[Review] - Game Of Thrones, Season 4 Episode 5, "First of His Name"

Courtesy of HBO
Internet, you have only one task before you. If one has not been created by now, by end of business today I expect to see at least one mash-up of Dany scenes set to Lorde's Royals. Because, she rules, apparently.

Elsewhere, Westeros took a breather between horrible acts, and went for a leisurely autumn stroll. Felt the wind in their hair, the breeze on their neck, the swords through the back of both. After all, stuff can't happen unless folk get to where they need to be, and this was a "folk getting to where they need to be so that stuff can happen later" kind of episode. A mellow pause amidst the turmoil of their lives, and a chance for people to say words out loud at each other. Which, just so happens, to be my favourite kinds of episodes.

Hit the jump for the brief review, which contains spoilers with whom you should make a formal alliance.


I have the chance to say this about once a season, and I won't miss my opportunity this year: Michelle MacLaren is the best director this show has. Others do a fantastic job (and Neil Marshal doesn't count, because he's a ringer). But MacLaren's episodes are ones to really look forward to. Take this episode, for instance. The long shots, of Arya practicing her dancing, of Pod and Brienne trotting off down the King's Road, of Littlefinger and Sansa approaching the Bloody Gate are so quiet, yet powerful images. Allowing the beautiful landscape, the physicality of Westeros which rarely gets attention, to take on such a prominent role speaks to both the comfort the audience has with the characters, and the director with her vision. These characters exist in this world, so we should occasionally see this world. See the grandeur of it, and how, at a certain perspective, these characters are small. Pieces in an increasingly large and chaotic environment. And some pieces are smaller than others.

I do have a quibble, held over from last week, and brought up again. The reason we accept this world is because of the depth of world building that George R.R. Martin and Benioff and Weiss have established. That's how high fantasy works, you have to establish a consistency of culture, or independence from reality, but also make it accessible. Westeros has complex social structures, rules of etiquette and protocol, and a range of unique languages. Within the hour of this show each week, we slip out of our world and into theirs. Which makes intrusions jarring and mistakes all the more noticable. Last week, a slaver in Meereen ran down an alleyway, only to encounter a message, scrawling in blood on the wall, in English. This is the first instance of a written language being seen on screen in the entire series (if I remember correctly), and the English completely distracted from that. Maybe if it had occurred in Westeros, it would have been less noticeable (but no less anachronistic), but it was in Meereen, where everyone speaks either High Valayrian or Ghiscari. It was a bizarre oversight considering how attentive to detail the show is, and could have been easily replaced by either a subtitle or a line of dialogue. 

Similarly, this week, Sansa declared that she was still a virgin three times in quick succession. The word virgin has never been used on this show, or in the books. The phrase used is "maidenhood." This has been used with absolute consistency. The sudden use of a real world term invades and destabilizes the suspension of disbelief. It would be as inorganic and awkward as if Tyrion referred to currency as dollars instead of dragons. It was so prominent an editorial oversight, in both instances, that I cannot fathom how these mistakes were made. Benoiff and Weiss run far tighter a ship than this. The virgin line might be considered a slip, but the English, that was a planned and deliberate action. That was an error. 

My final comment about this week's episode concerns Pod, and how Benioff and Weiss seem to find characters who so easily compliment each other. Like Arya and the Hound's relationship, Pod and Brienne is a pair of unlimited potential. They have fantastic chemistry, these semi-comedic duos the writers form, with a bewildered member constantly chasing after an impressionable youth. Plenty of time for wisdom to be imparted, plenty of opportunity for old dogs to learn new tricks, and rare moments of genuine interpersonal enjoyment. The audience rarely gets to see moments between characters that aren't motivated by agenda or exposition. Few and far between are the quite, honest conversations, and they are increasingly appreciated. Yes, it's always nice to have a sword fight, to have a tension filled moment of action. But when two people are able to sit down and just talk about nothing in particular, we learn as much or more about them as when they are being flayed.

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About MR. Clark

Adopting the descriptor of "successfully unpublished author", MR. Clark began writing things on the internet in 2012, which he believed to be an entirely reputable and civilized place to find and deliver information. He regrets much.

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