“Blood and Fire” 1.10
Wait, no, different ungodly long fantasy book series.
And if anyone tries to make Robert Jordan's desperately-in-need-of-an-editor-with-a-machete books into a TV show I will punch them in the face. For reals.
Please be warned, this is not a coherent review at all. Sorry.
Okay, I am in a really tricky situation. I (finally) watched this episode on Monday. I saved and saved it, knowing it is all we’ll have for a while. But, because I was so busy savoring it I didn’t write any notes about the order and details of events as the show presents them. So Thursday I went to the internets to watch the episode again, and write notes, but all of the places that I borrow videos from had nothing to give me. (Bastards.) Add to this some sort of huge disagreement my computer Mal (yes, named after the one and only Captain Malcolm Reynolds) is having with the wireless router in my apartment and you get my current conundrum: I know what happened in the episode and I have lots of opinions and impressions but I cannot remember enough to write a description along the lines of what I’ve done for the previous episodes. I feel like such a failure. I thought I would actually account for a whole season of a show, but alas, look like I have sabotaged myself, yet again.
So here’s what I’m going to do. It’s what I do for everything else. I’m going to talk about what I liked and what I didn’t, and I’ll give as much background information as I can/deem necessary to be clear, and I’m going to trust that you’ll have already seen this episode, or that you will watch it sometime in the future. I might fail, but I like to announce my failure, not just slip away with a bit of dignity. But I have to do something.
Kind of like Jon. Okay, not at all like Jon, but good transition right? Jon decided that he needed to join Robb, even though deserters from the Night’s Watch get beheaded, but Sam, Grenn and Pyp followed him and convinced him to return. Lord Commander Mormont wasn’t too upset, mostly because he’s decided to assemble the men (Jon included) and go north of the Wall, to find out what’s the what with the zombies and the wildlings, as well as find Benjen Stark, dead or alive. It might have seemed like such a cheep joke to have Sam fall of his horse while pursuing Jon, who turns back to make sure his friend isn’t injured, and as much as it was funny, it wasn’t just a throw away sight gag. Jon needed to badly to see that honor isn’t always the most heroic looking thing, that sometimes what is right is awkward and uncoordinated. Jon and Sam are continually struggling with the difference between expectation and reality. Both believe the best of each other, therefore they in turn ask the other to set aside expectation (self-inflicted or otherwise) and see their own hearts clearly. The fact that Sam does this in a (maybe unintentionally) humorous way is part of what makes him so vital, to Jon and to us. Jon doesn’t want to betray his vow, but because he’s been taught that the world will always see him as an abomination, he can tell himself that desertion is in his nature. He needs to see Sam literally fall to realize that he doesn’t have to, that he can live up to his vow. And what a vow it is. I know we’ve heard it before, but every time the vow of The Brothers of the Nights Watch fills my heart. You could argue that the scene, the three friends gathering in an ever tightening circle around Jon and picking up the lines until they spoke in unison, was overdone, too overtly "dramatic" set in the darkness as it was. Not to me. To me, it was beautiful. It was a roughly elegant example of why Game of Thrones (books and show) have captured me so fully: WORDS MATTER. Those simple sentences (subject, verb, object) spoken from sincere hearts break through Jon's conflicted soul. In case you’ve forgotten, the oath of the Night's Watch is as follows (from Wikipedia):
Night gathers, and now my watch begins. It shall not end until my death. I shall take no wife, hold no lands, father no children. I shall wear no crowns and win no glory. I shall live and die at my post. I am the sword in the darkness. I am the watcher on the walls. I am the fire that burns against the cold, the light that brings the dawn, the horn that wakes the sleepers, the shield that guards the realms of men. I pledge my life and honor to the Night's Watch, for this night and all the nights to come.
This is a powerful oath; it is asking men (and in some cases just boys) to completely abnegate the self, to sacrifice their entirety to be the first and last defense against, essentially, evil. It is the fundamental human mandate, to preserve against destruction, and when they agree to this they are agreeing to do so for an entire nation of people. The enormity of their charge radiates out of these forthright declarations, elevating the men who speak them. Gives me shivers.
The Night’s Watch aren’t the only ones on the move. Tyrion will be taking a journey next season as well. Tywin, rather put out that Robb has captured Jaime and that Joffery’s execution of Ned has eliminated any possibility of peace, decides to send Tyrion to King’s Landing to act as Hand of the King while he (Tywin) hunts down the Young Wolf. There’s a catch; Tyrion is to leave Shae behind, but Tyrion decides to ignore/defy his pops, and Shae starts packing her bags. Honestly, if Tyrion has any hope of getting that little sociopath he calls a nephew in line, Shae is a bit of an unnecessary distraction. But, if Tywin hadn’t been such an ass-hat about telling Tyrion not to bring her, Tyrion might have left her behind. Because Tyrion is so good he has a sense of loyalty to his family, he wants to help them, and he wants to use the gifts that he has to create peace in his homeland. Left to think it through on his own, he very likely would have put aside his own desires in order to fully focus on the task at hand. If only Tywin, having finally acknowledged that Tyrion is the smartest of his children and the best qualified to put a leash on Joffery and Cersei, could have restrained his own desire to knock his son down. He doesn’t want Tyrion to mistake (grudging) semi-respect with esteem or, gods forbid, affection. Not only is it just cruel parenting (seems to run in the Lannister family), it is terrible leadership. (I almost wrote “human resource management” there, and then realized that I’m not talking about my job.) If you need someone to do something for you, and do it well, you don’t point out to him/her your disdain. You aren’t going to get what you want/need, and if you’re operating in the context of a civil war, the stakes might be just too high to justify indulging in petty jabs. Anyone wondering if Tywin would have made a better king than Robert should have witnessed that little exchange with his second born son, which provided a very definitive NO.
Luckily, Tywin’s sons are so much better than he is. I have to give away a bias, because I’ve done a shit job of holding it in, and damn it, this is my blog, no one pays me for this, and I can say whatever I want. I started reading these books upon the recommendation of my friend Brandon (he’s kind of my geek guru and he’s way smart and funny) and he gave me a piece of advice when I started: hold back from becoming attached to the characters, because war is a fickle bitch and you don’t know what is going to happen. I NEEDED this advice, because as anyone whose read more than about two words of what I write knows, I think of characters as real people, they take on actuality and reality within in my mind, and I get super attached to them, and way too frakking judge-y judge-y about them. (For example, please see my INTENSE HATERD of Catelyn.) In order to help me, Brandon mentioned to me that Jaime had become one of his favorite characters by the end of Book 4. I was shocked, how could that possibly be? Incest guy who pushed darling Bran out a window? But I trusted Brandon and tried my best (with varying results) to hold off from being me about the characters. And I kept an eye on Jaime. Damn it if Brandon wasn’t all too right, because by the end of Book 4 Jaime was as firmly fixed in my heart as Jon, Arya, and Tyrion. What happens to Jaime (in the books) is utterly astounding, and I’ve tried to explain it to people (both obliquely as to not give too much away as well as by going into detail without concern for spoilers) but in a way I’m still processing it, and that should tell you how stunning Jaime as a character becomes: months and months later, I’m still trying to find the words. (One of the things that keeps me coming back to literature is when I encounter something that knocks me back to the point where I cannot form an argument around it, that frustration and awe makes me happier than almost anything on this earth.) Why am I telling you all this? Because as much as I suck at hiding my biases, I’ve tried harder with Jaime than with other characters on the show, in order to not spit out everything that other people might not know yet and wouldn’t be at all prepared for. This episode (yes, at some point I’m actually going to talk about the TV show) freed me up a bit, because they are preparing us! Jaime and Catelyn’s conversation was brilliant. Without any hesitation he told her that he pushed Bran out the window, with the intent to kill him, but he won’t tell her why, and you get to see that he wants to. He wants to give her the answers she needs, he isn’t trying to torture this woman who is on the edge, who with very little provocation could be goaded into killing him. And he can’t and that doesn’t sit well with him. He isn’t nearly the fool or the monster that everyone assumes that he is: he can’t tell the mother of the rebel leader that the king is a pretender but he recognizes that he owes Catelyn, as a mother and grieving widow, some measure of peace. And it’s so clear to us just how thin the persona he’s taken on has become. When Catelyn approaches him he defaults into flirting with her, to insulting her by sexual advance so that she’ll consider him beneath concern, and when she hits him across the head with a rock the shell literally cracks, he can’t hold onto the defenses he’s used to manipulate people his whole life. We’ve seen the hint in pervious episodes that there is more going on inside him than he lets on (his comment about Theon being like a shark on a mountaintop was a particularly telling moment) but facing all of Catelyn’s rage and sorrow, caught between a desire to be honest and his sense of duty that keeps him silent, was a revelation from which there is no turning back.
Much like there is no turning back from declaring Robb the “King in the North.” I’ll admit it, I choked up a bit.
Funny enough, Dany didn’t choke when she walked into Drogo’s funeral pyre to retrieve her newborn dragons. Yes, live baby dragons were waiting in the eggs she was given as a wedding present. (The blood spell killed Dany’s baby while in the womb and Drogo’s soul still parted from his body. Dany smothered Drogo with a pillow. Hence the funeral pyre.) Am I the only one who isn’t entirely comfortable with Dany having dragons? And as much as Dany is the proper person to whom the dragons would come to, it just makes me a bit nervous, because she isn’t always so stable. I have to give Dany a break, she is very young and her upbringing was, um, unconventional. She isn’t a particularly good judge of character, evidenced by the witch who had no trouble whatsoever convincing Dany to exchange the life of her unborn child for the continued heartbeating of her husband. People tried to warn her that she was making a mistake, and that bitch was super shady looking, but Dany convinced herself that a) she would be treated with a certain degree of respect due to her station and family, and b) that she had really thought through all the contingencies of what she was doing. Leadership is as much strategy as it is veneration, and being given the later by some of her followers she neglected the former. It’s rather difficult to empathize with her when bad things happen because she REFUSES to listen to anyone, to even for a second admit that she might not completely and totally know what she’s doing, but on the other hand it’s understandable why she would behave that way, since she’s never had anyone she could trust and rely on to guide her.
But as Sansa clearly demonstrates, it is possible to have the best guidance in the world and not realize it until it’s too late. She should have pushed Joffery off that bridge. Just shoved that little prick for pure revenge.
We will have to wait awhile to see if she regrets not joining the ranks of kingslayers. It interests me to watch a season finale for a show that has a certain future. HBO picked up a second season of GoT before the 3 episode aired, and frankly after the pilot there wasn’t a doubt in my mind that this show would come to as abrupt and end as some of it’s characters. Instead of either a cliff-hanger, some hugely surprising event that occupies the viewer’s mind creating a desperate need to see how the next season plays out (and maybe thereby stave of cancellation) or a resolution, where the various plots are wrapped up in a way that can both fulfill and thwart our expectations, what we got here was a combination of both: our character know where they have been and are prepared to set out for the next stage of their journey.
The TV Girl