This review may contain spoilers.
For Jon Snow (Kit Harington), the bastard son of Lord Ned Stark (Sean Bean), life in the Sworn Brotherhood of the Night's Watch is hardly feeling like the great honor promised in the captivating tales from his youth.
Garrisoning a massive ice wall that runs the length of the northern border of the Seven Kingdoms of Westeros, the Night's Watch has fallen into decline after countless years of neglect by the crown. Jon's fellow recruits are primarily comprised of criminals, whose previous lives were as miserable as the cold, harsh reality of service at the wall.
Tyrion Lannister (Peter Dinklage), who accompanied Jon north from Winterfell, begins to feel the overwhelming hopelessness bearing down on the tattered Night's Watch. After helping Jon find some sense of peace regarding his new life on the wall, Tyrion promises to present the grievances of the brotherhood to the crown upon his return to King's Landing.
Meanwhile, in King's Landing, Ned discovers his role as Hand of the King is complicated by the fact that the crown is severely in debt. But before he can address the matter, his wife Catelyn (Michelle Fairley) arrives, bearing news of the attempted murder of their son, Bran (Isaac Hempstead-Wright). Petyr "Littlefinger" Baelish (Aidan Gillen), a childhood friend of Catelyn's, and Varys "the Spider" (Conleth Hill), a master of spies, offer to help reveal who is behind the plot. Evidence immediately points to Tyrion.
Bran, now a cripple, holds the real key to the culprits, however. But despite finally awakening from his coma, Bran can't recall the details of his fall.
At the same time, across the Narrow Sea, Daenerys Targaryen (Emilia Clarke) begins to embrace her life as wife of Dothraki warlord Khal Drogo (Jason Momoa).
Points Of Interest
1. After finding herself a pawn in her brother's quest to regain the Iron Throne, Daenerys is slowly beginning to take the leadership role of a khaleesi in Drogo's horde. As a result, Viserys Targaryen (Harry Lloyd) faces a shocking realization that his role as a future leader may be in more jeopardy than he thought. Clarke continues to present Daenerys in a fascinating light. You can feel the turmoil in her eyes. It'll be a treat to see her develop Daenerys' role as khaleesi and beyond.
2. Queen Cersei Lannister (Lena Headey) and her son, Joffrey (Jack Gleeson) have a fascinating conversation about the precarious nature of Westeros' political and military dynamics. The fact Joffrey seems half sane makes for an unexpected scene. Although flawed, his idea about forming a royal army was interesting.
3. Where is Jon Snow's albino direwolf? We only received a fleeting scene with the wolf during Jon's journey to the wall. It would have been nice to see the wolf appear in one of the Castle Black scenes during this episode to remind the audience of his presence.
Episode by episode, it is becoming steadily apparent what a talented cast HBO has assembled for this series. The casting is spot on. I could post a lengthy section of praise about how the various cast members are blossoming in their roles.
King Robert Baratheon's (Mark Addy) lament about his past exploits and the realities of combat make for an engaging scene. His verbal sparring with Jaime Lannister (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau) about the death of the previous king is particularly effective. Addy sells the role of a warrior far past his prime and stuck in a role he should have never pursued.
Tyrion continues to be captivating and amusing as he unleashes his sharp-witted tongue on the various members of the poor Night's Watch. His delivery of the line, "Do Dornish girls count?" was a howler. Dinklage is clearly having fun with this role.
Finally, the episode concludes with perhaps its best scene, as Arya Stark (Maisie Williams) discovers her father has arranged a master fencer, Syrio Forel (Miltos Yerolemou), to instruct her. Her infectious embracement for learning to sword fight is not only a charm for Syrio, but the audience as well.
What Didn't Work
This is another great episode overall. But as expected, with a series based on such a detailed novel, some scenes and character introductions -- like the Kingsguard's Ser Barristan Selmy (Ian McElhinney) -- are presented with little explanation. For that matter, the significance of the Kingsguard could use a quick brush up too.
Hopefully more elaboration will come to such sketchy scenes as the season progresses.
Giving Credit Where Credit Is Due
"Game of Thrones" stars Sean Bean, Lena Headey, Peter Dinklage, Nikolaj Coster-Waldau, Emilia Clarke, Michelle Fairley, Jason Momoa, Maisie Williams, Sophie Turner, Kit Harington, Harry Lloyd. "Lord Snow" was written by David Benioff and D.B. Weiss. It was directed by Brian Kirk.
"Game of Thrones" airs Sundays at 9 p.m. ET on HBO.
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