Each week, Vulture brings you the Game of Thrones post-show debate from Westeros newbie Margaret Lyons and George R.R. Martin superfan Adam Pasick. This week's episode, "Cripples, Bastards and Broken Things," shed some light on, well, cripples, bastards, and broken things — in the best possible way.
MARGARET LYONS: It's official: I have shed my first tears over Game of Thrones. I will cry at pretty much anything — I have cried at really poignant gifs — but I didn't think this show would ever push me over the edge. Wrong! Sam is my new favorite, and the story of his father's rejection gave me a crazy case of the sads.
Tyrion said this week that he had a soft spot for "cripples, bastards, and broken things," and I'm right there with him. And there are a lot of people to be soft-spotted for, I guess, considering how broken everyone's spirits are. Particularly about their fathers! Holy moly, are there any good dads on this show? Even Ned, who's a pretty good dad, is kind of a terrible father to Jon. Why does everyone know Jon's origin story? I'm sort of perplexed why Ned wouldn't have just ... lied about him, and said something to his wife like, "Hey, this baby was abandoned, I think we should raise him with love!" It just seems so unfair, and poor Jon is so, so burdened and guilty about his own existence. I hope he meets his mom, and I hope it goes great. That could happen, right? Lots of stuff on this show has a happy ending ... doesn't it?
There was actually one moment that made me pretty happy this week, and that was Daenerys clocking her POS brother. I second that emotion, blondie! Especially after the weird back-lit spittle string between him and his sex slave this week. That was even grosser than the jousting match, which was extremely gross. To channel Valerie Cherish, albeit briefly, I don't need to see that.
The one thing that's still surprising me week-to-week is how creepy this show is — there's so much leering and implied threats and this kind of panting voyeurism. People are constantly observing one another at moments when people shouldn't be or aren't usually observed: How often do these people listen to and watch each other have sex? Pretty often, I guess! There's a very lecherous blackmail economy in place, and it makes everything seem sleazy; there's a predatory undercurrent in almost every conversation. The scene of Littlefinger telling Sansa about the Hound made my skin crawl. (My notes here say "I predict more rapes.") Maybe that's why I like Samwell and Jon together so much: They are pals! No blackmail rape vibes necessary!
My patience is being rewarded, right? Now all I'm left to wonder is: What's the ETA on these damn dragons?
ADAM PASICK: Glad to hear that you're getting sucked in to Westeros. I would love to think my silver-tongued Littlefinger-esque commentary has played some modest role.
What ambitious TV drama could ever get by without bad dads? I don't think Ned fits the bill, though, or at least not how you're suggesting. Honorable Ned Stark would never be willing or able to make up some lie about finding Jon by the side of the road. It did leave some scars on Jon, though. Passing on sex with the as-yet-unseen but incredibly hot-sounding Roz because he doesn't want to father a bastard — that's some powerful abstinence education! Bristol Palin and Purity Ball organizers should take note.
Sex and its consequences seems pretty interwoven into the show, which almost but doesn't quite justify the gratuitous boobage. I thought the reactions of Sansa and Arya, upon being told of their futures as royal child-bearers, were pretty telling. Sansa is worried about having only girls and thus being hated — I am viscerally disliking the Sansa character — while Arya wants to opt out of the whole shebang, grimly telling her father, "That's not me."
Best development of a great episode: I am starting to think that the blank-faced portrayal of Daenerys in the early episodes was more a dramatic ploy than bad acting. Even better than the gold-belt bitch-slap was the subtle and well-acted moment when she realized that her brother was never going to be king — and she, by implication, could one day rule the Seven Kingdoms herself.
And finally, what better way to put that NFL concussion scandal into perspective! Cue Hank Williams Jr. on the electric lute: Are you ready for some jagged wooden splinters to the jugular?
LYONS: I'm opting to just move forward with Daenerys and not focus too much on the fact that I don't think Emilia Clarke is a very good actress. I don't hate Sansa quite as much as you do; she's annoying, sure, but I think of her as the Becky to Arya's Darlene. Darlene's better, obviously, and she's much more entertaining and original, but that's the kind of character that thrives on contrast.
My complaint this week — and I can't believe we've gotten this far without talking about it — is that GoT still doesn't seem to know what needs to be explained and what doesn't, and how quickly those things need to happen. For example: the scrappy blacksmith boy! From the second Gendry arrived, it was obvious that he was the King's abandoned son. [Let the record show that both Margaret and Adam immediately recognized Joe Dempsey from his role as Chris on Skins.] Even though the scene was short, it was frustrating: Just come out with it! Or Cat at the inn, making the various guys recite their lineage and then making them do her bidding: Such a cool scene, and it explained a lot about everyone's obsession with his or her heritage, but it dragged, dragged, dragged. The show doesn't seem to understand which parts of itself are exciting.
PASICK: I guess the Khaleesi really is in the eye of the beholder. But then again, I never liked Becky much either (except fake Becky. She was cool).
With Chris/Gendry (I kept waiting for him to down a handful of Viagra and ecstasy), I think the show is trying to bring in one of the narrative tricks from the books: The audience often knows a lot more than the characters do. We intuit within an instant that he's Robert's bastard, but does Gendry know that? That's the potential source of narrative tension, not the rather obvious reveal about who he is.
For the tavern scene, I think it was just botched execution. That should have been a huge, momentous scene, where Catelyn stops playing detective and becomes a full-fledged player in the Game of Thrones. Instead, it just ... kind of ... happened.
Now if you'll excuse me, I'm off to see if I can get Tyrion's MacGyver-esque horse saddle for the disabled funded on Kickstarter.