Season 1: Episode Recap

Now that Season 1 is over, I want to do  a general “season recap” that approaches the show from various angles.  Using my 10 episode reviews to keep me organized, I went through the details as well as my impressions of each hour.  In doing this Episode List Recap, I decided that Fire and Blood and The Golden Crown were the most flawless episodes.  The three episodes between those two were also phenomenal, but I thought Episodes 7/8/9 each had something missing.

I think the acting was amazing in every episode.  I could have listed it under “The Good” for each segment.  Also, “The Good” section is by no means exhaustive; if I wrote down every praise I sing for this show, this post would be far too long!

*This post contains spoilers for each episode of Season 1 of Game of Thrones*

Episode 1:  Winter is Coming
Date:  April 17, 2011
Writer(s):  David Benioff & D.B. Weiss
Director:  Tim Van Patten
Plot Synopsis:  King Robert Baratheon arrives at Winterfell to ask old friend Eddard Stark to be his new Hand of the King. Exiled princess Daenerys Targaryen is told she will marry Dothraki leader Khal Drogo in exchange for an army, which her older brother intends to use to take back his crown. Ser Jaime Lannister proves just how far he will go for love.
The Good: Great character set up with some key emotional moments (Robert’s memory of Lyanna Stark, Daenerys’ numbed yet willful entry into the scalding tub). World class actors. A fantastic base for what’s to come.
The Bad: A lot of information in a hour meant some choppy and/or rushed pacing.

Episode 2:  The Kingsroad
Date:  April 24, 2011
Writer(s):  David Benioff & D.B. Weiss
Director:  Tim Van Patten
Plot Synopsis: Ned and his daughters run into trouble on the Kingsroad during their journey south to King’s Landing, and Sansa is forced to face a loss. Catelyn defends Bran’s life with help from his direwolf, Summer, and then decides she must bring a message to Ned in the South. Jon Snow turns North to join the Night’s Watch, and Tyrion Lannister accompanies him in order to see the Wall. Daenerys tries to take her new marriage into her own hands.
The Good: Fantastic acting from the Stark girls made the riverside/judgment scenes, the execution of the scene in Bran’s bedchamber, the added scenes between Cersei and Cat and Ned and Jon.
The Bad: Pacing is stabilizing, but still in heavy exposition mode.

Episode 3:  Lord Snow
Date:  May 1, 2011
Writer(s):  David Benioff & D.B. Weiss
Director:  Brian Kirk
Plot Synopsis: Ned arrives at King’s Landing and meets with the Small Council. Jon Snow excels at training but makes no friends at the Wall, until he gets a little help from Tyrion. Arya begins dancing lessons with tutor Syrio Forel. Cat arrives in the capital but is intercepted by old friend Petyr Baelish. Robert reminisces with two of his Kingsguard knights, Sers Jaime Lannister and Barristan Selmy. Dany finds out she is pregnant, and Prince Viserys Targaryen is shamed after he threatens his sister’s life.
The Good: New character intros (like Varys and Littlefinger), the Syrio training scene.
The Bad: Still shaky pacing, and still waiting for some big action.

Episode 4:  Cripples, Bastards and Broken Things
Date:  May 8, 2011
Writer(s):  Bryan Cogman
Director:  Brian Kirk
Plot Synopsis: While stopping at Winterfell on his journey south, Tyrion helps Bran deal with his new handicap. Ned follows the steps of his mysteriously deceased predecessor and former mentor, Jon Arryn, and discovers one of Robert’s bastard children. Littlefinger teaches Ned that King’s Landing is a city of informants. Sansa is charmed and frightened at the Hand’s Tourney. Jon takes Samwell Tarly, a fat and cowardly new recruit, under his wing. Daenerys stands up to her brother’s abuse for the first time. Catelyn takes Tyrion hostage when they meet by chance at an inn.
The Good: Theon is finally explained. The mystery of Jon Arryn’s death lends another layer of drama to the story. A lot of backstory was revealed and well-woven into the plot, with most of the reminiscing occurring naturally within the present storyline.
The Bad: The Hound should have told the Hound’s story.

Episode 5:  The Wolf and the Lion
Date:  May 15, 2011
Writer(s):  David Benioff & D.B. Weiss
Director:  Brian Kirk
Plot Synopsis: Ned feuds with Robert, resigns his position as Hand and plans to return north, but not before he and his men suffer at the hands of the Kingslayer. Arya overhears a plot that could mean Ned’s death. Renly Baratheon receives encouraging words from his lover. Cersei and Robert discuss their failed marriage. Cat and her retinue are attacked on their way to the Eyrie, where she finds her sister changed.
The Good: The action has kicked in. Episode subtly focused on key rules for playing the game of thrones. The added scene between Robert and Cersei gave some depth to their relationship.
The Bad: The battle on the high road seemed non-threatening, mostly due to scale.

Episode 6:  A Golden Crown
Date:  May 22, 2011
Writer(s):  David Benioff & D.B. Weiss with Jane Espenson
Director:  Daniel Minahan
Plot Synopsis: Ned comes to after his injury and is reinstated as Hand. Bran’s first ride after his accident does not go well, but Theon Greyjoy is there to save the day. Robert goes hunting, and Renly chides him about his folly. Common folk come to court to complain about Ser Gregor Clegane ravaging their lands. Joffrey tries to make amends with Sansa. Tyrion pledges his innocence and wins Bronn to his cause. Ned discovers a startling truth about Cersei’s children. After Viserys threatens Daenerys’ unborn son, Khal Drogo promises him a crown.
The Good: Another good dose of action. The crowning scene was handled expertly. Osha and Bronn are both great new additions to the cast.
The Bad: Not much!

Episode 7:  You Win or You Die
Date:  May 29, 2011
Writer(s):  David Benioff & D.B. Weiss
Director:  Daniel Minahan
Plot Synopsis: Tywin Lannister lectures his son Jaime about the importance of the family name. Ned reveals his new knowledge to Cersei, who in response tells him there is no middle ground in the game of thrones. Robert has been wounded while hunting boar, and charges Ned with an important task. Littlefinger teaches his new employees. Sam and Jon take their Night’s Watch vows beneath a heart tree beyond the Wall, but their celebration is marred when Ghost finds something morbid. After an assassin tries to kill Daenerys, Khal Drogo swears to take the Iron Throne for his son. Ned is double-crossed by Littlefinger when he’s called before Joffrey and Cersei.
The Good: Despite containing little action, the episode was well-paced and gripping. Jason Momoa finally gets a chance to shine during Khal Drogo’s speech.
The Bad: The chronology seems erroneous.  The Littlefinger brothel scene was unnecessary. While the metaphor was clear, the length, sound editing and cinematography made it feel tasteless.

Episode 8:  The Pointy End
Date:  June 5, 2011
Writer(s):  George R.R. Martin
Director:  Daniel Minahan
Plot Synopsis: Syrio and Septa Mordane make sacrifices to protect Arya and Sansa from the Queen, but Sansa is intercepted by the Hound. Arya escapes and finds Needle, but runs into trouble when a stableboy harasses her. Varys visits Ned in the castle dungeon. Sansa writes a letter to Robb under Cersei’s instruction and later pleads for mercy for her father. Robb calls the Starks’ banners and departs Winterfell abruptly, leaving Bran to rule in his absence. Rickon has a scary thought about the fate of his family.  Tyrion recruits the mountain clans to his cause. Daenerys saves a midwife from being raped during a Dothraki raid, and Khal Drogo takes a wound during a fight with an angry bodyguard.  Jon saves Lord Commander Mormont from a mysterious enemy. Cat and Tyrion arrive at the Stark and Lannister camps, both preparing for war.
The Good: A beautiful script and gorgeous cinematography. The scene in which Winterfell calls its banners evokes chills. Syrio and Septa Mordane both depart on high emotional notes. Khal Drogo’s fight scene is much more exciting than it is in the book. The Tyrion-Bronn bromance provides great comic relief. The wight scene felt creepy and dark.
The Bad: Chronology continues to be an issue.  While other critical moments have been handled fantastically, Arya’s scene with the stableboy was possibly the worst in the series.  I’m sad to say this, and I know it’s not true, but this scene felt cheaply done. 😦

Episode 9:  Baelor
Date:  June 12, 2011
Writer(s):  David Benioff & D.B. Weiss
Director:  Alan Taylor
Plot Synopsis: Maester Aemon makes a revelation while trying to counsel Jon. Drogo is dying from his festered wound, and Daenerys pleads with Mirri Maz Duur to save him. Tyrion talks about his first wife with Bronn and Shae, a prostitute. Cat strikes a deal with Walder Frey to enable Robb’s men to cross the Green Fork. Tyrion goes into battle for his father against the Northerners. In a second battle, Robb Stark captures Jaime Lannister. Mirri performs blood magic on Drogo, and Dany goes into labor amidst the hysteria it causes. After a brief moment with Arya, Ned comes to know Joffrey’s wrath.
The Good: Acting, writing, sound, music and cinematography were all on point for this episode, and there were many truly emotional moments. One of the novel’s most poignant scenes was beautifully translated for television.  Sean Bean is Ned Stark.  Rookie Kit Harington and Veteran Peter Vaughan give expert, emotionally gripping performances in their scene. Jerome Flynn as Bronn is hilarious. The blood magic was toned down (no shadows) but still managed to be eerie and unnatural.
The Bad: The battles at the Green Fork and the Whispering Wood were entirely off-screen.

Episode 10:  Fire and Blood
Date:  June 19, 2011
Writer(s):  David Benioff & D.B. Weiss
Director:  Alan Taylor
Plot Synopsis: The Stark family must cope with Ned’s fate. Yoren, a Night’s Watchman, adds Arya to his group to recruits traveling North. Sansa, still held by the Lannisters, is tormented by Joffrey. Bran and Rickon share a prophetic dream with a harrowing ending. The Stark bannermen proclaim Robb the new King in the North. Jaime Lannister admits to Cat that he caused Bran’s fall. Cersei shares time with her cousin Lancel. Tywin sends Tyrion to rule as Hand of the King in his absence. Daenerys learns that her baby was stillborn and Drogo is brain-dead, and she puts him out of his misery. Jon attempts to desert the Watch to join Robb’s army, but his friends bring him back.  Varys and Littlefinger proclaim their admiration for each other. Arya bonds with Gendry after being taunted by some orphan recruits. The Night’s Watch rides out beyond the Wall. Daenerys places her dragon eggs and Mirri Maz Duur in Drogo’s pyre and enters the flames.  When the blaze clears, Ser Jorah Mormont finds that she is not alone.
The Good: A great dose of emotion from nearly all characters. Big scenes (King in the North, dragons) exceeded expectations. Storylines concluded in ways that emphasized character development but also cast the hooks for next season. The CGI dragons were beautiful and not cheesy at all.
The Bad: Nothing.   This was pretty damn perfect!

What do you think was the best episode?  The best scenes?  Share your thoughts in the comments.

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Filed under Episode Reviews, Game of Thrones, Season 1 Review

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