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Tuesday, May 24, 2011

A Game of Thrones: Episode Six ("A Golden Crown")

HBO's A Game of Thrones is back on high form again with the sixth episode.  Dropping a number of the extra narratives lobbed at us in "The Wolf," "A Golden Crown" is much more measured, suspenseful, and emotional.  Here we finally see Daenerys extricate herself from her horrible past, rising to her rightful place among the Dothraki (her opening scene is a brilliant foreshadow of what is to come).  Likewise, Bran's dreams (the same ones from the previous episode which I thought were so creepy) are beginning to expand, somewhat more slowly than in the book, suggesting there might be more for Bran that we've already been given (these scenes have to be foreshadowing something, in my opinion).  And then there's Tyrion, Catelyn, and the now-injured
Eddard Stark.  Rumors of war.  Duels (or "a physical trial" as Tyrion might say), and plenty of bloodshed.  Needless to say, I loved all the excitement!
One of the strengths of "A Golden Crown" are its payoffs.  This is an episode that finally begins to weigh in on the promises of the previous five.  Characters we've been waiting to have their comeuppance get just that.  It feels good.  Really good.  Part of what made me love A Game of Thrones is its ability to create characters worth hating.  Seeing such characters get what they deserve is wonderful.  There are still plenty of awful people floating around, though, and I suspect they'll be around when A Clash of Kings hits the small screen.
"A Golden Crown" also increases the tension that's been simmering all season.  Now things are boiling over.  It won't be long before something truly terrible happens to a character we've grown to love or war comes banging on the Stark's door (or, hell, the King's door).   And we can expect that war to be bloody and costly.  Tension is one of the things this series does well.  There is never a dull moment and we're always kept on our toes as we try to figure out what will happen next (who will get screwed over, killed, or destroyed in some other way).  That tension is probably what keeps many people watching, since we are never quite sure when the next major event will occur, or what that event will be (unless you've read the book, in which case you know everything that will happen; even so, readers of the book seem to love the TV series for many of the same reasons, with the added benefit that they get to see their favorite characters alive on the screen).
A Golden Crown if you please...
Another thing I quite like is the attention paid to worldbuilding.  This is more a compliment for the entire series than for episode six in particular.  The Dothraki are brilliantly realized -- savage, but also elegant in their own way.  All the little details in King's Landing and Winterfell are equally fascinating (one scene in a previous episode involves Brandon reciting the symbols and mottoes of the various Houses, which I found quite amusing).  The sets are all beautiful and feel like they are part of a real world.  It's clear HBO is making good use of its budget.  Martin's novel is dense and rich in detail.  It's good to know that HBO is taking the source material seriously enough to treat the world within it like a real place.
My main problems with "A Golden Crown" are the same problems I had with "The Wolf."  Lino Facioli once again flubs his lines and overacts, with a handful of exceptions, and there are added scenes, too.  Most of them actually work, however, adding depth to character arcs and keeping the story fresh and interesting.  The exception for me was the added scene of the King in the woods (on the hunt), but these kinds of criticisms have been made before and I won't bore you with them any longer.  They are also fairly minor.
Getting back to what matters, I think it's fair to say that HBO redeemed itself with "A Golden Crown."  It's a strong episode with an astonishing amount of realism.  The violence in this series is one of the things I've always enjoyed because you can rely on it to be brutal, honest, and without much of the ridiculous flare of epic sword fights in other films.  The fights in "A Golden Crown" end with blood and gore, because that's how they really would end if such things still happened in this world (the duel in the last half is pretty awesome).  I can appreciate that, even if I didn't much care for the ending of the previous episode.  And I imagine when the shit hits the fan in the coming episodes, HBO will keep up its dedication to violence.  I can't wait.

Directing: 4/5
Cast: 3/5
Writing: 4/5
Visuals:  5/5
Adaptation: 4/5
Overall: 4/5

P.S.:  Maisie Williams (as Arya), by the way, is really shining.  Every time I see her on screen, I get excited.  Arya is a fantastic character, and the more I see Williams playing her, the more I feel like she's the perfect actress for the role.  This young one will have a brilliant future, I think.

P.S.S.:  I'm well aware that Episode Seven was released online.  I would like to think that folks who have seen that episode would have the courtesy of not trying to ruin it for everyone else who was unable to watch it online.  Thanks.

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