Top Ten Game of Thrones Moments S1-3 (Part 2)

The countdown continues. My brother has already derided all of my choices but I’m staying firm in my resolutions. No book spoilers here so read on and rest easy.

5. My name is Jaime

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‘There it is. There’s the look. I’ve seen it for 17 years on face after face. You all despise me. Kingslayer. Oathbreaker. A man without honor… Tell me, if your precious Renly commanded you to kill your own father and stand by while thousands of men, women, and children burned alive, would you have done it? Would you have kept your oath then? First, I killed the pyromancer. And then when the king turned to flee, I drove my sword into his back. “Burn them all,” he kept saying. “Burn them all.” I don’t think he expected to die. He- he meant to… burn with the rest of us and rise again, reborn as a dragon to turn his enemies to ash. I slit his throat to make sure that didn’t happen. That’s where Ned Stark found me…You think the honorable Ned Stark wanted to hear my side? He judged me guilty the moment he set eyes on me. By what right does the wolf judge the lion? By what right?’

The moment in which Jaime Lannister (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau) reveals to Brienne of Tarth (Gwendoline Christie) the truth behind his nickname ‘Kingslayer’ is really a culmination of his season-long redemptive arc. Introduced as the incestuous child-maiming back-stabbing king-slaying twin of the unsympathetic Cersei, Jaime has gradually morphed from antagonist to anti-hero to straight-up fan favourite. The amputation of his sword hand (and with it, his martial prowess and subsequent identity) and the mutual respect and friendship he comes to share with the inherently loyal and virtuous Brienne all mean layer after layer of his characterblogga35 is peeled away to reveal depths we didn’t know the villain possessed. The best moment in this arc is hard to pin down: Jaime’s many wonderful scenes of verbal sparring with Brienne and the horribly shocking moment in which his hand is cut off and ‘The Bear and the Maiden Fair’ jarringly blares over the credits have claims for the top spot. The moment Jaime selflessly risks his life to save Brienne from a bear and finally acts like the knight he is supposed to be is also hugely satisfying. Yet the very top Jaime moment, for me, is his revelation that the very act he is most reviled for is in fact his most heroic moment. Jaime is a wonderfully complex character and his relationship with Brienne (a supposed purposeful inversion of “Beauty and the Beast”) is one of the show’s most poignant and intriguing developments. It will be interesting to see whether his newly discovered penchant for knightly virtue will stick once Jaime is reunited with Cersei and Tywin in King’s Landing.

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4. The Red Wedding

‘The Lannisters send their regards.’

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Unequivocally the most dismal scene of “Game of Thrones” yet (and there’s a lot of competition for that label), the infamous ‘Red Wedding’ provoked such strong emotions that many viewers even filmed their reactions and posted them online (see https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=78juOpTM3tE&feature=player_embedded). If you don’t feel like watching the compilation, this gif pretty much sums up most peoples’ thoughts on the scene:

blogga47While book fans had been anticipating this moment since the very first episode, many poor casual television viewers were caught completely off guard at the sudden and brutal murder of two of their favourite protagonists, Robb Stark (Richard Madden) and Catelyn Stark (Michelle Fairley). The moment in which the Lannister anthem, The Rains of Castamere, starts to eerily play couldn’t blogga41prepare anyone for the brutal massacre that suddenly went down. Even smug book fans were left reeling after the pregnant Talisa was stabbed in the stomach in a rare deviation from the source material (Robb’s wife, Jeyne Westerling, isn’t present at the wedding in the book). The reason this whole scene is so disturbing and shocking is not only because it’s so unexpected to the viewer, but because the characters themselves are caught unawares – to kill men on the battlefield is one thing, but to butcher unarmed men while they’re guests in your home is a big medieval no-no. It’s a horrific and macabre scene and once again proves that, in Westeros, the more honest, trusting, and heroic you are, the higher your chances are of being horribly betrayed and slaughtered. It’s tough to watch this huge blow for House Stark but you have to respect George R.R. Martin’s balls in thinning out his cast of characters so considerably. It’s like reading “Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban” and having half of the Weasley family killed off in gruesome fashion while there are still four books to go.

‘The northerners will never forget.’

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3. Blackwater

The entire episode “Blackwater” is amazing and rivals the battle at Helm’s Deep in “The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers” for most epic depiction of a battle. Tyrion Lannister (Peter Dinklage) is the most popular “Game of Thrones” character and for good reason: his simultaneous acerbic wit and vulnerability mean he’s able to evoke amusement, admiration, and pity from the viewer all in one fell swoop. blogga53He’s generally got an answer for everything, shirks responsibility, and can’t help even mocking those who have the power to destroy him. As fun as all that is to watch, it was somehow even better to see him rise to the occasion, stand up, and rally the troops to defend his city and his family.

‘Don’t fight for a king. Don’t fight for his kingdoms. Don’t fight for honor, don’t fight for glory, don’t fight for riches, because you won’t get any. This is your city Stannis means to sack. That’s your gate he’s ramming. If he gets in it will be your house that burns. Your gold he steals, your women he rapes. Those are brave men knocking at our door. Let’s go kill them!’

This scene ranks higher than the Red Wedding mainly because instead of making me want to sob my heart out and eat a whole tub of Ben & Jerry’s cookie dough ice cream, it made me want to do this:

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2. Ned loses his head

If the Red Wedding corresponds with the Weasleys being prematurely murdered in the third book of the “Harry Potter” series, Ned Stark’s execution can only be compared with Voldemort vanquishing Harry Potter in “The Philosopher’s Stone” or Darth Vader offing Luke Skywalker in “A New Hope”. Ned (Sean Bean) was the presumed hero and blogga61protagonist in the first season of “Game of Thrones”. Sean Bean was the show’s biggest name and he was marketed as the main character. I thought at first that his beheading in episode nine of season one had to be a dream sequence or a joke or a trick of some kind. Alas, it was not. Killing off Ned, the steadfast and upright patriarch of House Stark whom everyone was rooting for, was Martin’s way of sending his readership a harsh message – no one is safe. That Ned’s death came at the cowardly command of Joffrey (the aforementioned little shit), who as an ineffectual and conniving prince previously represented only a mild threat to the characters, made the pill even harder to swallow. As if Ned losing his head wasn’t bad enough, it occurs after he falsely confesses to treason (at the pleading of Sansa, his daughter). Ned, the beloved warden of the North and lord of Winterfell (so beloved that his execution sparks a civil war), is killed as a traitor. The viewer is permitted to see Ned’s final vision of the world through his eyes – a mob of jeering and screaming strangers. The fact that this humiliating death occurs in front of his two young daughters is the hideous cherry on the depressing cake. Arya is forced to look away, totally broken, while Sansa screams and is restrained, a witness to the entire grisly show. Having now made this mistake with both Boromir and Ned, from now on if Sean Bean receives one of the top billings, DO NOT get attached to his character.

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1.

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No explanation necessary.

Honourable mentions:

Robb is named King in the North, Ned Stark v Jaime Lannister, Jon Snow meets Samwell Tarly, Tyrion’s trial by combat, Tyrion and Jon bonding, Arya and Tywin bonding, Arya’s first kill, the birth of Daenerys’ dragons, Melisandre gives birth to a creepy murderer shadow baby, Viserys’ death by crown, Jaime pushes Bran out of the window.

“Game of Thrones” returns on April 6. Disclaimer: don a thick skin/remove heart before watching…

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Throwback Thursday – Top Ten Game of Thrones Moments S1-3 (Part 1)

I think it’s needless to say that this post will include spoilers for the first three seasons of “Game of Thrones” but here’s your disclaimer anyway. Spoiler alert. Read on at your own peril. I don’t know whether “Game of Thrones” is really an appropriate choice for Throwback Thursday but since the season four premiere is coming up imminently (on April 6) I thought I’d take this opportunity to rewind and review the best moments and storylines from the first three seasons. I should preface this by saying “Game of Thrones” is one of my very favourite television shows and choosing a mere top ten best bits from thirty episodes was an arduous and near-impossible task. So don’t hate on my choices.

10. Theon Greyjoy’s journey to the dark side

blogga10 blogga11One of the most difficult storylines to watch was perhaps Theon Greyjoy’s character transition from quietly bitter but passive foster brother-type and ward of House Stark to crazed traitor and Iron Islands fanatic. This storyline wasn’t so affecting because Theon was a particularly sympathetic character: he wasn’t. It’s because Theon’s downfall led to some of the most heartbreaking moments in the second season of “Game of Thrones” – including Maester Luwin’s death and Ser Rodrik’s execution.

You gave me away! Your boy! Your last boy! You gave me away like I was some dog you didn’t want anymore. And now you curse me because I’ve come home.
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Alfie Allen, however, did do an utterly fantastic job in his portrayal of Theon’s conflicting emotions and loyalties. You can tell Theon knows at a certain point he’s gone too far, but he’s too blinded by his desire to please his batshit crazy father, and to really find somewhere he belongs, to change his course. Truly manic and dangerous in his desperation and devotion to his father’s cause, his mask at times slips to reveal a scared and insecure little boy who’s totally lost his moral compass. His face when he looks up at the charred bodies of the two innocent farm boys he’s murdered says it all: he can’t believe what he’s done and he knows there’s no way to go back to the ‘good side’ after this. Theon’s rousing and atmospheric speech to his fellow men of the Iron Islands in the season finale “Valar Morghulis” is perhaps his finest moment, villain though he is.

‘You hear that? That’s the mating call of the Northmen. They want to fuck us. Well, I haven’t had a good fuck in weeks. I’m ready for one. They say that every ironborn man is worth a dozen from the mainland. You think they’re right? We die today, brothers. We die bleeding from 100 wounds with arrows in our necks and spears in our guts, but our war cries will echo through eternity. They will sing about the battle of Winterfell until the Iron Islands have slipped beneath the waves. Every man, woman and child will know who we were and how long we stood. Aggar and Gelmarr, Wex and Urzen, Stygg and Black Lorren. Ironborn warriors will cry out our names as they leap onto the shores of Seagard and Faircastle. Mothers will name their sons for us. Girls will think of us with their lovers inside them. And whoever kills that fucking horn-blower will stand in bronze above the shores of Pyke! What is dead may never die!’

Described by one YouTube user as ‘Theon Greyjoy, the real example of YOLO’, Theon is, despite his total displacement of loyalty, fighting for a cause he appears to have convinced himself is heroic. He gets his just desserts (and then some) for his destruction of Winterfell and his slaughter of innocents in the third season. Needless to say, the removal of little Theon from big Theon (by a terrifying Iwan Rheon from “Misfits”) did not make the top ten.
9. Chaos is a ladder
blogga12blogga13‘Chaos isn’t a pit. Chaos is a ladder. Many who try to climb it fail and never get to try again. The fall breaks them. And some are given a chance to climb, but they refuse. They cling to the realm, or the gods, or love. Illusions. Only the ladder is real. The climb is all there is.’

The conversations between the members of the small council often provide, surprisingly, some of the most intense moments of each episode. In Westeros, a world full of soldiers and battles and magic, these physically unassuming men have managed to cling onto power through pragmatism, trickery, deceit and cunning. The moment when Littlefinger and Lord Varys discuss the meaning of chaos encapsulates the manner in which they always manage to succinctly and poetically summarize the episode’s thematic focus. Littlefinger’s definition of chaos, further, completely expresses the underlying point of the whole show: the thirst for power lies at the basis of all actions, and those most morally suited to power aren’t usually the ones who strive to gain it. This voiceover also occurs at an opportune moment and marks a tragic end for Ros, the figure who served as a conglomerate character for various prostitutes from the book. Ros herself tried to climb the ladder in her own way in order to survive in a highly politicized world, and is ultimately broken by her own fall. The viewer has always known that Joffrey is a little shit, but this was the moment (for me at least) that I realised Joffrey was completely sadistic, sociopathic, and utterly beyond redemption.

8. What do we say to the god of death?
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Syrio Forel’s signature catchphrase comes hand in hand with one of the most simultaneously epic and tragic “Game of Thrones” moments. Forel is only a minor character, appearing in a handful of episodes in the first season as Arya Stark’s ‘dancing master’ aka sword-fighting instructor. Despite his relatively minimal screen time, the First Sword of Braavos definitely leaves his mark upon both Arya and the show. Forel ultimately protects Arya from Lannister guards and fends off six heavily armed men with nothing more than a wooden training sword. It’s a truly heroic fight, with Forel proving himself as one of those rare “Game of Thrones” phenomenons – a selfless character. His fate is left uncertain, but this scene gives Arya her first taste of loss after the early death of Mycah, the butcher’s boy. Her face is a picture of devastation. If only she knew what was coming.

‘The First Sword of Braavos does not run.’

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7. Dracarys!

Daenerys’ storylines have been a little bit patchy since her solid first season, although her second season storyline did give us a great Daenerys catchphrase (WHERE ARE MY DRAGONS?!). Her constant attempts to find an army, the boring interlude in Qarth, and the weirdly colonial vibes in season 3 whereby she was the mother blogga24adored and followed by the slaves she freed, all mean her scenes aren’t normally the ones I look forward to. Yet it cannot be denied that this scene in season 3, in which we really see Daenerys as a potential conqueror of the Seven Kingdoms for the first time, is anything but utterly epic. Daenerys had promised Kraznys mo Nakloz her biggest dragon, Drogon, in exchange for his 8000 Unsullied soldiers. The moment in which Daenerys reveals to the slave owner that she can speak High Valyrian (and thus has understood all of the insults he has directed at her), and orders Drogon to burn him alive, is seriously badass (and launched a million memes). It’s the moment when we really get to see why House Targaryen sat on the Iron Throne for so long; it additionally makes us question whether Rhaegar really was the last dragon after all.

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6. The mother and her cub/We have won

‘In the King’s wood there lived a mother and her cub. She loved him very much. But there were other things that lived in the woods, evil things. Little cub was frightened. His mother said, “You are a lion my son you mustn’t be afraid.” For one day all the beasts will bow to you…you will be king. All the stags will bow, all the wolves will bow, and the bears in the north, and the foxes of the south, all the birds in the sky and the beasts in the sea. They will all come to you little lion, to rest a crown upon your head. And the cub said, “Will I be strong and fierce like my father?”. “Yes,” said his mother, “you will be strong and fierce just like your father.” …I will keep you safe, my love. I promise you.’

It’s one of those moments where you inexplicably and disturbingly find yourself supporting Team Lannister. The Lannisters as a whole are primarily the antagonists in “Game of Thrones”, yet (dare I say it?) their complexity and moral ambiguity often makes them far more intriguing characters to watch than the more steadfast and beloved Starks. The lioness/cub analogy is Cersei’s most sympathetic moment yet: her love for her children (even Joffrey!) is, after all, her most redeeming feature. On the verge of killing her son, Tommen, in order to avoid him facing the brutal fate suffered by the Targaryen children after Aerys was killed and King’s Landing sacked, Cersei is sat upon the Iron Throne in a symbol of the futile and temporal nature of power. Yet she is stopped in the nick of time by her father. Tywin comes marching in like a boss to announce in characteristically understated fashion: ‘The battle is over. We have won.’ The music swells and you feel triumphant – until you remember that these are the Lannisters and you can’t quite remember which side you were supposed to be rooting for.

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That’s it for now, folks. I’ll be posting my picks for the top five spots ASAP – watch out for them! To be continued…