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Episode 5 - The Wolf and The Lion

6 March 2012

Game of Thrones - 105 - The Wolf and The Lion

Synopsis: Catelyn takes Tyrion to see her sister in her mountain-top stronghold of The Eyrie. At King's Landing news reaches the Council of Daenerys' pregnancy. King Robert orders her to be killed to keep the Dothraki from invading but Ned will have no part in it. Jaime hears word of Tyrion's capture and kills Ned's guards, warning Ned to bring his brother back. Young Arya overhears Varys conspiring with someone and Varys and Baelish circle one another with talk of conspiracy. Loras Tyrell defeats the Mountain in a joust and later tells his boyfriend, the King's brother Renly, that perhaps he should be King.

The Good: Phew, another mountain of information to take in but fortunately there was plenty to enjoy.

For a start there was a lot of action compared to the last episode. The best of these scenes was the first though (see Best Moment) as Tyrion had to choose between fleeing and fighting and did the right thing (in saving Catelyn from being squished). That scene benefitted by coming as a surprise (as Catelyn's party were attacked by bandits) and having a strong narrative in showing us Tyrion's sense of morality. However we later got to see the Mountain lose in a joust and then Jaime and Ned face off in a duel. As we had seen our first joust last episode this one meant a lot more and made Tyrell's victory seem more impressive. The Mountain lived up to his name, beheading his poor horse and almost killing his brother. As you would expect Jamie and Ned were well matched and wisely that one was not allowed to go to its natural conclusion. You do wonder if Jamie actually instructed his guard to wound Ned just in case his swordsmanship couldn't quite stand up under pressure.

We got more characters fleshed out in ways that worked. The scene where King Robert and wife Cersei finally admitted to the state of their relationship was particularly strong. Despite appearing boorish and caricatured at times, Robert is starting to appear like a real character now. We learn that that the loss of Ned's sister has affected him greatly and prevented him from ever loving Cersei, who he married for her money and family connections. We also begin to see that Robert only agreed to become King because of the lure of pleasure it might bring and yet it brings him little. He is a man of simple pleasures and when he learns he can't even joust anymore (because everyone would let him win) we can begin to see why all his power can't bring him happiness. Another side of that is the sense that the only way to keep the Seven Kingdoms together is to constantly cut your enemies down before they get to you. Robert doesn't seem bloodthirsty when he orders Daenerys killed. Instead he is making a utilitarian argument for peace. If Kahl Drogo invades "How many innocents will die? How many towns will burn?" It's a fair question.

Elsewhere we get to know Renly (the King's brother) and Theon Greyjoy (Ned's Ward up in Winterfell) a little better. Renly is gay and not a fan of blood and battle while Theon is another loner. Like Jon Snow he has grown up with the Stark children but is not one of them. His father was defeated in a rebellion and Ned agreed to take him in. We also got a better introduction to the Eunuch Varys who tells of how Jon Aryn was poisoned but also talks conspiracy down in the dungeons. As with Tyrion he has learnt to make his apparent shortcomings into strengths and he certainly gets some delicious dialogue here. The rumours are out there apparently that Baelish will satisfy any sexual desire in his brothels, no matter how illegal. As Varys elegantly puts it "I heard the most terrible rumour about a certain Lord who has a taste for fresh cadavers. Must be awfully difficult to accommodate that inclination. The logistics alone...to find beautiful corpses before they rot." Varys is apparently from across the Narrow Sea and is getting his information from Jorah Mormont which raises questions about both of their loyalties (see The Unknown). Finally I liked the scene where young Bran is doing his geography homework while also complaining about being left behind. The use of the map of the Seven Kingdoms to help remind us of who everyone is was neat. And of course it gave us the chance to see young Bran doing what Tyrion and Varys once had to do and use their brains to overcome physical limitations.

Once more the effects and settings were all excellent. The Eyrie looked suitably foreboding and its three walled prison was a wonderful visual to leave poor Tyrion in real danger. I was a big fan of King Robert's speech to his wife about what would happen if the Dothraki were to cross the Narrow Sea. The human equivalent of medieval Europe will be familiar to some where Castles littered Germany, France, England etc keeping their Knights in armour safe from Mongol (or Dathraki) hordes. The Mongols had no siege weapons initially and still to this day train their children to ride horses from the moment they can stand. It all paints a clear picture of the threat which is posed and how the fatal disunities in the Seven Kingdoms make them vulnerable to one united horde.

I also really liked the sense that being King isn't all its cracked up to be. Here we have everyone scheming to become King in the shadows and yet seeing Robert so sad and angry makes it clear that there will likely be no glory for his successor.

Arya continues to be excellent, here telling off the ignorant guards. She is one of the few characters whose motive are obvious (and pure).

There's nothing quite like a seven year old breast feeding in public to make you shudder is there? It was certainly an effective visual to show that all is not well with Catelyn's sister.

One tiny point I really liked was one of Catelyn's men who was playing a musical instrument and making up a song about Tyrion Lanister. So much goes on in this show that to show just a silly inconsequential part of their medieval existence was a fun touch.

The Bad: Yet despite all of that good stuff, the show still isn't clicking quite as it should be. You can sense the weight of the adaption on many of the scenes. Both Renly and Theon had to lay out their backstory while their lover sat half naked in the room to make sure the exposition didn't become dull. While Varys had to talk of all Baelish's whores to keep his introduction from seeming to on the nose. All the whispered threats and talk of conspiracy and the Jon Aryn murder mystery stuff remain a bit overwhelming. If you couple all the talk of stuff we don't understand with a constant stream of new characters it does become difficult to keep everything in your head.

Then there is the absence of meaning from dramatic moments. The Mountain attacks a fellow Knight and his brother after losing and yet no one does anything to discipline him. All Baelish and Varys' veiled threats meant little considering we have no idea what stake either has in the regime. But worst of all was the final scene where Jaime just stabs Ned's chief guard Jory in the face and then stabs Ned in the leg. I have no idea whether this incident means war or was a minor skirmish. Will Jamie be arrested for murder? Is there any kind of police force in King's Landing. Were Jamie's men the King's men? Or are they strictly Lannister soldiers? Is random killing just part of brutal politics or will Ned now forever hold a blood feud with Jamie? If all those questions are answered next episode I shall withdraw some of my criticism. But in the moment such a dramatic scene ought to have emotional impact but there was none. Instead it felt like one fight scene too many and the absence of context annoyed me.

Speaking of which we never discovered why Catelyn was taking Tyrion to see her sister. Why is she considered an arbiter of justice? Again I imagine this question will be answered but why not tell us now instead of adding to the confusion?

The Unknown: What is Jorah Mormont up to? If he is feeding information across the Narrow Sea then is he hoping to betray the Dothraki? Or is he in league with Varys to overthrow the King and get back to his homeland? Or did he tell someone other than Varys but Varys just heard about it? Indeed, what is Varys up to? I could extend that question to cover practically every character outside of the Stark household but I suppose it's not quite that bad.

Best Moment:
King Robert's conversation with Cersei was very good but that opening fight scene was the best thing in this episode. Tyrion remains the most enjoyable character and putting him in the centre of the struggle made for an exciting couple of minutes.

Conclusion: This is a good show with many good qualities. But so far it is too complicated to make for compelling television. I imagine that like me, many viewers will stick with it because it promises so much. However really good television could hook a lot more viewers by breaking the show down a bit into more easily digestible chunks. I'm sure it's not easy to adapt a book series but each episode leave my head swimming with detail and doesn't engage my emotions as much as it should.

('DiggThis)

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