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Friday, May 6, 2011

Episode 3 Recap : Training Day

If episode two was about journeys, then episode three is about the various characters settling in to their new lives. Jon starts training to become a member of the Night's Watch. Dany (who is still technically on a journey) is testing herself as a fledgling khaleesi. Ned starts learning to deal with the pressures of managing the capital, the various personalities of the Small Council and his personal relationship with his daughters  as they arrive to court. Arya starts dancing. Even poor Bran is forced to deal with his new situation whether he wishes to or not.
Credits - Not much new this week, although I did notice that they reworked some of the sigil icons to match the actors with their character's houses.  Also, at the very end of the sequence I noticed the boar in with the other animals on the etched metal ring. Crakehall love? Interesting.
King's Landing, Gate - It seems as though they've done away with the location captions that they used in earlier episodes. This was just fine with me considering how strikingly different the locations are. When a new scene begins, you can immediately tell you have changed locales. I suppose a new viewer might not know where they are exactly, but it's pretty obvious you've switched areas.
The Winterfell party finally arrives at the wretched hive of scum and villainy known as King's Landing. Can anyone tell me if the fellow that receives Ned is a named role? I was thinking Janos Slynt at first, or possibly Maester Colemon, but he seems too polite for Slynt and wasn't wearing Maester chains or clothes.
King's Landing, Throne Room - Oh how I wish there was a way to listen in to the thoughts running around in Ned's head as he enters the throne room to see Jaime sitting on the steps under the throne! As it is, the initial set up of this scene is a great homage to the book where Ned vividly recalls riding into the same room with Jaime seated on the throne over the Mad King's bloody corpse. The scene turns into a  battle of barbs between the two leads that gives us some insight into Jaime's character that we don't learn until A Storm of Swords.
I find this a very smart move by D&D. The way that George attempts turn Jaime into a sort of anti-hero in the books is one of the decisions that I have always had a tough time warming up to. I just haven't been able to make myself empathize with the Kingslayer after hating him so much in the earlier parts of the story. Showing that our Lion of Lannister has more facets to him early on, might give people more time to grow in their opinions of him after some of the despicable things he does in the beginning of the series.
King's Landing, Small Council Chamber - This is a good introduction scene for Varys, Renly, Little Finger and Pycelle. Going back to episode 2, I still wish they would have introduced Renly then. It's quite a lot to take in four new characters in one scene. Sean Bean is very strong here as the road-weary Ned who doesn't seem quite prepared to be thrust into the inner workings of the Small Council so quickly. I may be reading into the scene too much, but when Ned has his outburst, you can see the council members all tense up uncomfortably. Then upon his apology, Little Finger gets this subtle look of relief on his face. When Ned backs down, Petyr almost seems to relax, knowing that Stark's chivalry and sense of fairness will make him easy to manipulate. It is also noteworthy that Varys reminds him that the rest of the Small Council serves at the Hand's please. Could this be a subtle reminder to Ned to be more decisive?
 I think Conleth Hill is fantastic as Varys, but a little part of me was hoping he would break out into the Curly Shuffle.
King's Landing, Queen's Quarters - Lannister revisionist history? In yet another intriguing new scene, we get a glimpse of Cersei's hold on Joffery. While her line about painted whores was pretty flat, Lena does a good job summoning up the queen's paranoia here, thought the painted whore line comes off very flat. Jack Gleeson is the consummate budding tyrant, especially the "I'm not asking" line. What a dysfunctional love the two have for each other!
King's Landing, Hand's Tower - This scene is a secret look into the new lives of the Starks at the capital. We see the difficulties they are all having adjusting to their new home. Arya is obviously still tortured over Mycah's death. I really like the way they are developing the need she feels for vengeance. It's still manifesting as relatively normal tween behavior, but you can definitely see the seeds for what she will become germinating even now.
Sansa seems typically concerned with herself and her image as a young lady betrothed to a prince. Does anyone else think that doll looks like Varys?
Poor Ned is completely lost in this scene. He's trying to bring everyone together, but he's failing miserably. "War was easier than daughters" is the line of the series so far!
King's Landing, Arya's Room -  Beautiful scene between father and daughter. Sean is at his best here. Stern, yet loving. Cautious yet firm. He plays a very believable father. Maisie for her part, effortlessly holds her own. It was obvious from her early pictures that she looked the part. Now though, we begin to see her truly become Arya. She is amazing!
For as great as the acting between the two was,  I was sorry to note that a few memorable lines from the novel were cut. Ned's  imagery about the lone wolf dying, but the pack surviving was especially missed. Looking at the line in context from the book, it seems like D&D may have felt it too similar to lines from  Old Nan's tale a little later in the episode. The second line I missed was "For True". I know, I know. It’s a very minor thing. That line has just always seemed so incredibly Arya to me, I was disappointed to see that it got cut.
Winterfell, Bran's Room - Early contender for best scene of the episode! The scene starts with a raven flying onto Bran's window. I take this as another great homage to the books.  No, we haven't seen the three-eyed crow dream (most likely due to budget issues), but the raven is definitely a nod to it. Speaking of the three-eyed crow, I remember an article about it in Winter is Coming. I wonder where we will see it if they didn't want to use it while Bran was in his coma. Will see it at all? Maybe the dream sequence got too expensive and was just cut? I'd love to hear from someone if they have any more information on this.
It's a pity for the show that Margret John is no longer with us to reprise her excellent portrayal of Old Nan in later seasons. By, the way, if you watch the credits at the end of this episode, you will see that it was dedicated to her. Classy touch HBO!
John's performance as Old Nan in this scene was magical. It starts out with her quip about knowing a story of a boy who hated stories. She then begins to weave her tale about white walkers even as she weaves the thread around her knitting needles. The story and the score build slowly as the camera gradually closes in on John's face. The scene is edited remarkably well. Even though I knew what was coming, I still jumped when Robb opened the door!
Isaac and Richard finish the scene off nicely. Richard portrays Robb as the caring big brother while Isaac is still obviously wallowing in grief for his loss. There was a little bit of everything here. Even a deft reference to the Hedge Knight and Ser Duncan the Tall!
King's Landing, Gate - Enter Cat and Ser Rodrick. Nothing significant in this scene except for the method of arrival differing from how they arrive in the novel. Obviously, creating a set for the docks at this point would be way too expensive. Still, they will probably need them next season for the Clash. It's easily forgivable, but I would have loved to see the area.
King's Landing, Brothel - I found this scene pretty weak. The actors did a nice job of it and watching Cat and Little Finger's reaccuaintance in a room full of whores was amusing, but the dialogue for most of the scene was cheesy. I know that Varys has his little birds, but it’s a stretch even for him to know that Cat was coming and an even bigger one that he knew about the dagger. In the book it's pretty easy to backtrack and piece together how he got his information. Here though, short of a little bird hiding out in the Winterfell godswood, I can't imagine how he would know about it. I guess it can be overlooked. I mean it is Varys, the most inexplicable figure in the seven kingdoms that we are talking about. On the surface it's easy to waive it away, but it adds to the sometimes puzzling unexplained plot maneuvers that have peppered the series at various points. How did Will get over the Wall? Who is raising those dire wolves?  It's nothing to ruin the series, but a few more thoughtful lines of dialogue here and there would help to strengthen it. The scene does end well though with a good segue from Little Finger naming the Imp to a shot of Tyrion braving the cold at Castle Black.
Castle Black, Yard - The fight scene feels just a little bit choreographed, but  Owen Teal is appropriately biting as Ser Alliser throughout. Kit hits all of Jon's notes right on the head here too. His feelings of loathing for his new home and betrayal by those who cared for him are plastered all over his face in both this scene and his next one in the armory. James Cosmo radiates Mormont as he watches the sparring from the steps. It’s a minor point, but I feel the same sense of easiness between Mormont and Tyrion here than I did in the book.
King's Landing, Throne Room - Julian Glover huffs and puffs his way across the throne room to deliver news of Bran to Ned. Little Finger arrives and deviously hints that he may have news of Cat. Gillen becomes Petyr here more than anywhere else in the episode.
King's Landing, Streets Outside the Brothel - Sean Bean is a lucky dude! I can't tell you how many times I've wanted to throttle Petyr while reading the books. I was rooting for him to finish the job! Aiden delivers the "Quick tempers. Slow minds" line with a cool strength that hints at his true character for the first time.
Castle Black, Armory - First off, this set is a wonderful example of the efforts the design crew undertook to make each area feel real. Equipment is thrown all over the place in this chilly, dirty hovel of an armory. King's Landing and Winterfell both look magnificent, but the attention to detail on less important sets like this one really makes you feel like you are living every scene.
The scene itself is a good one. Tyrion's "Interesting face" line is both funny and threatening in a way that only the Imp can deliver. Dinklage and Harrington parallel the chemistry between Tyrion and Jon quite well.
I do have a concern with the scene and surprisingly it's not the choice to extracute  Donel  Noye into Tyrion. I hope we get to see him in future seasons, but for now it's acceptable to lose him. My concern is in the way that they are using Jon's brothers, especially Pyp and Grenn. I understand that Jon hasn't established any ties to them yet. In fact, he pretty much loathes them. I also get that he has just embarrassed them while injuring both pride and person. My problems comes in that I don't see a hint of George's characters in them yet. Grenn and Pyp are both coming off as clones to Rast. Grenn should be played as an angry oaf here and Pyp deserves to be pissed at Jon, but his lines are much more thuggish than clever. It's only a glimpse of what we'll be seeing from them, but I hope they try to build on their characters later.
King's Landing, Brothel - Meanwhile, back in the brothel, Little Finger agrees to help the Starks. Ned is at a loss to do anything but accept.
King's Landing, Queen's Quarters - Cersei, learning of Bran's awakening, is in full paranoia mode. Jaime is in confident denial. Its creepy, but the scene gives us a good sense of how inseparable the pair is.
King's Landing, Gate - What a tender goodbye between Ned and Cat. The chemistry between Bean and Fairly is so strong that it reeks! Once again I am reminded of how smart D&D were to recast this role. The bit where Ned says that Little Finger still loves Cat and she replies "Does he?" was sweet. The final look they give each other says more than the rest of the conversation combined.
King's Landing, King's Quarters - Another strong contender for scene of the episode. This scene is every bit as macho as the last one was tender. It opens making you believe that Robert and Ser Barristan are speaking about wenching. Even the line about "A spear to the heart" could fit this premise. But when Ned mentions that his first time was a Tarly boy at the battle of Summerhall, either he's getting himself confused with Renly or he's not talking about getting it on like Donkey Kong. The scene quickly goes from implied bawdiness to acute masculine self-aggrandizement. In a written masterpiece that conjures up images of my favorite monologue scene ever, a drunken Robert bounds around in a soliloquy involving grisly battlefield conquests, self-pity, the humiliating debasement of his squire, and the venomous  dressing down of the Kingslayer. Mark Addy gives nothing less than the performance of the series so far in this scene. His "Lancel Lannister. What a St00pid name!" delivery made me laugh so hard that I had to pause the show for a minute for fear I would miss part of this wonderful display of acting.
Dothraki Sea - It looks as though the khalasar has finally made it into the Dothraki Sea. Dany is flexing her muscles as the budding khaleesi, an exercise that Viserys doesn't appreciate in the least. Harry Lloyd finally wins me over in this scene. Here is the delusional Viserys I wanted to see in Pentos. It's odd but not too distracting that Rakharo is the one to make the beggar king walk instead of Dany. I'm speculating that D&D want her to go through a more gradual change.
Castle Black - You can almost hear the design team boasting as Jon traverses the perimeter of Castle Black on his way up to the Wall. For all of its bleakness, there is beauty in this scene. They take a lot of time getting Jon up the Wall but I think in doing so, we get a close-up look at just how immense the thing truly is. My first thought upon finding Benjen waiting for Jon up top was sympathy for the guy at the bottom running the winch!
When Benjen rejects Jon, the point is driven home that prior status is forgotten in the Night's Watch and a man gets what he earns. Benjen's speech whether here or in the book has always made me wonder something. If what he says is true, then why in the seven hells was Waymar Royce placed in charge of the ill-fated group in the prologue? He is obviously less experienced than both Gared and Will. This is more of a GRRM question than a D&D question, but it is something I've pondered before. The best thing I can come up with is that Benjen, wanting his nephew to act in accord with Night's Watch principles is speaking idealistically to Jon while Waymar may have been the recipient of some favoritism as a respect to his family. That last overhead shot off of the Wall was gorgeous!
Castle Black, Dining Hall - Who would have thought that Yoren had such a sense of humor? In the novels, he is presented as much more grim. Indeed, I actually pictured him looking very much like Hogun the Grim of the Warrior's Three fame (he's the one on the right). I never would have had him pegged as capable of comic relief.
Fortunately, his banter with Tyrion in this scene make an adroit counter to Benjen's typical Stark sternness.  It all unfolds as another of the episode's strongest scenes. I missed the crab-eating scene where Tyrion so completely skewers Ser Alliser, but I'll call this new scene an even trade. Peter looks even more comfortable in Tyrion's shoes now. "Do you think I'm plump?" was delivered perfectly.
Underlying the playfulness of this scene is one of the reasons this series is so successful in the fantasy genre. Tyrion represents the common man in his views on what is beyond the Wall. There are Wildlings for certain, but white walkers, giants and other monsters are just fairy tales not to be taken seriously. Benjen on the other hand isn't so sure. He is one of the few to have been beyond the Wall and he seems much more open to any possibility. This scene is a microcosm of George's writing (even though he didn't actually write it, it still exemplifies his theme). There are no constants in his world. There are differing views as to whether or not magic exists or ever existed. This diversity in belief helps to make the story feel lived in.
The last bit after Benjen leaves is a set up for next episode when Yoren and Tyrion pay a visit to Winterfell.
Essos, Dany's Tent - Dany is further embrancing her adopted heritage by learning to speak Dothraki. She also learns that she is expecting.
Essos, Tent - The scene starts out with a discussion on the differences in the martial cultures between the Westerosi and the Dothraki. We see two things here that I don't believe we see in the books. First, it seems that Jorah and Rakharo have established a mutual respect if not an outright friendship. Second, we can feel Jorah's pain at disgracing his father. It was a nice note adding this to Jorah's character. The scene starts to lose me with the overly-long discussion about what Dany wants to eat, then goes off the deep end with Jorah riding at once to Quohor after he hears that Dany is preggers. Doesn't it look at least a little bit suspicious that an exiled knight would light out for the nearest trading post the second after he learns that the khaleesi is with child?
Castle Black, Yard - Things are going better for Jon as he loses the chip on his shoulder and begins helping instead of bullying his brothers. Tyrion looks on with approval.
Castle Black, Dining Hall - Finally we meet Maester Aemon. Anyone unfamiliar with the series won't know that Aemon is blind at this point, but it doesn't really matter in this discussion. From the last look on his face, it seems as though Aemon and Mormont's pleas may have had an effect on the Imp after all.
Essos, Tent - We pan across Dany and Drogo's uneaten artichoke dinner… Oh wait! My bad! Those are the dragon eggs. I'm glad the managed to fit them in again because I might have forgotten about them if they hadn't! Anyway, we get to see Dany snuggled up to Drogo telling him that their child will be a boy. Jason Mamoa lounges as only a Cimmerian can!
Castle Black, The Wall - More frozen beauty atop the Wall. This time the overhead shot is marred with Tyrion literally pissing off the end of the world. Read my previous post "The Show that Cried Wolf" to get my views on the lack of Ghost in this scene. As our outcasts, one a bastard, one a dwarf bid farewell to each other, we get the sense that a lasting friendship has been formed. Tyrion and Jon have yet to see each other again in the novels, but I suspect that the bond between the two will still hold strong and may prove crucial to the story when their reunion does occur.
King's Landing, Balcony - Margret John's form dazzled me with her tale of white walkers and ice spiders. Mark Addy's monologue staggered me like an uppercut slipping in under my guard. Peter Dinklage and Francis Magee even managed to double me over with a series of thunderous gut shots. But its M&M (Maisie Williams and my new personal hero Miltos Yerolemou) that laid me out for the count with a slobber knocking hay-maker that I never would have expected.
Arya and Syrio are my two favorite characters in the series (Tyrion is a close third). I couldn't be happier with Maisie's performance thus far. Add Miltos into the mix and I am completley blown away. I couldn't have casted a better Syrio if I were able to have pulled one out of my imagination. From this point onward, Syrio will always have curly hair and a beard to me! The sparring between the two matches the dialogue and it is superb in every way.  This is a three-and-a-half minute scene that feels like it takes thirty second. I could have watched it for the whole hour. Its flawless.
The scene and episode end with Ned entering the training session. He watches on bemused at first, but in typical Stark manner, his amusement turns to chilling concern as he watches Syrio "kill" Arya over and over. The implications of the viper's nest that he has allowed himself and his daughters to be manipulated into, comes crashing down on his head as Arya is "stabbed" through the chest and the episode cuts to black.

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