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Episode 6 - The Old Gods and The New

13 May 2012

Credit HBO

Synopsis: Theon takes Winterfell and has Ser Rodrik executed. Robb dispatches men to remove him while continuing to pursue Talisa. Osha distracts Theon and helps Bran and Rickon escape. In King’s Landing Joffrey gets hit with a cow pie and a riot ensues. Sansa is saved from a horrible fate by the Hound. Arya has to hide her face from Little Finger when he comes to meet Tywin. She is then caught with a message she stole and has to quickly find Jaquen before she is discovered. Jon Snow is left to execute a Wildling prisoner but can’t do it. She escapes and in tracking her down he loses contact with his men. Daenerys does the rounds at Qarth trying to find someone willing to loan her some ships. She returns to Xaro’s home to find her retinue slain and her dragons stolen.

The Good: This was far and away the best episode of Game of Thrones thus far. It was also a testament to the patient storytelling approach which had led to some frustrating episodes earlier this season. To be fair to my critique though this episode limited its scope and gave us longer sequences with fewer characters.

The opening sequence was tremendous. The capture of Winterfell was showed us clearly the horrible choices that Theon has made. He is so well known in the city that no one recognises him as a conqueror. Bran is still in bed when he arrives and squabbles with him like a sibling over whether to yield to him. Ser Rodrik then forces Theon to cross a line. With his men doing the heavy lifting, Theon would clearly have been happy to spill no blood and simply waltz around town accepting the bows of those he group up with. But Ser Rodrik sees the betrayal for what it is and Theon is forced to hack his head off to appease his men. The look of shock on Theon’s face and the anguished cries of Bran and Rickon made it a very effective and emotive moment.

The attack on Winterfell also harkened back to the second scene of the whole show where Ned Stark executed a deserter in front of all those he raised to show them the responsibilities of his office. Here Theon and Bran looked deeply uncomfortable with the actions they had to take in Ned’s absence. I also thought of Joffrey. Theon is following a similar path of rule by force which has brought no joy to King’s Landing.

The leitmotif of the Stark children being unready for the brutal world they now live in continued throughout the episode. At last we got an extended story with Jon as he couldn’t bring himself to do what Theon did. In his case though no one stood over him to make sure he completed the task and the gender of his captive troubled his conscience. The dynamic between Jon and Ygritte was fun to watch as his courage goes up against her knowledge of the terrain. They are left uncomfortably cuddling to keep warm leaving their relationship in an intriguing state for next episode.

Speaking of crafty Wildlings, it was nice to see Osha remain loyal to the Starks and sneak Bran and Rickon out of Winterfell. Her seduction of Theon made good use of their previous interaction and his notoriously wondering eye.

I also enjoyed the scene at Robb’s camp where Catelyn, with a mother’s understanding, saw him flirting with Talisa. Of all the Stark children Robb is the one who has most successfully adapted to his new role in life but here we see a quite understandable problem. He is still a young man and hasn’t even met his betrothed yet. The news then arrives of what happened in Winterfell and wise counsel prevents him from abandoning the advantage he holds over the Lannisters. However we know that the war with the Greyjoys has only just begun.

We move onto Arya who was cleverly put in the same room as Little Finger when he comes to discuss strategy with Tywin. That was a nice tense scene and continued that way as she tried to steal a message and was caught. Much to my surprise we then got a nice moment of comedy as there seemed no way she could avoid the illiterate Lord from tattling on her. Instead she found Jaqen just in time and the Lord flew through Tywin’s door with a dart in the back of his head. We also learnt that Jamie is dyslexic which was an interesting story to hear through the medieval prism.

At King’s Landing we got a scene which was just as dramatic as that at Winterfell when a riot breaks out. As we saw last week the people of King’s Landing are getting tired of their new King and ask for bread. When a cow pie hits Joffrey he unleashes the guards and the chaos which ensues was dramatic and emotional. Tyrion is left to slap Joffrey for his heavy handed reaction while Sansa is trapped with some men intent on rape. It was a deeply unsettling few moments before the Hound arrived to save the day. The kicker to all this was Sansa’s ignorant confessions to Shae as she tries to understand why the Have-nots would treat her in such a way. Again we see how Ned Stark’s benevolent stewardship rather left his children with a naive understanding of how the world works.

Finally we head over the sea and see Dany begging for ships. Once more she matches wits with our old friend the humble spice merchant. The dialogue was excellent as he dismisses her promises as hopes and dreams before she retorts convincingly that “My dreams come true.” That was a lovely display of her defiant spirit. She will need it to get her stolen dragons back which was a good cliff hanger to leave things on.

The Bad: Winterfell’s capture was mathematically hard to fathom. It’s supposed to be a city and yet fell to one ships crew. I know that the majority of fighting men are off at war but it still seemed oddly easy to take.

The Unknown: I was also slightly confused by the pep talk that Qhorin Halfhand gave to Jon. He made this convincing case that life north of the wall is a battle but one that keeps civilisation safe. Then he goes dark with it pointing out how little thanks they get before finally joking that no one cares what they do and they only pretend it means something to keep themselves motivated. I’m not sure the writers meant to make him sound like he was sending mixed signals.

Best Moment: Despite the rest of the episode being so good, the Theon story remained the highlight. I really liked the situation he was put in where his men forced him to kill Ser Rodrik and it finally dawned on him what the cost of his actions would be. The disgust, anger and fear of the people around him was nicely underwhelming. It all fit the surprise nature of the attack. I imagine the people of Winterfell were looking at the small number of men who came with Theon and already thinking about how they might overthrow them. Those emotions were really well presented.

Conclusion: This was a terrific episode which provided the emotional payoffs to all the groundwork lain in the preceding episodes. It helped that the story was focussed on characters we got to know in season one. That linking theme of the Stark children growing up was very strong and left them all dealing with the brutal realities of a world at war.

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  • I just have a few quick things (corrections) after listening to the last podcast, nothing major they are just personal bothering me because I'm neurotic like that.

    Having just watched some season one episodes on blu ray we do know Jon's experience level with women. He was going to lose his virginity to Ros (the most popular whore in all of Westeros) but didn't do because he didn't want to have a bastard.

    Maybe it's just my ear but I thought it was Margaery pronounced like Margery but it sounds like both of you are adding an s to the end like Daenerys. If that's really her name in the show then I apologize and this whole comment makes me sound like a pretentious picky jerk.

    Posted by Derek, 13/05/2012 6:22am (6 years ago)

  • Been doing some research about George Martin ie. typing into google, and 'found' an interview
    that might clear up a few questions about the direction of the show in relation to the books its about an hour long but he does explain why the GOT movie never got made and how much control he has over the direction of the tv show. comes across as a nice guy with a realistic view of the entertainment industry and has
    a good sense of humour, this is the link http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QTTW8M_etko

    theres also one from the san diego comic con last year shot after the end of season 1 thats interesting - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BmQzGKIEV2I&feature=related

    Posted by charlie, 11/05/2012 9:01pm (6 years ago)

  • That's very understanding Charlie thank you :-) It should be with you in 20 minutes...

    Posted by The TV Critic, 11/05/2012 2:25am (6 years ago)

  • Hope you guys and your families are ok and you'll be back soon i and i'm sure all your other listeners can understand that its not easy putting out a quality pod cast like you do around a day-job and other commitments.
    take care and hope you're both back soon

    Viewer score: 75 / 100

    Posted by charlie, 10/05/2012 11:35pm (6 years ago)

  • Still waiting for this week's podcast....

    With regards to TV critic's comment about the easy capture of Winterfell, it was made clear in the last episode that all the men have went to war and the remaining 200 men in the city were sent by Bran to defend Torrhen’s Square, leaving Winterfell completely open for Theon's attack. In contrast to Derek, I actually think the actor who played Theon did an excellent job portraying his immaturity. His "stupid angry face" (as Derek called it) seem quite appropriate for Theon, who is both stupid and frustrated/angry in this episode.

    Qhorin Halfhand's pep talk to Jon displays his cynical humour and shows him to be an experienced ranger who would "tell it like it is", instead of feeding Jon empty platitudes. I myself, being in a line of work that is vital but unappreciated by society in general, can totally see where Qhorin is coming from. In fact, that is pretty much how I talk to my new recruits. As to Qhorin's seemingly odd decision to leave Jon behind, all I can say is that we should wait it out and see what happens in the next episode.

    I loved Littlefinger's scene, which is tense and riveting as Derek mentioned. Maybe I am reading to much into this, but I am guessing that Littlefinger did recognize Arya and decided to store away this piece of information for further use. If I were Little finger, I can:
    1)gain favour from my beloved Cat by telling her that I know where/how to secure her little girl even without her having to trade Jamie behind Rob's back
    2) tell Tyrion or Cersei that I can close the deal with Catelyn to trade the 2 girls for Jamie, even if they only have Sansa. If you give me Harrenhal and all its staff/slaves, I will make it happen.
    3) Sell Arya to Joffery in exchange for more power, maybe making me the hand of the king
    4) Sell Arya to Stannis, so that he can use her to secure Rob's army and loyalty. I would also offer to open the gates of King's landing to Stannis when he comes to attack, thereby securing my position in the new court.
    Since Arya is a lowly cupbearer, it shouldn't be too hard for Littlefinger to kidnap her from Harrenhal with just a man or 2. Sincer Littlefinger technically works for the Lannisters, he can probably go in and out of Harrenhall as he pleases.

    Viewer score: 85 / 100

    Posted by Eee, 10/05/2012 5:25pm (6 years ago)

  • I liked this episode it seemed more focused and had a lot of action and consequence.

    I didn't buy Qhorin Halfhand's decision to leave the enemy camp with the other men while Jon stayed behind and chopped off the girls head, which he didn't - shock horror - reminded me of scooby-do where the gang split up for no good reason.
    Danys story had some action at last but didn't Jorah promise to get her a ship with a good captain?
    Still a good episode and i'm looking forward to what david nutter does next week

    Viewer score: 75 / 100

    Posted by charlie, 09/05/2012 2:16pm (6 years ago)

  • I thought this was the best episode of the season by far but I just have a few quick thoughts on the episodes.

    It came off to me initially that Jon was intentionally sparring Ygritte than missing by accident. Am I alone in this?

    What was the point of the Littlefinger scene? It was tense and gripping but at the end of that scene nothing had changed.

    I love Tywin and Arya's burgeoning friendship or whatever it is, it's so much fun to watch and does a great job of humanizing Tywin.

    I've been trying all season but I really can't get behind Theon's acting. It's not bad it's just meh, he never quite hits me emotionally where he should. He also the stupidest angry face, it's liking watching Anakin cry in the prequel movies, just uncomfortable.

    Viewer score: 85 / 100

    Posted by Derek, 07/05/2012 8:00am (6 years ago)

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