Game of Thrones – “Lord Snow”: Family matters

I’m running a little behind this morning (damn you Seth Meyers’ WHCD stand-up routine), so this recap and analysis of the third episode of Game of Thrones might be a bit shorter than I had otherwise intended.  It was yet another strong, well-written episode that is laying a solid foundation for the more action filled episodes to come later.  This week, quite a bit of time was spent showing the role that familial ties play for so many of our characters.

Ned gets several excellent scenes establishing how it is that family drives him.  First was the opening scene of the episode, in the throne room with Jaime.  This was a new scene for tv, not one that was in the book.  In the book, we instead get a flashback to the end of Robert’s rebellion, as Ned reaches Kings Landing and rides into the throne room to find Jaime Lannister alone, sitting on the Iron Throne with a bloody sword across his lap.  Fans of the book get a nice nod to that here, with Jaime  sitting alone on the dias below the throne before rising to greet Ned.  In their conversation, we learn how the Mad King tortured and killed Ned’s father and brother, one of the key acts that drove Ned and Robert to take up arms against the king.

Ned also gets some good scenes with his daughters.  His clumsy yet heartfelt attempt to make peace with Sansa by giving her the doll was a poignant moment, and an example of how this otherwise hard man deeply cares for his children.  We see that again immediately after, as he follows Arya to her room and talks to her about owning and using a sword, and also about the importance of family.  What a great scene for Maisie Williams.  Much has been made by other tv critics about her being the great acting discovery of this series, and I certainly won’t disagree.  She completely sells Arya’s anger and wildness while still retaining a childlike vulnerability.  Besides, hearing Sean Bean say “Needle” was itself worth the price of admission.

Continuing with the family theme, Cersei takes time to explain to Joffrey her philosophy of Lannisters vs. The World.  She also gives him maybe the most inappropriate birds and bees talk of all time (“if my baby wants to fuck painted whores, mummy will go out and get her baby some painted whores”), but I suppose coming from a known incestuous adulterer (incesulterer?  adultuous?) we shouldn’t have expected much else.  More importantly, this scene establishes Cersei has having a fairly savvy understanding of politics (meaning that she is an actual power player in this game of (cough) thrones) and it further establishes Joffrey as a sadistic little git (look, its a show with British accents, so yes I plan on continuing to break out British slang to describe the various ways that Joffrey is an asshole).

The theme of family in this episode isn’t wholly about sticking together and looking out for one another.  There are also the benefits and influence that being a member of a particular family can carry.  Lord Mormont and Maester Aemon seek to exploit Tyrion’s status as the queen’s brother to curry favor with the Crown, and hopefully receive some much needed financial support for the Night’s Watch.  Jon realizes that growing up a Stark has given him advantages when it comes to training in the martial disciplines, and Tyrion is quick to remind him that not everyone has had those advantages and Jon shouldn’t take that for granted (for the record, the episode’s title “Lord Snow” comes from the mocking nickname that Ser Alliser Thorne (the man training the Night’s Watch recruits) gives Jon for being superior to the other recruits).  Jon also learns the hard way that family will only take you so far, as his Uncle Benjen rebuffs his request to go on patrol, as it’s not something that Jon has earned yet.

Finally, we are reminded that we can’t always choose the family that we have.  Dany is continuing to find her regal streak among the Dothraki, but her brother Viserys is resentful of that, and it is only the mercy of Dany that prevents him from being cut down by her bodyguard.  Cat is reunited with Littlefinger, the “younger brother” she left behind long ago (Petyr grew up in the Household of Cat’s father and followed Cat and her sister Lysa everywhere), who professes to be motivated by nothing but his undying love for her.  Ned clearly wants help from Littlefinger about as much as he wants a hole in the head.

Some other quick thoughts:

– We get introduced to the King’s Small Council this week, and as a fan of the book it was neat to see Littlefinger, Varys, Renly and Grand Maester Pycelle.  More on the Council and who these guys are in tomorrow’s Explainer

– Another fantastic episode for Peter Dinklage as Tyrion, who stole every scene he was in.

– The final scene of the episode, Syrio beginning to teach Arya how to fence, was every bit as awesome as I hoped it would be.  Syrio is a  big fan-favorite character from the books, and well realized here.

– Drunk, introspective Robert talking about caving in dudes’ heads with his war hammer is always fun for everyone.

Check the Explainer tomorrow for some more background on these new characters, and I’ll see you back here next week as the tension starts to ratchet up and events begin to move a little too fast for some of our characters.  Plus, if we’re lucky, Arya catching cats! (Its a Mr. Myagi thing, you’ll see).

(photo credit, HBO)

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