I’m not the only one who thinks its crazy that we’re halfway through this season, right? It feels like it was only yesterday that we were celebrating Joffrey’s death and now we’re fast moving towards Season 4’s inevitable endgame.
In any case, The First of His Name was another strong episode that served to give some much-needed screentime to some series favorites and set us on the build up to the season’s climax.
WARNING – SPOILERS AHEAD
The episode opened with Tommen’s swift ascension to the throne and it was fun to see Margaery and Cersei attempt to play each other here. Cersei has been a bit one-note for most of this season and her monologue about Joffrey was (“the things he did shocked me”) great to watch not just because of the insight it gave into her character but also because of the delicious subtext of her trying to get the Tyrell’s onside for Tyrion’s trial. Natalie Dormer’s feigned surprise at Cersei’s offer of queenship was a nice touch that just reiterated how well cast she is as Margery.
The episode’s pit-stop across the Narrow Sea this week was short as usual (and nicely mirrored an episode in season two) with Dany having to choose between cleaning up the mess that her war on slavery has left in its wake or setting sail for Westeros to take advantage of Joffrey’s death. It was great to see Dany get a moment with Jorah here considering how underused Jorah has become in recent seasons. The show did a great job of explaining the motivations behind Dany’s decision to stay and fix Slaver’s Bay and the casual name-drop of Cleon the Butcher King of Astapor was a nice easter egg for book-fans. Hopefully we’ll get to see him before the season is out.
Cersei’s spent a lot of time this week trying to set things in motion for Tyron’s trial and her confrontations with Tywin and Oberyn were just as well handled as her scene with Margery. The revelations surrounding Casterly Rock have some potentially huge implications for book readers – if the Lannisters are unable to pay their debts, they may find themselves in a very precarious position later down the line. This exchange also worked quite well to foreshadow Stannis’ impending appeal to Iron Bank (which looks to be happening next week) and tied back to Varys speech to Tyrion back in Season 2.
Cersei’s scenes with Oberyn Martell was similarly memorable with the episode taking the time to flesh out the Martell family tree and remind viewers that Myrcella is still off in Dorne. The contrast between Cersei’s cynicism (“everywhere in the world they hurt little girls”) and Oberyn’s romanticism was used to great effect here. The show’s decision to keep all eight of Oberyn’s daughters where it has folded other characters was also a nice surprise that’ll hopefully pay off later down the line.
Littlefinger and Sansa finally concluded their flight from Kings Landing this week with the pair arriving at the Eyrie. The appearance of the Bloody Gate this time around was a nice treat for book-fans and the change to Sansa’s cover story (in the books she takes on the role of his bastard, rather than niece) should keep things interesting.This subplot of the episode also let us catch up with young Robin Arryn and his mother, Lysa. It was fun to watch how quickly Lysa’s madness manifested and Sansa realised that she’s gone from one madhouse to another. Lastly, the reveal that Littlefinger set the events of the series into motion was a pretty significant moment to watch unfold, even if it was one that the show downplayed the importance of.
Although brief, this episode’s check in with the dynamic duo of Brienne and Podrick was another strong point. The pair have some great chemistry going and Pod’s inexperience at being a proper squire was as fun to watch as Brienne eventual relinquishing of her armor as she realised she needed his help.
This episode featured a ton of great performances but if I had to name one as the strongest, it’d be Arya. Her scenes this week did a great job of both hinting at the relationship between the Clegane brothers and pushing things towards a breaking point between her and the Hound. There were also some great callbacks here to Ayra’s water-dancing tutor, Syrio Forel (whose fate will live on in the realm of plausible deniability forevermore) and Maisie Williams handling of Needle here absolutely sold me on her potential as a killer. Between this scene and Arya finishing her prayer with Sandor’s name, it’s hard to pick which of the two scenes was stronger but they both definitely stand out as the best sequences in the episode.
The later part of this episode was devoted entirely to resolving the dilemma of the mutineers at Craster’s Keep from both Bran and Jon’s perspectives. Things played out pretty predictably but Locke did a great job of being a wildcard and the insight we got into Jojen’s greensight was tremendously exciting and well executed. Although I felt like the fight scene with the mutineers dragged on a bit too long, Jon’s showdown with Karl brought things to a nice conclusion. Given how brutal of a character Karl was, it was satisfying to see him meet an appropriately brutal fate. The parallels between Jon’s reunion with Ghost and Bran’s decision to choose his destiny over family served as great capstones to end the episode with and I look forward to seeing what’s next for the bastard and the cripple.
Although it lacked some of the thematic cohesiveness that’ve made previous episodes of this season so strong, The First of His Name was a great episode that did a lot to move things forward. Between Tommen’s ascension and Sansa’s arrival at the Vale, there was a lot happening as we took our first steps towards the season’s climax.