Monday, May 9, 2011

Game of Thrones 4 "Cripples, Bastards & Broken Things" (Review)

Spoilers ahoy!

Rarely was a title so apt.  When Tyrion shows up at Winterfell with plans for a special saddle--one that would allow young Lord Bran to ride again--Robb Stark asks him why he did this?  "Because I have a weakness for cripples, bastards and broken things" is the dwarf's reply.

This world seems full of such.  Not least Tyrion himself.  Others are crippled or broken in other ways.  At the Wall, the Night Watch faces the coming winter and terrible times with few men, most of those unready.  Jon Snow, however, he wants to do something about it.  He's training the other new recruits, and in the process becoming their Leader.  Even Samwell, the newest "volunteer" (as in volunteered by his father, upon pain of an accident while hunting) to take the black--fat, nervous, a terrible fighter.  But winter is coming.  More, the White Walkers are back--even if nobody believes it.  Not yet.

One curious thing about Martin's epic fantasy is the relative lack of fantasy elements--which is why of course the seven kingdoms aren't ready nor trying to get ready for the danger looming.  Dragons existed once, yes.  But not for many years.  White Walkers?  Last seen eight thousand years past.  A slave girl tells Viserys she's seen a man who could change his face.  But we haven't.

Bran, though, saw a raven with three eyes.  In his dreams.

Viserys himself is broken, a stunted prince who longs for a throne but remains petty.  He actually reacts with rage when his sister sends a servant to invite him to dinner.  Why?  Because he doesn't take orders.  Neither does he react well to Danaerys growing into her own power (with a chilling threat--"The next time you lay hands on me is the last time you will have hands").  She sees him as broken now, someone who can never reclaim the Iron Throne.  Never.

Lady Sansa begins to feel broken, maybe even crippled.  Seeing her first tourney, in which a ferocious knight known as The Mountain Who Rides kills a younger man in front of her, proves sobering.  Horrifying.  Even terrifying.  Baelish, aka Littlefinger, seems to want to strengthen her and also her father.  Ned Stark himself finds himself busy following the clues of what happened to Jon Arryn, his predecessor as King's Hand.  Littlefinger warns him too, even going so far as to tell him "Not trusting me is the smartest thing you did since you arrived."

So much intrigue.  Family drama.  Politics and mystery brewing.  But almost all of it distractions.

Broken also is Lady Catelyn Stark, which leads her to do something wonderful and shortsighted at the end.  Believing Tyrion's dagger used in the attempt on Bran's life, she doesn't want him to see her on the road.  Doesn't want his family to know she hasn't been at Winterfell, the vast castle of the North.  But when he recognizes her at an Inn, she rises to the occasion.  Not addressing him, but the various warriors present--all sworn to her father's banner, Tully of Riverrun--she stirs their loyalty.  Then points her finger at the Imp, accusing him of conspiring to kill her son, demanding they seize him to face the King's Justice!

His face as they draw their swords is how the episode ends.  Rarely have we seen Tyrion Lannister at a loss for words.  Is he that good a liar?  Or is he innocent?  What do you think?

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