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.

It is hard for me to review the premier, being so invested in the Song of Ice and Fire world. Following and cheering the series since it was announced. Thinking back to a phone conversation with GRRM back in 2006 where I went on how I thought HBO doing the show would be so great, not knowing he was already probably in secret negotiations. And of course, financially, we stand to benefit from any increase in popularity of the book universe.

As a reader, when I first read the books years ago, I remember struggling at first, I remember the books starting slow and having a problem getting hooked the first few chapters. I was also worried how it started with a Bran POV and I thought it might end up being a book series for kids because of that (hah).

I thought the series started slow as well. It was very loyal to the books, but because I thought the books started slow as well, that made sense. It does make me worry for viewership next week, of course the hook at the end of the episode I’m hoping will take care of that, and that, as I recall, in the books, is the point where things pick up. Then once they all get down to King’s Landing things really start to roll. I’ve heard from some of those lucky people who have seen the first 6 episodes that the later ones are also faster moving and they have different directors. I kinda think that this episode had some editing and directing problems, it could have used snappier cuts, and more dynamic camera shots. I’m no professional of course, but I do consider myself a discerning film viewer. All told it felt a lot like a pilot, which it was. I’m confident those issues will get better based on what reviewers have said. Just, little things, for instance when the direwolves are found, it takes 10 seconds of staring for Ned to identify the beast, which obviously, being so large, it should have been easier for him to do. I’m not nitpicking, but longer shots like that, over an hour, add up and make it seem slower. Then of course, in that scene, the camera never really moved, we only had one angle of the dead direwolf. Maybe they shot other views, but the direwolf looked bad, so they cut them. Or they didn’t even shoot other angles, but that scene, like many, seemed to have far too static cinematography.

I also worry about people understanding everything fully. My wife, who has the benefit of living with a superfan like me, didn’t quite grasp it all. She did like it, she said, but she was confused on a few parts. I explained to her who Jon Arryn was during the episode, almost sure she wouldn’t have picked that up. Later I find out though she doesn’t understand who the King is. She is confused, I think, thinking Pentos is Kings Landing. I told her Robert Baratheon was the King, and she asked me why is he letting Viserys (the platinum blonde guy in her words) do all this army raising. So I have to explain he is on a different continent, that he is in exile. I know these things were of course explained in the show, but with so much new information to absorb they can be missed, I guess. She also didn’t get the time of when Robert ascended to the throne, which I think was not explained well. That it was, what, 17 years ago in the series chronology?

Then gives us this review by a fan who also had not read the book, and while the review is glowing, he also was confused. He thought Jon Arryn was king, and was Robert’s father, he didn’t get any of the backstory right, more or less. He loved it though. He was right that Jaime & Cersei had killed the previous King, but he thought that that was Jon Arryn. He also, like my wife, didn’t realize Pentos was a different continent.

Even though it isn’t in the books, I kinda think the series could have benefited from a LOTR style summary at the beginning. Maybe that well used plot device of a child asking their parent about something. Bran comes to Eddard in the godswood and asks who Jon Arryn was, he gets a little history lesson. It is a often used plot device, but it is often used for a reason, because it is effective.

The title sequence, I don’t know, I didn’t like it. I thought it was very old fashioned, very 1981 Clash of the Titans. On my TV it seemed fuzzy too, not HD, which also made it seem old fashioned. When you compare the crispness of the actual series, to the fuzziness of the title sequence, it doesn’t seem to match. I do like the concept of showing the locations relevant to the current episode (which I’m told it does, so it changes every week) but I just didn’t like the style of it. With the gears and whatnot. It made it seem very industrial to me, when the series of course is not. I think too that the time spent allowing the cities to build themselves, if that was removed, would provide room for better explanations. Such as time to zoom back out and establish that Pentos is way over to the right, instead of zooming close in on land to the right to show Pentos, which doesn’t give a sense of position as well. I know some people have raved about the title sequence, but I’m not a fan. I kinda hope it gets changed. HBO did it with Big Love afterall.

The best performance goes to Mark Addy in my mind. His bit in the crypt about Lyanna was some stellar acting, and my favorite scene I think. I wasn’t sure about Mark Addy at first, knowing him only for his comedic roles (Full Monty, Still Standing, A Knight’s Tale). But he was very good as Robert.

My favorite line from the premier is “There is no Dothraki word for “Thank You.””, and I can tell Iain Glen is going to do excellently as Mormont.

I liked it of course, I’m ecstatic about the season 2 pickup. I love ship battles, love them, I’m reading the Master and Commander series right now, and I can’t wait for the Battle on the Blackwater, but that is going to be expensive, so I hope HBO doesn’t skimp on it, but I fear they may. Of course we’ve got some pedigree from the movie Troy working on this, and while they did not have any ship battles, they had a lot of shots of many ships in that movie, so maybe that will help. Maybe they’ll know a cheaper way to do it. If they really put the budget into that battle though, that is going to be some stellar TV. The problem is that they won’t just need faraway shots of ships, they’ll need sets, on water, of multiple hulls. With Rome HBO largely did not show battles, only aftermath, to save money likely. Hopefully, with advances in CGI since then, they’re able to show us the full Blackwater fight.

On the same token, I wonder if they’re ever going to show us the Dothraki hoard. All we have right now is Viserys comment about what he would allow be done to his sister to identify their size. A picture though can speak a thousand words, and no shots in the premier, nor in any footage shown thus far to the public, has shown how large a group they are. I think a single aerial shot of tents and campfires would go a long way towards establishing that.

In summary, I thought the acting was great, the faithfulness to the books was great. the sets and costumes were great. The editing, cinematography, and directing were so/so (but will change in future episodes) and the title sequence I did not like.

The series also seems to be a success, which is great. Season 2 pickup, good ratings here in the US, outstanding record ratings overseas, and as well, it is supposedly HBOs more lucrative series overseas ever, beating even the Sopranos. The head of HBO said that they fully expect it to be a grower of a series, like TrueBlood was/is, which is also good, because I agree, and it means they’re expecting and willing to give it time. I think once the season is over, and people here how awesome the plot and the finale was, people will start to watch it, on DVD, on demand, on rerun, etc. During the dog days of summer with nothing new is on, that is how I originally got hooked on TrueBlood, and then, when the Season 2 premier comes, hopefully more people will watch it, having been hooked, and that will truly be a sign of a successful series. If you can grow viewership year over year.

Bad news, more delays on Ice. Apparently the factory we hired to make them is having staffing problems, so they tell us. Excuses are just that though, excuses. I’m sorry it has taken so long, normally the stainless blades do not take this long. At this point I don’t even know if we’ll get them to you by the season finale of the series on HBO, when they were originally supposed to have been here by now, before it started.

As always, those who’ve ordered but are now tired of waiting can request refunds. We’re going to try to see about getting a partial shipment here sooner. But I can’t make any promises. The remaining damascus Longclaws are in the same situation.

I apologize for the delays, believe me, we wanted to have the sword out to coincide with the series, but it looks like it may not happen. As it stands, the earliest for a full shipment is likely to be July. Who remembers the Seinfeld restaurant episode? “When will our table be ready? 5, 10 minute.”