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Sunday, 7 of March of 2021

Game of Thrones – “Lord Snow”

A king should have scars.”

Ned and Arya

I'm in this show for this relationship, and this relationship only.

So this is better. It’s still not totally engaging, but there are signs of improvement as “Lord Snow” allows the series to take a breath, slow down, and, most importantly, begin to fill in some gaps about the mythology that pervades these characters, mythology about the winter.

Not all of these breaths are worthwhile (Robert swapping first kill stories is the stand out example of this), but, on the whole, the episode held my attention far more than the previous episodes have. A big part of this is that I’ve managed to identify stories and characters I’m interested in beyond the adorably fierce Arya (seriously, how great is this character?), which was needed since one character does not an engaging show make.

But let’s get the things that annoyed me out of the way first so I can end on a positive note. First up: Memory loss. No. Don’t do this. I wouldn’t have been thrilled with Bran remaining in a coma all season, with the tension being whether or not he’d wake up, but I think I hate memory loss more since it’s so bloody convenient for everyone involved. And not only is it convenient, but it absolves Bran (for now) of any narrative importance. The question of when he will remember isn’t inherently interesting, and makes him more of a plot device than a character: he’s a personified deadline for Jamie and Cersei now, nothing more. Even if he had remembered, the narrative thus far had made it so that no one of any importance would be nearby to get the story of what he saw for at least a couple of months in the story world (What, exactly, could Robb had done about it? Sent a raven?). It’s a lazy stalling tactic either way, a narrative retardation that prevents any actual forward momentum by giving the illusion of something happening.

Next up is Cersei and Joffrey. While it could be interesting, they’re just such stock characters of the genre. The writing and the acting aren’t pushing the conniving queen/mother and spoiled prince character into new directions. Instead, everything just plays them straight, with no real twists or variations. It’s dull. (Lena Headey, who can be a more interesting actor than this, likewise seems bored with playing Mother MacBeth.) Cersei is clearly intelligent and a fine schemer, but the lack of a variation on the character type makes the beats predictable. At this point, I wouldn’t be surprised to see her kill Jamie and assume the Iron Throne for herself while Joffrey comes of age.

Finally, Robert’s far too long scene about first kills. While the scene does establish that Robert is clearly not interested in the actual tasks of running the kingdoms, this has been established already, and much quicker. He made this clear when he approached Ned to be the King’s Hand with a single line in the first episode, his refusal to lay down a decree about the direwolf last episode, and the meeting of the council earlier in this episode likewise made it clear that Robert isn’t interested in the actual politics associated with being king. But we get it again here, and for a solid three or four minutes. The only other morsel of new information we get is that he’s not a fan of the House Lannister (thought I imagine he and Tyrion get along smashingly well).

Thankfully, though, the rest of the episode does a decent job of making me fee a little more comfortable with the show. This is in large part because the show decided it was time to explain what the whole winter talk was about. Color me incredibly fascinated by this idea of very long seasons, and that the series is slowly creeping to the end of the summer and into what will be a very long winter.

And the episode does a nice job of introducing us to the concept to this concept with the nursemaid’s horror stories. We take them with a grain of salt, assuming she’s just passing along folklore to scare a somewhat petulant Bran. But upon arriving at the Wall (the place where hope both goes to die but has to survive), we find out that winter is very much a real threat. Part of this feels motivated by the fact that the men at the Wall are so close to the North, but the older men stationed at the Wall, who remember the last winter, are quite adamant about needing men and supplies.

Which is the one confusion point for me: How, exactly, do men and supplies stop a season? I’m assuming it’s more about stopping the encroaching rumors (though we know them to be real) of the White Walkers than anything else, but I’m not entirely sure what the Wall is meant to do beyond that (unless winter creeps along the ground like a shadow until it covers the world).

Other things worked as well, particularly Ned’s frustrations with his new role at King’s Landing. Trusting ministers comfortable in their own positions, with carved out niches of influence is never an easy thing, and clearly that have their own interests at their hearts, particularly Petyr and his flippant attitude at being massively in debt or Varys’s web of informants and spies.

And unsurprisingly, I loved all the Arya stuff, from her sword (Needle is a fucking awesome name for that sword) to Ned’s very touching heart-to-heart with her. Clearly he understands his youngest daughter far more than Sansa (who clearly wants out of Winterfell): he gets Sansa a doll and Arya a sword master.

All in all, the first decent episode I’ve experienced. It feels odd that we’ve already done three hours, because it feels like much longer than that, like I’ve sat through double that to get to this episode. Perhaps that’s how much I intensely disliked the first two episodes. Here’s hoping episode four progresses rather than regresses.

FINAL THOUGHTS

  • Don’t have much to say about the stuff at the Wall beyond enjoying it. I wonder if I’ll find it as enjoyable now that Tyrion has left, but I’ll be curious to see if Jon (and the actor playing him) can carry his own plot.
  • “About time we had some stern, Northern leadership.”
  • Appreciate Ned’s comment about the butcher’s son, and while I appreciate the gesture, it still denies the commoners much perspective. Don’t they, too, play the game of thrones?
  • “We are lords of small matters here.”
  • “Everyone who isn’t us is an enemy.”
  • So, in my notes I had “Tommy Carcetti! And he’s a pimp!” Now, when I wrote “pimp”, I meant in reference to all the women he had around him. But then he says he owns multiple brothels, making him an actual pimp. This made me oddly happy. (For those who aren’t familiar with The Wire, Aiden Gillen, who plays Petyr here, played an ambitious councilman named Tommy Carcetti in that series. Forgive me if I refer to him as Master of Coin Carcetti for the rest of the series.)
  • “Ah, the Starks. Quick tempers, slow minds.”
  • Very glad that Fred Armisen landed himself a cameo as Arya’s fencing teacher.
  • How nicely done was the transition from knocking wooden swords to the clang of steel swords to an all out battle? Dug it.
  • Oh, did I not mention Daeneyrs? Well, you see, I thought that the interplay between zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz.

 


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