Game of Thrones
Commentary on "Cripples, Bastards and Broken Things"

Justin Clouse | 9 May 2011 19:25
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Things really heat up in Westeros in this week's Episode "Cripples, Bastards and Broken Things." If you want a straight recap of the show, be sure to read Susan's write-up. This commentary treats the show from the viewpoint of a fan of the novels, so there are some slight spoilers for those who may not have finished the books.

Perhaps in a surprise to many, "Cripples, Bastards and Broken Things" opens with a reveal that solidifies that the series is not shying away from the supernatural aspects of the books. While we get little more than a glimpse of the three-eyed crow from Bran's dreams, the implications of its appearance suggest we'll get to see wargs, skinchangers, green flame and the other more fantastical elements of A Song of Ice and Fire.

After Bran awakes, HODOR, who we are finally getting a good look at, brings him before Rob and Tyrion, who is less than welcome back at Winterfell. Despite the lack of hospitality The Imp provides Bran with a unique saddle design, which could help the crippled boy at least ride with properly trained mount. I'm glad this scene made the cut because it plays an important role in counter balancing the accusation at the end of the episode. If Tyrion had been the hand behind Bran's attempted assassination, why show him a kindness here? Or is Tyrion really simply that cunning and ahead of the game? Those who have read the series will get to see it played out, and those who haven't will get to experience it for the first time.

We head north to Castle Black, which suspiciously has walls and gate now. In the books the Night's Watch castles, or at least Castle Black, were specifically not true castles. They only had one wall, The Wall, and thus could only defend themselves to the north. This ensured that they could not interfere with other holdings in Westeros. In the past they commanded forces that could be used for less noble means than securing the realm from northern invasions of wildings and worse. It's because their castles were unable to defend themselves from the south that no one has to worry about them ever being used to meddle in the wars of the other kingdoms.

We see Alliser Thorne drilling the new Night's Watch recruits and toss SAMWELL TARLY into the fray. I've really enjoyed the physicality of the fight choreography thus far, with them using far more than just their blades to attack each other with. Compared to the typical Hollywood renditions, with its unrealistic showers of sparks as blades lock and parry, the fights in Game of Thrones are refreshingly rooted in historical medieval sword play.

Something else I really enjoyed here was the character of Alliser Thorne. Owen Teale plays the abrasive, mean spirited and harsh master-at arms-well, but in true George R.R. Martin fashion he's not simply that one sided. He has the job of whipping these boys into something that resembles a Night's Watch soldier. So while he is certainly singling out Sam a bit unfairly, he knows the safety of each member of the Night's Watch depends on the fighting ability of his brothers. Winter is harsh and, more so near the Wall. As the sun hides away and the temperature drops, who would you rather have at your side? The cowardly fat boy or a proper brother of the Night's Watch?

Over with the Dothraki, the khalasar has reached the city of Vaes Dothrak. Perhaps with a bit of insight considering responses to their developing relationship in previous episodes, this is the only time we see Khal Drogo in the episode and the majority of our time is instead spent focusing on Daeneryes and Viserys. I still think this arc is suffering a little; it's great to see Daenerys stand up to her brother, but we are never really given much context for why she has a sudden affinity for the Dothraki people. Also, was the "horse camera" (simulating the cameraman as being on horseback) really necessary? Daenerys and Jorah bounce around in and even out of the frame, which was needlessly distracting and didn't add to the immersion of being with the Dothraki horde.

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