BEWARE: The Game of Thrones reviews on this blog are likely to contain spoilers through A Dance with Dragons. Read at your own risk!
I'm not sure whether I'm relieved or just confused in regards to last night's episode of Game of Thrones. It was clearly another filler episode, though at least I don't have a major complaint like I did with the other obvious filler episode, right?
I really enjoyed the Tommen crowning scene and was hoping to see more of the new king, but sadly despite the episode's title being First of His Name, we didn't get much insight into Tommen. Or Ser Pounce, in whom I'm admittedly quite a bit more interested... ;)
And just like I have a love/hate relationship with Cersei as a character, I wonder which it's going to be any time she gets a lot of screen time. While I thoroughly enjoyed her conversation with Margaery (I tend to have love moments for Cersei when she's got her bitch face on), considering all of their previous interactions I'm a bit lost as to why they were so friendly with each other in this one. Of course I hope that Cersei's somewhat disgusted face at the end had less to do with Margaery's quip about being her daughter and more to do with the fact that Cersei was merely playing the game and not actually feeling some Tyrell love.
Though we didn't get much Daenerys screen time, her scene was one of the better I've seen from her so far this season. Daario's comment about capturing ships for her because he knows she likes ships seems a bit more in line with the book version of his character, and I definitely hope to see more of that. And I can't lie, when Dany and Jorah had their scene together I was kind of hoping for some version of their, err, confrontation that happens quite a bit earlier in Storm of Swords. Sadly, that was not the case, but again I feel that this was a strong scene. It actually had me wondering what those who only watch the show think about Dany staying in Meereen, because it was one of those portrayals that Game of Thrones did splendidly.
And then, Sansa! I always look forward to seeing her on screen because she's such a favorite of mine. Yes, I've often been disappointed, but not so last night! While it was interesting that they went right to the Eyrie, it made complete sense in terms of dealing with sets and the like - but what why would he introduce Sansa as his niece? I can only hope she's meant to be his bastard niece, because otherwise I really think we'll lose out on some of her character growth and development :-/
Of course creepy little Robin Arryn and wannabe mom-of-the-year Lysa are back, and it's nice to see that they were even able to hold on to the same actors from season one! Although I'm not certain how I feel about Robin liking Littlefinger (considering how he's portrayed way more threatening in the show), the one-on-one scene with Petyr and Lysa was amazing. (So amazing that it almost made me forget that Sansa was defending Tyrion and their 'marriage'. Ugh.)
Other than Aiden Gillan's properly disgusted face as Lysa threw herself at him (over and over and over again), the most interesting thing about Petyr and Lysa's conversation was the fact that they revealed how Jon Arryn really died, though without Sansa present! Interesting that the writers didn't think she needed to know that, though there is of course always the chance for her to find out later. For now I suppose I'll just hope it's the latter.
Also, they really should have cut to a Sandor and Arya scene after leaving Sansa in the Eyrie. She thinks about often Sandor during this time, and it would have been a subtle but good reminder of their relationship (for lack of a better word).
At least the following conversation between Tywin and Cersei was interesting - until it's suddenly revealed that THE LANNISTERS HAVE NO GOLD?! I honestly don't even know what to say about this. Okay, I get that this is a good way to hint at Cersei's later problems with the Iron Bank of Braavos, but the family being broke could be a huge game - and character - changer...and I'm just not sure about that.
Finally, though, Sandor and Arya! (Really, they couldn't have put this between two Sansa scenes? Really?! Okay, yes, this is just me being a fangirl, so moving on...Arya sure added a lot of names to that list of hers. Not just since last season, but there are far more of them on it in the show than in the books. Perhaps the writers are trying to speed up her descent into a revenge-fueled madness, though when they included Sandor on the list I couldn't help but curl my lip. Yes, at this point Arya is in a bad place mentally, but it's a huge turning point for her when she leaves Sandor's name off, and I'm definitely concerned over the direction(s) the show may take with these two.
At least this time it was Sansa who appeared next! ;) Her conversation with Lysa was difficult to watch, but the writing was on par and the acting was pretty much perfect. Of course we were reminded of all the lines Littlefinger stole from Sandor, but I guess beggars can't be choosers.
I know, I harken back to the books a lot. But hey, at least I admit it when the show gets things right - and Brienne and Pod were very, very right. Though the 'comic relief' of Podrick riding the horse was a bit much, their later scene was amazing. The banter, getting a bit more insight into Pod, seeing Brienne warm up to him...well, let's just say that at the moment I think I'm going to really look forward to seeing even more of this awkward but awesome pair.
Sadly, Sandor and Arya brought me back to reality. While Sandor is often rough with her in the books, the only time he strikes her is with his axe at the Twins, and only then to save her life. This could have been a great scene for both of them, but when he hit her my earlier fears about where the show is taking this storyline seemed pretty much confirmed :-/
After the very-much-not-father-daughter interaction between Sandor and Arya, it was interesting to have the very next thing we witness is a conversation between Cersei and Oberyn...about daughters, of all things. Having assumed that the show would cut back the number of Oberyn's daughters entirely, it was surprising that he mentioned he had eight of them. He makes it a point to speak of Elia, specifically, and I wonder if it was just because she shares his murdered sister's name, or because she'll be Sandsnake Number One in later seasons. I'm not certain how I feel about that idea, though, so maybe I'll just hope I don't have to revisit it.
This scene also produced some great - and I think, potentially very telling - quotes. Cersei asks Oberyn, "What good is power if you cannot protect the ones you love?" To which he replies, "We can avenge them." Her response, as it's delivered, is firm, decided. "Yes, we can avenge them."
Soon after that, Oberyn assures her, "We don't hurt little girls." Cersei, who has been hurt and seen others hurt (even been the cause behind it at times), insists, "Everywhere in the world, they hurt little girls." It's a pretty damn true statement, but all I could think about was how this scene was a very, very interesting juxtaposition after seeing Sandor hit Arya.
And while I absolutely believe that Cersei misses Myrcella, and that she is concerned about her, the fact that she is all of a sudden being open about her family, and most especially her children, seems to be too coincidental in its timing. First Margaery, whose father is going to be a judge at Tyrion's trial; now Oberyn, who is also a judge. Considering how they've often taken away her agency in the past (for example, having Joffrey be the one to make the decision about killing Robert's bastards), and how two weeks ago they made her a victim of rape (regardless of what they were supposedly trying to portray, because they failed miserably at that), it would be a bit all over the place for them to suddenly bring back her master player skills.
Not that I had much time to consider that, because then we were back at Craster's! After last week I had quite a few concerns about what they were going to do with both Jon and Bran at that little keep, and while what happened next mostly tempered those concerns, I still feel it was unnecessary baggage added to both their story lines. I may understand why certain things they showed happened the way they did, but that doesn't mean I agree that these were necessary changes.
Okay, I'll stop being vague. Basically the last 10 minutes or so of First of His Name was an emotion-fueled blur. There was a lot of creepy talk from Jojen, Locke being Mr. Bad Guy again, and of course another sexually violent scene! (That last bit was sarcastic. I really do wish there was a sarcasm font.)
Seriously, did they really need to go that far with Meera? We already know these guys suck, and while I get that they needed to be with Bran and Co. so that Jojen could foretell their deaths, I just don't see how it was possibly necessary for them to need to take it that far. But maybe it's a good sign (again, sarcasm) that Meera's assault was nearly put out of my mind when Jojen encouraged Bran to take over Hodor. Perhaps that would have been more palatable except for what happened next. Sure, Locke had to die, but Bran using Hodor's body to kill Locke, and then seeing how frightened and confused Hodor was when Bran relinquished control...it was dark, much darker than I was ready for at least.
Again, yes, this whole scenario added a bit of drama and a good knife/sword fight. Jon and Bran didn't see each other, because when Bran was forced to make the decision to reveal himself he chose to leave instead. But what little forward movement that was made here came at a cost. (Again, I harken back to how dark it was to have Bran use Hodor to kill Locke.)
I will admit that I was actually a bit surprised when Craster's daughter/wife stabbed Karl in the back. The sword through the mouth and the long show of pulling it out was a bit much, though not as much as the insanely predictable (and yet still somehow awesome) scene where Ghost takes out Rast, who was just torturing the direwolf in last week's episode.
One thing that the ending of this episode left as a loose end was what Craster's wives are going to do. We know they aren't going to Castle Black, and as they burned the keep they're clearly not staying 'home'. My first thought is the crone who leads a bunch of wildlings to Hardhome, but I'm not quite sure how that would work here. Maybe we're just supposed to forget about them, though after the last two episodes that shouldn't be an easy task.
I think First of His Name is one of those "I'm going to take what I can get" episodes. I enjoyed a good bit of it, and I'm happy that at least some of my questions - namely about Jon and Bran - have been laid to rest. With next week being the mid-season mark, I'm interested to see how much farther they take us before episodes seven (Mockingbird), eight (The Mountain and the Viper), and nine (The Watchers on the Wall) hit us with what should be some very nail-biting conflicts.