You may read my thoughts on the first episode here.
I had not intended to write a review or commentary for each episode, but my first was well received, so I thought I might continue. It gives something to fill the void between sword business.
First of all, I thought the episode was great. When it was over I immediately wanted to watch it again, it felt short, because everything flew together so well. The pacing problems in the premier had vanished. I am still, however, not a fan of the opening sequence. Though I like the music.
I thought every scene in Westeros was well done, especially the Arya and Jon ones. They are certainly my favorite characters, and not just because they have the two swords we have in stock at the moment, though possibly because as a book reader I know they grow into main characters, even if to the uninitiated they may not seem it now.
All told the Westeros side of the story felt well done, it felt alive, and the ending was excellent. I would hope that people who complained after last week of “not knowing who to root for” know now who to root for, and it isn’t the people who order pets to be killed.
If there was one scene I did not like, it was probably Catelyn Stark, CSI. It was all just too convenient. I often joke to my wife when watching CSI “I bet you they find a hair.” because of course they always do. I guess they felt it was the easiest substantive way to establish Catelyn’s suspicions. Though I think the assassination attempt would have been enough.
Unfortunately, across the Narrow Sea, I do have some nits to pick. Something has just seemed off about the action with the Dothraki, and I’m not entirely sure what. I have seen some comments about how the Dothraki seemed white, or seemed a random mix of ethnicities. I don’t really care if they are ethnic this or that, it is a fantasy world afterall, but they did seem, in this episode, to be soft. To me, you can’t just take any extra, put them in Dothraki clothing, and call it good. These are supposed to be hardened warrior nomads, yet they were pale, with flabby arms. Surely a nomadic people would have a tan? Would have muscles toned from working so much? Drogo looks like a Dothraki (a big king of the Dothraki), the rest, this episode, not so much. GRRM has described them as a cross between Huns, Mongols, and Native Americans. There have not been many movies of Huns, or Mongols, lately, but I think back on Apocalypto or further back to Last of the Mohicans and these warriors certainly looked the part. They looked like they spent almost all day outdoors, and that they fought for a living.
I am reminded slightly of that great scene from 300 where a general complains to Leonidas that he has brought more soldiers, Leonidas asks “You soldier, what is your profession.” and hears answers such as “potter” or “sculptor.” He then verifies his own soldier’s profession and states that he is the one who has brought more.
Not that the Dothraki should resemble the bodybuilders of 300, but they certainly looked far more like the potters and sculptors than the soldiers. It just, as a whole, to me, made the Dothraki not feel legitimate. So far, they haven’t felt legitimate.
Aside from looks, I also feel that there are a few missing scenes where Drogo is nice to Dany to provide greater motivation for her desire to please him. In the books it is of course handled differently, and I feel the show failed to establish the right motivation for her change in attitude. I’m hoping that in future episodes such scenes are shown to at least some sort of after the fact motivation for the sake of her character.
My wife and parents (whom I would have never guessed would like this series) both liked the episode. Sunday night prior to watching it we went for a walk and I spent most of the walk explaining, repeatedly, to my wife the chronology of the series, who Jon Arryn was, again, and so on. She wasn’t readily aware of how long Robert had been king, or some of the other back story details. So I told it from the beginning, there was a king named Aerys, and so on. By the end of the walk she understood and at the end of the second episode I asked if she had any problems following it, and she said no, so that is good. My parents only emailed me the one question, which was why was Jon going to the Nightswatch, which was an easy explanation rooted in the history of what bastards and lesser children of nobles often did to prevent any, unpleasantness, when a time of succession came.
I hear that the ratings of this episode were flat over the premier, which is very good. Normally that is a large drop off. The goal of course is to have ratings eventually grow, especially season over season, but if the season finale could have better ratings than the premier, that would be a very good thing indeed.
As I said in the beginning of this post, overall I thought the second episode was brilliant, the things I mention I mention because a post that just said “It was awesome.” would be a short post, and probably not worth writing. I have a warm heart for the future, as those who have seen further episodes have said they get better and better. I would be happy, surely, if they just maintained this current high level, anything more will be icing, it is known.