As we get to “The Kingsroad”, it seems I’ll be commenting more on the events than on the production. This is going to be very odd for me; my brain tends to gloss over the events of an adaptation, incorporating the new visuals in with the story that is already there along with a healthy coating of “of course that happened”. As the events of the two mediums become more and more distant from one another, this process will be simpler, but for now it’s going to be a bit of a struggle.
Ironic, then, that this episode starts with a scene that’s different from the book…and for all that I appreciated most of the differences between “Winter is Coming” and A Game of Thrones, this one baffles me. The change seems to indicate a major character change – rather than a character who spends the night reading in the library (I forget if he falls asleep there or not), he is a character who falls asleep in the dog pens – perhaps after some drunken stumbling to the nearest soft thing? The reason this baffles me is because while that seems like the show lopping off a part of Tyrion’s characterization – a part that, if I’m completely honest with myself, can safely be removed after the events of the first book – which might make sense for the sake of cutting down how much needs to be adapted, Tyrion’s bookishness is immediately referenced just a few scenes later.
While Tyrion has a fairly small role, his family makes up a huge part of this episode. Very on we have a scene where Jaime (or is it Jamie now?) is taunting Jon Snow, not about being a bastard, but about having not yet killed a man and about the Night Watch. Basically, pressing on all of a teen boy’s insecurities for the sake of being a dick. This scene is precisely mirrored later on, in the game-changing episode where Joffrey shows us just how much of an uber-dick he is. Joffrey taunts Arya’s friend, the Baker’s boy, the same way his uncle did Jon, and then proceeds to cut into him – this latter bit being the part that kicks off such things as the fight between him and Arya, the exile of Nymeria, and the deaths of the boy and Lady.
Let’s talk on the execution of Lady for a moment. Lady is shown precisely once on-screen. Despite being a wolf, she is in a crowd of people, and looks utterly delighted to be there. Lady looks just so happy, even when Sansa tells her to stay where she is so her owner can go off to a secluded area with the Prince. Knowing what would happen later, seeing her like this just broke my heart. The next time she’s mentioned, Cersei wants her to be killed, for literally no other reason than to punish the entire Stark household for seeing what a little bitch Joffrey is. I actually wish Tyrion were here; he would have at least helped put some sense into his sister and nephew. There is at least one good thing to come out of this, though: through the connection that won’t be explained for some time, the death of Lady shocks Bran out of his coma.
Speaking of Arya, I haven’t mentioned her yet. This is a good Arya episode as well, as she gets her first dialogue, her first friend, her first enemy, and of course, her first sword. The scene where Jon gives Arya Needle is pretty much intact, and it’s as much of a moment for this character as Luke Skywalker being given his father’s lightsaber (the first time). It feels so strange to see Maisie Williams as an excitable nine-slash-eleven year old after seeing her as the immortal Lady Me, even though I know this role is the reason she got cast as the latter.
Daenerys Targaryen finally gets to express some emotion in this episode. It’s not a brilliant dramatic episode for her, but her story does get to advance a bit. As I predicted, she doesn’t seem to show any affection for Drogo, but I believe this was the lost, dark period in her life before she truly connected with him anyway. What’s interesting is that instead of her three handmaidens having defined roles (sex teacher, language teacher, and culture teacher), they instead appear to be more equal in this episode, until Dany asks Doreah to teach her about sex. After the previous episode, it is so nice to hear some inflection in her voice (which sets her apart from Jon Snow). Ironically, even though she has sex with her husband twice and has a bath, Dany shows less skin in this episode than she did in the previous, with Khal Drogo showing the most nudity of “The Kingsroad”.
As I tend to miss musical cues almost as much as I appreciate them, I am trying to consciously pay as much attention to the music of this series as possible. I’d very much like to determine if the incidental music is entirely scene to scene, or if each character has a recognizable theme. So far, I’ve found nothing, but it’s a bit early for such a thing. Speaking of ongoing themes, I mentioned Jon Snow earlier. It’s no surprise that most of the theories regarding the true identity of Jon Snow came from fans of the show. It’s easy to sprinkle little details here and there, and it was forefront on their mind when the show was greenlit to be produced. Several of the emotional cues from Ned Stark – somewhat inconsistent with a man who only feels extraordinarily guilty – are heavily used in these discussions. What I notice here is what he tells Jon Snow: that “[Jon is] a Stark” and that “the next time we meet each other [away from King Robert] we’ll talk about [Jon’s] mother”.