“First of His Name” feels like a bridge episode, as it wraps up some storylines from the beginning of the season (the Night’s Watch deserters in Craster’s Keep, Bran’s kidnapping) while also laying out some new storylines to take us through the last five episodes (like Dany’s new-found desire to remain and rule in the East, Sansa getting a glimpse of Littlefinger’s plans to seize power in the Eyrie, and Brienne and Pod’s quest to find the Stark girls). It also serves as a pause in the Tyrion storyline; while Tyrion presumably rots away in the dungeon, we get to leisurely watch Cersei try to charm Margarey, Tywin, and Oberyn in an attempt to turn all three against him and ensure his guilt and resulting execution. Despite some of Cersei’s blundering political moves in the past, her charm offensive seems to work to some degree in all three cases, particularly with Tywin, who for once lets his guard down and informs his daughter how precarious the Lannister position really is now that their gold mines have run dry and they are deeply in debt to the Iron Bank. After what felt like a few seasons of unstoppable ascendancy, it’s nice to see that the Lannister’s have something of a crack in their golden armor. This admission is also, I think, is also a comment on how destructive and unpredictable war can be, even for the supposed victors.
Last week, when considering Jon and Bran’s seemingly converging paths, I found myself hoping that the two might have a reunion, however brief, before they went their separate ways again. Unfortunately, it wasn’t to be. In the chaos of the Night’s Watch attack on the deserters, Locke sneaks off to find and kill Bran, but before he does, Bran possesses Hodor and uses his giant-like strength to snap the man’s neck. It was sad to see Hodor’s look of horror when he came to and realized what Bran had forced him to do, and the fact that the show acknowledged this was a nice touch. The emotional consequences of violence are something that the show doesn’t hide from. Then again, Jon Snow jammed a sword through a guy’s head and out his mouth in this episode, so I suppose we can’t give Game of Thrones too much credit for being philosophical; it’s plenty graphic when it wants to be. Anyway, Bran realizes that if he sees Jon again, his brother will never let him continue north and do what he needs to do (whatever that is, exactly) so he and his group slip out of the compound before the fighting ends. It’s disappointing, but I suppose I shouldn’t have expected otherwise. Still, Bran’s little kidnapping adventure did add some excitement to a journey that, in the books, was fairly nondescript. I also really liked the visual effects of Jojen’s vision of the weirwood tree on the frozen hill, and can’t wait to see what it actually looks like when he and Bran finally get there.
Game of Thrones can be a pretty dark show, but it’s seemed especially bleak with all the murders, rapes, poisonings, and baby sacrificing of the last couple of weeks, so it was very refreshing to see the brief but often funny scenes between hapless Pod and gruff Brienne. It was a nice bit of comic relief (at least until Pod explained that he had killed a Kingsguard), and I think I’d be happy watching him burn a nice rabbit dinner every night on the road, from Dorne to the Wall. I hold out the feeble hope that the eager to please, puppy-like Pod we see here is actually one of future Westeros’s greatest, most honorable heroes, and we’re simply watching him in his awkward adolescence. It’s a nice hope, though considering how fate crushes most characters in this series, its probably an unlikely one.