This review contains spoilers.
8. The Pointy End
It’s war! Ever since Ned Stark and Jaime Lannister first traded verbal blows at Winterfell, the audience has expected and hoped for this moment to come, the moment that the Wolves of House Stark and the Lions of House Lannister would face each other to do battle for honour, for family and for the throne. Let’s hope the show’s budget can stretch to some epic battle sequences.
It’s fair to say things have taken a turn for the worse for House Stark. At the beginning of the last episode, Ned essentially had Cersei and her family on the backfoot with his knowledge that Joffrey was not King Robert’s son. However, being the man of honour that he is, he played his trump card too early and now finds himself in a cell with his entire household dead, except for his children.
All the Stark children have been wonderfully portrayed by their respective actors, with Maisie Williams and Kit Harrington being the standouts. Many have criticised Harrington for being a bit closed off in his performance of Jon Snow, but I’ve found his portrayal spot-on. His concern at his sisters’ safety after learning about events at King’s Landing and his anger at Ser Allister for calling his father a traitor all show that, underneath his cold, distant exterior, he’s still a man that cares deeplyabout his family, despite the vows he’s taken and his status as a bastard.
He’s also smart, decisive and trusts his instincts, unlike his sister, Sansa, who’s being expertly manipulated by Cersei and having her feelings for the slimey Joffrey exploited. While the other Stark children still have their direwolves, since Sansa lost Lady it seems she’s also lost her backbone, lacking the strength that’s made her siblings so formidable, namely big brother, Robb.
Until now, Robb (played by Richard Madden) has been in the background, but now comes front and centre as he’s forced to defend his family, or bend the knee to a king who’s imprisoned his father. Calling his father’s bannermen to his service, he’s faced with the fact that, if he loses, his family will be killed. He’s also surrounded by lords who doubt he’s up to the job, considering he’s never been in battle before. Luckily, nothing commands respect more than a direwolf that takes the fingers off insubordinate lords. It’s a pity Catelyn’s confidence can’t be won that easily.
Parents are notoriously hard to please, though, as Tyrion Lannister has known all his life. While Catelyn may not be confident in Robb’s handling of spies and bannermen, she still supports him. Tywin Lannister, on the other hand, has no qualms with letting his son remain a hostage to a bunch of savages who keep threatening to feed his manhood to livestock.
Peter Dinklage’s portrayal of Tyrion has been the highlight of the series and this episode was no different. His banter with Shagga and the other tribesfolk was one of the highlights of the episode (“I want to die in my bed, with a belly full of wine and a woman’s mouth round my cock.”) as were his words to Bronn that, if anyone ever tries to pay to have him killed, he’ll always pay more to stay alive.
Speaking of staying alive, there was no shortage of death this episode. Even the dead were coming back from the dead to die again. If it wasn’t Jon burning a zombie night watchman to death, then it was Ned’s guardsmen being slaughtered by Lannister soliders. Even Arya got in on the action by killing a stable boy who was threatening to ransom her to Cersei. However, it was Syrio Forel’s death that was arugably the most affecting, particularly because it was so blunt.
No one can deny that Game Of Thrones is a cinematic series, but luckily, it’s avoided straying into cinematic cliches. If the series had been adapted into a movie, Syrio’s death would have echoed the great cinematic deaths of Sean Bean in The Fellowship Of The Ring and Michael Biehn in The Rock. Both were killed going up against hordes of enemies and are famous for their slow motion death scenes that are played out to epic choral music.
It would have been simple and effective for Syrio to go out like that, but in Game Of Thrones there’s nothing glorious about death. Syrio faces his death, and while we don’t see it, we hear it and it makes his noble stand, to ensure Arya’s escape, much more effective. Besides, The First Sword of Braavos does not run.
That’s the thing about the series. In Westeros, heroes, villains and innocents are all put to the sword, and in many cases, if they’re not raped beforehand, it’s a mercy. That was the dilemma facing Dannerys (who’s looking more and more tanned as the series goes on), who made a stand against the Dothraki treatment of prisoners. While the two may have had an awkward start to their marriage, Danerys and Drogo’s relationship has blossomed and he now sees her as a warrior-woman, every part his equal, especially as she’s now carrying his son.
It’s a foolish man that calls the wife of Khal Drogo a “foreign whore”, so when a bloodrider does so, you know the resulting death is going to be spectacular. Ripping a man’s throat out with your bare hands will ensure that Khal Drogo is remembered long after this series ends.
Like last week, so much happened this episode that I feel this review has barely scratched the surface. So, to sum up,the use of direwolves was excellent, Cersei’s retirement of Ser Barristan was wonderfully played by all involved, and it was good to see Bran, Osha and Hodor (“Hodor!”) again, albeit briefly, ( as well as young Rickon).
Two episodes to go, and Game Of Thrones has firmly established itself as the best series of the year.
Read our review of episode 7, You Win Or You Die, here.
Game Of Thrones is screened in the UK on Sky Atlantic every Monday night.