Game Of Thrones – The Kingsroad

by Gerard McGarry

Sean Bean as Eddard Stark - The Kingsroad

Lest we forget, the first episode of Game Of Thrones ended with little Bran being thrown out a window by the incestuous Jaime Lannister. Whoever thought they’d get to write a sentence like that in their own lifetime?

The Kingsroad sees us pick up the story as Lord Eddard Stark prepares to leave Winterfell for King’s Landing. It might seem strange that Stark is leaving while his son is lying comatose, but that’s essentially the lure of King Robert – there’s no time to hang around waiting for his son to regain consciousness. Besides, Stark has other children to fall back on, plus a bastard.

Before we talk about the other plot threads in this week’s episode, it has to be said that it’s thrilling to be immersed in such a well-realised world as Westeros. Other reviewers are fussing about how the first episode introduced the characters and are calling this an awkward bridging episode. Well, duh. Good lord, you’ve got an incredibly rich adaptation of a series that will stretch to seven novels, with a huge ensemble cast, and you’re nitpicking over a little bit of clumsy dialogue? Sheesh.

Major events this week include: an attempted assassination on young Bran Stark, thwarted by his mother and his wolf. The upside of Mama Stark almost getting her fingers sliced off is that she now believes the Lannisters are a murderous, evil bunch. Jon Snow heads for the wintery wastes of the Wall, and Tyrion Lannister – the only likeable Lannister – decides to go along for the ride. Before Jon sets off, Ned promises to tell him everything about his mother when they next see each other. Which could conceivably be years from now, which is testament to Jon’s patience.

Over in the Dothraki lands, young Daenerys Targaryen spends her days being pampered by handmaidens and her nights being taken roughly from behind by her husband. Luckily – in what was a fun but thinly veiled lesbian sex scene – one of the girls teaches Dany how to take control in the bedroom. What’s particularly noteworthy here is not the titilation factor, but there’s a moment where Dany looks at the dragon’s eggs during a harrowing sexual encounter and somehow draws strength from them. I am convinced that the eggs are not only symbolic of the House of Targaryen, but that they’re highly likely to hatch one of these days.

One of the dominating story threads in The Kingsroad was an attack by Prince Joffrey on a butcher’s boy Arya had befriended.  Joffrey is such an insipid little character, a vicious bully who hides behind his royal privilege. Of course, when he cuts into the flesh of Micah’s face, Arya leaps to Micah’s defense and her pet wolf soon jumps to the rescue when Joffrey points a sword at her. With a savagely bitten arm, Joffrey rushes off to tell mummy.

These scenes show the Lannisters at their most cruel. Cersei quietly demands punishment – first for Arya, then insisting that the wolf is put down when it’s clear that she won’t be strongly disciplined. And Joffrey accuses Arya and the butcher’s boy of beating him up – but even Robert can see the truth, and insults his son for letting a girl disarm him. After watching the machinations of the Lannisters over these first two episodes, it feels like we’ve just seen the tip of the iceberg, and they’re capable of much greater acts of villainy.

The Kingsroad pushed Game Of Thrones forward, introducing more drama and intrigue along the way, but deepening our understanding of the characters and the world they inhabit. It’s subtle right now, but you can see how Daenerys Targaryen and her Dothraki husband might become a threat to the Baratheon throne. And even if they don’t find a way to get the Dothraki across the ocean, Robert (and by extension Ned) may face serious treachery from his wife and in-laws.