Sunday, April 1, 2012

Gabbing About Game of Thrones: Season 1

Tonight the second season of HBO’s Game of Thrones premieres. Based on the series of fantasy novels by George R R Martin, the show has it all: political intrigue, sex, violence, and dragons. Now I have read all the books and watched the first season, but I thought to fully discuss both the depth and breadth of the show (which has possibly the largest cast on television) I’d need some help. So I’d like to introduce my dear friend Steven in addition to being a fellow organizer with a truly impressive encyclopedic memory for history, Steven runs the popular Game of Throne’s blog Race for the Iron Throne, devoted to historical and political analysis of both the books and the tv series (and if you're a fan, it's pretty much a must read). Spoilers only for Season 1/Book 1 (don’t worry, future installments will be much shorter):


Entertained Organizer:
I was thinking we'd start by giving a brief overview of the plot of Season 1, before examining the themes and potential threats to the realm leading into season 2
Race for the Iron Throne:
Sounds good.  Season 1 begins with a party of brothers of the Night's Watch ambushed by White Walkers beyond the Wall; only one escapes, to be executed by Lord Eddard Stark in front of Eddard Starks' sons Robb and Bran, his bastard son Jon Snow, and his ward Theon Greyjoy.
Entertained Organizer:
The White Walkers for anyone who failed to notice, are clearly some kind of supernatural creature, which is important to remember going forward
Race for the Iron Throne:
Supernatural creatures that most people don't believe exist anymore, since they haven't been seen in thousands of years. The party finds six direwolf pups and bring them back to Winterfell, where Eddard finds out that Jon Arryn, hand of the King and lord of the Vale, has died unexpectedly, and that the King is coming to offer Eddard the Handship.
Entertained Organizer:
The Hand of the King being a kind of Chief of Staff/Vice President position, he acts in the Kings place when the King is unavailable and otherwise runs the country
Race for the Iron Throne:
The Hand is actually even more powerful - he's basically a deputy King, with full powers of lawgiving, warmaking, and justice. The King arrives and offers both the Handship and the hand of his repulsive son Joffrey, which Ned accepts. We get to meet the Lannisters, including Queen Cersei who seems to hate everything, Jaime the Kingslayer who is a grandmaster of smug, and Tyrion who likes beer and bjs.
Entertained Organizer:
also books
Race for the Iron Throne:
There's a feast where Starks and Lannisters have uncomfortable conversations and where Jon Snow decides to take the black and join his uncle Benjen. Snow and Tyrion meet, and Tyrion offers some good advice. The next day, Bran Stark, WHO IS TEN YEARS OLD, goes climbing and finds the Queen and her brother having sex, and Jaime Lannister, the finest swordsman on the continent, decides to show his prowess by throwing a TEN YEAR OLD off the tower.
Entertained Organizer:
This is also usually the part of both the book and the first season where people officially become hooked.  "The things I do for love" and all that
Race for the Iron Throne:
I agree. Meanwhile, over the Narrow Sea, the exiled Viserys Targaryen marry/sells his sister to Khal Drogo, a Dothraki warlord, in order to get an army for his return. Danaerys isn't too happy about that, but prefers it to her brother’s threat to have her gang raped.  They have a raging wedding, the exile Ser Jorah appears, and Daenerys is given three dragon eggs before the marriage is roughly consummated despite a language barrier.  And apparently, live snakes are on the register for a Dothraki wedding.
Entertained Organizer:
what else do you give to a couple who has everything?
Race for the Iron Throne:
Oh, and we find out from Lysa Arryn that Jon Arryn was murdered by the Lannisters, and that Jon Snow will end up going to the Wall.  But none of that is important ;)
Entertained Organizer:
that also kicks off possibly the series longest running question, "who is Jon Snow's mother" but more on that later
Race for the Iron Throne:
Episode 2! Bran's in a coma (his mom is in shock), Tyrion slaps Joffrey for being Joffrey and enjoys a hearty breakfast-and-intrigue, and many leavetakings are made and a sword is distributed as part of Winterfell's Title IX.
Entertained Organizer:
We also find out that Joffrey is kind of a sociopath when he attacks Arya and a commoner boy with a sword, only to be rewarded with a direwolf attack for his troubles
Race for the Iron Throne:
You're getting ahead of yourself.
Entertained Organizer:
but he's so wonderfully hateable
Race for the Iron Throne:
First, the two parties split, Ned teases the Jon's mom thing, and we learn that you should never ever promise to talk later in Westeros.  Let's also mention Joffrey's frat-boy attempt to liquor up Sansa and his sword being thrown away.
Entertained Organizer:
in case anyone hasn't noticed, Joffrey is terrible
Race for the Iron Throne:
The fallout is that Arya has to drive off her wolf, Cersei begins her reign of Bush era spinning, Sansa's wolf dies at the hands of Ned (waking up Bran), and the Hound rides down the butcher's boy.  Oh, and King Robert is really weak in the face of nagging, which explains why the Lannisters hold so many royal positions.
Entertained Organizer:
just to clarify, since Arya's wolf can't be found, Cersei has the King order Sansa's wolf be executed instead
Race for the Iron Throne:
As Robert and Ned discuss in their al fresce reminiscing session, Dany is now married and travelling to Vaes Dothrak. She's not having a great time at the start, but some training in the missionary position seems to make a difference and improve her marriage.
Entertained Organizer:
the fact that Viserys hires a prostitute to teach his sister how to keep the Khal happy in bed is yet another indicator that he's not really the greatest brother in the world
Race for the Iron Throne:
It's the best thing he ever does.
Entertained Organizer:
while true, I think that only makes my point more correct
Race for the Iron Throne:
Back at Winterfell, Catelyn gets chewed out by Robb for neglecting her feral child, Rickon, but her obsession results in her remaining in Bran's room when an assassin distracts the rest of the castle with a fire. She holds him off by grabbing onto the blade (which really made me wince) until Bran's wolf Summer rips the assassin's throat out. This trauma actually seems to be therapeutic, such that Catelyn does some CSI work and decides to go South with the dagger to warn her husband.
Entertained Organizer:
it was a really expensive and identifiable dagger
Entertained Organizer:
and really it's only fair, since upon his arrival in King's Landing, Ned gets to become a detective too
Race for the Iron Throne:
True. Although a bit more followup on the dagger would have been really useful.
Entertained Organizer:
and by that of course you're referring to Peter "Littlefinger" Baelish
Race for the Iron Throne:
Yes. Worst nickname in Westeros?
Entertained Organizer:
quite possibly, narrowly beating out "The Eunich" and "The Mountain that Moves" (the only reason the poor guy is so mean is because people make fun of him for how big he is)
Race for the Iron Throne:
Well, Varys' nickname is the Spider, and Gregor is the Mountain that Rides. And Gregor is a pure sociopath from childhood. Oh, and on the way to the Wall (my favorite CGI prior to Episode 10), Jon Snow meets some rapists and we have the best promotion of reading ever.
Race for the Iron Throne:
Wouldn't you love that scene as a PSA for Reading Rainbow? Is that still on the air?
Entertained Organizer:
I'm going to pretend it is what else is that guy doing?
Race for the Iron Throne:
Community.
Entertained Organizer:
where he talks about reading rainbow
Race for the Iron Throne:
Precisely.


Race for the Iron Throne:
So I think we're reading for Episode 3?
Entertained Organizer:
ya, and we can probably speed it up a little
Race for the Iron Throne:
Episode 3 - Jon Snow kicks ass on the Wall and learns how to make friends, Tyrion pisses off the Wall, Ned Stark is not a fan of deficit spending, chokes Littlefinger, and runs into his wife in a brothel, Viserys gets choked out and Dany's pregnant, Bran's crippled, and Arya's learning how to "dance."
Race for the Iron Throne:
Better?
Entertained Organizer:
haha, and by dancing we mean she gets an awesome fencing instructor
Race for the Iron Throne:
Yes, Syrio Forel, who believes in proper technique and gender-blindness.
Entertained Organizer:
we also learn that the kingdom is basically bankrupt and that the Lannisters own most of the debt
Race for the Iron Throne:
I don't think it's bankrupt (they still have tax revenue), but it's deficit spending via tourneys, and Lannisters only own 50% of the debt. Oh, and Maester Pycelle - best argument for mandatory retirement for maesters?
Entertained Organizer:
haha, probably. Though as we see a bit later, he's more spry than he lets on. I'm also pretty sure this is the episode we're introduced to your favorite character
Race for the Iron Throne:
...who?
Entertained Organizer:
Roz the whore
Race for the Iron Throne:
She's there since Episode 1, more's the pity.
Entertained Organizer:
Roz teaches us important lessons about the economy and the state of the common man
Race for the Iron Throne:
I think Gendry teaches us more. We see the exploitation of labor, demand for armor and other consumer durables, and high labor turnover during regime transitions.
Race for the Iron Throne:
Episode 4: Ned finds out Arryn's last words, the last book he read, Robert's bastard son, and a potential witness, but loses him to a possibly-deliberate lancing.
Entertained Organizer:
meanwhile, across the sea Viserys is slowly realizing that if his only bargaining chip was his sister, once she's happily married to the Khal, he doesn't really have any leverage at all
Race for the Iron Throne:
He takes a belt to the face, and Jorah gives Dany the results of an unbiased poll of smallfolk opinion. Results: smallfolk are pro-peace, pro-growth, anti-climate change, not huge on the Targaryens.
Entertained Organizer:
also Dany has to eat a horses heart
Race for the Iron Throne:
Not until next episode.
Entertained Organizer:
teach me to keep my notes in one long file without separating them by episode
Race for the Iron Throne:
Up at the Wall, Jon defends a nerdish Samwell Tarly, although I think Alliser actually makes the better argument. Tyrion gives Bran a new saddle, realizes something's up at Winterfell, mocks Theon, and gets arrested/kidnapped by Catelyn Stark. Another argument against vigilante justice.
Entertained Organizer:
at least Tyrion ends up getting a trial
Race for the Iron Throne:
Yeah, but I wouldn't call the Arryn's justice system up to 4th, 5th, 6th, or 8th amendment standards. Tyrion should have picked the ACLU as his champion.
Entertained Organizer:
everyone should, and I don't think his 6th amendment rights were violated, he got a speedy trial and the right to a publicly appointed champion/attorney
Race for the Iron Throne:
No jury trial, out of jurisdiction, not given the chance to cross-examine his accusers, and the use of torture to extract a confession. Although some of that is 5th.
Entertained Organizer:
and 7th
Race for the Iron Throne:
It's not a civil case.
Entertained Organizer:
then again everyone was down for Trial by Combat so we can probably move on from examining the Westori Justice System
Race for the Iron Throne:
So shall we get into Episode 5? Catelyn Stark takes Tyrion to meet her sister despite him saving her life, Tyrion makes a friend, someone desperately needs to call Child Protection Services and Amnesty International. Theon gets pissy that Roz doesn't love him, Bran's cheered out of his funk by the prospect of becoming a Dohtraki archer (which I'm kind of bummed we don't get to see).
Entertained Organizer:
the series isn't over yet, maybe Dothraki Bran will save everyone from the White Walkers and maybe they just wanted Tyrion to be able to enjoy the view when they locked him in a cell where the fourth wall was a cliff?
Race for the Iron Throne:
And refuse to feed him and beat him?
Entertained Organizer:
vigorous weight loss program?
Race for the Iron Throne:
Down South, we see my favorite fight scene, and Robert sends Lancel on a snipe hunt. Varys joins the Ned Squad, or does he? Arya chases a cat and almost saves her father.
Entertained Organizer:
if only he'd listen to her
Race for the Iron Throne:
Ned's not down with assassination as national security policy, especially in regards to pregnant women, and resigns.
Entertained Organizer:
Ned wakes up to find himself still in King's Landing, still Hand of the King, and that Jamie has fled the court
Race for the Iron Throne:
And we're in episode 6 now.
Race for the Iron Throne:
So Ned witnesses some domestic violence, gets reinstated, Sansa takes her first step onto the cycle of abuse, and Arya takes more "dancing" lessons. While Robert's away, Ned learns that Gregor Clegane is attacking villages in the Riverlands, and has him attainted as a violator of the King's Peace, sending Beric Dondarrion and Thoros of Myr to arrest him (but not Loras), and summons Tywin to answer for Gregor's actions. Which I think is a fairly smart move for Ned, although sending Loras along would have been a good idea. He orders his kids to return home, and Sansa gives him the final clue to uncover the Baratheon's lack of a recessive blond gene. Daenerys eats some coeur de cheval écru, and gives the chef a rave review. Viserys is upset that Dany's kid is already more of a king than he is, and attempts to steal her eggs but is prevented by Ser Jorah. Viserys gets drunk, threatens Drogo's baby, and recieves a lavish, one might even say, gaudy death.
Entertained Organizer:
Khal Drogo is a man of his word. Viserys got his golden crown AND no blood was spilled in the holy land. Very literal guy that Khal Drogo
Race for the Iron Throne:
Yep. The Dothraki have a very flexible and inventive capital punishment system. Oh, and Bran gets to ride his horse, then Robb and Theon kill some wildlings who've captured him, then capture Osha.
Race for the Iron Throne:
Ok. Episode 7. Tywin has a conversation with Jaime that simultaneously tears down his ego and gives him a peptalk, all while butchering a stag - Jaime goes off to besiege Riverrun. Osha gets sexually harassed by Theon, Jon Snow finds Benjen's horse, takes his vow, finds some "corpses," is pissed off that he's been assigned as a steward (rather hypocritically). Dany tries to sweet-talk Drogo into attacking Westeros, but all it really took was an incompetent assassination attempt. Ned confronts Cersei, doesn't arrest her right there (despite her many crimes), Robert gets gored by a boar. Ned refuses  to take Renly and Littlefinger's coup offers, but changes Robert's will to make Stannis the rightful heir. Ned confronts Cersei and Joffrey in the throne room, and has the will read out by Barristan, but then gets backstabbed by Littlefinger.
Entertained Organizer:
Ned was the only one who didn't see that one coming
Race for the Iron Throne:
True, but he actually gets close to pulling it off - if it hadn't been for Sansa and if he had taken care of the Goldcloaks personally, he would have won.
Entertained Organizer:
you make Ned sound like a Scooby Doo villain
Race for the Iron Throne:
I just think he gets a bad rap from some of the fans, who have access to knowledge he couldn't possible have had.  Which is a big no-no for historians.
Entertained Organizer:
fair enough. From here it's pretty much a rush to the finish line
Race for the Iron Throne:
Episode 8 - Syrio gets a great send-off, Arya escapes the castles, Sansa is captured and is forced to dance to Cersei's tune, Jonas Slynt is promoted and Barristan is age-discriminated against, Sansa seems to work out a recantation/plea deal. Tyrion recruits some barbarian hill tribes with standup comedy, and has a super-awkward conversation with his dad. Catelyn leaves the Vale and still hasn't called CPS. We forgot Tyrion's trial and Bronn's fight. They were awesome, a high comedic point for the series. Ok, up North, Robb Stark calls the banners, wins friends by having his wolf eat their fingers, and marches South, while leaving everyone in the dark about whether he's going to attack Tywin or Jaime. Jon Snow is unhappy about the news from down South, attempts to assault a superior officer with a deadly weapon, but gets out of punishment by saving the Lord Commander from a wight.
Entertained Organizer:
more commonly known as a zombie
Race for the Iron Throne:
Dany attempts to quell the rapes she's directly responsible for, but seems less distressed by the enslavement of males. Moqo is unhappy about this change in policy, but Drogo tears his tongue out through his throat.  Dany thinks it's a good idea to have a recently-enslaved wise woman handle Drogo's medical treatment.
Entertained Organizer:
which shockingly goes wrong almost immediately
Race for the Iron Throne:
Episode 9! Tywin sends Tyrion to fight in the vanguard, Bronn finds Tyrion a top-notch prostitute, Tyrion drunkenly confesses his abusive childhood, gives a rousing speech, and nearly fights in a battle that turns out to be a diversion.
Entertained Organizer:
I've got to admit, having Tyrion knocked out was a brilliant way to avoid the expense of having to show the battle
Race for the Iron Throne:
Yes.  It's honestly not the one I wanted to see; it's the one where Robb captures Jaime, which is pretty damn amazing in the book.  The Starks have to deal with the hillbilly bridge troll called Walder Frey, but he allows them to pass in exchange for forcing Robb and Arya to marry into his rather dirty gene pool. For leaving his confinement to quarters, Jon is rewarded with an even longer sword that is the envy of all the boys of the Night's Watch. Jon is tempted to leave and fight with Robb, despite Aemon (TARGARYEN!)'s advice. Khal Drogo is dying of medical malpractice, and Danaerys attempts blood magic rather than a lawsuit. A third horse dies messily, Jorah is forced to kill Qotho, and Dany goes into premature labor. Varys and Ned have a conversation about peace, justice, and family - which convinces Ned to give in. Arya and Sansa witness Joffrey going completely off-script and executing Ned Stark. At least Ned Stark sees that Arya's been rescued by Yoren.
Entertained Organizer:
don't forget Joffrey's lovely speech about how women are weak to explain why he needs to kill rather than exile Ned
Race for the Iron Throne:
Yes. Cersei did a poor job of raising her son a feminist.
Entertained Organizer:
possibly promising him "all the painted whores" he wanted was not a good start.  So Sean Bean, as always, is now dead
Race for the Iron Throne:
Yes.
Entertained Organizer:
bring us home
Race for the Iron Throne:
Episode 10!  Bran visits the family crypt and encounters his now feral brother, Rickon before finding out his father's dead.  Catelyn clings to a tree, Robb prefers to attack them with a sword, but they come to a common policy - get back the sisters, then kill all Lannisters. Faced with a difficult endorsement process, the Northmen opt for a direwolf candidate. Catelyn bashes Jaime with a rock.  Joffrey shows himself to be an instant tyrant, and Sansa finally realizes she needs to grow a backbone. Arya meets her new travelling companions, and hits it off with Gendry before they leave for the Wall.  Tywin, Tyrion, and the Lannister commanders discuss strategy, with Tywin finally realizing that Tyrion's the smart one of his children and appointing him as Hand of the King.  Snow goes AWOL for about 12 hours before going back, Commander Mormont gives a stirring montage speech and 300 Nights Watchmen go out ranging in search of Benjen Stark, Mance Rayder and the White Walkers North of the Wall.  Dany wakes up to find her husband comatose, her child a deformed stillbirth, and the khalassar mostly gone. Not taking the news well, Dany executes Drogo's living will, then gets into the blood magic game herself - this time coming up trumps with three baby dragons.
Race for the Iron Throne:
DONE!
Race for the Iron Throne:
/drops the mike.
Entertained Organizer:
Bravo, Bravo!
Race for the Iron Throne:
Ok...now threats to the Realm for Season 2?
Entertained Organizer:
yup
Entertained Organizer:
I think the Number 1 thing to remember because it's so easy to forget is the White Walkers
Entertained Organizer:
all the old wives tales are true
Race for the Iron Throne:
Then we have the War of Five Kings. Robb's got good field position and superior strategy, but is low on manpower. Renly's got the numbers, money, and popular support, but has lousy timing.  Stannis has superior naval power, good tactics, and SOULCHILLING SUPERNATURAL POWER, but little popular support and only 5,000 men. He also has Davos, who's worth a few hundred thousand men himself. The Lannisters have a large army and experienced commanders, but they're right in the middle of three armies that want them dead. Balon Greyjoy has an enemy with their back to him and a Confederate revanchist delusion.
Entertained Organizer:
they do also at present have everyone believing Joffrey is the rightful king
Race for the Iron Throne:
If by everyone you mean two provinces out of seven, then yes.
Entertained Organizer:
well, ok, but it at least slows things down a little
Race for the Iron Throne:
A bit.
Entertained Organizer:
and of course there are DRAGONS
Race for the Iron Throne:
Yes.  Baby dragons, but dragons nevertheless. Remember kids, dragons are pets for life. Not just when they're little.
Entertained Organizer:
and you're going to have to walk and feed them yourself
Race for the Iron Throne:
And if you're a Stark, you have to kill and bury them yourself too.
Entertained Organizer:
So that's pretty much where we stand:
A 5 Way War for the Crown
Dany's Got Dragons
And Things Going Bump in the North

Entertained Organizer:
the only other thing I'm looking forward to is Tyrion's adventures in the capital
Race for the Iron Throne:
Yes. A masterclass on Machiavellian statecraft.
Entertained Organizer:
and of course, more of everyone's favorite character, Roz
Race for the Iron Throne:
Death to Ros! Up with Shae!
Entertained Organizer:
something I noticed on my rewatch, Roz is the prostitute with a regular appointment with Maester Pycell
Race for the Iron Throne:
Yep.
Entertained Organizer:
so she's got an in in the court
Race for the Iron Throne:
And she's been servicing the whole of Winterfell. Which makes Theon, Robb, and Tyrion eskimo brothers.
Entertained Organizer:
what I'm saying is I'm calling it now, Roz will win the Game of Thrones
Race for the Iron Throne:
This is literary abuse.
Entertained Organizer:
she's the only one with the relationships to bring everyone together in a lasting alliance
Race for the Iron Throne:
Or to kill all the participants with Syphilis.
Entertained Organizer:
only spelled funny, because George R R Martin can't spell anything normally
Race for the Iron Throne:
The Maesters haven't invented the dictionary yet.
Entertained Organizer:
well, they've got plenty of time, because the story is far from being over
Race for the Iron Throne:
I think they're going to be a bit busy.
Entertained Organizer:
and on that ominous note, I think we'll leave it until we come back to discuss tonight's Season 2 premiere (don't worry, we'll be a lot shorter as we discuss each episode week to week)

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