Review: Game of Thrones – ‘Fire and Blood’ (Season Finale S1E10)

Wow, April 2012 can’t come soon enough!

As someone who had never read or even heard of George R.R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire books before the beginning of Game of Thrones, I can definitely say this series has won me over in it’s miniscule ten episode season. This is no mean feat considering the fact that creators David Benioff and D.B. Weiss had to effectively adapt a whole imaginary, pseudo-medieval world and populate it with complex, three dimensional characters. Game of Thrones has won me over with it’s dense plotting, wonderful acting, astounding production values and high emotional stakes. The first six episodes or so were mainly used to show us the hierarchy, history and geography of Westeros while the remaining four episodes have been exciting thrill rides with a nice dose of character work thrown in.

‘Fire and Blood’ continues from the shocking ending of last week’s episode with the beheading of Ned Stark (seriously I can’t get over the fact they killed their supposed main character even if the casting of Sean Bean in the role proved an ominous sign) as poor Sansa and Arya witnessed his gory death. That opening scene continues the emotional shock of last week’s episode while being suitably gory to show the barbaric and gritty nature of living in Westeros.

Much of the episode focuses on the aftermath of Ned’s death and his family’s reaction to it. Crippled Bran and the little seen younger brother Rickon seem to share some form of prophetic dreaming with both boys having some idea of their father’s demise before hearing the sad news themselves. Bran doesn’t get much screentime but I do like the bond he has with Wildling woman, Osha.

Poor Arya is taken aside by Yoren of the Night’s Watch and transformed into an orphan boy named Arry thanks to a haircut. In King’s Landing, she meets one of King Robert’s many bastard sons, Gendry (who I recognised immediately as Joe Dempsie, the guy who played Chris in the first two seasons of Skins). It looks like Arya may be reunited with half-brother Jon as herself, Gendry and a handful of bullying orphans are off North.

Speaking of the North, Jon Snow decides to abandon his post at the Wall in order to assist his brother in the fight against The Lannisters. The loveable Sam, Pyp and Gregg stop him though and the four renew their vows in a really powerful scene. Although I’ve been intrigued by The White Walker storyline and The Wall is simply magnificent to look upon, I’ve never really cared for Jon’s storyline. Even though I do sympathise with the character, the fact that all he does is brood and scowl really makes him less enjoyable to watch than the other character storylines scattered across the show.

I want to heap a huge amount of praise onto Michelle Fairley, Richard Madden, Sophie Turner and Jack Gleeson who play Cateyln, Robb, Sansa and Joffrey respectively. Fairley and Madden are really great in their roles when Robb is murdering a tree and Catelyn comforts him, coldly saying that “they’ll kill every last one” of the Lanisters. Madden managed to show real emotional turmoil and Fairley was simultaneously heartbreaking and chilling. Honestly, both my perceptions of these characters have changed so much since the first few episodes. Catelyn seemed like an irrational homebody and Robb seemed to be the most one dimensional Stark kid but now I’m really intrigued for their storylines in Season 2. Catelyn’s brief scene with Jaime where she beats him with a rock is also really great and added some much needed depth to the sister-humping prince. Now maybe I’ll stop comparing him to Prince Charming from Shrek 2.

By far one of the most chilling scenes is the one where Joffrey forces Sansa to look upon the decapitated heads off Ned and Septa Mordane. I was a little worried that Sophie Turner could do little more than whine but she was absolutely brilliant in this scene. I really admired Sansa in this scene too with her standing up to the runt she’s bethroded to and cringed when the guard smacked her. Jack Gleeson is also great at portraying a completely entitled, spoiled little sociopath. I was so hoping Sansa would succeed in pushing him off the building though.

Meanwhile over in the place with the red tents (I’m not a GoT expert…yet), Tyrion has been made Hand of the King by his father Tynwin, played brilliantly by Charles Dance. And Tyrion wants to bring his whore Shae (also played very well by Sibel Kekilli). Hmmm, knowing Tyrion’s track blindness towards women – particularly whores – he loves, I don’t think this will end well. Still, I have a big crush on Shae myself and next season should hopefully see Tyrion in King’s Landing slapping Joffrey across the face multiple times.

If I do have a complaint about the season finale, it was all about set-up really. This is typical of season finales though so it’s only minor. Most of the characters just seem to be moving places – Arya is moving to the North, Jon is moving beyond the Wall to fight White Walkers and find his uncle Benjen, Robb (dubbed the new King of the North in another great scene) is moving towards King’s Landing and Tyrion is doing the same but from a different direction. I also have to complain a bit about the ‘sexposition’ – I am in no way prudish but the scene with the elderly Pycelle and the intriguing whore Ros (who I understand is not in the books) was very dragged out and even though it seemed like it was something important he was saying, all I got from it was affirmation about the many kings he’s worked for and a possibe hint that he also had his eyes on the Throne. Not even a gratuitous nude scene could make that long sequence very interesting. Maybe this is where I as a non-book reader may be missing out. Time to buy those books so.

Of course, I’ve left the best for last and that is Daenerys’ storyline which closes the episode. After having to contend with Drogo dying because of an infected wound and being put in labour prematurely in the last episode, Dany wakes up to discover that her baby was stillborn, Drogo is in a permanent vegetative state and the witch Merri has betrayed her. What I love about Dany is how her character has progressed. In the first episode, she was a scared child bullied by her brother and now she’s a strong, powerful, easily adaptable queen (or Khaleesi). It helps that Emilia Clarke is not only gorgeous but very talented too – really working well with all the traumatic material her character has to deal with here. The ending to the episode was simply epic – Dany burned the body of Drogo, a very much alive Merri and her dragon eggs before stepping into the fire. While Drogo’s body and Merri perished, Dany remained unscathed and ended the season how she began it – naked! But this time with three baby dragons crawling all over her naked form. Seriously! DRAGONS! Dragons are my favourite mythological creatures so I’m having an excited nerd moment here. I really wasn’t expecting that. Despite the fantasy kingdom, GoT has been very narrow on the supernatural front instead favouring human characters so I was seriously not expecting three well rendered CGI winged reptiles to be making an appearance at all. Where are they going to find the money to keep showing the dragons in Season 2?

That final roving shot of Jorah (Iain Glen also deserves an honourable mention for his work in this episode) and the Dothraki bowing in front of a portrait-esque Dany and her dragons while epic music soars and the dragons screech into the distance has me one-hundred per cent on board with this show.

What did you guys think?!

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1 Comment

  1. Gerard McGarry

    Good review, Random. And now is as good a time as any to commend the amazing cast who’ve made this show such a hit so far. It’s funny, because with such an ensemble cast, I often found myself being as impressed (if not more impressed) by the little known actors.

    Which brings me to Emilia Clarke or Danaerys – what a beautiful way to close off her first season journey. When we first saw her nude and angelic in the first episode, she was a naive girl being dragged along by her Beggar King brother. And in ten short episodes, she’s transformed into a strong queen. It was initially tempting to see her fascination with the dragons’ eggs as an extension of Viserys’ madness (the Targaryens seem to have a problem keeping their sanity), but obviously amazing to see those dragons hatched! So as she stood up from the ashes of Drogo’s funeral pyre, filthy with soot, even though she was naked, she had a regal air to her.

    There’s a lot of set-up for season two going on here. I’m about a third of the way through the second novel A Clash Of Kings, and some of the events in the finale were adapted from that – Tyrion becoming the King’s Hand, for example.

    And I think that’s why you might have missed the standard season finale format – there really wasn’t one. The perfect ending would have been with Ned Stark’s head landing on the steps of Baelor’s Sept, and Westeros in disarray. But I think with the rambling nature of the books (there’ll eventually be seven in total), the series is intended to show the fluctuation of power in this medieval empire – no victory is a final victory, and the only final defeat is death.

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