Monday, 5 May 2014

Game of Thrones: Season 4, Episode 5 "First of His Name" Review

Positives this week included... Tommen's exceptionally well shot crowning ceremony, Cersei and Margery's banter, Dany's political instability conversation with Jorah, Sansa's introduction to the Eyrie, and her confrontation with Lysa, Brienne and Podrick's scenes, Oberyn and Cersei's discussion, Arya and The Hound, everything beyond the Wall

Negatives this week included... Nothing major that requires pointing out

Season 4 appears to be shaping up to be one of epic proportions, and now officially half way through my favourite season so far, Thrones delivers another absolutely incredible episode, with incredible visuals, greater-than-average performances, and some damn good action scenes. Does it match up to last year's half way point, Kissed By Fire... most certainly not; but nothing in Thrones has matched that episode for me in general. No matter, though, because First of His Name is a tantalizing, and often intense episode, which should have you in for the ride from the second the episode begins. Lets explore what went on this week, in limited detail! 

We begin with Tommen's crowning, which makes for a surprisingly well detailed, and well shot scene. We see Mace Tyrell running around, looking like an idiot; we get to witness Dean Charles Chapman's prowess in the field of throne-sitting, and we also get an absolutely enthralling scene between two of the power houses in the game, that being Margery and Cersei. Natalie Dormer is often acclaimed for her performances, but I feel like Lena Headey is often downcast as less than a powerful actress, which she most certainly is. Whilst she never wields the beauty that Cersei has in the books, she does manage to convey a surprisingly sympathetic, yet utterly despicable character. With any lesser actresses, this tense scene between the two, discussing a future marriage between the now-king Tommen and Margery, would have turned into something less desirable; fortunately, both actresses possess a great deal of skill in their craft. Both characters obviously loath each other, yet they put on a different face for their confrontation, and it makes for a scene which has you cringing all throughout, as you know the true reality behind their motivations and moves in the game. Glorious performances, and surprisingly good cinematography; there are a lot of shots of the remarkable throne room, and the great number of people situated within, and they're all flawless. Fantastic job Michelle MacLaren!

Long may he rein; a just King for once!
Daenerys has control over Meereen, after last week's events, though is now struggling to keep the city, and the rest of Slaver's Bay. We are informed that Yunkai has been retaken by the Masters, and that the council that Dany established to rule over Astapor has been abolished by a butcher who declares himself His Imperial Majesty. As you can see, Dany's rule is most certainly being tested; this comes the point that Dany realizes that taking a city, and ruling a city are too very different things. Whilst for some viewers, it's undoubtedly satisfying to see a character such as Dany take control and declare her strength, whilst on the other hand, I see it as a weak point for Dany. Emilia Clark certainly performs well; it's just she lacks the air of a convincing leader and ruler. Maybe that's the directors intention? Maybe that's Benioff and Weiss' intention? Whatever the case, when Dany tells Jorah that she is going to rule, and she acts all powerful, I almost laughed; Dany, stop trying to act all strong! Fortunately, some of the trailers for the season show Dany patrolling the under ground areas of Meereen, and maybe that shall allow us some personal moments with Dany, which will allow us to see into her eyes properly, but until those moments arrive, I'm partially irritated with Dany's character. Not so much as to ruin this scene for me, no, because this is a fantastic scene. Michiel Huisman gives a fantastic performance, with his 2 or 3 lines! Arrogant Daario is what I've been waiting to see for some time, and to finally receive it is satisfying. Iain Glen is the one who owns the scene though; I just love him as Jorah, and he is the perfect counter-weight of uncertainty, matched with Dany's attempts as seeming set in stone at what needs to happen, and what will happen. All in all, it's actually a well executed scene, with a good set, and some strong performances; it's just Dany's character that bugs me slightly. I shan't be downgrading this episode though for that issue, as it doesn't present itself as too major a problem. 

Stop trying to be all powerful Dany; especially around people like Jorah!
One of the main attractions of the episode is certainly the Eyrie scenes, something that happened to be a delight to watch. Sophie Turner finally delivers a really convincing performance, that actually had emotion infused within! We haven't seen her do anything truly human in the way of facial expressions since episode 1, and her breakdown with Tyrion, so it was nice to see her actually act with more than just a single expression for once! Sansa is taken to the Eyrie by Petyr Baelish, who is to marry Lysa Arryn, sister to Catelyn Stark, and their arrival there makes for some of the most entertaining and tense scenes of the episode. I've known many to criticise Aiden Gillen's portrayal of Baelish, for seemingly a lack of variation in his performances. Well, here, he most certainly provides variation; swinging between happiness and discomfort in the turn of a second. And Katie Dickie is back, and more of a tight ass than ever, as Lysa Arryn! She not only demands immediate marriage between herself and Baelish, but also hurts poor Sansa! It makes for one of Turner's shining moments of the season, but it's still harsh to watch! Be prepared to see more of her irritating ass this season, unfortunately; she'll play a big part in a few of the more surprising twists of the season, later on. And Robert Arryn... wait, no, Robin Arryn seems to be in much greater condition than he is in the book, funnily enough! He's as much as a nuisance in the books as he is in this episode, but fortunately for book readers, he often suffers severe shaking, which causes him to faint, at the drop of a hat, so his irritating scenes are often cut short. Well, here at least, he seems to be in tip top condition, and those shaking episodes apparently don't come as easily here as they do in the books! Why, Benioff and Weiss, why... Nonetheless, great performances from all those involved in these scenes, including Lino Facioli, and again, I'd also like to make mention of the cinematography; Robert McLachlan, you deserve top marks, as well as Debroah Riley, the production designer, who would've designed the sets. Damn, those Eyrie sets looked amazing! 

Cersei has quite a few scenes this episode, something I'm glad to see. She's an interesting character, if not a stupid one, most certainly in the books. Seeing as the show is deviating from the books quite a bit, though, I could certainly see Cersei getting an intelligence and common sense boost, and that would not necessarily be the worst thing imaginable. Cersei's next big scene is with her father, Tywin, and they discuss the Iron Bank, Margery and Tommen's inevitable wedding, which is to take place in a fortnight, and Tyrion's upcoming trial. The Iron Bank is one of the more interesting features of this conversation, as it also leads on to Tywin's discussing of the Rock's accounts, and how the Lannister's gold mines have run dry. This relates to their talk of the relationship between Houses Lannister and Tyrell, and how the Lannisters can not afford to lose the Tyrell's, seeing as they are the Crown's major financier. Tywin is commonly not portrayed as anything such as what we witnessed this episode; fantastic with money. We've seen it with Tyrion, with Petyr Baelish, but never with Tywin, and it makes for an interesting character to become yet even more interesting. Tywin Lannister is indeed a man caught up in the way of politics, despite his age. Later on, after this well written and informing scene, we get a fantastic scene between Oberyn and Cersei, with Cersei actually opening up to someone emotionally! Her real emotions and heartbreak seem to be stored up inside all the time, so it's good for her to finally break down, in even a smaller form than what I would've desired. It's only to be expected though; she is a Queen, and she has a reputation to uphold. Oberyn and Cersei talk about their children, and Cersei opens up about how she is worried about her daughter Myrcella, who happens to be in Dorne, before she asks Oberyn to deliver a ship to Dorne, made specially for her daughter. It's well acted, and anything Oberyn-related is fantastic, so I'm most certainly happy with this! 

This combination of personalities is utterly brilliant!
The Wall scenes come to a climax this week, and we finally see some Northern blood getting spilt, in a pretty fucking awesome battle sequence between the Night's Watch and the mutineers who took Craster's Keep. As well as that, we get to see Bran finally warging into Hodor's head again, and we get to see Hodor do some smashing, and kick Locke's ass! As I expected, Locke turned out to be an evil little shit, only intent on betraying Jon's trust, and when the attack is on, he finds Bran tied up, cuts him loose, before grabbing him and running off into the dead of night with the cripple boy. Fortunately, when Bran is being carried off, he wargs into Hodor's head, has Hodor rip himself out of his chains, and snap Locke's neck. It's a moment I certainly didn't expect to see; Locke out of the game so quickly, after being introduced to the Northern portion so recently was a surprising twist of events, but they were necessary. We don't want to deviate from the books too much! Meanwhile, Jon finds himself battling Kurt, in a battle that rivals that of Ned and Jaime's battle in Season 1, which is quite high distinction. It was quite cool watching dual wielded knives go up against Valyrian steel, and it made for a very unique battle scene, that had both men swinging at each other intensely. Whoever the fight choreographer was, he needs an award, because this was an outstanding fight sequence. Kurt's downfall was satisfying, but then Jon being reunited with Ghost and then burning down Craster's Keep, all made for a thoroughly fulfilling ending to our episode. But our irritation did happen to peak when Bran decided against reuniting with his half brother, again, after being so bloody close! It's infuriating, but utterly necessary; he needs to find the Three Eyed Raven, and there's nothing we can do to change that. Doesn't change the fact that it's completely infuriating when he denies the notion of meeting back up with his half brother! 

Ghost+Jon=Unbeatable duo!
As well as all these, we had some brilliant Arya/The Hound, and Brienne/Podrick scenes, which all need some sort of mentioning. Arya and The Hound's back and forth is both adorable and hilarious, and his criticizing of her water dancing technique somewhat mirrors what has been going on throughout Westeros this season; it's not about fighting with honor, or grace, but it's about fighting with the intent to win. Bronn taught it with Jaime, Kurt deals it to Jon at the end of this episode, and The Hound is delivering it here. Top marks for that scene, as well as the memorable Brienne and Podrick scenes, which allowed us an insight into the duties of a squire; so necessary in our day and age. Both characters are teaching each other things about life, and other skills, and both work well together, that being Gwendoline Christie and Daniel Portman. Can't wait to see more of these guys, especially after this week's funny and interesting scenes. 

Despite our lack of Dragonstone scenes this week (Why Stannis, why?!), we had our fair share of fantastic scenes. Whilst not completely perfect, First of His Name is my second favourite episode of the season up to this point, with some mighty fine performances, great cinematography, and some brilliant battles; what's not to love? And if you disagree with everything here, well, I'm sure only a Stannis meme could cheer you up about now, am I correct? Of course I am! See you next week everyone! 

Check out next week's episode's promo! Double Stannis, all the way! Look at that thumbnail; don't you just love him!


Junkie Score: 9.8

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