Season Finale: Game of Thrones – “Fire and Blood”

“Fire and Blood”

June 19th, 2011

“There you will see what life is worth when all the rest is gone.”

Earlier this week, I rewatched last week’s penultimate episode, “Baelor,” with my brother who was seeing it for the first time. Generally, I’ve been watching Game of Thrones alone, and any interaction with other viewers has been done online (or, if done in person, was done with people who I had previously interacted with online). For the first time, I was sitting in the same room as another viewer as we watched the show, and the experience made clear what I had known from the beginning but had never seen quite so clearly visible: Game of Thrones is a show that every single viewer likely considers differently.

It is not just that we can separate between readers and non-readers, although that is certainly the most obvious distinction to be made. Rather, we need to also consider questions of genre, gender, sexual content, race, and other qualities which have been called into question over the course of the season: regardless of whether I individually had concerns with the show’s use of fantasy, or its sexposition, or the Othering of the Dothraki, the fact is that those concerns existed, and have created a divisive response even among those who generally like the show.

In a piece earlier this week, friend of the blog Cory Barker wrote about his ambivalence towards the series, and kept trying to find reasons for it within the text. While his process was enlightening, he couldn’t find the silver bullet: there was no one part of the show that was creating a lack of an emotional connection. How we view the series can be defined by issues like genre which are inherent to the text itself, or issues like viewing patterns which are entirely extratextual but can define one’s experience with the text. My brother, for example, watched the season on a staggered schedule of short marathons, while my parents watched it on a weekly basis; as a result, they remembered different things, retaining different parts of the show that were highlighted by their personal experience with the text.

I raise all of these points because after a season of open interpretation, at least for those who hadn’t read the books, there is something almost prescriptive about “Fire and Blood.” While “Baelor” delivered a fatal twist, and suggested a certain degree of carnage to come in the weeks ahead, “Fire and Blood” steps back to serve as a more traditional denouement, laying out the various threads which will be followed into a second season. Rightly treating the fate of Ned Stark as the season’s climax, it seeks to explore the scenario that Mirri Maz Duur lays out to Dany early in the episode: what is the worth of each of these characters and these storylines in light of recent events? It’s a moment where the show actually has to step forward and proclaim its identity in order to convince the skeptics that this is a show worth watching, and to convince the believers that their faith has not been misplaced as the show transitions into the next stage of its narrative.

“Fire and Blood” doesn’t beat around the bush: it shows its hand from its bloody opening to its fiery conclusion, laying out a pretty detailed framework for what the second season of the show will look like. However, it never feels like an artificial framework, and that sense of interpretation never disappears even as the storyline becomes less open-ended. Serving as a fitting bookend to what I personally feel was a very strong first season, “Fire and Blood” reinforces central themes and delivers on what matters most: reminding us why these characters are following the path they’re on, and informing us why we want to follow that path next season.

In one final hurrah for sexposition in the show’s first season, we see Ros cleaning up after serving the aged Maester Pycelle. The scene unravels slowly, playing off our uncertainty that someone that old would still have a sex drive, and as Pycelle goes through stories about King Aerys and his thoughts on the promise of King Joffrey we’re meant to find it a little bit funny, and a little bit unsettling. The latter point, however, has nothing to do with the “old dude having sex” factor: instead, at least for me, what was so unsettling was the fact that Pycelle believed Joffrey to have promise as a king. Just as he talks about Aerys with a sense of pity, expressing sympathy for a man who saw nothing but fire and blood in his warped mind, he seems to suggest that Joffrey’s reckless and childish behavior is somehow a good omen for his future as King. Here is this man who knows more of Kings than any other man alive, a man who was positioned as a trusted advisor early in the series, saying things that do not mesh with the narrative we have been presented.

Or, rather, they do not mesh with the definition of Kingly behavior as we may have wanted to understand it. Part of what this season has done quite spectacularly well is repositioning the notion of honor, one which is obviously important to Ned and yet has proven incongruous with King’s Landing in general. What might have originally been considered synonymous with good leadership has now become associated with treason, while the injustice of Joffrey’s rule has become (fittingly enough) the King’s justice. I love that little note of truth that Jaime throws at Catelyn as they have their interrogation scene of sorts: if the Gods are truly just, as Catelyn wants to believe, then why is there so much injustice in Westeros? It is not as though Jaime is the only man who did something heinous, or that his decision to throw Bran from the tower (to protect his secret and, frankly, his life) was in any way deviating from the general rule. While Jaime’s action may have initially been a shock to our systems, having entered this world through the framework of the honorable Ned Stark, over the course of the season that idea has been broken down: this world is built for men like Jaime Lannister and not men like Ned Stark, and the sooner people realize this the better.

Although one could argue that this episode is largely setup for next season, the sense of realization is more than enough momentum to carry it through. There is certainly dramatic weight as the news of last week’s tragedies are revealed, whether it’s Dany waking up to the news about both her child and her husband or the Stark family all receiving word of Ned’s death at the hands of Joffrey. All of these scenes are well drawn, whether it’s Sansa being forced to see her father’s head mounted on a spike or Robb falling into his mother’s arms after attempting to murder a tree just outside of camp. The entire cast was on top of their game, with Sophie Turner and Richard Madden stepping up in what is perhaps their most important seasons to date, but these initial reactions are only one small part of the equations. The really important part of “Fire and Blood” is what they decide to do next: given that Khal Drogo is effectively brain dead, and that Ned Stark has been murdered, what do these characters do now that their initial path has been eliminated?

Answering this question does render “Fire and Blood” a “moving pieces” episode, if we want to get technical about it: they need to find a way to take Dany from grieving wife to Dragon Mother, just as they need to transform Robb from a grieving son to King in the North. They need a way to take Jon from a brother who desires to help avenge his father to a brother who commits to protecting the realm from those outside The Wall. All of these goals are achieved quite effectively, but all in different ways: the scale of each decision is decidedly different, and the speed at which they take place is variable. While Jon’s storyline is handled in only a few minutes of screentime, there was something powerful about that shared recitation of the Oath of Brotherhood in those woods, and something exhilarating about the speed at which Commander Mormont was willing to ride beyond The Wall to discover the truth about the threat that lies in the Mountains beyond. The storyline plays out Jon’s reaction to his father’s death, connects with season-long concepts of honor, and then seamlessly transitions into the character’s storyline in the season ahead – it is not a particularly complex storyline, but it nonetheless feels honest to the character’s journey to this point in the story, driven more by his specific view of this world than by larger forces operating within the narrative.

By comparison, Robb’s ascension to “King in the North” is meant to feel as though it is being defined by larger forces: it is more a battle cry than a fact, something that his bannermen rally around in a time of uncertainty. They marched south to free Ned, first and foremost, but their victory in battle and Joffrey’s spurious actions have given them a new sense of purpose. Robb becomes “King in the North” because of Joffrey’s fundamental misunderstanding of the way the Game of Thrones is played: Ned could have been used to broker peace with his son if he had been alive, but his death has only emboldened them. Going back to last week, we can see that Robb has sort of lost control of his own destiny: he sold away his marriage in order to cross at The Twins, and now he finds himself a rebel King largely thanks to the circumstances in front of him. He is playing the game, perhaps before he is supposed to, and the character feels simultaneously dwarfed by the enormity of the situation and distinct amidst the chaos to the point where I’ve come to empathize with him even without a great deal of screentime.

Of course, this is obviously Dany’s big finale, given the fact that she gives birth to three dragons at episode’s end. There is obviously a great deal of symbolism to this storyline, with magic finally playing a substantial role in the tale as Mirri Maz Duur’s life and Dany’s sacrificial walk among the coals are traded for the lives of three dragons who are certainly worth more than the dragon’s eggs they once were. Those of us who have read the books have spent the entire season waiting for this moment, seeing the various bits of foreshadowing and knowing that they were all dependent on how this storyline was brought to life. They can have Dany walk into scalding bathwater, or touch a burning dragon’s egg without being burned, or look at the dragon’s eggs longingly during important scenes as much as they want, but if this moment didn’t deliver then it was all for naught. This is not a storyline which relies on subtle themes or recurring motifs: this is a big, bold statement, announcing the arrival of magic into this series and reframing Dany’s storyline in ways that (while hinted at) are certainly far different than what they were before Khal Drogo’s death.

As has been the case all season, the big moments are not a problem for Benioff and Weiss. Emilia Clarke was tremendous throughout, Alan Taylor’s direction was particularly evocative during these sequences, and the CGI on the dragons was showy without seeming too out of place. No, it wasn’t movie-level CGI, but there was something about the visual signature of those closing moments that made it all seem more cohesive than I could have imagined. I don’t know how much they can keep the CGI up in the future, and I don’t know how it will look outside of the almost post-apocalyptic color palette, but this reveal landed in a major way.

If the episode was largely about realization, it ended on revelation, albeit a revelation that will land differently across the audience. As a reader, this felt like a perfect end note to what has been an imperfect but confident adaptation; although I would not say that I agree with every decision they made, I understand almost all of them, and feel that I now understand (and trust) Benioff and Weiss’ sensibility towards this material. For non-readers, “Fire and Blood” promises that Ned was not the narrative we were looking for, and that there is something else going on here.

That something else involves the broad storylines above, of course, but there are other threads hanging about. A quick scene between Varys and Littlefinger reinforces the role they play in King’s Landing, while whispers of Renly and Stannis’ movements towards the throne remain but tantalizing whispers. Arya is turned into Arry and whisked off North with Yoren, Gendry and Hot Pie (among others bound for the wall), but the show doesn’t stop to dwell on it for more than a few minutes because it doesn’t exactly need to. There is something procedural about Tyrion being named Hand of the King, but we’ve seen enough of Tyrion to know that there is a great deal of potential to be found there. Most of these scenes are just glimpses, small moments that point towards something larger without laying it on too thickly, but they’re enough to capture the breadth of this story when you place them all together.

It is quite possible that most people will only remember the dragons. However, part of what Benioff and Weiss have captured so well is that Game of Thrones isn’t just about the big plot points, or just about its main characters. “Fire and Blood” isn’t just about the dragons, nor is it just about setting up the second season: drawing heavily on themes of honor and justice which have run throughout the first season, “Fire and Blood” is a thrilling rumination, if such a thing is possible. Following Martin’s lead, Benioff and Weiss have taken a path which asks viewers to fully commit themselves to a show that is willing to kill off its supposed protagonist, a show that is willing to embrace magical elements it initially claimed were long dormant, and in time a show that is willing to question whether its villains and heroes are really villains and heroes after all.

In other words, “Fire and Blood” is the last session of a season-long lesson in how to watch Game of Thrones, and the fact that they managed to condition and entertain their audience at the same time is a truly impressive feat of adaptation that has me damn excited to see where things go from here.

Cultural Observations

  • The one scene in the episode that felt a bit off was the reveal of Cersei and Lancel – it has been too long since we’ve seen Lancel (Robert’s squire) for the moment to land for non-readers, and something about the way the scene was framed just didn’t sell “They’re shagging, which means she definitely coerced him into conspiring with the boar to murder Robert” the way it needed to. Cersei seemed very ancillary to this finale, in a way she hasn’t been all season, so that will be something I’m interested in seeing develop next season.
  • On a similar note, the Hound is arguably the most underserved supporting player who was credited as part of the main cast, so that’s another question mark given how his role will be expanding in the future.
  • I continue to be impressed with Natalie Tena as Osha – she didn’t get much to do in the opening scene, but I just really liked her rapport with Bran, and something about the performance is just resonating with me.
  • I won’t lie and say that I’m entirely satisfied with the show’s music, given that it has made almost no impression outside of the theme song, but it seemed well-suited to tonight’s episode: it was especially strong during the final moments, so I’ll be interested to see whether there’s more attention paid to it in season two (since there might be a bit more time to get the composer settled, as opposed to the sudden switch that came at the start of this season).
  • Shaggydog and Ghost both make appearances, which is the first time two direwolves have appeared in an episode in a while. I remain curious to see what they do with the direwolves in the second season: although I don’t know if they necessarily appear more often, they become more important, which could present some challenges given how rarely they’ve appeared to this point. This was actually the first time we learned Shaggydog’s name, if I’m not mistaken, so they’re definitely late getting to the wolves in the grand scheme of things.
  • There was a lot of talk about a character who Benioff and Weiss wanted to kill in the first season despite their recurring role in later books. I don’t consider it a spoiler to reveal that the character in question was the singer (or bard, if you prefer) Marillion, and it wasn’t so much a death as it was a mutation (pun intended, and heinous). Curious to see how they adjust if they get to a third season, but I guess they’ve got plenty of time to mull that over.
  • I remember hearing during casting that the candidates for Joffrey and Sansa tested using the scene on the battlements, so I wasn’t surprised to see Gleeson and Turner knock it out of the park. Admittedly, I sort of imagined that scene with a bird’s eye view of King’s Landing, instead of the isolated space in which it took place here, but the gravity of the scene still landed, and Joffrey has never been more despicable than when he has Meryn slap Sansa instead of doing it himself. Very excited to see Gleeson grow into this role.
  • If the show gains some unexpected traction with the Emmys, and Emilia Clarke makes an appearance in Supporting Actress, does she submit this episode? I’d argue it features her strongest moments, but it’s all fallout from the events of previous episodes, and lacks context. Some of the earlier episodes would offer more of a journey, I think, and perhaps a bit more screentime as well. Still, this one would definitely pack a punch.
  • I’ll likely be back with some more coverage in the morning (with perhaps a “Game of Thrones the Morning After” review roundup/reaction), and then tomorrow afternoon I’ll be taking part in a live chat at the Daily Beast being organized by Jace Lacob, and featuring some fellow critics as well as some other prominent folks from within the post-air analysis community – you can join the discussion at 2pm ET via this link.
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30 Comments

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30 responses to “Season Finale: Game of Thrones – “Fire and Blood”

  1. Great write up, as always, Myles.

    I think we had somewhat differing readings of the scene with Pycelle. It might be interesting to consider that, just as we saw him put on the “act” of being a feeble old man as he walked out the door, he was acting in front of Ros, who is basically Littlefinger’s. I don’t think Pycelle is stupid enough to actually believe that Joffrey will be a good king. Just like everyone else in King’s Landing (who isn’t headless), he’s playing a game.

    • You’ve caught me – I used the scene as a pretty simple thematic pivot, without really delving into it on its own. Such is the value of the comments, then, to delve into it a bit further.

      I think you’re right – this is definitely a situation where Pycelle is being given a clear sense of agency, which is yet another complication to the King’s Landing power struggle. I’m curious to see where they go with that: they have done some fine work with Varys and Littlefinger, but is there time to delve into Pycelle as well? Or will this serve as a simple reminder of the fact that he too is playing a game?

      I remain most curious.

      • By the way, I feel the need to tell you how amusing I find it that your coinage of “sexposition” has really taken off. An official induction into Wikipedia, EW asking Weiss and Benioff about it . . . you’re infamous, dude.

        • I feel a *little* uncomfortable taking credit for it given that it’s very possible that someone else coined the term in an offhand fashion before I found myself using it more publicly, but I am nonetheless chuffed to see it entering into the public discourse as it has.

      • garik16

        I’m actually a big fan of it really…..I’m not going to spoil, but it explains future plot developments down the line (in Pycelle’s actions) a little better than the book, by implying he’s more than he seems as a weak old man.

        • [SPOILERS?]

          I just finished re-reading A Clash of Kings last week, so the stuff with Pycelle hit me a little harder than it might have. It definitely feels like they’re foreshadowing some stuff.

  2. DANIEL

    This is ALL Speculation, I have not READ any of the NOVELS…All Evidence is from watching the episodes over and again.

    First off, Nice post Myles. I am a new fan of yours after reading you for the first time tonight…Well, Pretty much I am new to everything Westeros. i have not read any of the novels, so what you are getting from me is pure interpretation of the Hbo series along with some help with the many hours of watching behind the scenes and special content during the film.
    So you have a little background on me and what I am coming from… I just what to comment and ponder more with you guys and maybe get some better insight or spark some new ideas for you and myself…I would love if you took the time and read what I am about to write…

    First, Ashley you are spot on with the Pycelle scene. What do you think his real angle is? Survival? Personal Power by being influence to the council and king? Or just pure Concubine Pleasures for mercy? He really played that off well in the initial part of the scene…by now the Red Head from the North ( Who I wish was a spy for someone from the North but seems not), is Peter’s Eye’s ,Ears and Tail and reports back to Peter exactly how Pycelle wants it to be… a Rambling old man, who is forgetful, and senile…Its what He has made us all believe. But as NED and Himself have pointed out, he has been around serving many Kings. Why? What do you think?

    Myles, I commend you for stirring up the cultural and deeper meaning of things in your post. Many Bloggers and writers neglect this aspect and either slam the story with faults or exploit Why the film producers don’t write the novel in the scene.

    I am assuming you have read the 1st novel by your comments on them not spending enough film time on certain things and your imagined visuals were different at the battlement. I just want to reiterate what you already know to explain some of your column. Pictures are a thousand words. Sound of Music is a thousand pictures. Something that Martin said in one of his interviews. Anyways, The struggle I was seeing with Weiss and Benioff in producing this film, according to there own complaints and choices are the following: The Novels are so dynamic, extravagant and long that its impossible to give all the POV’s and sub themes the same time frame they got in the book and put it in a 1 hr segment. They said, that they hope to do as much as possible and as often as possible but some things are not feasible and some thing’s get dropped. Even things that are working well for them will get more attention than they did in the book because it is so successful. Like Rob, he was not a POV in the book they said and since he is such a hit on the screen, he will be seeing a lot more screen time in the series than he did in the book. They also said in TV, it is imperative to keep the viewers remembering the characters or they loose interest and lose focus. Your Dire-Wolves are the ones who suffered from this. I understand that these Dire-Wolves are the beginning of everything magical with the Starks and are important for futures novels… they repeatedly said that they want to keep the MAGIC stuff at BAY as along and as far away as they can without us losing touch with it. They do not want magic to be a big part of these first few seasons except when it is imperative, because G.R.R.Martin says he wants that REAL feeling, as this is a Believable world and that when the Magic does happen, it gets special attention. He then said, because Magic dominates the series later on.

    Speaking of magic and the beginning: Did you notice that When they discovered the Dire-Wolves that the mother was killed by STAG horns?? This being the Baratheon Symbol, but also as stated by MARTIN as the very first thought he had about this novel and started writing a story from that moment on.

    I personally think they are doing a great job filming the series because they are giving all the great characters enough time on scene. WE understand who they are and don’t forget them. It leaves a lot for debate, yes but…Better than alternative. Which is spending 30 mins with the North, 15 min on Dire-Wolves and 15 on Dany…then we don’t even see Tyrion untill the following episode. That would not wok at all.

    Things I would beg of you to explore for the show or future please:

    What all did Dany learn from the Dothraki? I mean they came, worshiped her and then left her as soon as Drogo fell. I think this is some important symbolism here. Personally she Learned : ( TO ME) #1 Stand-up for herself #2 All that comes with living among the people/poor. #3 Leadership role #4 The way of followers, they come and they go #5 If Khal cannot ride horse he is no KHAL…I think this is a huge one because… she now has the dragons and her ancestors rode them to bind the kingdoms…which might come to recourse. #6&#7 are the two things you spoke about, developing her path once everyone is vanquished and her receiving the Dragons… BIG THINGS FROM DATHRAKI… they served purpose now they are gone from her at this time.

    What about JON? Specially Jon and NED’s relationship and who Jon was, is and will be? Everyone around the Westeros World wants and speculates on his mother. You also point out all the subtle hints in the episodes about Dany being resilient to fire. What about all the context of NED’s Honor, Jon’s path now and where he came from? My IDEAS: ( again this is all speculation) NED’s defining characteristic throughout this entire film is his HONOR. HE supposedly gave up his honor once with Jon’s mom but did he? Master Ameon states “NED is 1 out of 10,000men” followed by Snow saying,” HE would do the right thing, no matter what.” We discover that NED’s weakness to HONOR is doing the right thing but more specifically, protecting his FAMILY. Which he ultimately fails at by being betrayed by Jeofry the weak? However, LETS LOOK AT THE CLUES IN THE FILM HERE:
    NED Cries at the mention of Jon’s Mom ( re-watch epi. “King’s Road” when Jon and Ned last speak), Ned would give life for Honor, would he give up his Honor for cheap sex? DOUBTFUL! FAMLIY? YES! HE LIED TO THE RELM TO PROTECT DAUGHTERS. Would he lie to the realm to protect a sister ? YES! AT what cost? In order for NED, the most honorable man of Westeros to throw away his honor, the cost must be significant as well as being “the right thing to do.” So I ask, not only if you really think Snow is Lyanna’s son, which is completely obvious due to at all the hints in the film (mentioned previously), but more importantly who is his FATHER? It could only be of 2 choices. Robert’s before the kidnapping or Rhaegar Targaryen’s, prince to the throne and Kidnapper. Who happens to be Dany’s brother, according to family tree. Either Way Jon has right to throne!!! He is being groomed for leadership now and in my opinion is just as compassionate if not more than as DANY!

    More clues in film: “the seed is strong”…look at the blacksmith boy, bastard of Robert. What is his significance??? We are lead to believe it is because of the incest breeding by Lannisters but could it be more? Could it show us someone who has half of Robert’s blood in order to compare an equal half? Who is “Strong like an ox?” Who has BRUTE Force in battle?? Compare Rob and Snow…best friends, yes….honor, yes…sword skills…yes…but who has the BRUTE FORCE? Who has more Aggression and Strong? Anyone of them similar to Robert?? ROB or SNOW? SNOW and Blacksmith boy?

    Rob is a great Leader, skilled with sword, compassionate, honorable but different if you watch them closely. Little pup compared to the combat of SNOW “ IT IS KNOWN!”

    What’s the importance? I think there are many quality characters left in this series but honestly the plot is…THE THRONE… and the people fighting for it and the ones who care not of it. AS well as the remaining good hearted.

    If you’re afraid of falling in love with another Character only to see his head fall off, I would concentrate on some key elements that I have decided will be story lasting.

    SPECULATION!! Of the Characters who have survived Season 1

    All Lannisters will fall, except the pure at heart. All though not completely pure, he never does any cruelty…Tyrion will be the difference! I think by the end of his story, he will have seen all of his families evil and will side with the other PURE Hearted. I think He will end up in King-Landing in the end.

    … I think Arya, will find her way to being Commander of the Kings Guard.
    Bran will be on the council as a Maester
    SAM’s fait is uncertain, but I suspect he will end up on the Kings council
    And the last but not least…
    If my theory holds, one way or another Jon is aired to the throne by Robert ( my guess) or Targaryan ( Jon burnt his hands on fire and has not one once of white hair) and will take his WIFE in the end as DANY Targaryn, Aunt by blood in one theory ( so what, the world likes to breed family) or No blood Relation and they share the throne, share the dragon, defeat the White Walkers after the fall of the Wall and live happily ever after!

    • I’m still reading the first book, so I don’t know how true your theories are but I think your theory about Jon’s mother is very interesting. When I started reading it I felt it was too out there, but in the book Ned has these constants dreams/visions where his sister keeps asking him to “promise” something to him, so that could be it.

    • RE: Pycelle, I know what his angle is because I’ve read the books, so it’s not speculation for me. Actually, I don’t really speculate for TV shows as I find it usually leads to disappointment, although I must confess that I have given in to popular fan theory where Game of Thrones is concerned in one instance, i.e. Jon’s parentage.

      [SPOILERS/SPECULATION]

      It’s actually a very popular theory that Jon Snow’s mother is Lyanna Stark, and her father Rhaegar Targaryen, and I found this so awesome when I heard it, that I immediately started to believe it. I’ll be disappointed if it turns out not to be the case, although I will point out that not once does Ned Stark actually call Jon Snow his son. He says only, “He is my blood.”

      [/SPOILERS]

      • I don’t even treat that theory as a spoiler: given that it is entirely unconfirmed, it is just a fan theory driven by speculation. There is a negligible difference between the pleasure of being entirely shocked and the pleasure of being entirely right, and I think both are valid experiences of watching the series.

        For me, added value of the theory is a new angle for certain developments, and I’ve loved reading the first season in light of the theory (since apparently, GRRM quizzed Benioff and Weiss on their theory regarding Jon’s mother and was pleased with their answer, so it has been implied that they know the truth and might be foreshadowing it).

        If we’re wrong, I’ll be disappointed, but it’s increased my investment in the story, and that seems valuable to me.

        • I’m not denying the validity of creating and following theories, certainly a ton of people do it, I just never have. Sometimes something will just pop into my brain while I’m watching, and I’ll get this kind of eureka! moment, but I don’t go out of my way to theorize. I do this for a couple of reasons. One, it’s just natural to me, but more importantly, I find that it helps me to focus on what the writers/creators are trying say/portray, rather than any hopes or ideas that I might be bringing to the table as a viewer. I know for a fact that because I watch TV like this, I’m more likely to enjoy what I’m watching. I know it’s why I enjoyed the Lost finale, and why I loved the BSG finale so much when so many other people wanted to throw riots in the streets. I wasn’t disappointed that my theories or questions weren’t answered, because I knew the show would tell me in its own time and way.

          I know that most likely the majority of TV viewers don’t watch TV like this, but it works for me. It helps me maintain a healthy mix of critical thinking, and faith and trust in the show and its showrunners. But engagement is important, especially on TV where every viewer counts, if only so that the show isn’t canceled. So, if theorizing keeps the fans coming in, and staying, then by all means, they should knock themselves out. I just think if you’re going to theorize, you have to be prepared to be wrong, eat a little crow, and I don’t think a lot of people are. Engaging with fans is important for a showrunner, especially these days, but I think a lot of fans lose sight, especially in serialized dramas like GOT, Lost and BSG (and Chuck, for some reason) of the fact that it’s important for the show to retain its vision as well, and that means that some people just aren’t going to like what they’re given.

          It’s like what’s happening with The Killing right now. Time will tell if viewers have been as alienated as critics have by the finale, and if they have, then Veena Sud needs to rethink the way she’s conceptualizing her story. If a show is alienating a majority of its fanbase, then that show simply cannot survive, no matter how true its showrunners stay to their vision. But honestly, in those cases (and in my opinion, this is definitely true of The Killing), most of the time it’s just bad storytelling. Viewers were led to believe certain things, both by AMC’s marketing of the show, and by the show itself, and we didn’t receive any of those things. And that’s not something I ever foresee worrying about with Game of Thrones.

        • Kimmy

          I loved the Cersei and Ned angle on the whole Who are Jon’s parents?
          All from one queer look…

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  5. My biggest hope for season 2 is that Benioff and Weiss create even MORE scenes on their own. They are very good writers.

    Myles:

    What flaws do you think they need to still fix in season 2?

    How would you compare this to today’s best dramas (Mad Men, Breaking Bad, The Good Wife)?

  6. As someone who has no idea where the series is going, this didn’t feel at all to me like moving things into place for Season 2. It felt more like The Sopranos, deliberately going against our expectations from drama. Maybe this is just me, but what struck me about the sexposition scene was how utterly banal it was. And you can see that extended into every single plot line. Last episode it felt like everything was going as wrong as it possibly could, and now it’s like nothing happened. Life goes on in one trivial little moment after another.

  7. Abraham

    Loved the article. I can’t get enough of this series!

    I thought your comments about Pycelle were interesting – I took something else from the sexposition scene with Ros. It seemed like the point of the scene was to show that he wasn’t quite the doddering old man he has appeared to be. So when he praises Joffrey, he does so knowing full well that Ros is reporting straight to Littlefinger, not because he admires the little prat. As he said, he’s served for 67 years and knows how to keep his position!.

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  9. I loved the finale! My favorite character by far and away is Sansa. Sophie Turner is doing such an amazing job! I find Sansa to be the most interesting character in the books and the show. She seems so ill equipped in dealing with the world around her, even more so than her little sister. Which I guess is why I find her journey to be the most compelling. Will she be the next Cersei or will she follow in her mother’s footsteps. I just love her!

    • voluntarymanslaughter

      The friends I am watching the show with (all of us non-readers) and I have had many arguments about Sansa. They think she is a spoiled brat who is really selfish (particularly for not defending Arya way back in the beginning, leading to the death of her wolf) and only cares about being queen.

      My point is that she is very, very young, has never been taught how to deal with this world, has no mentor in King’s Landing other than her nursemaid person who she doesn’t like, and is understandably caught up in the whirlwind of getting to be the next queen. Agreed, she has far fewer resources than Arya does.

      Frankly, I think Catelyn was a much better mother to her boys than to her girls.

  10. Jeremy

    I also haven’t been thrilled with the music this season. After listening to Michael Giacchino’s gorgeous score for LOST, I was expecting GOT’s score to be equally as grand considering the show’s budget. I was hoping for individual themes for each major character, considering the POV structure of the novels.

    However, most of Djawadi’s score has been atmospheric in nature and not particularly memorable. On the plus side, the main theme is quite the ear worm, and I enjoy the subtlety of the Stark and north-of-the-Wall themes. Hopefully Djawadi will introduce some more themes and motifs for the next season.

  11. voluntarymanslaughter

    Yep, all I’m going to remember is the dragons.

    Dragons! Dragons! Dragons! Squee!

    I am so impressed with Dany’s strength of character throughout this season. She goes from being a pawn forced into marrying a barbarian, to getting him to love her, learning to love him as well, learning the language, assimilating to a new culture, leaving behind the “my-brother-will-be-king” worldview she grew up with, and becoming a competent and beloved Khaleesi.

    And now she has had all of that taken away from her, and has to start over with a decidedly new life path. Un-frikkin-believable.

    Not knowing where any of this is going — and perhaps I’m just projecting, here — but I do not think that the trauma of losing her husband and child (and new family/culture/identity) will leave her any time soon. Was it just me, or — in those final moments — did her eyes seem to say that she was just a little bit dead inside?

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