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Game of Thrones 4.05 "First of His Name" Review: A Woman's Work

     Game of Thrones, “First of His Name,” was written by the team of David Benioff and D.B Weiss and directed by Michelle MacLaren. The title would make you think that at least one male character was at the center of the episode, but while the title does refer to Tommen (Dean-Charles Chapman) being crowned King, the episode is really about the various women who are a part of this story.

    The episode examines virtually all of the roles that are available to women in this world. In a fabulous scene with Oberyn (Pedro Pascal), Cersei (Lena Headey) tells him “Everywhere in the world, they hurt little girls.” This resonates with every woman we see in the episode. They are all essentially powerless to control their own destinies or even their own bodies. They are physically beaten or raped. They are powerless to save the people they love and are used as pawns to secure alliances. Lysa (Kate Dickie) and Daenerys (Emilia Clarke) are the only two women who have real power, yet Lysa is mad and Daenerys suffered greatly to get to where she is – as a little girl, she was hurt as badly as the rest.

    This is a particularly finely crafted episode with most of the scene dovetailing into the next on a common theme. The previously on scenes are particularly important for this episode as it draws together so many threads that explain a great deal of what’s been going on. We are reminded that Jaime (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau) sent Brienne (Gwendoline Christie) away to keep her safe as King’s Landing was no more safe for her than for Podrick (Daniel Portman). We are also reminded that Jaime told Loras (Finn Jones) that he would be murdered in his sleep if he married Cersei – which puts an interesting spin on her suddenly meekly accepting the marriage. We are also reminded that Cersei holds Tyrion (Peter Dinklage) responsible for the loss of her daughter as well as her son. The fact that she is having Oberyn deliver a ship as a present to this daughter has me wondering if Cersei has an escape plan for both herself and her daughter.

    Perhaps most importantly in the previously ons, we get a re-cap of the intrigue that has put all of the action into play. We see that Petyr Baelish (Aidan Gillen) has been behind everything. It was his idea to poison Lysa’s husband, Jon Arryn, and frame the Lannisters for it. He gave Lysa the poison – was it the same as that given to Joffrey and will anyone realize that? Certainly, the creepy image of him with the stones on his eyes echos our last shot of Joffrey. Baelish told her to write the letter to Catelyn (Michelle Fairley) that sent Ned (Sean Bean) to King’s Landing in the first place. Was his intention only to make Catelyn a widow and therefore available for him to marry? Now, of course, Baelish has aligned himself with the Tyrells – something Tywin (Charles Dance) thinks he is in sole possession of. Lysa meanwhile has aspirations that Robin (Lino Facioli) will be the Lord of the Vale – and perhaps more with a marriage to his cousin Sansa (Sophie Turner).

    The episode begins with Tommen’s coronation and three figures are called upon to help him as King: The warrior for courage, the smith for strength and the crone, who knows the fate of all men, and she is to guide him through what lies ahead. In essence, it’s the woman who is to play the supporting role and provide wisdom. Tellingly, we move from this scene to one between Cersei and Margaery (Natalie Dormer) – the two women poised to provide that wisdom for Tommen. They discuss the telling difference between Joffrey (Jack Gleeson) and Tommen. Cersei is startlingly honest telling Margaery that Joffrey “would have been your nightmare.” She even confesses that “the things he did shocked me.”

    Headey is simply magnificent in every scene in this episode and Dormer is terrific in this scene as well. We know she is lying when she tells Cersei she hasn’t considered what comes next, and she twists the knife nicely at the end of the scene as she struggles with what to call Cersei – sister or mother. However, this is also about the most honest conversation we’ve seen between the two and they do seem genuinely united in considering that Tommon – who has always been a good, decent boy – will be a good King. Cersei is concerned that he have someone to provide guidance and wisdom and sees that Margaery can do that – though I wonder if she would be so eager to align her with Tommen if she knew the role Lady Olenna (Diana Rigg) had played in Joffrey’s death! Cersei’s willingness to hand Tommen’s safekeeping to Margaery is another reason that I believe Cersei has a plan of some sort. I wonder if she plans to kill Tyrion anyway if he is found innocent at trial?

    We move from one scene discussing the merits of one ruler to the merits of another’s rule and her advisors. Daenerys learns that Joffrey is dead and that Daario (Michiel Huisman) and the Second Sons have taken the Meereen navy. Daenerys must choose whether to sail away and take King’s Landing or remain and clean up the mess she’s started. She turns as always to Jorah (Iain Glen). When she questions why anyone would follow her, Jorah states the obvious –“you are a Targarean and the Mother of Dragons.” But Daenerys has recognized that she needs to be more. She vows that she “will not let those I have freed slide back into chains.” She tells Jorah that she “will do what Queens do.” She will rule.

    In the next scene we see Baelish bringing Sansa to the Eyrie. Baelish extols its virtues as a stronghold, telling her it hasn’t been breached in over a thousand years. He tells her “Know your strengths. Use them wisely. One man can be worth 10,000.” This figure directly echoes the number of men needed to take King’s Landing in the previous scene and is a nice echo to how well Baelish as one man has been able to manipulate the events of Westeros and position himself.

    However, I think he has underestimated Lysa – and her madness. She outmanoeuvres him by having the Septon standing by to marry them. No doubt Baelish was planning on dodging her somehow or another. She has designs to marry Sansa to Robin, which Baelish won’t be happy about. In fact, the Eyrie is far from a safe place for Sansa. Lysa may be crazy, but she’s also incredibly jealous and observant. She’s the one who asked Baelish to bring the lemons to make Sansa’s favorite cakes – clearly in hopes of making Sansa fat and thereby less attractive to Baelish. The discussion of Catelyn’s childhood and how she was kept thin to make her a better pawn to marry off was yet another nod to how women are generally treated in this world.

    Turner is excellent in this scene, and we see that even the “stupid little girl” is beginning to know how to play the game. I also liked her better for trying to defend Tyrion – perhaps she’s starting to realize he’s one of the few men, other than her father and brothers who hasn’t treated her badly. It’s of interest to note that the women aren’t the only ones forced to marry – Sansa acknowledges that Tyrion was forced – as was Baelish!

    The next scene between Tywin and Cersei also centers around marriages. They determine that an additional two weeks of mourning over Joffrey is enough for Maraery and Tommen to marry and then in another two weeks Cersei can marry Loras. Cersei’s acquiescence may be entirely in trade for a guilty verdict for Tyrion – at least in her mind. It’s really the only bargaining chip that she has. Dance and Headey are, as always, at the top of their games, and make what could be boring exposition as interesting as it can be. We learn more about the Iron Bank – which appears to be some sort of mystical thing to Tywin. We learn that the Lannisters gold mines have run dry – and so has their source of income. I have to wonder if Tyrion’s fate is also going to be tied to his run as Master of the Coin. He would be in a unique position to hold this information over his father’s head – but that could also be his death warrant. Tywin could want to keep him quiet about the finances or he could want to use him as a scapegoat for why they are broke.

    Cersei talks about the importance of family and legacy and that that is what her sacrifice is for. We next see Arya (Maisie Williams) listing off all the people whom she will kill – that is her legacy to avenge her family. This also dovetails with Oberyn and Cersei’s discussion. When she asks what good their power is if they can’t protect the ones they love, he answers that at least they can avenge them. The Hound (Rory McCann) remarks that hate can keep you going. He has clearly formed an attachment to Arya that she does not share. He suggest that they might both enjoy killing his brother, and he looks both hurt and surprised when the final name on Ayra’s list is his own.

    When the Hound wakes up to find Arya is missing, he panics. It would mean he’s lost his meal ticket, but it seems to be more than that for him too. He finds her practicing her water dancing. She has the finesse with the blade, but not the practical brutality needed to fight. When Arya describes the death of Syrio Forel (Miltos Yerolemou), it sounds ridiculous, yet it was heroic to watch it. However, it may be up to the Hound to teach Arya the true brutality of sword fighting. He doesn’t hesitate to backhand her when she actually tries to stab him. Her honor in fighting could be her undoing – just as it’s almost Jon’s (Kit Harrington) against Kurt (Burn Gorman).

    Honor also figures prominently in the exchanges between Podrick and Brienne. He, quite hilariously, is a terrible squire for what she needs – he can’t ride and he tries to cook the rabbit still with its fur on. She tries to release him, telling him she is neither a knight nor a slaver. In fact, Brienne, as a woman, likely can’t be knighted – one more thing denied to women. She asks him what he thinks will happen if he leaves. No doubt she thinks that he thinks something terrible will happen to him, and in fact it is terrible to him to lose his reputation. Podrick responds that he thinks people will think he wasn’t a very good squire if he leaves. Not that he will be arrested or hurt – just lose his reputation.

    Christie and Portman are excellent in their scenes together as both are playing somewhat awkward outsiders. Both play them subtly and without ridiculing them. When Brienne finally in disgust asks if Pod ever did “anything remotely related to combat” while serving Tyrion, she is not expecting him to answer that he killed a King’s Guard. At first, I thought her surprise was that he’d killed one of the Lannister men, but then it becomes clear that she’s impressed that he was able to kill one of the Guard at all. He quietly earns her respect. The matter of fact way that the line is delivered is perfect. He earns Brienne’s respect and the honor of helping her remove her armor. Can’t wait to see more of these two together!

    The final scene takes us to Crastor’s Keep and the group of women who have perhaps been most hideously abused. Karl almost rapes Meera (Ellie Kendrick), but Jon and the Black Watch arrive just in time. I was disappointed not to have Jon and Bran (Isaac Hempstead Wright) reunited, but at least Jon was reunited with Ghost – who also got his own revenge on the coward Rast (Luke Barnes). Jojen’s (Thomas Brodie-Sangster) sight comes in handy as he is able to distract Karl long enough for help to arrive, but it also pulls Bran away from Jon to look to the North. Jojen also sees their end in fire – I wonder if that will be dragon fire of some kind?

    The hand to hand sword fighting and the fight between Jon and Karl were good – I particularly liked the wilding woman getting her own back and Jon’s sword through Karl’s mouth. However, the staging of the fight was too neat. It wasn’t nearly chaotic enough for a pitched battle. Vikings tends to do these particularly well. If someone engages, they don’t generally cross swords once or twice and then politely move off to engage someone else...

    I would be remiss in not mentioning just how terrific Brodie-Sangster is in the scene with Gorman who has been fantastic as Karl. While Karl was evil, it was sad to see the end of Gorman on the show. We also see the death of Locke (Noah Taylor) at the hands of Hodor (Kristian Nairn) – at least, technically at the hands of Hodor who is possessed by Bran at the time. I have to admit to feeling badly for Hodor who is so disturbed by the blood on his hands.

     Possessing him like that is almost akin to rape – apropos given the setting of what was done to the women of Crastor’s Keep. It is fitting that they have the last word. They were beat and worse by Crastor and the Crows who came after him. Morag (Deirdre Monaghan) tells Jon to burn the Keep and all the dead and that the women will find their own way – as women must in this world.

    This was another terrific episode. Both the writing and acting are outstanding, to say nothing of the sets and locations. What did you think of the episode? Were you disappointed that Jon and Bran were not reunited? Do you think Cersei is up to something? Do you think Sansa is in real danger? Did you miss Tyrion in the episode? Let me know your thoughts in the comments below!