Game Of Thrones season 4 episode 5 review: First Of His Name

Review Ron Hogan 5 May 2014 - 07:47

With great stories and performances, Game Of Thrones season 4 appears to be getting better by the episode. Here's Ron's review...

This review contains spoilers.

4.5 First Of His Name

David Benioff and D.B. Weiss have done an absolutely amazing job of adapting the A Song Of Ice And Fire universe into a television series, and full credit to HBO for letting them do all the things they want to do with their show universe. Every week I sit down to watch the new episode, and at some point or another I glance at the clock and realize that 45 minutes of my life has disappeared into Westeros. The show just moves so smoothly, transitioning gracefully between characters and settings, from the other side of the Wall to Essos and back to King's Landing, that it seems like no time has passed.

It seems that no matter who is on screen this season, the episode is going to be good. A few minutes of Daenerys is very satisfying. Arya and the Hound hanging out by the fire can yield a wonderful example of physical acting. Brienne and Pod may be the most satisfying pairing the show's had since Tyrion and Bronn (who are still awesome together). Aside from the notable exception of the controversial Jamie/Cersei scene from a couple of episodes ago, there hasn't been much this season that hasn't worked. Theon isn't getting tortured, Dany has found her dragons and a purpose for living, and a lot of the criticisms the show has faced over the year have seemingly been toned down in favor of some great writing, acting, direction, and cinematography.

One of the most eye-opening things about Game Of Thrones has been the performances. It's a show that's employed basically every actor in Great Britain who isn't on Doctor Who or Sherlock (and some who are, in Mark Gatiss) but some of the best performances have been from characters played not by known actors like Aidan Gillen or Charles Dance, but from relatively unknown kids like Jack Gleeson, Sophie Turner, and, in this case, Maisie Williams. There's a pretty famous viral video in which younger Maisie Williams shows off her hip-hop dancing skills in a pair of comically baggy pants, so it's clear that she has some impressive control of her instrument. However, there's a little moment this week, in which Arya practices her water dancing by a waterfall while the Hound watches and mocks. Her footwork is very impressive, as is her swordplay, and even if the Hound mocks Arya's slender sword and the relative merits of Braavosi combat, it's a really impressive feat to watch.

It's also really well shot. Michelle MacLaren knows how to handle her actors and she gets great performances out of pretty much everyone in the ensemble cast this week, but she also does it with a sense of style. Bran's hallucination of the weirwood is a thing of beauty, and it looks as weird and impressive as you could hope for. There's a beautiful series of tracking shots leading Cersei and Oberyn down the path at the gardens. The composition of Tommen's coronation is also very impressive, because it's a huge cast but you're still able to pick out the important characters in the crowd.

The whole episode is full of clever character moments, not just for Arya and the Hound, but for pretty much everyone on the show. Jon Snow proves himself to be a real leader for the men of the Night's Watch. Bran gets to turn a potential kidnapping into a cause for celebration by warging into Hodor and rescuing himself via brutal neck-snapping. Cersei and Margaery have another interesting conversation concerning the future of the kingdom (and Lena Headey is great both in this scene, in a confrontation with her father concerning the Lannister wealth, and in a later scene with Prince Oberyn). The royal coronation, in spite of its business and the clutter of the crowd scene, gives characters like Tywin or Maester Pycelle a chance to have little moments, like the way Pycelle is the first person to clap for the new king and the most simpering suck-up on the small council during the meet-and-greet.

However, I think the biggest events were for so-called Littlefinger himself, Petyr Baelish, and his creepy new family with the returning Lysa Tully (Kate Dickie) and his new “nephew” Robin Arryn (Lino Facioli), as well as his fake niece Sansa Stark. Talk about a family that makes the Lannisters look normal. David Benioff and D.B. Weiss give Lysa, Sansa, Robin, and Petyr a great deal to work with here, and Lysa's return appearance is very welcome, and very disturbing, from the way she 'announces' her wedding to Littlefinger to her paranoia and threatening behaviour towards Sansa, her own niece, concerning her protectiveness towards her husband the erstwhile Lord of the Vale. Nice to see that Lysa hasn't gotten any less crazy than the last time we saw her.

With a huge cast of characters, the folks behind the scenes aren't afraid to get rid of a major character; indeed, Game Of Thrones feasts off that sort of action. Even if you go without seeing a character for a few episodes (or a few years in the case of Lysa), the show has clever enough visual shorthand—and presumably, a clever enough viewership—to remember just who Lysa is by having her cuddle her son creepily on the throne. Lysa having been gone for ages doesn't take away from the power of her big reveals, even if it does finally solve the show's original mystery from the first season.

Read Ron's review of the previous episode, Oathkeeper, here

US Correspondent Ron Hogan didn't even notice Tyrion wasn't involved in this week's episode at all, except for being a topic of conversation. Still, Lysa is back and crazier than ever. Find more by Ron daily at Shaktronics and PopFi.

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