Game of Thrones: 405 “First of His Name” Review
Reviewed by Thomas Firth.
This was probably the best forward movement we’ve had in any of the episodes in Season 4 so far, with a lot of new angles to take into account. So far, the season has been a range of ups and downs, but this week’s holds the trophy for being the first to be a consistent build up to the final scene.
All across the map there was some sort of development, but beyond the Wall it appeared to be the most game-changing. As Jon’s small force moves in towards Craster’s Keep, we see Locke single-handedly search the location unseen. He seems a talented fellow and a likeable character, despite the fact that the viewers know he has other ideas. He was sent by Lord Bolton, to capture either one of the Stark boys, locating him inside Craster’s Keep meant that while his so-called friends were fighting, he was able to slip away with Bran, without anyone ever knowing. His escape is cut short with Hodor’s heroic moment, in which he breaks Locke’s neck, ending his mission in a heartbeat. We all knew Jon and Bran could never really be reunited, and through a worthy excuse, this becomes true as the Northbound group continue on their journey towards the Weirwood Tree. The final scenes were definitely pleasing as Karl Tanner is stabbed in the throat by his opponent Jon, whilst Ghost is quick to kill Rast in the Forest. The lengthy scene itself was expertly crafted by director Michelle MacLaren, who not only managed to parallel the stories simultaneously, but also brought a very lively atmosphere to the battle. It was only a battle of around twenty men, but it became something much more than that in the end.
As well as the ending, the rest of the episode, although low-key, was no doubt bursting with energy. Some hefty developments were made in the Eyrie, where we learn that Lysa Arryn has been planning Lord Peter Baelish’s arrival with great intent, especially when it comes to her marriage preparation. Even though it is subtle, it seems Baelish has been the culprit of many other plots, that reach back to the first season of the show. It was implied that Jon Arryn’s death was perhaps orchestrated by Littlefinger, as well as Lysa due to her deep, unidentified love for Bealish. Sansa is evidently shocked by Lysa’s violent attitude towards her, and we are left wondering whether the Eyrie was the safest place for her to be. On the other hand, it’s quite clear that almost nowhere is safe in Westeros.
Arya’s character takes a long-awaited refreshment, as she privately practises her fighting stance, once taught by Syrio Forel. Following a night of listing names, the Hound is a little surprised to discover that he remains on the list. To strengthen that surprise, he finds her performing her ‘water-dance’ the following morning. We are reminded as viewers, that whilst Arya is a self-preserving female, whose skills better a lot of other warriors, thanks to her dancing master, the Hound has an overwhelming amount of experience in these matters. In one strong slap, he has her on the ground, teaching her the truth about fighting. But for a moment, Arya had that deathly glint in her eye that we haven’t seen since Polliver’s murder.
Tensions are rising in King’s Landing once again as the ‘worthy’ Tommen Baratheon is crowned King of the Andals and Ruler of the Seven Kingdoms. Cersei’s character has taken a new angle altogether, meeting politely, might I add, with her cohorts Margaery and Oberyn. There’s a definite hint that she might be brewing some other destructive pandemonium, but her lady-like self is pulling through. She’s even thinking of her other children; she bears a gift for Myrcella in Dorne. Her attitude aside though, her mind has been so routed in confidence that she continues to stand by her accusation that Tyrion is the accursed Kingslayer and no other way about it.
Perhaps, the most interesting scene in this episode was the one set in Meereen across the Narrow Sea. Daenerys has had, not a change of heart, but definitely of mind, to protect her rule over the Slaver’s Bay, before making any decision to cross towards Westeros. This follows Jorah’s comment that both Yunkai and Astapor have been retaken by the Masters, following her moral journey towards freeing every slave in Slaver’s Bay. Whilst her council do advise her that she has the potential to attack Westeros successfully, her decision is to stay local. Generally, this could be a significant rise of power for Daenerys, but alternatively, it could be her downfall. The main test is finding out if she is fit to rule or not.
David Benioff and D. B. Weiss have their own unique style of writing their episode, and I feel I prefer their style to anyone else’s. Not only are they able to show a substantially effective side to the show, but their scripted dialogue captures that of Martin’s skill. They undoubtedly know their A Song of Ice and Fire novels (probably because Martin has confided everything in them), but also bring to the characters how they were portrayed in the novels as well. That is why they can write the strongest episodes.
Not much on the negative front to add, except for a low-key style to the episode and a lack of certain appearances including Stannis, Davos, Ygritte, Tormund, Roose and Ramsay. They are important characters in the show and cannot be ignored this long, otherwise the viewers might forget about them, which is a mistake a show this vast cannot make.
Anyhow, the show is undoubtedly moving in strides instead of steps now, with an inevitable battle coming close. If they play their cards right, the second half of this season could be the best line of episodes the series has ever created with a shift big enough to cause an earthquake.