Game of Thrones – 8

I’ve started reading the original novel “Game of Thrones by George R.R. Matin (don’t worry, I haven’t caught up to the series yet, so no spoilers). As I do it’s interesting to note the changes that have been made, and their impact on the story. The Stark children’s (and the others, actually) ages have been radically changed, and their roles reduced, for starters. But that doesn’t mean the same truth that becomes obvious in the books is absent – only that it arrives later in the TV version. But that truth has become clear – this series isn’t about Ned Stark, or King Robert, or even the Lannister twins. It’s about the children – especially Ned and Catelyn’s, but the driving force that runs through the human behaviors here is the fate of the younger generation facing the deficits of the older.

In “event” terms, the big moment here was certainly the arrival, at last, of the whitewalkers. Just as Jon Snow thinks to rush off South to help his siblings after hearing news of Ned’s imprisonment, their arrival at The Wall reminds him that things are even worse there. In each episode of GoT we have at least one profoundly affecting scene of quiet dialogue, and here it was that between Bran and the captured bandit girl in the Godswood – one where she reminds him that for all the troubles at King’s Landing, they’re nothing next to the threat that awaits Westeros from beyond the wall.

As things have gotten worse, the good guys have been stretched progressively thinner. Bran, 11 years old and a paraplegic, is now the Lord of Winterfell – brother Robb off to lead the Stark’s bannermen and a force of 18,000 against Tywin Lannister’s vastly superior forces. Even Rickon made an appearance this week – his first speaking moment in the series if memory serves. He and Bran are all that remains of the Starks at Winterfell – even as the threat from the North grows worse.

As for Robb, he’s been a cipher up until this week – but Ned’s arrest and impending war with the Lannisters has forced him to the fore. His most interesting moment came as he freed a Lannister scout, caught spying on his army. Was it a Ned-like moment of foolish mercy? Rather, I think he cleverly realized the man had overstated the size of the Stark army – and wished to have that information passed along to the Lannister forces. Tyrion has rejoined them, having bought and cajoled his way out of The Vale with the help of Bronn the mercenary and a group of mountain tribesman bought off with promises of steel and gold. His father (there’s that theme again) was none too pleased to see him, but that’s to be expected. For now, Tyrion fights with his father – but I suspect there’s more to be heard from there.

Meanwhile, as if all that weren’t bad enough, Drogo and his hordes have gone on a rape ‘n plunder spree with eyes towards raising the funds they need to buy passage across the sea and attack Westeros from the East, to claim the Golden crown for his unborn child. Meanwhile Danerys seems to have taken it upon herself to “civilize” the horde – good luck with that, Khaleesi. And through it all, vile Ceresi (though the competition is stiff, I believe I hate her most of any character here) rules through her puppet son Joffrey, as Ned rots in the dungeon and the small council schemes to their own ends. Arya has managed to escape the castle through the bravery of her “dance instructor” Syrio Forel, who may or may not have perished for it. And Sansa is reduced to begging for Ned’s life. I guess his father of the year campaign will have to wait another year.

Interestingly, Martin himself wrote this episode – maybe because so damn much happened that they didn’t trust anyone else to make it work. Seriously, this was plot central – not as fascinating as the last few eps but breathtakingly fast-paced. And at last, after being a high-priced (and excellent) soap opera for seven weeks, GoT finally shows that it might just be an epic fantasy after all – we’ve finally got some magic and real swordplay to talk about. Just wait till the dragons show up…

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