Episode 4 - Cripples, Bastards, and Broken things
28 March 2012
Game of Thrones - 104 - Cripples, Bastards, and Broken Things
Synopsis: Tensions between Viserys and Daenerys grow as Khal Drogo leads the horde home. Ned is struggling with his role as the King's new administrator and is given a warning by Cersei. The tournament takes place and we see the Hound's brother emerge victorious. Catelyn makes her way home and runs into Tyrion who she has arrested. Up at the wall Jon befriends new boy Sam and protects him from bullies.
The Good: There's still plenty to enjoy here but I found this difficult and disappointing.
Tyrion remains the only character who we can fully understand. And that's not because of his sense of humour, it's because he is the only character who overcomes problems that we can relate to. We know Jon and Ned are good men struggling in new roles but those roles are not clear to us yet. Whereas when Tyrion doesn't feel welcome somewhere he sleeps in a brothel. When Tyrion is told that no rooms are available he offers money to buy someone's room off them. When Tyrion learns that a boy has been crippled, he looks for a solution to make that boys life more dignified. We need more moments like that where we can get a sense of who someone is and how they will tackle problems. Too many of the characters are just talking at the moment and not acting.
As I said Jon and Ned continue to be obviously good men. The threat of winter was built up even further by the threatening stories of the Captain of the Night's Watch. His conflict with Jon was good sensible storytelling. Jon thinks he is protecting people from harsh treatment but he is also preventing them from being toughened up for the challenges ahead.
Daenerys' story becomes clearer too as she realizes that she is the one who will have to convince Khal Drogo to cross the sea and not her brother. Young Arya continues to impress with her desire to break gender roles and do whatever men can do.
The Bad: Despite the essence of the characters being clear, the details were poor in my opinion. TV shows often function best by starting simple and then growing in complexity. This was the fourth episode in a row where we just had to sink or swin in the midst of a wave of information rushing over us and it was too much.
Too many characters exist without proper definition. Ned's search for the truth about Jon Arryn was full of confusing information and his conversation with Cersei felt like a series of empty threats. Jaime and Ned's man catch up on old war stories before Jaime randomly snaps at him. Petyr tells Sansa the story of the Hound and his brother and then warns her not to tell another soul for fear of death. So why tell her then? We get a long scene of Viserys discussing dragons with a prostitute but learn nothing much about him as a character. A Knight is knocked off his horse and begins gurgling blood everywhere. People look shocked but nobody does anything. Is he dead? Is that a surprise? Is no one concerned for him?
None of these scenes was bad on its own; I just listed them to build a picture of how much was going on that had no context. The writers badly need to define some of this action in ways that the average viewer can understand and relate to. If I found this impenetrable then I'm sure many others did too.
Even some of the well defined action had problems. Jon's new plump friend Sam was too well cast. He looked so pathetic and cowardly that I felt it rather hammered the point home about his unsuitability in a way that became annoying. We learn that his own family kicked him out for being unworthy and somehow his lot is so miserable that it crosses a line from sympathetic character into blatant emotional manipulation.
This episode also brought home how poor the presentation of time has been. Daenerys has gone from trembling child to Queen of the Dothraki way too quickly. The Direwolf situation is bad too. Sansa says she will never forgive her father for killing Lady but we literally had one episode to see them bonding. Similarly Jon's Direwolf is in this episode threatening one of the bullies and you realize we have missed a lot of time. Those wolves have all grown up and yet we haven't seen that and they seem to be far more prominent in the lives of the Stark children than the story has shown us.
The Unknown: All the talk of Dragons and Eggs and Dragon children makes you think something is going to happen there.
I hope Petyr's character gets some actual definition. Right now he seems to revel in being smug and untrustworthy but without context those traits mean nothing.
Best Moment: It was seriously Tyrion walking through an Inn offering to pay someone for their room. That's what we need so much more of.
Conclusion: Game of Thrones feels like it's being too loyal to the book right now. I'm sure on the page it's easier to convey all the emotions which the characters are feeling and supply the context at the same time. Right now the show feels like it's trying too hard to not hold the audiences hand. We need to see these characters behave in ways that we can relate to. We need someone to spell the power dynamics out in a way that we can follow. Right now there are too many stories and too many conversations about things that don't have meaning for the average viewer.
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