TV Recap: Game of Thrones, ‘First of His Name’

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Plot: Tommen (Dean-Charles Chapman) is officially the new King of Westeros. Immediately following his coronation, Cersei (Lena Headey) and Tywin (Charles Dance) prepare their family for a new future. Sansa (Sophie Turner) reunites with her Aunt Lysa (Katie Dickie), but quickly learns things aren’t as they seem. Jon (Kit Harington) arrives at Craster’s Keep to defeat Karl (Burn Gorman) and, inadvertently, save Bran (Isaac Hempstead-Wright). Arya (Maisie Williams) practices her water dancing techniques. Daenerys (Emilia Clarke) makes a major decision regarding her role across the Narrow Sea.

Near the end of “Oathkeeper,” a lot of book readers expressed their frustration about Bran at Craster’s Keep. It’s something that never happened in print and readers were upset about where it could lead. Honestly, this is one of the major hurdles of translating a work of fantasy fiction from print to screen. David Benioff and D.B. Weiss obviously want to keep the overall story intact but will occasionally have to make some changes to keep their version afloat. These men have successfully made an intricate show such as this work for four years now, clearly showing that they know what they’re doing. We should have confidence by now that whatever changes they have in mind will always fit in with the story George R.R. Martin is still trying to finish.

Photo Credit:   Helen Sloan/HBO
Photo Credit: Helen Sloan/HBO

Truth enough, the Craster’s Keep story ended in a big way and put two main characters back on their respective paths. Jon has successfully eliminated the mutineers after one epic battle between him and Karl. Unsurprisingly, the women choose to burn Craster’s Keep down to the ground. That place was a nightmare factory and it’s fitting that no one can live in that hell anymore. Jon’s assault ended up saving Bran too, giving us an extremely heart wrenching moment where Bran chooses not to see Jon again. Honor and duty runs thick in the Stark bloodline, and this is a second major moment where Bran had to put family aside to continue his destiny. It really was an exciting end to what can only be described as a diversion from the important matters like fighting Wildlings and reaching the Three-Eyed Crow. Also, Bran used Hodor (Kristian Nairn) to kill Locke (Noah Taylor), delivering a shocking end to another detestable human being.

Everything beyond the Wall happened right at the end though. Most of the episode before that continued to revolve around the Lannister family as they rebuild. Tommen may be the new king, but Joffrey’s (Jack Gleeson) death is naturally a heavy burden. Only Cersei is adamant that Tyrion (Peter Dinklage) is the killer too. Despite being a part of the trial, Tywin is too busy running the Kingdom to focus on one thing at a time. Apparently the Lannister gold mines have run out a long time ago meaning that this family has lost their main source of power. Knowing that her family is in dire straits and uncertain of how to fix it, Cersei extends verbal olive branches to two people she should despise: Margaery (Natalie Dormer) and Oberyn (Pedro Pascal). She also adopts two different faces to do this. When talking to Margaery, she’s the Queen Regent, and gives her blessing to Joffrey’s former betrothed to marry the new king. While conversing with Oberyn, she’s a doting mother who only wants to make sure her daughter Myrcella (Aimee Richardson) is okay. Sure this could be Cersei plotting her next move, but you can also see it as her getting her affairs in order after her family was rocked to the core.

Sansa continued to be the unluckiest woman alive last night. Her arrival at the Vale marks the first return of Lysa and Robin Arryn (Lino Facioli) since their disturbing introductions in Season 1. Now, you’d think that since Lysa is Catelyn’s (Michelle Fairley) sister things would be better for the elder Stark daughter, but if anything they’re much worse. At King’s Landing, Sansa was hated but was at least married to a respectful man and only had to worry about her immediate situation. Now that she’s at the Vale, she’s marked as an outlaw and is being forced to marry her cousin Robin! Lysa is clearly jealous of Sansa too because she is extremely reminiscent of how Catelyn used to be, accented by Petyr Baelish (Aidan Gillen) risking everything to save her. Can life for this girl get any worse? Unfortunately it probably will. Things really couldn’t be better for Baelish though as he’s now Lord of the Eyrie, a huge milestone for a man who has been plotting his uprising since day one. Who would’ve thought he was the one to orchestrate Jon Arryn’s poisoning and subsequently put the realm at war? I’d say that Petyr rivals even Tywin in his strategic abilities outside of combat.

When not in King’s Landing, the Vale, or Craster’s, we got some brief visits with a few other characters. The most notable of them all was Dany who has received unfortunate news regarding Astapor and Yunkai. Both cities have completely fallen apart once Dany introduced new leadership and Slavers Bay really couldn’t be in worse condition. This prompts her to put her quest for the iron throne on hold to reign as their new queen with Meereen as her capital. Her scenes were brief but start her on the same path as her ancestor Aegon the Conqueror. Aegon is the one who brought the disparate kingdoms of Westeros together to form Seven Kingdoms ruled by one king on the iron throne. Will Dany be the first person to bring the wild world around her under one rule? Even attempting is bound to grab the attention of everyone else across the world.

Photo Credit:  Macall B. Polay/HBO
Photo Credit: Macall B. Polay/HBO

Unfortunately the drop-ins on Arya/the Hound (Rory McCann) and Brienne (Gwendoline Christie)/Pod (Daniel Portman) were merely teases for the future. Very little has happened between Arya and the Hound since the premiere and I find myself craving some more material. We’re halfway through the season now already. It was cool watching Arya practicing her sword techniques on the Hound but much more needs to be done with this pairing. As for Brienne and Pod, their companionship is still way too fresh to reach a climactic moment already. Their scene together was easily a source of quality comedic material for the episode. Yet they weren’t around nearly as much as I would have liked.

“First of His Name” wasn’t a particularly exciting episode until the very end. Most of it was extended dialogue by ruling parties as they embark into uncertain territory. Dany has to put her journey on hold to make sure she didn’t cripple entire cities and the Lannisters are fitting into this world where Tommen is now king. Bran’s also back on the move, which is something I’m particularly excited about. I absolutely love his supernatural focused story and can’t wait to see what comes of it. That flashback in the beginning to Season 1 was sad to watch too. It’s amazing how far we’ve gone from Ned Stark (Sean Bean) heading down to King’s Landing with justice in mind, only to have his family thrown into a vortex of despair.

Rating: 9/10

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