Each week, Vulture brings you a postshow analysis from Game of Thrones newbie Margaret Lyons and George R.R. Martin superfan Adam Pasick. This week: confessions, crowns, and the criminal justice system.
ADAM PASICK: This week was all about bastards and rape and apocalyptic visions ... and that's before I even started watching "A Golden Crown." Heyo! Once I actually tuned in, this week gave us some bravura scenes:
Danerys's extreme eating performance. Didn't that horse heart tartar — undoubtedly locally sourced and totally organic — look delicious? Somewhere in Brooklyn a chef is composing a tasting menu.
Simpleminded Sansa gives Eddard the brainwave that most of us had a couple of episodes ago: Baratheons have black-haired offspring, and the ever-creepier Joffrey is blond as his "Uncle" Jamie.
And, most spectacular, Viserys gets "a golden crown that men will tremble to behold." Dany, shades of Bran in the first episode, refuses to look away. You got molten-gold-crowned, son! Dany, stone-faced: "He was no dragon."
This was pure action-packed fun for me. Nary a moment of boredom. You?
MARGARET LYONS: I spent a lot of time this week considering how the Westeros criminal justice system works (or doesn't); if other people find fictional jurisprudence somehow less than tantalizing, that's on them. Me? I liked Tyrion's "trial" and Ned's harsh, fish-guts-based judgement.
I'm glad we finally got to Ned's realization that Prince Draco Malfoy is actually Inbred Prince Draco Malfoy, but I wish the scene itself had been a little more ... jazzy? Instead of just hearing him read out loud, could we have skipped that part and jumped right to him doing something with that knowledge? Talking to someone about it? Threatening to spill it? Something?
Everything else was pretty go-go-go, though: Slapsgiving for the King and Queen! Daernys tapping into her dragon DNA or whatever it is! The face-off with the creepy woodspeople, the King lashing out at his little brother, Tyrion bragging about how he likes to flavor his family's pot of soup, some cheerfully exposed genitals — what's not to like? That said, three scenes in particular stood out for me:
1. Tyrion's "confession." So fantastic.
2. Robert's "those were the days" smackdown. There's never really been a golden age for Westeros, at least not according to Renly, which makes the King's increasing despondence even more troubling: What if people look back on this as the best things ever got? Oy.
3. Viserys's gold-plating. Yikes! (Since this is probably the last time I'm going to get to write about him, I have to confess that I call him "Broernys" in my notes.) What does this mean for Danerys, though? How much does she still feel a need to avenge her father's death? She's the dragon, she's having a baby, she can eat a whole horse heart: The world's her oyster, right?
PASICK: "In the Westeros justice system, the people are represented by two separate yet equally important groups: the half-witted breast-feeding princes who investigate crime and the mercenary swordsmen who have a proxy duel to the death to decide the fate of the accused. These are their stories." CHUNG CHUNG.
I thought that sword fight was better than most, because it shows that the heavily armored knights who run things can be brought low by a canny fellow like Bronn who refuses to "fight honorably." I don't think I'm spoiling anything when I say this is a bit of a running theme in the series. Is there any such thing as chivalry and honor? Men like the Hound and Bronn disdain knightly behavior and win most of their fights anyway.
Then there's Khal Drogo's Golden Rule: If I dump a pot of molten gold on your head and you die, you didn't deserve to rule.
LYONS: I would watch the living crap out of a L&O: Westeros. Samwise and Jon would be the unlikely detective duo, and Catelyn — what with her hair-collecting skills — could be the no-nonsense medical examiner. Maybe Tyrion is the grandiose A.D.A., à la Jack McCoy, and Daernys his passionate and capable second-chair.
Until Dick Wolf comes a-callin', though, I'm with you: That sword fight was better than most. It also reminded me of one of my early beefs with the show — that characters' wants weren't clear. But when Lady Breastfeeder asked who wanted to avenge her husband's death, everyone volunteered. Do you really think any of those subjects want to die that day? Even to sort of abstractly avenge a death? I'm guessing no, but Westerosian culture isn't one that places a particularly high value on individuality, creative thinking, or self-determination. It's hard to figure out what characters want because they themselves don't even know. And the ones who do know exactly what they want, and ask for it specifically, well ... they get gilded in the most unpleasant possible way.
There are three more episodes this season, and I'm anxious for things to start coming together a bit more. I missed Jon this week and the kid from Skins again, and I really want to see Sansa wise up. Something tells me I'm in for at least a little disappointment ...
PASICK: Most of those knights volunteered to fight for Lady Breastfeeder (TM) because they thought they were fighting the Imp. Everyone's jaw dropped when Bronn stepped up, but Tyrion planted that seed way back in Ye Olde Kidnap Tavern, and set up the trial by battle perfectly via some golden promises and canny manipulation. Verbally dexterous characters like Tyrion ("I'm not particularly good at violence, but I'm good at convincing others to do violence for me"), Littlefinger, and Varys are the real champs at the Game of Thrones, whereas the bruisers like Ned and Robert and Jamie are always serving someone else's hidden agenda. Revenge of the Medieval Nerds!
Best joke of the series so far:
Tyrion: I milked my eel into a pot of turtle stew, I flogged the one-eyed snake, I skinned my sausage, I made the bald man cry ... I once brought a jackass and a honeycomb into a brothel ...
Prince Robin: What happened next? (Seriously, what happened next?)
LYONS: Agreed. If we can just get Arya to come by and kick his ass, I think we'll really be in business.