TV

Review: HBO’s Game Of Thrones Episode 6: A Golden Crown

The following review is from our friends at Westeros.org.  Last week they gave us their review of episode 5, The Wolf And The Lion, and stay tuned for our podcast review and discussion of episode 6 later on!

Written by David Benioff, D.B. Weiss, and Jane Espenson

Directed by Daniel Minahan

IMDB Synopsis (by HBO Publicity)

Reinstated as the Hand, Ned sits for the King while Robert is on a hunt, and issues a decree that could have long-term consequences throughout the Seven Kingdoms. At the Eyrie, Tyrion confesses to his “crimes,” and demands that Lysa give him a trial by combat. Joffrey (Jack Gleeson) apologizes to Sansa; Viserys receives his final payment for Daenerys from Drogo (Jason Momoa).

Analysis

Truth be told, this is our very favorite episode of the six we’ve seen. More than anything, I’d put this down to Daniel Minahan’s direction. It’s true that he makes a lot of use of very quick cuts for actions scenes, something that has become de rigeur in a lot of cinema, and it does obscure the action a little bit… but there’s something about the way he uses it that actually works to justify the quickness; it heightens the sense of chaos and uncertainty, making the violence seem all the more sudden and brutal. On top of that, some of his choices for quieter scenes are incredibly cinematic—the way he shows Bran riding alone in the wood as the wildlings stalk him, the gorgeous lighting of the scene where Joffrey gives his apologies and promises to Sansa—in a way that few other scenes have done before. Of course, how much this will change between the screener and the final, fully-graded and scored episode, we don’t know. But what we saw we really, really liked.

It’s not all just direction, though. While we leave off the Wall for another episode—allowing the story to concentrate just a bit more on fewer areas—the story keeps a pretty good pace, and there’s some really excellent scenes translated almost word-for-word from the novel. Cersei, for example, briefly becomes “our” Cersei, the one we had hoped and expected to see—the one with fire and venomous spite, the one who could mock Robert and suggest testily that he should wear a dress, and then tell him that she’ll wear the bruise he gives her in reply as a badge of honor. All too brief, perhaps, but still—it’s there, thanks to Martin’s writing, the screenwriters keeping it in place, and Headey’s delivery. It all plays out quite well, and makes us wish we had more of that obvious sharpness and strong emotion in Cersei in other scenes.

And then there’s some of the new entries. Or newish, as Ciaran Bermingham puts together a hilarious gaoler, Mord, whose interactions with Tyrion are terrifically energetic and amusing. “No gold! Fuck off!” is a classic. We suspect some of these terrific exchanges come from the pen of Jane Espenson (the third of the three non-D&D writers), who’s given co-credit with the Benioff & Weiss writing team. Though the scenes abandon the “magic of writing” approach to convincing Mord, the idea of Tyrion trying to explain a concept in terms of its being abstract just tickles our funny bone. Admittedly, someone’s also to blame with taking the various masturbation slangs a little too far—it just seemed to be endless—but we’ll forgive it for Robin Arryn’s precious, “And then what happened?” query to Tyrion’s story about taking a mule and a honeycomb into a brothel…

Besides Mord becoming more prominent, we got our first look at Natalia Tena (perhaps best known by many as Tonks from the Harry Potter films) as Osha. She’s a very different Osha, indeed! Younger and rather prettier than the original character, she plays her part in a slightly off-kilter way, which fits the eeriness of the scene where the wildlings creep up on Bran. In the screener, there’s very little additional sound, and no music at all, so we suspect it will play quite differently in its final form—how differently? No idea, we’ll have to wait until it airs properly in Sweden to see. The whole sequence, as we said, is well done… but you’ll notice the glaring ommission of the direwolves. Unfortunately, that’s a consequence of the previously-cited tight schedule and the fact that the young dogs used likely just weren’t able to be trained thoroughly enough to minimize loss of time.

Thematically, this episode largely shows the inevitable growth of tension in Westeros in the aftermath of the seizing of Tyrion and the attack on Ned Stark. Lord Tywin now begins to loom as a powerful, off-screen presence, one who’ll send his mad dog Gregor Clegane reaving through the riverlands out of pique… or is it more? One of my big questions this episode is actually the timing of Joffrey’s sudden apology to Sansa, weeks after episode 3 when we saw Cersei advising her son to do just that. Why now? Maybe—and this is just a thought—but maybe this is an example of Joffrey being prompted, because Cersei forsees that having a hold on Sansa may be important. It’s rather more foresight than we’re used to… but then again, it would fit the charater as written, and also some of the action on screen that won’t fully come into fruition until the next episode.

We get relatively less of Essos, but what we do get are some very key scenes. The “crowning” that gives the episode its name is very close to the scene in the novel (and, yes, lets not wonder too closely at whether gold would really melt that quickly [or at all] in a cauldron; suspension of disbelief, people!) and is beautifully handled. That flutter of Daenerys’s eyes when Drogo speaks—does she realize his meaning? I suspect so; certainly, in the novel she knows what’s going to happen. And Harry Lloyd… goodness! Beautiful acting in this scene, and even more so in his scene before it. An original scene, not from the novel, and it’s another that we suspect Espenson had a big hand in. Viserys comes across, for just a moment, as sympathetic, as the tragic hero fighting an impossible fight, ill-equipped, under-supported, and yet somehow still striving. It’s beautifully sad and pathetic. That scene is really greatly helped by Iain Glenn’s performance as Mormont, too, it must be said. “And here I stand,” indeed!

For more great Game of Thrones coverage head over to Westeros.org!