Another week, another strong episode with "Cripples, Bastards and Broken Things". There weren't any Emmy-worthy stand-out scenes like last week and the ending didn't have the same impact of previous weeks. What the episode did have though, was consistency. Consistency and Ghost! The writing was much more consistent throughout. Pacing was just about perfect. Dialogue was dependably strong from start to finish. Even the one of the shows shortcomings, the dreaded exposition, was handled more cleverly Another much more consistent factor, was the DWPE (dire wolf-per-episode) ratio! The lack of wolves in the Stark/Snow scenes has been a big flaw with the show to this point. I'm very happy to see Summer, Greywind and even Ghost make appearances!
The plot this episode begins to show Eddard mucking around King's Landing, inquiring about Jon Arryn's death. When the book reaches this point and begins to shift into a mystery, we get a glimpse of George's ability to writing genres within genres. My thanks to the blended Bayonne bookracks he brooded over as a babe! There is plenty of brotherly bonding at the Wall, and fantastical landscapes and lifestyles in Vaes Dothrak, but Eddard's plot arc gives A Game of Thrones a nifty little who-dun-it that grabs the reader in a way the rest of the books can't recapture as the tale grows in its epic grandeur.
Credits - Please tell me if you noticed anything different, but to my eye, they repeat from last week.
Winterfell…or is it? - We see Bran healthy and hale shooting arrows in the Winterfell yard. I caught on to what was happening pretty fast, but my wife fell for the trick and remarked with surprise that he was ok. My pondering about the three-eyed crow (and how it would be used) from last episode's post was answered. The crow dream wasn't cut at all, just reworked to fit within the budget. While I obviously would have loved to see Bran's entire dream, I am very happy to see the crow was included in some way. Having the crow alight onto the stone wolf leading into the crypts was some nice foreshadowing! The initial pan into the courtyard was also well done.
Winterfell, Bran's Room - Bran wakes up revealing to the unsuspecting that it was all a dream. Theon walks in to help Bran attend Robb in the great hall. Wonderful touch having Summer growl as Theon enters. In the novel, Robb remarks that he thinks the wolves sometimes know things. Summer certainly seems to as he stares Theon down.
We get the first true look at Theon's character here. His back story is delved into a little later, but for now, we get an indication that he's a bit pompous and unsympathetic.
The star of the scene though is Hodor! We saw him at the arrival of the king back in episode one, but he gets his first (and only) line in this episode. Kristian Nairn looks older than the Hodor I envision while reading, but he definitely has the Hodorisms down!
Winterfell, Great Hall - Tyrion an Yoren visit on their way back down from the Wall. While we don't get the chilling appearance of all three dire wolves surrounding and threatening Tyrion, at least we get to see Greywind for the first time since Robb took him from the wilds. This is the kind of placement that I've been hoping for. I know that having the wolves attack Tyrion would be very complicated. Its enough to just see Greywind chilling out at Robb's feet.
Winterfell, Yard - Tyrion prepares to leave Winterfell under the watchful eyes of Theon and the Stark guards. At first, I thought the Stark guards were scowling at the Lannisters to show that they weren't afraid of them, but then I realized that they were jealous of the Lannister's flip-up Dwane Wayne visors!
There is a bit of exposition in this scene, but its well executed and needed to fill in Theon's back story a bit. Who he is and why he is at Winterfell has been very vague to this point. I can easily see how a new viewer would just assume he was a household guard, if not a family member. It might still not be readily apparent who the Greyjoys are, but at least Theon's position as ward and hostage is made clear here.
This scene also starts a weird little theme that runs throughout this episode. There seems to be an overabundance of talk about whores, especially Ros. She certainly seems to be popular with the main characters!
Castle Black, Yard - The start of this scene is the first time I have had any trouble at all following the location switches. The way that it was edited made it look as though Tyrion's party rode out of Winterfell straight into Castle Black. I knew what I was watching, but I wonder if it confused new watchers. It’s a pretty jib shot as the camera moves up past the gate to expose the yard beyond though.
Jon and the boys are practicing their swordsmanship in the yard. We can assume that some time has passed since Grenn and Pyp threatened to kill Jon last episode, but the casual, playful manner in which the boys respond to one another might be a little abrupt.
In walks John Bradley-West as Samwell Tarly, another superb piece of casting. I got nervous as Sam squared off against Rast. The miserable look he gives Rast right before they begin, had me wondering if they might have given him a bit of an edge. All was reconciled a heartbeat later though as Ser Piggy falls to the floor in a pathetic display of trademark Samwell cowardice. Kit does another great job of emitting the proper emotions for Jon, struggling Ser Alliser's order but ultimately stopping the farce of a fight.
It seems like D&D are trying to bring a bit of GRRM's characters to Grenn and Pyp in this scene. Grenn is plodding and Pyp seems to be more cutting, but I still want to see some of the one-sided chats where Pyp always ends up getting the upper hand on his slow-thinking buddy.
Vaes Dothrak, Horse Gate - It took me a second to gather where we were as the long shot of the mountain came up on the screen. I pictured the Mother as both larger and not as lush. Still, it turns out that they picked another beautiful locale to stand in as the city of the Dothraki.
Lloyd and Clarke do a great job of snipping back and forth as they ride under the Horse Gate. Viserys is still the self-important prick and Dany is still tolerating him to a degree, but his anger is restrained, and her patience is beginning to fray.
We see a more repentant Jorah than the book exhibits. George's Jorah blames Eddard Stark for his down turn in prosperity. D&D show a Jorah who seems to be regretful about selling slaves. We also learn of his ex-wife much earlier than we do in the novels.
Vaes Dothrak, Viserys' Tent - In a scene I like to call "exposition while exfoliating", we get a history lesson of the Targaryens and their dragons in the unlikely setting of a bathtub! You have to go back to 1945's Disney short Pablo the Cold Blooded Penguin to find a more creative use for a tub. This is an exposition-laden scene that comes in at just under five minutes long and has every expectation of being a monstrosity. Yet somehow Harry Lloyd and Roxanne McKee present it in a sexy, funny package that manages to keep the attention from wandering. Their looks certainly don't hurt, but the chemistry they craft together is the biggest contributor to the scene's success. The sexual tension builds to an apex only to have Viserys completely pull the rug out from under us with "What did I buy you for? To make me sad?" and "You pretty little idiot". Its remarkable that the two young actors can deliver a scene that should be long and clunky in such a streamlined and polished manner.
King's Landing, Throne Room - More Targaryen history is discussed between Sansa and Septa Mordane. This scene works well for a few reasons. First, the history lesson we get as viewers feels natural because Sansa is in fact getting a history lesson from her teacher. Even though the writers have succeeded at disseminating the back story more creatively than in past episodes, I will concede that we are certainly getting a king's portion of it. But the exposition is handled most expertly here in particular, because the Westerosi history lesson suddenly turns into an all too personal discussion about the deaths of Sansa's uncle and grandfather. We don't get to see this side of Sansa in the book and I love the added dimension if gives her.
Spoilers in the following paragraph.
The other incredibly thoughtful nuance to this scene was the inclusion of Sansa's anger at Eddard for killing Lady. It might be implied in the book, but I never really connected Lady's death with some of the actions Sansa takes later in the story. This scene both sets up and sheds light on the motivation for her actions when things begin to heat up later in the tale. I don't think she goes to the Queen out of spite, but her decision to do so seems a little more believable knowing that she feels like she can't trust her father completely.
Telling Septa Mordane to "Shut up" is the only poor line in an otherwise well-crafted scene. I can't see our young queen-to-be using language like this to her septa. Nor can I see Septa Mordane letting it go without comment.
King's Landing, Small Council Chamber - Its business as usual in the small council room as Janos Slynt pleads his case for more help protecting the city while the tourney crowds are present. The various actors playing the council members seem to be falling into their roles and reacting to one another better than they did last episode.
Dominic Carter as Slynt may be a rare miscast for the show. We aren't really focused on his character in this scene, but I don't sense any of the pompous traits he exudes in the novel. It's not very relevant yet, but it does become a little more important later in the series.
After the session breaks up, Ned begs a word with Pycelle and the mystery is afoot!
King's Landing, Pycelle's Chamber - Just a guess, but by the looks of it perhaps it was George who wrote that ginormous tomb of Lineages and History of the Great Houses of the Seven Kingdoms book. Ned throws out the question about poison being a woman's weapon. His implications towards Cersei are pretty clear. But ever the queen's creature, Pycelle effortlessly deflects suspicion in Varys' direction. There was so much smoke and paraphernalia cluttered amidst Pycelle's room that I almost mistook his meaning when he said, "The seed is strong".
King's Landing, Red Keep Corridor - More Arya/Ned greatness from Williams and Bean in this very verbatim translation. One small omission what when Arya says, "No. That's not me." she leaves out the part where she says that Eddard is talking about Sansa. It’s a subtle but significant change giving Arya an air of self-confidence rather than one of juvenile frustration.
Castle Black, Atop the Wall - As Jon stares out into the Haunted Forest you can see him attempting to will Benjen out of the trees on his way back to Castle Black. Sam tells his story and Jon seems to decide right there that he will do what he can to help Sam survive at the Wall.
King's Landing, Courtyard - Gillen shifts fully into Petyr for the first time. As Little Finger and Ned walk around the garden, he uses both inflection and mannerisms to conjure up Petyr's smug, smarmy confidence. He smirks when Ned asks why Ser Hugh was knighted, smiles when openly admitting that the bookish septa is his informant and his eyes twinkle mischievously as he delivers the classic line, "Mistrusting me was the wisest thing you've done since you climbed off your horse."
King's Landing, Tourney Grounds - The set in context of the show looks much grander than it did in the "making of" exposés we were treated to before the premier. The antlered stags on the king's podium look much more impressive than they appeared in earlier shots. Jory is ironically skewered by the up-jumped Ser Hugh when he requests a few moments with him.
King's Landing, Street of Steel - Eddard and Jory make their way to Tobho Mott's shop. We can divine from the conversation that pageantry isn't appreciated in the North. It's nice to see some more color coming into the background heraldry, but the two knights rode past too quickly to tell which house the belonged to.
King's Landing Tobho Mott's Shop - Eddard speaks to Mott and is introduced to Gendry. At first, Joseph Dempsie doesn't seem to resemble Robert all that well, but there is something in the area around his eyes that is oddly similar to Mark Addy. I must have felt a lot like Eddard did trying to see the similarity, but I did see it and the more I focused on that area the more striking it was. Another physical feature that I seemed to notice was that Gendry's hammer arm looked bigger than the other one. If it isn't my imagination taking over, it was a nice touch, but Dempsie should take care or he may end up looking like this guy. Gendry's description of his mother and her yellow hair was probably subtle enough to a new viewer, but it stuck out like a sore thumb to me. It was hard to see the bull helmet but there is a great 3D image of it if you run the episode with special features turned on at HBOGO. The plot thickens as Ned heads outside and tells Jory that he has found King Robert's bastard son.
King's Landing, Outside of Roberts Bedchamber - Its Jaime(Sives) vs. Jaime here as Jory and the Kingslayer reminisce about the Battle of Pyke. Jory seems slightly perturbed that Jaime doesn't recognize him. Lannister is typically nonchalant, treating the northern as almost a fanboy. There are some good lines between the two. Jaime mentioning how the Greyjoys stopped liking bloodshed so much near the end of the rebellion. Jory calling Theon a good Lad to which Jaime replies "I doubt it". Jory's unintended foreshadowing about remembering Thoros of Myr and his burning sword until the day that he dies. Then the door opens, whores cascade out and Robert, offstage utters the line of the episode. I had to rewind a few times before I heard it, but "I'll bet you smell like blackberry jam!" is an instant classic!
When Jory attempts to leave Ned's message, Jaime's amicability has reached it limits and he sends a snubbed Jory on his way. Jory is cool and all, but the Hand's captain of the guard really need to grow a pair!
Castle Black, Dining Room - Jon further establishes his roots as a leader among the Brothers when he tells them all how it's going to be with Sam. Grenn and Pyp seem to capitulate easy enough, but Rast isn't ready to follow Jon's orders just yet. Looks like he might need some convincing.
Castle Black, Barracks - With Ghost's whereabouts in question, I was almost expecting a reenactment of the Full Metal Jacket soap scene. The scene actually starts out almost identically. Even the music is similar.
Luckily it appears that Ghost is finally ready for his close up! What a scary-ass shot! I knew what was coming and loved every minute of it. I am curious to see whether new viewers understood where he came from though.
Castle Black, Practice Yard - Jon stages his coup and Ser Alliser is non-the-happier for it. Why he was so upset is anyone's guess though. The other boys look like they are going easy on Sam but if you check out all the guys sparring in the background you see that the entire Night's Watch spars like Tiger Woods on an Ambien-induced sex romp. A little effort please fellas!
Vaes Dothrak, Dany's Tent - This powerful scene between Lloyd and Clarke is one of the episode's best! Viserys is in full looney mode. Dany tries calming him to no avail. As he's about to hit her, she hulks out and slashes him with the copper belt. The look that Viserys gives her is phenomenal. He has just lost power over the only thing that he ever truly lorded over and he is finally exposed as the wretched incompetent he truly is. By the way, Viserys should stay the hell away from metal belts!
I wonder how all of the people who disliked it last episode when Rakharo, not Dany made Viserys walk back to the Khalasar feel now? I rather enjoyed this alteration in Dany's development. Last episdoe Dany was growing, but now you see her fully coming into her own as a khaleesi and more than that, her own woman.
Castle Black, Dining Hall - Ros's fame again precedes her. It appears that Jon came close to losing his virginity to her. The playful banter about girls between Jon and Sam takes a step toward the serious side as Jon reveals his motivation for restraining himself. His efforts not to bring another bastard into the world shows him in a very noble light. We also can extrapolate through his story that he has a thing for red heads.
Sam kills the tension for a heartbeat with "So you didn't know where to put it" right before an irritated Ser Alliser interrupts them and all levity jolts to a halt. Owen Teale gives a chilling speech about..well about the chilly cold out beyond the Wall. I don't want to say it's his version of tough love because he is far too demeaning and spiteful the way he warns the boys that they are so much fodder for the wildlings and the cold. He does bid the boys to take heed though and in some weird way it almost seems like he cares. It's probably more about his preservation and that of the Night's Watch than any compassion for his young charges, but the speech is an eye opener for Jon and especially Sam.
Vaes Dothrak, Dany's Tent - Dany is regretting striking Viserys. After so many years of his abuse it is easy to understand her trepidation. Jorah reassures her and helps her to realize what she has silently expected for some time. Her brother will never be the dragon. If she is going to get home it won't be Viserys who leads her there.
King's Landing, Tourney Grounds - This is a scene that may live in infamy for many fans of the books. It starts in the stands of the tournament with Sansa receiving a scowl from Joff. I think this was a missed opportunity. In the last episode Cersei bids Joff to be nice to Sansa. In the book he is actually pretty cordial to her, though he ends up ordering the Hound to escort her home. It might have shown some insight into Joff here if he would have at least appeared to warm back up to Sansa. If Sansa believes she is reconciled with her prince, it could be easier to forgive her for what she does that ultimately comes back to bite her and the rest of the Starks.
Little Finger makes his introductions. I missed Petyr's creepy opener about how Sansa looks just like Cat. I wonder if they are making a conscious decision to tune down the Petyr's improper feelings towards Cat's daughter. Arya then asks him with blunt humor why people call him Little Finger with precious delivery that recalls "Where's the Imp?" from episode one.
Robert and Cersei evoke a sort of medieval Ralph and Alice Cramden on the podium. Boorish Roberts is deliciously crude much to Cersei's chagrin. The look of mortification on her face as she gets up and leaves without so much as a word is brilliant!
After Robert's decidedly unroyal decree, the combatants enter the field the Mountain is introduced. Ser Gregor's armor looks the part, but I didn't think he hulked over Ser Hugh quite as much as he should have. Maybe next episode will do a more credible job of portraying his size.
Ser Hugh's football helmet is ridiculously inappropriate for a joust. I have a hard time believing that any knight, newly anointed or not, would enter the lists with such an inadequate helm. Gregor, true to form notes the weakness and takes full advantage of it making Ser Hugh the Glass Joe of the Westeros Jousting Circuit.
The scene runs pretty true to the book until this point. Then for some inexplicable reason D&D decide to give Little Finger the honor of telling Sansa of the Hound's origin. I can only guess that there wasn't enough time to include the scene between San/San in the script. It's either that, or they didn't feel right adding the San/San "relationship" to the adaptation due to the differences in age between the two. If they do cut out the tension between them it is probably the biggest change or omission we have seen so far.
King's Landing, Hand's Room - Switch to Ned's room where Cersei enters while Ned is pondering his evidence against her. Cersei is fishing for information here as she disingenuously attempts to bury the hatchet with the Hand. If Ned were a bit more politically savvy, he may have tried to give the appearance of letting bygones be bygones. In typical Stark bluntness he completely ignores the queen's niceties and gets to the point asking why she is there. Cersei's true colors come out as veiled threats are leveled on both sides.
Inn at the Crossroads - The episode ends with the fateful meeting of Catelyn and Tyrion at Inn at the Crossroads. Marillion attempts to sell Catelyn a song at the prepare to dine. From his appearance and the way he held his harp sideways like a tray, I mistook Emun Elliot for a server at first. It was hard to match him to the Marillion from the book.
Tyrion enters the Inn and the confrontation begins. The scene plays nicely, but it does illustrate another of my minor complaints with the series. The costume design as a whole is amazing. It is easy to see the differences in dress from the various regions throughout George's world. I am a bit disappointed though in the lack of heraldry within the clothing of the characters. High born members of the various houses oftentimes wear the sigil of their house in their every day dress in George's novels. I've missed it at several points throughout the series so far, but none more than here. Cat speaks of the black bat of the Harrenhal on the coat of Whent family member, but try as I might I can't find it except on his shield. This admittedly is a very minor point, but GRRM's imagery is such a huge part of bringing the story to life that I would hope we get family sigils integrated into the clothing more as the series develops.
I was surprised the episode ended with Tyrion surrounded. It was a strong enough ending, I certainly was left wanting to see what happens next. It just didn't feel like fifty-five minutes had passed when we reached the Inn. I see that as a good sign. Episode three, for as good as parts of it were, felt about right time-wise. I was definitely expecting to see more at the end of four. The pacing this week was dynamic and sleek. Hopefully this trend continues!