Game of Thrones
Commentary on "Cripples, Bastards and Broken Things"

Justin Clouse | 9 May 2011 23:25
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With all the other little threads of intrigue, details and character motivations that could use some extra screen time, this scene with Viserys and Doreah in the bath really dragged on far too long for me. Unless there is some strict requirement for a certain amount of nudity each episode ("3 minutes of breasts per hour or we can't air on HBO"), I don't think this scene really delivered much of anything to us. We already know that Viserys is a self-centered jerk and that the dragons are all dead. Just in case the point isn't clear enough, Dany makes the mistake of trying to pull Viserys even deeper into the Dothraki culture she's beginning to accept. He cruelly jokes that next she'll want to braid his hair, as all Dothraki warriors do to symbolize their power in battle. When she makes light of his insult and claims he doesn't deserve a braid because he's never defeated anyone in battle, she shows the audience just how unsuited he is to rule.

The episode quickly gets back on track though, with Ned questioning the Grand Maester about Jon Arryn's death. The set dressing for Grand Maester Pycelle's study is amazing; I want to poke around and examine all the interesting little bits lying here and there. The MAESTERS are probably a strange concept for new viewers, being very wizard like, but lacking any actual magical powers. I always thought of them as more medieval scientist and less mage. The room evokes a lot of that sense, vastly being taken over by various colored flasks of which likely only a maester would know the contents. Further in the episode we get to see more of this great detail-work in a scene between Ned and Arya. The hallways looks actually lived in, complete with a suitably placed chair and dried leaves blown in through the window. Someone has a great sense that these sets exist in an actual world and not simply on a stage.

In Pycelle's office, we also get to see the book of lineages, and a clever viewer, who hasn't read the books might, like Ned, begin to guess what got Jon Arryn killed. Just in case it's not entirely clear, later in the episode Ned discovers one of Robert's bastards, whose mother, despite having golden blonde hair (like a certain Queen), produced a child with hair as black as any other Baratheon, a feature lacking in all of Robert's official heirs.

GENDRY has been aged quite a bit for the series, as have many of the child characters. When it comes to adaptations and making changes to the characters, I don't mind them as long as it's not done needlessly or if it's not something that defines them to a significant extent. Syrio from the series is not the bald man he is in the novel, but because he is more firmly defined by his actions, the change in appearance didn't bother me.

As for the relative age increases, I'm still really of two minds. I had heard Martin admitted he screwed up the timeline a little and had intended the characters to be a bit older at the series' end. I also understand that for a mainstream audience it might present problems, even extending to almost definitely being a censoring issue, I don't imagine the Dothraki scenes would make it past a censoring board if Daenerys was 13 years old. Countering this though is that I really feel that was sort of the point. Despite some fantastical elements, A Song of Ice and Fire is still fairly firmly rooted in medieval realism. It was a different time and children had to grow up faster. It's a shame that the series will be missing a lot of that. No one watching is going to have much problem visualizing Richard Madden, who is in his mid-twenties, portraying Robb Stark as the King in the North, but he is hardly the Young Wolf of sixteen as he is in the books.

All in all, while I did have some pretty specific problems with this episode, I think it might actually be my favorite of the bunch so far. There is obviously some great talent on display both in front of and behind the camera. The production team continues to be wonderful at bringing the world to life, and I think the script is doing an admirable job of propelling the story forward, filling in the details and giving you enough hints that new fans could possibly begin to puzzle out events.

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