Wouldn't it be nice if these Game of Thrones characters had "Hello, My Name Is" badges? It would certainly cut down on the confusion of who's who so we could focus on the confusion of what the hell is going on. In this week's discussion, we try to puzzle out some of the supporting characters like Theon Greyjoy, Old Nan, The Hound and the yet unseen redheaded Roz.
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.
Rich: When the episode opened, I thought, "This is what it sounds like when ravens deliver plot points..."
Hanh: LOL! I am not crazy about the Third Eye Blind raven either. That's a device used solely in the show, not the book. Boo!
Rich: Do ravens have any part as messengers in the books?
Hanh: Yes, they're used like carrier pigeons. So when they say, "We'll send a raven" — that's their long-distance call.
Rich: I was going to say, they could have gone with something more Hollywood if it was going to only be a convention of the show. Cans joined by strings would be more efficient.
Hanh: The raven is in the book, but just not heavy-handed dream stuff.
Rich: Speaking of which, the lady that sits with Bran — who is she?
Hanh: Ah, that's Old Nan (Margaret John). She's ridiculously long-lived. She gets the people mixed up sometimes because the family names are reused. So Bran now, sometimes she thinks it's Brandon Stark, Ned's older brother who got killed.
Rich: OMG, she is me. I relate to her so hard!
Hanh: Well, you do like the gruesome!
Rich: And I get all these names mixed up! For example, I was very confused about Theon Greyjoy (Alfie Allen). I don't think I realized he's not a Stark.
Rich: Yes! He looks a lot like Jon Snow...who's also not a Stark, even though he is.
Hanh: That loose, dark, indeterminate wavy hair.
Rich: But I think I've got his deal down: Ned (Sean Bean) took him in much like Jon took Ned in. Jon, uh...
Hanh: Jon Arryn, yes. Took Ned in as a ward.
Rich: So there's a similar relationship between Jon Arryn and Ned, and Ned and Theon.
Hanh: Correct, and there's something else a bit more political there also. Theon's dad was defeated in battle, so it was kind of a gesture of goodwill for the Starks to foster him as a ward. In a way though, he might be considered a hostage. So, that's why he had that interesting heart-to-heart with Tyrion, when they talked about Roz the whore. Who, by the way, wasn't in the book, but she's kind of a fun addition.
Rich: Was she on the show yet, though? Have we actually seen her?
Hanh: I guess it's not really a spoiler: You will see her.
Rich: OK. I'm just making sure I know what I saw. I swear, this show makes me feel like I'm suffering from dementia.
Hanh: Right, I don't think she's been on yet.
Rich: I'm like, "Hi, mom!" when Catelyn (Michelle Fairley) walks on screen. You know what made me laugh?
Hanh: Which part?
Rich: The scene with Viserys (Harry Lloyd) and his "pretty little idiot" in the bathtub.
Rich: She's getting turned on by all the insane dragon names, which I do not relate to.
Hanh: That whole scene is lovely and ridiculous. It's a new scene also. So you're saying you don't get turned on by dragon names? Puff would be bummed.
Rich: No! I'm too much of an old lady for that, not one of those young whores.
Hanh: You've also seen the world.
Rich: Do you think the show has a sense of humor about itself? I haven't quite decided, but your "lovely and ridiculous" comment made me think that it might?
Hanh: I think certain scenes they do. Like during this scene, I'd have to say it knows, right? (Benefit of the doubt.)
Rich: It was really, really silly, but I liked that.
Hanh: Viserys is what makes me think there's humor.
Rich: I guess everything needs comic relief. Every play needs its gravedigger.
Hanh: Viserys gets the fun lines: "What did I buy you for? To make me sad?"
Rich: Haha, yes. I also liked Tyrion's: "I have a tender spot in my heart for cripples, bastards and broken things."
Hanh: Tyrion (Peter Dinklage) is particularly well-spoken and always has that ironic tone. Love him.
Rich: Favorite line of the night, though, was from Daenerys: "The next time you raise a hand to me will be the last time you have hands" That's 2011's "Until you do right by me everything you think about is gonna crumble!" (From The Color Purple.)
Hanh: Yes, the meek little sister knows how to fashion a threat!
Rich: Do you think Daenerys' overall empowerment is a direct result of her sexual liberation? Something I'm still wrapping my head around is how she went from basically being raped by Khal Drogo (Jason Momoa) to seeming to enjoy sex.
Hanh: Hmm, I don't think it's a result per se. They do go hand in hand.
Rich: Ah. Correlative but not causal.
Hanh: Although the show makes it seem more like a cause, I just think that as the Khal's wife, she's powerful now, and seems to take to power differently from her brother.
Rich: Every time she asserts herself, "Express Yourself" starts playing in my head.
Hanh: Her platinum hair fits. And her leather top could be a boho-chic bustier.
Rich: Totally! Speaking of her brother, I don't know if I knew that his nickname was "The Dragon."
Hanh: Well, it's just the whole idea that the Targaryens are descended/related to dragons and have dragon's blood. So if he's the heir, then he could be referred to as the dragon symbolically (like the Houses with their sigils). On top of that though, I think he just has a dramatic way of speaking about his wrath ("waking the dragon" if she makes him angry). Another giggle for me. That was also in the book and Viserys was a snot there, but for some reason, I like him better on the show.
Rich: Question: Does the Watch train in Winterfell?
Rich: OK. It really looks like Winterfell to me, so I've been confused. I didn't think so, though.
Hanh: They're up north of Winterfell by the Wall at Castle Black. All snow looks alike.
Rich: Was also confused because of the Theon/Jon resemblance.
Hanh: Yeah, they need like colored headbands or something like the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.
Rich: Seriously! That would help me wrap my elderly/childish brain around this. Meanwhile, Ned's having a very time-to-make-the-donuts time over in King's Landing.
Hanh: Yeah, his life there is just wretched.
Rich: It just goes to show how the hand runs things. And the admin work is tedious!
Hanh: Oh, here's something I think is fascinating: "Snow" as a surname for a bastard. In the book, it's just the surname for bastards up north, but let's say "Stone" is the bastard surname in the Tully lands. It's handy and all, but I think it's kind of horrible that they have to be "marked" like that.
Rich: I've been wondering where Snow came from. I thought maybe it was his mother's surname, but that doesn't make sense re: the mystery surrounding his mother's identity.
Hanh: Was that clear when he talked with Samwell (John Bradley)?
Rich: I didn't get it, but that doesn't mean it wasn't clear! It's through Sam that we get to really like Jon.
Hanh: Right. Also, he's one dude who didn't sleep with Roz (Jon that is). He said he didn't want to make another bastard.
Rich: Is that who that story was about?
Hanh: Yeah. Girl gets around.
Rich: Per her job description! I thought the scene of Jon and Sam talking about sex was homoerotic, but that's me reading into it, I think.
Hanh: Normally I'd say yes, but I didn't get that vibe.
Rich: Any all-male stuff regarding sex immediately strikes me as homoerotic. Biased! Littlefinger is intriguing. I loved his "Trust me, you don't want to trust me" spiel.
Hanh: Right. Littlefinger (love that name) is oddly open about being untrustworthy.
Rich: It reminded me of the scene in Labyrinth where Sarah has to pick one of two doors and one of their guards is telling the truth and the other one is lying. And then my brain fell down a hole.
Hanh: Ha yes. I remember playing those mind benders as a child. You can ask only one question. I used to remember how to get around it. What did you think of why Samwell was at the wall. Did you catch his story?
Rich: Yes, he's basically the runt of his family.
Hanh: Well, not really. That's why I was upset they didn't really get the story right on the show. In the book, he's his dad's heir, and his dad is this big, warlike brute. Sam... isn't. Once the dad had a second son, he started favoring him over meek Sam. So, once Sam reached 18, it was "Go join the Watch or I'll manufacture your death." Kind of awful, but that's the lovely world they live in.
Rich: But, there is kind of a parallel between Jon taking him under his wing and Jon taking on the direwolf runt. It's interesting, the way these characters want to preserve these dynamics already established in their lives.
Hanh: Like Tyrion, Jon has a soft spot for the unwanted.
Rich: I mean, I guess that's just character consistency, but I enjoy the logic.
Hanh: Oh, was the tournament death gory enough for you?
Hanh: Oh, well that another weird thing. In the book, the scarred guy —The Hound (Rory McCann) — told his own story to her, and then threatened her life if she ever revealed the story. So it was kind of a secret — he was protecting his manly rep. But if it's Littlefinger threatening her, I don't understand why he'd do that. Doesn't make sense.
Rich: The only thing I could come up with was that it was because she's going to be queen and he wanted to assert his power over her early: "Let me tell you who runs things, future runner of things..."
Hanh: It's possible?
Rich: Finally, there was the Catelyn/Tyrion showdown.
Hanh: Fun, no?
Rich: Yes. My favorite episode-ender thus far.
Hanh: They're going to have some really good Tyrion scenes coming. There's definitely humor.
Rich: It seemed like she wasn't certain at the beginning of the scene — like she went from being busted to busting.
Hanh: Right. She wanted to be all incognito, but once he called her out, she assessed the situation, how many possible allies she had. I wanted to tell her, "He's been nice to Bran!" But you know, they can't hear me. I should have sent a raven.
Rich: Believe me, I know they can't hear you. This show would be four hours long every week if they all stopped every time I said, "Wait..."
What did you think about the episode? How are you doing keeping these character names straight?