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Sunday, May 22, 2011

A Game of Thrones: Episode Five ("The Wolf and the Lion")

As I mentioned in my review of Episode Four, the narrative of HBO's A Game of Thrones has been slowly threatening to come unhinged.  Scenes have been added that I feel detract from the most important characters, leaving a small void in their stories.  "The Wolf and the Lion," unfortunately, does more of the same, but to even worse degrees.

Episode Five is, thus far, the only poor episode this season.  While there is much to love about the episode (Arya chasing cats; more of the tournament; more of Eddard Stark and the mysteries of King's Landing; the Eyrie (sort of); and many sword battles and gruesome deaths), its greatest flaws lie in its addition of scenes which have no direct bearing on the story-lines that matter.  I'll only talk at length about the worst of them, but there are easily fifteen minutes of unnecessary nonsense in this episode, all of which take away from some of the more interesting aspects of this stretch of A Game of Thrones.  The Eyrie, for example, gets crapped on, with less than five minutes
spent showing it from inside and out.  It's even incorrectly designed, with the Eyrie itself sticking out like a giant turd in a desolate landscape, whereas the novel makes clear it's meant to be a series of towers built along the side of a mountain.  And it's supposed to be impenetrable.  Yet what we're shown is a rotten egg that doesn't look like it could withstand a siege for more than a few hours.
Similar changes are made in the final confrontation of the episode between Eddard and Jaime, which, to me, seemed to suck the life out of a scene that could have been more emotional, terrifying, and dark (the filmmakers opted for a macho action sequence).  But these are minor compared to the excess minutes spent on nonsense (though I have to admit that the dialogue between the King and Queen is growing on me).
Isn't he adorable when he's scared?
One of the most pointless scenes is practically an HBO hallmark (i.e., the gay scene):  Ser Loras (Finn Jones) shaving Lord Renly's (Gethin Anthony) chest while they discuss his potential as a King.  This scene is, of course, concluded with a blowjob.  It's a gay scene which makes Priscilla: Queen of the Desert practically as straight as a Rambo movie.  If Renly's homosexuality had been established as relevant earlier in the series, I might be able to see the importance of chest shaving, but nothing of the sort has been established.  In fact, Renly has been, up until this point, a minor character, his importance resting solely on the fact that he's the brother of the King.  The fact that he's gay is implied in the novel, but that implication has nothing to do with the mysteries occupying the Starks in the series.  As such, this scene feels more like a throwaway or an attempt to exoticize homosexual behavior.  Sadly, most of "The Wolf" reduces characters to sex objects (Theon's penis waves to and fro like a pendulum here), but nothing more so grievous than its treatment of gay characters.  Renly and Loras aren't on the screen being gay together because their homosexual relationship is relevant or important; they are there because they are gay, and their gayness displayed on screen makes them objects of visual spectacle.  To me, this is a grievous offense, and almost unforgivable.
You can almost see the crazy behind this boy...
But "The Wolf" doesn't stop there.  While the cast is still strong, with some still iffy choices, the addition of Lino Facioli (Robin Arryn) is perhaps the worst mistake the producers have made.  Lino flubs his lines and overacts in a way that makes the other child actors look like they have already given their Oscar winning performances.  No actor thus far this season has managed to destroy an entire scene, and nearly an entire episode, as quickly and surely as Lino.  This is despite the fact that Kate Dickie as Lysa Arryn is shockingly good as the mentally deranged mother of Robin (and sister to Catelyn Stark).  All the creepiness brought to the screen by Dickie is sucked away the moment Lino goes on his miniature tirade.  The sad thing is that the shortened scenes in the Eyrie might have actually saved the series from losing me as a viewer entirely -- a small mercy, if you will.
At least the interiors are cool.
Thankfully, I won't stop watching A Game of Thrones.  I think it's a fantastic series thus far, and one poor episode this far into the series isn't enough to yank me out.  If this had been the first episode, I might have stopped watching, but there are four great episodes that precede it.  All I hope for now is that Episode Six doesn't fall into the same trap.  I want the quality to go back up.  

We'll find out what happens tonight.  If you haven't started the series yet, don't use this review as a basis for whether you should watch.  The show isn't perfect, but every episode before the fifth are worth watching, and the overall quality of the series is high.  Every show has a bad episode.  Fans of Doctor Who know this far too well.  

A Game of Thrones can be forgiven for now...
I would kiss this man...
Directing: 2/5
Cast: 2/5
Writing: 1/5
Visuals:  2/5
Adaptation: 1/5
Overall: 1.6/5

For Carr, because I know you love him so!

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  1. Anonymous12:02 AM

    While I agree with you that the gay scene was a little too much, it is fairly important to establish that Renly is gay, because of its importance later on in the series when Margaery's virginity is brought into question.

    I think the scenes deipcting Theon's relationship with the whore in ep. 5 and 6 are completely unneccessary.

    I thought the kid was fine--that's kind of how I picturing him behaving in the book. Obnoxious and prone to temper tantrums.


  2. None of his gayness is relevant to the first book, though (at least, not directly; we learn that it's relevant later). That's my problem. His homosexuality is not actually relevant right now. It won't be until Clash of Kings.

    I didn't buy his temper tantrums. That's my problem with the kid. Everything felt forced to me. Bleh.

  3. Anonymous4:33 PM

    hmm... everyone else loved this episode. I think it was the violence. And Renly is getting more development on his relationship with Loras, which establishes his claim to the throne (with swords, if not by right)