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A Game of Thrones – Episode 10: “Fire and Blood” | Review

June 20

game of thrones fire and blood hbo

I’m going to spend a thousand words trying to recap a finale that is really encapsulated in that one phrase.   “Fire and Blood” destroyed the world we’ve come to know, and created a new one. The story isn’t Ned Stark bringing down the corrupt Lannisters. It never was.  “Game of Thrones” is, like it or not, the end of a story we never truly heard or grasped – the story of Ned Stark and Robert Baratheon, and their attempt to build a new dynasty on the ruins of something old, ancient, and diseased.

That world – that story – is about to be washed with blood and burned with fire.  Again, I’m not spoiling anything because I don’t know how George RR Martin’s saga ends. No one does. Readers have debated it hotly. Viewers eschewing the books will undoubtedly begin adding their voices now that they’ve got to wait.  Certainly, there are signs (signs outlined in this season, if you paid attention and connected dots) point one way…who knows?  I suspect we’ll all be wrong.

I apologize.  I’m stretching out into the bigger picture – but can you blame me?  The dragons have shown up.   (And how many non-readers out there punched the sky with a “I knew it! I knew it!”?  I know there were a few in my group!)    Dragons are a game-changer.     Daenerys’ quest is no longer that of a pretty girl of vague ambition and birthright.  She is now a force of nature — but one without a khalasar.  Wasn’t that final image of her just wonderful?  She is at once triumphant and yet still so vulnerable as she stands there in an ugly wasteland, with only the remnants of her former glory surrounding her.  “Thrones” has had some clunky visual moments, and Daenerys’ storyline was often plagued by them, but the final three episodes finally gave the Dothraki the scope they needed to underscore just how abruptly and badly she fell…and how amazing it was that she emerged, singed, but a survivor.   Her story began with her naked and vulnerable, and it closed on a similar image, which was a real stroke of character genius. It’s a fantastic contrast, and one that definitely speaks to how strongly the series will play as one big whole.

Many of my finale fears were (happily) unfounded. I spent the season worried no one would care once Ned died because we had raced through houses, tourneys, and plots … but from the comments I’ve read, people were absolutely devastated.  The show “felt” it too. As poor Ned (or what was left of him) was bundled off this week, it really seemed as though the heart was ripped out of the show. Sansa’s raw face (what fantastic make-up work!) and Arya’s sobs just seemed to echo right on through, and mingle with poor Daenerys.  This episode actually felt wrung out and miserable. It felt dead – and I mean that as a compliment.  One felt lost and confused just watching it. What now?

What now indeed?

Well, Robb has been crowned King of the North.  Jon is marching beyond the Wall to find Benjen Stark and engage whatever evils lie beyond it.  Joffrey seems to be amassing quite a gory collection of body parts.  Arya is headed north with some unsavory company and a king’s bastard. Tyrion now has to try and bring Joffrey and Cersei under control. (Insert snort of laughter here.)   Sansa is a hostage. And Bran and Rickon are dreaming of the eeriest things….

If there’s one story thread that has suffered this season, it’s the latter.  It’s a hard criticism to make because how exactly does one convey “A crippled boy dreams of walking” in an interesting and prescient fashion? I’m not sure, though the books offered some funky visual ideas. They did the best they could, I suppose, but I can’t help wishing they had focused on Bran’s strange dream crow instead of on Littlefinger’s brothel. I wince at how they will have to play catch up, all the while introducing more characters and craziness.

Then again, there are dragons now.  If there’s one thing that can bring audiences up to speed on a three-eyed talking crow and the possibility of psychic children (as well as whatever lies beyond the Wall), it’s the sight of three mewling dragons. Only death can bring forth life…and believe me, it’s a whole new story from here on out. Bigger. Better. Bloodier.

Now, let’s just hope it’s one that omits a certain, red-haired prostitute. Come on, “Thrones” team.  You got away with skimping on the direwolves, but you can’t play the Game of T&A when you have dragons.  People are going to want to see those.

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  1. Great adaptation so far. The sword work could be better in spots; there are some clunky visuals and editing here and there (Arya and the stable-boy), and HBO is doing FAR too much with the T&A.

    But it’s been a good ride, and I’m looking forward to S2. I’d like some better dire wolves, and the occasional actual battle, if they’ve got the money for it.

  2. I agree with Clay that the dire wolves need to improve. When Ghost runs after Jon Snow, it just looks like a happy dog, not something menacing and fearsome. I also agree that there is way too much T&A considering how much of the actual book they need to shove aside to fit the gratuitous titillation in.

    I also wish there were more of Bran’s dreams, which provide important background history for Westeros. And I am occasionally disappointed with how many great visual or sound effects suggested by Martin in the books fail to appear on the screen. Case in point: before the dragons appear, there were supposed to be 3 loud cracks that sounded like the world breaking–the eggs hatching. It’s too bad they left that out; it made the scene slightly less momentous. Also they should have burned off her hair, like in the book, which would create an even eerier, other-worldly effect. But as my spouse pointed out, that wouldn’t be hot.

  3. I agree, Sarah. I suppose they wanted to keep the dragons secret for as long as possible, but I really wanted that scene to be BIG — the eggs cracking, the shells landing around them, the dragons singing. (Although I suppose their little “rawwwrrh” might have been all Martin intended…but I thought “the music of the dragons” meant something more.)

    Judging from my Twitter feed, a lot of non-readers were blown away by the final shot so I thought well, this is just me. 😛

    Bran’s dreams are going to be a major stumbling block next season. When you’re adding as many characters as book two does, how are they going to spend much time in Winterfell? :/

  4. Ten episodes done and gone already? No fair.

    I don’t know if I’ll be able to stop from spoiling Joffrey’s story for myself during the wait. I REALLY want to know if that little shit gets his comeuppance. For now I’ll try and make do with that ten minute youtube video of Tyrion slapping him.

    Such a great finale.Pity they had to whore it up again. Here’s an idea for season 2: Make all of Ros’ segments web-only bonus featurettes.I even have a title– “Come inside Westeros.”

  5. Speaking of a certain red headed prostitute; after so much screentime, i thought initially they were going to adapt the tv series and give her “Shay’s” role. But now with the introduction of Shay, and after the series finale, i think i finally understand y Roz has so much screen time. They are using her as the device to divulge backstory and motivation of some of the male characters in the story. Tyrion, initially, then you have her scene w/Theon, and of course the unforgettable scene with Littlefinger, and finally Grand Maester Pycelle. If you notice in each of her interactions with these men, she serves as a listening post as these characters reveal their plans, hopes, and dreams…it seems she serves to provide a POV that allows the audience in on the motivations of these characters, shows them at their most vulnerable as they talk freely in her presence. So i expect we’ll see more of the same in the upcoming season.

  6. I think they might replace Alayaya with Roz, as then they don’t need to cast her. They have the same function, really.

  7. I’ve read comments about people wanting to see the dragon’s hatch, but for my money, it was smart not to show that at all. I wasn’t really expecting the eggs to hatch and I was genuinely shocked when that dragon crawled over her shoulder. Even the one she was holding in her arms looked just like an egg until it moved later on.

  8. Less is more when it comes to the dragons, and the direwolves. The final scene was better on screen than in the books, were it really was a bit cheesy.

    As for the wolves, I have always found them to be a rather heavy handed plot device in the books, and I am happy that there is less emphasis on the in the tv-series. The characters are what makes ASOIF great, fantasy thropes and magical animals are not really that necessary.

    Though I do miss Mormonts raven. Corn?

  9. as someone who didn’t know the dragons were coming (though i called it from dany’s second chapter in the read-through, and the show confirmed it with their dragon-egg foci in some of her earlier scenes), i found it infinitely more powerful to simply see the aftermath of that fire. the sound of eggs breaking would not have conveyed “the world breaking” to me, just would have foreshadowed the dragons’ appearance which would have undercut the power of seeing her sitting there with three mystical creatures and now a mystical creature herself WHO CANNOT DIE BY FIRE.

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