Every week in the Game of Thrones TV Club, Rachael Larimore will IM with a different fan of the show about the goings-on in Westeros and across the Narrow Sea. This week she discusses Episode 4 with Vulture’s Nina Shen Rastogi.
Rachael Larimore: Welcome, Lady Nina! Today we’ll be chatting from the Eyrie, perched right next to the Moon Door, since all of our friends in Westeros and beyond seem to be after justice or revenge: Varys, Arya, the rogue Night’s Watch rangers, and—most spectacularly—Daenerys. What did you think of it all?
Nina Rastogi: Ah yes, the Eryie, where Lysa Arryn better get ready for some romantic nights with Littlefinger. Feather beds and all! I loved this episode—after three hours of rather tedious setup (and too many plot lines), I feel like this one finally clicked: thematically, tonally, plot-wise. And I think a lot of it has to do with this theme of justice and revenge that you’ve picked up: A lot of storylines that were set into motion over the last few episodes finally bore fruit. It was really satisfying.
Larimore: The first two episodes did seem slow, but I thought last week picked up the pace. For all the fan complaints about storylines being left out, I’m not sure how they could cram in any more. Let’s start with someone who was on the receiving end of a little justice. Theon makes a heartfelt confession that he had a choice as to who his real family was and he chose wrong. Alas, that helps very little when it turns out that Ramsay Snow has betrayed him. I almost felt bad for him.
Rastogi: Yes, I’ve always really felt for Theon. He was one of my favorites last season; his storyline took so many of the show’s main themes (family, loyalty, leadership, honor) and pushed them to really extreme places. He was this little microcosm of the whole world of Game of Thrones. And he’s just never comfortable. He’s never where he’s supposed to be. I loved that line from his scene with Ramsay, when he’s talking about Robb: “His life fit him better than his clothes.” It’s a lovely line. And I think it captures something that is true of all the people we see in this show who we think, “That’s a king.” (It’s true of Daenerys in this episode.) So basically, Theon is a little turd, but he’s one of the little turds I like. And the bit about choosing wrong—I loved it, because really, wouldn’t the world be a better place if he had really committed to choosing the Ned Stark path, as opposed to the Balon Greyjoy path? I mean, Theon would probably be dead if he chose the Ned path. But we’d feel better about him.
Larimore: True! I sympathized with Theon up until he made it look like he killed Bran and Rickon, for all the reasons you mention. Balon and Yara were both so cruel to him when he showed up at home. And sadly we’ll never know what could have come of a partnership between the Greyjoys and the Starks. I do think he’s a turd, as you say, but I do not relish what his immediate future holds. Similarly, it was hard to find anyone to root for up at Craster’s keep. The old man was a monster, but the Rangers who took him out (and Mormont along with him) were the least likable of the bunch. At least Samwell made haste and got Gilly and her son the heck out of there.
Rastogi: Yeah, though I was happy to see Torchwood’s Burn Gorman show up in that scene, as the ranger who got everything going. (Maybe just because his real name sounds so Westerosi.) I hope Gilly and Sam’s departure doesn’t mean that that’s the last we’ll see of that band of rangers. It was really interesting to see the mob mentality take over, and I’d be curious to see what happens to them after this. Game of Thones often follows a kind of great-man theory of history—it’s all about powerful individuals making significant choices—but in this episode, we saw manyof groups: the Tangers, the Brotherhood Without Banners, the Unsullied, the mob outside the Red Keep. It’ll be interesting to see how those groups start to shape the narrative, if at all.
Larimore: That’s an interesting thought, about the groups. Speaking of the Brotherhood Without Banners, I worried that we wouldn’t meet Lord Beric Dondarrion at all I expect that his appearance means we’ll be spending more time with the Brotherhood, at least. And Beric’s upcoming battle with the Hound brings me to what I’ve really, really, wanted to chat about: the women! Interestingly, given Cersei’s lament that men have all the power, there was a lot of lady power on display. Just when it looked like Lord Beric was going to run out of excuses to fight the Hound, Arya found her voice and ratted him out for killing Mycah.
Rastogi: Yes—and Ros showing off her natural spy skills, and Margaery showing off her talent for manipulation (pleeeeeeeze do right by Sansa). All the women who manage to play the game learn how to turn their supposed weak points into strengths. And that’s part of the reason I feel so much for Cersei. I feel like at one point she probably knew how to do that, and now she’s just lost the touch.
Larimore: Cersei? You even feel sorry for Cersei? May the Others take your Cersei! I love that Margaery is so skilled at this “game of thrones”—calm, cool, and way smarter than any Lannister will give her credit for (which works to her advantage). The Tyrells’ decision to aid Sansa by finding her a husband before the Lannisters (or anyone else) can do it for her is a sign that they might be cunning and power-hungry, but also decent. And then we see Margaery with Joffrey, with Cersei watching on. Earlier in the TV Club, we referred to Margaery as the Princess Di of Westeros, and that was again on display here. She makes Joffrey go stand outside and address the mob. It really struck me when Cersei watched on. It was like she was watching a younger version of herself, and she realized that not only that her moment was over, but that she hadn’t been able to make the most of it. She later tries to do what she can, to win her father over, but he is unimpressed.
Rastogi: Well, I don’t know that we can assume the Tyrells are decent just yet! That may be wish fulfillment on our part. And I loved that scene with Cersei, looking at her son and his fiancee. She’s turning into this interesting Cassandra figure: girl has got Margaery’s number. But no one will believe her. She’s squandered all her capital. What I like about the Cersei-Margaery dynamic is that I don’t feel like one or the other is the “good one” here. I like Margaery (hard not to be won over by the Lady Di-ness!), but I don’t trust her further than I can throw her and her Prell hair and her deep-V-neck gowns. And yes, Cersei is the worst, but I also think she is genuinely motivated by love for her son—and that’s a rare thing in this world. It has to be worth something, even if the object of her love is Little Turd No. 1, Joffrey. But I’ll happily champion her, and you can be Team Margaery.
Larimore: If I am on Team Margaery, can I borrow her dresses? While watching Cersei, I’m often reminded of one of Tyrion’s best one-liners: “You love your children. It’s your one redeeming quality.” One thing I like about Margaery—and this might well be a reason not to trust her—is that she is going into this marriage with open eyes. Her father wants her to be the queen yes, but so does she. And she knows Joffrey is a monster, but rather than pouting about it, she’s trying to take control. When Ned promised Sansa to Joffrey, you could pity her because Ned had no idea how monstrous Joffrey was. But while I feel for Margaery, I also admire her. And like that the show has made her more prominent, and that it has played up her friendship with Sansa. Do you agree, Lady Nina?
Rastogi: Oh yes, Your Grace, I’m a fan of Not-So-Large Marge. I also think you’re right about what makes her attractive to us—that knowingness. I think the Lady Di comparisons we’ve all been making are telling: We like Margaery because she feels modern. She’s much more of a stand-in for a 21s-century audience than anyone else on the show, no? I, too, love the friendship brewing with Sansa. The look on Sophie Turner’s face when Margaery said they would be sisters if she married Loras was really touching. (In general, great face-acting in this episode!) Though of course, I got a pang for Arya then …
Larimore: Oh, Arya would probably prefer to be hanging out on the Wall with her brother Jon Snow than sharing tea with Sansa and Margaery. Though she would probably also enjoy dueling practice with her intended new brother-in-law, Loras. But Arya will be fine! She’s tough. Now, like the showrunners, I have saved the best for last. DRACARYS!
Rastogi: AAHHHH DRAGONS. And, Daenerys, showing off her flair for the theatrical. I rolled my eyes at her line last week, to Missandei about how “all men must die—but we are not men.” It felt so hokey. But I was thinking about it this week, because of course a big part of how Dany was able to pull off her heck-yeah-I-got-this moment was that Kraznys mo Nakloz underestimated her from the beginning, because she’s a young woman.
Larimore: I think that Kraznys mo Nakloz might have been the only person in the world who did not see Danerys’ trickery coming.
Rastogi: He’s been too busy with goatee maintenance. But yes, Kraznys mo Nakloz was SO outlandishly awful. It’s was such a cheap trick to get us to root for a very problematic choice by Dany, but such are the laws of popular narrative.
Larimore: Dany justifies her move, at least to herself, by freeing the Unsullied. But really, what does that mean? They’ve been tortured and brainwashed into taking orders. Are they really going to run at this point? Just because she asked them to fight rather than ordered them to? Still, I’ve been waiting so long for this scene, and Emilia Clarke really delivered. The way she cast aside the whip, and how it fell in slow motion, was this week’s bit of hokeyness. But even that could not take away from the awesomeness of seeing her speak Valyrian, much to the dismay of Kraznys mo Nakloz—and taking command of her new army.
Rastogi: Agreed, the whip drop was hokey. But in last week’s “Behind the Episode” featurette, one of the showrunners pointed out that Dany has a kind of Joan of Arc complex going on. And the way those final scene were shot really played that up, this idea that Dany has become something (or is selling herself as something) more-than-human. Dany looked iconic—literally, like an icon, or a statue; like the Astapor harpy.And yes, I had the same thought about the army. Do we believe the Unsullied were really able to develop free will in, oh, 30 seconds? Butit made for a good show, though. For us at home and for burnishing Dany’s growing legend.
Larimore: Back at the end of Season 1, when she emerged from the fire with her dragons, that imagery had its own power. But she was still young, and almost in wonder that she’d been right about the dragon eggs Here she was powerful, and mighty. All grown up. It would be hard not to follow her into battle.
Rastogi: Yeah. She’s become such a bad-ass.
Larimore: And now the credits are rolling. Thanks for chatting!
Rastogi: I wish a horrible porridge plague on all your enemies,Rachael. Especially your pretty cousins.
Larimore: Such a sweet sentiment! May dragons eat your enemies as their children look on.
Editor’s note: Important reminder! Please keep the comments a spoiler-free zone. Do not give away anything based on future happenings from the Song of Ice and Fire books, for those who aren’t reading or have not read that far yet. Violators will subject to trial by combat.