Can you believe we’re already at the halfway point of season 4? This week’s Game of Thrones strikes a rare and satisfying balance between breakneck plot speed and subtle, emotionally expository conversations – and the result is some pretty great TV.
Let’s start off with King’s Landing, where little Tommen now officially sits on the Iron Throne. In what is a very strong contender for my favorite scene of the season so far, Cersei proposes a truce of sorts when she coolly pretends to gauge Margaery’s interest in becoming queen via Tommen, offering some sincere tidbits about Joffrey in the process. Margaery makes a valiant attempt at coyness and confesses that the prospect of giving royalty another go hasn’t really crossed her mind – but we all know, including Cersei, that that’s a load of crap. Some of the show’s best moments occur when Cersei has her guard down (her frank conversation with Robert about their marriage in season 1, her knowing, Joffrey-centric conversations with single Sansa, etc.), so her uncharacteristic candor and vulnerability throughout “First of His Name” is a huge treat.
Other Red Keep developments include: the Lannisters’ gold supply has run out, so the crown is now in profound debt to the Iron Bank of Braavos – they might have to get a new motto. Also, Cersei is right on schedule to marry Loras a few weeks after Tommen’s wedding – yeah, that’s still happening. Ugh.
Some pretty significant stuff is going on over in camp Daenerys – it turns out her slave liberation program has been backsliding for some time. The cities she intended to free have been re-dominated by the wrong folks, leaving Dany feeling pretty blue and uncertain as to her ability to lead, much less overtake the currently shaky Westeros – “How can I rule 7 kingdoms if I can’t control Slaver’s Bay? Why should anyone follow me?” In a pretty level-headed and mature decision, she decides to re-evaluate her position and allow her skill to catch up with her before the army invades King’s Landing – “I will do what queens do. I will rule.” Ironically, hanging back a little bit is the biggest step Dany could have taken at this point. She’s been ripping through cities and accumulating men with a fairly dangerous sense of hubris and invincibility, so it’s an indication of some substantial character-development that she’s now cautious enough to get all her ducks in a row before grabbing at the Seven Kingdoms.
Sansa and Littlefinger have finally reached the Eyrie, and the welcoming party leaves something to be desired. Robin doesn’t have to be sucking on his mother’s breast to be a creepy little twerp, and aunt Lysa is even more psychotic than we thought – Sansa really can’t catch a break. It turns out that Lysa and Littlefinger have been…”romantically linked,” shall we say, (*shudder*) for quite some time – but more importantly: Jon Arryn’s death? Supposedly committed by the Lannisters? The thing that prompted Ned Stark to go to King’s Landing in the first place? Yeah, that was all Littlefinger. As Lysa so subtly reveals mid-slobber, Petyr had her drop the poison in her husband’s drink and then send a letter to Catelyn implicating the Lannisters. It’s the event that set much of the show’s plot in motion, so this revelation is huge. In an excruciatingly uncomfortable scene later in the episode, we discover the extent of Lysa’s freakishly jealous tendencies and that Sansa is probably destined to marry cousin Robin. Ew, to say the least. Gotta fill this season’s incest quota, I guess.
Things are somewhat quiet in both odd-couple camps: Arya makes it explicit that her long-standing intent to kill the Hound hasn’t wavered, and she even attempts to stab him with Needle at one heated point. Podrick isn’t much but a goofy, inept nuisance to Brienne, but he does command a bit of her respect when he reveals that he rescued Tyrion by killing a member of the King’s Guard.
Jon and his group of crows scope out and attack the mutineers at Craster’s keep – no thanks to Locke, whose attempts to kill Bran are thwarted when Bran wargs via Hodor and cracks Locke’s neck. There’s a pretty great battle scene between the mutineers and the Night’s Watch, culminating in a face-off between Jon and Karl – of course, the crows emerge victorious. Bran’s desire to reconnect with his brother is beaten by the knowledge that Jon would never allow him to go up North – so, yet again, the pair narrowly and painfully eludes one another.
Pretty strong episode, overall. Again, Cersei’s vulnerable moments are a total pleasure to watch, and the death of her firstborn has left her completely raw – hopefully she’ll continue this trend of letting us see what’s beneath the ice. Tommen’s still a green little sweetheart – what’ll his first act as king be? Some flowers sent to Margary’s doorstep? Milk and cookies after his bedtime? Tyrion’s trial is next week, too – will Cersei get her way? Leave your thoughts on this week’s episode and predictions for next week in the comments.