Episode 4 of Game of Thrones, entitled Cripples, Bastards, and Broken Things, has been my second favourite episode to date. Episode 3, my review of which is either still forthcoming or else is never going to happen, would be my favourite. Both of these episodes have one key element in common that the first two were lacking.
The majority of characters are now in fixed locations.
That isn't to say that I have any issues with the amount of traveling the characters have had to do. Each of them was beginning his or her own emotional journey, which was mirrored by a very literal trek to some distinct new location. While this is certainly an acceptable narrative device, the developing scenery acted as a distraction from the developing characters.
Where it became particularly difficult for me to handle was in the transitions between scenes. It was never apparent how much time had passed since we'd last been privy to a particular character's story, nor were we completely aware of their current location or how close to their goal they might have been. Now, Danaerys is in Vaes Dothrak on a separate continent, Ned and his daughters are in King's Landing, Bran is in Winterfell, and Jon Snow is on The Wall. Only Catelyn and Tyrion are still moving around, although they seem to have joined paths (Tyrion rather reluctantly) in a fairly rousing final scene.
While all of the above has made following the show somewhat easier, it has also made reviewing the show a lot less difficult. Yay for me :). Time to discuss the good, the bad, and the mediocre.
Sam, a self-professed coward, is not even remotely capable of being a Night's Watchman; however, it was an easy choice between a probable death on The Wall and a certain death at the hands of his coward-hating father. According to interviews with the actor, he infused this potentially tragic character with a certain amount of humour and I felt that it definitely shined through. He and Jon share an interesting bond in that they both have arrived at this point in their lives due to their families having rejected them.
Thorne, an angry old veteran of the Night's Watch, comes across initially as a brash and unpleasant Master at Arms. He treats the new recruits harshly, no matter their level of skill. He mocks Jon for being better than the rest and he mocks Sam for being incompetent. In a twist to a story that could have simply been a tale of a heroic young man protecting a weaker peer before becoming the best of friends, Thorne recounts the harrowing tale of a short scouting expedition turned lengthy cannibalisitic journey. His recounting of this disturbing and haunting story shows us that he is hard on the recruits so that they can survive. Jon protecting Sam ultimately does them both a disservice while putting all of their "brothers" at risk.
King's Landing: Anything with Arya and Littlefinger was awesome. Aiden Gillen is just killing it at being really likable and yet kind of creepy. I especially loved his meeting with Ned as they discussed how no one was to be trusted. Another well acted moment came during Gillen's expositional yet well executed telling of The Hound's backstory to Sansa. At the same time, I do wish that The Hound himself had been involved in the telling. Also, the joust had a pretty epic climax, but I was a tad disappointed at the size and scope of the tourney
Direwolves: Yay! It's Jon Snow's direwolf, Ghost! Wait, why are we only seeing his face? Where did he come from and where has he been all this time? Will we ever see him again? It's good to know that he exists, but a little more development of his relationship with Jon would have been nice.
Vaes Dothrak: Let me be clear, I absolutely loved what this episode had to offer with regards to the Dothraki story. Getting more insight into the twisted heart of Viserys and then seeing Danaerys take command of the situation by threatening to have his hands cut off was all extremely well done. Her conversation with Jorah about how Viserys would never be capable of ruling was particularly awesome. All of these scenes were strongly acted and written.
Now that the necessary steps have been taken to make her a stronger character, I'm hoping that we'll see some more realistic character developments.
Theon's Sudden Existance: Hey look! It's a character who we've seen before who hasn't been developed much. You know how we should deal with that? We should probably have the incredibly likable Tyrion tell someone Theon's life story. NO, WAIT! We should have Tyrion tell Theon his own life story! Yes, this makes the most sense ever.
On that note, on the scale of "DO NOT WANT!!!!" to "AMERICA! F*@K YEAH", I'm going to have to give this episode an 8.5/10. I hope that those of you who have bothered to read this in retrospect have enjoyed yourselves and please do let me know how you're finding the series.
Episode 3 -8.75/10