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‘Game of Thrones’ Review: “First of His Name”

Game of Thrones First of His Name Review
HBO

Game of Thrones’ season 4 conjures its fifth episode of the season, “First of His Name,” as Cersei attends to the fallout of Tommen being crowned King, while Daenerys makes an important decision, and Jon Snow leads the attack on Craster’s Keep, unaware of his brother Bran’s presence.

Last week’s ‘Game of Thrones’ season 4 installment, “Oathkeeper,” saw Jaime tasking Brienne with finding Sansa Stark, while Daenerys liberated the city of Mereen, and both Jon Snow and Bran found trouble with Craster’s Keep up north. So, what does the latest installment of season 4 bring?

Read on for your in-depth recap of everything you need to know about ‘Game of Thrones’ season 4, episode 5, “First of His Name!”

Tommen Baratheon is sworn in as the new king, though Cersei bristles at the sight of Margaery smiling at her young son. Surprisingly, Cersei offers Margaery an olive branch, and they both offer to speak to their respective fathers regarding their future marriages for the sake of the realm. Elsewhere, Daenerys learns of Joffrey’s death from her council, and wonders if she should take the modest forces she’d amassed to strike Kings’ Landing in a moment of vulnerability. Dany clears the room save for Jorah, learning that the cities she’d previously liberated had already fallen back into the wrong hands, ultimately deciding to stay in Mereen to learn how to rule.

Lord Baelish and Sansa arrive at the Eyrie, though all agree that Sansa must conceal her identity for the time being. Sansa meets her aunt Lysa and her cousin Robin, though Lysa ravenously kisses Petyr once they’re alone, speaking of how Petyr had her poison her own husband Jon Arryn years earlier. Petyr attempts to stall their marriage for the time being, though Lysa had already called for the Septon. Later that night, Sansa rolls over in bed to the sounds of Petyr and Lysa’s wedding night.

Cersei and Tywin agree on respective marriage dates for Margaery and Tommen, as well as she and Loras, as Tywin explains that their gold mines have run dry, and the crown has become dependent on the Iron Bank of Braavos. Cersei broaches the subject of Tyrion’s trial, but Tywin admits that he can’t discuss the case with her, as he is one of the judges. Elsewhere, the Hound overhears Arya doing her nightly prayer of the names she wishes to kill, among them the Hound himself. That night, Lysa tells Sansa that her sweet tooth reminds her of Catelyn, though Lysa quickly turns aggressive as she suggests Petyr to have protected Sansa out of his love for Cat, and subsequently her daughter. Sansa denies that anything has happened between them, and is shocked to learn Lysa intends to marry her to Robin.

Out on the road, Podrick has difficulty controlling his horse around an annoyed Brienne, who attempts to relieve him of his squire duties. Meanwhile, the Hound awakens to find Arya practicing her swordplay, mocking her for the “waterdancing” technique that Syrio Forel had taught her. Arya attempts to run through the Hound with Needle, though his armor stops the blade and the Hound smacks her to the ground, returning the sword in turn. Back in Kings’ Landing, Cersei visits with Prince Oberyn Martell as they discuss their respective daughters, Cersei asking Oberyn to take a gift to Myrcella back in Dorne.

Podrick fails at cooking a rabbit for Brienne, having never needed to perfect a squire’s many duties under Tyrion, and Brienne refuses his help in removing her armor. Podrick admits to lacking combat skills, though he’d previously killed a member of the Kingsguard to save Tyrion’s life at the battle of the Blackwater. Hearing this, Brienne softens and allows his help removing her suit. Meanwhile up north, Locke surveys Craster’s Keep and sees Bran and the Reeds tied up in a barn. Jojen experiences a vision of a Weirwood tree and insists Bran must make it north to find it, while Locke returns to Jon and the men, claiming to have seen dangerous hounds in a barn.

Karl and his men prepare to rape Meera, though Jojen reveals that he had seen a future of Karl’s dead body burning. Before the situation goes any further, Jon and the Night’s Watchmen attack, and Locke slips into the barn to confirm Bran’s identity by cutting his numb legs. Locke attempts to flee with Bran, but Bran wargs into Hodor and follows the two into the woods, where Hodor manages to snap Locke’s neck. Hodor frees Meera and Jojen, though Jojen reminds Bran that Jon wouldn’t allow them to continue traveling north if he knew of their presence.

Jon finds Karl in the main hall of Craster’s Keep, and suffers several wounds in the course of a duel before one of Craster’s wives stabs Karl long enough for Jon to land the killing blow. The remaining Night’s Watchmen gather up the bodies, among them Locke, as the women decide to burn the Keep and make their own way independently of the rangers. Jon is surprised by the return of his direwolf Ghost, who managed to kill a fleeing Rast in the process of escape, before the collected group watch the Keep burn to the ground.

OUR REVIEW:

Last week’s installment expectedly cooled a few things down from the more controversial and plot-laden hours of the season to date, even diverging from the books in a number of surprising manners, so we’d doubt if audiences tonight were altogether surprised to see “First of His Name” following up on a few of those wayward threads, and/or moving pieces around at the halfway point of the season. There are still at least a few stories we haven’t meaningfully checked in on in a number of weeks, apart from some of the major beats we know to be coming, but for the moment at least the HBO drama seems to be cooling its heels.

If anything, “First of His Name” at least made a strong hour for the women of the series, as we got to see Cersei in a much more human light than the previous episodes that focused more on her vengeful side than anything else. For someone so hellbent on vilifying her (relatively) innocent brother, it was nice to see Cersei displaying a certain amount of practicality with Margaery and her father, even plying Prince Oberyn for a bit of contact with her only daughter. Of course, it isn’t an accident that Cersei went right from placating the daughter of one judge, to the next her father, to making peace with the last of them (Oberyn), but it’s nice to be reminded — as Tyrion once put it — that the occasionally overly-villainous character has true reverence for her children, above all else.

Similarly, Sophie Turner had some strong material as Sansa tonight, as we returned to the Vale for the first time since season 1 (note how much more dimensional young Robin seems), and saw that Petyr Baelish’s game has a few more loose ends than we might have thought, making Sansa’s circumstances under aunt Lysa seem only so much better than that of the Lannisters. Just as quickly as we saw Sansa relieved by her new surroundings, relief turned to a familiar terror in seeing herself attached to yet another unwanted suitor, with another unstable matron above her, something Turner continually displays with aplomb.

A bit less effective was the straggling material with Brienne and Podrick, and Arya and the Hound, two strong pairings that prove equally compelling in practice, but had little in the way of any real plot development to offer for the night. By the same token, Daenerys’ scenes with the council seemed solely present to tell those vested in the story that we’d be settling into Mereen for the time being, should anyone wonder if the Mother of Dragons would next set her sights on Westeros. It’s too bad as well, considering that last week’s installment made some intriguing deviations from the books, and we might have wondered if producers moved Daenerys’ story further along to complement their catching up with George R.R. Martin’s work.

As such, it was disappointing to see that the deviations of putting both Bran and Jon Snow on the path to Craster’s Keep amounted to very little, even if we got a few strong fight sequences out of the thread. Much as with last season, it seems continually wasteful to place Jon and Bran in close proximity without some plan for the two to interact, particularly given the writers had gone out of the way of Martin’s work to implement the siege of Craster’s keep to begin with. Like ‘The Walking Dead,’ ‘Game of Thrones’ shouldn’t necessarily prove beholden to its source material, but it seems as if the story lost its nerve to make anything meaningful of the deviation, including original character Locke’s presence as well.

Well, what say you? Did you get your fill of sword-swinging ‘Game of Thrones’ action?  What did you think about tonight’s installment, “First of His Name”? Check out all our other ‘Game of Thrones’ season 4 coverage, and join us next week for the all-new episode recap of ‘Game of Thrones’ season 4′s latest installment, “The Laws of Gods and Men” on HBO!

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