We return with our weekly Game of Thrones discussion to tackle the second episode, "The Kingsroad."
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. Her co-worker, 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.
Hanh: How did you like this episode? Do you feel more comfortable in the world?
Rich: Well, those are two different questions. I definitely feel more comfortable, partially because I adhered to the no-chips rule and ate soft foods like oatmeal and bananas while watching. That said, I found it a little less stimulating. Not boring, per se, but less involving than the premiere.
Hanh: Yes, there's probably still going to be more of a "set up" feeling. I'd like to say it all does pay off eventually, but I guess that's the problem of being fairly faithful to the novel.
Rich: It's damned if it does/doesn't. If it spends its time setting things up, it's boring. If it doesn't, it's confusing. It seems like ADHD culture wouldn't allow for that, but scripted viewers are typically forgiving of that phenomenon, right?
Hanh: I'm not sure. Once again, this is such a different show from others, I don't want to lump it with other scripted shows. Most shows are written more episodically I feel. Since this is based on a novel, they've had to manufacture stopping points for each episode. A typical Game of Thrones episode doesn't have the first, second or third act of something like a crime procedural.
Rich: Do you find the stopping points contrived/jarring?
Hanh: No, but I definitely think that this show would benefit from extended play. I got the first six episodes to view, and that helped a lot. I wonder if people would like it better in marathon form.
Rich: I like the way they have been cutting things off. It's working the way it's supposed to on me. I am intrigued! This episode ended with the prospect of a human/animal psychic link. Terribly exciting.
Hanh: I love that aspect and it's something that's been argued in the books — that somehow the direwolves' fates are tied to the Stark children's fates. Nymeria, Arya's wolf, is out in the wild, so we'll see what that means for Arya.
Rich: I think after watching this episode, it's probably harder even than last week to misconstrue this show as sexist. The female characters are stepping it up.
Hanh: What's your take on Cersei (Lena Headey) now? Does she show more b----y potential?
Rich: Yes, more potential all around. It's hard to ascertain her motivation, but I believed the story about her son, and how it affected her.
Hanh: It's a look inside her that we don't have in the books. It was a deliberate move on the part of the writer/producers. I was sitting there thinking, "What's Cersei's game? Is she more diabolical than in the books?" But it did feel straightforward, like something she regretted.
Rich: That's ultimately how I took it. I'm a sucker for tears.
Hanh: I think now, though, she's a cold-hearted b---- who's driven to protect her children (however horrid they may be).When she says, "We have another wolf" — to substitute killing Lady for Nymeria — I hated it. Loved it. So horrible.
Rich: In general, the female characters are asserting themselves in a way that feels modern.
Hanh: Yes, Arya (Maisie Williams) is definitely one who obviously takes on whatever role she wants, not what's expected of her. The most curious one is Daenerys, aka Dany for short. How do you feel about that whole other world across the sea?
Rich: I don't know how I feel about it! That's one thing I barely grasp. That's where the Targaryens are from?
Hanh: Nope. I think this is where the map comes in handy. The Targaryens are traditionally from the East, another continent, from a city called Valyria. They came to Westeros after a cataclysmic event and ruled for about for about 300 years until they were usurped in that war that then put Robert (Mark Addy) on the throne. So when Viserys (Harry Lloyd) is all het up about wanting the throne back, it makes sense. He's still crazy and horrible though. I wouldn't want him as my king. I <3 to hate him.
Rich: About this the land across the sea, which I assume is not called Honah Lee... Or is it?
Hanh: Haha. Well no. But there used to be dragons back in Westeros. The Targaryens brought them, naturally, but the last ones supposedly died out.
Rich: But those shots of the eggs are mighty foreshadowing.
Hanh: They're not quite so heavily foreshadowed in the books. It's interesting to see them featured so prominently here.
Rich: They're on the bed, they're by her head. They're in a chest, they're near her vest. Dragon eggs on this show are as omnipresent as green eggs and ham in that book.
Hanh: I thought it was a tad clumsy, tipping the hand too much?
Rich: I thought that the king using the curse, "Seven hells!" was hilarious.
Hanh: I frakking love sci-fi and fantasy cursing.
Rich: Also, the direwolves: they grow up so quickly! They pulled a Chrissy (from Growing Pains).
Hanh: Chrissy was just wrong. That whole rapid-growth thing was straight from a fantasy-horror novel! As for the direwolves' growth, I think more time elapsed than we think. The king's visit to Winterfell was at least a month I think, and then the travel back to King's Landing took time.
Rich: That's true, and we know that it takes at least a month to get from King's Landing to Winterfell. What did you think of the wolf attack inside of Bran's room? It was really graphic. I think it was homage to vintage Italian horror. There are similar dog-caused throat gashes in Dario Argento's Suspiria and Lucio Fulci's The Beyond.
Hahn: Ha! Bloodthirsty Rich. But yes, this was somewhat bloody. I liked that they didn't hold back much. This guy was going to finish off a kid. No remorse on my part.
Rich: I wonder if Peter Dinklage has any internal conflict about portraying an angry dwarf. Such a stereotype!
Hanh: It is, but as you go along, you'll see Tyrion show much more. For good reason, he's a fan favorite. I felt that scene in which he slapped Joffrey was intriguing because he seems to care enough to make his errant nephew behave. Tyrion understands about appearances. He doesn't necessarily care about them all the time, but in that instance he knew that the proper thing to do was send condolences or whatever. What I also found interesting is that he gets away with slapping Joffrey! The other Lannisters must respect him to a certain extent to allow him to do that. I liked that exchange between Jaime and Tyrion: "My dear brother, at times I wonder whose side you're on" / "My dear brother, you know how much I love my family." What do you think of Robert as king? There were a couple scenes with him this week.
Rich: He seems more open to suggestion than I'd expect from a king.
Hanh: A pushover? Cersei totally controlled that inquisition.
Rich: It's too early to call, but he might be out of his league?
Hanh: Well, when I was talking to Mark Addy (Robert is "not a kingly king"), his take was similar to yours. Robert is a soldier, loves life, drink, wenching. He's not so much about ruling.
Rich: Kind of refreshing, I think.
Hanh: Exactly. Everyone wants the throne, except the dude who has it. I like how it's uncomfortable to sit on. I mean, it's made from swords!
Rich: The visual metaphor has never been more apt.
Hanh: Okay, who do you want to die? In this world, it's very likely you'd get your wish.
Rich: Oh, I'm not even thinking like that really. The bad guys are necessary and the good guys are likeable and the wolves are wolves!
Hanh: The bad guys and good guys become less distinct later on.
Rich: Something to look forward to!
Hanh: Is there someone you want to see more of?
Rich: Well, I do want to know more about Jon Snow's mom. But I know that's coming. I'm not so invested in the characters yet, but Arya is pretty hard not to love.
Hanh: Next episode is called "Lord Snow."
Rich: But yeah, I'm more open-minded about plot and stuff and ready to evaluate as it happens. I'm the worst at guessing endings, twists, etc.
Hanh: Except for the green eggs and ham!