GAME OF THRONES 1.02 ‘The Kingsroad’

An assassin comes to finish off Bran at Winterfell. And Ned Stark is forced into a difficult situation by his daughters and his King.

Blair Marnellby Blair Marnell

Episode Title: "The Kingsroad"

Writes: David Benioff & D. B. Weiss

Director: Tim Van Patten

Previously on "Game of Thrones":

The King's Hand, Jon Arryn (John Standing) died, leaving Lord Eddard "Ned" Stark (Sean Bean) as the first choice of King Robert (Mark Addy) to take his place. However, Ned's wife Catelyn (Michelle Fairley) passed on her sister's warning that Jon Arryn was murdered, meaning that the King's enemies are closer than he thinks. Across the sea, King Robert's nemesis, Viserys Targaryen (Harry Lloyd) took the first steps towards reclaiming his father's throne by forcing his sister, Daeneryes (Emilia Clarke) to marry Khal Drogo (Jason Momoa) in order to gain sway over Drogo's barbarian horde.

Back in Winterfell, Ned's bastard son, Jon Snow (Kit Harington) found a kindred spirit in Tyrion (Peter Dinklage), the brother-in-law of the King who happens to be a dwarf. And within the castle, Ned's youngest son, Bran (Isaac Hempstead-Wright)  stumbled upon a secret while climbing the walls. To his surprise, Bran witnessed the King's wife, Queen Cersel (Lena Headey) having sex with her brother, Jaime (Nikolaj Coster Waldau). To keep their secret, Jamie threw Bran out of the window seemingly to his demise.

Story:

Sometime later, Tyrion is woken from his drunken revelry by his nephew, Joffrey (Jack Gleeson). Tyrion reminds Joffrey that he is expected to pay his respects to Bran, who survived the fall but remains unconscious. When Joffrey refuses, Tyrion strikes Joffrey three times to more forcefully make his point. Tyrion then joins his sister, Cersel and Jamie for breakfast, before telling them that Bran is still alive and hinting that he knows that they tried to kill him. Afterwards, Cersei visits Catelyn at Bran's bedside and reveals that she once lost a son herself. Inside the castle, Jon Snow visits his youngest sister Arya (Maisie Williams) and gives her a fine sword as his way of saying goodbye.

Jon then visits Bran and promises the unconscious boy that he can visit him on the Wall. But Catelyn treats him with contempt and orders him out of the room when Ned arrives. Catelyn berates Ned for choosing to go with the King as his new Hand instead of staying with his family. King Robert's entourage leaves with Ned and Jon among others. Before they part ways, Ned indicates that he's proud of Jon and he promises to tell him about his mother the next time they speak. At camp, Robert tells Ned that Daenerys' marriage to Drogo could be the first step of a new military campaign against them, but Ned dismisses their threat.

And across the sea, Daeneryes finds herself still used and abused by her new husband. However, her handmaidens are very attentive to her needs. She even gets one of her handmaidens to show her how to make love like a woman instead of a slave. When she tries it out on Drogo, he seems to like her initiative. On the way to the Wall, Jon travels with Tyrion and learns that some of his new brothers-to-be are rapists who took the Wall duty instead of castration. Back at Winterfell, Catelyn's grief brings the infrastructure to a standstill. Her son, Robb (Richard Madden) offers to step up, but he is soon distracted by a fire.

To her horror, Catelyn learns that the fire was set by an assassin who has come to finish off Bran. She manages to survive long enough for Bran's direwolf to rip out the man's throat and then lay beside his master as if nothing happened. Now suspicious about Bran's accident, Catelyn investigates the room he fell from and finds a long blonde hair that belonged to the queen. She later shares her suspicions with her loyal advisers and sons before taking off after Ned. Meanwhile, Ned's oldest daughter Sansa (Sophie Turner) tries to get closer to Joffrey, when they come across her sister, Arya sparring with a young boy.
 
Joffrey taunts the boy and even cuts his face with his sword. Arya retaliates and hits Joffrey with a stick before her direwolf, Nymeria mauls Joffrey's wrist. Arya also throws Joffrey's sword into the river. Arya runs away and forces Nymeria to leave her in order to save her life. When she is found, Arya is brought before the King and accused of attacking Joffrey with the other boy. Sansa doesn't back up her sister, leading to a brief scuffle between the two. When it looks like Arya will escape relatively untouched, Queen Cersei suggests that they kill Sansa's direwolf, Lady. And over the protests of Ned and his daughters, the King seems to agree.

In sadness, Ned agrees to kill Lady himself and spare her unnecessary pain. He also notes that the King's Hound (Rory McCann) has rounded up and killed the boy whom Joffrey had scarred earlier. Then Ned offers Lady some last comfort before slitting her throat. Back in Winterfell, Bran's eyes open simultaneously with Lady's demise.

Breakdown:

This was a lot less happening in this week's episode, but I actually liked it better than the series premiere. Now that we know the players, it's a lot easier to just sit back and enjoy the story.

I suppose one of the advantages of not being that familiar with the original "A Song of Ice and Fire" is that I don't know where it's going to go. If I had known that Bran was going to survive that fall at the end of last week's episode, there wouldn't have been such a powerful moment when his survival was in question. Once we knew that he did survive, it was pretty clear that he'd be waking up. And I appreciate the fact that the show didn't linger on that thread for multiple episodes.

We're also getting a better sense of just how dangerous this world is from the way that the Queen and her blood relations have threatened Ned's family. And not just by the two attempts on Bran. The King holding court over Arya without Ned seemed far more insidious, as did the outcome. Also, I really hate Joffrey for being such an insufferable brat. But I'll give Jack Gleeson some credit for making that work.

The two characters that I'm most interested in are still Jon Snow and Tyrion. I didn't realize in the first episode how much the rest of the Stark family cared for Jon (aside from Bran and Ned) until he said his goodbyes to his sister and brother. The disadvantage of not having read the novels is that I don't know if Jon will be a primary character throughout the series. But given the focus on him here, I would guess that he will be.

But Tyrion is definitely the character I like the most. I can't picture anyone but Peter Dinklage in the role. He's just perfect for that part and he really carries Tyrion with a sense of intelligence. Tyron was even in this episode's best epic moment when he and Jon saw the Wall for the first time.

Ned's other kids also grew on me this week, especially Arya and to a lesser extent, Robb. I've got a lot less sympathy for Sansa after lying about what happened with her sister, but we'll see how long it takes her to realize what a colossal douche Joffrey is.

I can't quite bring myself to like Catelyn. Michelle Fairley does well enough in the role, but I just don't care for her after seeing her treat Jon Snow like so much dirt beneath her feet. That said, the attempted assassination scene was really strong and also one of the best moments of the hour.

As for Ned, it seems like he's getting a pretty clear picture of where he stands with the King and the royal family. When the King could have spared Lady, he refused. The only mercy the King showed him was the option to punish Arya himself.

The extended Stark family has a pretty firm grasp on my attention. But I'm less taken by the cutaways to Daeneryes across the sea. I'm sure she's an important character or else we wouldn't be following her. However, her story this week can be summed up as "Daeneryes discovers the Joy of Sex." Not exactly the most riveting plotline.

However, if the rest of this series is going to be as good as these first two episodes, then "Game of Thrones" is easily going to be one the best new shows this year.

Crave Online Rating: 8.5 out of 10.