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Episode 3 - Lord Snow

28 March 2012

Game of Thrones - 103 - Lord Snow

Synopsis: Ned arrives in King's Landing and is shocked to discover the debts the King has racked up. He allows his daughter Arya to begin training with her sword. At the Wall Jon Snow is showing off his sword skills to the other recruits while Tyrion learns more about what lies to the north. Bram wakes up but can't remember what happened to him, he has probably lost the use of his legs. Catelyn arrives in King's Landing to warn Ned of her suspicions. Her old friend Petyr helps hide her and reveals that the assassin's sword was formerly owned by Tyrion. Across the Narrow Sea Daenerys begins to assert her authority as we learn that she is pregnant.

The Good: I enjoyed this a lot though I have some reservations. You can tell that the book is still having a strong influence on the adaption because it's as if we have just jumped into the narrative at a random point rather than having our hand held the whole time. That is of course a strength and a weakness as a more casual viewer could be quickly turned off by the large ensemble all being characterised at the same time. For now though I like it a lot as it gives the show a real authenticity. Despite the odd moment the characters all come across as real people in a real world with pasts and futures and motives and insecurities. If the writers can harness this depth and begin to tell compelling smaller stories to compliment the larger picture then we may have something very good.

Right now those smaller stories haven't emerged and we are still following a large number of characters around as they establish who they are. Once more Ned was good being a stern but loving father and preparing to be a dutiful hand to the King. His daughter Arya is a good young actress too and plays the moral tom boy well. I liked that the death of the butcher's boy was still hanging in the air and the injustice and suspicion between the Starks and Lannisters was being gently sown.

The scene between Cersei and Joffrey was pretty good if a little on the nose. I liked that when alone with his mother he admitted to his faults and that she was honest in educating him about how his life would be once he became King. Her indulgence of him explains his spoilt behaviour but also reflects back on her desire to hold onto power through him. I like that we saw a siege mentality from her. She positioned her little family unit against the whole world as indeed did Jaime later when he claimed he would kill anyone who stood between him and her. Clearly the Lannisters are not going to give up their grip on power without a fight.

Up at the wall Jon Snow continued to grow in stature as we see that he is the only recruit remotely trained to be an effective member of the Nights Watch. The poor situation of that order fitted nicely into the overall theme that Winter is Coming and that dark days are therefore ahead. Tyrion remains the easiest character to like, effortlessly being kind, worldly and funny. He also seems to be the key to the plot at this point as he is the only Lannister who isn't being entirely selfish.

The strongest part of the whole episode though was the widening in our knowledge of the threat facing everyone. "Winter is Coming" may not sound threatening at first but now we know that Summers and Winters don't last for standard lengths in this world (see Best Moment). Now we can begin to imagine a harsh and unrelenting winter stretching the limits of this medieval technology to the limits and of course preparing the conditions for when the White Walkers might return. Again this all felt authentic and a part of the fabric of life. All the elderly characters spoke sagely of the terrors they could remember while the young were all sceptical, having lived for so long in Summer.

The effects and sets were excellent of course. The look of the Wall and of Castle Black were great to look at and again felt authentic.

The Bad: Again I wouldn't say that anything was particularly bad. There is just an awful lot we don't know yet.

The Unknown: Some scenes were hard to follow like the initial meeting between Ned and Jaime where they discussed the deaths of Ned's family and the mad King. Then later the current King Robert spent a while reminiscing about war and displaying his deeply cynical views on life. He also taunted Jaime and seemed surprised to learn a little more about the death of his predecessor. To some extent I was fascinated by these scenes but on the other hand we need more explanation soon. A TV audience needs to be encouraged with detail, they don't have the instinctive understanding that someone reading a book does that all will become clear later.

Similarly Daenerys position of authority over her brother wasn't well explained. We can easily understand that the members of the Dothraki horde see her as their Queen and understand that power more clearly than the more theoretical importance of Viserys. However that is a little flimsy. It makes you wonder what hold Viserys has over Drogo. What is to stop Drogo from killing this pest now that he has impregnated his sister and they seem to be happy together? That development feels rushed and she has certainly gone from completely demure to having a backbone too swiftly.

If young Bran really has lost the use of his legs then that really is a serious tragedy. If that story was told correctly then it could mark the series out as being capable of dealing with very real issues alongside the fantasy. However I won't expect that just yet. The amnesia is medically plausible but a bit too convenient a plot point.

I didn't know what to make of Petyr. He seemed to be a kind of cheeky chappy but at times his delivery was very dry.

Best Moment: I loved the scene where Bran provoked the old lady watching over him into telling him stories of the White Walkers. It worked on so many levels. The scene didn't feel like it would have such significance and his rudeness to her led you to believe this scene was just about him coping with his injuries. But she was undeterred and so began telling him stories of cold dark winter as he requested. Suddenly men freezing to death sounded threatening but then it built up into a (presumably real) tale of when the White Walkers broke free (centuries ago) in the South slaughtering as they went. It was a quite wonderful and unexpected way to build the threat of the natural and supernatural threats which lie beyond the Wall. As with the Others on Lost, the White Walkers will maintain far more power the longer we don't see them and can only imagine what they are really like.

Conclusion: Game of Thrones cannot be accused of a lack of depth. At this stage it is a strength of the show adding to the sense that you have stepped into another world and are witnessing important events. However the show needs to start holding the audiences hand a little more and pulling us into smaller self contained stories before too long.

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  • Hi Tim, I agree with all your comments on the episode itself. I get the impression from other critics that not all episodes coming up will attempt to cover as much ground as this did but we shall see. I certainly started to feel lost at various points but not enough to stop me enjoying it.

    Thanks for commenting and (without spoiling anyone) if I do misunderstand a plot point in my reviews do let me know :-)

    Posted by The TV Critic, 03/05/2011 12:21am (7 years ago)

  • I feel like this is a tough episode to judge. Here's what I'd say before the "but":

    The Wall looks amazing, the whole Castle Black set is a pretty unique place, and together with the now (at least visually) established King's Landing really adds to the landscape of the show. The Wall storyline is my favourite one so far, as it deals with possibly the biggest, most ambiguous and 'most supernatural' threat - and turns it into a story that's pretty easy to understand. Both plot-wise (A terribly prepared group of outcast and a giant wall of ice stand beside the White Walkers and almost every other storyline) and character-wise (An outcast in search of a purpose finds himself among other outcasts).

    Apart from that: Every scene with Arya was great, especially the final one was very well filmed and acted, I thought. The Robert-scene felt a bit out of place, but that might be due to the fact that it's not a about moving the plot forward or giving exposition, but about a man looking back on his life, wondering how he got to where he's now and how little of that he wanted.

    Now... Here's the "but":

    I wonder if it would have been easier to establish two new locations by having the cuts back and forth between all those storylines happen less frequent. Because while the Wall and the Daenerys story may not need the same amount of time as the actual Game of Thrones, cutting their limited screentime into even smaller pieces kind of reduces them to a sideplot. Dany's changing relationship with Drogo feels a bit rushed, taking some impact out of her realization of being pregnant. It's all cool plot-wise (because basically, her son is the righful heir to the Iron Throne, which is exactly why Robert talked to Ned about killing her), and yes, her adjusting to a situation is nicely paralleling what Jon is doing and what Ned and Arya are trying to do - but it's a bit underdeveloped. As of now. But I'm pretty confident that it's getting better.

    Okay. Looking forward to the next episode!

    Posted by Tim, 02/05/2011 8:53pm (7 years ago)

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