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.