EDITOR NOTE: BigDamnGeeks is proud to welcome Danya Michael to the BigDamnGeeks team with her first post, a review of the most recent episode of HBO’s Game Of Thrones based on the George R.R. Martin series, A Song of Fire and Ice. We hope Danya continues to contribute so make her feel welcome!
WARNING!!!: THIS REVIEW CONTAINS SPOILERS for Game of Thrones episode 1×07.
This week’s Game of Thrones, “You Win or You Die,” was a real feast for the mind, the eye, and…other body parts. We know HBO never shies away from showing sex and violence onscreen, but this episode was packed to the gills with both. This episode is a turning point in the series; Ned Stark figures out the creepy truth about Cersei and Jaime Lannister, King Robert is mortally wounded, Daenarys convinces Khal Drogo to help her win back the Iron Throne, and we get our first taste of the war that is about to overrun the Seven Kingdoms. Oh, and some creepy stuff starts happening up at the Wall, but we’ll find out more about that later.
The most interesting thing about this episode is a couple of scenes that did not appear in the book. The show opens with Jaime Lannister getting a pretty heavy-handed lecture from his father, the ultra-wealthy (and ultra-cranky) Lord Tywin Lannister. Tywin is, understandably, in no mood to apologize for all the trouble The Mountain caused in the last episode, but he is also not too happy with Jaime at the moment. “Attacking [Ned Stark] was stupid. Lannisters don’t act like fools…Why is he still alive?” Here we learn something very important about Jaime; he chose not to kill the wounded Ned because “it wouldn’t have been clean.” Jaime may be reckless and very, very cruel, but he is not so blind to honor and public opinion as many people would believe. Lord Tywin, on the other hand, cares nothing for public opinion except as it affects the fortunes of his family. Tywin’s goal is not to be beloved or famous; his goal is to start a dynasty that will live for a thousand years. Everything he does, he does for the Lannister name, including attempting to rescue Tyrion. This scene may be a departure from the novel, but it encapsulates the goals (and the flaws) of House Lannister in a few short minutes.
The next scene, on the other hand, is taken almost line for line from the book, a fact which will make die-hard fans very happy. Ned Stark finally confronts Queen Cersei about her affair with her brother and the fact that King Robert has no legal heirs. The scene is beautifully acted and shot (OMG Cersei’s hair!), but that is small consolation to fans of Ned Stark. He does the honorable thing, giving Cersei and her children a chance to escape being executed for treason and incest, but it does him no good, as we see in this burgeoning meme:
Cut to Littlefinger’s favorite whorehouse and two new employees learning how to fake orgasms. Partly this added scene is a pretext for some gratuitous naked ladies (not necessarily a problem unless, like me, you watched this episode with elderly family members), but as things progress, we actually get some good exposure–I mean, exposition. We learn how Littlefinger came by the scar on his face, and why he’s so anxious to help Catelyn Stark, or as Petyr knows her, Cat Tully, as well as his personal opinion of Ned. And most importantly, we learn his motivation–he found early on that he can’t win by fighting, so he plans to f*ck over his enemies instead. As Petyr points out, “What we don’t know is usually what gets us killed.” Ladies and gentlemen, keep your eyes on this one.
The next scene is not in the novel either. Theon Greyjoy, the Starks’ arrogant young ward-slash-hostage, tries to impress Osha, the wildling woman who attacked Bran in the previous episode. Osha, played by the glorious Natalia Tena of Harry Potter fame, fails to be impressed by Theon’s pretensions of grandeur. She’s never heard of the Iron Islands and isn’t fazed by his boasts of how they treat criminals there. Theon insists on being called “my lord,” but Osha wants to know how he can call himself a lord when his father is still alive. He’s put off momentarily, but soon returns to attempting to get what he came for: access to the underside of Osha’s skirt. Fortunately for Theon, Maester Luwin interrupts before she has time to get mad. “The lady is our guest,” he points out. “I thought she was our prisoner,” Theon protests. “Are the two mutually exclusive in your experience?” Luwin enquires, causing Theon to run off, abashed. Between his interactions with women and his moments of violence, we’re already getting a pretty clear picture of what kind of man Theon will turn out to be, something readers don’t get until the second novel. But let’s return to Osha and Maester Luwin. Osha reveals the real reason she and her companions were south of the Wall; “There are things that were sleeping, and they ain’t sleeping no more.” A juicy piece of foreshadowing that hearkens back to the prologue to the first episode.
Next we see Jon Snow and Samwell Tarly on watch at the Wall. Their idle chatter (about girls, naturally), is interrupted by the appearance of Benjen Stark’s horse returning, without the First Ranger. Perhaps this has something to do with those things Osha hinted at?
From the Wall we move back to King’s Landing, where Renly, Robert’s younger brother informs Ned Stark that the king has been mortally wounded on his hunting excursion. While King Robert’s death scene is mostly true to the book, I thought it was interesting that the show runners included Joffrey at his father’s side, looking stricken. It’s pretty clear in the novel that Joffrey doesn’t have much affection for his drunken, distant father; is the boy afraid for his father, or just afraid of the gaping wound? In any case, Robert regrets his distance from his son and wishes he’d “taught [him] how to be a man.” Many more will wish that before the story is through. The king makes Ned Protector of the Realm until Joffrey comes of age, mourns his rashness in ordering Daenarys Targaryen dead, and expires relatively peacefully. Ned, on the other hand, is seriously stressed out. Rather than let Joffrey rule, he subverts Robert’s last wish and changes his proclamation to read “my rightful heir” instead of “my son Joffrey.” Lord Varys implies that perhaps the wine was not to blame for Robert’s hunting accident; perhaps his squire needs to be questioned.
Further south, Daenarys is trying to convince Khal Drogo to ride northward to help her win back her throne, but the horselord has no interest in an iron chair. Ser Jorah explains the mechanics of conquest and leaves Dany to wander the market while he checks for letters. He is given a message from Lord Varys the eunuch, offering him a royal pardon and the chance to return home. We can see the wheels turning in his mind as he ponders what this means, but he is distracted by a wine merchant hawking his wares to the unsuspecting Khaleesi. Upon learning who Dany is, the merchant decides to “give her a gift” of a special wine, but this troubles Jorah. He insists that the merchant open the wine and taste it first. The merchant is…reluctant, and decides to run instead, but doesn’t get far.
From here on, the episode follows the book closely. Back up north, Jon Snow and his friends are sworn in as men of the Night’s Watch. At King’s Landing, Robert’s youngest brother Renly insists that Cersei will not obey Robert’s wishes, and suggests he and Ned band together to get Joffrey away from his mother, for the good of the realm. Ned refuses Renly’s help and makes plans to offer the throne to Stannis, believing Cersei will take his offer and flee with her children.
Jon and Sam, meanwhile, head out beyond the Wall to take their oath in front of the old gods. They arise men of the Night’s Watch, embracing their brothers, but the happy scene is cut short when Jon’s direwolf Ghost appears, with a severed hand in his mouth. Everyone is understandably creeped out. Khal Drogo learns about the assassination attempt and swears that he will not rest till the man who sent the assassin is punished and Dany has her throne back. King Robert has died, Joffrey is king, and Renly has fled the city with Ser Loras Tyrell…and all his men. Ned presents Robert’s last letter, naming him Protector of the Realm. Cersei, however, is having none of it, and tears up the proclamation, recommending that Ned bend the knee to King Joffrey. Ned refuses yet again, and tells the Watch to take the Queen and her son into custody. The Watch has other ideas, however, and begins slaughtering Ned’s men. Littlefinger holds a dagger to Ned’s throat, whispering “I did warn you not to trust me.”
This episode ran mostly true to the book, except for a few very important scenes. What did you think? Were the added scenes helpful for developing the characters and advancing the plot? Did the other scenes live up to your interpretation of the book? Let us know in the comments!