6
May
2014
Game of Thrones: Season 4, Episode 5
First of His Name
Adam O'Brien


For an episode named after Tommen, he doesn’t play much of a role past the first thirty seconds. Maybe it’s meant to be ironic, naming the episode after the as yet idle king, while the episode spends most of its time following female characters as they pursue their own ends.

Throughout the episode, Cersei is running around trying to convince everybody to kill Tyrion (what else is new?). She straightforwardly appeals to her father’s sense of justice, but is impressively conniving in regards to Oberyn. She compares herself to Oberyn’s sister, Elia, and Joffrey and Myrcella to Elia’s slain children, Rhaenys and Aegon, hoping to incite Oberyn into a fit of revenge to kill Tyrion, or at least to predispose him to finding Tyrion guilty. The thing is, I feel like all the parts of Cersei are there, and I have no problems with Lena Headey’s performance, but I just can’t bring myself to care about her scenes ever. Does she every do anything besides plot and scheme?

Speaking of overly-simplified female characters, Daenerys this episode had her first scene where she’s neither grandstanding nor having weird sexually tense scenes with mercenaries in longer than I can remember (and her first time out of that blue dress—I love it, but enough is enough). I almost loved the scene, but I find Emilia Clarke’s smug tone whenever she speaks really grating. Ever since she ate that horse heart in “A Golden Crown” in the first season, all of the life has gone out of her character. I want to believe that it’s all an ingenious ploy by the writers to show the lasting shock of seeing her only remaining family murdered in front of her, but I know it’s probably not.

After almost three seasons of watching Sansa effectively being a prisoner, the feeling of relief and freedom is palpable as Sansa follows Peter to the Eyrie, and to one of Sansa’s few remaining relatives. It’s been so long since we’ve seen her be warm or affectionate towards anyone. The closest I can recall was last season when she told Margaery and Olenna how terrible Joffrey is, and even then it was more of a tearful warning than a real demonstration of trust.

Let’s be honest: Sansa so far has existed mainly as a lens for the viewer to know what is going on with the great and powerful. She’s been in no position to act in any way, but because of who she is she has been privy to a lot of plot development. And that’s fine, because her lack of capability doesn’t diminish her character; in fact, it’s a defining characteristic of hers that illustrates how highborn children are treated as little more than pawns in some regards. However, there comes a time when thematically she has to expand a little bit, or at least move on. This may be the beginning of a more dynamic plotline for Sansa.

I get the whole Craster’s Keep storyline, and it’s all fine and good, but it puts everything else that happens on pause. Jon escaped to castle black just barely ahead of Ygritte and the wildlings, but there’s time not only to train new recruits, but to mount an expedition north of the wall. (Not that I miss that Thenn who’s right out of a bad action movie) All things considered, though, it was very entertaining filler: It was interesting and exciting to watch, and rather than bleed through all season was contained to two episodes.

I’ve never been so happy with an episode that didn’t give one amazing scene. It’s good to be reminded just how good Game of Thrones can be when there aren’t any disasters of performance or writing, even when it isn’t one of the episodes the show runners like to pack with things to wow everyone.

Grade: A-

Other Thoughts:

-I don’t know if I like the visual effects with Jojen’s and Bran’s visions. The show has always cultivated a style of being very realistic and avoiding flashbacks, illusions, or weird CGI tricks (dragons and one very misguided House of the Undying notwithstanding). I always felt it added legitimacy and a dimension of deconstruction to what could very easily become a tawdry, dippy fantasy world.

-If there’s anything more satisfying than that moment when Ghost descends on Rast, I don’t know what it is.

-To take him away hurt enough, but to taunt us and make us wonder now if Syrio Forel was really killed? Don’t do that to us.

-Sansa listening to Lysa screaming on her wedding night had me cracking up. Bonus: imagining Petyr’s bored face as he humors Lysa.

-Rewatch bonus: notice Lysa’s face in the background when Robin tells Sansa about how the Lannisters poisoned his father.

-Were we supposed to draw a parallel with the way Pod said he killed Ser Mandon Moore and the way that Jon killed Karl? Because if so I could not see the significance of it.

-Priceless moments:

•Daenerys’s face when she hears that Joffrey is dead

•Jon’s face when he sees Ghost again

•Podrick’s face when Brienne lets him help with her armor

•Sandor’s face when Arya tells him Ser Meryn killed Syrio

•Sansa’s face when she realizes she’s finally escaped all the nut jobs in King’s Landing only to be delivered into the hands of her severely unhinged Aunt Lysa.

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