Episode 2 - The Kingsroad
28 March 2012
Game of Thrones - 102 - The Kingsroad
Synopsis: Young Bran didn't die but lies unconscious being watched over by his mother. An assassin tries to kill him but his Direwolf saves him. His mother Catelyn begins to suspect that someone is trying to silence him. Jon Snow heads north to the Wall and Tyrion Lannister goes with him to see it. Across the Narrow Sea Daenerys learns how to make her new situation more pleasurable. Joffrey and Sansa go for a walk and come across young Arya learning to fence with the butchers boy. A scuffle ensues and Arya's Direwolf protects her and bites the young Prince.
The Good: I thought this was very good. I found myself engaged by the characters and it reflected well on the pilot that I knew who everyone was and began to slowly piece the mythology together as the action unfolded.
The strongest part of the show so far is the sense of just how much lies around the corner. On the grandest scale of course we can be fairly sure that Drogo's hordes will find their way across the sea and war could come to the King and Ned Stark (and thus everyone on the mainland). But within the Kingdom there are many interesting cracks developing. We hear that it was handsome and arrogant Jamie Lannister who killed the previous King (father of our Flaxon haired siblings). That King also hurt Ned's family, killing his sister (and possibly others). We learn that Jorah Mormont is only on the other side of the sea because Ned banished him. We find out a bit more about why Jon Snow is a bastard and it's implied that the identity of his mother could be disturbing news. The plot also thickens surrounding young Bran who we assume Jamie and Cersei try to have killed and it's possible that Tyrion knows more about his siblings than he lets on.
All these various mysteries and ongoing stories sit comfortably alongside one another and build a web of instant plot threads to keep new viewers sticking around for answers. Beyond them all of course is the Wall and that wonderful first scene hinting that the most dire threat is not Khal Drogo but the White Walkers. For anyone looking to invest in a story the producers have given all that they can to hook you so far.
The acting was solid once more. Ned Stark stood out again as a man worthy of our respect. I liked the dilemma which ended the episode as Robert and Ned's squabbling children left them in a difficult position. You could see that the two old friends would rather have given their respective children private discipline but as the matter had been brought into the public domain they had to make uncomfortable choices. The death of Sansa's Direwolf (as punishment) was particularly clever because it demonstrated to her the sacrifices she is likely to be asked to make if she is to become Queen one day.
Tyrion stole the show with his wit and self assurance. However he is the only character so far demonstrating a 21st century individualism which combined with his stature as a dwarf makes him an easy-to-like underdog hero. Daenerys also did well for herself showing that she does have the brains to at least make the best of her unpleasant marriage. Jon Snow was fairly monotone but his situation drew sympathy and his affection for his half-siblings was admirable.
The Bad: Though their role in the narrative was ok I felt the Direwolves seemed to have grown very quickly. Not just physically but they were suddenly trusted pets and yet we only met them last episode. They clearly have some kind of quasi-supernatural role in the plot and so it felt a bit rushed to see one being killed and another "exiled" so soon.
Young Prince Joffrey was a little bit too sneering and cowardly (as was Viserys last episode) for my tastes. However I know I'm being a little harsh in this case as a child actor can only be asked to do so much.
The Unknown: I ran down the list of ongoing mysteries above. In terms of plot though I felt they handled Bran's "coma" pretty well. It didn't strike me as a good cliffhanger because I felt child homicide was unlikely to happen on any show with this tone. However the use of the assassin in this episode was a good way to show that the Lannisters were desperate to silence the boy even if they couldn't be seen to be doing anything. The way Catelyn's fingers were cut to the bone by the assassin's knife was pretty graphic and showed a good commitment to the reality of the danger. We shall see now what Bran has to say and how the Starks handle the shocking news.
Best Moment: I really liked the final confrontation between Ned and Robert over their children. I was fearful that Robert would break from his usual bonhomie and suddenly be an unreasonable patriarch. Instead I thought he dealt with the incident justly and Ned himself said that Direwolves were not suitable pets. With his wife to please too I thought Robert did what he had to and it maintained the integrity of the characters of all those involved.
Conclusion: The rushed use of the Direwolves aside I was once more impressed with how the producers managed to keep all the plot elements clear and easy to follow. I remain intrigued and entertained.
If you are having trouble with the names of the characters I recommend this page: http://www.tv.com/untitled/story/25617.html?tag=headlines;title;5&tag=topslot;title
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