Game of Thrones Episode 5: The Wolf and the Lion.

Wow, nothing like a long weekend to fall very behind on the stuff I’ve been working on with this blog, that and being busy with work and academics. But things need to get finished, projects taken care of, and baseball teams to coach. Even so, I want to push a little bit and get to at least a couple episodes of A Game of Thrones. Hard to believe but I’m three episodes behind. Anyway, as you’ve noticed by now if you’re watching, this ultimately is a story about the rivalry between two great houses in the world of Westeros, the Starks and the Lannisters. As the previous episodes hinted at Episode 5: The Wolf and the Lion, lets us know how the rest of this story is going to unfold, that some kind of conflict is going to happen between these two and it will have repercussions throughout the Seven Kingdoms.

As it happens the episode starts with a continuation of the tournament for the honor of the new Hand, Ned Stark. First Ned convinces Robert not to fight in the tournament, noting that only a fool would strike the king. It also continues to show us the weakness of Robert. Not just the fact that he’s a drunk and a womanizing pig but he lives in the past. He wants to be the young man who rode into battle and won the kingdom, the hero. This is what happens after the battle and the governing needs to start. It is a great demonstration of the aftermath that fantasy and science fiction, and most fiction really never confronts, namely what comes after “happily ever after?” In George RR Martin’s telling, it isn’t pretty. The brave and noble warrior makes a less than idealistic ruler and administrator.

The joust that we get to see establishes another minor character that is present through many of the books, Ser Tyrell, the Knight of the Flowers. Though I feel the name of the character tips Martin’s hand a little too much, I’m glad the producers of the show didn’t go overboard with his sexuality and basically make him Pricilla Queen of Westeros. Even though there is still a hint of bias against homosexuals, it is a lot better than what it could have been. Also we see that Ser Tyrel has a bit of an ambitious side as well, tempting his lover, Renly, who also happens to be Robert’s younger brother and member of his Small Council, with dreams of power.*

* The idea of a homosexual ruler is probably out of the realm of possibility in most fantasy and science fiction, especially in the mainstream of sci-fi/fantasy. It does raise the question though, at least to me, are we ready for a movie based on the rule of James I of the United Kingdom? He was a devout Christian, fathered numerous children, also had a strong interest in witchcraft and was quite open about his homosexual behaviors. Johnny Depp as James I strikes me as intriguing. Somehow I think the more conservative folks of our society might have trouble with the ruler that gave us the most beautiful translation of the Bible depicted in such a way.

I’ll admit that I use the HBO website to spark my memory of the episodes and I’m shocked that the synopsis of this episode doesn’t mention what I thought was the most powerful scene of the episode, if not of the series. After Robert and his small council, with Ned Stark being the noble exception (I’m already tired of Noble Ned), deciding to assassinate Daenerys Targaryen he is joined by his wife in his office (for lack of a better word.) They talk statecraft, marriage and the past. All things considered it’s a pretty short scene but it is loaded with meaning. Robert actually can be a capable ruler, though he obviously doesn’t like it. More to the point, Cersei is his equal as far as ruling, and he talks to her as such, and he doesn’t like that either. The turning point is when Cersei asks if there was ever a chance for them to be a happy, married couple. After a beat, Robert responds, “no.” If he hit her it wouldn’t have been as harsh. They both realize how preposterous it is that their awful marriage is what is holding the Kingdoms together and with this exchange it is apparent that Cersei is finished. What happens next is going to be interesting to say the least.

The last little tweak we get this week is with our pal, Tyrion Lannister. He still is the most likable character in the series and we get a bit of nobility and honor tossed into his character as well. When the party taking him to the Eyrie is attacked by the Hill Folk, instead of making his escape in all of the confusion (ala the hobbits in Two Towers) Tyrion instead rescues Catlyn Stark from attack. Of course no good deed goes unpunished in Westeros and the Imp is not only accused of attempted murder of Bran Stark, but Cat’s sister accuses him of murdering her husband, John Arryn as well, not a good start to his captivity. It will be interesting to see how the actor playing young Robbin Arryn develops. Playing a ten year old still breastfeeding has just got to be weird. I must admit though, the kid is doing a great job of freaking me out. The scene of Tyrion being tossed into one of the sky cells was definitely a nod to the fans of the books. I’ll admit it I wanted to see those more than the Wall. What a great prison idea, from a mental torture perspective; only three walls and a wide open view of the world, freedom beckons, oh and a 400 foot drop.

Tyrion is in the background of the final scene of the episode as well. Jamie Lannister confronts Ned Stark about the imprisonment of his brother, possibly the only person, besides his sister that Jamie cares about. Oddly enough, Jamie also demonstrates some honor in the fight. In a great sword fight between Jamie and Ned, one of Jamie’s men shanks Ned, basically crippling him. Instead of finishing him off, Jamie lets Ned live and punches the guard who tipped the battle. Surveying the scene however, it’s apparent who is leading this feud; Ned is down, all of his guard dead and the Lannisters ride away. The Lannisters may have demonstrated some honor and mercy, but how long this restraint lasts is what the next episodes will tell us.

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