*Spoilers for season 1- I’ve tried not to spoil anything later on- but there will be massive HINTS*
Well hello! I know I’m posting later than I normally would, but I hope this is a pleasant surprise- because I’m launching another series today… I’ll be doing weekly reviews of seasons 1-5 of Game of Thrones! In case you didn’t know, I’m a massive fangirl for the show and books, and naturally did reviews of Seasons 6 and 7 on here. Bereft at the end of the seventh season, I decided to go back and rewatch from the beginning and a few weeks ago I made it upto season 5 (yup- I’ve already rewatched it– though someone will inevitably ask how I watched all of this in a week 😉 )
Anyhoo, this was a really fun trip down memory lane and it was great (and in parts traumatic) reliving it all whilst knowing what happens to all the characters. I was moved from the opening shots of Winterfell, I chuckled to myself at the opening title “Winter is coming” (yeah in 6 years), enjoyed the artistry of the show, got to see those sharp Littlefinger vs Varys go scenes again, was reminded of all the storytelling aspects and got to pick up on a few more Easter Eggs this time round.
Now obviously, I can’t touch on everything in the review, especially since I won’t be doing it episode by episode (given that I did that for the last two seasons, there was a lot I had to leave out). Plus, this isn’t my raw reactions, so while I’ve tried to keep my spoilers to a minimum, my opinions are clouded by later impressions. Formatting this was also pretty hard, so rather than go through this episode by episode, I decided to divide it up into more-or-less POV characters (pictures won’t be taken from just Season 1)
We can start with Dany, because she’s a little bit out of the way. I love how she’s brought into the fold of the story, just after Ned and Robert discuss the downfall of the Targaryen’s. It puts her on the edge of the narrative and yet still very relevant.
Of course, as the series progresses she becomes ever more important. No, becomes is the wrong word- she takes control of her own story. It is no inconsequential feat that she becomes the mother of dragons. From very unpromising beginnings in a forced marriage, she wrests control from her husband, develops relationships (especially with the very unsubtle Jorah) and begins to develop her own cult of personality. It is little wonder that she ultimately walks through fire and comes out the other side unburnt.
However, she’s not without faults. There are hints of her ruthless side– especially in how disturbingly cold she is when Viserys gets executed- though it does tell us something important: “He was no dragon, fire cannot kill a dragon.” And most importantly, we see her making mistakes early on, particularly trusting the witch woman (to paraphrase Jon in season7 why?!). But, we can never forget her rebirth at the end of the season and the subsequent return of the dragons! It’s no wonder everyone loves her!
Speaking of characters everyone loves and “speaking for the grotesques”, there can be no one better than Tyrion! With some of the best quotes in the entire show, like “A mind needs books like a sword needs a whetstone”, it’s no wonder he’s a fan favourite.
And early on, he is one of the few characters with the wit to save himself. Admittedly, he often uses old tricks like “I wish to confess my crimes”, but you can’t go wrong with the classics 😉
One great way to examine Tyrion is in relation to his family– especially in terms of how he’s pretty much the only one apart from Cersei who seems to get on with Jaime (who admittedly is a total prick in season 1, even to characters like Jon, for no apparent reason). Yet for me, one of the best ways to look at him is through the characters he clashes with- notably Cersei (incidentally I forgot how she was in early episodes too, with bizarre lessons to Joffrey saying things to the effect of you can have everything you want and you can’t… ugh, why does she even think she’s smart?). Still, I’d be remiss not to mention one of the best character bonding that I completely forgot about when we got to Season 7…
And that’s Jon and Tyrion! OMG I loved their relationship, because Tyrion is the only one who is candid with him. That doesn’t mean treating him with kid gloves, but actually telling him the truth about the wall (WHAT THE HELL BENJEN AND NED?! I thought you were looking out for him!)
And crikey- the Wall is not what it’s cracked up to be. I mean there’s crude meritocracy, with Benjen saying: “A man gets what he earns, when he earns it.” Let’s be honest though, mostly it’s just cold as-eff and a great place to brew some enemy relationships (*cough* Allister Thorne *cough cough*). Also, he gets called a bastard a lot, which never ceases to make me fist-clenchingly mad!
Still, it’s not all bad- he gets to act like a hero defending Sam. Full disclosure: it took me a good while to warm to Sam in season 1– but his truly horrible backstory and Neville-like loyalty eventually wore away at my defences.
Plus on the positive side, he spends some of the series being groomed for leadership, gets to kill a Walker, earns himself Longclaw, hangs out with Ghost more than he ever gets to in later seasons and has a great FORESHADOWING scene with Aemon. So really, it’s not so bad, you can cheer up now Jon!
Another positive for Jon is that he’s finally away from Cat. Heck- I’d go North of the Wall to get away from Catelyn Stark nee Tully. I cannot stand this character. Even her whining first line- “do you have to?” instantly made me yell at the screen “shut up Cat!”
So why do I hate her? Well, let’s start with the fact that she couldn’t be even halfway decent to a motherless boy- in fact she doesn’t even let him have a proper, peaceful farewell with Bran. It’s her unsavoury anger that drives him away in the first place. And that’s not the only problem her anger causes.
I mean WTF was she thinking kidnapping Tyrion!?!? That has to be one of the stupidest power plays in the history of mankind! It makes literally no sense- not only does she have poor evidence that Tyrion did anything, but it instantly puts Ned and her daughters in unnecessary danger. I mean, I know she warned them not to go to King’s Landing, but like I said, she’s a whiner (no one listens to whiners- the way she says things is so off-putting, I’d do the opposite of everything she says too). The whole way through the series my notes are full of “Cat does dumb Cat-like things”– even, with a nice hint of what’s to come, going to visit the Kingslayer *slow clap Cat, slow clap*.
So yeah, she spends a vast amount of time hating Lannisters… and yet for some *ridiculous* reason trusts Littlefinger?! The practically MOUSTACHE TWIRLING VILLAIN! Are you daft? I mean, when you have friends like Littlefinger, who needs enemies? Her character judgement is so wayyy off base!
Phew- got that out of my system, mostly. Let’s talk about a character I actually like again: Robb Stark. Or “poor Robb” as I often think of him.
He’s definitely presented as a lord-in-training, quoting his father, gracious and with his fearsome direwolf Greywind. What I like even more is that through him you get to see some of the Northmen’s personality- such as Lord Umber getting two fingers ripped off and standing there laughing! And you get some nicer scenes like THE KING IN THE NORTH (which makes me all teary eyed).
BUT that’s not to say he doesn’t make mistakes. Straight off the bat, we have evidence for this when Theon calls him stupid- I mean, if Theon’s calling you stupid… welll I don’t know what you do with that- don’t ask Theon for advice kids!
His major mistake, however, is allowing his mother to negotiate with the Freys on his behalf– and it’s a mistake that has ripple effects across the seasons. Because, as I’ve made it clear, Cat is not the smartest person! And she enters into to one of the most disastrous negotiations. I’ve had many discussions over the years with friends about this, but I’m pretty sure this would have been a better way to go into the talks:
“Hey, we need to use your bridge.”
“Well, I quite fancy having your children marry mine…”
“Already betrothed, sozzles! (cos in this version Cat’s not a moron) About that bridge- you can let us through or we can take it with our shit ton of men… whaddya say?”
Could you have at least tried to have spoken from a position of strength Cat? I guess whining at someone is your default setting. Not to mention the fact that, as the show makes clear, Freys ≠ trustworthy. Even though Cat’s known them her whole life, she strikes the dumbest deal in the history of deals. Ugh.
Speaking of people with rotten luck, let’s briefly touch on Bran. He’s not one of my favourite characters- however I do feel sorry for him. We get a lovely bit at the beginning of episode 1 with him scaling the walls… and then he has his big fall at the end of the episode- or rather gets pushed. Yeah- that scene will never cease to shock me. GRRM is the king at taking away what a character really cares about. And I completely get why he’s mad at Cat- leaving him to go on her stupid secret mission that goes disastrously wrong… (this is turning into the I-hate-Cat show).
Moving on, one of the best things we get for Bran, is mostly just the foreshadowing, which, let’s be honest, this show has plenty of…
Starting with that dead stag and the dead direwolf (and the *hint hint* “no mountain lion”) they find in the woods. This scene, where the Starks get their direwolves, is one of my favourite and is so loaded with symbolism (Jon: I am not a Stark, Theon: it’s a freak!) that I could have put it under any character. But it is Ned who first recognises the Direwolf– the sigil of his house.
And this is an omen for the start of all his troubles. For it’s not long after that the Baratheon king comes to Winterfell (ah Robert, you crass lout!) and because Ned’s an honourable fool, he decides to accept the position as Hand of the King. Now, I don’t totally begrudge his decision (though my goodness, it was a BAD one) because a lot of this comes out of him trying to be a good friend to said terrible king.
However, as much as I don’t want to disrespect the dead (RIP Boromir… err I mean Ned), he was awful as a politician. If there was a mistake to be made or a trap to walk into, Ned did so like a lamb to the slaughter/fish out of water/wolf not in the north. Even while acknowledging that the crown is bankrupt and can’t afford to host a costly, dangerous tournament, he ends up just turning a blind eye to it- which is not good enough.
Then of course he does loads of other dumb things, like giving away his household guard, not leaving when he has the chance and confronting Cersei about her (incestuous!!!) extramarital affairs! The only reason I love his character is because he’s so noble while doing all these stupid things- plus he teaches us that vital lesson that in the Game of Thrones you win or you die.
And everything that happens to him is SO AWFUL– though in a very callous way, rewatching it after season 7, I can’t help but see how poetic it is for him to get stabbed from behind in his fight with Jaime (also, it’s funny that this time round, I don’t blame Jaime, since this is right after his idiot wife kidnapped Tyrion and Jaime’s lashing out for that)
Also, Ned serves as a brilliant and stoic patriarch– giving us that wonderful “lone wolf” speech that pays off all the way over in season 7. I absolutely adore that “War was easier than daughters” line too. Which brings me onto…
I will be frank, in this season, I found little to like about Sansa. She was a vain, pretty fool. I also will say I think a lot of my initial dislike for this character came from me transferring some of my hatred of Cat onto her- I saw her as Cat 2.0 and thought she was primed to make the same hot-tempered mistakes her mother did.
However, my initial analysis of her character was fairly wrong. Not that she doesn’t start out as air-headed- she most certainly does. She’s utterly ridiculous and forgiving of Joffrey- even though he quite literally swung a sword at his sister and threatened to torture a random kid. On top of that, she *lies* about it after! Watching it back, I did find myself being more forgiving (as will be apparent in later posts, I ended up respecting and appreciating Sansa) especially since she pays the price immediately for her lies and ends up losing her wolf. Plus, if I can forgive Jaime…
In all seriousness, the reason why I don’t mind Sansa’s vapid-bordering-on-insipid actions early on is because she is just playing the role fate gave her. She acts the lady, as she was always taught, and you can’t really blame her for it. She’s even told “no one can ever hate you” (all the while Littlefinger drip-drips poison in her ear, but I digress…). She trusted in Joffrey to spare her father (though see above why she really shouldn’t have) because the lady trusting in her gallant prince is a story she’s always been told. What’s interesting is that her playing this role so well is actually evidence that she’s not clueless- she knows enough that to get ahead she has to conform. In playing the part, she’s actually being smarter than I thought. Even if I didn’t love her in season 1, her character was being built to go in a very interesting direction.
Ah what stark differences between the sisters! I always loved Arya! Sharp as a needle, wild and a non-conformist, I think it’s impossible not to like her straight away. In the first season, I loved her courage and her relationship with Sirio Forel. I also liked how her “dancing” lessons were used to show a simultaneous flashback and foreshadowing. In one of the more interesting scenes, as Ned watches her learn to use a sword, we see a brief look of horror building in his eyes and his laughter turns to a scowl. It’s subtle, but it’s there- and I believe it is a sign of the horrors that Ned cannot stop befalling his children.
And Arya has one of the most heartwrenching stories– partly because she survives. She may initially be only playing with the sword, yet by the end of the season she’s made her first kill and lost her father. She’s heading down a very dark path….
But more on that next week! As with my episode reviews- I’d love to know who will be sticking around for this series? Are you a fan of GOT? Let me know in the comments!