Game of Thrones - Episode 1.02 - The Kingsroad - Review

Hey all! The last couple of weeks have been pretty busy what with moving to a new apartment and dealing with the Canadian Elections. As such, I've gotten a bit behind on my reviews. This review of Episode 2, almost two weeks late, was written by SpoilerTV contributor darq. I should mention that darq sent it to me on time, but that I wasn't able to get it up until now. My bad. It has been edited slightly and I added my own insight towards the end. I should have a review of Episode 3 up by tomorrow. If not, I'll combine 3 and 4 into one review.

I can safely say that The Kingsroad was a far more exciting excursion for me than the pilot. Most of the important character introductions had been gotten out of the way and there was now room for actual character development.

Darq: The Kingsroad was very thematic to me upon a second viewing. It may as well have been subtitled "Awakenings". The journey on the Kingsroad was analogous to each characters' realization that their perception of what was to come was very different from their actual experience.

Catelyn was distraught over Bran's apparent "fall" and would not leave his bedside... even at the cost of allowing Winterfell to fall into disarray. She chose to stay behind to rule the kingdom in her husband's absence, but she couldn't even rule her own emotions. That was until two important events transpired. First, an assassin was sent to kill Bran. Catelyn was able to fend him off with a little help from the Direwolf whose howling and very existence she could not stand. Second, Catelyn went to the spot where Bran "fell" and realized that the "something" Bran may have seen, for which his death was being plotted, may somehow involve the Lannisters. Those two events combine to break her out of her despair. She realizes that, while she may have "lost" a son, if she does not act... she could well lose a husband, two daughters, and a king.

Jon Snow has never felt quite part of the Stark family. As such, he decides to "take the black" and join the Night's Watch in order to protect the realm. This is a duty that his father's people have performed for millennia. Generations of lower sons of high houses have gone to The Wall to guard the Seven Kingdoms from the unseen threats beyond. Jon expected to be part of an honorable mission where he would find acceptance and gain respect. Sadly, this "honorable" Night's Watch is now no more than criminals forced to take the black. His eyes open wide as he sees a massive sheet of grey... both the 700 foot wall of ice that will forevermore be his home and the realization that his oath will not mean what he thought it would.

Sansa has dreams of being a Princess in an elegant castle... the adored wife of her Prince Charming. She is sure she is well on her way to her fairytale ending now that Prince Joffrey has come to take her to King's Landing and marry her. She soon realizes that this highest of families has the lowest of personal codes. Selfishness, cruelty, hunger for power, and rejoicing in the pain of others are all traits of the Lannisters. In fact, those traits seem to be celebrated, not just accepted. She has begun to see that her idealized soon to be in-laws are not what she expected. Her dream of being part of the royal family may well become an inescapable nightmare.

Eddard Stark may just be the only hard-working, down-to-earth, and honorable man left in the realm. He does his duty because it is the right thing to do... and he does it the right way, even if it's the harder way. Following through on his character, he takes the job of The King's Hand when asked to do the heavy lifting for the empire. This is all while King Robert wastes time and wastes away morally. Eddard feels that he needs to do his duty to the King and to the realm... and the Kingsroad exposes him to exactly how bad his situation may be. He is forced to execute his daughter's pet for no other reason than to appease the royal whims of a petty child and his equally petty mother, the Queen.Well, that and the fact that his brother in arms, King Robert, would rather drink and hunt both 4-legged and 2-legged prey than deal with ruling his realm.

Daenerys, raised by a cruel brother, has known nothing but his rule and his ways. He is her touchstone, her connection to a past and birth right she never knew. Now this same brother has given her as chattel to a savage to take as a wife so that he may gain an army. She begins to see that this apparent nightmare may not be quite as bad as she first thought. She is no longer under he thumb of her brother, the "Beggar King"... She herself is now a Queen to a barbarian King. She can assert herself and is no longer forced to deal with things how others want. She can take control of her life... starting with her husband and their nightly affairs.

Maybe the most important and most literal awakening is the very last scene in which Bran opens his eyes, waking up from his coma, at the exact moment of Sansa's Direwolf's execution. How damaged will his mind and body be after the fall and what has let him survive this near death experience?

The Kingsroad was an exercise in expectations versus realities that opened the characters up to the changes they will need to make to survive. How the newly awakened characters deal with these realizations about the world they live in unfolds in a new context. No longer do they need to be victims of circumstance. They now have the knowledge needed to take control of their destinies and not have it forced upon them.

Who will answer the call? Who will cave into submission? Who will fall into disarray? Who will rise above their surroundings? Who will fight against the odds? In the Game of Thrones, every choice they make will affect their outcome... live or die.

Cadence: Wow, that was awesome stuff :D! I only have a few comments about acting and storytelling to add to the above recap/review. I'll write a bulleted list to make things quick.

  1. Maisie Williams perfectly embodies the role of Arya Stark. Child actors are often terrible, but this cast (specifically Arya, Sansa, and Bran) are truly the best ever.
  2. I also really loved watching Arya's sibling relationship with Jon unfold. You could tell that Arya, though a legitimate Stark, strongly identifies with her outcast/bastard half-brother. 
  3. Kit Harrington as Jon was also a perfect casting decision. I enjoyed watching him grow more and more jaded as he realised that his lifelong dream of finding honour outside of Winterfell, namely on The Wall, was nothing more than a fairytale.
  4. Peter Dinklage as Tyrion is officially my favourite character. He didn't do much the first episode, but this episode opened with him bitch slapping a spoiled and entitled prince. That's always a go in my books. I like the way Dinklage gives Tyrion a sad but wry smile as he finds humour in unfortunate truths. He's going to make Tyrion wonderfully complex.
  5. I criticized the music heavily last week for the decision to exclude leitmotifs. This week, we were treated to one melody that kept coming back during scenes in Bran's bed chambers. I couldn't tell you if the theme represents Bran, the Starks (leitmotif by family) or Winterfell (leitmotif by location), but it's good to see at least some semblance of music that isn't just setting the mood. I think that the melody represents Winterfell and look forward to what happens in King's Landing.
  6. Where was Jon's Direwolf?
  7. The scene in which Joffrey was attacked by Arya's Direwolf, Nymeria, was strangely executed. Instead of happening in real time, it cut back and forth between each character as they called out each others' names. It made what should have been an exciting action sequence an awkward mess.
  8. Danaerys' story is still not dragging me in. Why is this girl trying to please The Khal? I guess she's trying to gain some control over an awful situation, but I wish it had more context. She goes from getting raped to gaining his respect through sex? Strange. Emilia Clarke is doing a fantastic job and I really do enjoy her screen presence, but I hope that the pacing and plotting improve. Also, while an important scene, I couldn't help but feel that the vaguely sapphic portion of her plot was gratuitous. I'm curious to know what you all think of this as readers and non-readers, so please (even with Episode 3 in mind) comment away!
All in all, a strong improvement over the pilot. I gave the pilot an 8.5/10, which, to make grading the rest of the season easier, I'm going to have to retract. I'll give the pilot a 7.75/10 and, on the scale of MY EYEBALLS ARE BLEEDING to @##*&%#YEAH!!!!!!1!1!ONE, I'll give Episode 2 an Excellent+0.5 (let's call it an 8.25/10).

I'll have some sort of review of the next few episodes up soon. I'll also be starting my Book to Screen series after Episode 4. 

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