Episode 5 of Season 4 of Game of Thrones is titled "First of His Name," which is presumably about the coronation of King Tommen, but I think is also a reference to Lord Petyr "Littlefinger" Baelish, who features prominently in this episode.
Circumstances prevented me from seeing this week's episode until the middle of the week, but I want to get my thoughts about S4E05 before S4E06, "The Laws of Gods and Men" airs tonight.
The show opens with the coronation of King Tommen, which is happenig under the watchful eyes of his mother Queen Regent Cersei Lannister Baratheon, his uncle the Hand of the King, Lord Tywin Lannister and apparently most of the important people in Westeros. Notably unseen are Lord Petyr Baelish and Lord Varys. This is followed by a key scene between Cersei and Margaery Tyrell, whom Cersei basically sounds out for her willingness to marry a third(!) King while simultaneously putting indirect pressure on one of three judges who will be deciding the fate of her brother Tyrion Lannister in his trial for murder of her son, the late unlamented King Joffrey Barratheon. During the episode Cersei has conversations which are intended to influence all three judges: Lord Mace Tyrell, Tywin and Ser Oberyn Martell.
There are three main events in this episode, the last of which resolves the suspense from S4E04 about the fate of Bran Stark and his traveling companions north of the Wall captured by the former Night's Watchmen in Craster's Keep. Bran's half-brother Jon Snow attacks the Keep and the en result is that three people die: the sadistic leader of the mutineers, the traitorous infiltrator that Roose Bolton had sent to find Jon and kill the two remaining Stark brothers who were thought to be trying to reach Jon and the bumbling member of the Night's Watch who discovers it's not a good idea to keep a direwolf hungry and confined. A key point here is that despite being within earshot and view of each other Bran and Jon do not, reunite continuing the extended story line of the dispersal of the Stark family name that has been occurring since the tragic events at the end of S1E09.
The second main event was very subtle but it involved Dany. Somehow, Ser Jorah has the good news of the death of Joffrey in Westeros, which is tempered with the bad news that the slave cities of Astapor and Yunkai where Day freed the slaves are quickly falling into chaos without her presence and attention. She has to decide whether she should try and sail to Westeros now with her three young Dragons and take the Iron Throne now, abandoning what she has done in Essos to try to fulfill her destiny sooner rather than later. Interestigly, Dany chooses to wait. "If I can not control Slaver's Bay, how can I control seven kingdoms?" Thus the storylines from the two continents remains bifurcated for a lot longer....
The third main event of the episode is the arrival of Littlefinger and Sansa Stark (whom he tells the guardsmen is his niece Alayne) at the Bloody Gate on the way to the Aerie and Lysa Arryn. There we meet Sansa's crazy Aunt Lysa, whom we discover is head-over-heels in love with Littlefinger and whom insists Littlefinger and her get married immediately so she can have some private little finger action of her own with her new husband. During this exchange we also discover that Lysa Arryn started the chain of events which led to the War of the Five Kings in the first place by not only murdering her own husband Jon Arryn (the former Hand of the King that her brother of the law Eddard Stark replaced) at the suggestion of Littlefinger, but also writing a letter to her sister Catelyn Stark which led to the capture and near-execution of Tyrion way back in Season 1. This reveals to the audience that most of the THE most important events in the story to date have been as a result of Littlefinger 's machinations! "Wheels within wheels within wheels" as the saying goes.
There were many highlights of this episode
- Brandor! Bran using his abilities to take over Hodor in order to kill one of his captors and stave off assassination is one of the key highlights of the episode. It demonstrates that even in a world where being crippled is one step up from a death sentence Bran can use his mind and other abilities to impact the world around him. Bran and Hodor together make a formidable team.
- He's Not Heavy He's My Brother. The actor playing Jojen Reed is stealing a lot of the scenes he is in as he communicates with eery abandon what "second sight" is like and demonstrates for Bran how powerful non-physical forces can be as well as Bran's own significance.
- Jealous, Much? The scene with Lysa Arryn and her niece Sansa where Lysa reveals her jealously of Sansa's mother Catelyn and her unhinged jealously of Sansa is riveting. Kate Dickie plays the scene to the hilt and we're left wondering what in the world Littlefinger could be seeing in Lysa to marry her. Perhaps the right to call an impregnable mountain castle his very own?
Nothing is perfect; even this excellent episode had some flaws. The only one I think worth mentioning is:
- Did We Really Need To See That? Usually complaints about the explicit nature of the show involve the almost comical levels of nudity on the show. But this time for me it was about the explicit violence. Several of the fighting scenes were excessively gory, particularly the way that Jon dispatched.
- Where in the World is Lord Varys? Ever since the astonishing scene in the Throne Room in "The Climb" (S3E06) we the audience are pretty sure that Littlefinger and Varys are antipodes to one another, so it is curious indeed that as we see more and more of Littlefinger, as well as his more of his schemes are revealed we have seen hide nor hair of Lord Varys. He is one of my favorite characters because as a eunuch with power (he sits on the Small Council that advises the Hand of the King) he is one of the most prominent gender-variant characters on the show. (Brienne of Tarth is the second most prominent, of course.)
Overall, S4E05 was one of my favorite episodes of the show to date. Even though it was not full of action, it was full of really important conversations that revealed motives and actions of several of the characters that explained previous events earlier in the story as well as conversations that foreshadow significant events that will occur later in the story.