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.
I should also say, my favorite scene was the assassination attempt. The assassin was perfectly creepy. With that blackguardly fellow it was to be a crude and dirty attempt. The way the camera follows Catelyn and then she moves to the side and he is behind her, we didn’t see him come in. Well done, excellent suspense. The rescue by Summer, graphic and violent without being gratuitious, Catelyn in shock, and Summer taking up his position on the bed. What a great scene.
I have to agree that the assassination scene was fantastic. The desperation of the fight is shown well when Catelyn grabs the blade of the knife.
I also like the small detail added in. When Summer jumps onto the bed, he sniffs Bran’s face, almost like he is making sure he is still okay. Then nonchalantly lays down with Bran.
I don’t know that they could have made this scene any better.
I agree with just about everything you’ve said about both episodes thus far. Clearly I loved them as I’ve been waiting for them to air for what seems like an eternity. As an avid fan of the books I noticed some small things like when everyone comes upon the wolves in the first episode by a stream whereas it was a winter storm in the books, small trivial stuff like that which don’t really matter all that much.
I totally agree about the opening, it’s hard to really put my finger on it but I’m not a fan either. I won’t go as far as to say that shows are defined by their intros but a good adrenaline boosting one definitely helps.
The casting is phenomenal with Sean Bean, Peter Dinklage and Lena Headey as a damn near perfect vision of Cercei Lannister. I think everyone is pulling their weight for the most part but I will agree that thus far the Dothraki aren’t the least bit impressive, something I hope changes down the road.
The events of the first novel seem to be flying by and I just know this season will be over before we know it, I’m just glad season two is a go and like you, I hope and pray the ratings are through the roof come the finale.
PS: The assassin scene was badass but I feel the wolves aren’t getting the screen time they deserve. Looking forward to battle on the Wall where Jon and Ghost kick ass.
I like the opening, but ultimately its frivolous, so opinionson those matter little. The meat of the story I agree with. Westerosi plotlines are great, my wife, who is new to the series, isn’t reading too much into the dragon’s eggs beyond “focal point” status and is enjoying the series., and the Dothraki scenes lack the oomph I expected. That Khalasar is like two dozen people big, with Khal the only legitimately warrior-looking guy. They ride single file, like Sand People.
Great review – I agree on the Dothraki scenes. Something is missing! I think you touched on it in your last review. Robert mentions they have an army of 100,000, but we’ve seen maybe 50? C’mon – show us the hoard of screamers! I also agree they don’t really look the part. Other than that I think its brilliant so far!
I really enjoyed the episode, but can’t help but be dissapointed that GRRM let needle be almost a rapier when he had you make a much different sword. Ultimately, even if your swords aren’t going to be identicle, they should be similar enough. Otherwise I fear shortly we will have your swords based on the books and a separate line based on the show.
At the moment it’s a minor niggle. We’ll have to wait and see as the rest of the armory gets a bit more screen time.
The one annoyance I have w/ the series is so minor that it annoys me even more.
Robert’s weapon is a sword, a stinking long sword – not even a hand-and-a-halfer like Ice! In episode one, you can clearly see the hilt hanging from his waist…I really wanted to see the warhammer!
Kevin, he talks about the hammer and it explains to a satisfactory amount why it’s missing thus far. I would like to think it gets shown later on… Any way the hammer bit is in EP3 and I don’t want to post any spoilers in the EP2 thread.
I’m loving the series too and thought I would share the article I wrote for an entertainment website with you. I love the books and so I wrote about the series’ rise to realization from HBO’s optioning and how happy I am with the minor changes they’ve made.
The article reviews Episodes 1-4 but doesn’t *really* spoil much.
If you are so inclined, I would greatly appreciate feedback in the comments area and, again only if you are inclined, please share the article as I would really like to be asked back to write more!