Stars: Mark Addy, Alfie Allen, Sean Bean, Emilia Clarke, Nikolaj Coster-Waldau, Peter Dinklage, Michelle Fairley, Aiden Gillen, Jack Gleeson, Iain Glen, Kit Harington, Lena Headey, Isaac Hempstead-Wright, Harry Lloyd, Richard Madden, Rory McCann, Sophie Turner, Maisie Williams, Jason Momoa
Bryan Cogman, based on George R.R. Martin’s novel “A Song of Ice and Fire”
Brian Kirk
HBO, Sundays @ 9 PM
May 8, 2011

GAME OF THRONES is one of those series where we can’t wait to see what happens next, even though we more often than not have no idea what that’s going to be. In “Cripples, Bastards and Broken Things” – the episode title is taken from a line delivered by Peter Dinklage’s deeply engaging Tyrion Lannister – we’re following at least five separate story threads, though two tie together startlingly at the end point.

In the royal capital King’s Landing, the new Hand of the King, Ned Stark (Sean Bean), investigates his dark suspicions of what happened to his predecessor in that position. He also can’t quite come to terms with the fact that his younger daughter Arya (Maisie Williams) would rather be a soldier than the wife of a prince. At the Wall that separates civilization from the wild and possibly supernatural far north, Ned’s bastard son Jon Snow (Kit Harington), training as a member of the Night’s Watch, befriends Samwell Tarly (John Bradley).

Samwell, heavy, clumsy and easily scared, is at the Night’s Watch only because the alternative was literally being murdered by his own father. In Winterfell, the fiefdom Ned reluctantly left in order to serve the king, Ned’s young and newly-crippled son Bran (Isaac Hempstead-Wright) earns the empathy of Tyrion, who feels that being a dwarf, as he is, isn’t that different from being crippled. Tyrion gives Bran a gift – a design for a saddle that will allow him to resume riding – but knows the Starks have no love for the Lannister family. Tyrion is, however, quite shocked when Catelyn (Michelle Fairley) announces that she “knows” (mistakenly) that Tyrion conspired to murder Bran and gets her kinsmen to arrest the wrong Lannister (Tyrion’s brother Jaime, played by Nicolas Coster-Waldau, did the deed).

Across the Narrow Sea, Daenerys (Emilia Clarke) finally stands up to her unpleasant brother Viserys (Harry Lloyd) in no uncertain fashion and realizes that there is no way he will ever take over the Iron Throne of the Seven Kingdoms, no matter what he supposes.

It’s a measure of how much we like Clarke’s Daenerys and dislike Lloyd’s Viserys that the sibling clash is so satisfying to watch, especially since we’ve seen it building over several episodes. Alternatively, even though we know that Cat wrongly thinks Tyrion was involved in harming Bran, it’s still highly startling and even alarming when Tyrion is unjustly seized.

Ned’s detective work in the capital is steadily intriguing rather than flashy, while the scenes up at the wall make us like Jon, and his pet dire wolf, all the more. One caveat with the source material, rather than the adaptation – a sidekick named Samwell? Really? Is there anybody who is watching this show, and/or who read George R.R. Martin’s novels, who doesn’t know the name Samwise Gamgee? This aside, we’re curious as to how Sam, so very not-combat-ready, will fare once he’s a full member of the Night’s Watch and also curious about what seems to be his kinship to Catelyn.

Script writer Bryan Cogman seamlessly takes up the style of series executive producers David Benioff and D.B. Weiss, who penned the three previous episodes – the only noticeable difference here is in the writing credit. Director Brian Kirk once again makes everything beautiful and sometimes instantly horrifying to behold – no one will forget the jousting sequence in a hurry.

GAME OF THRONES continues to fascinate. We actually can wait to see how it all plays out, because the game itself is so consistently engrossing.


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