Episode 9: Baelor

Sean Bean as Lord Eddard Stark

*This review contains spoilers for Baelor, Episode 9 of Game of Thrones, as well as the first ASOIAF novel, A Game of Thrones.*

Wow. And there it is, guys. For us book-readers, the one episode we’ve been anticipating all season. The instant we knew would shock, anger, drive away and reign in viewers who had not read the novels. A hallmark moment in A Song of Ice and Fire. Perhaps the most important sword swing in the series, and at least in the first book. The day that changed the course of Westeros forever, and the hour that cemented the fate of a widow, six children and a kingdom’s worth of commonfolk. Okay – you get it by now, right?

I’m writing a little bit late, as life has unfortunately kept me from finishing this review. But it’s been wonderful to see the reaction and be able to incorporate that here. I deeply, thoroughly enjoyed catching every “NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!” or “HBO didn’t!” or “How COULD they?!” These seem like angry responses. And they are. But they also indicate passion – that people cared enough about Ned, or his children (or that they hated the Lannisters enough) to take to their Twitters or their Facebooks or blogs or Youtube channels and scream out their rage to the seven hells. Anger like that shows a connection. And if that’s the case, then we can say HBO has won. The biggest gamble going into Game of Thrones was whether or not viewers, especially those unaccustomed to fantasy, would care enough about the characters to wade through generation-long winters, packs of direwolves or schools of dragons, and a few ancient spells to keep coming back week after week.

I’m going to get into the actual review soon, but let me start off by saying I don’t know if this is the best episode. That’s a terrible choice to have to make, and I think the episodes from “The Golden Crown” up until now could all be in the running for the title. But in Baelor, there were scenes that clearly rank among the most emotionally poignant of the series to date. Written by David Benioff & D.B. Weiss, this episode was an expression of the spirit behind this production. Although George wrote the story, and the design teams created the world, and the actors bring that world to life, it is the combination of David & Dan (D&D – I feel they must always be combined by an ampersand) that connects all the threads and weaves them into a tapestry. They are the cerebellum of the show – the seat of power that tells the feet where to walk and the hands what to grab and the eyes what to see and the mouth what to say. So, it was insightful and gripping to see what they chose to express on screen in their episode.

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Preview – Baelor

Extreme spoilers.  Please turn back if you haven’t read the book.

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Portraits: Sansa Stark

The red hair, the wistful look, the ignored servant, the luxurious room.  The girl is clearly sad, but she is also still beautiful and elegant.  She clasps her hands delicately, and her skirt is still perfectly arranged.  She displays a sad longing but also still looks quite dreamy.  This is all very Sansa in The Red Keep for me.

SANSA STARK
The Pained Heart , a.k.a. Sigh No More, Ladies (1868)
Arthur Hughes
English (born 1832 – 1915 died)
oil on canvas
Private Collection

There’s not a lot about this painting on the Internet, so it was a bit more difficult to research.  But based on the “aka” title, I’m wondering if it relates to this poem, “Sigh No More, Ladies…” from Shakespeare’s Much Ado About Nothing:

Sigh no more, ladies, sigh nor more;
Men were deceivers ever;
One foot in sea and one on shore,
To one thing constant never;
Then sigh not so,
But let them go,
And be you blithe and bonny;
Converting all your sounds of woe
Into. Hey nonny, nonny.

Sing no more ditties, sing no mo,
Or dumps so dull and heavy;
The fraud of men was ever so,
Since summer first was leavy.
Then sigh not so,
But let them go,
And be you blithe and bonny,
Converting all your sounds of woe
Into. Hey, nonny, nonny.

It’s interesting, because I wanted to say that Sansa has been deceived, manipulated and defrauded by men (Joffrey, Littlefinger?), but when I think about who’s really at the root of her problems, I keep coming back to Cersei.

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Episode 8: The Pointy End

Maisie Williams as Arya Stark

I’ve written a book about this episode.  But I felt like there was so much I wanted to say.  I’m not sure if this was my favorite episode of the season (the last few weeks have been fantastic), but there’s no denying the excitement caused by the mere fact that George R.R. Martin himself wrote the screenplay for this hour.  I imagine that opportunity was almost like a way to write “alternate scenes” or to change things GRRM may have thought he would have done a different way after having nearly 15 years to ponder his work (A Game of Thrones was first published in August 1996).  For that reason, a lot of what I discuss demonstrates the differences between the text and show.

*This review contains spoilers for Episode 8 of Game of Thrones as well as the first four A Song of Ice and Fire books.  Please proceed with caution.*

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Portraits: The Silent Sisters

The connection between the Sisters and this painting is more abstract than it is literal.  In fact, the painting is allegedly composed of seven different poses by the same young model, Sargent’s niece.  The cashmere shawl is perhaps a bit ornate for the Silent Sisters, especially considering their work.  But this painting has a certain mystical quality about it.  The composition reminds me of the classic pose of the Three Graces, but there are seven figures instead of three (fitting when you consider Westerosi religion).  The muted colors and hazy focus suggest a sense of quiet.  The figures may not match exactly to GRRM’s description of the Sisters, but in the painting I sense the same spirit I picked up on in the book.


Cashmere (1908)
John Singer Sargent
American (born Florence 1856 – 1925 died London)
oil on canvas
Bill Gates Collection

What do you think? Do you get a Silent Sisters vibe or do you just see girls in shawls?

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Portraits: Ser Loras Tyrell

I first saw this painting in the Orsay in Paris and was attracted to it out of my love of knights and fairies and fantasy.  At the time, I hadn’t yet read ASOIAF, but I recently looked through some old pictures and saw Loras immediately.  He even shares almost the same title with the painting!

The Knight of the Flowers (before 1894)
Georges Antoine Rochegrosse
French (born 1859 – 1938 died)
oil on canvas
Musée d’Orsay, Paris

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Episode 7: You Win or You Die

Cersei and Ned in King's Landing

These episodes are only getting better and better.  Because we got a large dose of exposition earlier in the season, we are really able to move forward with all the different plot threads that Game of Thrones offers.  This episode consisted of little actual action and a lot of “behind-the-scenes” type maneuvers, but it was fantastic.  Several moments gripped me emotionally, especially the ending of Robert, Ned and Dany’s storylines for this week.  We are in the thrust of Season 1’s crescendo, and I can’t wait for the last three installments.  If ASOIAF newcomers think things were intense in Episode 7 they have no idea what’s ahead.

*This post contains spoilers for Episode 7 of Game of Thrones, and one instance of obscene language.  Please refrain if either bothers you.

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