With only two episodes of Game of Thrones to go, the action really came to a head with the absence of The Hand (see what we did there?) on Sunday's episode. Yes, winter is coming, but the battle has already begun at King's Landing. Who will survive? Let's take a look at "The Pointy End" for clues.
TVGuide.com's Hanh Nguyen is an avid scripted-TV watcher, a horror-avoider and someone who's read George R. R. Martin's A Song of Ice and Fire book series, on which HBO's Game of Thrones is based. Colleague Rich Juzwiak rarely watches scripted TV, is a gorehound and became alerted to Martin's existence just recently, as he started researching this new swords-and-sandals (well, boots) series. He knows nothing of these sorcerers (if that is indeed what they are), while Hanh is something of an expert (read: fantasy/sci-fi nerd). Each week, he'll try to make sense of this crazy new show by enlisting Hanh's expertise. It may turn out to be a test of tolerance: in this case, the Games begin after the TV is off.
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Hanh: OK, lots of stuff happened in this episode, which is the one that George R.R. Martin actually wrote himself, so it may have lacked the cheekiness of previous episodes.
Rich: I thought it was a recuperating episode. This series will have an action-packed episode and then need to rest for an episode or two. It's back to setting up for the next active episode.
Hanh: Hmm, OK. I guess there was some setup, but there was action too at the beginning I thought -- with Arya (Maisie Williams), especially. Oh, and can't forget Khal Drogo's crazy scene. Was that the tongue he pulled out of that guy?
Rich: Yes. That was fun. It's weird how much Khal Drogo (Jason Momoa) cares for Daenerys (Emilia Clarke). Their relationship has quickly progressed way beyond politics.
Hanh: Ah, yeah. I can't figure out how much time is supposed to have passed. But perhaps it's an unusual relationship all around. And then there are those sex wiles she used on him!
Rich: Ha-ha, yes. I also like that she's a champion of women.
Hanh: It was much more brutal in the books, the descriptions of the rape she saved the women from. I guess even HBO draws the line there.
Rich: It makes sense. You don't want to alienate people. Interesting that's in the books, though. I figured the show HAS to have women standing up for each other/exerting power/challenging the status quo, or there'd be outrage.
Hanh: Yeah, no. Much of the feminism you see in the show is directly from the books. But on the show they downplayed the amount of time that Daenerys had to adjust to the Dothraki way of life. She didn't become an expert rider overnight.
Rich: Ha-ha, of course. I wonder if GRRM has ever discussed the feminist aspect of the books. Surely, it must separate it from other series of this type.
Hanh: Well, I don't think so actually, or at least not for modern-day fantasy readers, many of whom are women. You'll find tons of female protagonists, women wielding swords, that sort of thing.
Rich: Sure, but I'm talking about the addressing of women's issues that takes place in Thrones.
Hanh: Maybe? I'm not sure. I kind of take it as given that fantasy has feminism in it, so I haven't ever really discussed it before.
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Rich: I'm really enjoying Jack Gleeson. He's having fun with his role.
Hanh: Joffrey is awesome for sure. He scares me.
Rich: What are your thoughts on Sansa (Sophie Turner) after this episode? I thought she was more human than ever.
Hanh: Well, that's good to hear. Hmm, since I know what's happening to her, it's hard for me to separate the bigger picture of her and what only happened in this episode. So for you, the hatred doesn't burn so brightly?
Rich: No, because I could understand her conflict. And she really did plead on her father's behalf, which was more than I expected.
Hanh: Yeah, that was rather brave (or foolish?) of her. It's hard to see if she really understands what's going on. I like how both Robb (Richard Madden) and Catelyn (Michelle Fairley) who read her letters were like, "No mention of Arya."
Rich: Yeah, what was that about?
Hanh: I think it's twofold. In the book, in the scene where Sansa first talks to Queen Cersei (Lena Headey) and is forced to write the letters, Sansa later goes back to her room and realizes she forgot to ask about her sister. It's kind of a horrible thing for a sibling to forget, I think.
Rich: Ah! Good point!
Hanh: But also as far as the letter, I wonder if Arya's absence is because the Queen forgot as well since she didn't actually have her in hand. I guess she couldn't have Sansa manufacture details?
Rich: Right. I felt like it was because she's MIA I didn't realize the added detail of Sansa's neglect.
Hanh: I think Cersei should have lied to Sansa and said they had Arya but that they were separating them. It's kind of embarrassing for their takeover that a little girl slipped through their grasp.
Rich: GIRLS RULE!
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Hanh: Ha-ha. Whereas, right now, Joffrey and Lord Robin (Lino Facioli) are still horrible ... Well, there's Jon Snow (Kit Harington). Did you like the White Walker bit? i thought the scene was too short.
Rich: Yeah, and I was like, "If the fire spread that easily, isn't it going to burn down the entire place?" That escape was awfully convenient.
Hanh: I think it's sort of separate. What I hate is they left out how that Walker's hand started moving of its own accord and was evil, too. It could have been so fun to see that sort of animation.
Rich: Very Evil Dead!
Rich: Maybe they thought it would be too silly? It sounds fun to me, though.
Hanh: I think it could have been done right.
Rich: Did that wise drifter woman say that the White Walkers "sleep and eat the ice for thousands of years"?
Hanh: Uh, I don't recall her quote. You're referring to crazy Osha (Natalia Tena), who had first attacked Bran and then later became the servant at Winterfell? But the quote sounds appropriately cryptic enough.
Rich: Yes. She's so wise. If the White Walkers are eating ice, they probably have pica. And the could be on Freaky Eaters. I would LOVE a GoT/Freaky Eaters crossover!
Hanh: LOL. But does ice give you that dopamine? Hmm ...
Rich: I think pica is in a class by itself, outside of that of the fat/starch lovers. ANYWAY!
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Hanh: She knows about giants, too. You saw naked Hodor (Kristian Naim). He was surprisingly white to me.
Rich: Yes, what on earth? I mean, what on whatever planet we're on?
Hanh: There seems to be a healthy share of male frontal nudity on the show.
Rich: I felt like that was just HBO throwing its weight/penis around. "We're HBO: PENIS." But really: What was that about? Just to introduce us to the presence of giants?
Hanh: Perhaps. Hodor is a real character from the book, and that scene did happen. I think there's lots of actual traditional magic/fantasy stuff that GRRM sneaks through gradually amidst the sort of medieval realism. We already know there are White Walkers and the Others. But there were the Children of the Forest as well, and apparently, giants. I think the Children of the Forest and giants are extinct, but their blood lives on in some. Hodor is somehow related to Old Nan who is older than she has any right to be. (Note: Sadly, actress Margaret John who played Old Nan died after shooting Game of Thrones.)
Rich: Interesting -- definitely gives a better sense of the population.
Hanh: Yeah, the people we know and love/hate are the interlopers!
Rich: The two things I liked most about this episode (besides the penis) were the legitimately exciting sword fighting between the Lannister guards and Arya's dancing teacher at the beginning.
Hanh: Yes, Syrio (Miltos Yerolemou) is awesome. It's kind of left open if he dies, although it's implied he does. But we don't see it in the book, either. I'd like to think he lives, but there's no telling. I'm just wondering why he didn't pick up one of the defeated men's swords.
Rich: Yeah, it was almost cocky: "I'll fight you with my broken wooden sword. THAT is how skilled I am." And I liked the fact that "Winter is coming" now has multiple meanings. That is clever.
Hanh: Oh, Robb is really coming into his own. He made "Winter is coming" his catchphrase! He's like Dirty Harry or the Terminator.
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Rich: It's interesting because that's the series' tagline per the posters.
Does that suggest that Robb is our protagonist?
Hanh: There is never just one protagonist. And "Winter is coming" is a known saying in the north.
Rich: Ah, OK.
Hanh: It just also happens to be particularly true in Westeros currently. How long a winter remains to be seen, but all signs point to a really, really long and brutal one. In the book, all of the chapters are told from one person's POV and switches back and forth.
Rich: Ah, I love that. Trainspotting did that.
Hanh: It's fun when you get to a chapter with a character you like. In each subsequent book, however, GRRM adds secondary characters that you normally didn't follow before and has them the focus of their own chapters. So he mixes it up a lot.
Rich: What a world!
Hanh: Oh, I wanted to ask you: Did you find it random and jarring that the youngest Stark kid, Rickon (Art Parkinson), all of a sudden showed up?
Rich: Yeah, it was weird.
Hanh: "Here are my two lines! I'm Audi."
Rich: I mean, I guess it was necessary to show Bran's responsibility. But, yes, jarring is the word.
Hanh: Poor Bran (Isaac Hempstead-Wright). Everyone cool is gone and all he has is Cameo Little Brother left in Winterfell.
Rich: Burden of power!
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Hanh: How are you feeling about the impending war? Do you like that sort of military stuff?
Rich: I'm definitely looking forward to the action. Obviously, there are a ton of moving parts. It'll be fun to see how it's all sorted out and how it's not sorted out at all.
Hanh: It's almost too much, I feel, to cram into the final two episodes. And yeah, knowing that it extends to more books/seasons, though, means that things won't tie up completely.
Rich: Well, that's the nature of the show!
Hanh: I loved the scene where the old guy, Ser Barristan Selmy (Ian McElhinney) got all huffy and threw down his sword and unarmored himself when Cersei relieved him of duty.
Rich: Ha-ha, yes. That's all I've got, unless you've got more!
Hanh: Um, only to state the obvious: You cannot miss the next episode. Sure, the finale has big stuff, but what happens in the next episode is what made me realize that GRRM has some guts.
Rich: Oh, great! I hope we get to see them splattered all over the screen.
Game or Thrones airs Sundays at 9/8c on HBO.