Game of Thrones 4×05, ‘First of His Name’: Poppin’ Locke

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Narrative momentum begins to simmer in Westeros, and as things settle down in King’s Landing new developments kick up in the Vale and the fires of conflict continue to rage along the Wall in the North.  Danaerys considers  the advice of counsel and possibly revises her “I’mma go burn down the world” plan, Arya gets some hard lessons on practical swordplay, and Jon and Bran both gets their dogs back, but just miss each other during a fiery dust-up in Wildling territory.  It’s yet another plodding episode, but at least we get a neat swordfight at the end; sorta like having a bland meal followed by a good piece of cake — it’s not a wholly satisfying experience, but you’re glad you stuck around.

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source: HBO

IN THIS EPISODE: Sweet Tommen is crowned king; Cersei does a hard 180, reaching the “acceptance” stage of grief and appearing to smooth things over between herself and Margaery Tyrell (or does she?) while finally admitting that Joffrey was an inhuman abomination; Oberyn Tyrell assures Cersei he’ll send a loving word out to her estranged daughter at the Dornean court; Tywin reiterates that the Tyrells are critical to the financial stability of the Lannister’s rule, so shut up about marrying Loras already, Cersei, and just do it, gah; Jorah speaks truth to power, and politely tells Dany that she’s pretty great at conquering things but kinda crap at actually governing and providing stability; Dario and Barristan don’t respect Dany’s military acumen and go over her head; Brienne suffers Podric’s poor horsemanship; Arya’s joy over reclaiming Needle is brought down to earth as the Hound shows her just how limited the little dagger is regardless of her fancy footwork; Sansa begins to realize that life at Aunt Lysa’s is going to be less “home sweet home” and more “Addams Family meets Lars von Trier”; Jojen foretells everyone’s doom while Meera joins the growing roster of sexually-abused female characters; Jon and the Volunteers take back Craster’s Keep from the mutineers and then burn the whole filthy thing down in a fiery act of catharsis, while Locke gets fatally Hodor’d about the head and neck.

source: HBO

source: HBO

Game of Thrones episodes tend to follow a typical pattern where you get two larger subplots at the beginning and end sandwiched around a bunch of smaller filler bits that basically serve to advance the overall story incrementally, and this week is no different as King’s Landing and Craster’s Keep take center stage.  The bigger problem I have with the latter is that is seems that the goings-on with the mutineers beyond the Wall have taken a fairly large amount of screen time this season (which is always at a premium here), and this week resolves several intersecting plotlines there that basically return us to the status quo from halfway through last season.  The defecting Nightswatch members are disposed of, Bran and company are back on their quest for the big red tree, the weaselly Locke is dispatched without anyone actually learning of his true mission, and the Stark boys’ respective dogs are returned to them.  It seems like a huge amount of plot to take us essentially back to where we already were five or six weeks ago.  I dunno.  It’s weird.  Did we learn anything important?  Did any characters grow or change?  Was there any greater point to having to watch Meera be strung up and nearly raped by a dozen dudes?  I mean, besides meeting our weekly quota for female violation, of course.  This seems to be the go-to way for Game of Thrones to show how deviant a character is, and I can’t believe I’m tired of how offensive this is.

Meanwhile, over in the Vale things are getting very sqwick in a way that could only happen with a Lysa Arryn/Littlefinger team-up.  Sansa displays what at this point is a endearing sense of naivety in finding out that her political leverage is already spoken for as her weird aunt informs her of a plan to marry her to weird little cousin Robin (last seen suckling at his mother’s breast wellllllllll past the age of propriety), while Lysa can’t wait to jump Petyr’s bones.  This scenario tilts toward incestuousness quickly, as we learn from Lysa in a terribly clunky bit of exposition that she and Littlefinger killed her husband, Lord Jon Arryn the Hand of the King Robert Baratheon, and Baelish and Lysa had been doing the midnight joust since way back, meaning the wee doofus Robin is potentially Petyr’s son.  However, even wild-eyed Lysa isn’t oblivious to Baelish’s fetish for all things Catelyn Stark (herself included), and gives Sansa a quick peek at just how deep the crazy-hole goes at the Eyrie — all the way down.  At this point it’s clear that Littlefinger is the one pulling a lot of the strings on the show, but he still hasn’t shown any greater purpose to this other than perhaps a further accumulation of power.  Maybe that’s all there is to him, but I’d like to think he’s more multifaceted than being just yet another grandiose jerk in a world lousy with them.

source: HBO

source: HBO

We don’t get a lot of time with Dany this week, but it does bring up a novel point in her character’s arc.  Upon hearing of Joffrey’s death and the Lannisters being very distracted, Barristan and Dario agree that now wouldn’t be a terrible time to sack King’s Landing, so Dany turns to her moral center, faithful Jorah.  He points out that she could very likely take King’s Landing, but she couldn’t hold it for long because A) she has almost no experience at governing, B) her opposition will eventually rally against her, and C) she’s not exactly doing a bang-up job of keeping Essos in good shape with her “recruit the slaves, forget the rest” approach to world domination.  She seems to take this under consideration, and it looks like she may aim to keep the powder dry while she consolidates her power in Essos.  In my own future head-canon, all of this happens off-screen until we need to see Dany doing something important again . . . so, like, a year or two from now.

 

 

Next week: The Trial of Tyrion!  The Rescue of Theon!  The . . uh . . finance meeting of Stannis?  Something along those lines, it seems.  Tune in, and catch me in the comments!

Atomika D.

is a writer and critic of TV and film since 2006, an alumnus of NYFA’s school of celluloid direction and production, and she once ate seven burritos on a dare. It was not pleasant. Read all about it on Tumblr.

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