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Episode 6 - A Golden Crown

6 March 2012

Game of Thrones - 106 - A Golden Crown

Synopsis: Tyrion bribes his prison guard to take a message to the Queen announcing that he was ready to confess his crimes. Once back in front of the court of the Eyrie he demanded a trial by sword. Bronn, one of the swordsmen from the inn, steps forward to fight for him and kills one of Lysa Arryn's Knights. At Winterfell we learn that Jaime has fled and Robert reinstates Ned as the Kings Hand. Robert then heads off on a hunting trip leaving Ned in charge. When news comes that the Mountain rampaged through a village Ned orders him executed and his Lord Tywin Lannister to come answer for this crime. Over the Narrow Sea Dany is becoming ever more loved by the Dothraki and it is determined that she will have a boy. An increasingly frustrated Viserys threatens her child and Kahl Drogo kills him.

The Good: Although it has been rushed Dany is now fully immersed in Dothraki culture and Viserys' death feels like a good move for the story. I was glad to see him echo my frustration that Drogo wasn't even attempting to honour the deal they made. Viserys was so thoroughly emasculated that I think it's best he not hang around whining and instead serves as a brutal warning to the enemies of Dany and Drogo. Her immunity to fire is intriguing and certainly helps explain her increasing confidence in her new life. The show's major strength at this stage is the production work on each scene. Seeing her try not to barf up a horse's heart surrounded by a Dothraki religious ceremony definitely transported you into a different world.

Back in King's Landing one of my questions was answered instantly when we learn that Jaime has fled. That at least implies a sense of justice still exists. It was nice to see Robert confirm what we already suspected, that Ned is his best friend and he loves him. Ned too was well characterized where his sense of justice overrides any political savvy he possesses. He responds to the pleas of a tormented villager just as he would back in Winterfell and demands that both the Mountain and Tywin Lannister answer for the crimes they have committed. This expressly ignores Robert's explanation of how dependent he is on Lannister cash to stay on the throne. I am pleased to see this depth to Ned's personality where his greatest strength also becomes a weakness.

It was a good episode for the child actors with Arya once more impressing as she stands up to her sister and father. Equally good though were Sansa playing the ambitious bitch and Joffrey turning on the charm (clearly a Lannister trait). This led to the fun line where Sansa claimed she didn't want a husband who was brave and strong she genuinely wanted Joffrey (and doubtless to be Queen).  I liked those scenes because they established clearly that there is more to both of them than a stereotype and that like everyone on the show they are multifaceted.

Robert slapping Cersei fitted what we have seen of their marriage so far. Renly Baratheon questioning whether the old days were really as good as his brother talks them up to be was a good little speech hinting at the shows strong sense of history.  

The strongest part of the episode was Tyrion Lannister once more. However it was also the weakest part of the episode and so I have saved it for last and it can roll straight into "The Bad." Tyrion remains the only character on the show who gets to use his brain and play out a scene for what it means in the moment. First he had some fun trying to convince the dim witted guard to send a message to Lysa Arryn. Then he brought the house down with his amusing "confession" (see Best Moment). His wit and perhaps the implied promise of gold convinced Bronn to defend his honour and kill one of Lysa's Knights. The show seemed to be making a point of how Knightly order and virtuous combat could be undone by cunning and if so it was a point well made. It was an expertly choreographed fight where Bronn with his lighter armour just waited his opponent out until he had an opportunity to strike and then he was ruthless.  

The Bad: Scene by scene this remains largely a good show. However as a television series it's struggling. The problem with Tyrion's escape from punishment is that it made no judicial sense. There is little evidence to convict Tyrion of attempting to kill Bran and yet he clearly feels so desperate that he is willing to put his life in the hands of a complete stranger. Then there is the problem of armed combat being the way to settle a legal dispute. I know this is a medieval simulation but it made Catelyn Stark look like a moron. Remember that Ned Stark is unfailingly just, surely his wife is made of similar stuff? Yet she is happy for her child's "murderer" to have his fate decided by a sword fight? It felt like bullshit. It didn't seem to match any sense of reality or integrity within the story. We still don't know why she brought him to the Eyrie or how she was going to attempt to prove that he was guilty.

That sense of injustice increased when Ned convicted the Mountain without any evidence. I know it would be unlikely that a village would collude in framing someone for pillaging but surely even a thug like the Mountain deserves a trial? Apparently not and Ned sentences him to death purely on one man's evidence. Again the show is risking feeling like a silly soap opera and betraying the thorough character work that it is attempting.

But there again is another problem. The show is being too thorough. This isn't The Wire and viewers really do need more time to get to know each character then we are being given. Remember how I said Tyrion is the only character who gets to play out a scene for what it means in the moment? That I think is the key to the show's woes. The way to characterize someone simply is to give them a problem and see how they solve it. We have seen Tyrion overcome several problems now and reveal who he is in those actions. The vast majority of characters haven't enjoyed the same privilege. Instead they all talk a lot about what they have done or who their relatives are. We managed to get a fond farewell to one of Winterfell's prostitutes in this episode and yet not nearly enough time devoted to the main characters. The writers are being too ambitious and trying to cram far too much detail into each episode. I remain cynical that the show can grab viewers emotions with this relentless approach to storytelling.

An example of this was Viserys implying that Jorah Mormont is in love with Dany. For me that came out of nowhere. Yes he has given her admiring looks but I don't think I've seen any other evidence of that.

The Unknown: Dany's immunity to fire is intriguing and you wonder quite how Dragon DNA found its way into a line of humans if that is what is implied. What does the dream that Bran keeps having mean?

So was Jon Arryn checking out if any of the King's bastards had blonde hair before he alerted the King to the probability of Joffrey's true father? Perhaps he had caught Cersei and Jaime at it and wanted to double check his facts before saying anything that could get him killed.

Does having a King over Seven Kingdoms offer big benefits to everyone? I'm not being facetious. Robert implies that he couldn't be King without the Lannister money. You would think that the Lannister's might want to keep their money to themselves. Do the Seven Kingdoms prefer to be united to avoid constant war between each realm?

Best Moment:
Tyrion comes to confess his crimes and admits to lying, cheating, gambling and whoring. He confesses that when seven years old he stole one of the servant girls clothes while she was bathing. "She was forced to return to the Castle naked and in tears" he explains solemnly. "When I close my eyes, I can still see her tits bouncing." It wasn't just the joke aspect of this (and the lines that followed) that was so effective. It was the fact that this was a scene of drama playing out in front of us. Instead of being part of the never ending grim soap opera of palace life here was a man stuck in prison who wanted to be free. We were watching his plan to get out unfold. Storytelling needs to be that simple to hook viewers before things become so complicated. We really need to see a lot more of this.

Conclusion: This was disappointing and I remain fearful that the complicated story is overwhelming the wonderful production.

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  • Thanks for the comments. I disagree though. The job of the producers of the TV show is to engage the emotions of the viewer. That means they have to explain how justice operates in this world. They did not explain it. And the result was not as good as it could have been.

    Posted by The TV Critic, 05/06/2011 2:54pm (7 years ago)

  • Just about everything in "the bad" is non-issues that you are simply confused about. Did it occur to you that Westerosi ideals of justice are different from our ideals of justice? That's called keeping with the genre and period.

    Posted by A, 05/06/2011 3:44am (7 years ago)

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