I almost forgot to take commentary notes for this episode because I was just enjoying being along for the ride. Part of that is because this episode emphasizes something I came to learn reading the Song of Ice and Fire series: this is a universe where the truly irredeemable get their just desserts. As far as Season 5, this has happened several times, but not to everybody, but starting with the events in this episode, I truly came to believe that this will happen to all of them.
Most of this episode is fallout from the previous episode. Cersei treats Joffrey’s wound and explains to him the narrative they will use to describe the event. Caitlin Stark arrives at King’s Landing, not long after the royal caravan. The scene where Ned discovered Needle moves on to the introduction of Syrio Forel, in a training session that Arya clearly begins to enjoy once she starts getting into it.
This training is something that I appreciate George R. R. Martin (and Ned Stark) for. While both men and women can learn how to fight, there is a difference between fighting styles that work best for them. While as a teenager I believed these were all sociocultural and felt that true feminism was to ignore it, I now know better. Attempting to teach a knightly style of fighting to Arya would have proved the wrong point: that she’s not cut out for it and lacks the raw brute strength required for the moves that knights use. (Interestingly, there is also a discussion between Ser Jorah and a dothraki bloodrider in this episode about different weapons and fighting styles.) While a swift, agility-based fighting style is not one that is exclusive to women, it makes a lot of sense for a competent father who loves his daughter and wants her to learn how to fight to license someone who can teach her a fighting style that works to her build and strengths while minimizing her weaknesses.
Another bit of fallout from Episode 2 is Daenerys is now pregnant, which she learns during a lesson in Dothraki. Of course, she immediately gets her first craving. It’s noteworthy that during almost every scene featuring Daenerys, the camera spends just a little bit of time to point out that the dragon eggs she received from Illyrio are surrounded by candles. Almost as if this fact is significant. Of course, I can’t mention Dany’s plot in this episode without expounding on what I said earlier. This is the episode where it becomes clear that Viserys is going to die. His Narcissism (and the sycophants he’s relied on to survive for the past seventeen years) will not allow him to be merely an advisor while the sister he’s lorded over for her entire life. He gets his first warning here, and it’s a warning that most people would have been able to understand; however Viserys has inherited his family’s tendency toward Narcissistic Personality Disorder and lacks the mental faculties to understand that there is nothing special about him in this scenario.
Watching the titular plot, one other thing seems to be clear about this show: while this is not a sufficient sample to make judgments on (particularly being inept trainees) it appears to me that Game of Thrones is a bit more realistic than many Fantasy fans will be used to in sword fights. The fights we see here seem less like choreographed dances (though obviously there has to be a fight choreographer to organize something like this) and more like real swordfights. This episode also introduces Commander “Old Bear” Mormont, although there’s not much to say about him yet.
This episode also introduces the Small Council. There are really only two characters that we’re concerned about here: Petyr “Littlefinger” Baelish and Varys “The Spider”. Littlefinger looks just as slimy (figuratively, not literally) as he was always portrayed in the novels, though he hasn’t gone so far as to boast that he took Caitlyn Tully’s virginity yet (one that Cat contests and to my knowledge has not been outright stated one way or another). Varys…is good and bad. Good, because he looks exactly the way he’s described. Bad, because his personality and nickname have always painted a different image in my mind and it’s jarring to see him the way Martin intended. When I picture a Master of Spies named “The Spider” I see a skinny, Jafar-esque man, especially when you consider that he does some of his spying himself. Yet, there are two main blows to the figure in my mind: portly and eunuch. This is one of the reasons a lot of authors don’t want all of their works to be adapted (Stephen King in particular resisted adapting The Dark Tower for years to avoiding messing with readers’ internalized views of Roland Deschain)…but I still don’t have a leg to stand on if I complain, since the character actually looks the way he’s supposed to.
A few other general notes on this episode; I believe this is the first time that “Jamie” is spoken onscreen, confirming that Jaime has somehow become Jamie (although apparently this odd pronunciation is widespread as a woman’s name). I had always read the novels to have the North speak with a British accent, King’s Landing and Casterly Rock with an American and the Dornish with a more Romantic accent, but thus far it seems that the entire continent is from England. So…I suppose we’re watching a Doctor Who episode, and the Common Tongue is translated by the TARDIS? And the episode ends, with Ned seeming as though he’s going to have the first flashback of the series…but the credits can’t let us have that!