Monday, April 21, 2014

Breaker of Chains

Last week's episode of Game of Thrones culminated in one of the biggest events of George R.R. Martin's third book in his series, A Storm of Swords. Events this week picked up at the very moment the last episode left off, showing us who was behind the assassination plot on Joffrey (though not the one who actually did the deed): Littlefinger made his grand return. From there, however, the episode was made up mostly of material altered or absent from that source. As usual, the writers of the show did great work with their changes.

Margaery Tyrell had a wonderful scene about the way that kings seem to wind up dead around her, filled as always with pearls of wit from Lady Olenna. The development of these two characters, far above and beyond their depiction in the original book, continues to be one of my favorite improvements in the show.

Next came the longest scene of the episode, in a gorgeously created set representing the Great Sept of Baelor. Tywin's council to Tommen was a wonderful addition, revealing so much about all the characters -- even Cersei, who though nearly silent, seemed to be effectively screaming "must we do this now, in front of my dead son?" Of course, that sentiment would be amplified moments later, when Jamie arrived in the scene. Jack Gleeson gave one last amazing performance as Joffrey, remaining motionless as Jamie forced himself on Cersei, right then and there. This piece had foundation in the book, yet also represents a major departure. The incestuous siblings did have a reunion, but here it was a rape. Whereas the book by this point had fairly well thrown the switch on making Jamie one of the "good guys" (maybe "better guys" is more accurate?), the TV series makes this dramatic alteration to remind us that Jamie isn't necessarily one to be rooting for.

Then came more of the wonderful buddy road movie that is the adventures of the Hound and Arya -- and it was another study in "don't think this bad guy has really turned good." The Hound and Arya have certainly been rubbing off on each other, but the former's treatment of the poor farmer and his daughter showed us: not as much as you might think.

The plots involving Sam and Davos were among my least favorites in the book, and the episode did lag for me a bit as the show turned its eye to them. Still, the writers are doing a good job (particularly with Davos) in building interest in what's going to happen next.

Another new scene followed, between Tywin and Oberyn. Charles Dance as Tywin has played so many great two-person scenes throughout his time on the show, and here was another. Both the character and it seems the actor are at their best in a scene where Tywin and some other party are each trying to extract some advantage from each other -- each fully aware of what the other is doing. Though Tywin's past verbal jousts with Olenna have wound up as ties, it certainly felt like he got the upper hand of Oberyn here.

Tyrion's dungeon scene was wonderful. I can't remember whether this particular scene appeared in the novel or not, largely because I can hardly remember the character of Podrick Payne from the book. He hasn't been all that much a presence on the show either, really, but in a testament to Peter Dinklage's skill, I certainly cared about this scene between Tyrion and Podrick. Last week, Tyrion had to send away Shae by masking his true feelings. Here, Tyrion reveals them for and to Podrick, and it's strangely touching.

Another added scene depicts the savagery of the Wildlings as they massacre a village south of the Wall. This scene not only does a good job of showing how credible a threat they are to Jon Snow and the Night's Watch, it also showed us how Ygritte has nothing but vengeance in her heart now, as her arrow (through the throat!) was the first volley in the attack.

Finally, we had an extended sequence in which Dany arrives at Meereen. It gave us a great moment for Daario to be a badass, followed by an even greater moment in which Daenerys was even more of a badass -- the launching of the catapults loaded with broken slave collars was a powerful moment on which to end the episode.

Another solid episode of Game of Thrones. I give it an A-, the "minus" probably only owing to my lack of interest in the Sam plot.

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