Game of Thrones gets down to business, deals with the ghosts of the past, and plans more (yikes!) weddings.
Much like “Oathkeeper” last week, this week’s episode of Game of Thrones moves pieces around, checking in on a few storylines, some from long ago, and generally making sure things are where they need to be as we need this season’s midpoint.
Titled “First of His Name,” this hour notably features the coronation of Tommon in the midst of mourning for Joffrey. It’s worth noting that nearly everyone, including Cersei, the “Mother of Madness” herself, feels quite strongly that Joffrey was indeed a terror and a nightmare. Cersei might have a form of blindness known as a mother’s love, but it’s nice to know she’s not completely clueless. Still, as she cozies up to Margarey in the throne room, asking if the new widow would still like to be queen, we shouldn’t forget just who Cersei is. Of course, Margarey has a few tricks up the sleeve of her latest low cut dress, and now we get to watch the battles brew between these two.
This suspiciously sweet Cersei keeps traipsing around King’s Landing, next taking a meeting with Tywin, and I’d say her act is working. She doesn’t balk at his mention of her pending wedding, although she does suggest a good length of time before she ties the knot with the Knight of Flowers. This seems to disarm Tywin, and most unexpectedly, he brings her into the fold regarding the debts of the crown to the Iron Bank and the sad shape of the Lannister gold mines. Seems Tywin’s done a good job managing to convince Westeros of the Lannister wealth that is tied up in debts, and now he needs the Tyrells to help right this sinking ship. Cersei does take a chance at influencing Tyrion’s trial, but Tywin also gives the appearance of taking the high road. Someone must have put some Prozac in all that wine the Lannisters are drinking.
Cersei continues her goodwill tour, finally landing an audience with Price Oberyn, coincidentally (?) another judge at Tyrion’s trial. She dispenses more flattery before appealing to his sensitive poetic side. In the first of a few callbacks to the show’s first season, Cersei confides to the prince how much she misses her daughter, Myrcella. In a shrewd political move, Tyrion sent Myrcella to Dorne as the war for the crown began to escalate.
“First of His Name” doesn’t stop there. We follow Petyr and Sansa to the Vale, which looks spectacular, by the way. There we find Sansa’s Aunt Lysa and her cousin, Robert, who we should remember not just from the first trial Tyrion faced there, but his peculiar thirst for breast milk (shudder.) Seems our boy Littlefinger has been quite busy securing the affections of Lysa, something he was tasked to do, but as we are definitely learning now, Petyr always has other irons in the fire.
Lysa is still bonko crazy, as is her son, who tosses Petyr’s gift out the moon door with glee. Still, Lysa welcomes Sansa and then turns her attention to a shotgun wedding of sorts for the blindsided Littlefinger. I gotta give him credit though, not just for going through with it, but seeing Lysa’s promise to scream as loud as she could that night (second shudder.) It’s one of the rare occasions on Game of Thrones where sex happens off screen, and I think we owe the producers are gratitude for this small favor.
The scenes at the Vale include their own callback, in fact a bombshell of one. Lysa recounts her actions, committed at Littlefinger’s behest, of poisoning her husband Jon Arryn and sending a letter to Catelyn implicating the Lannisters. It’s quite the big shocker as it’s Jon’s murder that was basically the catalyst for the entire mess Westeros is in now. Just how much has Littlefinger been plotting, and a better question would be what’s next?
For Petyr though, it’s more about the chasm between the haves and the have-nots. He’s had to struggle and connive for his social placement and wealth, unlike so many born into privilege. This theme carries into two short checkins. Arya and the Hound are still on the road, and as she recites her litany of fated names, she gets chastised by the Hound. When he finds her later, practicing her sparring moves, he mocks her techniques and instruction as something money could buy, but ineffective in actual battle. In another part of the land, Brienne and her enthusiastic new squire, Pod, learn a little more about each other. It’s good to remember Brienne is running from the life of luxury, preferring swords to dresses. This has made her an outcast, fending for herself, so it’s difficult to accept Pod’s assistance. Their sweet moments of a better understanding offer a brief but welcome respite from the darkness of the hour.
The back end of “First of His Name” continues the series’ sharp turn off book, wrapping up the previous week’s look at the horrors of Craster’s Keep. As Jon leads an assault on the Keep, Bran is faced with a choice to continue on his quest North or hook up with his brother. Despite the majority of this sequence feeling a bit tacked on, there are a few bright moments here. First, we get to see more of Bran’s warg controls when he takes control of Hodor and has him literally tear Locke’s head from his neck. Guess poor Bolton’s not getting his hands on Bran after all. Jon’s eventual showdown with Karl ends with a gratuitously bloody satisfaction, something that had to happen to attempt to balance the awfulness the band of deserters inflicted on these women.
That sense of justice, one wielded but hard fought, is the other thematic thread of “First of His Name.” Jon doesn’t just keep Karl and his gang from the clutches of Mance. He tries to right the wrongs they committed, to the point of scorching the Keep at the wishes of the survivors. Pod recounts his actions at the battle of Blackwater with acknowledgment of the brutality and necessity. Even Dany, who we only see at the beginning chooses to prolong her advancement to King’s Landing after hearing that the cities she freed are falling back into slavery and chaos.
Although a far better episode than “Oathkeeper,” “First of His Name” pulls just enough story and action together to keep important details and characters fresh in our minds. It’s an episode that uses informational revelations to advance the plot rather than action and it’s a good reminder that there’s more to Game of Thrones‘ intrigue than bloody fights, sex, and dragons.
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