Game of Thrones Finale: Fire and Blood

GAME OF THRONES: 1.10 “Fire and Blood”

Where do I start? It still seems surreal to me that a series that I enjoyed so much on the page, but that I thought was too geeky and esoteric to really gain much of a mainstream following, has been converted into a critically acclaimed HBO TV series. I still have to almost pinch myself as the first notes of the opening theme rang out each week, to remind myself that this season wasn’t some kind of weird dream. It’s been such a great ride. I have some overall thoughts on the season as a whole, but I want to wait a few days and think on everything I’ve seen before I put them into the digital ether. In the meantime, I’ll talk about “Fire and Blood” specifically.

The season finale didn’t wrap up much; not a lot of action happened, and much of the episode served as a set-up for the upcoming season. Game of Thrones made this set-up work, though, by grounding it in the understanding and motivations of characters we’ve watched grow through nine hours of television, rather than tossing a poorly planned, undeveloped, rage-inducing fake-out into our faces. I’m looking at you, The Killing; but in this review, I’m going to stick to Game of Thrones and let someone else justifiably tear into that unsatisfying conclusion.

Anyway, much of the episode focused on the fall-out of Ned’s death, and how the people who loved him tried to cope with his loss. Robb, despite his new claim as King in the North, hacks away at a tree in helpless adolescent rage before collapsing into his mother’s arms and crying. Catelyn, who has only a moment to break down on her own, must remain strong for her new son/King, fortifying him with a harsh promise to kill all those responsible for Ned’s death. Sansa’s illusions about chivalry have become permanently shattered, but we see her hard, inner-core shine through when she talks back to Joffrey and thinks about pushing him off the castle walls. Poor Arya didn’t even have time to grieve; instead, she gets a quick haircut and is packed on off to the wall with the rapists and dregs of the King’s Landing dungeons. Perhaps her grief is transformed into anger, which we see displayed rather frighteningly after she threatens to kill the fat bully. “I’ve already killed a fat boy. I like killing fat boys,” she says with such fury and rage that it makes me wonder how much spilled blood she’ll be responsible for her future.

Jon tries to flee the Night’s Watch to avenge his father’s death, but instead is convinced to return by his new brothers in black, because the Night’s Watch is going to ride out past the wall and find out what they can about the blue-eyed zombies. Like everyone in this episode, Jon has transformed; he was once a Stark, but now is a member of the Night’s Watch, and the Watch’s battles that now must come first. The commander’s speech about traveling beyond the Wall, overlaid with the scenes of the long-dormant Watch finally mobilizing and riding out in force to face its enemies head-on was thrilling and actually gave me chills.

We only saw a little bit of the Lannister boys here, but both underwent a transformation of sorts. Tyrion, so long considered the black sheep of the family, finally gets some respect from his father, who commands him to head to King’s Landing and exercise some control over Cersei and her sociopathic son. It’s going to be fun to watch him match wits with the other schemers in the capital; I think he’ll be more suited for this job than Ned ever was. Jaime, though he only shared one short scene with Catelyn, was fascinating in this episode. His brash exterior seemed to drop away, only for a moment, to show a kind of bone-deep, world weary nihilism. Jaime saw something shocking about human nature while serving the Mad King years ago, and he’s been hiding it since then behind his brash and sarcastic exterior. There’s more to him, though, than just that mask.

And finally, Daenerys Stormborn, mother of dragons. After waking to find her son died stillborn, and her husband a living vegetable, she resolves never to be scared, frightened, or taken advantage of again. She builds a funeral pyre for Drogo, places her precious dragon eggs within, and ties the witch who killed her baby with her magic to the pyre. As it burns, she strides into the flames, and the next morning she rises from the ashes like some kind of primeval goddess, cradling the only dragons alive in the world. Though she’s now clearly a force to be reckoned with, I can’t help but wonder about her mental state. The mercy she showed the witch came back to bite her, as it was the witch who (probably) ensured that Drogo’s wound festered, and whose magic (probably) destroyed the life of her unborn son. Is there any room left in Dany’s heart for mercy, or will she become the new Mad King?

It’s going to be a long wait until next April.

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6 thoughts on “Game of Thrones Finale: Fire and Blood

  1. Nice writeup…

    Personally, I thought it was a few too many cliffhangers… I know they’re setting up the next season, but with as many storylines open as GOT has, I was hoping something would come to resolution.

    Really glad HBO has picked up season 2, and yes, it’s gonna be rough to wait until then!

  2. Thanks for the comment. There certainly were a lot of cliffhangers, though I’m not bothered by them. Perhaps that’s because of my knowledge of the books. Regardless, I think the cliffhangers were effectively done (unlike The Killing’s); I think we got enough resolution to make us feel good about the season as a whole, but enough was left unanswered to make us want more. Looking back at the season, it’s almost like the whole thing was a prelude to what will come next.

  3. Great episode, and great review.

    For me, part of why the episode worked so well even though relatively little happened is that the last few episodes were so heavy, and so many viewers were threatening to stop watching because they were mad that Ned died, that the show had nothing left to prove about its ability to deliver after building up tension, but it *did* need to prove that we’d still care about the story now that Ned was gone. And this episode did a great job of convincing the viewer that they would indeed want to know what happens next. Plus, you know, dragons.

  4. I adored the scene with Sansa and Joffrey. There was something about the way that she looked that gave such a true reaction to having to see her father’s head on a stake, and then later, her nurse’s head. But most of all, I liked the Hound. The Hound is turning out to be, possibly, an ally in a cold, cruel world. Probably because his own brother gave him a cruel punishment.

    I understand that Dany’s final scene did a lot of setup for the upcoming scene (and it was very artistically done), but as someone who hasn’t read the books, I didn’t quite get it. What is it setting the series up for? The dragons are back, but so what? That didn’t elicit as excited of a response to me.

    Finally, Jon Snow. Well, perhaps I need to write my own post on that one.

  5. I really loved that Sansa/Joffrey scene too. There’s a moment where you can almost see her spine of steel develop. She suddenly manages to pull herself away from the horror of the scene, keeps looking at the heads, and off-handedly asks, “How long do you want me to look?” She immediately turns Joffrey’s cruelty around on him, proving that she has power in that moment. Also, the Hound is awesome. I hope we get a lot more of him next season.

    I guess they’re trying to argue that no only is Dany now suddenly a very powerful and dangerous player because of the Dragons, but also that a new age is dawning. Dragons, and by extension magic, have been extinct from this world for a while. Now they’re back.

  6. There’s a moment where you can almost see her spine of steel develop.

    Actually, I think that moment was when Joffrey says he’ll have her brother’s head and she says, “Or maybe he’ll have yours.” Though I will say, initially, when she looked at the drop, I thought she was going to kill herself.

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