The Westeros Watch Part One

Tom has seen every episode of Game of Thrones and read all the books the series is based on.  Jimmy is a rookie to the whole thing.  Together, can they work their way through the biggest show on HBO?

From the masterminds behind Going Through the DCAU comes The Westeros Watch.

We’re starting off with the first two episodes of season one, “Winter is Coming,” and “The Kingsroad”.

jimmy:  Before we get into things, a little ancedote…

I’ve seen both of these episodes before. I thought I had only seen the first one, but alas…

The climax of episode two is the reason I haven’t watched any since.

You see, Ms. Impossible is a huge dog lover and the dire wolves in the show look almost exactly like our dog Maggie.

Even though it never showed anything graphic, when the dire wolf was killed at the end, she swore off watching the show anymore.

And shows that the Ms. and I don’t watch together, I tend to fall (way) behind on. And here we are in 2017, and I hadn’t watched an episode since.

Now, I convinced her to give it another shot, and she still covered her eyes and cried at that scene, which was made especially harder since we lost Maggie last year.

But we’ve made it through two episodes…it’s a start…

tomk:  It is a start. I do have some good news for that direwolf though. Actress Sophie Turner took such a liking to the dog, she and her family adopted it afterwards and she’s had it ever since.

jimmy:  Awesome. Well, I know…and I think she knows…that the dog wasn’t really hurt. 🙂

tomk:  Well, obviously, but it was nice the actress bonded so well with an animal she only shared a scene or two with at most.

jimmy:  Well, all the dogs were likely around the set constantly.

tomk:  True.

But one other note of trivia before we get too far: despite appearances, Sophie Turner and Maisie Williams are actually about the same age.

jimmy:  Really? Wow. I’m sure the height difference plays a factor there. And since she’s been brought up twice now, is it ok for me to mention that I still think Sophie Turner is a terrible actress? I’m probably alone there, but I stand by my comments when I saw X-Men: Apocalypse and had no idea who she was.

tomk:  Well, she was maybe 13 or 14 when the show started, and it is hard to find a good actress at that age. I think it doesn’t help that Sansa Stark, at the start, is a rather unlikeable character overall.

Contrast her with Williams, who has the role of Arya, one of the most popular characters from the show even before it made its way to TV.

jimmy:  Ms. Impossible already has 4 people she wants to die next episode.

tomk:  Lemme guess: Joffrey, the queen, Jaime…and maybe King Robert.

jimmy:  I find Williams is good. I don’t know what it is about her that rubs me the wrong way.

I know the first two are right for sure. 🙂

tomk:  Or Daenerys’ weaselly brother.

Williams or Turner rubs you the wrong way?

(Insert gross Watson joke here.)

jimmy:  Turner just rubs me the wrong way. Maybe that will change as seasons roll on.

And the weaselly brother was the other one. So, it’s only 3 she wants dead. 🙂

tomk:  Jaime pushes a kid out a window, and he’s not on her bad list? Huh.

jimmy:  Maybe she finds him pretty.

tomk:  He does seem to have that going for him.

jimmy:  Personally, the only character that really annoyed me was Joffrey…but he’s probably supposed to.

tomk:  Yeah, and he’s proof Batman has a lot to answer for.

 

jimmy:  lol

tomk:  Funny thing: cast and crew commentary from all the kid actors, the producers, and even George RR Martin say that actor Jack Gleeson was, like, the nicest guy you could ever meet. If so, he’s a hell of a good actor.

jimmy:  Probably quite true, he does his job well.

tomk:  But let me ask you this, Jimmy: how familiar are you with this show/story? Have you read the books at all or know anything beyond the two episodes you’d seen before?

jimmy:  I have not read the books. I know bits and pieces from pop culture over the years. Like, I have a good idea who dies (though not when, where or how) and the whole Jon Snow “is he alive or not” debacle since that was all anyone talked about for a year.

tomk:  OK, well, let me fill you in on a little. I have seen all the episodes and read all the books.

George R R Martin wrote the first book in his “A Song of Ice and Fire” series, Game of Thrones, that got the ball rolling. Martin’s style is, after a brief prologue of a doomed new character (the same one from the opening minutes of the episode), is that each chapter takes place from the point of view of a different character. We get some of that character’s thoughts and actions as they go about their business, but other characters who don’t get their own chapters are largely mysteries in a sense.

For the first book, Martin followed the following: Ned and Cat Stark; three of their children, Sansa, Bran, and Arya; Ned’s bastard son Jon Snow; Martin favorite Tyrion Lannister, and Daenerys Targaryen.

Characters like Robb Stark, Jaime and Cersei Lannister, or King Robert don’t get this attention.

Now, the show can and does expand on this and often has these other characters interact in a way that allows them to show some character growth or give backstory to understand where these people came from.

jimmy:  How faithful is the show in general to the books?

tomk:  Season one is a very faithful adaptation of the first book. Much of what is cut is done so for probably budgetary reasons.

Season two going into book two is a little less, and so on. And since Martin isn’t finished the series yet, the show has passed him by. He gave the producers a couple vague plot points on what some things mean and how the story ends in a very broad sense, but they’re on their own right now aside from that.

If anything, adding scenes between, say, Robert and Cersei, expands the work without making major alterations to Martin’s original story.

One of the bigger changes, though, is the characters are generally older.

Martin used a somewhat realistic medieval setting, and used younger kids than are on the show. In the first novel, Robb and Jon are 14, Dany is 13, Sansa is 10, Arya is 9, Bran is 6, and Rickon, the little seen youngest Stark, is 3.

That makes sense of a medieval society where a person would be married off as soon as they were physically old enough to have children, not so much on a TV show.

jimmy:  Yes. As it is Sansa and Joffrey seem awfully young to get married. But I guess when life expectancy is in the 30’s, you gotta move timetables up.

tomk:  True enough, and they’re really only engaged at this point…maybe. It’s a little fuzzy.

jimmy:  On a side note, I found it interesting that there are two Sarah Connor’s on the show.

tomk:  You would pick up on that. And they won’t be meeting for a while.

And before I forget…book Sansa is pretty annoying in the first novel. She’s supposed to be ten, but all she thinks about is romance and marriage and being some sort of queen without really considering what that means. And all kinds of people tell her how beautiful she is. She’s kind of a snob, at one point thinking how Arya looks a lot like Jon and what happened when she asked if Arya was also a bastard (it did not go over well for her).

AND SHE’S TEN!

jimmy:  When I was 10, the highlight of my year was getting an ALF doll.

tomk:  Could be worse. You could be Arya and looking to learn the fine art of killing people. She’s already had her first lesson. And she’s younger. I don’t recall her age on the show, but I want to say 11 or 12.

jimmy:  Well, this was a few years before the Internet, so they had to keep busy somehow.

tomk:  It’s probably a good thing. Arya getting YouTube lessons on swordplay would have made for a more dangerous time at Winterfell.

jimmy:  So, I’ll admit to being a bit confused about who was who after episode one. Things seem to fall into place more with episode two I think. Let me see if I get this right. Ned Stark went off to war and came back with a bastard child who was raised in Winterfell since he was a baby, but Ned’s wife hates him? Though the step-siblings seem to love him. Jamie killed the former king…and now the Lannisters are suspected of killing the “hand of the king”? The white haired “kids” are the children of the former deceased king and are teaming up with Aquaman and his army to get their kingdom back?

tomk:  More or less.

Ned went off to war with his best friend Robert Baratheon, the current king. They deposed the “Mad King,” the one Jaime killed. As a member of the Kingsguard, Jaime violated a major oath on doing so.

When Ned returned from the war to his wife Catelyn, he had baby Jon with him. She was pregnant with oldest son Robb about the same time, maybe earlier. Robb and Jon are about the same age.

Ned and Cat were married for strictly political purposes as is the norm in Westeros, but they actually have a warm and loving relationship, which is more than you can say for a lot of married couples on this show.

Cat never quite got over Ned bringing a bastard baby home.

jimmy:  And the “Mad King” killed Ned’s father and brother? And his sister, Robert’s love, died as well?

tomk:  That said, Cat was originally engaged to Ned’s older brother Brandon. Brandon and Ned’s father went South to talk to the Mad King when the crown prince, Rhaegar, kidnapped Ned’s sister–and Robert’s betrothed–Lyanna and held her somewhere.

The death of Lyanna Stark is something of a mystery at this point. All anyone knows if anything is Ned found her just before she died and he made her a promise. That’s from the books. I don’t recall if it comes up on the show.

As it is, Jaime killed the Mad King. Robert killed Rhaegar on the field of battle (in his youth, Robert was a fine warrior and swung a mean warhammer).

And the Mad King’s two younger children fled to the other continent of Essos. Their names would be Viserys (the weasel) and Daenerys.

But even having Aquaman’s army isn’t helpful because as Ned pointed out to Robert, the Dothraki don’t have ships and would never cross an ocean anyway.

jimmy:  So, as usual, Aquaman is useless.

tomk:  I wouldn’t go that far. Khal Drogo has his uses.

I would see it more as Viserys is a fool who makes bad alliances.

jimmy:  And, like others, doesn’t mind admiring his sister naked. At least he keeps it to just looking at her.

tomk:  Well, he does feel her up a little.

What I would add here is one thing Martin’s world does is often demonstrate the power of the outcasts. Women, dwarves, eunuchs, the obese, bastards…these characters often come across as the most competent or compassionate. The beautiful people at the top may not always be quite so on-the-ball.

jimmy:  I can see that. And Dinklage is awesome as Tyrion.

tomk:  Dinklage was, I believe, Martin’s personal choice and one of the few Americans in the cast.

And he may have recommended Lena Headey for Cersei, and if we want to talk good acting, those two are apparently very good friends in real life but here they play siblings who hate each other.

Besides, Tyrion gets to do this:

Or better yet, this:

 

jimmy:  I did enjoy the part with the slapping.

tomk:  It’s a truly cathartic moment every time Joff gets slapped by someone, particularly Tyrion.

jimmy:  Sounds like it is a recurring theme. I like it.

tomk:  Well, we’ll see how it pans out. Most people are afraid of Joffrey for very good reasons, and not just because of his giant scarred protector, the Hound.

jimmy:  He looks like he’s had a run in with Negan. Ryan and Jenny would get that reference.

tomk:  Yeah, well, they aren’t here!

jimmy:  They can join us in say 65 or so episodes.

tomk:  Sounds fair.

But before we wander too far down Walking Dead lane, I wanted to point something out that maybe isn’t clear on a first viewing: just how humiliated Cersei is on multiple levels in the scene where she arrives in Winterfell.

jimmy:  Do tell.

tomk:  OK, let’s consider: the marriage is for purely political purposes. But after a long ride with her boorish husband, what’s the first thing he demands to do? See Lyanna’s grave. Tyrion’s missing, which means he’s probably doing the sorts of things noblemen shouldn’t. Oh, and Arya is asking very loudly where “the Imp” is.

jimmy:  Does she even care if her husband goes to see Lyanna’s grave? She doesn’t appear to care much about him, and as you said, it’s not like it is uncommon for the marriages to be political and have no love involved. Even her little speech to Joffrey about marrying Sansa was all “just spend time with her at special occasions and maybe get yourself an heir, but otherwise you can have all the whores you want. Hell, I’ll even pay for them.”

tomk:  Yes, but this happens more or less in public. She asks Robert to wait since they just arrived (she even addresses him as “my love”) and he ignores her wishes. Tyrion is probably a bigger problem for her anyway.

jimmy:  I can see that. I get the feeling this is normal behavior for Tyrion.

tomk:  It is, and it’s probably normal for Robert. That doesn’t mean it has to happen in public for all of the North see.

jimmy:  Fair enough.

tomk:  And besides, it’s the pilot so Dinklage is wearing a ridiculous wig for some reason.

jimmy:  These things happen in pilots.

tomk:  True.

But the pilot does well, along with the second episode, in establishing the characters in a number of ways.

The Starks, as a family (not Catelyn since she married into it) are idealists for the most part. It just depends on what those ideals are, whether it’s honor for the likes of Ned or Robb or romance for Sansa. Jaime is a cocky showoff even when he isn’t trying to murder children, though he is the one member of his family who is an adult and gets along with Tyrion. Jon Snow doesn’t quite fit in and Lady Stark never lets him forget it. Robert is a drunken asshole of a king two steps removed from being a frat brother, and it is oh-so-satisfying to see Joffrey get slapped.

It’s why I appreciate a small scene like Robb and Jon saying goodbye. They seem formal with each other, but then there’s a hug and you know Robb cares for Jon and vice versa. Jon clearly has a special connection to Arya and Bran, but not much is made of how he gets along with the other Stark kids this early in the series.

Plus, the producers knew other characters would be important down the road, so let’s make sure we give Theon Greyjoy some lines.

jimmy:  Jon seems quite loved by the other kids. As you pointed out, there are numerous scenes that show they think if him as a true brother.

tomk:  Ned also loves Jon, though Ned is a Stark which means it comes across almost as obligation at times. He tells Jon that Jon is his blood in a rather nice scene before Jon turns north and Ned goes south.

It’s really just Catelyn that has an issue with Jon Snow.

jimmy:  So, as a whole I have to say I’m a little underwhelmed so far. Maybe because I haven’t read the books. Maybe because it is so super mega hyped at this point and these are just the seeds of many more things to come. I’m sure it gets better. Not that I think it’s bad, but not necessarily living up to the hype so far.

tomk:  It’s a somewhat quiet show at this point, slowly paced to set things in motion. Look at it this way: for early seasons, you have something big that will happen in episode nine. The previous eight episodes all build to it in some way, and the last one shows the immediate fallout of that big thing.

It’s why I suggested we do these two at a time.

jimmy:  I’m interested enough to continue, don’t get me wrong. Plus I want to be part of the cool gang that hangs out and smokes in the bathroom. Right now I’m on the outside looking in.

tomk:  We’ll give you a zippo when you finish season one.

jimmy:  Cool.

Ms Impossible asked how many seasons there are and almost passed out when I said the seventh just finished. She was relieved to learn they are only 10 and now less episodes a season.

Though she got no problem watching 22 episodes of 100 different “Chicago” shows on NBC every year…

tomk:  No comment.

Maybe she’d prefer to attend a Dothraki wedding with at least three deaths.

jimmy:  She does find it a bit barbaric, and numerous shots of boobs do nothing to hook her in, but she seems interested enough. She’s invested enough to have her hit list as discussed.

tomk:  I’m pretty sure those are the things that got Watson hooked.

And man, she will have some real problems later on if the current boobs and barbarism are bothering her now.

For what it is worth, my wife was no real fan of that sort of stuff either, but the characters hooked her in the end. Especially Jon Snow…

jimmy:  I get the feeling the ladies like the Snow Man. Do people call him that? They should.

tomk:  Don’t know, but they really should.

jimmy:  Well Tom, I enjoyed the two episodes (even if underwhelmed due to massive hype) but have really enjoyed your insights with knowledge of the books and what the future brings. Any other interesting tidbits before we tackle S01E03-04?

tomk:  Hmmm…well, we saw the Wall. And there are an awful lot of groups in Westeros that swear to celibacy.

jimmy:  Not the Lannisters. And yeah, the Wall is awesome. I wonder how much that inspired the Shield in Secret Wars.

tomk:  Interesting point…

But no, the Night’s Watch, the Kingsguard, and the Maesters are all supposed to be celibate. And that’s not getting into the Church of the Seven’s clergy who, you know, are also supposed to be celibate.

jimmy:  What’s with all the celibacy? And others are clearly making up for it.

tomk:  Well, keep in mind that not everyone who so swears actually does so. Case in point: Jaime.

It’s almost like making a vow of some kind doesn’t mean your genitals suddenly stop working.

Maybe people still have working genitals, but for now, let’s step away from Westeros.  Jimmy and Tom will be back soon with discussion for another two episodes, namely “Lord Snow,” and “Cripples, Bastards. and Broken Things”.  Be here for it!

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