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Sunday, 7 of March of 2021

Game of Thrones – “The Wolf and the Lion”

But who holds the straws?

Arya and the cat

Why wasn't the episode about this?!

This show is exhausting, and I don’t really mean that in a positive way. There can be positively exhausting shows, shows that leave you wiped out but eager for more. Game of Thrones, increasingly, just leaves me tired after I finish an episode.

It’s a frustrating thing since they only have 10 episodes to compact a lot of story into. And that leads to plots and characters just kind of piling up, going to and fro, never settling down anywhere. Yet I feel increasingly claustrophobic watching the show (it’s a small favor that Viserys and Daenerys as well as Jon at the Wall aren’t in this episode to compound the problem) despite the fact that people keep moving around a lot.

Perhaps, like Robert, I’ve already grown tired of the backstabbing and the scheming. But like the Seven Kingdoms, it seems that backstabbing and scheming are all that’s holding the show together. I understand that’s it’s building to something (A Lannister coup, yes? Is winter still coming? No one’s mentioned it for a while.), but I just wish that they’d get on with it already.

When Game of Thrones was starting to come about, comparisons to The Wire dropped left and right, mainly by defenders of the series (though they had yet to see it). It was a way of shoring up the notions of quality and greatness that The Wire has attached to it, to put Game of Thrones in that same area. It’s a clever idea, really, to push a series to that area so quickly, so it would be taken seriously, that its genre baggage (should you consider the fantasy stuff baggage, which I do not) would not be the focal point.

And like The Wire, Game of Thrones goes to great length to make its world feel populated by a range of different characters, of different houses and means (though mostly the lords and nobles; commoners are treated by the narrative like Robert calls them: “shits”). It engages in world-building, but it’s inelegant world building, padded down by expo-speak and background histories (though this episode is by no means as big an offender as last week’s lecture) shoveled to the audience instead of woven into the narrative.

So, for instance, the scene between Loras and Renly. Here’s a scene that fills in the world a bit more, fills out Renly’s character a bit (the only member of the Small Council not to have much spotlight). We get to see Robert from another perspective, one of a brother. And it’s nice and all, but I struggle to care about Renly’s perspective on this narrative. What has he offered me this far? Nothing. Of course I can’t know what he offers me in future without looking up his character sheet, but right now it just feels so very pointless.

And there’s the difference, really, between The Wire and Game of Thrones when it comes to its world building. Even in the doldrums of season 2, The Wire was painting a portrait of a city, filling in gaps to tell me about Baltimore, and the web of corruption that made the city run. What does Renly tell me about Westeros? That someone else is being prodded to play the game of thrones? Well, get in line, Renly. You may be fourth in the line of succession, but you’re about the twentieth person so far on the show who wants the damn thing. It doesn’t tell me something new about Westeros, not really.

So I draw pleasure from the brief things I do typically draw pleasure from. Arya continues to be a delight (“Or do I need to smack you on the ear to help with your hearing?” (She’d do it, too!)), as does Tyrion. It’s a nice bit of business as they deal with the ambushing hill people as he looks for a way to escape but instead protects Catelyn and bashes a man’s face in with a shield. Indeed, now that he’s imprisoned in a 3-wall cell (clever), I can’t help but wonder how loyal he’ll remain to his brother and sister once he finds that they’re responsible for the hell he’s currently in now.

But I did also enjoy Cersei and Robert near the end. Mark Addy dig deeps and finds an absolutely beautiful moment as he talks about another Stark woman, a gooey center to Robert’s fat and battle-hardened exterior. The entire scene is actually very well played (though I still feel like Headey is very bored, but perhaps this is just how she plays remorsefully resigned stoicism). There’s a nice bit of tension as I can’t help but wonder if she’s poisoning him (poison is a woman’s weapon, after all).

And that brings me back to my opening. It’s been five episodes now. We’re at the half way point, and I hope that Jaime’s attack on Ned (I do appreciate that Jaime’s pride and vanity got the soldier punched out) indicates that we’re hopefully done with the backstabbing and the scheming. It’s time to start letting those schemes unfurl, folks, and to start stabbing people in the front.

FINAL THOUGHTS

  • And speaking of stabbing in the front: I was very sad when Ned’s right hand was stabbed in the eye.
  • Though found it less shocking than when Gregor decided to decapitate his horse. Dude needs to work on his anger issues.
  • Sansa. Poor, dear naive Sansa. The girl is for a very hard fall. She’s going to wish she could’ve stayed at Winterfell.
  • Ros certainly has a way with words, doesn’t she? “A serious boy, with a serious cock.” Must be genetics, along with the archery and navigation.
  • Totally thought that Greyjoy was Robb. These boys and their beards and thin mustaches. It’s hard to keep them all straight.
  • “They say it’s impregnable.” “Give me 10 good men and some climbing spikes and I’ll impregnate the bitch.” “I like you.” Mmm. Casual misogyny.
  • “One king, seven kingdoms! Do you think honor keeps them in line? Do you think it’s honor that’s keeping the peace? It’s fear! Fear and blood.” I will say, that for all his bluster, Robert does still display a warrior’s mind, especially as he outlines why the Dothraki are such a threat. I am convinced.
  • Oh, good. Just what the show needed. A borderline abject mother in Lysa. Excellent.
  • “I’m sorry your marriage to Ned Stark didn’t work out. You seemed so happy together.”
  • With the broadcast nets entering summer hiatus (as it were), these reviews should happen a little more quickly now.

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