“The Kingsroad”

It's finally finished!

A Song of Ice and Fire is everywhere! When I was live tweeting my first viewing of “The Kingsroad,” I got responses not only from my followers, but character accounts for Tyrion Lannister and Sandor “The Hound” Clegane. George R.R Martin completed A Dance with Dragons this week, which means I’m now bound by duty to re-read the series. I’ll probably end up buying Dragons in hardcover, because I’m not going to wait for it come out in softcover. This means @nello_puddin gets her wish of me eventually writing a post comparing Game of Thrones to its literary counterpart A Game of Thrones. Penny Arcade even did a strip about spoiling the tv series for people who haven’t read the books. There’s even a Tumblr blog called My Mom Watches Game of Thrones. It’s like Shit My Dad Says, but about Game of Thrones. It’s like the summer I discovered the book series all over again- except on Twitter and all over the Internet.

Since I got a response for my “Winter is Coming” review, I’m continuing my recaps of the series with “The Kingsroad,” which aired last week. So, if you’re interested in finding out what you missed, Literary Napkin is the place to look (aside from Wikipedia) for a fan’s perspective on the series.


George R.R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire is a story about perspective. In each chapter, in his books, we follow only one character has she or he views the events around him. A Game of Thrones follows Daenerys Targaryen, Jon Snow, Tyrion Lannister, and the better part of the Stark family, including Catelyn, Arya, Sansa, Eddard, and Bran. “Winter is Coming” excellently introduces each other their characters and their place in the world. However, we really don’t get to see the immensity of that world, or truly understand the differences between these characters. In “The Kingsroad,” we follow the characters on three journeys- the Starks on their way to King’s Landing, Dany on her way to Vaes Dothrak, the Dothraki home city, and finally, Jon and Tyrion, the outsiders, to the Wall. While on these journeys the differences between the cultures and families in A Song of Ice and Fire become more pronounced and the warnings of war begin to make a bit of sense.

Westeros to Essos

Dany has already been a far longer road then any of the characters before Game of Thrones even begins. Viserys and she are exiles from their own kingdom, living across the Narrow Sea, hoping one day to reclaim the country that is their birthright. When the episode begins, we find that her road back home will take her deeper into the East. Since her marriage to Khal Drogo life has not been easy. Compared to her pampered life in Pentos and the life promised to her by her family, life in a Dothraki tribe is a difficult one.

The exiled princess is dealing with the culture shock of life and love in a Dothraki tribe. Even the simplest things that normally one would take for granted, like getting around and eating, are particularly difficult for her. Jorah Mormont (Iain Glen), an exiled knight, offers her the only food tribesmen ever eat on the road- horse jerky. When they finally set up camp, the khaleesi has to be helped off her horse by Mormont and her handmaidens. At night, Drogo simply enters their tent to have sex with her with little to no communication, because of the language barrier that still separates them. The only thing keeping her going is the three dragon’s eggs she receives from Illyrio in the first episode.[1]

The differences don’t merely extend to basic drives, like eating, moving, and screwing. They’re engrained in cultural beliefs. When discussing the origins of dragons with her handmaidens, her Pentosian servant tells her that they came from the moon, which is a big dragon’s egg. Her Dothraki servants note that moon isn’t an egg, but a goddess. With this scene, the differences between East and West are reinforced.

Dany, however, is able to reconcile these two cultures by joining them in the bedroom. Until her coaching session with her Pentosian servant, Drogo has been having sex with Dany in the traditional Dothraki manner. However, her handmaiden notes, if Drogo wanted to have sex with slave, he wouldn’t have married Dany. Only by proving her dominance in the bedroom by having sex in a Western manner is Dany able to reclaim her dignity and gain Drogo’s respect.

Oh, and did I mention the dragon’s eggs?

Winterfell to King’s Landing

Back when Ned and Robert were leading the fight against Dany’s House, he went South returning to Winterfell a changed man.  Now Robert has asked him again to follow him South in order to preserve the kingdom they built. Unfortunately after Bran’s (Isaac Hempstead-Wright) fall, it means breaking up the once tight-knit Stark family. It also means traveling with the Lannisters, who have shown they can be ruthless protecting their kin. While Ned, Arya, Sansa, and the better part of the House’s servants ride for King’s Landing, Catelyn, Robb, Rickon, and Bran remain in Winterfell. During this trip, the divisions between Starks and Lannisters become even more evident, forcing Catelyn and Ned to make difficult decisions for their family.

Ned is no stranger to tough decisions, but his decision to become the King’s Hand will change the lives of those left in Winterfell. With Ned gone, Robb (Richard Madden), his eldest son, is now man of the house, forced to make the decisions Ned made when he was young. Catelyn has not left Bran’s bed side, since he his fall, despite the maester’s assurance that he will survive. She is a woman losing the world around her. She fears not for her husband, telling him despite his fealty to Robert that he does have a choice and that men always say they don’t have a choice “when honor calls.” Michelle Fairley expertly plays Catelyn Stark as a devoted wife and mother, seeking to find meaning in the chaotic world. When she discovers Cersei’s hair in the tower after the attempted assassination against Bran, Catelyn’s position as matriarch is solidified in her own decision to follow Ned to King’s Landing, warning him of the Lannister threat.

The decision to move King’s Landing also directly affects those traveling with him. Sansa dreams of nothing more than to be a princess. She has been betrothed to the Robert’s son Joffrey (Jack Gleeson). In order to bring Ned even closer to the fold, Robert decides in “Winter is Coming” to join their two families. Little does he know his son is a petulant, sadistic child. When Sansa and Joffrey discover Arya and a commoner practicing sword fighting with sticks, the prince attempts to “punish” the butcher’s boy by goading him into a duel with live steel! Arya defends her new friend with the help of her direwolf Nymeria. This incident, however, draws the ire of Cersei Lannister; forcing Ned to make chose his loyalties. Since Nymeria escapes into the woods, Robert’s wife will not allow the threat of another direwolf attack against her family. The king orders Lady, Sansa’s wolf, to be killed. It is in this scene that we see Sean Bean at his best! When Bean’s characters are forced to follow orders they don’t want to do, they reveal their inner emotional turmoil. On one side is Ned’s King. On the other side are his daughters. Ned follows his king’s orders, executing the wolf himself, since it is “of the North,” showing his loyalties to king, family, and tradition at the same time.

The Starks, however, are not as separated as they might seem. They’re joined by their connection with the direwolves, the sigil of their House. When Bran  is attacked, his direwolf brutally kills the assassin. When Arya protects her friend, Nymeria protects her from Joffrey’s blade. As Lady is executed, the sleeping Bran awakes, revealing his personal connection with wolf pack. Though they are separated by hundreds of miles, the decisions the Starks make in Winterfell and on the way to King’s Lady reverberate over time and distance.

The Bastard and The Imp

Tyrion Lannister is one of my favorite characters in A Song of Ice and Fire. He epitomizes the social mobility outsiders have in the world. Despite being socially shunned, there are still options for bastards and dwarves in Westeros. Despite being given on the most minimal respect, Tyrion and Jon prove themselves to be loyal not only to their respective Houses, but to a society that dismisses their presence.

On their way to the Wall, home of Westeros’ dregs, Jon and Tyrion discuss the options they have in life. The discussion begins with Jon asking Tyrion why he reads so much. Tyrion replies that while his brother Jaime has martial prowess, he has his mind. “A mind needs books like a sword needs a whetstone,” he says, inspiring future librarians and lit majors. Since Tyrion can’t serve on the battlefield or prove his family’s honor in a tournament, he must read and learn of history and nobility, so that way he can serve as an adviser to his family. If he were born a peasant, he would have died years ago, but he is a Lannister, a member of Westeros’ nobility. As Tyrion devotes his life to learning in order to serve the Lannisters, Jon serves not only House Stark, but all of the Seven Kingdoms by taking the Black.

Jon is the son of Eddard Stark. He has lived in Winterfell his entire life. He grew up with the rest of the Stark children. In his mind, he is a Stark despite never baring the name. On their way to the Wall, Ned tells his bastard son that he still has his father’s blood. When Jon is about to leave, he even shows his love to his siblings. For Arya, who shares the outsider’s experience as a tomboy, he gives her a stiletto, which she calls “Needle.” This gift will set his little sister on the swordsman’s path, since marrying into a good family is only a secondary priority for the youngest Stark daughter. As he is preparing his horse, Robb, the eldest Stark son, embraces him, well aware that a stint at the Wall is one of the most dangerous positions in Westeros. He also visits his little brother Bran, telling him that one day, when he is well, they’ll walk the Wall together. Jon loves his family, despite the chilly reception he receives from his mother. This relationship can also be seen in Tyrion’s actions toward his siblings and their children. At the breakfast table, he jokes with his nieces about his possible adventures at the Wall. When his loyalties are questioned, he replies that he puts his family first. Both Tyrion and Jon offer their love to families, who sometimes don’t always return it.

In “The Kingsroad,” the divisions between East and West, Lannister and Stark, and outsider and mainstream are made clearer, providing the viewer with repeated warnings that these divisions are the beginnings of a new war. While they break for lunch on the road, Robert broods that “war is coming.” This statement is followed by Dany, an outsider in Dothraki culture, staring at her dragon’s eggs. Sansa and Joffrey’s betrothal reveal the divisions between Lannister and Stark. While the Stark’s humanely exact justice with their own hand, Joffrey has his bodyguard Sandor “The Hound” Clegane (Rory McCann) kill the butcher’s boy for instigating the fight that ensues over the commoner’s honor. Even on the way to the Wall there are divisions, Benjen picks up rapists, who have chosen to take the Black over castration, causing Jon to look upon them distastefully. It is only a matter of time before these divisions lead to more violence.

Upon the Wall, Tyrion and Jon’s adventures continue in “Lord Snow” airing tonight on HBO.

[1] FORESHADOWING! That is all.


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