Episode: Game of Thrones 1.02 – “The Kingsroad”
Original Air Date: April 24, 2011
With Bran’s fate still in doubt, Ned leaves Winterfell with daughters Sansa and Arya, leaving Catelyn to stay behind to tend to Bran. Jon Snow, having no other choice, heads north with Uncle Benjen to join the brotherhood of the Night’s Watch. Tyrion also decides to forego the trip south with his family, and joins Jon and Benjen to the Wall. Across the Narrow Sea, Viserys still hopes to win back the throne with Drogo’s help, while Daenerys focuses her attention on learning how to assert herself with him.
Some disclosure again before we start: I have read the book, but I will try my best not to spend all my time comparing the two.
Let’s start with Bran because he was in some dire straits at the end of the first episode. Obviously, he survived the fall, but we don’t know in what condition he’s survived since him waking up was the episode cliffhanger. One of the things that happened in the book with Bran was a very metaphysical dream sequence that happened right before he wakes up. I was a bit disappointed that it wasn’t handled at all here, but it was probably for the better as it might not have translated well to TV. I do think it was an important part of Bran’s story (I’ve only read the first book completely so this is a hunch) and I’ll be interested to see if it’s addressed in some fashion later on.
There were also a number of things that happened before Bran woke up that involved him in some way. The first one was the exchange Cersei and Catelyn have while Catelyn is waiting for him to wake up. Not in the book but an excellent addition that fleshed out Cersei’s character a bit more. The story Cersei tells Catelyn about losing his first child may or may not be true, we don’t know. What we do know is that Cersei is someone who thinks much farther ahead than some others. Using the Momma Bear Factor, she creates a bond (tenuous as it may be) with Catelyn and attempts to cast any possible suspicion of her involvement away from herself. That lasts just long enough for Cersei and the rest of the King’s entourage to be halfway to King’s Landing, as a hooded man tries to assassinate Bran in the night. Catelyn fights him off best she can, but it is Bran’s dire wolf (currently unnamed) that saves both Bran and Catelyn. Afterwards, she has a meeting and is dead set on pinning this on the Lannisters and decides that Ned needs to know about it and she’s the only one to tell him because Rob must stay in Winterfell as lord of it in his father’s absence.
The other interaction around Bran that happened was when Jon stopped to tell him goodbye. I have conflicting feeling about this scene as Jon Snow is definitely one of my favorite characters and he genuinely cares for Bran (unlike Cersei) and is about to join a brotherhood that involves a lifetime commitment, celibacy, and leaving any and all ties and loyalties he previously had behind. This could very well be the last time he sees his brothers and sisters (half, but I get the sense that Jon was raised right along side the Stark children whether Catelyn liked it or not). He seemed eager to join up when he and Benjen talked to each other in episode one, but in this case it’s the only choice he has essentially and it might not be as appealing in this sense. He can’t go to King’s Landing with Ned because he’s a bastard. He can’t stay in Winterfell without Ned being there because he’s a bastard. So it’s a very emotional scene for Jon, and Catelyn is just so venomous towards him during it. However, Jon represents a lot of negatives for Catelyn. The last time Ned went off with Robert, he came back with a bastard child. Jon also represents, in her mind, a threat to her children’s right to Winterfell. Jon musters up his courage, goes to Bran, and says all the things you say to someone when you’re leaving and you’re not sure if you’ll ever see them again. Catelyn is spiteful and I think the fact that Ned showed up kept her from going any further. To his credit, when Jon is talking with Rob later on, he doesn’t tell him how hurtful she was.
My favorite scene here, and one of my favorites in the book, was when Jon gives Arya Needle. As close as he may be to his brothers, I think he and Arya have a special bond in that both don’t feel like they belong. It’s just a very touching moment that shows how much he cares for her and knows her that he would go behind Ned’s back to have a sword made for her (this is a world where it’s not common or accepted for women to take up arms). Plus, it had Nymeria in it and it was just a great scene for me. I really liked it. Having Needle also gets her into trouble during the trek back to King’s Landing. This series of events was so gut wrenching and infuriating.
Arya and her friend the Butcher’s boy are play swords with sticks. Joffery and Sansa come upon them, and Joffery being the evil twerp that he is starts threatening the Butcher’s boy. Arya smacks Joffery with the stick, Butcher’s boy runs off, Joffery chases down Arya with his real sword, all while Sansa stands there screaming about how Arya “ruined everything”. Yeah, I’m not a big fan of Sansa and my dislike only grew from there. Nymeria, of course, comes to Arya’s defense and latches onto Joffery’s sword arm, and when she lets go her and Arya run off into the woods. So, Arya has to chase off Nymeria by throwing rocks at her and that just broke my heart because I’m a big softie when it comes to animals. When Arya is found, she tells what actually happened while Joffery claims she and the Butcher’s boy beat him while Nymeria attacked him. They bring in Sansa to set things straight and all she does is claim she didn’t remember what happened. I have huge problems with this (going against your family and siding with a hateful, evil person just because you think he’s cute and he represents all those things you want), but it’s true to life. This could really happen. It backfires on her, however, as Cersei demands that a wolf be killed and if they can’t find Nymeria they will kill Lady (Sansa’s dire wolf). Ned does the deed claiming that Lady deserves so much better than the King’s Executioner, and that was awful. Sansa’s wailing and Arya’s demanding that they can’t do that to Lady because she wasn’t even there when all this went down (she defends Sansa even as her sister is essentially throwing her under the horse drawn wagon).
Two other important things happen for Jon on his way to the Wall. The first is right before the Night’s Watch group and the King’s entourage go their separate ways. Ned takes this moment to tell Jon that he may not have his name but he has his blood, and I think that’s something very important for Jon to hear from Ned. He also tells Jon that when they next see each other, they will talk about who Jon’s mother is (you get the sense that Ned doesn’t talk about her with anyone). Then they go their separate ways. One thing I did not like at all about this was the fact that Ghost, Jon’s dire wolf, was nowhere to be seen. He takes Ghost with him when he goes to the Wall, and to leave that element out had me going, “WHAT?!” at the screen.
The other important thing is his developing relationship with Tyrion. Tyrion, for some reason that we’ve yet to find out, keeps trying to help Jon, keeps trying to tell him that you need to arm yourself with more than just a sword sometimes. Jon thinks he has it tough, well, Tyrion no doubt has had it tougher despite being a legitimate Lannister, and he more than anyone right now can help Jon grow as a man.
Lastly, we’ve got Daenerys trying to cope with her new life. It’s not easy. The Dothraki are nomadic warriors so there’s a lot of just riding horses from one place to the other. The other part that isn’t really working for Daenerys is the alone time with Drogo. Jorah notices that she flinches every time she sees Drogo and tells her that it’ll get easier. Jorah and Daenerys’s relationship was something I very much enjoyed in the book, and I’m glad that they’ve translated that to the show. He sees a strength in her, I think, that compels him to basically be her man, in the sense that he will do anything for her. The exchange Jorah has with Viserys, on the other hand, made me feel like Jorah might not be as loyal to this supposed kind as he claimed he was at Daenerys and Drogo’s wedding. I get the sense that Jorah has doubts about Viserys’s ability to rule a kingdom. Back to Daenerys, she has one of her handmaidens teach her how to please Drogo sexually so that they can start to come to some kind of understanding of sorts I guess. The handmaiden tells her that Drogo wouldn’t have wed Daenerys if he wanted the Dothraki way, and Daenerys tries this out. Asserting herself with Drogo at the end of the episode, it appeared that both were getting some pleasure out of the exchange this time and maybe some kind of connection was made between them. I hope there was. These two were my favorite couple in the book and I look forward to seeing their relationship progress through out the season.
Rating: 4.5 / 5 Stars