I’ve embarked on my rewatch of Game of Thrones in preparation for the start of the new season and, hardly surprisingly, have been utterly sucked into the whole series once again. I’ve been particularly struck by a number of things already, despite being a mere 4 episodes into the first season. So much so that I’ve felt the need to jot down a few thoughts. What is to follow is a sequence of cluttered and unstructured thoughts. This is for my own sake as much as anything and I make no apology for the inevitable fan boyism, gushing praise and over-analysis that is to follow. SPOILERS abound [I’ve not read the books but am quite well versed in the backstory of the series].
It is due to the fact that each episode is so densely packed with moments of plot progression, character development and thematic exploration that Game of Thrones has such immense replay value. Cripples, Bastards and Broken Things is a particularly notable episode for me, in that it covers all of these areas whilst tying it together with a shared theme: Tyrion states he has a tender place in his heart for the cripples, bastards and broken things that inhabit Westeros and so to does George RR Martin seemingly. The most obvious reference points are to be found in the more central narrative threads of this episode: Tyrion providing Bran Stark with an opportunity to once again ride a horse; the continuation of Jon Arryn’s search for Robert’s bastards by Ned Stark; and the continued experience of Jon Snow amongst the Night’s Watch. Each of these are treated with a deft touch and provide the core of this episode and have undoubtedly been written about to death.
It is beyond these more obvious examples that the most interesting cripples, bastards and broken things lie. Despite the obvious touchstone of Tyrion’s conversation with the Starks, it is the conversation he has with Theon Greyjoy that interests me more. Tyrion goads Theon about being the lackey of the Starks, particularly Catelyn, and then insults him further by enquiring what his father, Balon Greyjoy, would think. The Imp even goes as far as to draw a parallel between the two of them. This clearly strikes a nerve with Theon and you can’t help but wonder whether Tyrion’s scathing words here set the wheel in motion for Theon’s betrayal, rubbing salt in old wounds.
The brief narrative of Viserys Targaryen is a further example of this. Viserys’ bathtub explanation of the dragon skulls in the throne room to Doreah is one that rings sadly true to himself. The last dragons they managed to hatch were frail and pathetic and no larger than the skull of a dog. Sadly too, so is Viserys: he might see himself as heir apparent to the Iron Throne but his self-perceived power has been slowly been sliding away from him as Daenerys assimilates more fully into the Khalasar. His frailty is most clearly evidenced in two moments. The first is his proclamation of pain after having the hot candle wax dripped on his chest [significant given the Targaryen’s resistance to fire. Compare with Dany’s ability to get into a scalding hot bath and other fiery shenanigans]. The second, Viserys’ confrontation with Dany later in the episode underlines this further: despite his claims that his sister has “awoken the Dragon.” he is easily batted away by his younger sibling. She strikes him across the face with a golden Dothraki belt, an act steeped in both symbolism and foreshadowing. Ultimately the wise old Bear Jorah Mormont sums it up best. Dany is concerned that she has upset her brother, ‘the last dragon’. Jorah replies: “Your brother Rhaegar was the last dragon. He’s less than the shadow of a snake”. Burn.
The arrival at Castle Black of the face that launched a thousand pig jokes is an interesting twist on the bastardy theme that runs throughout this episode. Samwell Tarly of Horn Hill has the strange ‘honour’ of being a forced bastard. Not fitting the impossibly high standards of masculinity set by his father, Randyll Tarly [one of the most acclaimed battefield commanders in all of Westeros], Samwell is forced to take the black by his father, despite being his eldest son. He is forced into the Night’s Watch, previously the realm of misfits, having to forsake his rightful claim to his inheritance, title and lands, leaving Horn Hill and its lands to his younger brother Dickon. Yet, as we have already seen to some degree will undoubtedly see further, taking the Black has provided an opportunity to prove his bravery in his own way. In this episode though, we see Jon sympathising with a fellow misfit and standing up to include Samwell amongst his brotherhood of fellow bastards and criminals.
However, the most tragic of broken things occurs in the final scene of the episode. Everyone’s favourite halfman turns up to the inn currently inhabited by Roderik Karstark and Catelyn. What follows is simultaneously a case of heartbreaking foreshadowing that is dripping in irony. After blowing Lady Stark’s cover. she decides to enlist the aide of the members of the various noble houses of the Riverlands in assisting her with the arrest of Tyrion Lannister. Her final port of call before issuing the arrest is a member of House Frey of the Twins [who informs her Ser Walder is taking another wife] before proclaiming in reference to Tyrion, that “This man came into my house as a guest and conspired to kill my son.” Wow. Catelyn. You can’t even begin to know how ironic that is. It makes my heart ache. Obviously, the important point to take away from this is that Catelyn is underlining just how grievous Tyrion’s crime is due to the fact that he violated Guest Right: a thing broken to an incredible extent by Ser Walder Frey himself and something that is going to have some MAJOR repercussions for Westeros in the upcoming season.
Some more minor thematic points:
As Ned leaves the blacksmith’s after his meeting with Gendry, the camera zooms in tight on his face as he exclaims that he’s found Robert Baratheon’s bastard. This is followed immediately by a cut to a close up of Jaime Lannister’s face. I’m fairly certain that is hasn’t actually been established that Joffrey is Jaime’s son and not Robert’s [despite being heavily implied] but I thought this was a neat little visual touch to enhance that link. The seed is certainly strong.
Sansa’s concern over a potential inability to bear Joffrey a son fits in nicely with the theme of broken things. She worries intensely about the wrath of her potential husband if she only bears girls for him, despite reassurances from her attendant.
We’re introduced to another of Westeros’ resident cripples with Littlefinger’s recounting of the origin tale of the Brothers Clegane. It’s not quite “do you wanna know how I got these scars?” but it’s not far from it. The story of the Clegane’s is a fascinating one and this little moment of exposition is enthralling and adds another facet to the concerns of the episode. Seems to be a very strong physical defect does not equal character defect as the Hound’s arc throughout the show. [Plus this scene gave birth to this wonderful gif]:
- Great little shout out from Jaime Lannister recalling the sight of Thoros of Myr carving through the Greyjoys with his flaming sword. A sight that we will all become familiar with in season 3 in one of the best fight sequences of the series.
- “For all the weight they’re given, last words are usually as significant as first words.”. Wisdom bomb from Grand Maester Pycell – a man who feigns being a broken thing whilst very much still being in control. Highlighted wonderfully in a scene that was cut from season 3 involving Tywin which I highly recommend watching [N.B. pay attention to what Tywin is doing throughout. Symbolism, yo.] One thing that has really struck me in the opening few episodes of this has been the sheer amount of times two characters have said goodbye to each other without knowing it is the last time they will ever see each other. Bold stuff. And incredibly sad.
- This is wild speculation and running off with a tangent and likely hugely wrong but we have this little theory that I think gains some weight in these episodes. I’m not usually one who likes to go into prediction and run away with minor details [looking at you, True Detective nutjobs] but I think that Gendry is possibly the legitimate son of Cersei and Robert. It’s been mentioned earlier on, when Cersei visits Catelyn at Bran’s bedside, that Cersei and Robert had a child before Joffrey, one that had dark hair and Robert’s eyes. That scene then seems to suggest that Cersei was hysterical and the child died BUT IT DOESN’T EXPLICITLY SAY SO. Add onto that the fact that in this episode Gendry states that his mother had blonde hair and then a long lingering shot on Gendry’s eyes. Maybe we’re crazy? Maybe we’ve got a theory brewing? Who knows…
- I really enjoyed the Ned Stark and Petyr Baelish walk and talk scene through the gardens of King’s Landing as Littlefinger introduces Ned to the complex web of deceit that makes the upper echelons of power in the capital tick. Yet another absolutely crushing line delivered to a character who is blissfully unaware just how true the sentiment is: “Distrusting me was the wisest thing you’ve done since climbing off your horse.” Couldn’t agree more with you Littlefinger. If only you’d listened, Ned.
- Mystery #2 of the episode: the introduction of Jorah’s wife. Jorah explains that Ned hates his guts and had him run out of town/ continent. Dany asks him why he took to selling slaves. Jorah says he had no money and a wife with expensive habits. He also states that she’s now “some place else” with another man. Any idea who this could be? Nobody is springing to mind but it’s something I’m going to be keeping my eye out for in the upcoming episodes. Ned also points out the entry for House Umber of Last Hearth when he gets the book of Lineages for the Great Houses, and mentions an Umber who died during a bear hunt. Perhaps this will come back to be something to do with the Mormonts? Seems like drawing attention to this is significant.
- “Poison is a woman’s weapon”. Oooh. Ominous.
- Now for a few funny lines that I’d forgotten about:
- “He’s come to take the Black Pudding.” – Oh, Samwell.
- Overhearing Robert giggling “I’ll make you smell off blackberry jam” to one of his mistresses almost made the entire episode for me. Brilliant.
This turned out to be exceptionally long. I might try to be more concise from now on and include some more pretty pictures, etc… or at least a few screengrabs. We’ll see.