Here I was, about to say again how all the “Lord of the Rings” comparisons are misplaced, when we’re introduced to the overweight hero’s sidekick named Sam. Oh, well.
Yes, more and more I do believe Jon Snow is the hero of this piece, not Ned Stark. If anything this is shaping up as a story about the glory of misfits, bastards and oddballs – and as such, he’s the perfect protagonist. He’s also the one character we’ve met so far whose motives seem clearly and irrefutably good. He even takes poor Samwell, hopeless as he is, under his wing in the most inhospitable place in the Seven Kingdoms. And there could hardly be a person less suited to it than Sam – fat, cowardly, acrophobic and nearsighted. Yet as cruel as the Master-at-Arms, Thorne, appears to be one thing is clear – he knows just how bad things are going to get. In his own mind, he’s doing these soft misfits a service either way. If they get stronger, they might live – and they’re going to die in the most miserable way possible if they don’t.
I still feel this show resembles Rome more than anything, in that much of the pleasure comes from watching folks in an exotic setting act exactly the same way modern people would – messy, venal, power and sex-crazy, petty. This is not high fantasy on the order of LOTR, where noble ideals and brave innocents squared off against grotesque monsters and ultimate evil. Oh, we’ll have some of all that I’m certain – but mostly, this seems to be a story about power politics and personal betrayal. This was yet another episode driven by subtext, where the hidden meanings behind the dialogue were more important than the dialogue itself. And on that score, let me add a note of admiration for Aidan Gillen, who’s playing Littlefinger. In a huge cast like this is takes a lot to stand out, and he’s made that character really stand out. Along with Tyrion he’s probably the most intriguing one of the bunch for me so far.
If the 4th ep suffered from anything it was a sad lack of said Tyrion Lannister. He had a scene at the beginning where he appeared to do a kindness for Bran by giving him designs for a special saddle to help him ride without the use of his legs, and got in a few digs at Theon Greyjoy, the heretofore background character at Winterfell who’s actually the son of one of Ned’s vanquished enemies. But then he doesn’t appear again until the final moments, when he turns up in the ep’s best scene. It’s at an inn on the King’s Road, where he coincidentally meets up with Cat. In a moment of GAR she recalls the loyalty of several men-at-arms in the tavern to her father, then calls on them to take Tyrion into custody for conspiring to kill Bran. Bold and courageous though seemingly politically unwise – and not necessarily true, either. I still suspect Tyrion to be innocent of that charge, whether it was his dagger used or not. I’ll give this show credit – it certainly knows how to use the cliffhanger to good effect.