This is for book readers. If you haven’t read the books go away. Or at the very least, don’t stay and throw a hissy fit over the fact that plot points are being discussed, divined as if by sacred magic from mystical texts. They’re called books you illiterate fucks. Look into them. We are currently discussing plot points published 14 years ago. Fourteen fucking years. Spoiler alert: September 11th, 2001 was a bad day.
Are you still here? Because while I appreciate that it’s rude to go looking to spoil things intentionally, I’ve completely and utterly had it with lazy jackasses so overly sensitive that they go bitching in the comments over the title of an article hinting that an episode was happy or sad.
Read it, watch it, or stay the hell off the Internet. You know what you could do in your spare time with the Internet turned off? I don’t know, maybe read a fourteen year old book so that you aren’t an ignorant blight on the face of informed conversation.
Still here? Joffrey dies, Tyrion joins the circus, and Jon Snow despite knowing nothing becomes Lord Commander of the Night’s Watch.
The best part is that someone who hasn’t read the books will think at best two of the three of those are true.
Now for the show. I’m going to approach this by basically rambling the thoughts of a literate person whilst watching it. If you want an episode summary and analysis of the more traditional mode, hop over to TK’s wonderful one. Also, I reread all five books over the winter, but in the interests of not making this a research project I’m not re-poring over the texts as I write this, so when I refer to “in the books” assume I’m prefacing it with “as I recall”. Mistakes will be made. Yell at me in the comments. I might even not ban your IP address.
We begin with the melting down of ol’ Ned’s big ol’ sword in order to make a couple of poncy little longswords. Weird thing about being a book reader with this series: you constantly see things happen and swear that they were supposed to have already happened. I would have sworn this happened right at the end of the first book or start of the second, but then I doublechecked it and I was completely wrong. See, mistakes, right up front.
Oberyn is all kinds of awesome. Though this is a sort of problematic introduction. See, in the book, his vengeance is more approached as being focused specifically on the Mountain, as opposed to being a violent hatred of the Lannisters in general. And he is given nothing like this sort of dramatic introduction, but is really just going for a negotiated settlement regarding being handed the Mountain for execution, now that he’s finally figured out who killed his sister. Having it recast immediately as: and therefore I know Tywin ordered it, yada, yada. Eh, if that was the perception than why has Dorne been cool with being part of the Seven Kingdoms all this time, and this is just coming up now? Seems like six months ago, they’d have jumped to help somebody screw the Lion in that case. And what’s Oberyn been doing all this time? Oh, I have a blood oath that drives my entire life, but I’ve got seventeen years of errands to run first?
Shae. Meh. I just don’t care about her in the least. For a master of the manipulation of men, she’s sort of really bad at it here. In the novels, their relationship was far more on Tyrion’s side than it comes across here. He had genuine affection for her, if only as a stand-in for the crofter’s girl he married as a boy who turned out (and the turned out not to have turned out, such as it is) to be a whore. That affection was a nice foil, for all the things he could never have: the love, the wife, etc. So he sets her up with a house that he visits, and protects her from his sister, etc. Which then made finding her in Tywin’s bed doubly cruel. I’ve never gotten that feeling from the show, and so I think Tyrion needs to get some advice from Sterling Archer: once the hooker gets clingy, you get another hooker.
Jon’s trial, well okay then. The character is just so much more sympathetic in the books, and after three-plus seasons, I still haven’t really thawed to Kit Harrington. But hey! Winter is coming! Yeah maybe by the eighth season. It’s still surfing weather in King’s Landing, and the wildlings just south of the wall are hanging out in emerald green fields. Do they just call it winter in this fantasy world? Because it looks like it’s been getting warmer season by season as winter approaches.
But wait now, Jaime is not supposed to get to King’s Landing before Joffrey’s death. And I kind of liked it better that way, because it meant that Jaime never really sees his son as king. Having him experience the little shit first hand and get treated with that patented bile undermines the later scene between the brothers in the book when Jaime sneaks Tyrion out and Tyrion has to explain just how bad a king the kid was before lying and saying that he did it. That he was Mad Aerys all over again, and the two brothers are both killers of mad kings and oathbreakers. It was a great mirror that I don’t think can really happen now.
Oh, Dany’s still in this too. Crucified slave was suitably creepy, but I fear that they’ve got very little to give Dany to do for the next couple of seasons. Mostly because she doesn’t really do much for the next couple of books. In the text, she’s really most interesting in the first two books and then settles into this holding pattern of page suckage, presumably waiting until it makes plot sense to find a way to cross the ocean. She has a couple of great scenes, but mostly it’s just “oh bother, it’s like wicked hard to run a kingdom, ooh time for a vaguely creepily written sexual awakening.”
And oh sweet dire wolf jeebus, that last scene with Arya was brilliant. Especially the way they shot her work with the sword: delicate and effortless. No bashing or slashing, just shifting forward and letting the steel do the work itself. Damn.
Of course I want to just shake all of the non-readers and scream at them. Was that wonderful! Was that fantastic! Don’t you just sit up straight whenever Arya comes on screen? Well congratulations, she has like three more scenes total in this novel and the next two combined. But don’t worry, there are a bunch of new characters added that you don’t remember three months after reading the fourth and fifth books for a second time.
Random guess at this point: either they’re going to have some major storyline changes in order to keep Arya more in play and have her actually run into Lady Stoneheart, or the late great Catelyn’s resurrection reveal will be delayed until Brienne runs across her towards the end of this season.
Steven Lloyd Wilson is a hopeless romantic and the last scion of Norse warriors and the forbidden elder gods. His novel, ramblings, and assorted fictions coalesce at www.burningviolin.com. You can email him here and order his novel here.