And so the pieces start moving.
Sunday’s 5th episode of GAME OF THRONES on HBO, titled THE WOLF AND THE LION, was basically a chess match coming to a head in which all the pieces that had previously been laid delicately into place, started firing around the board at high speeds.
The action ramped WAY up in this one from minute one. The dialogue sequences (those from the book and those not from the book) are so telling and well acted at this point that I have a hard time deciding which of those scenes is my favourite. The gore factor jumps within minutes, not to be outdone the creepy and crazy factor jumps as well, and all the while one of your favourite characters begins to make poor decisions that while altruistic and honorable, will ultimately have you yelling at the screen “Just go Ned! Run!!”
I honestly would have trouble trying to break this down into a proper review, so I thought I’d go with point form awesome. What say you?
-Maester Luwin going about lessons with a bored Bran while Theon Greyjoy practices archery was really well executed, and I think I need to add that Issac Hempsted-Wright is absolutely firing on the same acting cylinders that fellow child actor Maisie Williams (Arya Stark) is. This kid can act, and brings the perfect balance of bored kid and son of a lord to the scene. The added discussion of fleshing out the Greyjoy rebellion a bit more was nice to see as well.
-Varys is all over this episode, discussing with Ned that the fate of the king might be the same as Jon Arryn if he’s not careful. Facing off against Littlefinger in the Iron Throne room about who knows more about the other, and finally his secreted discussion with Magister Illyrio in the bowels of the Red Keep about Khal Drogo and Daenerys and how things will be affected. I think the Conleth Hill who is playing Varys is really nailing the eunuch now.
-Speaking of Littlefinger, He has a brief “I’m still a creep whispering to Sansa at the Tourney” moment at the beginning, but later on he has some really good scenes, especially the last scene with Ned and Jaime outside the brothel.
-The fight in the Mountains of the Moon with Cat, Tyrion and Bronn and the other bannermen was well executed and acted. The action was palpable and visceral. Tyrion’s defense of himself (saying of the assassination attempt on Bran that Cat accused him of) “What sort of idiot arms an assassin with his own blade?” was perfect and Cat had a moment of doubt. I loved that moment especially because if you really think about it…the events later on in Kings Landing between Ned and Jaime are her fault, and for something that Tyrion didn’t even do. It actually puts my feelings about Catelyn as a character into “stark” (pun!) relief. I feel she’s a great strong woman and mother, but on the other hand I feel she spends a lot of time making really dumb decisions, and that’s not just confined to just this stuff, she continues to make bad decisions.
-This leads into the scene at the Eyrie where Cat finds her sister Lysa (widowed wife of murdered Hand of the King, Jon Arryn) gone right round the bend crazy, like full-on batshit. As she scolds Cat for bringing a cursed Lannister to her impregnable castle in the mountains, she also has a breast out and is breast feeding her son Robert, a boy of eight…yup…I’ll let the creep factor of that settle in for a second…ready to move on? Excellent! Lysa, prompted by her sickly son Robert (“I want to see him fly mommy!”) puts Tyrion in one of her sky cells, a cell with no wall on one side open to the thousands of feet drop off the mountain…much to Tyrion’s chagrin. Kate Dickie who plays Lysa was perfect in the few minutes she was on screen and every bit the woman I recall Lysa being in the books. And of course Peter Dinklage continues to prove why he should win an Emmy for his role, his delivery is impeccable!
-Gethin Anthony and Finn Jones, as Renly Baratheon and Loras Tyrell respectively, have the responsibility of revealing something to the audience of the show that fans of the book series had to speculate on till book four, and that is that they have an illicit gay relationship with one another, and Tyrell spends a bit of time convincing Renly that even though he’s 4th in line, he should be king. What’s interesting here is that I feel that this scene (not in the books obviously) is a great addition because it will give far more weight to later happenings in this season and especially in season 2 including other people with feelings towards the king’s younger brother (I’m looking at you Brienne of Tarth!).
-Now the meat. Ned VS Jaime. Gods this scene was perfect. I actually sat down after watching it and re-read just that scene in the book to see how accurate it is and it’s not only accurate (dialogue and all), but the additions and live interpretations of the things that happen are welcome and exciting! Ned allows his need to uncover every rock concerning Jon Arryn’s death to overcome good sense, and stupidly goes to talk to the last person Arryn spoke to instead of grabbing his girls and leaving to go north…even though you want to scream at him to just leave. This of course results in Jaime Lannister having the time to hear of his brother’s capture by Lady Stark and confront Ned, Jory Cassel and two other Stark guardsmen outside the brothel. This is the scene where the Starks and the Lannisters REALLY go to war. This is the opening salvo. Jaime wants his brother back and Ned wants justice for Bran (whilst protecting his wife’s decision by taking responsibility for it) and so the standoff begins, but it doesn’t last long. After Littlefinger heads off to find the City Guard, Ned and Jaime have a few short words, then all hell breaks loose. This scene is nice because it gives Jory Cassel a death that is only touched on in the books. The chapter in the book is from Ned’s perspective so he doesn’t see what happens to Jory (and only cradles his dead body after the fact), but here Ned and (we as audience) get to see it…and it also has the added weight of Jory’s conversation with Jaime in the last episode. An excellent scene and homage to the subject matter all told. A really good swordfight between two excellent swordsmen. Nice to see Ice (Ned's Valyrian steel greatsword) in action other than being used as a tool for beheading.
Lastly, Robert and Cersei have a chat that wasn’t in the books, and it actually comes out as one of the best of the quieter scenes in the episode. There is this grudging respect that borders all the words they exchange, and even a touch of humor, but deep down they know what they are to one another. To Robert, Cersei is the key to her fathers money and therefore ability to rule the kingdom, and to Cersei Robert is a means to an end for her family and her desire for the throne. You can tell all this in the conversation, and even know that at the basest level they are being as honest as they can be with one another about those goals and reasons. It’s also nice to have Cersei finally ask about Lyanna Stark and Robert’s feelings for her…to which Robert is more honest than he’s ever been, and so is Cersei in her response. It’s a quiet scene in which I kept expecting the King to get riled and he doesn’t. He stays calm and the restraint on his personality is well achieved. I think this is Mark Addy’s best work as Robert Baratheon in fact as the emotion is very surface and real.
Indeed and easily the best episode of the season so far, and having read the book I am aware that things will only ratchet up from here. I can’t wait for the next episode!