Monday, April 7, 2014

Game of Thrones, Season 4, Episode 1: "Ary Wins a Pony"

Like normal people, Jen and I were a part of a Game of Thrones party for the season four premiere. Everyone cooked food from our neighbor's Feast of Ice and Fire cookbook (she's something of a fan), and went over when we were done. It was a nice spread, with Summer Salad (I assume it's made with vegetables one finds in summer, and not with Bran's dire wolf named Summer. If it is the latter, I'm certainly glad that we didn't go with the Sansa Salad.), Lemon Sweet, "Chick Pea Paste", Flat breads, mulled wine (I didn't have any because I was planning on hunting boar later), honey chicken, the works. I'll include a picture later on. The food was great, as was the company. Our neighbors really are awesome people.

As we watched, I jotted down a list of notes because I knew that I'd want to write up my thoughts on the episode.

Josh's Notes

  • Ary Wins a Pony
  • Ice
  • Jamie Older, bad haircut
  • Honor is beyond repair
  • Starburst Spiders
  • rhaegar
  • Sansa
  • Jester
  • Dinklage hair
  • Army of Darkness Hand
  • margaery tyrell Taller
  • Still Time
  • Lip Gloss
  • Hound

Ary Wins a Pony

We're renaming all the episodes to be more descriptive. This one was called "Two Swords". Boring! Jen called it "Ary Wins a Pony", which is much better.

Ice, Jaime's Haircut, "My honor is beyond repair"

This was a great way to open the season. The Stark greatsword "Ice" is melted down and reforged into the Lannister blade, Oathkeeper, and some other sword, too. Tywin is kind of a dick about it. Tywin and Jaime talk a little about it. Jaime looks a lot older, and I hate his new haircut. Boo! He's no longer the second prettiest Lannister (after Lancel).

 He says to Tywin on the topic of honor, "My honor is beyond repair". I like that line and what it implies. Later on the episode, he's talking with Brienne, who keeps getting steadily more awesome, and she reminds him that he swore a vow to keep the Stark girls safe.

There is so much that's great about that scene, and that pair absolutely needs some kind of buddy cop movie. I find Jaime such an interesting character. He was raised by a monster of a father, joined the Kingsguard at an early age, and the depredations of the Mad King quickly disabuse him of any belief in chivalry. He hits rock bottom, and then when he is at his worst, he meets Brienne, who lives up to the ideals he once held, despite being faced with much greater obstacles than he ever did.

But she kindles in him the spark of goodness that even he may have believed snuffed out forever. He argues that his vow no longer applies, because Arya is most likely dead, and there is nowhere he can take Sansa where she'll be safer than where she is now. Brienne tells him to look her in the eye and tell her that he believes Sansa is safe in King's Landing.

I've been hard on Ned Stark, here and elsewhere, because I believe that many of his actions are driven by his perception of himself as an honorable person. I don't know if I believe in moral absolutes, but Ned spent too much time deciding to do the honorable thing instead of the right thing. He ignored the reality of the situation in which he found himself. It's a good thing, in the abstract, to follow the laws of succession, but if if doing so is going to put a psychopath and practitioner of human sacrifices on the throne, maybe you want to take a step back and consider the consequences of your actions.

With this request, Brienne asks Jaime to do he hard work of really thinking about what the right thing is in this situation. A code of honor is a good guideline, but it should never substitute for reason and judgement. (Ugh, Stannis as king. Really, Ned? What's the difference between the Stannis and those Wildling cannibals? The cannibals eat the men they cook.)

Starburst Spiders, Rheygar

Oberyn Martell seems all kind of awesome. He was the high point of Book 4 for me, and I'm looking forward to the climax of his arc. I thought the sunbursts on his outfit looked like spiders. They were neat.

He also mentions Rhaegar, whose existence had previously barely been hinted at at all. I don't know if Jon Snow's parentage is going to become important, but if it does, it's long past the point when Rhaegar should have been more prominently featured.

Sansa, the Jester

Lily has said that I only like characters who make mistakes. Sansa has been suffering for years, now. She brought much of it on herself, certainly, but that doesn't make her pain any less real. That's why I like the scene with the Jester, Dontos Hollard. She's still a young girl, and there's no joy left in her, but seeing him and hearing him thank her for his life, when she intervened on his behalf when Joffrey would have killed him. I love her smile. It's like she's remembering that there's still good in the world.

I hope that she's biding her time. Thinking of Sansa in this situation reminds me of two quotes I like, which I've related elsewhere:

At fifteen life had taught me undeniably that surrender, in its place, was as honorable as resistance, especially if one had no choice. - Maya Angelou

Be patient. You are not winning a game called justice, you are living a life called justice. Bertolt Brecht tells the story of a man living alone who answers a knock at the door. There stands Tyranny, armed and powerful, who asks, "Will you submit?" The man does not reply. He steps aside. Tyranny enters and takes over. The man serves him for years. Then Tyranny mysteriously becomes sick from food poisoning. He dies. The man opens the door, gets rid of the body, comes back to the house, closes the door behind him, and says, firmly, "No."

Dinklage Hair

We were watching Season 1 Games of Thrones recently, and Tyron's hair looks a lot blonder there.

Anyways, Dinklage is awesome, and that will never change.

Army of Darkness Hand

Jaime is fitted with a golden hand. It looked like Ash's hand in Army of Darkness. I expected him to crush a goblet and say "Groovy".

Margaery Tyrell Taller

Did Natalie Dormer grow six inches over the summer? She looks almost as tall as Brienne!

Okay, some research shows

  1. Dormer is 32 years old, and consequently, is unlikely to have had a growth spurt between seasons.
  2. Dormer looks quite a bit younger than 32.
  3. Dormer is 5''6" to Christie's 6'3".
  4. I've had a chance to review the scene again, and it's only in some of the shots that she looks tall. I think it must have been the angle and not intentional. 
Margaery is great, but not as great as her grandmother, Lady Olenna. I saw Diana Rigg in the credits, and I always thought, "Isn't that funny? She has the same name as Emma Peel." I didn't realize that she was the same actress. Stay awesome, Granny Tyrell.

"Still Time"

Jack Gleeson continues to make Joffrey an outstanding villain. I remember the exchange with Sansa, where he tells her to look at her father's head on a pike. She asks how long she has to look at it, and he cocks his head in that way he has and answers, "For as long as it pleases me." It's among the most singularly vile acts in the series, and he doesn't surpass it here, but there's a scene where he's looking into a book that chronicles the achievements of various Kingsguard members, and he mocks Jaime that his page is almost blank, but then adds that there's still time for a forty-year old, one-handed knight to do great deeds. It's the very pettiness of the cruelty that does it. Update: From my friend Tim. Joffrey doesn't add that there's still time. He mockingly says someone forgot to write down Jaime's deeds, and it's Jaime who says there's still time. Joffrey asks, "Is there? For a 40-year old knight with one hand?" It's a subtle difference, but I'm always glad of the rare chance to correct Josh. :)

Watching this always makes me feel better

Lip Gloss

Daenerys looks like she's wearing lip gloss. That's all you need to know about her. Oh, there's a subplot between Grey Worm and the most recent actor to play Daaaario about a contest they're having to see which one of them gets to sit at her lunch table. I swear Martin farmed out her chapters to a twelve-year-old girl. Begone with you, Daenerys. Back to Claire's Boutique and your copy of Teen Vogue.

The Hound and Arya

Man, really, the Hound and Arya on their protracted road trip may be the best part of this show. Masie Williams is a great actor with a great name and a bright future ahead of her, if she can avoid being typecast.

And, as promised, here is the picture of the food, and another of us enjoying it.

I would have combed my hair, had I known I'd be posting this picture online.


  1. I still see the Amok version of Daario in my head whenever the current actor portraying him is onscreen.

    Sure wish Arya and the Hound traveled together longer so we could see more interactions between the two. I can't wait to watch her character arc develop. This episode felt like her rebirth.

    1. Hey, maybe we'll get lucky and we'll get more time than we expect. It wouldn't be the biggest deviation from the books.