is not present or even hinted at. Eddard merely wakes up, sweaty and indisposed, with no clear sign as to whether he dreamed or not. The content of the scene is, otherwise, largely similar. In the novel Ned is awake and asks for a waiting Robert and Cersei to be sent in. In the show, Robert questions Ned’s purpose at the brothel, which leads Ned to reveal he was visiting his latest bastard. Also of note is the usage of “the Kingdoms” to refer to the whole of the Seven Kingdoms, much as “the States” is used to refer to the United States. It’s not a usage GRRM ever makes use of, and personally we find this usage rather confusing because it keeps seeming like the seven regions really are kingdoms. It puts us in mind of an interview where executive producer Dan Weiss implied that there was uncertainty as to whether they were really separate kingdoms or not.
- Daenerys VI: The single incident borrowed from this chapter is Dany placing the dragon’s egg in a lit brazier. This plays out very differently, however. In the novel, she has Jorah light the brazier and then leaves the egg there for hours, until the ashes are cold, whereas on the show Irri comes to take the heated egg from Daenerys, burning her own hands in the process to reveal that Daenerys is somehow safe against such heat.
- Bran V: There’s a few notable differences here. First and foremost, the complete lack of direwolves, in a scene where they play a fairly important (if gruesome) role in helping to save Bran. Robb is actually on horseback during the fight, as well. Furthermore, Maester Luwin and members of the Winterfell guard come across the carnage after it’s done, but it does not seem they are at all evident. The chapter actually starts in Winterfell, and introduces us to a common girl named Kyra that Theon is rather familiar with. The other notable change is that this scene has expanded Theon and Robb arguing over what to do, making it the reason Theon departs. In the novel, Theon and Robb leave Bran alone to go find the direwolves. Last but not least, the character of Osha is rather different—thanks to the much-younger, rather a lot prettier Natalia Tena—than in the novel.
- Tyrion IV: A brief, funny scene as Tyrion tries to convince Mord to help, establishing their relationship and its patterns.
- Daenerys V: The most notable change here is that Daenerys does not ritually bathe in the pool called the Womb of the World. Instead, Drogo carries her among his people to show his pride and happiness at her success. We also miss his asking her the meaning of the name Rhaego. More notably, however, by having Jorah provide the translation to Viserys, we see another aspect of Viserys’s character come forward as he notes that the Dothraki love Daenerys. The scale of the ritual and the dosh khaleen is quite a bit smaller than in the novel.
- Tyrion IV: A terrific, well-written scene, using the opening and closing of this chapter as a basis. The middle section, flashing back to Tyrion’s introduction to Lysa and Robert Arryn (named Robin for the show), was used in the previous episode. Mord is more brutal and frightening in the book, kicking Tyrion with a steel-toed boot on occasion rather than with his leather truncheon. Most notably, Tyrion does not use the “magic” of writing to convince Mord—in the novel, some illiterate smallfolk see writing almost as magical, and Tyrion’s written promise to pay what gold he had to Mord secured his help because of it. As to the “confession”, it goes on rather longer than in the novel, and into quite a bit more detail—much of it very funny, though we admit the multiple slang terms for masturbation got a bit tired!—but it’s quite funny all in all. The only other really notable change is that knights representing the Lynderly knight who speaks up first, and an older gentleman who more-or-less has Lord Hunter’s role, are present, but the character representing Lyn Corbray is not indicated. It’s also noteworthy that there’s not much hint of the fact that some of the people at court are would-be suitors of Lysa’s. The other detail we may note is the very different conception of the Moon Door, which is now a gate set directly in the floor that can be opened (hydraulically? the sound effect for it, at least in the screener, is stangely steampunk).
- Eddard XI: In the novel, most of the talking is done by various riverlords—Ser Marq Piper, Ser Raymun Darry, Ser Karyl Vance—but they are not present at all, nor are Sansa and Septa Mordane noted in the crowd. Ser Loras Tyrell calls for the honor to seek out Gregor Clegane, but he is not present on the show. Lord Beric pays an appearance as, basically, a featured extra. However, Thoros of Myr and the other lords and knights that Ned names in the novel are not mentioned. Last but not least, after Eddard gives the command and ends the session, we do not have Ser Ilyn Payne leaving angrily (as King’s Justice, the task given Lord Beric should properly have been his).
- Catelyn VI: In the novel, the scene features Catelyn speaking with Ser Brynden Tully (not cast) about the worsening tensions between the Lannisters and Tullys and his determination to travel with her to join Robb and the northern forces gathering to help defend Riverrun, then Catelyn attempting to talk sense to Lysa, before we move to the trial by combat which takes place in a small garden rather than in the high hall of the Eyrie. Ser Vardis Egan is rather taller and quite a bit younger on the show than in the novel, so those aspects of the character don’t really play a role in Bronn’s advantage. The fight ends simiarly to the book, although Bronn uses a statue that he pushes over to pin and trap Egan rather than tiring him out until he cannot defend himself and then throwing him through the open Moon Door. In keeping with the style of the show, the flashback to the duel between young Petyr Baelish and Brandon Stark is not depicted. Finally, there’s a nice exchange between Lysa and Bronn not in the book, Tyrion pays Mord on camera (and indiscriminately, giving him his whole purse of money rather than keeping the silver as in the novel), and there’s no mention of Lysa requiring Tyrion to take the high road.
- Sansa III: We do not see Sansa with Jeyne Poole, discussing Lord Eddard’s refusal to send Ser Loras, nor Jeyne’s infatuation with Lord Dondarrion. The scene in which Eddard talks to his daughters about sending them away, and Sansa unwittingly unravelling the puzzle of what Jon Arryn was killed for, plays out very similarly to the novel.
- Daenerys V: The last half of the chapter plays out very similarly to what’s on screen. Again, the scale is much smaller, with the great feasting hall supposed to have some 5,000 Dothraki. It’s not made explicit on the show that Drogo directed Viserys to sit among the lowest of the low among the free Dothraki, namely among the unblooded boys, old men, the maimed, and the slow of wit. Nor does Drogo ever refer to Viserys’s mocking name among the Dothraki, the Sorefoot King. Finally, Daenerys’s last words are only thought in the novel.
- Bran and the crow: The three-eyed crow flies deeper into the crypts of Winterfell. This is referencing the fact that Bran did have recurring dreams of the three-eyed crow, but this particular dream actually comes quite late in the novel.
- Syrio and Arya: A great, and entirely new, scene. We love the elements of this, with Syrio telling Arya that a time of trouble is when she should train… and most of all we love the line, “There is only one god, and his name is Death. And there is only one thing we say to Death: ‘Not today’.” Not least, it feeds into a certain theory for those who’ve read the first four novels…
Doesn’t the notion of one god, one intimately associated with death, make one think of the Many-faced God? It certainly made us think so! It may not be proof of anything regarding the books, or even anything about the series, but it certainly makes one think…
- Viserys and Jorah with the eggs: A wonderful new addition, beautifully acted by Harry Lloyd. It could almost have been a “deleted scene” from the novel, really—certainly, it takes off from a comment Jorah tells Dany, namely that Viserys had planned to take the eggs from Dany until Jorah threatend to cut off his hand if he touched them. Perhaps one of the most noteworthy details here is that Viserys explicitly suggests that Jorah is in love with Daenerys, a fact that is never discussed or considered by Dany prior to the second novel. Jorah, it should be noted, does not deny it.
- Robert hunting: It’s a very small party, to say the least, and all afoot, whereas in the novel Robert has gone hunting with many more people, including the queen. The scene itself is basically new, retaining one very important detail (
Lancel’s wine) but otherwise highlighting Robert’s crassness and longing for “simpler times” and then giving us Renly reacting strongly against it, in a way that echoes his dissatisfaction in the previous episode, as well as Ser Loras Tyrell’s prompting him to assert himself more.
- Sansa with Mordane and Joffrey: An interesting scene, showing Sansa assimilating to court but not necessarily being happy, followed by a (gorgeously lit and shot) scene with Joffrey. Curiously, this Joffrey scene feels quite a lot like he’s only very belatedly decided to take his mother’s earlier advice about being nice to Sansa. We’re not quite sure of the timing.
- Theon and Ros: Ros departing, implying that she’s leaving because she thinks Winterfell’s denizens are going to suffer because of the upcoming more, gives us another look at both how young, and how much of a womanizer, Theon actually is. This scene is setting up Ros’s later appearance in King’s Landing, nearer the end of the season.
- Eddard with the book of lineages: This simplifies matters from the novel. In the novel, Eddard looks specifically at Baratheon-Lannister pairings, showing that all such offspring came out black-haired, to match the exclusively black hair of the bastards that Ned is aware of.
We join Tom and Daniel of MTV Geek in a brief podcast series, discussing each week’s episode after it airs. You can download it directly, or listen to it below: