Game of Thrones Revisited: 1.04 Cripples, Bastards, and Broken Things
Game of Thrones, the critically acclaimed TV series by David Benioff and DB Weiss and developed from the best-selling series of novels by George RR Martin, has become a cultural icon. The tentpole of HBO's programming with a stellar cast and mix of medieval-style political drama and war with a healthy dash of fantasy, Game of Thrones has enthralled audiences worldwide. And in 2019, the show will come to a dramatic end in its final run of feature length episodes. In the lead up to season eight, I explore every episode leading up to the final battle for Westeros and the rest of the world, continuing with the fourth episode of season one.
Warning: There may be spoilers for seasons one to seven...
One thing I have noticed, rewatching these early episodes, is how many seeds are planted for future storylines. There is a lot of clever groundwork when it comes to establishing this world, some of which won't become apparent for years to come; Game of Thrones takes the rich source material of George RR Matins's novels and builds a very real and vibrant world on screen.
Some hints are more overt; in this episode we meet Robert's bastard son Gendry (Joe Dempsie) while he discovers that Jon Arryn was investing a book of lineage, the first clues to the discovery that Joffrey, Tommen and Myrcella were not fathered by the king of Westeros. Knowing of his fate to come, seeing Ned Stark wade deeper into the pity of treachery and intrigue that is King's Landing, manipulated by Littlefinger, going head to head with Cersei and debating deceitful 'old man' Grand Maester Pycelle, his lack of skill in this arena is more and more apparent, despite his attempts to coerce loyal northern man Jory Cassel (Jamie Sives) to aid him in his investigations into his predecessor's death.
There are more subtle hints to the future to come too. Bran Stark sees a three-eyed raven, setting up his destiny, the first references to Theon's people the Ironborn are made, and Littlefinger sinks his claws into Sansa with a terrifying story of happened between the Sandor 'The Hound' Clegane and Gregor 'The Mountain' Clegane; the first appearance of the Mountain (and the first of many actors) certainly makes a strong impression, gutting his opponent Hugh of the Vale in the jousting tournament to the horror of Sansa, Arya and Septa Mordane. Watching Littlefinger's reaction,you can see his bemusement as the Stark girls witness the bloody death before them, already planning his next, manipulative move.
I'm also surprised at just how vile Robert Baratheon is in these episodes; he spends half the episode locked in a room of whores while his brother in law guards the door and hides none of his rude, uncouth arrogance at the tournament. "We've been sitting here for days! Start the damn joust before I piss myself..." This really is a man fallen from grace, so much so that you feel for Cersei as hard as they might be to imagine years later.
But there is plenty outside King's Landing to keep the audience intrigued at this point. After his humiliation last episode, Viserys Targaryen is as cruel and petty as ever. Harry Lloyd exudes arrogance; he scoffs at the gift of Dothraki clothing, refusing to bow to the wim of these savages. His treatment of Doreahas in their bath scene as he boasts about his knowledge of dragons is cold and condescending; he mocks her innocence and wonder and uses her like a piece of meat to humiliate her. Viserys truly is the villain of these early episodes.
He even presumes to beat Daenerys down but her will is quickly shown to be stronger than his; emboldened by her role as Khaleesi and confidence in Jorah, she has already awoken to the fact that her brother will never sit on the Iron throne. It is great to see these early days in her character journey and in the space of four episodes she has already risen from meek, frightened girl to the wife of a great leader. Emilia Clarke my not have that cold fire audience witnessed in the Queen of Dragons of later seasons, but she is already conveying the strength of Daenerys as she embarks on a voyage of self discovery.
Up at the Wall, we are introduced to the loveable, tragic Samwell Tarly (John Bradley). He was never a fighter but here in his first appearance he truly is a pathetic man; he can't fight, he can't see very well and he doesn't like heights, making him the absolute worst candidate for the Night's Watch. His backstory is horrible too, forced by his father to take the black on his eighteenth birthday or have a 'riding' accident all because Sam wasn't deemed fit to carry on the title of Lord Tarly.
Sam's presence does give Jon something to do other than train and be belittled by the recruits and the arrogant Alliser Thorne (Owen Teale playing a rather despicable character). While Thorne was always a thorn in Jon's side (pun intended), his discussion about what winter really means shows great experience in the role and there is a sort of grudging respect for his lack of enthusiasm for these new recruits. As for Jon, using Snow to frighten the fellow recruits into not attacking Sam was a cool moment and forces the bond of what will become a strong friendship between these two.
And finally there is Tyrion who first appears in Winterfell to bestow poor Bran with a special bridle that will allow him to ride. It's a lovely moment, completely out of character from the rest of the Lannister clan and there is a great deal of sympathy for this character both in his gift and passing reference to his cruel, compassionless father (the yet unseen Tywin). Already it is clear that he is being set up by Littlefinger and other shadowy cohorts. Catelyn ordering his arrest in the inn is a surprise twist and like what happened to Bran, shows that in Game of Thrones bad things happen to good people. That final scene is also notable for the first reference to the Freys and the debut of Jerome Flynn's Bronn, who already makes a connection with Tyrion before the dwarf's arrest.
Cripples, Bastards, and Broken Things is another strong episode, full of confident scene-setting while not being devoid of engaging plot or characterisation. The attention to detail being taken to establish this world and its inhabitants is stunning; the various threads will be paid off down the line but there is plenty to enjoy here before the big fan favourite moments that dominate Game of Thrones in the seasons to come.