Game of Thrones – Season 4, Episode 5, 'First of His Name'

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The First of His Name was in many ways a microcosm of what makes Game of Thrones so brilliant, yet often also so convoluted and frustrating. It was an episode stuffed with beautifully acted and well scripted scenes, yet overall, a disjointed and awkwardly paced hour that as a whole fell flat.
This season has been the most successful yet of the show in maintaining a continual narrative or thematic thread throughout each individual episode. The writers have felt comfortable leaving out some storylines for multiple episodes in a row, (Theon has only appeared once so far this season), while creating segueways between other scenes to emphasise that while characters may be geographically separate, they remain part of an inter-connected world.
But The First of His Name while riddled with tension, never truly developed a larger conceptual idea of what was at stake within key scenes and moments which resulted in a slightly underwhelming experience.
Sometimes Game of Thrones feels as though it is more concerned with raising the bar on a purely visual level, rather than raising the stakes on what the characters are fighting for. Consequently the greatest moments of satisfaction have often been delivered through shocking moments of gore, rather than connecting with the narrative twists and turns.
That being said, despite the episode’s disjunction it sure had its fill of action and intrigue,odd couple buddy comedy and pantomime villainy.
Daenerys is forced to confront not only the geo-political ramifications of her conquests, but the moral consequences of her actions. She is provided with the means to move onto King’s Landing, yet chooses to remain in Meereen.
The cities she had captured in the preceding series have fallen into disarray; one whose former slave masters have overthrown the governing council of freed men Daenerys left behind and have now sworn reveng on; the other now ruled, rather ambiguously, by a ‘butcher’.
While she would be able to capture the city by force, she is held back by not only the thoughts of destruction and chaos she would leave behind, but by that which lies in front of her. For Daenerys, power and the Iron Throne is not just a goal, but a birth right and means of making the world a better place. If she were to conquer Westeros, would she be delivering the Seven Kingdoms to the same fate she has brought the cities of Slaver’s Bay?
In King’s Landing, Cersei is carefully making her case for Tyrion’s upcoming trial, not by means of weight of evidence but by cynical manipulation.
She visits two of the judges, plus Margaery who has the ear of the third, to win their support. To Margaery she offers Tommen’s hand and alliance; to Oberyn an emotion-tinged prod for revenge; and her father the plea that she is the sole Lannister worthy of upholding the family legacy.
That’s when Tywin drops somewhat of a bombshell: that the gold mines that are the origins of their family’s great wealth have stopped producing gold.
The source of Lannister power has always resided in their insurmountable wealth. The Lannisters are able to act like they do not only because they hold titles of power and importance, but because they can pay their way out of many misfortunes that might befall them. It has provided them not only with a means to garner the favour and support of other families, but to shore up their own personal reputations and importance and an occasional get out of jail card when required.
Tywin’s revelation fundamentally undermines the viability of the Lannisters’ long-term ability to maintain their grip on power as they are reliant upon the wealth of the Tyrells in order to repay the loans to the Iron Bank.
The Bank is becoming an ominous backdrop to this season and Tywin implies it is an institution reminiscent of a Bilderberg-esque conspiracy theory, which he rather obtusely likens to a temple.
But the most shocking revelation of the episode belongs to Petyr ‘Littlefinger’ Baelish.
His wife-to-be Lysa Arryn extolls her devotion to him, rather loudly in the matrimonial sack, but also in hushed confession. It seems that Lysa under Petyr’s direction not only orchestrated the murder of her husband, the Hand of the King Jon Arryn, but deliberately mislead her sister Catelyn Stark to the Lannisters’ involvement.
This devious act was the catalyst for Ned Stark coming to King’s Landing, Catelyn kidnapping Tyrion, Ned’s discovery of Joffrey’s incestuous parentage, the overall hostility between the Starks and the Lannisters and subsequently the War of The Five Kings which has ripped the country apart. One can only imagine what his true motivations are for marrying Lysa, or for that matter, bringing Sansa to the Eyrie.
There may be new monarchs in King’s Landing and Meereen, but the forces that put them there and the actors who keep them in power often lie hidden playing a much more patient game.

5 responses to “Game of Thrones – Season 4, Episode 5, 'First of His Name'

  1. I think the show is lowering quality or is just that seeing the episodes in a weekly basis it makes them not so interesting.
    I feel they are just following the inertia of past seasons, why Daenerys appear if nothing happens? Why the haunt and Arya if nothing happens? Daenerys history is been very boring in this season, nothing interesting about her, her dragons or her army. Nothing interesting either with Arya apart from first episode.
    When the opening music starts, I feel like GoT finished with the red wedding and all linked with Ned Stark and the north… now is becoming a soap opera…

  2. Its a big ask to try to shoot a book story/seies of such length. Sometimes i feel that its just too big and i have to wait too long to see, often too briefly, what one of the sub plots is up to. But i do enjoy the way its departing from the books. Oh yeah i read them, there’s an admission.

  3. Well they have some challenging subject matter to deal with in the original books. By the third or fourth (can’t remember) the author had so many individual threads going that he had two books run over the same timeline but involve different groups. It was an unholy mess to read through and I’m sure that they’re not going to make the same mistake in the series. The consequence of this might be some episodes with very different things going on – some may appear dull but have important consequence for later in the series.
    And I agree with Bob! BOO! The Hound and Arya continue to entertain as does Pod!
    Journey before destination, Joan. Which I think is the credo of most soapies, so better switch over to True Blood…

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