That Pretty Much Sums It Up, Folks
A Television Review by Akash Singh
NOTE: SPOILERS OCCUR!!!!!!!
The spectrum of politics may be vast, but it is not nearly vast enough to accommodate people who consistently try to do the right thing, regardless of the consequences. That is not to say you have to be immoral and despicable to hold on to power (although some will inevitably take that lesson away from this). You have to be smart, that is all. By smart I do not mean anticipating every single move that can possibly be made because that is impossible and in that pursuit you will more than likely die than anything else. Intelligence comes from observations, patience, learning from your mistakes as quickly as possible, and above all, garnering knowledge. It’s an extraordinarily difficult task, but it becomes nearly impossible when one refuses to see past a strict sense of principles whose rigidity threatens to break their entire back. There’s a time to stay quiet and there’s a time to act. Surviving the political web doesn’t require you to break all aspects of morality, it requires you to bend them long enough to survive. Otherwise you end up with a knife at your throat.
We receive our open introduction to Tywin Lannister, played by the impeccable Charles Dance. Skinning a stag in another moment of Thrones foreshadowing, Tywin harshly lambastes Jamie for riling up the Starks. Nevertheless, he provides him with a sizable force to attack Riverrun in retaliation for Tyrion’s seizure. Daniel Minahan’s camera wisely makes Tywin occupy the majority of the camera while Jamie is hidden behind him in the shadows. And to think his shadow will only grow more vast as the series continues.
The Night’s Watch scenes were the most compelling yet, especially considering the Wall can be a hit or miss location for the series. Benjen Stark’s horse arrives alone, naturally creating a sense of panic and a thousand different fan theories simultaneously. The assignments were to be given out that day and Jon, ever the experienced swordsman, expects to be made a ranger so he can go and look for Benjen and crew. To his massive disappointment, he’s made a steward to Lord Commander Mormont. Furious, he only calms down when Samwell rightfully points out that he’s being groomed to take command of the Night’s Watch. Jon startles, noting the wise observations of Sam – he gets it. The newbies take their vows near a Godswood tree in a seminal moment. Kudos to the art design and cinematography here: the visuals are simply stunning, the red of the leaves contrasting starkly (see what I did there?) with the frigid ice around them. The warm brotherhood scene suddenly collapses as Ghost brings Jon a dismembered hand.
Daenerys is having a difficult time convincing Drogo to invade Westeros and understandably so. As far as Drogo is concerned, invading Westeros doesn’t gain him anything. He’s already a ruler and is fairly comfortable without sitting on a throne made of giant swords. Daenerys is a little frustrated but goes into a market with her entourage. Jorah receives a royal pardon, realizing his work in the shadows meant that the assassination plot against Daenerys was in full swing. He arrives just in time to prevent that from happening, his turn towards the Targaryen camp complete. The assassination attempt had a domino effect in and of itself: Drogo is furious at the knights who would attempt to kill his beloved Khaleesi and the unborn Rhaego. Towering in absolute fury, he screams that the Dothraki will lay siege to Westeros and garner the Iron Thrones for his wife and child. Daenerys beams with pride, the desire for the throne gleaming brightly in her eyes.
If it wasn’t already clear, Ned’s headed for pure misery. In his most noble yet dumbfounding move, Ned tells Cersei that he knows the truth about Joffrey’s birth, providing her with ample amount of time to “get out of the capital,” which naturally Cersei used to her advantage and solidified her moves against the Hand of the King. Robert succumbs to his hunting wounds, Mark Addy providing the damaged king with an incredible amount pathos in his very last moments. He names Ned Lord Regent before his death, not that that would end up helping his friend. Renly begs Ned to help him ascend to the throne and remove the Lannisters from power. The Gold Cloaks promised by Littlefinger turn on Ned as the episode comes to a close. Littlefinger lays his cold knife against Eddard’s neck, whispering how he was a fool for trusting him. The drumbeats of war are palpable, pushed by an honest man’s need for mercy. If only Eddard knew how to play his game in the shadows, or play at all for that matter. Ned wanted to spare the fate of the Targaryen children to the Lannisters despite what they had done to his own child. And by the cruelest of ironies, he sealed his own family’s fate instead.
Great Moments Not Mentioned Above:
+The camera angle behind Cersei as she approaches Ned makes her seem omnipotent in comparison, a massive menace looming in front of his very existence.
+Osha informing Maester Luwin that the real threat is from the White Walkers and that the armies of the Seven Kingdoms
+Interrupting what the three horns stand for in a great moment of foreshadowing
+How much do we wish that Ned had helped Renly gain the throne or just taken it for himself?
Title: You Win or You Die
Written By: David Benioff and D. B. Weiss
Director: Daniel Minahan
Image Courtesy: David J. Batista @ Blogspot, Game of Thrones Wiki, Fanpop, Lifestyle 9, The Kings Keep @ WordPress, History Behind Game of Thrones, What Culture, A Reddit of Ice and Fire, How To Be a Stark @ Tumblr