Game of Thrones, “The Kingsroad”: hungry like the direwolf

Quick Take: Game of Thrones, “The Kingsroad”
“There’s a war coming, Ned.” – Robert Baratheon

sean bean

Review: Game of Thrones, “The Kingsroad”
(S0102) This is the second chapter of an epic tale, so there’s a lot of table setting for later events going on here. There are also many logistical things that need to happen as major characters journey – Robert, Eddard, and associated entourages leave Winterfell for King’s Landing; Bran and Tyrion make their way to The Wall; Daenyrys, Viserys, Ser Mormont, and the Dothraki horsemen make their way into the grasslands – from one part of the realm to another. I believe by design we are also being given the opportunity to catch our collective breaths after so much information was thrown at us in the pilot episode.

Because there is so much material to draw from the books (even at a reported pace of covering one enormous novel per season), the characters don’t have time to be static creatures: they are ever changing, learning, evolving. Very true to George R. R. Martin’s creation, these changes almost always derive from a deep feeling of self-interest, instinct for survival, and loyalty to a small group or one’s “house” (e.g. House Stark, House Lannister). Daenerys Targaryen (Emilia Clarke) is a great example. From what we had learned of her in “Winter is Coming,” we might have expected her to remain the frightened and by our standards abused young woman amidst a sea (or a Dothraki sea of grass in this case) of sharks and predators for some time to come. This latter group would chiefly include her brother Viserys (Harry Lloyd, who gives a deeply chilling and nasty performance with just a few lines each week) and new husband Khal Drogo (Jason Momoa). However, with some help from a handmaiden who had been a slave in a “pleasure house,” Daenerys is determined to please her man and manages by episode’s end to regain some measure of power within her marital tent, if nowhere else, as the Dothraki travel east. No doubt a semester of gender studies could be filled with this topic alone so I’ll leave it there for now except to say that Daenerys is keeping a close eye on her three dragon eggs, indeed.

Attempted assassinations and direwolves fill out much of the rest of the hour. Daenerys comes up on the kingsroad as Robert Baratheon (Mark Addy), Eddard Stark (Sean Bean), and company march south for King’s Landing. Eddard has reluctantly agreed to leave part of his family along with his home behind in Winterfell to be the king’s “hand,” and must grieve too over his son Bran’s (Isaac Hempstead-Wright) potentially fatal injury (stemming from getting tossed out a high castle window after accidentally catching Jaime Lannister and Queen Cersei in the incestuous act). Robert wastes no time however in seeking Eddard’s counsel with regard to Daenerys who, even though she is but a girl, is considered a major threat to the realm as her marriage to Khal Drogo could signal a full on invasion of Westeros to unseat those who would call Robert usurper. Eddard has no stomach for killing a child and looks pained already to see the limits of his new advisory role.

And that theme is punched home in the wake of a spat that has potentially catastrophic consequences. A lot of information and background was doled out in the pilot, but something nicely held back was the fact that Joffrey Baratheon (Jack Gleeson), heir to the Iron Throne, is a vicious and petty young lad. Really he’s the equivalent of your typical schoolyard bully who is a) allowed to do pretty much whatever he wants to whomever he wants and b) has a sword. Unfortunately for him he meets his match in young Arya Stark (played terrifically by Maisie Williams). Joffrey, seemingly gallant for a brief spell (and he has Sansa Stark, played by Sophie Turner, completely fooled at any extent), takes his future bride for a walk whereupon they see Arya play fighting with stick swords with Micah, a butcher’s boy. Joffrey inserts himself pretty much because it’s an opportunity to humiliate someone powerless (though he won’t hurt the boy… “much,” as he says). Arya intervenes, which quickly prompted Nymeria, her direwolf, to take a “little bite” of Joffrey’s arm. This precipitates the first public conflict between the Lannisters and Starks that we’ve seen. After a frightened Arya is found and brought before the king, we see Cersei’s heavy influence on her husband’s decision making (and how well was Mark Addy’s physical movement played – you could see he wanted to go off and drink rather than decisively handle this very delicate matter) as well as her desire to exact revenge on behalf of a child she can see no wrong in whatsoever. In the end, justice was served in the form of killing Lady, Sansa’s direwolf, as Arya had wisely forced Nymeria to run off.

Back in Winterfell, the distraught Catelyn Stark (Michelle Fairley) will not leave Bran’s bed as he lingers in a coma. She “shouldn’t have been there,” an assassin tells her as he clumsily makes a play to kill her and her child. Cat’s hand is slashed before once again a direwolf (Summer) comes to the rescue, this time ripping out the attacker’s throat.

The connection between the Stark children and direwolves will be something to keep an eye on. To whit: the end of the pilot episode came with Bran’s fall. In this episode, when we see Eddard sadly putting the knife to Nymeria’s throat, we close on Bran Stark opening his eyes.

More thoughts on “The Kingsroad”:

  • The first two episodes had the challenge of setting up relationships between major characters before putting them in different locations for an unforeseeable stretch. I enjoyed the scene between Jon Snow (Kit Harington) and Arya (in which the small sword Needle was introduced) very much and was therefore genuinely sad to see two of the most heroic characters in the series split up so early on.
  • The cast is  uniformly terrific – as is the case with all of HBO’s best shows – but I’m particularly impressed with Peter Dinklage as Tyrion (a role the show had to absolutely nail in order to work) and Maisie Williams as Arya Stark (another character who has a long journey ahead of her).
  • We finally got to get a glimpse of The Hound’s (Sandor Clegane, played by Rory McCann) face this week. I think his makeup – depicting half of a face ravaged by fire – was handled exceptionally well. And McCann’s performance was nicely understated in the early going as well.
  • Speaking of The Hound, we learn a lot about the culture and morality of this world – at least relative to the Lannisters – when we see Micah’s body being carted back to the caravan by Sandor. 
  • By Eric - TV Geek Army "Revered Leader"

    About the author

    Eric is the publisher and revered leader of TV Geek Army… at least in his own mind. TV Geek Army is a place for serious TV reviews and news for serious fans of great television. Contact: eric-[at]-tvgeekarmy.com 

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