Stars: 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, Richard Madden, Rory McCann, Sophie Turner, Maisie Williams, Jason Momoa, John Bradley, Charles Dance, Sibel Kekilli
Writers: David Benioff & D.B. Weiss, based on George R.R. Martin’s “A Song of Ice and Fire”
Director: Alan Taylor
Network: HBO, Sundays @ 9 PM
Airdate: June 19, 2011
On last week’s episode of GAME OF THRONES, it looked like all hell was going to break loose. This week, it does – just not in the ways we expected. So double kudos for drama that both rivets and shocks in the season finale “Fire and Blood.”
SPOILER ALERT BELOW … YOU’VE BEEN WARNED
After Arya Stark (Maisie Williams) is physically prevented from the suicidal gesture of charging in to try to stop/avenge the execution of her father Ned (Sean Bean), she is disguised as a boy by her rescuer, the man who recruits for the Night’s Watch. Arya uses her sword to defend herself from bullies in the group, and is befriended by a young blacksmith’s apprentice who is being sent North with the rest.
Arya’s sister Sansa (Sophie Turner) is still betrothed to young King Joffrey (Jack Gleeson), even though Joffrey is the one who ordered Ned’s death. After Joffrey forces Sansa to look at the heads of her father and other servants, she almost pushes Joffrey off a wall, but is prevented from doing so.
When Ned’s wife Lady Catelyn (Michelle Fairley) and oldest son Robb (Richard Madden) hear of Ned’s death, they are both anguished and livid. Catelyn counsels patience – they can’t kill their hostage Jaime Lannister (Nicolaj Coster-Waldau) until Sansa and Arya are safely away from Joffrey.
Jaime’s father Tywin Lannister (Charles Dance), the richest man in the seven kingdoms, is devastated by his son’s capture – and even more devastated that, because grandson Joffrey has killed Ned Stark, there’s no bargaining for Jaime’s release or for peace with the Starks, especially because the Starks are winning. Tywin astonishes his other son Tyrion (Peter Dinklage) by telling Tyrion to go to King’s Landing to rule as Hand of the King and essentially give orders to Joffrey and Cersei, Joffrey’s mother, who is Tyrion and Jaime’s sister. Despite Tywin’s explicit orders to the contrary, Tyrion decides to take his new lady friend Shae (Sibel Kikilli) with him to court.
At the Wall, Jon Snow (Kit Harington) decides to forsake his vows and head to half-brother Robb’s side in battle, but three of Jon’s oath brothers on the Night’s Watch, including devoted friend Sam (John Bradley) go after him and change his mind. Good thing, too, as the Night’s Watch head out in force North of the Wall to face the White Walkers and whatever other monstrous creatures may be out there.
Robb’s followers hate Joffrey Lannister, but they’re not wild about the idea of either of the late King Robert’s brothers taking the throne. Instead, the northern lords proclaim their fealty to Robb, who they hail as King of the North.
Daenerys (Emilia Clarke), who is certain of her status as a child of the dragon, wakes up the morning after the healer has worked magic on the gravely ill Khal Drogo (Jason Momoa). Her baby was stillborn, loyal Ser Jorah (Iain Glen) tells Daenerys. The healer adds that the baby was monstrous, describing something that sounds like a dragon. The infant’s death was the price of Drogo’s life – except that Drogo is in a coma. The healer says she has done this in revenge for Drogo destroying her village and her temple. When Daenerys realizes she cannot bring her beloved husband back to his normal self, she suffocates him, then demands that a funeral pyre by built. Daenerys adds her three dragon eggs to the pyre, and has the healer burned alive with Drogo’s corpse. Daenerys tells her slaves (and the few Dothraki who have stayed with her after Drogo’s death) that they are free to leave or stay as her new allies. A few go; most remain. Daenerys steps into the fire herself. In the morning, Jorah finds Daenerys alive –with three newly-hatched baby dragons.
“Fire and Blood” is so wonderfully done that gooseflesh breaks out repeatedly. We can’t help but love the idea of Tyrion – a character who is both sane and smart – in effect running the kingdo. The scene between Dinklage and Dance, with both their characters somewhat stunned by the interaction they’re having as Tywin finally acknowledges Tyrion’s worth, is a beautiful piece of acting and writing, affecting us with how thrown Tyrion is and making us feel something for the tyrannical head of household despite ourselves. Much as we like Tyrion, when Robb’s men proclaim him their king, it is truly thrilling. Then there is the whole business with Daenerys, where we must empathize with her nemesis’ motives while still very much wanting the strong young woman to prevail.
“Fire and Blood” is also so well done that we can be tricked out of expecting even things our knowledge of storytelling leads us to anticipate on a meta level. For instance, if Jon doesn’t stay with the Night’s Watch, we have no primary characters to lead us around the wall, and it seems a very risky proposition to introduce dragon eggs and never hatch them. We’re aware of these things, and yet we feel great suspense over whether Jon will honor his oath and whether Daenerys will survive the pyre.
The biggest question now is, how are we going to wait a whole year to find out what happens next? Sales of the George R.R. Martin books upon which GAME OF THRONES is based are likely to soar heavenward in the meantime – and should only whet the appetite of fans even more.
AGREE? DISAGREE? LET YOUR VOICE BE HEARD – COMMENT BELOW
Related Link: GAME OF THRONES – Season 1 reviews
Related Link: Review of GAME OF THRONES – Season 1 – Series Premiere
Related Link: on GAME OF THRONES from creator GEORGE R.R. MARTIN
Related Link: Interview with GAME OF THRONES star PETER DINKLAGE