This review contains spoilers.
5. The Wolf And The Lion
If there is one thing that can make or break a film or a TV series, it is the use of child actors. We are so use to the wooden performances of Jake Lloyd (Episode I) and Michael Oliver (Problem Child), that when we finally see a decent display of child acting, it is a revelation.
Considering the number of child actors in Game Of Thrones, there was always the high chance that the show would be ruined with stilted and emotionless acting. However all the young stars have been, for the most part, note perfect, especially young Maisie Williams (Arya). The actress is so effortless in her performance as the tom-boyish Arya, that I will not be surprised if she joins the ranks of Abigail Breslin, Natalie Portman and Anna Paquin in becoming a fully-fledged grown-up star.
Her scenes in this week’s episode are among the strongest, be it her facing off against some over-zealous guards, or warning her father about threats on his life. However it is the scenes where she says nothing at all that were the best, namely the discovery of a large dragon skull in the dungeon of The Red Keep, and overhearing plots against her family. However while the kids are chasing cats or learning the banners and mottos of Westeros’ great families (in another useful exposition scene), the adults are continuing to plot, kill or be killed.
With so much political intrigue going on around the kingdom, this week’s episode excludes Jon’s adventures at the Wall, and Daenery’s growing power. Instead, The Wolf and the Lion focuses solely on the likes of The Starks, The Lannisters and the assorted minions of King Robert’s courts. It’s probably for the best considering the many problems Ned and co are facing.While Ned and Robert may be best friends, news that Daenerys is pregnant with Drogo’s child has convinced the king to order a pre-emptive strike against the Targaryen family. Ned, horrified at the idea of killing an innocent child, decides to step down as Hand of the King, but continues to investigate why his predecessor was possibly killed.
All of this follows what occurs in the book, but what I found the most interesting this episode was scenes that had been created specifically for the series. Now, I know many readers have not read the books, so rest assured what I’m about to discuss in no way contains any spoilers, but merely comments on the interesting changes the writers and producers have implemented.
With such a wealth of characters, it is easy for the casual viewer to forget or confuse the more minor individuals. As a result, the writers have created little scenes here and there to reinforce the part they play in the overall proceedings. For example, let’s take Robert’s brother, Renly. In the book of Game Of Thrones, Renly is there but in the background, not really doing anything. Instead the writers have put more meat on the character’s bones by creating a relationship between him and the dashing Ser Loras Tyrell (The Knight of Flowers). Now many fans of Martin’s work may bemoan such changes, but seeing as the author himself is executive producer on the show, he’s probably okay with it, and it makes two relatively minor characters (for now) much more interesting.
Likewise new scenes between Verys and Littlefinger, and Robert and Cersei, provide extra layers to the characters, as well as effortlessly adding some much need exposition and backstory. In fact, it was arguably these scenes in this episode that were the most interesting to watch. Whereas Verys and Littlefinger engaged in an underplayed battle of words trying to out ‘inform’ each other, Cersei and Robert’s scene was surprisingly touching as the two embittered spouses reflected on their unhappy marriage. However, what was the cherry on the cake this episode was the action.
Ever since the opening scene of Game Of Thrones, the series has teased the world’s violence and brutal combat, but political intrigue has taken centre stage over the past few episodes. However it seems that time has now passed.
If it wasn’t Tyrion and Catelyn caving in the skulls of raiders with shields, then it was The Hound and The Mountain clashing over The Knight of Flower’s victory. Yet none of this compared to Jaime and the Lannisters attacking Ned and his guardsmen, and killing Jory in a literally eye-opening manner.
Speaking of Tyrion, the Imp continues to fight himself in more trouble, however in terms of prison cells he couldn’t have found one with a better view, high on the side of The Eyrie (one of the tallest citadels in Westeros). With the Imp’s life literally hanging in the balance on the whim on Catelyn’s unhinged sister Lysa, it seems Jaime is willing to do anything he can to secure his sibling’s release – including take Ned hostage.
With the Starks and Lannisters now actively spilling each other’s blood, surely it is only a matter of time before the rest of Westeros runs red…
Read our review of episode 4, Cripples, Bastards and Broken Things, here.
Game Of Thrones is screened in the UK on Sky Atlantic every Monday night.