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Review: Game of Thrones, Episode 6

Posted by Patrick Sauriol on Sunday, May 29, 2011

Weighing in at just over 800 pages, A Game of Thrones is full of plots and sub-plots, primary and secondary (and tertiary and ancillary) characters, major and minor leitmotifs, and foreshadowing of foreshadowing – to say it is a dense narrative is an understatement in the extreme, particularly considering its status as only the inaugural chapter of a much larger tale.  This column (It Is Known: An Analysis of Thrones) will act as a companion piece to both series, novel and television, analyzing each installment’s character beats and plot points as well as scrutinizing the transition from page to script.  What it will not do is spoil the story; the hope and intent is elucidation, not ruination.

With four further episodes this season, and a second year already greenlighted (and the much-anticipated and oft-delayed fifth book, A Dance with Dragons, due to release immediately following the season finale), such illumination will be needed.

It is known.

Episode 6: “A Golden Crown”

The “crowning” of Viserys Targaryen is not only one of the most dramatic scenes yet depicted in the halfway-over series, it also marks the production’s biggest visual effects shot to take center stage (not including the near-ubiquitous background plate, which the mountainous vista that accompanies Tyrion Lannister’s sky cell is a prime example of).  That it furthermore contained a great deal of potentiality for coming off as cheesy or otherwise ham-handed only made it that much more difficult to successfully pull of, but the crew did it in spades, creating a memorable moment capped by a dull metallic clang that will reverberate throughout the annals of television history for a long time to come.

This deft intertwining of dramatic potency and technical skill is quickly becoming a hallmark of Game of Thrones, and, in fact, “A Golden Crown” is teeming with such sequences:  the fight in the Eyrie’s throne room is easily the series’s best to date, a stark manifestation of the source material’s sheer brutality combined with cinematic flourishes that go a long way to making the actors look like accomplished swordfighters (unlike last week’s “climatic” dual between Lord Eddard Stark and Ser Jaime Lannister); Daenerys Targaryen’s ritualistic eating of the horse heart is visually riveting, using the power of the actors’ performances to carry the burden of exposition and utilizing Ser Jorah Mormont’s translations to further Viserys’s doomed character arc; and the heat of the cooking dragon egg that only Dany seems impervious to represents a small and quiet scene, yet also one that is strangely foreboding and poetic, full of thematic foreshadowing for the end of this episode and those yet to come.

There is an incredible array of challenges, both creative and technical, waiting to be tackled in the remaining four installments of this season, not to mention next year’s exponentially more difficult run of episodes, and there undoubtedly will be many more strikeouts.  But if showrunners David Benioff and D.B. Weiss continue to hit more than they miss, and to even knock a few more out of the park on occasion, as they have with this ep, the series just possibly will solidify its spot in the pantheon of television classics.

Just possibly.

The Differences Between the Novel and the Episode

Not everything, however and unfortunately, is perfectly sublime with “A Golden Crown.”

Though there has been a constant stream of changes across these first six episodes – alterations made due to time constraints, budgetary considerations, or, even, to narrative whimsy – none so far has been as flagrantly or thoroughly erroneous as this week’s boar hunting scene.

The notion that just three – just three – people would accompany King Robert on something as banal-yet-dangerous as an excursion through the woods is absolutely ludicrous (just ask Bran Stark as to the veracity of that critique); it is as if a film about the president showed only one Secret Service agent and one aide accompanying him on a fishing trip.  Compounding the problem is the depiction of the hunting party traveling not on horseback, as Robert and Eddard did in the opening installment (“Winter Is Coming,” episode 101), but on foot.  For a show that so endeavors to pepper itself with historical accuracy, such errors are downright embarrassing – a slur against adaptation as well as believability.

That production values played a role in the misstep is beyond question; it is the same reason, after all, why Robert and Ned’s conversation about killing Daenerys during the long ride down to King’s Landing was changed from horseback to quaint table-side (“The Kingsroad,” 102), even though the writers did at least have the good sense to retain the king’s bodyguards, or why Ned’s confrontation with Jaime Lannister and his household guards was changed to an on-foot battle, in daylight, against a building as opposed to in the middle of a rain-drenched street (“The Wolf and the Lion,” 105).  But it is a relatively easy shortcoming to circumvent, as actors planted on stationary horses would be all that is needed to sell the reality of the hunt, with extras and dayplayers saved only for master shots.

It is enough to make one wonder how battle sequences of entire armies facing off against one another will be handled…

Previous “It Is Known” Installments:

Episode 1: “Winter Is Coming”
Episode 2: “The Kingsroad”
Episode 3: “Lord Snow”
Episode 4: “Cripples, Bastards, and Broken Things”
Episode 5: “The Wolf and the Lion”

[Marc N. Kleinhenz is a freelance writer and videographer who will be reviewing HBO’s Game of Thrones for us.  He has also written extensively about George R.R. Martin’s books for other sites.]
 

Ipsilon
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Posted: 7 years 3 weeks ago

Isn't it possible that they are scrimping on thse things so that they can go all out for the large battles that (I'm assuming and hoping) are yet to come?

That happened and we all let it happen.