This review contains spoilers.
For those of us familiar with the books, we knew that the shocking death of Ned Stark was on the horizon. We all held our tongues, not wanting to ruin the shock twist for those who were new to Westeros and the Seven Kingdoms. But watching the show, I could almost hear the collective gasps of surrounding households as the former King’s Hand was executed.
Throughout the show’s marketing campaign, HBO have had Sean Bean front and centre. For those unfamiliar with the books, he was a recognisable face that would draw in curious viewers as well as those who were fans of the likes of Sharpe and Lord Of The Rings. His presence was reassuring and comforting, and despite the outbreak of war, many assumed that Ned Stark would rise to defeat those that had wronged his family and ride off into the sunset back to Winterfell.
However, George R. R. Martin doesn’t do happy endings, and such a resolution would be far from the bitter reality of war, even in a land with zombies, direwolves and (formerly) dragons.
It’s war that’s causing all the men of Westeros to re-evaluate their lives. For Jon, he’s torn between his vows to the Night’s Watch and his desire to aid his family. For Robb, his duty to his family and the North means he has to sacrifice the lives of his men as well as marry one of Walder Frey’s (Harry Potter‘s David Bradley) unsightly daughters. And for Tyrion, it seems like war is just his father’s way of attempting to finally be rid of him.
Thankfully, there’s plenty of wine, the comfort of a good whore and Bronn’s drinking games to pass the time before battles. Now, I’ve sung Peter Dinklage’s praises enough already, and while he was excellent (again), this episode, with his heart-breaking account of his first marriage, inspires me to talk about Jerome Flynn.
I never watched Soldier, Solider, and for me, Jerome Flynn was just one half of Robson & Jerome, that duo that were at number one for weeks, with their awful cover of Unchained Melody. However, he’s fantastic as Bronn, the flippant and carefree sellsword (that’s mercenary, to most people) that’s always been one of my favourite characters in the books. His dry one-liners and banter with Tyrion have provided the show’s best moments, and this week was no exception. As the twosome prepare for battle, Bronn’s words of wisdom to the nervous Imp are simply, “Keep low.”
Battles are also a hard thing to show in shows like this. Over two seasons, Romevery rarely showed its large scale conflicts, often cutting to the characters in the aftermath. In fact, it wasn’t till halfway through season two that it spent a large portion of its budget on the epic Battle of Philippi. It’s the same for Game Of Thrones.
This week saw the Battle of Whispering Wood, where Jaime is captured and Robb decimates a Lannister army. But the budget simply wasn’t big enough to show it. It’s a shame, as it would have been pretty spectacular, although, by having a battle that would rival Gladiator‘s opening skirmish, one imagines you would handicap the production for the rest of the series. Let’s hope HBO ups the budget for season two, when the Clash of Kings really gets going.
So, we have one week left, and for those of you haven’t read the books, it must seem like all bets are off. If Sean Bean can die, who’s safe? Will Jon Snow leave The Wall to fight with his family? Is Khal Drogo destined to join Ned Stark in the afterlife? What will this mean for Daenerys? Will Littlefinger get his comeuppance? Will anyone slap that grin off Joffrey’s face?
I expect we’ll all be tuning in next week to find out. The question is what will we do afterwards? My bet is book shops and sellers are going to see a lot of orders for Martin’s continuing books.
Read our review of episode 8, The Pointy End, here.
Game Of Thrones is screened in the UK on Sky Atlantic every Monday night.