Tuesday, June 21, 2011

"Game of Thrones" recap: "Fire and Blood"

Spoilers for the "Game of Thrones" finale below. Don't click through if you don't want to know.

Sorry this recap is so late -- and that I've hardly written on "Game of Thrones" at all in its first season, despite the fact that I've enjoyed it immensely. Because of my lateness, and time constraints, this is going to be brief-ish, but I did want to talk about the finale, mainly because it was a strong example of how you end the first season of a serialized show. That's a task that AMC's "The Killing" spectacularly bungled, ending in a nonsensical cliffhanger that basically shot the middle finger to fans that had stuck with it all season.
"Fire and Blood," the GOT finale, had plenty of cliffhangers, but they weren't cheap, pull-the-rug-out-from-under-you-for-the-fun-of-it affairs.
Every cliffhanger -- from the widowed, naked Dany standing among the baby dragons to Arya fleeing town dressed as a boy to Robb being named king of the bannermen of the north -- felt honest and earned. And that's what makes "Game of Thrones" such a satisfying, if complex, series. Even when it does something shocking, like killing off Ned, the show's ostensible lead, it feels like a sincere extension of the story. Ned had placed his life in danger and it would have been dishonest if a power-hungry twit like Joffrey hadn't dispatched with him. Likewise, this week's season ender gave us the death of another seemingly major (though less central) character in Drogo.But that also made sense. Of course Dany, who has evolved so much from the meek, frightened girl of the pilot, would take her own husband's life rather than let him suffer. Of course she would seek revenge on the witch who couldn't save Drogo and who caused her baby to be stillborn. And, since we've been getting hints all season that she is the last of the dragons, of course the first season would end with her emerging from a blaze, surrounded by literal dragons.
"Game of Thrones" might be bizarre and tough to follow at times, but it's intelligently written, well-acted and, above all, plays fair with the audience. Anyway, here are some thoughts on "Fire and Blood."
* After the second episode, I never would have thought it possible to feel any sympathy for the seemingly snotty and heartless Sansa. But man, do I feel bad for her, cooped up in that castle as a virtual prisoner of her husband-to-be. The scene where Joffrey forces her to look at her father's decapitated head was devastating, and I wouldn't have blamed Sansa if she'd pushed Joffrey to his death as she so obviously wanted to. But, of course, she then would have met the same fate as her father, most likely. Thankfully, the Hound steps in and saves her. A nice moment, but it makes me feel even worse for her -- she's so pathetic that even the freakin' Hound feels bad for her.
* As for Joffrey, the scene where he coldly punishes the musician was one of the more memorably awful images the show has given us in a while. Who wants to choose between their hands and their tongue? Yeesh.
* Peter Dinklage's Tyrion has been one of the best parts of the show to date, and I'm hoping his new role as the hand of the king will bring the expected fireworks between his sister and nephew -- especially if he really does bring his prostitute buddy along with him.
* Some much-deserved praise also goes to Emilia Clarke, who plays Dany. What a challenging part that has been! A lesser actress could not have carried off that bizarre, potentially snicker worthy final scene of Dany and her new reptilian family, but Clarke has such beauty and presence that she carries it off. She's also great in the heart-breaking scene where she quietly smothers the body that once contained her beloved husband. Clarke is a real find in a show brimming with excellent performances.
What are your thoughts on the finale?

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