Game of Thrones 4×05: “The First of His Name”

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We’re halfway through season 4 of “Game of Thrones” and things are just beginning to heat up in the Seven Kingdoms and beyond. Daenerys is on the move and gaining speed conquering much of Slaver’s Bay, the North is erupting in war and chaos and the crown is being passed in King’s Landing.

Episode 5, “The First of His Name,” opens with Tommen Baratheon’s anointment to King Tommen of the House Baratheon, First of His Name, King of the Andals and the First Men and Lord of the Seven Kingdoms—a ceremony that’s humbled by the sorrow for Joffrey’s death and made all the more hilarious by Tommen’s chubby little cheeks.  On last week’s episode, Tommen was but a boy in bed, playing with television’s most brilliantly named character, Ser Pounce, awkwardly flirting with somebody twice his age, Margaery Tyrell. Last night, that same kitten-loving boy became a king. (Seriously hoping the kitten theme continues throughout his reign!)

But just as quickly as Tommen’s moment in the spotlight begins, he fades into the periphery. Instead, the remainder of the episode focuses on sideline powers—the puppeteers of Westeros: Cersei, whose politicking and cunning are working to build a strong case against Tyrion; across the Narrow Sea, Dany Targaryen, anoints herself Queen and promises to “do what queens do…rule”; and Petyr Baelish, who we learn is responsible for the poisoning of not only Joffrey but also Jon Arryn.

This discovery poises Baelish to finally take the reigns over the course of events in Westeros—at least publicly. The revelation that Baelish was instrumental in Arryn’s and Joffrey’s death shows how, since season 1 episode 1, Littlefinger has been right at the center of the action—pulling strings and ordering assassinations in his whispery pseudo-villain accent. It should be remembered that Jon Arryn’s death was the catalyst for the entire series beginning: Ned Stark was brought to the King’s Landing to serve as Hand of the King to replace Jon…and the rest is history.

In the North, Jon Snow Mayer (hair twins?) reaches Craster’s Keep, where Bran, Meera, Jojen and Hodor are still being kept captive. Jon’s arrival at Craster’s, which ends with Jon plunging a sword through the back of someone’s head (much in the style of Paris Hilton’s death in House of Wax), allows Bran and his gang to flee. In his escape, Bran must make the painful decision to not embrace Jon but instead to continue on his never-ending Tour of the North 2k14!

“The First of His Name” brought season 4 to a key turning point—not so much in story line as in character development. It may seem odd to say that an episode that showed Jon push a sword through the back of a mutineer’s head is not action-packed and gory, but thus is Game of Thrones. Last night’s episode was dialogue-heavy, emotive and explored the complex familial relationships that have characterized the show from its origin, all the while showing the most humane side of many of Game of Throne’s villains.

While familial clusterf***s have thus far been reserved primarily to sibling quarreling, childbearing, and raping one another within the Lannister family, “The First of His Name,” stretched the importance of the family from King’s Landing to the Eyrie. The true moments of humanity that shines through Cersei’s cloak of evil are continually those in which any discussion of protecting her children takes place—what Tyrion calls her “most redeeming quality.” The same is true in last night’s episode, in which Cersei cries over her married-off daughter while touring the gardens with Prince Oberyn. “What good is power,” Cersei asks Oberyn, “if you cannot protect the ones you love.”

But what happens when the ones you love are dead, beheaded or elsewhere? This is certainly the case for Sansa, who seems to become more and more beautiful as her situation becomes more and more dire. After fleeing King’s Landing on Davy Jones-Baelish’s locker, Sansa finds herself in a situation arguably less desirable than where she was only two episodes prior: in King’s Landing with her husband, the Lannister imp. A transferred prisoner, Sansa is forced to suffer the jealous psychotic tirades of her aunt, Lysa Arryn, whom Petyr Baelish marries and then loudly sexes in this episode. Is Sansa safer with Crazy Eyes of the Eyrie? Or has she simply been moved from one prison to the next?

Despite all that’s been said, one important lesson is demonstrated in “The First of His Name” and really throughout the entire series: Dany Targaryen, newly self-appointed Queen of somewhere-that-is-always-sunny-and-beautiful, is the baddest bitch to rule Slaver’s Bay, to ever walk the Seven Kingdoms, to (eventually?) sail the Narrow Sea and to ever, ever rock the dragons-with-no-top look.

Don’t believe me? Here’s proof.

Contact Sam Avishay at [email protected].