‘Game of Thrones’ recap: Episode 5, ‘First of His Name’

HBO GAME OF THRONES season 4: Pedro Pascal, Indira Varma. photo:  30lgbtfest
Pedro Pascal as Oberyn Martell in “Game of Thrones, pictured with Indira Varma as Ellaria Sand.
Photo by Helen Sloan

It has been exactly three and a half seasons into “Game of Thrones,” and it’s easy to forget that the whole shebang was sparked by one little event – the poisoning of Jon Arryn, the erstwhile, noble Hand of the King that preceded Ned Stark. Like the assassination of Franz Ferdinand that sparked World War One, his killing indirectly touched off a civil war that ravaged a kingdom.

Until last night, we were never completely sure who killed Jon Arryn – just one of the many mysteries lurking underneath the current of the show. Smart money was on the Lannisters, who conceivably bumped him off because of his poking around into the “Hey, this family tree doesn’t fork!” secret. Nope! Wrong. WRONG. It turns out the murderer was his wife, the bat-guano crazy Lysa (Catelyn’s unstable sister), who slipped him the poison as part of a Baelish-inspired plot. The last time we saw her, Lysa was breast-feeding her six-year-old son Robin (ew EW EWW) and looking on disappointedly as Tyrion escaped moon-door justice. This time, she’s all starry-eyed for Littlefinger, who’s arrived with Sansa to the Vale. Lysa delivers the details of the plot in a fit of passionate exposition with Baelish, followed up by a hasty marriage to the schemer and some screaming castle sex that keeps everyone awake, including her niece. Hey, suddenly a bed with Tyrion might not sound too bad…

This branch of the Stark family has worse social skills than Larry David. Lysa flicks a switch from cheerful aunt to Mommie Dearest in a terrifying talk with Sansa, finishing off the awkward reunion by proposing marriage between her niece and her son. All of that expired middle-aged milk seems to have made Robin just as crazy as his mom is, as he asks Sansa about all the atrocities thrust on her family with all the subtlety and care of a depth charge. Poor Sansa. It’s just getting ridiculous for her now.

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Over in King’s Landing, there’s a new leader of Westeros, as Tommen takes the throne. Even though the position seems to be as star-crossed as Spinal Tap drummers or Red Sox shortstops, the youngest Lannister son seems quite satisfied with his new position. Margaery’s not-so-subtle glances from across the room probably don’t hurt. Cersei spends the rest of the time politicking—arranging Margaery’s marriage with Tommen, acquiescing to her own wedding with Ser Loras Tyrell, and having a fine garden chat with Oberyn Martell. There’s a lovely scene where she pines for her daughter, Myrcella, currently stowed away with Oberyn’s family in Dorne. Cersei seems to have crossed over from angry at the world to just world-weary. Has she given in to the machinations of King’s Landing, or does she have another plot going on here?

We’ve also got two on-the-road couples now. Things turn frosty in the Hound / Arya partnership, with Arya adding the Hound to her kill list and the burned man teaching her a physical lesson in warfare. Meanwhile, Pod and Brienne set off for The Wall, searching for the missing Stark children. The episode’s director, Michelle MacLaren, pulls off some masterful shots here – capturing the bungling Pod riding in the saddle next to the steady giant, Brienne. Afterwards, Pod’s disastrous attempt at cooking a rabbit brings more scorn from Brienne, before his haunted retelling of his actions during Blackwater finally earn him some respect. Can’t wait to see where this juicy little plot goes. If we’re lucky, maybe the two couples will intersect.

All of the heavy action this week, though, takes place at The Wall, where McLaren directs the Night’s Watch assault on their mutinous Craster’s Keep companions with a steady hand and visceral touch. Jon Snow and Karl, the leader of the mutiny, have a nifty sword duel that ends up with the bastard throat-lozenging Karl with trusty old Longclaw. The T-1000 couldn’t have done it any better.

The villainous Locke, sent to steal the youngest Starks, nearly gets away with it in the midst of the attack. Bran, however, won’t let that happen. He does the crazy-eye “warg” mind-swap thing and jumps into Hodor’s body, allowing the giant to snap Locke’s neck Seagal-style before he can get away. One fine day, hopefully, some of the Starks are going to see each other again. It’s not this night, though. Bran comes ever-so-close to seeing his brother before he decides to go on with Meera and Jojen, deeper into the woods to find that mysterious tree and the even more mysterious three-eyed raven. It’s achingly painful. Can’t we just get ONE happy, non-murderous Stark meet-up? Can’t they just get together at a Cracker Barrel or something?

Oh well. At least there’s one happy reunion, as the direwolf Ghost comes back to Jon after dining on the last of the escaping mutineers. It’s not as satisfying as a real-life human reunion, but man’s best friend (at least in Westeros) will have do to for a while.

Other things, as I wonder how I can tease my two younger sisters with Cersei’s statement about “You never love anything in the world like you love your first child”:

- Last week, we had a link to the new role of Michelle Fairley (Catelyn Stark) in the new “24”; this week, check out the new gig for her oft-killed on-screen husband, Sean Beanin a new TNT show. Let’s hope he survives at least a season.

- Maisie Williams (Arya Stark) has a disturbingly bearded and oddly familiar new Twitter profile pic.

- Say adios to Ser Pounce, Tommen’s feline friend. The cat’s not showing up on “Thrones” again this season. I’m immune to cat cuteness – a former roommate’s insane / homicidal cat’s to blame for that – but you’re all allowed to awwwww.

- Our president is a big “Thrones” fan.

- Next week: an episode entitled “The Laws of Gods and Men,” directed by Alik Sakharov (who helmed last year’s wall-scaling episode “The Climb”) and penned by Bryan Cogman. Sounds like a reference to a trial – or the famous “guest right” laws that were broken when the Freys and Roose Bolton went all Kill Bill during the Red Wedding.