Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Game of Thrones 4.2, "The Lion and the Rose"

Well, there it was, the second episode of season four, another little itch scratched while we wait for The Winds of Winter. I watched it in bed actually, with a headset so as to not disturb the sleeping family, and boy did that add to the experience - it was much easier to pay attention to the episode's sound; the baying of the hounds in the opening scene, just how fantastic (Michael McElhatton as) Roose Bolton's voice is (and as it is described in the novels, too - I honestly didn't notice until last night how dark and "quiet" Roose is), and so on and so forth. The sound effects, then, were pretty much top notch and an aspect of the production we seldom ponder, am I right?

At the risk of sounding contrary on purpose, I have to say that the Purple Wedding was not my favorite part of the episode, even though it was the obvious main dish served. I'll get to that later. No, my favorite parts were the opening scenes, in fact - featuring the ever-lovable Ramsay Snow, Reek (the artist formerly known as Theon), Myranda, and, eventually as we come to the Dreadfort's sinister gloom, Roose Bolton and this Locke-fellow. I thought the Dreadfort itself was a visual treat, and I found Roose and Ramsay's interactions to be excellent; also, Fat Walda. The dialogue made the relationship between father and bastard very clear, and I think for many show-only fans this scene made a lot of the sequences from season three much clearer and now they can understand why they had to go through those torture scenes with Theon; because here we have Theon broken down psychologically, and we get the explanation that Roose Bolton wanted Theon as leverage against Balon Greyjoy, currently King of the Iron Islands. 
These scenes were perfectly ominous, with the way the camera sweeps through the forests during the hunting scene, though I found the inclusion of the Myranda character unnecessary; I think the scene could have been stronger if it was Ramsay shooting that arrow into the hapless girl's leg, with only Reek as a witness. However, they might have some ideas for where they are taking the Myranda character so I guess I have to wait and see if she was indeed necessary in hindsight. Alfie Allen plays the role of Reek perfectly, but the real star here in my opinion is Michael Elhatton, we are now seeing the true colors of the northern lord and betrayer. Looking forward to more scenes with him, now that he has become the new main bad guy, so to speak.

The next scene featuring Tyrion and Jaime having a chat was good too; again, two excellent actors, and through the scene we see Jaime's insecurity now that he has lost his sword hand, we see Tyrion's care for his big brother in getting him a mentor. It's one of the few positive scenes in the episode in the sense that we see a character being nice to another (quite contrary to the first scenes, then). Having Bronn start Jaime's training is a wonderful change (for a change); it actually improves the story in my opinion. Having a tongueless executioner for Jaime's mentor wouldn't work nearly as well. The only potential problem I can see is that both Jaime and Bronn are in essence the same type of characters, and indeed in their first training scene Bronn kind of hugs the spotlight; on the other hand, Jaime is more meek now, so it might just work out. There are some hints (at least I see them as hints) that Bronn will eventually leave Tyrion, but if this means Bronn will join Jaime on the road or not, remains to be seen. 

And here comes Roose Bolton, Lord of the Dreadfort. Locke and Ramsay's joyful reunion makes them a little cartoon-villainous ("You would have liked it", Locke says about how he chopped Jaime's hand off), but the rest of the scene in Roose's chambers I find perfect. Elhatton really steals the show here, but the subtle Reek-shaving-Ramsay sequence is very powerful as it says so much about how Theon has been broken. Roose's movements, dark vocie, the way he looks at Reek and Ramsay, excellent. The scene also promises a plot development that deviates significantly from the books, I am curious to see where that goes (Locke going to Castle Black to look for Bran and Rickon). 

While I, like many others, don't really like the Tyrion-Shae subplot as presented in the TV series, I thought the scene where Tyrion finally ships her off was very well acted by Peter Dinklage and he really shines as the tormented lord who is forced to send his whore away. 

Martin, who wrote this episode himself, goes out of his way to show all the despicable sides of Joffrey, almost to the point it becomes a little too much; but I love all these awkward moments after he's done something stupid/vicious, and everybody's like, uhm...Joffrey hacking to pieces Tyrion's literary gift is a great bit, perfectly played by all actors around. Beautiful, beautiful Sansa has no lines, but her acting is still wonderful, her expressions enough to show us how bad her life's become. 

Dragonstone; note how bright and colorful everything is in the King's Landing scenes, and how this is juxtaposed with the dark strains of the Dreadfort scenes, and the Dragonstone scenes. Lovely. I like the Dragonstone scenes a lot, especially the visuals. Banners flapping, people burning, night...Oh yes, this is good stuff. It also rams home the point just how twisted the Stannis storyline really is when you see Queen Selyse's brother burning and Selyse just looking at calmly. Devotion to gods: Did it ever improve the human race? The answer is no.

The dinner scene is quite good too, I think. It deepens our understanding of just how devoted to the Red God Selyse actually is, while showing us that Stannis still isn't quite there yet. He still has some morals, when he tells his wife not to strike their daughter (to beat some religion into her, I suppose). Melisandre goes to visit said daughter, Shireen, and she is once again adorable and plays her role well. Their dialogue exhange is good, with Shireen basically questioning Melisandre's god, and Melisandre responding with the usual mumbo-jumbo. However, in Melisandre's case, there is some magic going on that can be construed as Rh'llor's influence, but I am convinced that as the series progresses she will find out, perhaps not until it is too late, that the source of her powers has nothing to do with a god, it is the magic that has returned to the world. 

And then we have Bran Stark's scene, and what do you know, I like that one too. It is kind of weird to see how Bran is now a young man. He was so cute in season one. We get more dialogue from Meera Reed than we've had before (in one scene). Again, the visuals are really compelling; we are given the dangers of warging, and check out this line from Meera: "If we lose you, we lose everything." A clear sign that Bran is really important to the endgame, then. Considering the name of his wolf, I think its safe to assume that our young friend is the one to end the Long Night, somehow; like Gandalf coming back at dawn on the fourth day (or whatever it was), Bran will make the sun return at the darkest hour, when the last heroes stand against the Others white walkers. I like his vision when he touches the weirwood tree as well; there's a hint we'll see Coldhands; that we'll see dragons above King's Landing. The only nitpick is the voice saying "North" and then Bran saying "I know where we have to go" as if they haven't been going north since season two.

Wedding time! Lovely use of boy's choir in the background, Margaery and Joffrey both radiant, compared to Tyrion and Sansa's wedding this is quite something else. And all the guests! It's fun to see Loras, and Oberyn, and Tywin, and Olenna, and Pod, and all the others gathered in the same place. I was slightly confused by Tommen's actor being replaced, I had forgotten about that. The previous boy was so cute, but I suppose the new Tommen (First of his Name) looks more like a Lannister. 

Tywin and Olenna's little chat...I don't know. I like how Olenna dismisses her son, but at the same time I feel Mace Tyrell should've had a more proper introduction for show-only-viewers, I don't know. And where's his wife? No, I am not sure I like this scene, it lacks edge which all Tywin scenes should have in my opinion. I noticed also during the wedding ceremony how the camera lingered on Olenna just when there was a hint of a certain upcoming murder. Ellaria Sand looks gorgeous in this episode in her Dornish scant clothing, but didn't bring much to the role today (as opposed to in the previous episode). We see Olenna finger Sansa's necklace, nice touch; and from here on, we get the Purple Wedding in all its splendor.

And I'm not saying it's bad television, or even a bad adaptation. I laughed when Joffrey threw money at the singers (Sígur Ros or whatever they're called); I don't know what I found missing to be honest. I found Natalie Dormer not really nailing Margaery Tyrell (but then I never found her convincing enough), especially when she at several points interrupts to stop Joffrey for making more of a fool of himself, it seems a little forced. But then, she might be playing it forced. Loved Jaime and Loras' little exchange. "And neither will you." - Sick burn!

Brienne seems as awkward here as she did last episode, and her interaction with Cersei...she loves him? Already? That came kind of out of the blue, and I think they should have saved it. But maybe not. Ah, I am so confused about whether to like it or not. Cersei, played by Lena Headey, is truly becoming the Cersei of the books by now; poisonous and mad. No wonder many non-book-readers think she's behind the poisoning of the king. The one weird thing is that it kind of looks as if Cersei's afraid to lose Jaime to Brienne, which I don't think she would feel or think. Maybe it's just me.

Pycelle being told off is a great scene, and I suspect they added it for the viewers to ponder who's behind the poisoning - they kind of built into the episode a kind of "who did it?" murder mystery. Nice and unexpected choice. 

Jack Gleeson really pulls off his Joffrey in this episode, as he always has. He's so loathsome it's funny. Tywin versus Oberyn is a tense little scene. Here we have that edge I was missing in the previous Tywin scene. The dwarf jousting scene is a nice addition though they changed it significantly (where's Penny? Of course, they don't need her here - one of the dwarfs can be her brother). The camera lingering on Sansa's face as the "Young Wolf" is beheaded...wonderful and sad. Joffrey versus Tyrion: Fantastic (and I feel so sorry for Tyrion - and love Sansa handing him the goblet, nice touch - without dialogue, we see a development here, albeit too late, because now she's snatched away). And then of course we get Joffrey's death. I feel the scene was a bit rushed, it needed a few more minutes so that we could get more reactions from surrounding characters; I felt Cersei needed more time to show us her anguish...I don't know. It kind of fell a little flat for me personally. I see what they were going for - not making us cheer for young Joffrey's terrifying death; but still...

...but still, a great episode. It is the best television entertainment I'm aware of, and a great way to keep up the interest in the story while we wait. I suspect we get the aftermath in the next episode and that it will strengthen this episode. After all, it's a continuing story and they have to cut the episode somewhere. And from this point onward, I suppose, the writers must work just that little harder to keep the story as engaging, suspenseful and interesting. Once we start losing Lannisters, I find that the story loses a little of its appeal. Fortunately we still have the dwarf, the cripple and the mother of madness.

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