Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Sean & Megan Watch Game of Thrones: Baelor

From the blog that brought you "Lynn Phegley Watches Lost," get ready for another experience that redefines the art of recapping TV shows!

Sean T. Collins is a friend to the Cool Kids and avid devotee of George R.R. Martin's "A Song of Fire and Ice" series of books, upon which the HBO television show Game of Thrones is based; he is currently chronicling the series on two separate blogs, one with book spoilers and one without.

Megan Morse is Ben's wife who has never read the Martin books and does not typically go in for the fantasy genre but loves Game of Thrones for reasons she doesn't even fully understand.

Each week, Megan will provide her analysis of the show from a neophyte's standpoint and then Sean will interject with his informed reactions and insights, answering her questions and commenting on her observations.

Whether you're a nerd or a newcomer, if you're watching Game of Thrones this is the recap for you!

Megan: This was one of my favorite episodes. I don't think it's hard to tell from some of my criticisms in the past that I don't have a terribly long attention span sometimes--sometimes if just one character talks for more than a minute, I'll zone out and make a note to have Ben pause it after the scene and tell me what happened, which he loves--so I loved how packed this was with a variety of different things. I loved the action, I loved the cliffhangers, but I also loved the character development with Tyrion and the drama with Daenerys and Drogo. This episode had it all--and it ended with a beheading!

Sean: "I'll take 'Things People Never Say About Army Wives' for $200, Alex."

Megan: Let's start with the stuff at the stuff at the Twins and Robb's campaign. First and foremost, I was excited that Lord Frey was played by Filch from Harry Potter! Frankly I've been disappointed to this point that we've only had one other Harry Potter alum--that I know of--so this was nice. More actors from Skins also please! There are lots of out of work British actors who I actually know. I have never seen Lord of the Rings, so that doesn't help me.

Sean: Game of Thrones is certainly shaping up to be for UK character actors what Law & Order was for New York theater veterans.

Megan: Where was I...right, the Twins. I appreciated Lord Frey; he was very snarky and quippy--that may be a made up word--much like my husband. I like that nobody will marry his kids; it actually made me think of friends from big families where not all the siblings are married and the parents can't get them out of the house, so this is not a problem limited to Game of Thrones--very sympathetic issue.

Sean: Ha, I'd never thought of it that way before, but it makes sense. In the books, the characters say that Lord Frey is the only lord in Westeros who could field an army out of his breeches -- that's how many children and grandchildren and great-grandchildren and in-laws and bastards and grandbastards he has. Add that drain on his resources to his festering resentment for the greater Houses like Tully and Stark and Lannister, who he feels (correctly!) only use him for his bridge, and you've got the recipe for a cantankerous old shit.

Megan: It is interesting how Robb agreeing to marry himself and Arya off to essentially cross a bridge was not that big a deal in the larger scheme; interesting in the sense that I felt bad for him for a second, but then much like he did, just kind of brushed it off as "That's just the way it goes."

Sean: Perhaps this is what maturity looks like in Westeros: coming to terms with the fact that your life is not yours to control. I wouldn't trade being a lord for being one of the smallfolk for anything, but even the highborn are basically puppets to genealogy and politics.

Megan: Robb's whole progression has fallen into kind of a grey area for me. He's really growing on Ben because he's into honor and all that junk, but I just want to be entertained. There are certain story lines I crave and want to get more of; there are others I actively dislike because they are keeping me from the good ones; then there are the ones I don't actively dislike, but I'm still not counting the minutes until they get back to them. Up until this point, the Stark-Lannister war on the whole was in that last category, but now I'm getting more into the Lannister side, while the Stark end is ok, but not great.

Sean: I think that's understandable. With the exception of Arya, who's not exactly a shotcaller for the Starks, none of them have the spunk that Tyrion or even Jaime have displayed.

Megan: As to why I'm enjoying the Lannister camp scenes more, that's mainly for the great Tyrion stuff. I was actually souring on him a bit last few week because I didn't find him as interesting at the camp as I did in his previous situations, but this may have been his best episode yet--yeah, I think it was. Obviously he's funny, obviously he's charming in his own way, but aside from little glimpses, we haven't gotten to see his more serious sympathetic side until this week and he gained a whole new endearing dimension as a result. The story he told of his marriage was crushing and I think Peter Dinklage earned his eventual Emmy by showing he can do the heartfelt stuff with this character as well as make people laugh.

Sean: My favorite detail about that sequence was when he starts losing to Shae in the game of "I Never" they're playing: After being forced to take a few drinks after whiffing on several guesses, he kind of stammers and says "We went over the importance of not lying, didn't we?" or something like that. He's having a really, really hard time dealing with not being the smartest guy in the room. But what separates him from his siblings and father is that you never get the impression that placing second would make him want to kill the person in first place. You know what I mean? That's Tyrion's charm in a nutshell: He's smart, he's funny, he's ruthlessly cunning but not actually ruthless, at least not that we've seen. Chalk that up to the years of psychological abuse he endured at his father's hands, I suppose, and to the horrible fate of his wife. I'm guessing that when you're exposed to something like that, ruthlessness either loses a lot of its luster or, as was the case for the Hound after his abuse by the Mountain, it becomes the only language you speak.

Megan: Kudos also to Bronn, who is one of the unsung stars of the show for me; his facial expressions reacting to other people are gold. I'm very intrigued by Shae as well--definitely want to know her story.

Sean: Bronn is terrific -- Jerome Flynn's a real MVP. Fun fact about Shae: In the books, she's a native of Westeros with the same roughly English vibe as everyone else, but the filmmakers and George R.R. Martin were so impressed by Sibel Kikelli's audition that they rewrote the part around her.

Megan: Still don't like the Wall, but at least there was stuff going on there this week. I wouldn't have known that the Lord Commander was Jorah's dad unless Ben pointed it out to me, but that's just because I semi-intentionally stop paying attention whenever Jon Snow comes onscreen.

Sean: The Old Bear's a good dude. And convincingly cast, I thought -- he looks like he could be Jorah's dad, sure.

Megan: How does the he have a son if guys on the Wall aren't supposed to take a wife or have kids?

Sean: Jeor took the Black well after Jorah was born, in order to allow his son to take over his lordship. Pretty selfless when compared to the likes of Walder Frey. It didn't work out, since Jorah disgraced himself by selling some poachers he'd captured into slavery, but that was the idea.

Megan: Similarly, I was splitting my focus between the laundry on my living room floor and that Keeping Up With The Kardashians had just started taping when we learned that Aemon is a Targaryen, but Ben caught me up; I do think that's cool and hope there's some payoff ahead since we thought there was only one left in Daenerys, but now we know that not to be the case.

Sean: If you've still got this thing on a DVR someplace [EDITOR'S NOTE: Nope, just unwatched episodes of Hellcats], watch that speech again. I like how this sudden agony and fury suddenly comes out of this frail old man. He still has some dragon left in him, it would seem, yet tempered with a hard-earned wisdom and kindness that I don't think too many Targaryens shared by the time of the Mad King.

Megan: With Aemon alive, does he technically have a more legitimate claim to the crown than Daenerys if the Targaryens were to regain control?

Sean: No, because Maesters forsake their House names and are sworn to serve for life. It was easy to miss, but he mentions that he was actually offered the crown during a shaky period of succession decades and decades ago -- I believe the High Septon, basically the Westerosi pope, can release people from their vows -- but refused. The fact that Robert let him live speaks volumes about how secure people are that men on the Wall stay on the Wall.

Megan: I liked the other guys passing around Jon's new sword like it was a toy; I guess that's their equivalent of the iPad or the Wii coming out and their buddy getting one.

Sean: Ha! That's brilliant.

Megan: The stuff across the Narrow Sea was well done from the start. From the very first shot and the way Drogo was hunched over on his horse, I wasn't even sure it was actually him, as they did a great job making him sickly and Jason Momoa really altered his physicality; he's obviously a huge guy, so when they take the time to diminish him, it's striking. When Daenerys was standing over him, both in the road and later in his tent, I'm not sure if it was the way the scenes were staged or the way she was carrying herself, but she honestly seemed bigger than him.

Sean: The bigger they come, the harder they fall. Last time we saw him he killed an armed man with his bare hands; this time he can't even sit up. I loved how ominously matter-of-fact his bloodrider was: "He fell from his horse." Right then and there you know the jig's up.

Megan: I liked getting the contrast between how the Dothraki society works and how things are done in Westeros, as explained by Jorah; as opposed to over in King's Landing where it's all about manipulation and bloodlines to secure you and your children's positioning, with the Dothraki, they're just going to fight amongst themselves and whoever wins is king, so if Drogo dies, Daenerys has no claim whatsoever.

Sean: Although you do start to wonder how much the Westerosi concepts of lineage are just a pretty lace covering they drape over the same might-makes-right system the Dothraki don't bullshit themselves about.

Megan: I guess this speaks to the strength of how they've portrayed Daenerys and Drogo's relationship as I've said in past weeks, but it never really occured to me that her mounting desperation to save his life was from anything other than caring deeply about him. If she was truly concerned about the life of herself or her son, she could have just escaped with Jorah, so I didn't feel like she wanted Drogo to live just so the Dothraki wouldn't kill her or her baby. Is it possible she was just concerned that if Drogo dies the Dothraki wouldn't cross the Narrow Sea and she wouldn't get her throne? Maybe, but I'm sticking with the idea she loves him and would do anything to save his life.

Sean: Since I've read the books I know there's really no question here: She stayed because she loves Drogo and wants to save him. But you raise an excellent point about the quality of this storyline in the show. Viewers have no recourse to Dany's interior monologue and thus have no idea if she's sticking around out of love, or in hopes that reviving him will simply save her bacon and allow her to continue the march to Westeros, which would be quite an understandable conclusion to reach. They must rely on the cues given by the writing and performances, and those cues leave little doubt why she's doing what she's doing. She's for real.

Megan: Final thoughts on the Narrow Sea stuff: Who do they hate horses so much? Is that three that they've killed?

Sean: Yes, horses have not fared well on Game of Thrones. And they actually cut a gory horse death: In the books, Tyrion makes it into that battle, and ends up surviving in part by accidentally disembowling a horse with the spike on his helmet when he stands up off the ground. Forget the Night's Watch: Westeros needs a Sworn Brotherhood of the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.

Megan: Also, Mirri Maz Duur is creepy, so good casting. I really have no thoughts on Jorah at the moment, even though he finally took some action; I'm mainly interested in him for exposition.

Sean: I thought it was cool to see the contrasting fighting styles of him and Drogo's bloodrider. You can see the advantages and disadvantages of both, though in the end it was obviously unfamiliarity with fighting in armor that did whatsisname in--a contrast with the trial by combat between Bronn and Ser Vardis in the Eyrie, where Bronn knew he needed to tire his armored opponent out first before going in for the kill.

Megan: Was I surprised that Ned got beheaded? I was, but not entirely. Ben was sure he would somehow survive and I was pretty steadfast that it was not certain. Clearly nobody is safe on this show. I'm glad for that. Everything feels more important and every moment is more tense when anybody could go at any time. There are a lot of shows that are framed in such a way that certain characters are never at risk. At first, I thought this was one of those shows, but clearly I was wrong.

Sean: That's for damn sure. What surprised me most is how intense this was for me, even though I've read the book twice (and actually had it accidentally spoiled for me beforehand!) and knew everything that was going to happen. The filmmakers used every trick at their disposal to make that scene as intense as possible. I can only imagine how it felt for newbies. I've read some articles that say that this was one of the most narratively audacious moves ever made by a TV drama -- killing off its main character and biggest star in the first season. You're right, it's crystal clear that no one is safe...though that's a lesson that stings every new time we learn it, I can promise you that.

Megan: I'm starting to get a feel for how you described the way the book is structured in terms of its narrative and how it translates to the show. Ned was the focal point at the beginning, but they've been moving around lately where he has been featured less and it doesn't feel like the show is fundamentally shattered even if he's gone. Those were his chapters and now we've "read" them, so onto the next set.

Sean: That's what the network's counting on, certainly.

Megan: Hey, one last question: did they steal the crow mail system from Harry Potter and the owls?

Sean: Ha! No, A Game of Thrones came out first. You can see its influence on Potter in several ways--the owls are the most obvious, but there's also the whole Ron/Ginny incest storyline, and the part where Neville decapitates a horse.

4 comments:

Sam Humphries said...

"The fact that Robert let him live speaks volumes about how secure people are that men on the Wall stay on the Wall."

Wow, yeah. Never quite thought of it that way before, even coming from the books, but that is a big deal.

Lidia | Adelgazar said...

Game of thrones is, probably, the best TV serie that I've ever seen.
It's raw and real like none, and reflects the European Middle Age (althought was fantastic, not historic) in all over its dimension.
The characters and the script have an incredible depth.
Perhaps, the sex scenes and explicit violence are too frequent.

Rosa - Tiendas de animales said...

One of the series mas spectacular of last years. I hope that the movie follows the same stela.

Ocucan said...

A series that has me really caught. I want to see mas. insurance it turns into the classic one.