Television

Published on May 7th, 2014 | by Bean

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Game of Thrones – Season 4 – Episode 5 – “First of His Name”

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WARNING – SPOILERS!

Despite Cersei’s claim that he may be “the first man who sits on that throne who actually deserves it”, the crowning of King Tommen sees another monarch with no claim sat atop the Iron Throne. In it’s opening, “The First Of His Name” repeatedly attempts to mark our new boy-king out as different; his coronation lacks the gaudy showmanship of the recent infamous royal ceremony and references are hammered home as to how different the new leader of the seven kingdoms is from his predesessor. As if we need reminding. His purity could not be more apparent, as he grins and shoots furtive glances at his intended; the boy has no poker face, and even his mother asserts that “he will need help”.

This admission comes in a surprising exchange between Cersei and Maergery, wherein we begin to see Cersei attempt a less superior stance to achieve her ends. The Queen Regent starts to understand that her imperious attitude will no longer serve, particularly as she comes to terms with the Tyrell threat to her family’s power, but every word is a struggle, and the scene is deliciously rewarding as a result. Margaery’s protestations of “Queen? Moi?” are hollow for a different reason; it seems the character is rather reveling in  being a bad actress, just for the fun of watching Cersei try to control her eyebrows. The “sister/mother” remark echoes a scene from Season 3; this time Cersei laughs rather than threatens at this tasteless affront. More stirling work from Lena Headey here, and Natalie Dormer slices through the scenery with the devious sidelong glance of a predator at play.

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And regarding the game – is Cersei finally learning some new moves? Perhaps, but only if it aids her cause in damning Tyrion. Over the course of the episode, she manages an audience with all three judges in her brother’s trial (Margaery’s as proxy to her father as the third), and she plays a different card with each; the alliance of marriage and an honest appraisal of her sons with the Tyrell, “justice” and the family legacy with Tywin as they get their diaries out to micro-manage the next batch of nuptials, and a plea for mercy and expression of motherly love and concern with Prince Oberyn. Each conversation must be delicately staged, though none more than this last, as the passionate prince still has yet to reek his revenge upon the Lannister clan. Her line “Everywhere in the world they hurt little girls” appears to be genuine though, and this is the right way to approach a man ruled by his heart. The additional disclosure about how utterly broke the Lannisters really are will no doubt affect her decisions in the future, but how? Their situation with Braavos certainly gives new meaning to “the Lannisters always pay their debts”…

Meanwhile, Daenerys is facing similarly dour problems of infrastructure and order in her “freed” cities in Essos. She is maturing as rapidly as her dragons, and rather than act impetuously, she chooses the company of her true counsellor, Ser Jorrah.  His honest acknowledgement of not knowing their best move allows Daenerys to make a judicious decision. She needs more in her arsenal, than, well, an arsenal. To be truly worthy of her birthright, she needs to be capable, and while this latest setback stalls the inevitable move to Westeros, it does afford Emilia Clarke the opportunity to “rule” with real majesty, in a line-reading of pure righteous conviction.

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On the other end of the spectrum of female empowerment, Sansa is out of the frying pan! Again. In something of a thankless task of a character, Sophie Turner does a good job with little material. The proverbial Dawn Summers of Westeros, I can only hope she ends up with as interesting an arc as Buffy’s sister. I frequently find it difficult to discern Sansa’s purpose in the narrative, other than as a perpetual victim. She is the only Stark child over ten with no direction or will, and it is a frustrating, wasted opportunity. She is resilient? Sure, but never gets any more savvy, and is constantly led by others. She is a survivor? Ok, but for what? To be the pawn in Littlefinger’s game. Great.

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Revelations about Lord Peter Baelish and who really killed John Arryn ring through the High Hall of the Eyrie, and we find Littlefinger climbing yet another step up on his ladder of chaos, by marrying the remarkably potty Lysa Arryn/Tully. However, this deranged second daughter is a wild card with a dangerously loose tongue, and he may have bitten off more than he can chew. Wouldn’t it be lovely to see the unctuous dirtbag taken down a rung or two, and by a fellow sociopath at that? But what are the chances? In a later scene with Sansa, Lysa lets it all hang out, her insecurities and the true scale of her twitchy madness bubbling to the surface of her noxious facade. But you get the feeling these are old tactics, that she deliberately unleashes to get the truth from her ward/prisoner. The prospect of an arranged marriage to icky son Robyn is arguably no better that when Sansa was betrothed to Joffrey, and in the Vale she is so much further from anybody who could help. I can only hope that Arya will soon arrive with the Hound to help change the unhappy fortunes of the Stark’s first daughter.

Our favourite not-buddy road movie continues, with Arya confirming the obvious subtext, that her captor’s name is on her shit-list. Rory McCann plays it close to the chest and transparent all at once, in a telling moment of evasion from Hound regarding his brother, whom he obviously still fears. Perhaps these two could truly form an alliance if he could stop taking the piss out of her, and she could stop attacking him. Their power struggle persists in a (literally) disarming scene, shot intriguingly to both celebrate Arya’s power and undercut it. In her attempts to use her fancy fencing skills against his wiser tactics of “amour and a big fucking sword”, we find another lesson for our characters, and another step on the journey to god knows what fate for them both.

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There is more sizing-up in the two scenes between Podrick and Brienne; the first finds Pod being amusingly irritating to our Lady Knight, and features some wonderful equine upstaging by a horse whose comic timing underscores Pod’s ineptitude. The second scene chooses a more poignant palette as we are reminded of and Brienne discovers his true mettle when it comes to defending his masters. This revelation catches her attention, both as a warrior and valiant woman of honour; one of the charming qualities about Brienne is her willingness to re-appraise someone she has previously written off, as she did with Jaime.

The theme of innocents doing brutal things when needs must is later echoed by Bran’s possession of Hodor to mangle the murderous Locke (BUH-bye Noah Taylor, you gave great oily, ruthless bastard). The scene gives us an affecting POV shot of Hodor looking at his blood-stained hands and comprehending with distress what he has been made to do against his will. Another form of violation (a running theme in Game of Thrones), this one well-meaning and arguably necessary, but a violation nonetheless. Bran using Hodor as a weapon with no free will warns the oft-told Spidey adage; “with great power comes great responsibility”. (Turns out that was Voltaire! Thanks internet.)

As the Night’s Watch storm Craster’s Keep, we get another annoying near-reunion of Stark and Snow. Jojen’s protestation that Jon wouldn’t “let” Bran continue his quest smacks of a clunky narrative roadblock and frankly just sounds like tut. I begin to wonder how many times can they use this trope without it becoming absurd and whether there will be any gratification left after such delay. In an earlier scene Thomas Brodie-Sangster shows off Jojen’s seer skills with a visually arresting display of the Weirwood tree and mentions his visions of “the end”, a concept which understandably alarms his sister, who is the next character to be threatened with a horrible violation as leverage. Burn Gorman’s tiresome bad guy Karl Tanner gets a chance to school Jon Snow on the pointlessness of honour before he receives a sword through the back of the head. With echoes of both the Kingslayer and Podrick’s brave assaults on murderous lunatics and mercenaries, this death is given extra weight by a pointed score and the camera lingers on the vile scene to let it sink in that our hero is starting to toughen up and make tactical choices that put honour second in favour of survival. And not before time…Lest we think Snow is too far gone, in his reunion with direwolf Summer he goes all Ned Stark, crying “By the seven ‘ells! Come ‘ere!” – a touching moment with a trusted ally.

“First of His Name” ends on a defiant note, with Crasters “wives” throwing off the yoke of oppression and “protection” in favour of sisters doing it for themselves. However, while there may be safety in numbers, no-one is ever truly secure in Westeros these days; not while the lands crawl with marauding soldiers, Wildlings, cannibals and White Walkers. And winter is coming…

Review by Nina Clark

DISCLAIMER! I haven’t read the books so please be cool, and don’t make reference to future events from them in comments or whatnot. My Dad already dropped a couple of clangers, and I’m trying to “la-la-la-la-la” them out of my brain. Much appreciated! (But please do leave messages – if sharing is caring, commenting is…orange.)

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Bean

Director at Nina Clark Music / The Musical Walkabout at Nina Clark Music
Bean is the family nickname of Nina Clark, singer, songwriter and professional musician. Nina's many nerdly passions, aside from music, include Game of Thrones, The Walking Dead and all things Whedon. (re. GoT, she has NOT read the books, so please be cool - no spoilers!)
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