Welcome welcome to our Season 1 finale of The Wars to Come, the Game of Thrones rewatch project here at The Fandomentals. It’s been quite a journey to go back to the days of showrunners Benioff and Weiss (D&D) trying to adapt George R.R. Martin’s books, and the results have been pretty interesting. For the last two weeks, we’ve been enjoying fairly strong episodes, and while next week we will have a podcast for you on Season 1 as a whole, today Kylie, Julia, and Danzie are going to be focusing entirely on “Fire and Blood.” As always, we begin by recounting the events for those who weren’t able to watch.
Following the shock of Ned Stark’s execution, it’s complete political mayhem in Westeros!
The Stark sisters get an up-close view; Arya gets spirited to safety by Yoren, who cuts her hair and says she’s to disguise herself as a lowborn boy during his march back to The Wall with new recruits. Two other boys try to bully her to steal Needle, but Arya holds her own and is backed up by Gendry, also traveling with Yoren’s group. Sansa, meanwhile, remains a political prisoner slated to marry Joffrey. The new king is busy ruling in a rather horrifying manner, ripping the tongue out of a bard before taking Sansa out to look at her father and Septa Mordane’s heads on spikes. For a minute it seems like she contemplates pushing him off a wall (and herself as well), but she is stopped by the Hound, who tells her to simply give Joffrey what he wants. How will both sisters survive their respective messes?
Well, one answer might be from their brother Robb, who is determined to continue the war effort to get them back (after which Cat promises they will get their revenge). He wants to support Stannis as the next rightful heir to the throne, but the Northern Lords have another thing to say about that: they will only serve Robb Stark, the King in the North!
Tywin, meanwhile, just received news both of Ned’s execution and Jaime’s capture. When Tyrion points out that there’s no hope of fostering peace without a living Ned, Tywin agrees. He’s been named Hand of the King by Joffrey, but wants to oversee his war effort at Harrenhal, which apparently includes the burning and ransacking of the riverlands. He decides to send Tyrion in his stead as acting-Hand, under the condition that Tyrion does not bring Shae with him. Tyrion, however, is sick of his father getting his way, and decides he’ll bring her all the same.
Up at The Wall, Jon takes the news of his father’s death poorly and almost deserts the Night’s Watch in the night, so he can join his brother’s war effort. He is stopped by Sam, Grenn, and Pyp, who recite their vows to him and convince him to stay. Jeor Mormont later berates Jon for this, pointing out that there’s walking dead now, so maybe his efforts are better spent at The Wall. The Lord Commander then lets him know that he wants Jon to accompany him beyond The Wall with most of the Night’s Watch so that they can learn what’s really out there.
Meanwhile at Winterfell, the news of Ned’s death may not have entirely been a surprise for Bran or Rickon. The former had another crow dream in which he saw his father in the crypts, while Rickon claimed he saw the same thing (though it’s unclear if it was in a dream). Has there been a magical reawakening in the world?
That question is better answered in Essos, where Dany finds the results of asking a “witch” (Mirri Maz Duur) to save Drogo from dying. Her son died in childbirth, and the life this death supposedly bought is a completely catatonic, yet still-breathing Drogo. Realizing the mistake she made, Dany mercy-kills her husband. Later during his funeral, she orders Mirri Maz Duur to be tied to his pyre, while the three dragon eggs are placed in it. Once it’s ignited, Dany steps in herself, despite Jorah’s protests. However, he had no reason to fear: the next morning he discovers a naked yet alive Dany with three newly-hatched baby dragons.
Initial, quick reaction
Kylie: I gave D&D snaps last week, and I gotta say I was still pleasantly surprised by the quality of this episode. Goes to show how powerful a show can be when like…events of things matter and affect people in interesting ways. There’s also the fact that this episode had new beginnings and possibilities for most characters rather than so many GoT finales to come, where it’s like, “now I killed the person I wanted.” That said, it was also the return of my cringing and audible complaints, and we’ve got a few D&D originals to thank for that one.
Julia: There were quite a few very memorable and iconic moments this episode; the “King in the North” thing and Sophie Turner turning in a performance that makes me forgive everything she’ll do in the future come immediately to mind. Not to mention Dany’s Teflon hair and the amazing score that goes with it. But then there were some unfortunate moments that were very… not good.
I love your point about the way the season specific story wasn’t just “completed,” as opposed to later seasons. The closest we get to that is Dany killing MMD, and that’s clearly not the same thing at all!
Danzie: I think I was overall pretty happy with this one. A couple things were underwhelming and even a little weird, but the the important stuff was tackled well and, for the most part, outweighed the bad.
Kylie: I worry my Sansa-stanning tendencies make me uncritical, but Sophie Turner’s scene really was just incredible. It’s a hint at that internal Sansa we read on the page, and it just captured so much so well in a few short lines. You can just see her whole face shift with the, “How long do I have to look?” If only they gave a crap about the mask of courtesy stuff consistently…
Also Arya’s scene was effective, just because her means of survival is so open-ended. I was genuinely excited for a minute about what was to come, before I remembered certain adaptational delights like Grandpappy Tywin and her extra season memeing with The Hound. But in and of itself, yes, the Stark sisters and what’s for now their parallel journeys won the day.
My lowlight was spy vs. spy 2. I legitimately couldn’t understand what they were even going on about, other than to obsess about Varys’s castration. Which boy oh boy does that get dialed to eleven.
Julia: Seriously, that Sansa scene was perfect.
And this Spy v. Spy was not nearly as horrible as the first one, if only because Varys clearly won and Littlefinger just looked like some random asshole with an unhealthy fixation on the genitalia of his work college.
Speaking of stanning, I think I sort of like MMD. Or, at least, I was totally on her side, which I didn’t expect at all. Yeah, slaughtering people for no reason is bad, gods damn it!
That’s not really a highlight, though. I think I might go with everything to do with that sequence with Bran, Osha, Rickon, and the crypts. The atmosphere is great, and Natalia Tena is lovely as Osha. I really believe that this random captive from North-of-the-Wall has come to care about these kids. And remember when people were nice to each other?
My lowlight is Jon just being an insufferable dumb-dumb. It was word for word adapted and all that; maybe it’s the age change, or maybe it’s just Kit Harington’s performance that just seems to emphasize all the annoying aspects of Jon’s character, but I just really wanted to skip these scenes. I didn’t though, because I’m dedicated.
Danzie: My favourite scene by far was Robb/Catelyn. I know, I know, but the beat-changes that Michelle Fairley goes through in this scene are so fantastic. The way she pushes aside her own grief to be there for her son is beautiful. I can even excuse the #revenge of “we’ll kill them all,” because we find out later that this was something said in anger and not in any way her M.O.
I truly count this as one of the VEEEERY small handful of times that the show surpassed it’s book counterpart of a scene. I legit teared up a little. This show had the potential to be so good. The “what if”’s are heartbreaking. Also, take a shot for every episode that this woman was robbed of an EMMY. SMH.
Lowlight: It’s a toss up between the bizarre Pycelle… experience and the Night’s Watch scenes that looked like they were all shot on the first and only take. To Kit Harington’s credit, his acting does get better later on in the series, but Jon’s Extreme Angry Face of Indignation™ made him look more like an angry child that just got his Playstation taken away.
Also, I couldn’t stop laughing at Tywin pronouncing “whore” like “hoo-war”, because all I could think of was this.
Quality of writing
Julia: Like almost always when D&D are just cutting and pasting from Martin, they do perfectly fine, but their own original content stands out like a festering thumb. Even tiny little things that they throw in there, like Cat being into mass murder. Like, please stop trying, guys. It’s cute, but don’t.
The Pycelle scene especially pisses me off. It’s probably mostly the director’s fault, but still. Like, his history lesson is actually giving us insight into Pycelle’s character and his weird but oddly touching devotion to Tywin and his offspring, but then you have a sex worker washing her vag in the back and his inexplicable air squats? Clearly someone didn’t care if we actually gained that insight.
Kylie: I’m still just so confused why they had to dial up the “he may not be as frail as he seems” elements in the books to eleven. Air squats??
Julia: God, Kylie, do some CrossFit.
Anyway, Cat’s going to kill them all FOR REVENGE! Yeah, that was a fun one. You know, the copy-paste from Martin is perfectly fine, but in general I feel like there’s not that much like…to this TV series? It’s just, so much is missing for context that things like Robb being made King in the North feel empty to me on rewatch. We had maybe 1.5 scenes with Smalljon before this and couldn’t even name the other lords, you know? I realize that in the books it’s not that Robb did a whole lot more to earn it in any way, but the show is such an abridged version, and one with very questionable original content added even now, that I’m second-guessing myself for being as gripped by it as I had been (at least through Season 3).
And yes I know how snobby I sound.
Julia: Well, you were gripped, so there must have been something to it surely? But I mostly agree. Like, when Greatjon started his nationalistic spiel my first thought was “whoa, slow down, isn’t that a little extreme?”
Our 8th grade book report (on themes)
Kylie: I worry that this is pretty surface level, but the most cohesive aspect of this was the “new beginnings” idea. The wars to come, if you will. Robb being made king sort of sets the task before him; in the same way, Arya is now entering into “hide your identity for survival” mode, Jon is heading beyond the Wall, and Sansa is already being told to “give Joffrey what he wants” and figuring out how to navigate that is her “mission.” Dany is a slight anomaly because she was more proactive than the Stark kids in the set-up for her next chapter, I guess?
But again, I’m very open to something deeper being suggested. I was more of a math kid in eighth grade, after all.
Julia: No, I think that’s pretty good. Even Jon is starting a new chapter with the going beyond the Wall and doubling down on his Night’s Watch vows.
Also, it’s an ironic theme because this was probably the only finale they filmed without the guarantee that they’ll have another season.
Danzie: “Grief” works I guess, but it’s a bit broad. I agree as well, Kylie. If nothing else, this episode does do a great job of setting up the next season while still emotionally completing its own chapter. It’s easily the strongest of the show’s season finales, I feel.
Julia: Probably? I forget how they wrapped up season 2. On the other hand, there’s a total lack of crowd surfing on people of colour, which is a little sad.
Cracks in the plaster (the bullshit to come)
Julia: Emilia Clarke’s performance this week felt very… prognosticating of the future. She hasn’t lost the ability to move her face yet, but she does love her shouty speeches.
Danzie: Pycelle’s scene was just… squirm-in-your-seat awkward. I remember even in 2011-2013 finding Pycelle’s character really odd on the show. He doesn’t ever seem to serve a purpose in D&D’s version of the story. You could have cut him completely and lost nothing.
Spy vs. Spy is just more of Benioff and Weiss giving each other writing room reach-arounds. Sadly it’s only going to get worse.
Kylie: I’m going to ignore that visual for now, Danzie, but thank you. Hey, remember how at the Purple Wedding Carol stops Pycelle from giving girls pelvic exams or something? I guess for now it’s just funny that an old guy wants to employ sex workers.
Julia: If we didn’t have Pycelle, who would say all the High Septon’s lines?
Kylie: I definitely second Emilia Clarke’s performance being kind of weak this week. There were glimpses of Deadpan, and glimpses of “WHERE ARE MY DRAGONS?” Neither are the most charming options.
We also get a very very small glimpse into Bran’s Exposition Bot future. However, since he’s still inflecting in his speech, it’s pretty passable. Plus he’s showing Osha, a literal newcomer, stuff she hasn’t seen before. Still, I was cracking a smile at, “That’s my father’s sister!”
Julia: There’s also the infuriating continued foregrounding of Shae. I have a feeling we’re going to talk about this more, so I’ll leave it there.
Julia: What the fuck are they doing with Shae the Funny Whore? Like… what. Also, Fake Frail Pycelle, which they do officially nothing with.
Danzie: I can’t remember if it’s next season or the one after, but don’t we eventually get to a point where Shae has more screen time than Catelyn? Is that why she’s a “funny whore”? Is that the joke? NO ONE IS LAUGHING AT THIS JOKE D&D.
Kylie: If it’s not next season, it is most certainly the case in Season 3. Her foregrounding is definitely one of the odder adaptational decisions. I’d say it was to give smallfolk more of a face but 1) D&D’s most consistent aspect of their writing is that they ignore the viewpoint of the smallfolk and 2) Ros was invented for exactly that purpose.
Julia: I’m haunted by the throw-away comment last week where Bo was like, “Why isn’t Ros Shae?” Like… yeah. And of course the only place their mind went for “point of view of the smallfolk” was a sex worker, not like, Mikken the Blacksmith in Winterfell or one of those women who make Cersei’s dresses.
Like… are all their original characters sex workers? The only ones who come immediately to mind who weren’t are the freedman in season 5 Dany executes and Olly. Ironically very loosely based on a character who was a sex worker.
Kylie: Uhh…Myranda and Violet, who both were presented to us as sex workers when we first met them, but really weren’t, I guess. Also Smurfette and Kuvira are exceptions here. But yeah, otherwise we’re looking at Evil Sex Worker of False Tears and Olyver. Huh, it’s almost like they have a bizarre fixation.
Moving on to a very small adaptational choice, they omitted the part of “when the sun rises in the west” that discusses Dany’s womb quickening (as in, “it’s not gonna quicken”). I probably wouldn’t have even noticed it, but in 7×07 D&D pretended that they had included this, so…why was it left out in the first place? Just to be less wordy?
Julia: It’s not like it’s one of Dany’s principle anxieties moving forward. It’s fine.
Carol Watch: who is Cersei this week?
Kylie: I don’t really recall Cersei speaking in this episode. Poor Carol 🙁
Julia: No, no. She told Lancel to stop talking and get into bed. He was being super annoying. Also, she had a lot to say to Joff, given how many times he said, “Mother says.”
Danzie: I dunno, but seeing Lancel’s bum made me
long for death wish I was re-watching this past week’s fantastic string of Steven Universe episodes instead.
Julia: Why is Lancel bum making you think of Steven Universe? He’s not hot yet, so it’s not like you can say they’re both just high quality things. Shit, how old is Lancel? How creepy am I being?
Kylie: Now I’m just thinking about High Grandpa waggling his eyebrows at Carol for fucking her cousin. Guess she committed that high treason with Lancel off-screen while Robert was alive.
Exposition Imposition: good or clunky?
Julia: It was super nice of Bran to tell us about Rickard and Lyanna. Poor Jaime tried to recap the pilot, but he lost heart.
That scene with Pycelle in the foreground, saying moderately interesting history things, while Ros is naked in the background, just barely out of focus, is the most D&D thing I’ve ever seen.
Danzie: The problem is, D&D have no faith that the audience will pay attention without naked women on screen. They see their viewers as idiot man-children.
Kylie: Which ironically was probably the reason why I wasn’t able to retain anything Pycelle talked about. What was it? The kings he’s served? I was too busy recalling other cases of sexposition to hear it.
I don’t think it was that clunky overall, at least not the exposition we needed to retain. (Pycelle’s whole thing is kind take-it-or-leave-it.)
Julia: I used my powers of being straight to just ignore the naked woman, and it was actually quite not stupid. Like, pure Pycelle. He talks about how Aerys was charming once, and how madness is the worst affliction there is, and how Joff has so much potential.
My question is, does he pretend to be frail while having sex? Because that just seems like a waste. Also a waste: if you’re going to set up that Ros is schtupping Pycelle, like…she works for LF. Do they ever do anything with that?
Kylie: Doesn’t she get sad from fucking old men and then tries to co-run his brothel for him? And conspire with Varys or something? Ugh, let’s leave Season 3 for Season 3.
How was the pacing?
Kylie: I feel like it was good? Things stayed very focused and it felt like only a couple of days passed for everyone. Then the episode did well bouncing around, so that they could keep the end scenes for every character towards the end of the episode. I found it mostly effective.
Danzie: The only thing I found a bit jarring was right in the middle of Jon leaving the Wall, they cut to the Tyrion/Shae scene and then afterwards immediately returned to Pyp/Grenn/Sam catching up to Jon on horseback. And of course, the Pycelle scene which seemed to slow space and time like a bad pot brownie.
Julia: The Wall stuff felt slow but it wasn’t really. They recited those vows very slowly.
Kylie: Oh my sweet, summer child, what do you know of slow? Slow is for the unnecessary establishing shots of Sansa writing a letter before traveling to Molestown. Slow is for the long wight moot, when Tyrion takes a full minute to walk across the dragonpit, only to be followed by Sandor futzing with chains on the box for another one.
I’ll agree about the Pycelle scene. It really killed the tension dead.
Let’s talk about sex, baby
Julia: They skipped the part where Dany gives comatose Drogo a blowjob, so yay restraint?
Danzie: All of Dany’s sex scenes in the book are weird as hell aren’t they? But yeah, bullet dodged. Also… I guess Cersei just chills fully clothed between rounds of sex while Lancel has to stay naked. What’s the timeframe between these sexual bouts? I don’t get it.
Kylie: Thank you for that reminder, Julia.
Maybe Lancel was staying under the covers, but Cersei wanted some wine and there was a draft from the window? I peg it at about 20 minutes and Lancel is in his post-sex lazy mode.
In memoriam…Drogo, Mirri Maz Duur, Rhaego
Danzie: I have nothing to say about the deaths this week, but I do have a cute story: When Lord Glover yelled “Renly is not right” during the King in the North scene, my dog (whose name is Renly) snapped his head around to the TV upon hearing his name.
Kylie: That’s significantly cheerier that trying to parse out any thoughts I have on Rhaego turning into an ash-filled dragon. Dany mercy-killing Drogo I thought was effective for her characterization, which isn’t shocking because it’s exactly what happens in the damn books. However apparently it’s ridiculously difficult to actually suffocate someone with a pillow? It’d take like, a half an hour and require a ton of pressure, or something like that.
Dany burning Mirri Maz Dur is the start of Aerys 2.0 discourse? I think? Here’s hoping she finds a man she’s willing to listen to and curb her instincts.
Julia: You also can’t render people unconscious by bopping them on the head.
Don’t you mean Rhaenyra 2.0, since she also had a lizard baby? Like I said, I’m totally on MMD’s side. I’m kind of proud of her, she was almost Dornish.
Kylie: Would that she had met Evil Sex Worker of False Tears.
That’s where we have to wrap up today, and next week will be our Season 1 closer podcast. But what did you guys think of this episode and season in general? Were the cracks as long as we were making them out to be? Is this rewatch destined to be increasingly more depressing? Let us know, while we continue to seek our fortune in The Wars to Come.