‘Game of Thrones’ – ‘The Pointy End’: Family feud

A review of tonight’s George R.R. Martin-scripted “Game of Thrones” coming up just as soon as I die with a song in my heart…

“I hope the wall’s high enough.” -Sam

Whether it was his choice or Benioff and Weiss’, Martin didn’t get the easiest draw when he wound up having to dramatize the events depicted in “The Pointy End.” It’s by far the busiest episode of the series to date, dramatizing Cersei’s consolidation of power, the start of open warfare between the Starks and Lannisters, and the growing threats from the north and west that might actually bring the feuding houses of Westeros together if they could stop worrying about power and insults real and imagined long enough to realize how badly they need to fight together.

And yet “The Pointy End” isn’t content to just be an hour of moving pieces around the chess board to set things up for the season’s final two episodes. There’s a lot of that, yes, but also some crackling dialogue, a few good character moments and some of the best action the show has featured to date.

Let’s start with the action, in fact.

Assuming he actually fell to his better-armed foe after Arya left the room, Syrio Forel had about as good a fictional death as I’ve seen in a while, especially given what a relatively minor character he was within the grand scheme of things.  Taking on multiple soldiers at once with nothing but a wooden practice sword? That’s some high-order badassery(*), and I can only hope Arya absorbed his lessons well now that she’s on her own in very hostile territory and nothing but Needle to keep herself alive.

(*) Though the staging of the scene did suggest that Syrio could have at least tried to pick up a real sword from one of his fallen opponents.

And yet Syrio’s toughness got one-upped by Khal Drogo, who did without weapons altogether (or, at least, without his own weapons) in killing his insubordinate pal Mago. Obviously, Jason Momoa is an incredibly physical specimen, so it’s less startling that he’d be able to do that than to see little Syrio do what he did, but still… that was very impressive, while at the same time being yet another sign of the influence Dany is having on her husband. She may have had to drag him towards the level of respect he has for her now, but by god he has it, and if that means keeping his men from raping their latest conquests because the Khaleesi doesn’t want it, then that’s just what the Khal is going to do. A number of you seemed troubled last week by how untroubled Dany was with the portion of Drogo’s speech about raping the women of Westeros, but here she gets a first-hand look at what the Dothraki army in action looks like – and the carnage that will occur if she wants to get back to the Iron Throne – and she clearly doesn’t like all that she sees. In this one instance, she’s able to change what the Khal usually does, but I imagine she’s going to have to compromise some principles to stay on this path.

Sandwiched in between those two splendid (if brief) fight scenes was Jon Snow doing a bit of zombie-killin’ up at Castle Black. Even though I don’t know much about the White Walkers, I suspected the dead soldiers were going to rise. Still, that was an effective little blend of horror and action, and I loved that ominous pan up the Wall as Sam and the other soldiers contemplated just how much trouble they could be in.

And, again, that’s the cruel irony of this season. Everyone’s playing their deadly little Game of Thrones, assuming that winter – much less the white walkers – won’t be returning anytime soon. And nobody other than Varys seems to consider the Dothraki any kind of imminent threat. (Even Robert, before he died, just assumed Dany’s baby would cause him trouble many years down the line.) They’re all feuding over territory and reputation and other things that are going to matter very little when an army of relentless savages attacks from one border and an army of zombies comes from another. So there’s this wonderful tension layered on top of a bunch of already tense scenes. You see Ned fearing for his life in the dungeon, or Cersei demonstrating her power by forcing Barristan into retirement so Jaime can have his job, or Robb struggling to keep his new coalition in line, and you just want to shake all these people and tell them to wake up before it’s too late and the only ones still standing to vie for control of Westeros are the White Walkers and the Dothraki.

There seems an awful lot to deal with in these final two episodes, but knowing that there are more books, and at least one more season, I imagine a whole lot of events and lives will still be up in the air by the time we get to the finale in two weeks.

Some other thoughts:

• After being absent last week, Tyrion Lannister makes a welcome return, being charming and amusing as always. But we know by now how well Peter Dinklage can play that side of the imp. What was most impressive was seeing Tyrion talk to his father, the one person in the world who seems to make him feel self-conscious and afraid. I also really enjoy the dynamic between Tyrion and Bronn, and got a big laugh out of Bronn puncturing all the “son of” silliness by telling Tywin, “You wouldn’t know him.”

• Though Sansa is a spoiled brat, I couldn’t help but feel for her here, with her loyalties so torn between the father she loves and the boy-king she’s convinced is her soulmate. And I also like that while Joffrey remains a petulant punk and his mother’s puppet, he’s genuinely hurt by the suggestion that he’s not really Robert’s son, and is using that as the basis for how he’ll choose Ned’s fate.

• Lord, every scene with Catelyn’s nephew Robin is so, so creepy. And when Tyrion suggested that he’d give the Vale to Shagga’s people, all I could think was that it serves Lysa right for refusing to help her sister.

• Ah, so that’s what the youngest Stark child looks like! And he even speaks!

• After all the discussion last week about how gratuitous the scene with Roz and Littlefinger was, I don’t imagine anyone’s going to view our glimpse of a naked Hodor as something balancing the scales.

That’s it for this week. I’m going to try to stick to this publishing schedule for the season’s final weeks, which I guess will give the West Coast readership first commenting dibs for a change, but there’s a chance that one or both of the final two reviews will wind up being posted the morning after.

And let me remind you, once again, that we are here to discuss the show AS A TV SHOW, and not just as an endless series of compare/contrasts with the books. If you want to bring up events from the books that have already been depicted on the show, that’s fine to a degree, but anything – plot, backstory, motivation, what have you – that has yet to be revealed on the show itself is absolutely off-limits. Any comment containing anything I find even remotely questionable will be deleted. Period.

What did everybody else think?