This review may contain spoilers.
Lord Ned Stark (Sean Bean) faces the pitfall of having an honorable heart in the world of Westeros as the HBO fantasy series accelerates toward the season finale.
By Episode 8's conclusion, it was hard to believe the series is so close to the finale. "Game Of Thrones" has rocketed along, almost too fast, especially for those who have read George R.R. Martin's fantastic novel.
Regardless, the series continues to be captivating. Now that Queen Cersei Lannister (Lena Headey) has made her move to secure the crown, Ned's hesitations force his family to pay a deep cost. His eldest son Robb (Richard Madden) assembles the armies of the north at Winterfell to march south and free him. This, of course, is an act of treason.
Ned's daughters are left in a precarious position too. Although Arya (Maisie Williams) manages to slip away from the queen's troops, Sansa (Sophie Turner) is caught and forced to pen a letter that attempts to lure Robb to King's Landing to pledge loyalty to Joffrey (Jack Gleeson), the new king.
Thankfully Robb shows better judgment than his father. Robb is more interested in seeking retribution for the Lannister's outrageous actions. His armies soon close in on the Lannister force led by Jaime (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau) and his father Tywin (Charles Dance).
Meanwhile, across the Narrow Sea, Daenerys Targaryen (Emilia Clarke) discovers the disturbing cost of having Dothraki warlord Khal Drogo (Jason Momoa) prepare for an invasion of Westeros. He plunders a defenseless village, seeking gold to pay for the required ships to cross the sea and women for his men. The taking of slaves weighs heavily on Daenerys, whose order to free them forces Drogo to fight and kill one of his disgruntled warriors. Drogo is wounded in the process.
As Drogo eyes an invasion of Westeros, and a war brews between the Starks and Lannisters, another disturbing development occurs at the great ice wall as the Sworn Brotherhood of the Night's Watch discovers a pair of unusually preserved dead bodies, one of which reanimates that night and attacks Jon Snow (Kit Harington). Can Westeros get anymore dangerous?
Points Of Interest
1. Arya escapes Cersei's arrest order thanks to the intervention of sword fighting master Syrio Forel (Miltos Yerolemou), who with a wooden sword takes out several Lannister men and finally goes toe-to-toe with a member of the Kingsguard. As Arya flees the room you can hear a metal sword hitting the ground. Could Syrio have survived? You bet. Cersei's goons were probably too embarrassed to report the incident!
2. Daenerys' line "I do not have a gentle heart" sheds more light on her development as a character. Although she does possess a deep compassion for others, she is learning to wield a fierce resolve that will serve her well in the increasingly dangerous situation she has found herself.
3. Osha (Natalia Tena) warns Bran (Isaac Hempstead-Wright) that his brother Robb is "marching the wrong way" and should instead be heading north to reinforce the Night's Watch. Her sincerity on the matter produces an ominous moment.
4. With Cersei guiding Joffrey on the throne, Ser Barristan Selmy (Ian McElhinney) is dismissed as commander of the Kingsguard. After appearing to be one of the few truly noble men in King's Landing, Selmy will surely be missed. It seems Ned isn't the only one making blunders in the game of thrones.
Sharp-witted Tyrion (Peter Dinklage) wins over the clansmen of the Vale in another amusing display of his gift for gab. Dinklage is so likable that it produces an odd moment to see him in the "supposedly evil" Lannister war camp; like "Buffy the Vampire Slayer," this series revels in undermining audience expectations.
Robb finds some moments to finally shine in the series. His almost immediate declaration of war against the Lannisters was refreshing after Ned's missteps. And Robb's impressive resolve while assembling a force of much more experienced lords now gives the Starks a chance for payback. His headstrong nature is much like his seemingly doomed father.
Seeing Sansa forced to face off against the queen, Petyr "Littlefinger" Baelish (Aidan Gillen), Varys "the Spider" (Conleth Hill) and Grand Maester Pycelle (Julian Glover) was an uncomfortable and absorbing moment. She is learning the hard way that life as a potential princess is no fairy tale.
The living dead from the opening scene of the pilot episode finally strike. This slice of supernatural mayhem is an effective contrast to the political intrigues of the south.
Overall, this is one of the best episodes of the season!
What Didn't Work
It would have been nice to see a few more sweeping shots of the massing Lannister and Stark armies to ramp up the scale of the coming conflict. Perhaps with the success of this season, HBO will add a bit more scale as the series moves into Season 2 and beyond.
Giving Credit Where Credit Is Due
"Game of Thrones" stars Sean Bean, Lena Headey, Peter Dinklage, Nikolaj Coster-Waldau, Emilia Clarke, Michelle Fairley, Jason Momoa, Maisie Williams, Sophie Turner, Kit Harington, Harry Lloyd. "The Pointy End" was written by George R.R. Martin. It was directed by Daniel Minahan.
"Game of Thrones" airs Sundays at 9 p.m. ET on HBO.
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