Game of Thrones
Commentary on “The Kingsroad”

Greg Tito | 25 Apr 2011 21:00
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Here follows a collection of thoughts and commentary on the adaptation of the HBO adaptation of Game of Thrones. Susan Arendt has got you covered if you wanted a straight-up recap of the events of the second episode, "The Kingsroad." You can check out all our Game of Thrones coverage here.

Much more than the pilot, the second episode of HBO's Game of Thrones series convinced me that this grand experiment might actually be working. Converting a dense story like George R. R. Martin's fantasy epic, A Song of Ice and Fire, into hour-long chunks of TV is a tough task and I thought the first episode did as well as it could to introduce the audience to the myriad cast of characters. The second episode, aptly titled "The Kingsroad" -- nearly all its action takes place traveling from one place to another -- is still introducing characters, but it builds on the foundation of the pilot to keep even those not familiar with the books entranced. My wife and mother-in-law, who have never read the books, were just as excited as I was to find out what happened next to poor BRAN, fragile DAENERYS, and those damn LANNISTERS.

TYRION LANNISTER is my favorite character from the books, and we get to see a fair measure of his depth in this episode. Seeing the queen CERSEI, JAIME, and Tyrion interact for the first time at the breakfast table was endlessly entertaining, but his response to the Bastard JON SNOW asking him why he reads gets to the core of Tyrion's character. Yes, he whores around and drinks, but he also knows that knowledge is the only weapon he has. Perhaps the greatest compliment I can provide about Peter Dinklage's performance is that when Tyrion is on screen, I can't watch anything else. He carries himself in every scene with a thespian's grace, tempered with a very honest delivery.

The dwarf is also the only one to appropriately scold his nephew JOFFREY for his insolence. I absolutely loved seeing Tyrion smack the much taller boy across the face (Thrice!), and I think that scene not only shows the audience the comparative nobility of Tyrion, but also Joffrey's petulance. The way the boy treats his Hound, the unnamed SANDOR CLEGANE finally seen without his dog-shaped helmet, is terrible, but the scarred man just takes the abuse, which is somehow creepier.

Speaking of creepy, I liked the subtle introduction of SER ILYN PAYNE. He's mostly a silent figure in the books (heh) but he becomes very important by the end of this season. To deftly call attention to Payne, as well seeing a bit of the Hound's infatuation with SANSA STARK as the royal party stopped at the Inn, was subtly done. In many ways, I feel that the show's creators, Benihoff and Weiss, are weaving threads of story and character in much the same way that Martin did. The TV audience doesn't know how important Payne or Clegane will become in the story, just as Martin's readers didn't until the focus started to shift in A Clash of Kings, but providing the small details now will allow them to expand the Hound's part of the story when the time comes.

It may seem like a non-issue to some. You might ask "Don't all shows do that?" The thing is, a lot of TV scripts are badly written, with people just talking at each other with no real plot, or the opposite problem with so much plot involving characters that you care nothing about. It can be hard to realize that achieving the perfect dramatic balance is extremely difficult, especially with so many plots, sub-plots and characters. Game of Thrones packs so much character information into seemingly casual observations but it never feels like an info dump because each conversation advances the plot. Nothing Jaime Lannister or NED STARK or any character says is wasted; every line - no every freaking expression - means something about their character and their intentions. The show, like the book, is densely packed with background information, and I'm glad the show's creators made sure that it is just as tightly plotted so that the exposition comes out so easily.

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