S1E2: The folks behind HBO’s Game of Thrones adaptation aren’t dummies. They know that those who haven’t read the novels are going to have a hard time keeping up with all the character connections and family ties within George R.R. Martin’s mythology, and that those audiences need a little bit of extra time to get acquainted with the players they’ve already been introduced to. So rather then start bringing in new characters, director Tim Van Patten and the writers have allowed us time to more fully understand the ones we met in the pilot.
“It gets easier” - Ser Jorah Mormont
The most beautiful photography in “The Kingsroad” captured the nomadic Dothraki and their caravan as they made their way through the countryside with Khal Drogo’s new wife and brother-in-law in tow. Ser Jorah Mormont gave Daenerys some kind words of hope as she reflected on her life, and lord knows she needed it. The young princess has been forced into marriage with a muscled minotaur of a man, who invades her body each night in the most aggressive and impersonal manner. We can’t help but sympathize with her in her second scene, which picks up essentially where she left off at the end of “Winter Is Coming” – buck naked, on her knees doing her wifely duty in ways she’s entirely uncomfortable with.
Just as in most swords-and-sandals stories, though, unlikely wisdom came from the mouth of a slave girl. One of Daenerys’ Dothraki subjugates offered some sex advice, prompting the princess to demand mutual satisfaction from her husband. Though he was first uncomfortable with having his woman on top, Drogo…ahem, came around and all seems to be well in that corner of the world.
“I want you to leave” – Catelynn Stark
Things aren’t looking as good for the Stark family back in Winterfell. Young Bran is fighting for his life following a mysterious fall from a high tower, which has Catelynn stuck by his side while matters of the kingdom are going unattended. Lord Stark’s illegitimate son, Jon Snow, is readying to leave his home for The Wall, where he will serve on The Night Watch with is Uncle Benjen. First, however, he must bid his ailing young brother goodbye but is approached by the arrogant Jamie Lannister first, who chides him for joining The Night Watch. The showrunners are doing a great job at making us dislike the royal douche-bag, and for good reason. He’s cruel and opportunistic and though we might be led to one day have empathy for him if the writers follows Martin’s story closely (on second thought, probably not), he’s shaping up to be a fine figure to root against.
Jon enters Bran’s chamber of rest only to be harshly dismissed by Catelynn, who will always see the boy as another woman’s child. Her wish to be rid of the young warrior played an interesting reversal on her, as his banishment came at the same time that Ned left the kingdom to aid the Robert Baratheon and investigate the former King’s (Arryn) death. She’s left in charge of Winterfell and can see why it’s a man’s job: after her son Robb leaves her to tend to a fire in the courtyard, she’s viciously attacked by an assassin who’s there for Bran. Her hands are sliced and she’s almost gutted, but thanks to a loyal direwolf his throat is literally taken out. Now Catelynn has grown suspicious of the cause of her youngest son’s “accident” (not to mention this most recent attempt on his life) and considers the Lannister’s the most likely culprits of the crime. She decides that her husband must know of these events, but won’t let Robb take the Kingsroad because "there must always be a Stark at Winterfell" (I guess that makes her nothing more than chopped Tully, eh?) She will leave home to warn Ned of this treacherous activity.
"Dear brother, at times I wonder whose side you’re on." – Jamie Lannister
For the moment, things seem awfully peachy for the Lannister’s. Tyrion (Peter Dinklage) wakes up with the dogs, presumably after a night of hard partying, and silences his mouthy young nephew Joffrey with the back of his hand before joining the rest of his family for breakfast. There, Cersei (Lena Headey) expresses her discontent for his vulgar ways and dismisses the children after he says that he’s going to The Wall, not for glory, but “to stand on the Wall and piss off the edge of the world."
Meanwhile, Cersei visits Catelynn and wishes Bran a speedy recovery, though we all know that she’s behind the assault. She gives a whole sob story about how she lost her first son years ago (I don’t believe her for a second, though as a non-reader I could be wrong, but it seems like something the manipulative witch would do) in an attempt to, perhaps, show her hostess that there’s not an ounce of guilt in her conscience, but Catelynn obviously has her own suspicions.
I have my own suspicions of Joffrey, the psychopathic teenaged Lannister who appeared to be courting Sansa Stark when he ran into her mid-way through the episode. They took a stroll through town and ran into young Arya, who was fencing with the butcher’s boy quite innocently. Sansa wanted to show off a bit so she reprimanded Arya for hanging out with the lesser class. Joffrey, abusing his power just like you’d expect a spoiled brat to, had to take it a step further and sliced the boy’s face open; but Arya wasn’t going to let him get away with it. She smacks Joffrey with her wooden fencing stick, causing him to turn his blade (which was three times bigger than him, I might add) on the girl. Luckily those great direwolf’s always show up in the nick of time; it took a nice chunk out of Joffrey’s hand and we finally see him for the coward that he really is. Arya fled the scene while Sansa attempted to care for her would-be boyfriend, who rejected her kindness and instead cried to his mother about the incident.
Eventually we find ourselves with Ned in the woods as he’s searching for his missing daughter, but he’s given word that she’s been found and is being held by the King. Outraged, Ned goes to Robert’s chamber and pleads with his old friend to let his girls be, citing an accident as the cause of Joffrey’s injury. Cersei is relentless, however, and won’t let the deed go unpunished in some form or another. The only agreeable conclusion they can come to is to slaughter one of the direwolf’s, a proposal which angers and upsets all present Stark’s. Ned unwillingly succumbs to the proposal in a tear-jerking closing scene that leads, quite symbolically, to Bran’s awakening.
“The Kingsroad” was a solid episode that built on what we had learned from the pilot. It didn’t necessarily take the story in many new places, but that’s okay; it’s obvious that the momentum will pick up in the weeks to come. As previously stated, the audience needs these early episodes to determine the good guys from the bad, familiarize themselves with the geography of Westeros and figure out who they want to emotionally invest in. There was a great deal of foreshadowing in this entry; even someone who’s not well-versed in the source material could see that there’s significance in the Dragon’s Eggs and a handful of other items we’ve seen and events that transpired last night. The most engaging aspect of watching the show is knowing how much will change in these character’s lives without knowing how or when it will happen. I’m already looking forward to the surprises that next week’s episode, “Lord Snow” will bring.