Monday, April 29, 2013

Game of Thrones recap: it's hard to be the Kingslayer

Characters (literally and figuratively) expose their secrets in the low-key, but still plenty compelling, "Kissed By Fire."

Nikolaj Coster-Waldau as Jaime Lannister (don't call him Kingslayer).
For a show so heavy on battles, beheadings and dragon fire, Game of Thrones has always featured a substantial amount of talking. There's a lot of backstory to be gotten to on this show, to the point where there have been entire episodes - most notably the first season installment "Cripples, Bastards and Broken Things" - that are almost entirely composed of people giving speeches. It's something, then, to say that Jaime's speech to Brienne in "Kissed By Fire" is one of the finest, most compelling, most revealing and most emotional speeches anyone on the show has ever given.

Jaime has spent the season becoming a more sympathetic character, to the point where it's (almost) possible to forget about that time he pushed Bran out the window because the boy saw him having incestuous sex with Cersei. One of the reasons Jaime is now so much more identifiable is that he personifies the difficulties of staying the honorable course, or even figuring out just what the honorable course is. After all, the man was despised by Westeros' resident honorable man, Ned Stark, for killing the man who executed Ned's father and brothers, because Jaime was, at the time, a sworn member of Aerys Targaryen's King's Guard.

Monday, April 22, 2013

Game of Thrones recap: how do you say "badass" in Valyrian?

Daenerys Targaryen upends the balance of power in one of the most thrilling scenes the show has ever done.

Emilia Clarke as Daenerys Targaryen.
Daenerys Targaryen was one of the most compelling characters in Game of Thrones first season. She started out as a frightened girl, sold in marriage by her odious brother in exchange for an army, and ended the season as a Khaleesi (of a very small, somewhat ragged group, but still a Khaleesi) and a Mother of Dragons. Her journey was compelling, her story had tons of potential, and Emilia Clarke gave one of the best performances on a series full of them.

Then season two happened. Dany spent ten episodes in Qarth, in a holding pattern where she tried to find the money to invade Westeros and yelled about her dragons. The surreal finale sequence in the House of the Undying helped bring some actions back to her story, but it was clear that, when it came to Daenerys Stormborn of the House Targaryen, the show was spinning its wheels.

But no more! The final scene of this week's episode, "And Now His Watch Has Ended," was a masterfully constructed thrill, and Dany finally took her place as the badass powerhouse we all knew she could be. The sack of Astapor solidified the Khaleesi's place as an unquestioned ruler - I don't think Ser Jorah or Barristan Selmy had a single line of dialogue this week - and upended the balance of power in Westeros. If I were a Lannister, a Stark, a Baratheon or a Tyrell, and I heard that the last Targaryen was marching at the head of an 8000-strong army, not to mention in possession of three dragons, I would be very, very afraid.

Monday, April 8, 2013

Game of Thrones recap: the trials of Sansa Stark

Sansa opens up to Margaery and Lady Oleanna about the true nature of Joffrey Baratheon in a funny, tense and heartbreaking scene.

Sophie Turner as Sansa Stark.
Honestly, I'm tired of the Game of Thrones photo recaps. They were fun for a while, but eventually just turned into me making lists of things I liked about each episode, and that's fairly boring for everyone involved. So, starting today with "Dark Wings, Dark Words," I'm going to try a different approach: each week, I'll choose a scene that was particularly interesting, illuminating or memorable, and break it down for you all, both on its own and as it ties into the episode as a whole.

The stand-out scene from last night's episode featured both the whip-smart Margaery Tyrell (Natalie Dormer) and the introduction of the amazing Lady Oleanna (played by the equally wonderful Diana Rigg), yet the moment was really about poor, trapped, terrified Sansa Stark. From the moment Lady Oleanna asks Sansa to tell her the truth about Joffrey, it's clear from the girl's stuttering, timid response that she is about to crumble. The mere fact of Oleanna and Margaery's kindness makes Sansa drop her guard completely, pouring out her heart to these two women and telling them that Joffrey is "a monster."

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Game of Thrones photo recap: "Valar Dohaeris"

Game of Thrones is back, baby! "Valar Dohaeris" was a little scattered - there were a lot of characters to catch up with, after all - but it hit all of our favorite GoT notes: complex power machinations, gratuitous nudity, disturbing violence, direwolves and dragons. So without further ado, here are the best moments and most memorable lines from "Valar Dohaeris."

"I want to fight for the side that fights for the living." Question for Jon: who wants to fight for the dead?

"They said you'd lost your nose, but it's not as gruesome as all that." A cute nod to the books, where Tyrion does, in fact, lose his nose in the Battle of Blackwater. Luckily for those of us who love Peter Dinklage's face, CGI-ing his nose away in every frame was probably not in the budget.

"Grand Maester Pycelle made the same joke. You must be proud to be as funny as a man whose balls brush his knees." Tyrion Lannister: scarred, but still hilarious.

"I don't even know how much I'm paying you now." "Which means you can afford it." Bronn and Tyrion, together again. All is right with the world.

"You are an ill-made, spiteful little creature full of envy, lust and low cunning. Men's laws give you the right to bear my name and display my colors since I cannot prove that you are not mine. To teach me humility, the gods have condemned me to watch you waddle about wearing that proud lion that was my father's sigil and his father's before him. But neither gods nor men will ever compel me to let you turn Casterley Rock into your whorehouse. Go, now. Speak no more of your rights to Casterley Rock." Tywin's cruelty and rage in this scene are something to behold. It's painful to watch, particularly when the camera cuts to Tyrion, but Charles Dance is magnificent as always.

"Watch out for her." "I always do." "Watch out for her with him." My bet for the season is that Sansa ends up married to Littlefinger. Which would probably be marginally more pleasant than being married to Joffrey, but is still gross, particularly when you factor in Littlefinger's obsession with her mother.

"Don't despair, Ser Davos. What I told your son is true. Death by fire is the purest death." Melisandre is one cold-hearted bitch.

"My mother's always had a penchant for drama. Facts become less and less important to her as she grows older." The cut to Cersei when Joffrey says the word "older" is a thing of beauty. Lena Headey's glare could cut stone.

"Tell this ignorant whore of a Westerner to open her eyes and watch." "He begs you attend this carefully, your grace." Again, the interplay between the slave seller and his interpreter is both funny and, once you figure out that the girl is herself a slave, rather frightening.