The kingdoms of Nunziata, Rappe and Miller have convened once more to discuss “Lord Snow.”
Nick: This was the first episode that felt like it wasn’t as concerned with finding its place. It was within its skin and the various plots were all afoot and moving. As a result, we got to see some really nice meaty moments. An amazing discussion between the king and the men he doesn’t trust that allowed Mark Addy to grumble to his heart’s content and showcase some really nice new menace for a man most known for lightening the mood. There’s a nice father/daughter moment where Ned discovers his daughter and her little sword (having not read the books I figure that blade is going to be key). There’s even some great stuff as our albino bride Daenerys Targaryen begins to gain confidence. I really like the work of the Ser Jorah Mormont character here. The show so far has been very keen in allowing all the languages and communication to flow pretty seamlessly, or with some nice little universally understandable moments. The pins definitely are falling into place.
Elisabeth: Yes, this episode was the first time it felt like a real show, and not a series of book bulletpoints. I’ve enjoyed every installment, but this time we finally got a sense of some of these players as human beings, and at the themes that are going to play out. This is a kingdom newly settled, and the players are all deeply scarred individuals. They all have stained honor. They’ve seen things they’ll never forget. They’ve done things that can’t forgive themselves for. This stuff is slowly unfolding, and while it can definitely get a little difficult to decipher (does anyone else get muddy audio on their feeds?), I think this undercurrent is finally starting to hook people.
It’s funny that this episode had the title “Lord Snow” because to me, it was all about Ned. Ned as a father — and an exasperated one at that — and a man who is haunted by his bloody, wartorn past and his premonitions for the future. I loved how this episode kept weaving in and out of that — Robert’s conversation of “Who remembers their first…killing, ha!” which is a commitment you make the first time you pick up a sword, as Arya and Jon have both done. (It echoed Jon’s conversation with Jaime, who has more than made his peace — or has he? — with chopping men down.) It all starts off with a tiny gesture — accepting a royal position, sword lessons — and it explodes into something horrific. That played out beautifully on Ned’s face. No sound effects needed!
The story that continues to fall flattest for me is Daenerys. Did we really need not one, but two scenes of “She — no bleed!” when we’re rushing Catelyn on and off King’s Landing? Nope. I’m puzzled how the writers nail the subtlety of Jaime, Ned and Robert’s gory conversations, but have sought to undercut Daenerys’ character so much that she can’t even own the news of her pregnancy. Hippy handmaid has to tell her, and tell everyone else, and only then is Daenerys finally allowed to luxuriate in it, and take control of it in her nice, sexy moment with Khal Drogo.
Josh: My viewing party audibly laughed when Daenerys’ handmaiden suddenly felt her up to confirm her pregnancy. I’m going to steal that move. “Oh, I’m sorry, madam, I thought you were possibly pregnant. Was just checking.”
While the Daenerys’ sections are certainly weaker than the various Westeros storylines, I just love hating Daenerys’ brother Viserys, who is only trumped in slimey instant unlikability by Lil’ Lord Prickington, aka Prince Joffrey. Speaking of Joffrey, my skin practically pulsated with the verve of pure hatred during the scene in which Queen Cersei not only allows Joffrey to jabber on like the little sociopath that he is – talking about killing all the Starks – but completely encourages it, literally telling Joffrey that someday he’ll be able to do whatever the fuck he wants and no one will be able to do anything about it.
Nick: That actor is never going to find love, because he looks so convincing as a mini-hate.
Josh: Indeed. At least someone like Tom Felton, as Draco Malfoy, is kind of humorously unlikable. This Joffrey kid is just pure blond, pointy-faced disgust.
Elisabeth: Haha, do you want to tell him the bad news or should I?
Nick: Not knowing the stories, the one thing I long for is just a little evidence some of these people are as skilled and special in combat as they’re built up to be. There’s a lot of Shakespearean intrigue and plenty of different bits of medieval soap opera, but I think it’s time for some meat. Also, I think I lost count at four mutterings that “winter is coming”. This episode was great but it’s time to rip it up.
Elisabeth: I really hope the episodes get brave enough to devote themselves to only one or two characters at a time. I know things have to jump around, but spending so much time with Ned and Jon, and their new worlds, was really nice and actually did more for the story than bouncing to the various plot points. They had a lot of ground to cover and a world to build up, but I hope this episode is a sign the writers relaxed. I don’t need fan service, I just want to see the characters to be real, and their peril to be something I care about.
Oh, and more direwolves. I am overlooking the designs that disappoint me (King’s Landing is so puny! The Dothraki are still cheesy!) because I thought that budget was for the wolves.
Josh: Nick, I don’t think I’m spoiling anything – because I believe it has been mentioned within the context of the show – but there is a tournament approaching where we’ll hopefully get to see what some of our characters are made of in a skirmish. Even if it is a staged one. And the show is really stoking our fires of desire to see these men throw down. All the in-no-way-veiled antagonism between Jamie and Ned has been delicious. I loved Ned’s retort to Jamie bragging: “You have chosen your opponents wisely.” That’s straight-up medieval bitchy, right there.
And I agree Rappe about taking moments to breath with our characters. I think that’s the future we’re at though. The first two episodes where hurrying to reach a point from which the show could build; there were a lot of chess pieces to get into their proper places — Ned and them in King’s Landing, Jon Snow at the Wall, Daenerys married and on the plains, and Catelyn trying to uncover the mystery of Bran’s attack. But now we’re finally there. I really do think the show should’ve had a two-hour pilot. Like Battlestar (that wisely began with a mini-series), Thrones had a lot of crap to get out of the way before it could actually settle into what the show would be.
Dinklage’s accent is still killing me. But he’s so motherfucking good it never really matters! Hopefully he’ll perfect it while hanging out with all these Brits.
Nick: There’s something about this show that sets it apart from the other sprawling period dramas. I don’t know if it’s the fact it feels like a real fantasy property being given life or if there’s something fresh about HBO delivering on what could have been with other shows they gave up on too soon. Regardless, this is riveting and seemingly the beginning of something huge.
Josh: I know some readers get bored by comparisons between the book and the series, but I can’t help it — I’m really enjoying how the show is diverging from the source material. This is namely present in the character of Jamie Lannister, who is much talked about in the novel (to the point that he feels just as relevant as he is on the show) but is almost never “seen” until Martin’s third book. I figured he’d have an upped presence on HBO adaptation, as it would drive the audience insane to constantly hear about this guy for two whole seasons and only see him a couple times, but I didn’t necessarily think he was going to have the kind of major presence that he has. And it’s great. He’s a wonderful source of mild tension, and an interestingly complex character. He killed the previous mad king that Robert and Ned had rebelled against, but this seemingly worthy act has been forever colored by the fact that Jamie had taken an oath to protect the man. And to men of honor like Ned and Robert, that is a worse crime than serving a mad men. I love King Robert’s palpable disdain for the Lannisters. That aforementioned scene in which King Robert is reliving battle cherry-popping stories was a delight.
Elisabeth: Yeah, I’ve been surprised and relieved about their willingness — or confidence? — to weave in character elements that appear later in the series. Without getting into specifics (I know our readers found that spoilery), there were some major nudges and broadcasts to things that occur much, much later. With Jaime, it’s painfully necessary, and I’m glad if they “catch up” viewers in a way we readers didn’t enjoy for pages upon pages. (I guess there’s some pleasure in reaching book three, and discovering Jaime’s side of the story, but I’d rather see it as soon as possible because it adds such a beautiful layer of conflict in.) There was another moment, one I won’t go into, that I was like “Well, guys, you really didn’t need to throw a nod to that this early in the game. Come on, is anyone going to remember that by season three? Are you going to GET season three? Remember Rome and Deadwood !” When I thought oh, this is just because I’ve been tearing through these books, my mom went “Uh OH!” at every single one of the “dun dun dunnnnnnn” scenes, so it wasn’t just me who saw the underlining emphasis under the swelling of the soundtrack.