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Game of Thrones

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Episode 1 - Valar Dohaeris

21 July 2016

Credit HBO

Synopsis: The Nights Watch race back to the Wall to warn Westeros of the Walker threat. John Snow makes a favourable impression on Mance Rayder. Robb Stark takes Harrenhal. Tyrion asks his father for Casterly Rock but is put in his place. Joffrey is forced to wait nervously in the streets while Margaery Tyrell tends to some orphans. Little Finger tells Sansa that he will try and take her to her mother. Davos Seaworth makes his way home but is put in prison by Stannis. Daenerys arrives in Astapor and views The Unsullied army. She also survives a Warlock assassination and meets Ser Barristan.

The Good: It's great to have Game of Thrones back and between the place setting we got some very good stuff.

I would probably start with Tyrion who is back on his feet with Bronn and Shae either side of him. I was really pleased to see the threads from last season being dealt with. Cersei is concerned that he will reveal her assassination attempt to her father (or possibly her affairs or her incest, tough to know how much Tywin knows). Tyrion is too smart to just go tattle though and instead makes a play for Casterly Rock. If it was a power play then it worked because Tywin confirms through the most grudging gritted teeth that he appreciates what Tyrion did as Hand and will consider him for future office and political marriage. He won't be giving him Casterly Rock nor any Fatherly love and approval. I loved the characterisation of Tywin. Beneath the brutal rejection of his progeny was an iron logic that did concede a slither of kindness toward Tyrion. Ok maybe kindness is too much but fairness at least.

The banter looks set to remain of high quality at King's Landing as Margaery Tyrell outdoes Cersei in manipulation of Joffrey. It's not clear what her unannounced trip to the orphanage gets her and given the nature of the show one assumes it isn't out of pure good heartedness. The sight of Joffrey cowering in his carriage was effective though. Perhaps Margaery is going to shame him into getting her way. Meanwhile we know Little Finger is lying to Sansa but it's equally unclear what he hopes to gain. I like the portrayal of Baelish a lot more now I know what a slimy creature he is.  

Next to Dany whose dragons grow ever more threatening as she arrives at Astapor looking for an army. The translated dialogue between her and the sales rep for the Unsullied was very entertaining (until he said whore so often that it lost its impact). I laughed out loud when he had to confirm to his translator that he did not really want her to tell Jorah that he smelt of piss. I also appreciated the sea sick Dothraki, overcoming their fear of the sea for their Queen.

The death of Qhorin Halfhand was rather botched last season and I really liked that John Snow was able to come up with a good excuse to try and convince Mance Rayder of his treachery. The use of his experience at Craster's camp put him on a plausible moral footing. The sight of an actual giant (which looked great) was an eye opener for the audience as well as John. Commander Mormont struck the right note to open the episode by making it clear that the whole of Westeros must be told about the Walkers.

The Bad: Nothing bad except what was left over from last season. We certainly never saw John Snow ask to be one of the Wildlings and from her experience with him you would think Ygritte wouldn't buy that.

The Unknown: I was not a fan of much of the Stannis story last season and Davos' survival underlines my critique of "Blackwater" as the most impressive looking inconsequential battle in television history. However Melisandre's manipulations make sense in light of the loss and Stannis' behaviour is already sounding like that of the Mad King's.

The Unsullied seem like a cross between the Turkish Janissaries and the Spartans. Their killing of newborns and nipple ripping were certainly eye catching in their brutality. I hope the producers learnt from "Blackwater" about promising consequence and delivering only violence. Did Dany really gather enough cash to pay for their services? It was interesting to hear her still talking of a Khalasar. Apparently she still views ruling in a Dothraki light even as she attempts to become Queen of Westeros. It's interesting that Barristan Selmy felt the way to restore his honour was to return to the "rightful" heir to the throne. It looks like we aren't done with the Warlocks either, I don't remember meeting more than one but I assume there are.

Best Moment: Tywin and Tyrion locking horns.

Conclusion: A solid 'welcome back' episode that wisely left Theon, Arya, Bran, Jamie and the rest for another installment.

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  • Just a reply to the discussion of slavery component of Dany stand. From what I recall from season 1 slavery is not legal in Westoros. In fact this was the reason given for why Sir Jora was exiled by his family from Westoros. He was trying to keep spending on his wife beyond his means and ended up making deals with slavers. He was caught doing this and exiled from the lands, thus disgracing his family. This is not a spoiler, it was part of the narrative of the first season.
    So if Dany does purchase the army, it will not endear her to the people of Westoros. I believe she is aware of this and is part of her hesitation.

    Posted by Kayode from Baltimore, 09/04/2013 7:37pm (5 years ago)

  • This is not a comment about this episode but I want to share this theory. It has existed in the books but this post only uses evidence from the show. I'll put the link to the tumblr post at the end but this I have copied and pasted it here.

    Also before you read it hasn't been 100 percent clear on the show but was revealed completely in the Blu Ray extras that Robert's Rebellion started because Ned's sister Lyanna was taken (in Robert's words stolen) by Rhaegar Targaryen, Dany's brother.

    Post starts now:

    Jon Snow is WHOSE bastard?

    Let’s look at the evidence:

    -Ned Stark is extremely honorable, so honorable that it’s a shock and shame that he might ever be unfaithful to his love, Lady Catelyn.

    -Ned Stark is so honorable that if asked a dire favor, or a blood favor, his honor would hold him to it.

    -Ned Stark is extremely secretive about Jon Snow’s mother.

    -Ned Stark refers to Jon as “my blood”, not “my son”.

    I propose to you, that Jon Snow is Lyanna Stark’s son. (Still Ned’s blood, save and exemplify his honor). We know that she suffered a tragedy at the hand of a Targaryen, but could that tragedy have included rape? To save her honor, Ned took Jon home to raise as his own? Could Jon Snow actually be a Targaryen?

    Further support:

    -Not all Targaryens are immune to fire, just as Viserys was killed by it, so that wouldn’t exclude him.

    -Only the inbred Targaryens are silver haired, and black hair is a dominate trait (as proven by the suspicions in the Baratheons being anything other than black haired), so Lyanna could easily have given him that trait.

    -Jon Snow and Daenerys Targaryen are everyone’s favorite characters.

    Coincidence?! I think not!!!

    http://anonymous-norsk.tumblr.com/post/47227438003/jon-snow-is-whose-bastard

    Viewer score: 67 / 100

    Posted by Derek, 06/04/2013 11:56pm (5 years ago)

  • Thank you. I'll be sad if I couldn't post here anymore.

    Just want to bring up that TWD is not a good show, imo. So just want to clear that my previous posts isn't about me whining because one show was preferred more than another. Despite my problems with GoT sometimes, I rate it higher than TWD. In fact, one of the things I look forward to most on this site is your TWD reviews. Because you can spot the flaws most of the time where other critics just gloss over.

    Posted by Dave, 03/04/2013 2:51am (5 years ago)

  • Hello Robin and Roberto,
    It's nice to have one of the best shows on tv back and the return of high expectations. TWD fans know what I am talking about :)

    This episode was much like last season's opener with a lot of catching up and some movement of the story forward.

    There were so many good scenes and combinations. Cersi and Tyrion; Tyrion and Bronn; Tryrion and Tywin; Joffery and Cersi; Joffery and Majorie. That dinner scene was filled with soo much subtext. I was laughing at every dig that each character made. Okay I admit it, Kingslanding was fantastic.

    I feel like the Darni story line will be much better this season. It's a testament to this show that even without Arya it was still fantastic.

    Welcome back guys, I am looking forward to hearing you guys together...okay that sounded wierd

    Viewer score: 65 / 100

    Posted by Kayode from Baltimore, 03/04/2013 12:01am (5 years ago)

  • Hi Dave, no way, your presence is definitely welcome. And I will bring up your point about how the Walker attack was handled on the podcast. It's a good point, I only reacted to the favouritism suggestion. Of course you're right that this is an entirely subjective business. But I love when 'The Walking Dead' is good and feel the same about 'Game of Thrones.' TWD has had far greater moments of emotional engagement for me so far even though I think GofT is clearly a better characterised show.

    Anyway, thanks for challenging me and for your good natured response. Both always a good thing.

    Posted by The TV Critic, 02/04/2013 11:45pm (5 years ago)

  • I don't know if my previous post was submitted, had browser issue. Anyway, if it was fine, please disregard this post.

    Robin, relax okay. That favouritism bit was a joke. Don't know if you noticed the smiley face at the end. If a critic shows that, I don't know what's totally wrong with that. As it's difficult, if not impossible, for critics to be neutral no matter what they say, because reviews are subjective.

    Sorry if I offended you. If my presence is bothersome, this will be my last post on this site.

    Posted by Dave, 02/04/2013 12:29pm (5 years ago)

  • Dave - obviously I'm annoyed by the suggestion that I show favouritism in some way. If you look\listen at my review from last season's finale you will see that I was critical of the Walkers. In particular the way Sam was ignored.

    I didn't imagine we would see a Walker battle with the Nights Watch. I couldn't imagine them becoming an instant threat to the wall because there are so many stories going on in the South that would be affected by that. So this is pretty much what I expected. As with my criticism of John Snow joining the Wildlings, I'm moving on from my objection to how we got here and judging what I saw.

    Posted by The TV Critic, 02/04/2013 11:03am (5 years ago)

  • Hmm, you seem a bit lenient towards this series than other shows, Robin. The biggest flaw of this episode was the opening, which was a total cop out. If I remember correctly, the book didn't dwell on the Battle of the Fist of the First Men much, but show does and last season finale, they closed on the White Walkers and Wights coming to battle the men of the Nightwatch. It seems like a big setup for a battle to get people excited for S3. But all we got was one Wight. All my friends who watches the show, were all disappointed with the opening. As well as no explanation as to how Sam managed to escape. I mean his clothes isn't exactly good camouflage. The opening seems to diminish the threat of the White Walker, especially with an army of Wights with them. When the Walking Dead does the same thing with their zombies, you are all over that. Oh well, everyone have their favorites. :)

    While, not on the bad category, the previously episode bit, spoiled the return of Barristan the Bold for non-book readers. Just thought that was pretty dumb.

    Other stuff, the meeting with Jon and Mance was done way better in the book and Jon's reason he gave to Mance to join the Wildlings was a lot better. Apart from those, it's a solid episode, but it's the weakest premiere episode than the others, imo. Here's hoping for better episodes.

    Viewer score: 59 / 100

    Posted by Dave, 02/04/2013 6:23am (5 years ago)

  • Good: A very solid episode full of great character interactions. Tyrion fantastic as always. I really felt for him following the failed attempt at gaining Casterly Rock.

    Jon's introduction to Mance was engaging, Daenery's brush with death was surprising. Just a whole lot of setup, but so well done I don't mind it at all.

    Bad: Would have appreciated more gripping moments like Tyrion's meeting with his father.

    Viewer score: 60 / 100

    Posted by Matt Uebel, 01/04/2013 7:32pm (5 years ago)

  • I really enjoyed this episode, it was probably the best season premiere they've done so far. The sets and special effects look brilliant as always.

    Most of the scenes hit home, with the Tywin/Tyrion confrontation and Daenerys in Astapor being the stand-outs. Tywin and Tyrionboth play their roles fantastically (as usual), the look on Tyrion's face as his father berates him is just heartbreaking.
    The scene with Daenerys and the translator was hilarious as well as horrifing(with the nipple-cutting). I'm also glad to see Barristan the Bold return, after one season of absense. It shows that the writers are willing to be patient, and willing to deliver on things they built up long ago.

    What didn't work for me was the opening, with Sam's scenes beyond the wall. It wasn't clear how he escaped the Wights and White Walkers. And how did the other Brohters escape for that matter? Did they kill them all?

    Other than that I'm happy to see that they didn't feel forced to visit every single story-line in the first episode, I take this as sign we'll have more breathing-room this season. Now that they've split the book in half we'll hopefully get longer and more focused scenes.

    Cheers, Per.

    Viewer score: 68 / 100

    Posted by Per, 01/04/2013 6:12pm (5 years ago)

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