Water Dancing: A Review of Game of Thrones Season 4, Episode 5 “First of His Name”

Posted: May 5, 2014 in Game of Thrones, Reviews, TV
Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

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Episode: 35
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)

Halfway through this fourth season of Game of Thrones, and at least some of the direction for the second half is beginning to take shape, especially on the far periphery of the action. Tonight’s episode followed three major storylines, and three secondary storylines, giving us a nice balance and showing a lot of character movement, if not a whole lot of character development. As the title suggests, we did get to see a coronation tonight, but some of the intrigues around the event show surprising turns for the future of those in King’s Landing, and the power they seek to wield. Click through after the break to read my complete recap and review of tonight’s episode.

<<Spoiler Alert: This article is a review and complete recap of Game of Thrones S04E05 – “First of His Name” – it will discuss major plot points and events in detail, and contains strong language based on dialogue from the episode; read further at your own risk!>>

We open in the Great Sept of Baelor, where the septon is intoning the coronation ceremony. He places the crown upon Tommen’s head, declaring him the first of his name. As he’s being crowned, he shares a quick secret smile with Margaery. We next see him sitting on the iron throne, while the Small Council ascends the dais to pay their respect and give homage. Although people important to his position, such as Grand Maester Pycelle and Varys, are before him, King Tommen again has eyes primarily for Margaery. She’s in one of the galleries to the side, and they again share a smile – but not so secret this time. Cersei interjects herself into their line of sight, and then approaches Margaery. They share small talk. Cersei, noting that Margaery wears black, asks if she is in mourning for Joffrey. Margaery makes some comment about him being her husband, but Cersei cuts to the chase. “He would have been your nightmare,” she says, for the first time really admitting what Joffrey was. She tells Margaery that a mother’s love for her firstborn is unmatched, but that “The things he did shocked me.” This is really quite an admission for Cersei; I’m not sure if the writers are trying to make her appear sympathetic at this point – her recognition of Joffrey as the monster he was is a particularly telling moment – but her motivation is based much more in realpolitik. She turns the conversation to Tommen, and suggests that he will need guidance – and that a mother might not be enough. She does not like Margaery, nor does she trust her – but here, she’s willing to give up her younger son to cement the alliance with the Tyrells. For Cersei, the needs of the House outweigh her personal needs (for the most part – we see later where she does express feelings and thoughts that Tywin might not approve of). They part, telling each other that they will speak with their respective fathers to set about arranging the marriage.

We jump far to the east, to Meereen. Ser Jorah informs Daenerys that Joffrey is dead, and that his successor is Tommen, who is but a boy. She is also told that the Second Sons (Daario’s mercenary band) have taken the Meereenese navy, consisting of ninety-three ships; this is enough to transport nearly her entire army to Westeros, consisting of 8000 Unsullied and 2000 Second Sons. Ser Barristan encourages this line of thinking, suggesting that with the current disarray in King’s Landing with the assassination of Joffrey, combined with war fatigue on the part of Lannister forces, now might be the best time to sail in and take the Iron Throne. Jorah points out that ten thousand men won’t take all of Westeros, and Barristan counters that the old Houses will flock to House Targaryen’s banner if Dany raises it. Jorah tells her that there is more news: the slavers have taken Yunkai back, what with the Unsullied gone, and the council she instated in Astapor has been overthrown, a warlord named Cleon naming himself leader. Dany orders everyone out, save for Jorah. In front of him, she questions her own ability to lead – she asks how can she lead seven kingdoms if she “can’t even rule Slavers’ Bay?” She determines that she needs to prove herself – perhaps primarily to herself – before she is ready to head west. She tells Jorah that she “will do what Queens do. I will rule.”

Back in Westeros, we head to the Vale, home of House Arryn. Petyr Baelish (Littlefinger) and Sansa are approaching the Bloody Gate. Baelish tells her to put her hood up – he doesn’t want her identified, even as a nobleborn woman. He tells her a brief history of the Vale, and how the Eyrie has held fast for a thousand years due to the highly defensible nature of the gate, positioned as it is in a narrow ravine at the only point of access to the castle proper. He’s doing this to reassure her that she’ll be safe, but how safe can she really be with Baelish, an admitted killer of kings? When he is asked who would pass through the Bloody Gate, he identifies himself, and calls Sansa “Elaine,” his niece. They are allowed to pass – the knights know him, although the knight of the gate doesn’t look too pleased to see Baelish.

Inside the Eyrie, they enter the throne room, where Lady Lysa shows barely restrained pleasure at Baelish’s return. She tells him to dispense with secret identities with her – she recognizes her niece. Her comments quickly get inappropriate, asking Sansa if Tyrion forced her on their wedding night. All the time she speaks there is a manic gleam in her eyes. She is an interesting combination of stupid, oblivious, and slightly insane – but not without a small amount of evil cunning, as she reveals once she is alone with Baelish. She tells her son Robin who Sansa is, but that he must not tell anyone else, and he asks him to take his cousin to her room. As soon as they are out, she throws herself at Baelish, kissing him and holding him close – she wants to get married immediately, this day. Interestingly, he doesn’t seem able to look her in the eyes – an air of barely hidden disgust surrounds him as he stands there and allows her to kiss him. He resists the idea of marrying so quickly, and she starts off on a new tangent. She reminds him that it was his idea to have her poison her husband, Jon Arryn, and then to send a secret letter to her sister Catelyn. As she speaks, she sounds more and more frenzied, as though she cannot control her emotions. Clearly, she is blackmailing him – Baelish quickly relents, although it appears to be no more than an attempt to silence her before she gives too much away; after all, even empty rooms in Westeros seem to have ears. Pleased, she goes to the chamber’s main doors, opening them with a flourish. On the other side, waiting, are a septon and two guards: she had this planned and ready from the start. That night, we see Sansa in her new bed, trying to get comfortable. Unfortunately for her, all she can hear are Lysa’s screams of pleasure as she enjoys her wedding night somewhere else in the castle.

In King’s Landing, Cersei meets with Tywin to discuss alliances and who they can trust. Tywin’s position? “Ourselves alone.” They figure that a fortnight will be enough time for the mourning period before Margaery and Tommen get married, and a further fortnight betwixt that marriage and Cersei’s to Ser Loras. In times of war, things are necessarily accelerated as alliances must be cemented with blood – hence their inability to trust others. Tywin reveals something that has long-term implications for the throne as well: they are not only in debt to the Iron Bank of Braavos, but the Lannister gold mines have stopped producing entirely. They have no more money coming in, and must therefore look elsewhere, in this case to the Tyrells, who are second only to the Lannisters in wealth. Cersei then tries to bring up Tyrion, but Tywin reminds her that he is a judge in the case, and will not discuss it with her. Still, she reminds him that she has always done what she can to serve the family, whereas Tyrion would rather “set it on fire.”

We next have a brief scene with Arya and The Hound, as she does her nightly litany of names. One of the names she says is The Mountain, Clegane’s brother. He quips that if he were there, they might both be able to strike a name off of their lists. Then he tells her to hurry up and finish, but she says she has only one more name to list: “The Hound.” He doesn’t look particularly disturbed.

Back at the Eyrie, Sansa is sitting with her aunt, a plate of pastries in front of her. Lysa tells her that when she was young, Catelyn had quite a sweet tooth, and that she even grew fat at one point, disappointing their father. As Sansa eats, Lysa sits across from her and takes her hands in her own. She says about Baelish, “He really cares for you.” Sansa agrees that it was nice of him to save her from the Lannisters. Lysa, her eyes getting a little too intense, asks Sansa why this is. She then asks her if she is pregnant. Sansa replies that no, she’s a virgin, that Tyrion never slept with her – but Lysa doesn’t mean Tyrion, she means Baelish, and as she asks her voice starts to get louder and angrier as well. Lysa begins to squeeze Sansa’s hands, hurting her – she’s into another one of her manic, uncontrollable phases. She tells Sansa that her mother Catelyn was little better than Baelish’s whores, that she treated him poorly and didn’t deserve his affection. There is obviously a lot of hatred toward her older, prettier, smarter, and far more successful older sister, and she is externalizing that hatred onto Sansa, who just looks terribly confused and hurt by the whole process. Sansa swears again and again that she is a virgin, despite her aunt asking what Baelish has done with her body – it’s as though she is separating Sansa the person from Sansa the physical body in her twisted imagination. Sansa begins to cry, and Lysa is satisfied; she takes the younger woman in her arms and comforts her, telling that once Tyrion is executed, she can marry her cousin Robin and she’ll be mistress of the Vale.

We cut to a road further south, where Podrick is having a terrible time trying to control his horse as he follows Brienne. She tells him that he can leave, but he reminds her he made an oath. She peremptorily releases him from said oath, but still he refuses to leave. We cut away as he continues to struggle, although most of the steps the horse takes are forward. This scene plays out naturally, and is a great piece of humorous acting. Podrick has been played to more bawdy effect in the past, but here we see him in a different light. I could see this relationship developing into a Laurel and Hardy/Abbott and Costello/C-3PO and R2D2 type duo, with Brienne being the straight man and Podrick performing the comic relief.

In the wilderness, The Hound awakes with a start to realize that Arya is no longer at the camp. He goes to a bluff overlooking a small river, and sees her down below, practicing with her sword. He joins her, and mocks her movements, calling them a dance. She basically agrees, telling him she is Water Dancing, a Braavosi style of sword fighting. He asks who trained her, and she tells him that it was the First Sword of Braavos himself, Syrio Forel. “Was?” he asks, and she tells him he was killed. “By whom?” he asks, and she tells him it was Ser Meryn Trant. The Hound begins to laugh – he tells her that anyone could best Ser Trant in a fight. She gets defensive, and he tells her to show him what she can do. She spins and cartwheels, going through several forms, looking as though she is much improved from her days with Syrio. Meanwhile, The Hound continues to mock her, and focuses especially on Syrio, sensing that this is a point of contention with her. He goads her on, telling her to show him what she knows. She spins, and in a smooth movement, strikes him in his belly with Needle – but to her surprise, the blade does not penetrate his armor, and he just stands there looking down at the sword. Then with a quick motion he strikes her across the face with a backhand, taking her sword. He stands over her, her own blade at her throat. He says, “Your friend’s dead, and Meryn Trant’s not because Trant had armor, and a big fucking sword.” This is a great developmental scene for Arya. She’s been getting cockier since striking one man off of her list back at the inn, and here The Hound lets her know exactly how little she is really capable of doing what she wants to. If he didn’t give her this lesson, she’d likely get herself into an intractable situation down the road, and get herself killed – and possibly The Hound along with her. Although she hates The Hound and intends to kill him one day, he’s in fact just as important a mentor to her as Syrio was back at King’s Landing. Perhaps one day she’ll realize this, although I suspect it won’t mitigate her hatred in any way.

Back in King’s Landing, we see Prince Oberyn of Dorne sitting writing in a garden. Cersei approaches him, and asks who he is writing to. He tells her it’s a poem to one of his daughters. She offers to give him a tour of the gardens, and they walk, talking about daughters. He brings up his dead sister, and Cersei uses that as an opening to find connection between them – he lost a sister, she a son, and neither could do anything to protect those they love; she asks: “What good is power, if you cannot protect the ones you love?” Oberyn asks her if she believes that Tyrion killed Joffrey, and she affirms that she does, though he expresses some doubt. She tells him how hard it is to not be able to see Myrcella, and asks how she is. He tells her that the last time he saw the girl, she was swimming happily with his own daughters. He finishes, saying, “We don’t hurt little girls in Dorne,” a thinly veiled reference to his own sister. She replies that they hurt them everywhere, which comes across as self-referential – are there things in Cersei’s past of which we’re not completely aware yet? This could be part of Benioff and Weiss’s attempt to make her more sympathetic, but it will take a lot to make Cersei ultimately likable, if that is even their intention. They walk out onto a balcony overlooking the sea, and she asks Oberyn if he can deliver a gift to Myrcella, her daughter who was sent to Dorne by Tyrion when he was Hand, as a means of procuring their alliance. The gift is a beautiful ship, and he promises he will sail it to Dorne to give to her. She asks him, “Please tell her, her mother misses her very much.” This is about as human as we’ve seen Cersei – is it possible that Joffrey’s death and her recognition of how monstrous he was has really changed her? Time will tell.

Back with Podrick, he’s busy burning a rabbit over a fire. He throws it to the ground, and tries to stomp out the fire, in the process mashing the rabbit into the ground. Brienne arrives with an armload of wood for the fire to see him doing this. “You didn’t take off the skin first?” she asks incredulously. He tries to help her as she removes her armor, but she shakes him off, telling him she’s done it alone for a long time. She asks him what he used to do for Lord Tyrion, and it basically comes down to mostly pouring wine. She asks him if he’s ever done anything combat-wise, anything that might actually be useful in a squire. He admits to killing a man, although he’s obviously discomfited bringing it up. She asks for the details, and he tells her it was a King’s Guardsman, and that he did it protecting Lord Tyrion. Brienne appears quietly impressed, and asks for help with her armor. This was a nice piece of subtle character development, in that it shows a potential common ground between these two very different people. Podrick and Brienne have always been outsiders in the world they’re inhabiting, so maybe they can find a mutual respect, even if he is the worst squire in Westeros.

We head north of the Wall, where we see Bolton’s man Locke. He’s at Craster’s Keep, scouting ahead of Jon’s party. He follows a couple of men and sees Rast taking a woman to rape her, but he stays out of sight until he is able to get a peek into a hut set apart from the other buildings. Sure enough, he spies his goal – Bran Stark is sitting inside, tied up along with his companions. In approaching the hut, Locke knocks against an unlit lantern, making it sway. Bran sees the lantern moving, but Locke has already disappeared. Inside, we see that Jojen is growing weak – he’s already sickly, and Meera is afraid that he might be dying, although she doesn’t say this out loud. Jojen tries to reassure Bran, telling him that things don’t end here with them as captives. He drops into a vision, and sees Bran with an enormous weirwood tree behind him on a hill. He describes what he’s seeing, and Bran says in a dream-like voice, “You’ve seen it too?” Jojen then tells Bran again that it is all about him and his journey, that the rest of them are “only here to guide you.”

Away from Craster’s Keep, Locke returns to Jon Snow and the other Night’s Watchmen. He reports on what he’s seen, and on how many men are there. He also tells them that there is one hut they need to stay away from – it’s full of hounds, and he doesn’t think they should alert the mutineers. Jon tells the men to rest, and says, “We move at sundown.”

Back at the Keep, Karl Tanner, followed by two of his men, go to the hut to see his captives. The two men string Meera up to the ceiling, and Tanner is obviously getting ready to rape her. Jojen tries to distract him, and finally admits to having the Sight, something he claims might be useful for Tanner and his men. Meera the whole time is shaking her head – she’d rather sacrifice herself than allow her brother to help the mutineers. Tanner, however, dismisses Jojen, asking him if he’s seen what he’s going to do to Meera, what his men are going to do to Meera. Jojen tells him, “I saw you die tonight. I saw your body burn. I saw the snow fall and bury your bones.” He smiles as he says this, a look of certainty on his face. Tanner turns to him, his knife out, but before he can do anything, he hears Rast yelling that they’re under attack.

Outside, the men engage, Jon locking swords with one of the mutineers. Locke sneaks over to the hut, leans down and confirms Bran’s identity by slicing his leg with a knife, noting that the boy doesn’t respond. He cuts Bran loose, leaving the others behind. As he stands, we see Bran’s eyes go white, as do Hodor’s – he’s inside Hodor again. Hodor/Bran pulls rhythmically at the chain holding him to the wall, until the iron ring comes loose. Outside, Locke runs with Bran under his arm, but is suddenly stopped in his tracks as Hodor grabs him. Bran falls to the ground, and Locke is lifted off his feet by Hodor, who uses his other hand to snap Locke’s neck, breaking his collarbone as well, which sticks out of his right breast. Bran drops back into his own body, and calls to Hodor for help. Hodor looks at Locke’s body, and then at his own hand, covered in blood. He’s obviously upset, but does as Bran asks, taking Locke’s knife and going to free the others.

As Jojen and Meera join him, Bran sees Jon fighting, and calls out to him. Jon can’t hear him due to the sounds of battle, and Jojen tells Bran that calling out would be a mistake – his journey isn’t done yet, and if Jon finds him, he’s definitely going to bring him back to Castle Black. Reluctantly, Bran acquiesces, but tells him they need to free someone else before they leave.

For Jon, the battle moves inside the Keep, where he faces Tanner alone. They lock blades, Jon using his greatsword, and Tanner using the twin knives with which he made his name back in Flea Bottom. Tanner speaks as they fight, questioning Jon’s honor and its value, using underhanded techniques such as tripping Jon and spitting in his eyes to try to gain an advantage. He does manage to wing Jon in the side with one of his blades, and then knocks him to the ground, stepping on Jon’s arm before he can retrieve his sword. He leans down to slash Jon’s throat, when he suddenly stiffens – one of Craster’s Wives has stabbed him in the shoulder. He reaches around and pulls out the dagger, turning on the woman. Just as he’s about to kill her, Jon’s sword comes out from his mouth – Jon has stabbed him right through the back of his head.

Outside, Jon and his men are moving bodies into the light, counting their own dead and the number of mutineers’ bodies. They lost five men including Locke, and are disturbed by the method of Locke’s death – one of the men questions what could have caused that kind of injury. In the counting, they realize that one of the mutineers is missing – Rast is not among the dead. Cut to Rast, running away from the Keep, showing his true colors. Remember, he was the worst of the Night’s Watchmen when it came to mocking Sam for his lack of courage and physical prowess, but here he is, running away with his tail between his legs. As he leaves, however, he passes by the kennel where the two direwolves, Ghost and Summer have been kept – only the door to the kennel is swinging wide open. Suddenly, Ghost takes him from the side.

We don’t see what happens to Rast, but when Ghost appears at the Keep a few minutes later, he has blood on his jaws. Jon is overjoyed to see his wolf, hugging him and welcoming him back. The men deduce that Rast has indeed been taken care of. Craster’s Wives appear around the crows, and Jon offers to take them in at Castle Black, saying that they’ll be protected there. The eldest of the wives acts as their spokesperson, telling Jon that they’ve enjoyed enough of the crows’ hospitality, and that they’ll take care of themselves. He’s incredulous, asking them if they’re going to stay at Craster’s Keep. She spits on the ground between them, and tells him to “burn it to the ground. The episode ends on a shot of the Keep, as its timbers burn and the building collapses in on itself.

Tonight’s episode had a lot more humor than previous weeks, focusing not only on Podrick and Brienne, but also finding the humor in Arya’s interactions with The Hound. While Arya is indeed becoming more deadly as time passes, her cockiness at having killed a man was endangering her more than helping. The look on The Hound’s face as she tried to stab him was great, as he just looked mildly annoyed before backhanding her to the ground. Of course, I don’t like to see one of my favorites treated like this, but it was a valuable lesson that might very well save her life one day, and his attitude (if not his actions) served to further endear The Hound to me as a character who brings a lot to the table. Even if I don’t particularly like him, I find him very complex and interesting, and hope to see more of the both of them moving forward.

There was also a high degree of creepiness, but this time not provided by the usual suspects. In fact, Baelish/Littlefinger was the one being creeped out, as Lysa proved that there are worse things in the world than cunning. The way she started to blackmail Baelish, and then to turn on her own niece due to unmerited jealousy, shows that she is even creepier than her breastfeeding of the pre-pubescent Robin hinted at in Season One. Locke also provided a creep factor – his nonchalant cutting of Bran’s leg shows just how the Bolton sensibilities get spread around their men, as well. I won’t miss him at all. And not to forget, both Rast and Tanner showed their best evil side, especially in the scene when Tanner was going to rape Meera, who is presented as being in her mid-teens. Not sorry to see either of them gone.

In addition to removing a trio of evil characters, actions in the north establish the direction things will be going in the near future. With the mutineers dealt with, Jon can turn to dealing with his enemies at Castle Black – Thorne and Slynt – and hopefully help the Watch get prepared for Mance Rayder’s impending attack. Machinations in King’s Landing appear to be moving out of Cersei’s demesne much faster than she would normally like, but she is suspiciously compliant. The fact that she is working with Margaery and with Oberyn shows that she is undergoing some kind of change at the moment, but where she will end up is still in question. That she wants to, indeed, see Tyrion’s head on a pike is not, however, debatable. Her truces with two apparent enemies could be nothing more than another maneuver, but in both cases, her children are involved – after losing Joffrey, she knows the value of both Tommen and Myrcella to her, and wants to protect them at any cost. Positioning them with dangerous people – Margaery and Oberyn – might actually provide them with more long-term safety than she herself can provide.

Dany’s part was very small today, and this reflects the current water treading going on in the far east. If she intends on concentrating on Slaver’s Bay for the time being, this will effectively remove her from the real action across the sea in Westeros. Unless there are more battles to be fought – it appears that Yunkai and Astapor might need reconquering – we won’t see a lot of Dany in the near future.

I wasn’t sorry to see Stannis missing from this episode, but I do expect him to be back and playing an increasingly important role very soon. I missed Tyrion – it’s a rare episode that doesn’t have him – and I’d like to see some more of Varys again. With all the intriguing going on at King’s Landing, you just know he’s got his little birds everywhere.

Next week expect to see some Stannis, some fallout from the Baelish/Lysa Arryn marriage (lots of crazy there), Jon heading back to Castle Black, and Bran heading further north. We shouldn’t see the weddings in King’s Landing for a couple of weeks, but as Tywin pointed out, neither will be a big affair in light of the recent death of Joffrey. The question is: where are Benioff and Weiss taking us for their traditionally climactic episode nine this year? Only three more episodes of set-up to go, so we should see some direction soon.

Steve’s Grade: B+
I thoroughly enjoyed the lighter tone of the Podrick/Brienne scenes, as well as the battle scene at Craster’s Keep. However, no episode without Tyrion can quite get into the A range.

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  1. […] Water Dancing: A Review of Game of Thrones Season 4, Episode 5 “First of His Name” […]

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