This episode marks the mid-point of the season, and certainly ensures that everything is set up for the rest of the story arcs for each and every character. Except Stannis. As always, this recap/review/reflection is filled with spoilers so please don’t read if you haven’t seen the episode yet!
Only last episode I was singing the praises of the opening title sequence and its amazing animation, but this episode I have a problem with it. In previous seasons, we used to see the locations of each episode updated in the opening title sequence, for example, as Daenerys made her way across Slaver’s Bay we saw Yunkai, Astapor, and then Meereen. This was really useful so viewers could understand the geographic context of each character, and exactly how far away from each other they are. But this episode it didn’t change – Sansa and Littlefinger made it to the Eyrie, and it wasn’t in the opening title sequence at all. Plus the Dreadfort was shown and we didn’t even go there. I miss the way the opening title sequence used to update the locations. I hope they actually continue that tradition. (One of the few critiques I have about this episode, rant over.)
This episode was pretty difficult to write about in a logical manner because of the frequency of its changes between characters. So I had to structure it like I was writing a case study at university. I’ve ordered this in terms of location, and then in terms of characters, if there was more than one character/group per location. I haven’t had any regular method of structuring of these posts, so thank you for bearing with my disorganisation as I figure out how to approach discussing the complexity of this show!
The title of this episode, ‘First of His Name’ became relevant almost immediately as we saw Tommen’s coronation. He’s officially king now, and everybody celebrates. I noted that this coronation scene seemed a much happier occasion than anything that was involved with Joffrey. It looks like the nobles of King’s Landing are excited to finally have a king who seems relatively stable. It was also really cute to see Tommen looking out nervously at the cheering crowd, as if he was unsure of himself, and then catching his eye with Margaery who smiled reassuringly. Then Tommen smiled in response and looked a lot more confident as he surveyed the crowd. Tommen is so sweet that this couldn’t not be a heartwarming moment, regardless of any political motivations Margaery and the Tyrells have. Then we had an awkward moment where Cersei notices a magical eye-catching moment between Margaery and Tommen, and goes over to have a chat with Margaery.
Cersei notes that Margaery is wearing mourning colours, and assures Margaery that Joffrey would have been “her nightmare”. To be fair, I think she already knew that, because half of Westeros already knew it. Cersei continues to tell Margaery that Joffrey shocked her – and she isn’t easily shocked. However, she loved Joffrey unconditionally, despite his violent and murderous tendencies. Margaery pretends she hasn’t thought about marrying Tommen and becoming queen again, despite discussing it with badass Lady Olenna Tyrell last episode. Cersei comments that Tommen could be the first king to sit upon the Iron Throne in fifty years who actually deserves it. However, Cersei admits that she needs help from Margaery in order for Tommen to rule well. He is only a boy, after all, and he needs guidance.
Margaery makes an awkward comment that she doesn’t know what to call Cersei: sister, as Cersei will be marrying Margaery’s brother Loras, or mother, after she marries Tommen. Cersei’s face goes ice cold. She clearly doesn’t like this comment as she doesn’t want to marry Loras, and she doesn’t want Margaery on an equal level to her.
There was some amazing direction in this scene. Michelle MacLaren (the director this episode) does some amazing shotmaking during dialogue scenes. However, the question remains – does Cersei really need help from Margaery? Or is it just an act?
Tywin and Cersei
The father and daughter pair discuss Margaery and Tommen’s wedding, and how it should be modest in comparison with Margaery and Joffrey’s wedding. Cersei looks completely disappointed that Tywin remembers that she’s promised to Loras Tyrell, Margaery’s brother. They will be wed fourteen days after Margaery and Tommen. Tywin makes the wise comment that, “You don’t need to make formal alliances with people you trust”, indicating that their alliance with the Tyrells is in order to keep them as close as possible, and under as much of their gaze as possible. They are rivals, but the Tyrells provide financial assistance with the Lannisters’ increasing debt problems. They are haemorrhaging money after the war, as wars are expensive and their mines have run out of gold.
In this scene, both Tywin and Cersei directly mention the Iron Bank of Braavos a couple of times, emphasising yet again to viewers that the Iron Bank will play a key role in the developing story. The Lannisters are in deep debt to the Iron Bank. How will they pay it off? The Iron Bank is an institution without a face, and everyone lives in its shadow. Sounds like all banks, to be honest.
Cersei attempts to discuss Tyrion’s trial with Tywin, and he informs her that as he is an impartial judge, he cannot discuss it with her. However, Cersei ends their conversation with a compelling discourse on the importance of the Lannister legacy, and how Tyrion has essentially set that legacy on fire – what does he deserve for that? Even though Cersei hasn’t told Tywin to do anything, she has certainly planted seeds in his mind as to what Tyrion deserves; not for potentially committing the murder of her son, but for committing murder against the Lannister name.
Cersei and Oberyn Martell
This episode we got to see some more of Oberyn Martell, which was sorely needed considering his role in this season’s story arc. Cersei visits him as he is writing a poem for one of his eight daughters – named after his sister Elia, who was murdered. He is sad whenever he thinks of his daughter as her name reminds him of his deceased sister. The show is emphasising that we should remember this name, and the circumstances of Elia’s death, for future reference.
Cersei and Oberyn discuss the ironic fact that even though they have a lot of political power, their position does not protect their loved ones from being violently murdered. Cersei wonders what good is power if you aren’t able to protect your loved ones, and Oberyn mentions that power is good when it comes time for vengeance – a convenient segue for Cersei to discuss Tyrion, as Oberyn is a judge on his trial. Oberyn is a father, so he understands Cersei’s instinct to protect and avenge her dead son.
Cersei asks for news of her daughter Myrcella, who has been living in Dorne since season two. Oberyn informs her that Myrcella is safe and happy in Dorne as they don’t hurt little girls there. However, Cersei knows better, and replies, “Everywhere in the world they hurt little girls”. Cersei shows Oberyn a gift she wants him to deliver to her daughter Myrcella: she gives her a beautiful boat, as she knows Myrcella loves the open water. She asks Oberyn to pass on a message: “Her mother misses her very much”. I don’t know if I’m the only one, but I nearly saw a tear spring from Cersei’s eye.
I’m probably one of the few people who actually loves Cersei’s character – in the books, at least. She is so complex and her motives are fascinating. To see her this episode essentially begging for help from Margaery, Tywin, and Oberyn was completely against her character in the books, where things are done her way or the highway. However, I started thinking – is Cersei really playing the victim here, or is she attempting to manipulate each key player to the best of her ability, to influence the decision of Tyrion’s trial? She’s essentially telling Margaery to ask her father if she can be queen – the father who will be sitting as a judge at the trial. Of course he’ll say yes, and he might want to give Cersei and Tywin the gift of Tyrion’s death as well. She gets Tywin to consider Tyrion’s impact on the Lannister name, which he is effectively guilty of besmirching; the name which Tywin values more highly than anything. Doesn’t Tyrion deserve to die for that? And finally, she plays upon Oberyn’s fatherly instincts in their walk through the garden, getting him to understand the sympathetic mother behind the cold and queenly facade. It is understandable that a mother would want her son’s killer dead. Wouldn’t he want the same thing for his daughters; the same justice he wants for his deceased sister?
So… I ask again, is Cersei desperately playing the victim, or is she actually a secret genius manipulator? Only time will tell!
Meanwhile, Daenerys and her crew in Meereen are discussing the news of Joffrey’s death and whether they should storm King’s Landing as a result. Dreamboat Daario has captured a naval fleet as a present for Daenerys, since she likes ships, and Daenerys’ secret smile indicates that she isn’t unhappy that he was thinking of her. Ser Barristan thinks that it would be a good idea to surprise the Lannisters as their armies are dispersed around the kingdom due to the civil war, but Jorah (Lord Commander Friendzone) thinks Daenerys should wait and build her army. Barristan insists that Targaryen loyalists and the old houses would fight for them, so their army is much larger, but Jorah stresses the need to be careful. Daenerys tells everyone to leave and chooses to discuss matters with just Jorah.
Jorah has news for Daenerys: all of her good work in Yunkai and Astapor has been undone with both cities being taken over by violent rulers who are just as bad as the previous ones, who have reinstated the use of slaves, and are getting ready to oppose Daenerys in Meereen. Daenerys didn’t leave a good enough structure of government behind in either city, so that they could continue productively and independently, in alignment with her ethics of how a city should be run. She’s now finding that it takes more than passing through and setting up a governing body in order to truly liberate a city. Why should she inherit the Seven Kingdoms of Westeros if she can’t even handle these three cities? Daenerys decides then and there, that in order to make sure that her work in Slaver’s Bay isn’t all for nought, she must put down roots in Meereen. She will do what queens do – she will rule.
Daenerys looks small and childlike in this scene, due to the direction that makes Jorah look bigger and taller than her, and the high-ceilinged council room that makes her look tiny. This direction and visual effect is fitting, since she has been taken down a couple of pegs after the failure of her previous victories in Yunkai and Astapor. She thought she was doing amazing work by freeing all the slaves, but now they’re in an even worse position. Henceforth, Daenerys’ storyline is cemented in Meereen for the foreseeable future, as opposed to her previous story arcs where she’s always making her way somewhere.
Arriving at the Eyrie
Littlefinger and Sansa finally arrived at the Eyrie this episode; the home of House Arryn, and Sansa’s aunt Lysa, who we haven’t seen since the first season. On the way in, Littlefinger bestows some more political teachings upon Sansa: about how difficult it is to attack the Eyrie from the outside, and the failures that armies have had in attempting to capture it. Littlefinger tells Sansa that the Eyrie knows how to use what it has to its advantage, and therefore that one must “know your strengths, use them wisely, and one man can be worth ten thousand”. Littlefinger also tells Sansa to hide her distinctive hair colour, and introduces her as “Alayne” to the guards outside. In public, Sansa will pose as Littlefinger’s niece in order to avoid attention from people who might not be on their side. In this scene, we can see an amazing view of the Eyrie – a tall stronghold castle set high in the sky, virtually impenetrable from outside forces, and one of the most beautiful castles in the series.
Then we see a familiar sight – Robin Arryn (also known as Motherboy), resting his face upon the breast of his mother Lysa. At least he isn’t still breastfeeding. Robin seems to have physically grown older, but in terms of his behaviour, he is just as immature. Lysa gives Sansa a warm welcome, and hugs her tightly. However, even when Lysa is being sweet, there is a sour tone to her demeanour as she tells Sansa she has put the Eyrie in a “precarious position” by being there. Around about the same time, young Robin reminds Sansa that her brother and mother were brutally murdered. Welcome to the Eyrie! Robin also reminds all the viewers that Tyrion was here in a trial by combat in the first season and that Robin wanted to throw him from the Moon Door – a circular opening in the floor that leads to an extremely long drop down to earth. Lysa questions Sansa about her marriage to Tyrion and whether it was ever consummated. As if it couldn’t be any more awkward. Robin leads Sansa away to show her to her chambers, holding her hand and walking her away in a childlike manner. Lysa and Littlefinger are finally left alone, and she leaps upon him and passionately kisses him. There is such a feeling of dread in this scene as Littlefinger pulls away and clearly isn’t very enamoured with her. He seeks to delay their wedding.
Then we have a massive revelation: Lysa Arryn was the one who poisoned her husband, Jon Arryn, whose death was featured in the very first episode of the entire show, and precipitated the events of the entire series. This is a mystery that has been unsolved for the entire show thus far. Lysa explains that she gave her husband the drops of poison and wrote the letter to Catelyn Stark, her sister, that Littlefinger asked her to write. Littlefinger interrupts her halfway, and kisses her to make her stop talking: “The deed is done, faded to nothing. Only speaking of it can make it real”. He then tells her they will marry sooner rather than later, and she surprises him with a ceremony-to-go. She also informs him that she’s going to have super awkwardly loud sex with him afterwards. Smooth move Lysa.
This is another thing about the episode that I have a small issue with. This revelation wasn’t given nearly the amount of gravitas it needs. Lysa’s poisoning of her husband is extremely significant to the Game of Thrones universe, as after Jon Arryn died (after attempting to investigate the legitimacy of Joffrey’s birth), Ned Stark became Hand of the King and it was his execution that has essentially caused all of the current problems in Westeros. For it to almost be a throwaway line is not cool. I would have loved for this scene to have more emphasis on the fact that this one act by Lysa, in the name of her love for Littlefinger, has ruined pretty much everything for pretty much everyone. Not only that – Littlefinger is behind everything all along.
Then we hear them having the aforementioned super awkwardly loud sex and it is awkward. Sansa lies awake at night having to listen to it because it’s too loud for her to go to sleep. Not cool, guys.
Lysa and Sansa
Later, the aunt and her niece sit and eat lemon cakes together, Sansa’s favourite. But Lysa is being too hospitable, and after Sansa is told why Littlefinger had crates of lemons carried up to the Eyrie so that she could enjoy her favourite cakes, Lysa realises that Littlefinger cares quite a bit for her, and she snaps. “Why does he feel responsible for you!?” she asks, squeezing Sansa’s hands, hurting her. She immediately suspects that Sansa and Littlefinger have a sexual relationship, and that Sansa is pregnant – which she isn’t.
Sansa has learned from Littlefinger to tell people what they want to hear, and to use what she has to her advantage. She tells Lysa that Littlefinger says she’s a stupid and naive little girl, repeatedly, tells Lysa that she is a virgin, starts crying, and Lysa lets go of her hands. Then we learn that after Tyrion has been executed, Sansa will be free to marry Lysa’s immature son, which Sansa does not look pleased about. I think this is the moment where Sansa realises that her aunt is actually crazy and that despite the fact that she is family, she can’t be trusted. But, as mentioned, Sansa has studied under Littlefinger’s political tutelage for an entire ship voyage to the Eyrie, and has developed an amount of cunning that assists her to assess and confront the situation. She used the fact that people underestimate her to her advantage in this scene. Fingers crossed that this is one learning experience of many!
A big chunk of the episode was reserved for the conclusion of the shifty Night’s Watch mutineers story at Craster’s Keep, and it sure was an amazing chunk. Firstly, creepy Locke from the Night’s Watch investigates the Keep and sees that Bran, Meera, Jojen and Hodor at tied up in a hut within the boundary. He sneaks away, but Bran senses that someone was at the door. Jojen informs Bran that there is a big weirwood tree in his destiny – Bran must keep going on his quest as that there are more important things left to do in his future. There are some beautiful visuals in this scene and it was great to see Jojen’s greenseer visions represented in a significant way. Jojen tells Bran that he, Meera and Hodor are just with him to guide him, and that when it’s time to end their journey, they’ll know.
Meanwhile, Locke returns to Jon Snow and the Night’s Watch and tells them what Craster’s Keep is like, but also to avoid a certain hut where there are dogs kept. Dodgy! He’s telling them to avoid Bran and company, so that Bran and Jon do not meet. I wonder why? All that creepy music sounding whenever Locke was on screen is eventuating into a very intriguing plot point indeed.
Back at the hut, evil Karl and the mutineers tie up Meera to try and get information out of her, or perhaps to use rape as a plot device in the show yet again (thankfully this did not happen). Jojen negotiates to try and help his sister, and tells Karl he has the sight – he can see things that haven’t happened yet. Jojen tells Karl he saw him die tonight, and he predicts that Karl’s body will burn, and that snow will cover his bones. Just at that moment, the Night’s Watch arrives, in a burst of violent conflict. The direction in this big fight scene is pretty amazing and has a very frantic quality to it, due to the copious amount of handheld camera action. The sound design of fighters’ bodies getting chopped up and stabbed is actually disgusting, which reminds me that the sound designers have been on point this season.
Locke goes back to Bran and company in the hut, and captures Bran to take him away. He calls Hodor an idiot – this is his first mistake, you don’t mess with Hodor. He carries Bran out to the snow, but Bran has warged into Hodor and broken free of his chains. Bran-as-Hodor catches up with Locke and comatose-Bran. He picks Locke up from the ground, and snaps his neck so ferociously that his spine is visible, instantly killing him. It’s a shame that Locke is dead because he was a fairly interesting character, but alas. After Locke is dead, Bran and Hodor return to their bodies. Bran was controlling Hodor when he killed Locke, but Hodor doesn’t understand what he sees – a severely injured dead body, and blood on his hands. His face is heartbreaking as he is disturbed by what he sees.
Finally, Bran and company are free and together again after being captured. At this point, Bran has to make a choice – to go with Jon, or to continue on his own quest? Ultimately, with the aid of Jojen’s persuasion, Bran decides to continue on his journey to the three-eyed crow in the far north. Big, emotional strings sound as Bran leaves, and I’d be lying if I said that the separation of Bran and Jon didn’t upset me a little bit. This was a chance for two of the many Stark siblings to finally meet up again, and they were so close, yet so far from each other.
Unaware of the proximity of his brother, Jon Snow confronts the evil mutineer Karl inside Craster’s Keep. They have a pretty hectic fight scene, which is well choreographed, accompanied by excellent, tense music. I found that this fight yet again emphasised the idea that has been common throughout this season – you don’t always fight battles honourably if you want to win. Karl spits in Jon’s face and kicks him to the ground, but one of Craster’s wives stabs him in the neck, distracting him. This allows Jon to sneak up from behind Karl and stab him full-on through the throat with his giant sword – probably one of the best innuendos I’ve made on this blog, not to mention one of the more disturbing death scenes in the season thus far. The image of this was super gross, and we saw it from a number of angles thanks to Michelle MacLaren’s thorough directing style.
Jon asks Craster’s wife if she is alright, and she looks him in the face. You can tell that she is scared of him, and that she as well as all the other wives believe that all of the Night’s Watchmen are monsters, regardless of whether they are mutineers or not. The giant direwolf Ghost returns to Jon, in a beautiful reunion – probably one of the few beautiful reunions we’ll get to see in the show (cynical reader here). Jon offers to bring the wives back to Castle Black but they decline – from here, they’ll choose their own destiny. The final shot is of the Night’s Watchmen and the wives looking on as Craster’s Keep burns down, and all the dead with it.
So, Jojen’s prediction was right – Karl did burn, and snow will fall on his bones. I wonder what else he might be right about?
- This post was super long. I’m sorry, I can’t help it, this show is amaze. I just kept writing and I couldn’t stop.
- Pod and Brienne – love them. Their relationship with each other is being developed really well, and they are beginning to trust one another. It is a sight for sore eyes and a nice break from all the other doom and gloom.
- Arya and the Hound – he learns that she has wanted to kill him all along. Awkward? We see some amazing water dancing swordfighting moves by Arya and are shown more of her killer persona as she attempts to stab the Hound while she has the opportunity. Alas, he’s wearing armour, and slaps her to the ground. Then they continue on their way to the Eyrie – where Sansa is. Will they get there? Who knows? (Book readers.)
- It was also really good to see Ghost get his revenge on Rast after Rast teased him by pouring all that water on the ground.
This was a very strong episode with lots of great scenes, amazing direction yet again from Michelle MacLaren, and only a couple of nitpicky moments from yours truly. Here’s the trailer for the next episode, titled ‘The Laws of Gods and Men’. Finally we get to see Yara again – Theon’s sister, who vowed to rescue him from the cruelty of the Boltons back in season three. I love her because she is a woman who gets what she wants. We also get to see Stannis and Davos in Braavos! I’m really excited about this, although knowing how the show treats Stannis, this scene will go for fifty six seconds total and then we’ll never see him again. Also dragons, Daenerys working at becoming a queen, Lannister shenanigans, and Tyrion’s trial. This episode is packed with things I’m really looking forward to seeing. Until next week!
Episode rating: 4/5