Game of Thrones Revisited: 1.08 The Pointy End
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 eventful eighth episode of season one...
Warning: There may be spoilers for seasons one to seven...
George RR Martin picks up writing duties for this late season one episode and what an episode it is; there are some huge moments in this episode, not least Jon Snow's first encounter with the living dead and the encroaching war between the Lannisters and the Starks as Robb marches south to meet the armies of Tywin and Jamie Lannister.
But first, the opening act in King's Landing picks up on the shocking betrayal of Ned Stark, as Cersei's forces run riot through the Stark's men, slaughtering everyone in sight. It's a harrowing, tense and very brutal sequence of events. Arya trains with Syrio Forel unaware of what is happening until it is too late. Miltos Yerolemou is a delight in his final scene, fending off four of the Kingsguard with just a wooden sword and it is easy to see why so many fans hold out hope for his return - his dying scream as Arya runs off taking place off screen. This is also the end of Arya's innocence; facing bloodshed and the dead all around her she retrieves Needle and accidentally kills her first victim, a stable boy that got too close.
Susan Brown has been a composed, commanding presence as Sansa's Septa Mordane since the very first episode and she remains poised and in control right to the very end as she faces off against the Lannister guards while she allows Sansa to flee. There's some small measure of comfort in not witnessing her death. Poor Sansa meanwhile, begins her role as a pawn in the machinations of Kings' Landing, caught between Cersei and Littlefinger, pleading to a 'merciful' Joffrey and being manipulated into sending a letter to her brother Robb that plays right into Cersei's hands.
Ian McElhinney ends his initial tenure on Game of Thrones as the noble Ser Barristan Selmy; Cersei and Joffrey presuming to retire him is their first mistake, his departure leading him to join Daenerys Targaryen in season three. There is also a great little scene between Varys and Ned in the prison cell, Conleth Hill's secretive performance making the spider one of the most fascinating players in the show.
The Tyrion and Bronn double act is in full swing here as they make their way to join his father; the addition of mountain tribes led by Mark Lewis Jones Shagga, son of Dolf, is the leader of the Stone Crows is a delight too. There's a wonderful comic balance Bronn's bluntless and Shagga's roughness against Tyrion's arrogance - Peter Dinklage exuding confidence in his performance while having the charm to ensure the audience is on his side every step of the way.
The Northern army stuff is less interesting; Clive Mantle's Greatjon Umber is a caricature of a gruff northern lord (complete with broad Yorkshire accent) though he is entertaining. It does expose Richard Madden's lack of presence as Robb Stark, though perhaps the inexperience is supposed to be implicit. You can't help but think he is only stronger when his mother Catelyn turns up to rally the northern army.
I had forgotten how early the undead stuff kicks off at the Wall; the direction from Daniel Minahan is terrific, the dead Nights Watchman coming back to life and attacking Jon is tense and atmospheric; again it's easy to take for granted these moments given the scope of the latest seasons but this is a chilling continuation of the creepy opening scene from the first episode.
Finally, we see the Dorthraki brutally attacking and raping the poor lambsmen, much to the horror of Daenerys, who takes her first step to becoming the 'freer of chains' when she demands her husband put the women about to be raped under he protection. Khal Drogo being cut in a dispute with one of his generals (the tongue ripped out through his throat was cool) and the appearance of Mirri Maz Duur sets the scene for the tragic events to follow. But overall, the whole storyline feels a little rushed and unnecessary. we're supposed to see the Dothraki and this world's version of the Huns - by this random series of attacks doesn't really bear much relevance to Drogo's decision to invade Westeros for his Khaleesi and unborn child.
But these are small gripes. The Pointy End is another superb episode that broadens the scope of the show, ignites the war of the Five Kings that will dominate season two, lay the seeds for the White Walkers and portrays the downfall of the house of Stark. It is an epic hour of television from beginning to end.