GAME OF THRONES “A Golden Crown” Review

GAME OF THRONES “A Golden Crown” Season 1 Episode 6 – It was real gold all right, but not a real crown. Kingship is a major theme running throughout the series: what makes a king, a ruler of men? Superior arms, like Robert Baratheon? A deep purse, like the Lannisters? Nobility, like the Starks? Blood right, like the Targaryens? Out of the aforementioned four families, only the Starks (our protagonists) show no desire for the throne.

Robert has himself preoccupied trying to keep his seat: settling scores between the warring Starks and Lannisters (all in a morning’s work), before confirming his intent to assassinate the young heiress of the Targaryens dynasty. Last week’s emotional nakedness between Robert and Cersei was much too good to last, but this week Robert’s gruff demeanour was once again scraped aside for a brief moment of honesty between himself and the brother he always wanted, Ned Stark. Mark Addy is doing such a wonderful job as the king. I did not dislike him when he slapped his wife, and I had to smirk when he offered to smack her again. It’s not that the situation was funny, but Robert is sort of funny in an overblown and tragic way. He’s a guy who finds himself in a seat of power, knowing that he can do anything, have anything he likes, but he’s a guy who doesn’t know what the hell to do. He ends up, as we saw quite clearly, treading water uselessly. He’s almost completely given up on trying to grapple with the present, and instead drowns himself in alcohol and relives the past.

His friendship with Ned Stark is interesting, because where Robert is mentally in the state he was in when he was crowned king, Ned Stark has matured. Ned is not as charismatic as Robert: even when he was up on the dais in front of the commoners he made no effort to remain likeable. Ned Stark is the guy who stands behind the guy. He’s a no-nonsense, forward thinking man whose greatest weakness is his incapacity for bullshit.

Ned Stark’s plan is, as Littlefinger noted, either suicide or genius: after declaring Ser Gregor McClane (you may remember him as the gentleman from last week who decapitated a horse) persona non grata, Ned goes on to challenge the head of the Lannister household to bring himself to court. Of course Ned Stark is only trying to protect his wife, but he has also left himself in quite a pickle: not only is his own safety threatened, but his two daughters are still in King’s Landing, in full reach of the nefarious opponents of the Starks.

I loved the scene when Ned tells his daughters to pack up because they’re going home. Sansa’s spoiled brat routine might have been unbearable if not for the wicked looks which passed between Ned and Arya. Arya, whilst less shy and pretty tactless, is definitely her father’s daughter: she’s smart, wilful yet much too on the nose to blend in with the likes of her sister.

On the other hand, the scene between Septa and Sansa was jarring. It’s fine to be insulting, and as any viewer of Joan Holloway can testify, it’s downright entertaining to watch bitchy snooty, but Sansa’s scene with Septa was just…off putting. There was no build up and barely any context. Which is also probably why I found myself yanked out of the scene where Joffrey courts Sansa: the last time I can remember seeing them together he was responsible for the death of her direwolf.

Elsewhere in the Seven Kingdoms, Catelyn Stark (née Tully) is still in the Eyrie, her lunatic sister’s home, stirring trouble and seeking a sentence on Tyrion Lannister. The scenes at the Eyrie, despite the high stakes, were very funny thanks to Tyrion’s curt humor, even in the face of imminent death.

But let’s cut the crap. There was one storyline that rose high above the rest this week. And it was not Rob Stark and Theon trudging through the woods.

This week we bid farewell to Harry Lloyd’s angular, power whore Viserys. He was not a real dragon. Real dragons do not burn. Ouch.

A lot of what I love about Game of Thrones is that even if there are some lacklustre storylines, the pace is always building, the tension is always climbing, and that was no different in this week’s episode. Viserys finally went off the rails (well, further off the rails than he already had) and after attempting to steal the dragon eggs and threatening to abort his nephew right there in the midst of the Dothrakis, Viserys finally earned himself a crown of molten gold. Dany’s unloving, remorseless observation of her brother’s brutal execution was so sick and so awesome. Dany is one of the few characters in the series with a definitive arc: pregnant, a dragon and the last of the Targaryens, you can just sense she’s going somewhere, but you have no idea where. Emilia Clarke is skilful at balancing this vulnerable naiveté while also allowing a few moments of calculated assuredness shine through. Dany is unpredictable and exciting, and I believe with this episode she’s the first character in the television series to have transcended the plot-driven format and allow her story to become charged by character.

This was an episode I really enjoyed, and though it marked the second week in a row without dear Jon Snow, it managed to give most of the other characters a few good scenes to chew. It wasn’t my favorite episode (I think that may go to last week’s) but it was strong.

A few random thoughts.

Which would you prefer: Viserys’ end, with molten gold poured over his head, or Crassus’, with molten gold poured down his throat?

Where is Rickon? Not even a shot of him playing in the background? And where are the direwolfs?

Dany eating the horse’s heart…yeah, em, I think I’ll stick to my sweet and sour chicken.

Lysa Arryn’s hand clutching her son’s thigh was just a gazillion degrees of creepy.

What did you think of this episode? Sound off in the comments below.

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