“Legitimacy is a big theme in GoT; lots of characters think they have it, many are proven wrong brutally (and butchered along with their thousands of dutiful followers), some people who don’t seem to have it turn out to, and in the end maybe none of them will be right...”
In readiness for the eventual arrival of the final season of Game of Thrones, Ian Kennedy subjects himself to the whole thing again. Next up is Episodes 6, 7, and 8. Can anyone endure Ned’s honor, Stannis, the Red Wedding, and – worst of all – Arya’s unending journey from ‘annoying’ to ‘a different kind of annoying’, all over again? Or will the quality of the writing conquer all foes once more? Spoiler central here, if you hadn’t guessed… but in euphemisms that would make Tyrion blush, most of the time.
EPISODE 9: BAELOR
We meet Walder Frey for the first time – and immediately know why we think he’s such a filthy old man. Ahh, and we meet Shae, a nice dream for Tyrion while she lasts… oh, she’s good at this. The poignant exchanges between them are dripping with irony, when you watch them a second time. And, yes in the end I was right, the battle in this episode is the first of many times that we see Tywin trying to get his son Tyrion killed. Tywin’s fatal flaw is his hatred of his son, and in the end, the series will pass judgment upon that.
So we get our first battle – and a very cleverly-presented sequence that avoids dramatizing the expensive carnage that follows. Starting to prove himself, Robb wins a Pyrrhic victory, while Tyrion gets an amusing reprieve.
Back in King’s Landing, finally, Ned’s honor is broken, as he yields to save wider conflict in the kingdom – but gets a perverse reward for it (I’m speaking in Northern understatement) as the series shows its true colors and leaves us reeling for the first time. We’ve been repeatedly warned about the brutal justice of this world – not least in the fact that characters can substitute due process with ‘trial by combat’ by a ‘champion’ on their behalf – but our own sentimentalism has kept us hoping for the best – and that’s what the series loves to savage. Cersei’s coup seems triumphant – but Joffrey’s arrogance gives our first major shock, and ensures that the Seven Kingdoms will be plunged into an interminable war of legitimacy. The first of many times GoT will kick its fans in the teeth for caring what happens to these characters.
Legitimacy is a big theme in GoT; lots of characters think they have it, many are proven wrong brutally (and butchered along with their thousands of dutiful followers), some people who don’t seem to have it turn out to, and in the end maybe none of them will be right. The series is usually quick to savage our sentimentalism – though by the time we reach the penultimate series, a few key characters do seem to have been given all the lucky breaks that the others have been denied, some of them without even learning from their mistakes. Which is very out of character for GoT – but will our own sentimentalism be rewarded in the end, or brutally punished even more painfully than the other times before, because we’ve been led on all this way in the hope that the series will indulge and reprieve these characters because we like them?
Yes, episode 9 is always the biggest, most shocking one, in GoT – at least, until the messy penultimate series which doesn’t run to enough episodes. But that’s the exception that proves the rule – the penultimate episode is still the shocker. We then usually find that Episode 10 is left to pick up the pieces and establish the new status quo – almost an anti-climax.
Playback rating: 4/5
EPISODE 10 – FIRE AND BLOOD
By now, everything is in full flow, and falls into place for the chaotic wars to come. The private political intrigues between Littlefinger and Vaerys are very enjoyable. Tyrion gets one of the unlikeliest promotions, thanks simply to being Tywin’s son – nobody said life was fair. And Dany bravely tackles the consequences of her actions, secures a rebirth – and brings dragons back into the world.
All in all, it’s been a fine reintroduction to a brutal world. The further in I get, the more absorbed I become, and the less I want to say. A great sign of the quality of the writing, even second time around. I think any Thrones fan will find the series just as enjoyable second time around, for reasons that are perhaps even more rewarding.
Playback rating: 4/5; Full series playback rating; 4/5
To go back to the first episode’s Second Look and begin the cycle all over again yourself, click here! https://writemovies.com/second-look-game-of-thrones-season-one-episode-one/