Game of Thrones Revisited: 4.05 First Of His Name
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 this mid-season four episode which sees Westeros gain another king on the Iron Throne...
Warning: There may be spoilers for seasons one to seven...
It says something about the fourth season of Game of Thrones that First Of His Name is probably the weakest episode of the season and yet it's still a very strong episode. It's the calm before Mance Rayder's attack on Castle Black, Tyrion's trial and the infamous battle between the Red Viper and the Mountain, all huge moments that will dominate the rest of this fourth run.
It's also very much a period of transitional change for the show. Tommen is crowned King of Westeros, the boy king that everyone recognises could be a force for good, even his mother Cersei. It's a tragedy that her ruthless ambition will eventually lead to his death, but yet again she is not so far gone yet that that we still see some humanity in her. There was something very exposed about Cersei's conversation with young rival Margeray, admitting that her firstborn Joffrey was a monster that shocked even her.
Again, her conversation with Oberyn Martell might have been all to get him to her side in her case against Tyrion, but there was raw sadness in Lena Headey's performance as she spoke about missing her daughter Mycella. The young Baratheon princess would appear again in the somewhat less thrilling Dorne scenes, but it really is horrible to think that Cersei will never see her again. The one ounce of goodness in the former queen is her love as a mother; it's only when that is removed completely at the end of season six that she fully becomes the tyrant on the Iron Throne.
Talking of queens, the rise to glory that Daenerys has had since the start of season three starts to falter this episode. It was surprising on re-watch to see just how quickly her path to glory and freeing of the slaves of the three cities starts to unravel. The moment she is on the throne of Mereen, the slavers of Astapor and Yunkai have revolted and you can only imagine that life for the re-chained slaves will not be harsher than ever. There was something commendable in her insistence that she would not abandon Slaver's Bay in favour of conquering Westeros...at least not yet. Sadly, the greatest storyline she has had to date in Game of Thrones has come to an end. At least until season seven starts to recapture some of that glory.
It's a great period of transition for Sansa too. Her journey to the Eerie might be fraught with secrecy and the mad whims and paranoia of her aunt, but this is probably the happiest she has been since the early days of season one. Having a family reunion, enjoying cakes as Lysa reminisces another mother, it is a moment of reprieve before the darker days to come next season.
Kate Dickie makes am instant impression as she reprises her disturbed character from season one. She manages to flit from cold ruthlessness to lustful passion as she smothers fiance Petyr Littlefinge Baelish in kisses upon his arrival. Lysa is certainly a tragic figure too; her love for Littlefinger consumes her, jealously at Sansa's beauty quickly sees her engaged at her poor niece while the revelation that she poisoned husband Jon Arryn and sent the letter to Catelyn warning her of the Lannister plot - all at Littlefinger's behest - shows just how consumed she has become. It also confirms just how dangerous Littlefinger really is, finally confirmed as the mastermind that set the events of season one in motion.
Thr relationship between Arya and the Hound continues to provide plenty of dark humour, her attempts to strike him off her list by stabbing him with Needle failing to cut his armour and earning her a slap in the face instead. There was also some humour between Brienne and Pod this episode, with the squire in training proving to be less than adequate at his new role. His experience extends to pouring wine for Tyrion. His attempts to cook a rabbit provided a few laughs before First Of His Name went into darker territory with the final showdown at Craster's Keep.
Burn Gorman's Karl Tanned has a brief but effective role as the villain who murdered Jorah Mormont. His story ends here as Jon Snow leads a revenge attack, saving Bran Stark and his companions from rape, torture and murder and while the final fight was thrilling, Jon driving a sword through his face was a satisfying end to his character. Equally as satisfying was the brutal death of Luke Barnes' Rast at the hand of Ghost. Jon's reunion with his direwolf was a wonderfully joyous moment, while Bran walking away from his brother a second time was a very bittersweet moment. Bran won't see any of his family again until the seventh season.
First Of His Name is an episode of reflection and change. Daenerys' rise to power has reached its peak and now she needs to decide where she wants to rule. Tommen is crowned king and the world is adjusting to life after the cruelty of Joffrey. It's an episode holding its breath for the bigger things to come. Fortunately the second half of season four has some if the very best moments of Game of Thrones yet.