Airdate: May 4, 2014
Directed by: Michelle MacLaren
Written by: George R.R. Martin (“A Song of Ice and Fire” by), David Benioff (creator), D.B. Weiss (creator), David Benioff (written for television by), D.B. Weiss (written for television by)
From every report I’ve seen, last week’s episode was largely a bridge between actually interesting events, and there were a couple of major changes from the source material yet again, although nothing quite on the same level as what happened two weeks ago (at least nothing from this week has caused the same kind of internet fracas). If the series is treading water, this is nothing new – the middle four or five episodes of Season 3 felt very much the same. For now, characters need to be positioned, armies need to be trained, and alliances need to be forged. What sorts of maneuvers can we expect to see in this week’s episode? Click through after the break for my breakdown of the Promo video and my thoughts on what this week shall bring.
<<Spoiler Alert: This preview of Game of Thrones S04E05 – “First of His Name” – will discuss major plot points and events suggested by previous events and the events shown in the Promo video; read further at your own risk!>>
First, let me say that the changes that I’ve heard about are actually pretty disturbing from a fan’s perspective, especially the Bran storyline and what’s happened to Hodor. I’ve heard a lot more complaints about the Margaery/Tommen scene, and while it does sound at the least on the icky side of things, it does resonate with something that does happen in the source material. And Ser Pounce is one of GRRM’s creations, so kudos to him for that. In any case, I’ll address both of these scenes as well as the remainder of the episode when I get my full review up after my return from holidays.
For now, let’s take a look at where things might be going this week. This week’s IMDB synopsis reads: Cersei and Tywin plot the Crown’s next move. Dany discusses future plans. Jon embarks on a new mission.
Again we’ll be focusing on the main triumvirate of power brokers (for now). The only one of these three storylines that sounds interesting, to be honest, is the one involving Jon. With the taking of Bran and Hodor at Craster’s Keep, and the addition of Roose Bolton’s man Locke into Jon’s crew, the most likely action we’re going to be getting is up north beyond the wall. Dany discussing future plans is, I’m afraid, about all we’re likely to get out of her story arc for some time. She’s been doing the take city/free slaves/build army routine for a while now, and it is getting a little repetitive, even while it does some provide for some stirring moments. However, she is about as far from the real action in Westeros as is possible, and a lot of things will have to happen before she becomes a real player, not the least of which is a movement in the general direction of the Iron Throne, something she seems to be almost completely uninterested in for the moment. And as for Cersei and Tywin plotting? If this is one of the key events they are highlighting for this episode, I fear it won’t be very exciting at all – after all, when haven’t Cersei and Tywin been plotting?
Let’s take a look at this week’s Promo video to see if it holds any more promise. I’ll break it down moment by moment below the video.
What’s this? Daenyrus is actually talking about King’s Landing! Ser Barristan begins: “Eight thousand Unsullied, two thousand Second Sons,” as Daario plays with his moustache and Dany asks, “Would that be enough to take King’s Landing?” Ser Jorah turns his head to the side, eyes full of what looks like either wonder or concern – is he happy to see his Khaleesi finally talking about taking her birthright? We next hear Tywin in voice-over saying, “One stone crumbles and another takes its place,” as the High Septon places the crown on Tommin’s head. Dropping back to a side view of various dignitaries paying their respects to King Tommen, and we see Margaery in profile. She says, “He sits the throne like he was born to it,” as the camera turns to look at Margaery face-on. She smiles and nods at him, and he begins to return her smile, when Cersei physically interposes herself betwixt the two of them.
This is a little heavy-handed, but is clearly symbolic of the battle that’s already begun between the two women for Tommen’s affections. Here, he is portrayed as a boy of about thirteen, so we definitely have an ick factor by modern-day standards; however, royal weddings in Medieval times (which is the approximate era the books and the series are modeled around) were rarely about love, and almost always about politics. Much larger age discrepancies than those between Tommen and Margaery were not uncommon at all (albeit usually with the sexes reversed). In addition, marrying a sibling’s widow or widower was not unheard of. I can understand people, bringing a twenty-first century sensibility to the table, finding this move by Margaery to be grotesque, but in the context of the story, it is perfectly normal and acceptable behavior.
We next head to the Eyrie, where we see Littlefinger/Petyr Baelish arriving with Sansa, and then cut to Lysa Arryn’s smiling face, as we hear her in voice-over, “Why does he feel responsible for you?” We cut to Lysa holding her niece’s hands as she asks this question, then pulling Sansa in to her bosom. Cut to Lysa embracing Baelish and kissing the side of his face, as she says, “What wife, would do for you the things I’ve done for you?” He looks almost as though he’s going to be ill as she does this – he has no interest in Lysa beyond the power she can give him. Jump to Arya, spinning and pointing Needle at The Hound, as he says, “What the hell are you doing?” He looks slightly annoyed as she tries to pierce his belly through his chainmail.
Next, we head north to Craster’s Keep. Hodor, blood on his face and chains around his chest, is trembling with what looks like barely suppressed rage (could we be seeing the giant half of him Osha spoke of in Season One coming to the fore?). Next on Jojen, who tells Bran, “You mustn’t let anything stop you.” As he speaks, we see Jojen with his wrists tied, then Bran trying to pull himself up, and end on Jon Snow and his group of Night’s Watchmen as they’re walking toward Craster’s Keep, their horses behind them. Jon says, “We move at sundown.” We next see Karl Tanner, one of the mutinous Night’s Watchmen staying at Craster’s Keep, leading a couple of his followers, looking all cocksure and fancy free. Cut to Jon Snow yelling and running forward, engaging one of the men in a sword fight (it looks like the hooded man on Tanner’s right, not Tanner himself).
It’s nice that Dany is at least beginning to think about Westeros, but from Ser Jorah’s look, it is unlikely that he’ll counsel heading that way anytime soon. Twelve thousand men and three immature dragons won’t be enough to take on the forces of the Lannisters, let alone all of the other enemies she’s going to encounter there. How many more slave cities can she take in order to swell her forces? Littlefinger is getting creepier all the time, and we’re going to learn a lot about his deeper motivations this week. Lysa and he have a history (the whole “What wife” line shows this), and with her creepiness added to his…. But I don’t think it’s really Lysa Arryn that he’s interested in – it’s the power that her name, as head of the Eyrie, can bring him. As creepy as he is, he knows that Lysa is actually, certifiably, crazy – and crazy is something Petyr Baelish most certainly is not. I love Arya trying to stab The Hound, but I love his reaction even more – he gives her a look that shows just how ridiculous he thinks she looks, but won’t it be interesting if Needle does prick him? I don’t see him dying yet, but Arya is definitely beginning to get more and more dangerous, and rather ostentatious in her behavior. Maybe The Hound will teach her a lesson in humility here? The last story arc we’ll be following could see Jon Snow rescuing his young half-brother. However, Jojen and Meera seem to believe that Bran has a role to play here in the north, and I don’t see Bran and company going back to Castle Black. Hopefully, we should at least see Jon reunited with his direwolf, Ghost.
Another week with no Stannis? Expect him to have a major role in the last few episodes this season, as his is the only big storyline not being followed recently. Also, no focus on Tyrion in this episode’s Promo or plot synopsis, but don’t expect him to be entirely gone. He may be imprisoned, but he’s definitely not forgotten. Most of the action should take placed north of the wall this week, with everyone else positioning themselves, either politically (Margaery, Cersei, Littlefinger), or militarily (Dany). We are in a lull before the storm. Halfway through the season, and we should start to see some real narrative flow coming soon, but not this week. Expect more treading of water this week and likely next, before the set-up for episodes nine and ten start to bring tensions to a head.
On a side note: this episode will mark the exact middle of the series run. Benioff and Weiss announced back at the beginning of the season that they have planned the show to run for seven years. Given ten episodes per season, and this being episode 35, we’ll be exactly halfway through the entire story arc. Maybe they do have something special planned for this episode after all?