Game of Thrones Novice Recap: Fire and Blood

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Welcome to our Game of Thrones recap from a viewer who hasn’t read the books. Enjoy the love and snark.

Once upon a time, the first season of Game of Thrones began with a bang and scared us all sillier. Ten years later (yes), we approach the season finale older, a little wiser, and ready for Breaking Bad.

Here are some things that happened this week:

We open on a sword dripping with Ned Stark’s karo syrup blood. Sansa faints. Ned’s friend keeps calling Arya a boy, and is very rough around the edges when she protests. All I can think is makeover makeover.

Bran is reliving the raven omen and describing it ex somnia to Makeover-ed Wild Lady Tonks. Nice haircut! Bran makes her take him into the catacombs, of which she is properly apprehensive. Bran’s been hanging around the Starks too long. Bran gives her a tour of the dead, as there seems to be no audio guide available. The Bonus Jonas leaps out of nowhere, as is his wont, and says literally some gibberish before scampering off.

Returning to the surface, Bran is apprised of a raven-mail that informs Winterfell of Ned’s death. I think it’s time for a MONTAGE! Actually, we just cut over to Catelyn and Robb, who is hacking away ineffectually at a tree. I find all the reaction-y stuff sadder than Ned’s de facto death scene, by the way. The effect on his family is really pronounced and underscores the loss very well. Robb’s reaction is “Kill everyone.” Very Palpatine of you, Robb. Catelyn is like, First we have to rescue your sisters. Then, your plan sounds splendid.

In Child Psychopath’s Landing, a bard is barding it up for the court. This is nice, I think. Soon the song turns bawdy and I furrow my brow, wondering why it is exactly that Joffrey has commissioned this performance. Turns out, it’s because the song disgraces Robert and Cersei, and now Joffrey is taking his tongue. You know what they say, don’t ever do anything in King’s Landing when Joffrey is king. (They say this.) Joffrey is like “Good day’s work, break for lunch,” and picks a dusty and miserable Sansa as his next torture victim. He tells her she looks nice, which she most pointedly does not. But I suppose one takes their Joffrey compliments where one can.

He takes her to see her dad’s head on the wall, like, very romantic outing, Joff. She’s predictably not thrilled. Not only does he have her dad’s head, but her Septa’s, too, and a whole bunch of others. Cool head collection, Joffrey. Very normal hobby.

Sansa gets baller as all hell as she suggests Robb will bring her Joffrey’s head one of these days. There’s a nice callback as Joffrey has his servant slap Sansa so as not to be “unkingly” (recall Robert’s remark to Ned that slapping Cersei himself was unkingly).

There is a scene now where Robb’s army declares him STEVE HOLT I mean KING OF THE NORTH. I guess this is what happens when your other options for king are offscreen jingoist (Stannis) and mushy prevaricator (Renly).

JAMIEEEEEE. Catelyn goes to see the resplendent Jamie Lannister at his…prison stake in the ground. He offers her some sexual consolation for Ned, which she stupidly refuses. He engages in some Philosophy 101 meandering about the gods and their failure to protect Ned. Save it for your NYU dorm sesh, Jamie. She says it’s men like Jamie that are responsible for Ned’s death. Jamie says, “There are no men like me. There is only me.” SWOON.

One more thing about this scene, which is that Catelyn asks, all properly and formally, how Bran fell out of the tower. Jamie is like, I pushed him. Catelyn’s face is not used to plain honesty and goes “buh,” and she is so shocked that she can only manage a weak “Why?” which Jamie of course does not offer the answer for.

Cersei is sleeping with some blond kid who the internet tells me is her cousin. I think Cersei needs to get on OKCupid Westeros and figure out that there are other men than her relations. “I wonder what Joffrey’s up to later.” — Cersei.

War Strategizing with Tyrion and Tywin is a new sitcom on the WB. (It is not.) Tyrion points out killing Ned has made peace impossible. Various elderly gentlemen around the table debate truces, no truces, fighting, eggplant recipes, and Tywin kicks them all out. He wants Tyrion to be hand of the king. I see a lot more slapping in our future! Tyrion is the happiest he has ever been to be recognized by Dadsers. Then Tywin tells him he can’t bring his whore to court and everything is just. ruined.

It gets extremely Twilight in here as Jorah watches Dany sleep off her miscarriage SPOILER ALERT. I’m pretty sure everyone except Dany knew this was coming. Mirri (the witch) comes in and gives us a very graphic explanation of how Dany’s kid came out like a lizard with worms inside him. Hahahahaha. Thanks, Mirri. She explains that the price for Drogo was a life. Dany is all indignant (at least, I think she is, facial expressions notwithstanding) and demands to see Drogo, the life she saved. He’s a vegetable. Mirri’s all, He’s alive at least. She is the most literal genie ever.

And now comes the best scene I have ever seen on Game of Thrones thus far. Mirri goes off by herself, and Dany comes to confront her. She asks how Mirri could do these things after Dany spoke for her, saved her. Mirri becomes extremely still as she quite rightly asks how she was saved, per se: the Dothraki burned her village and heritage, burned her way of life as a holy godswife, and raped her and her friends and neighbors. Which was a direct result of Dany’s sudden bloodlust. Dany says that Mirri at least has her life. Mirri does not point out, though it is clear, that she has also left Dany hers.

I think this is such an important scene in the grand scheme of what we’ve been watching, and I’m so glad they gave it due. Here are the consequences of Dany’s headstrong and impulsive journey: the eradication of other peoples, which she seemed to not have much problem with, and those peoples’ vengeance in return, which she was shockingly unprepared for. Mirri is a wronged victim, and a spokesperson for everyone who was wronged in the Dothrakian March to the Sea. You can be sad for Dany and Drogo and the unborn child, but you can’t exactly argue that this assassination was unjustified. For more on this subject, see the fantastic EleusisWalks’s essay here.

Nutshell of my feelings: Dany is not an uncomplicated heroine and Mirri is not an unmitigated evil force. Next.

Oh, good, a Jon Snow scene. He is leaving to find Robb and fight the good fight. I’m a fan of this, actually, not the least of which is that the Wall has the most boring thread of this entire season. If we’re not going to see any more White Walkers, move on. But of course Samwise and co. surround Jon in the forest and chant, coven-style, his oath at him until he comes back just to make them stop being creeps. Some inspirational music tells us this is the Right Decision. Which, I don’t agree with? Because your family is in a fight for its life and there’s a war on? No matter what Old Dude Commander says about war with the Walkers being more real or more important (haha, thanks for war relativity, Commander).

Dany suffocates Drogo. I have literally no feelings about this, sorry fandom.

There is an entire season’s worth of Some Old Dude babbling on about kings to Ros, who is naked as usual. She maybe rolls her eyes a hundred times and leaves, after which the Old Dude stands up, spry as anything, and reveals he is also a WOMAN. I know all there is to know about the crying game, &c. (He is not a woman, don’t email me.) This is an interesting little (long, so long) scene because as someone pointed out, this is how Old Dude stays around from regime to regime — he just pretends he’s crazy and everyone leaves him alone. Andy Warhol dyed his hair gray from a young age because he said that people expected much less of him when they thought he was old — a way of flying under the radar.

There is another Carcetti and Varys Bantering scene, which is not at all important to the finale episode but is extremely fun to watch. Inasmuch as it mostly revolves around Carcetti’s obsession with Varys’s castration, it is an extremely literal depiction of male castration anxiety, as well.

Arya is now a little boy ruffian. Ned’s friend is kind of terrible? I mean blunt is one thing but come on. Arya makes some new friends as Ari, and they are not very nice. They don’t want to play Red Rover at all! So she threatens to kill them and teams up with Robert’s bastard son, which is a promising development.

AND NOW IN THE FINAL SCENE OF THIS SEASON, Dany has made a funeral pyre for Drogo. She rallies the Dothraki who have remained by burning Mirri on top of the pyre, which? Maybe make a separate pyre for her. I don’t know that she has to be burned with Drogo, show some respect. Keep your punishment pyres and funeral pyres separate election issue 2012.

Dany has decided to walk into the fire, reminiscent of the way women in some cultures are expected to burn themselves alive after their husbands’ deaths. (The ethnography of the Dothraki is a MESS.) Of course, the next morning (same night? whatever), she is untouched, and she’s got three new baby dragons, two of which are placed conveniently in front of her nethers. They are so cute! Don’t forget to feed them three times a day with baby dragon food, give them plenty of villages to burn and oh shit what are we all getting into next season.

Overall, Game of Thrones really came into its own over the course of a season. It had its missteps (it had many missteps), but generally, it made extremely genre source material accessible to a wide audience, which is hard to do. Sometimes it did that via gratuitous background sex, which was a tsk tsk. Sometimes it did that via cute little kids’ school lessons or books checked out from the Restricted Section, which was boring. Will they find a balance?? Only time will tell.

Lena Headey as Cersei and Michelle Fairley as Catelyn are the emotional (or non-emotional, in the former case) centers of this show, and they are doing a wonderful job — and excellent foils to one another, so kudos to the writers there. If Emilia Clarke as Dany is supposed to be a third point of the triangle, the actress is simply too weak to pull that off. Generally, in an ensemble cast, we spend little enough time with each person that bad acting is mostly compensated for. Emilia Clarke is bad enough that it’s distracting. But she is pretty, so that’s something.

The show was incredibly plot-driven most of the season; the character arcs over time held fairly static by contrast. I wouldn’t say anyone changes besides Dany, very much. Possibly Sansa, who is proving a force to be reckoned with. Everyone else sort of stays the same (e.g., terrible). If Ned’s death is a catalyst for real change, then perhaps we’ll see them grow in the next season. Godspeed, and please watch Breaking Bad.

Natasha Simons is a freelance writer living in Brooklyn, if you can imagine such a thing. She blogs here.

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