And for the first time in hundreds of years, the night came alive with the music of dragons
Written by: David Benioff & D.B. Weiss
Directed by: Alan Taylor
Well, here we are! It's felt like I just started doing these reviews, but we have already arrived at the end of Game of Thrones' first season. There's still a long way to go, but quite a bit has happened already, particularly the mind-blowing finish of the previous episode, "Baelor". If you were, for whatever reason, hanging on to the tiniest sliver of hope that Ned Stark would miraculously survive, the episode destroys that sliver in its opening shot: a slow pan on the now blood-soaked sword of Ser Ilyn Payne, followed by him reaching down and picking up Ned's head and showing it to the crowd. The first ten-fifteen minutes of the episode only amplify the pain we felt from last time: the news of Ned's death spreads like wildfire, with Bran, Catelyn, and Robb all finding out. An enraged Robb strikes a tree continuously with his sword, vowing to kill all of the Lannisters and avenge his father's death.
This is a good time for me to comment on something I have not really had the chance to mention yet: the lovely and always prominent soundtracks of composer Ramin Djawadi. Djawadi never fails to have his music capture and reflect the intense emotions of a certain scene. During the scene where Catelyn goes to comfort Robb, Djawadi brilliantly utilizes a variety of melancholy string instrument sounds to further drive home just how demoralized Catelyn, Robb, and all of us as viewers are. Scenes like this one are ways for me to keep emphasizing how important music is to a film and a TV series.
Now that that necessary side note is established, let's get back to the heart of the matter: "Fire and Blood" is an episode entirely dedicated to grief and loss, and not solely because of the aftermath of Ned Stark's death. Every major character that is currently playing a significant role in the over-arching plot is dealing with the loss of a loved one, with House Stark clearly having the worst of it. With themes of power, betrayal, and family all on hand throughout Game of Thrones, as well as the series having the balls to kill characters whenever it feels like killing them, it's inevitable that characters will eventually go through some form of grief and/or loss. Here is another case of George R.R. Martin generating gray area in a scenario that is normally black and white: characters on both sides suffering, and this suffering is the fuel that drives the conflict even further. There's next to nothing to be said about the "suffering" of Sauron and his forces in Lord of the Rings, yet we can likely write a whole essay on the pain and suffering that Frodo, Sam, Gandalf, and the rest of the heroes endure on their quest to destroy the Ring and vanquish evil from all of Middle Earth. I have not come to bash Lord of the Rings for not having enough gray area (it's definitely there if you dig deep enough); George R.R. Martin crushing normal fantasy tropes is what helps makes his fantasy world in his A Song of Ice and Fire novels stand out so much, even if it does draw a fair share of inspiration from J.R.R Tolkien (as all forms of high fantasy do).
So anyway, it's easy to decipher what the grief/loss is for the three major Houses in play: House Stark, House Lannister, and House Targaryen. House Stark is obvious and doesn't need further discussion. House Lannister is dealing with the loss of Jaime, who is now a prisoner of Robb and the Stark army. We watch an angry Tywin vent about not only is Jaime a prisoner, but the other two Baratheon brothers have risen up against them as well. Tywin orders for Tyrion to go to King's Landing and serve as Hand of the King in his absence, trusting that Tyrion can keep the inexperienced Joffrey under wraps. Tywin adds that Tyrion is not allowed to bring Shae (Sibel Kekilli) with him to the capital. There's a little bit of everything in this scene that makes Tywin Lannister such an admiral character: he's a concerned father, a smart, strategic veteran of war, and an intimidating figure that better not have you on his bad side. He's easily prone to being a stereotypical tyrant, and yet, that's absolutely the last thing he comes off as.
Finally, for House Targaryen, Daenerys is having probably the worst day of her life. She wakes up to realize her unborn son has died, his life being used to save that of Khal Drogo's. But while Khal Drogo isn't "dead", he isn't exactly living either, having gone into a catatonic state, which causes many of the Dothraki to depart. Soon enough, Daenerys accepts that her husband will not return to the way he once was, and she smothers him with a pillow.
"Fire and Blood" is the motto of House Targaryen, and if anyone is able to overcome their losses right away, it is Daenerys. She holds a funeral pyre for Khal Drogo, placing her dragon eggs by Drogo's body and declaring that anyone who follows her will not be a slave. Daenerys sets the pyre ablaze and walks into it herself. You're probably wondering what the hell is she doing waling into the fire, and if she is trying to join her husband in death, why did she take the time to declare herself a new queen?
What happens next should answer any such questions you may have. In addition, what happens next ought to prove to the viewer how important Daenerys is to the story, and that she is no ordinary ruler: Daenerys rises from the ashes, naked, but unharmed. Rising with her are three dragon hatchlings, with one climbing up on her shoulder and letting out a screech, a screech that has not been heard for centuries. That's right, folks. We. Have. Dragons. Freaking dragons. This closing scene with Daenerys is, as strange as this sounds, one of the best uses of nudity in an episode of television. At long last, we see Daenerys for who she truly is: a woman of House Targaryen, a woman of fire and blood, but above all else, a dragon. She is not hiding behind anything: no clothing or other gimmicky outfits to try and fool us into thinking she is something that she really is not. Daenerys is a queen that scoffs at pretty pink dresses and lovely ballroom dances; she is a queen that embodies the majestic qualities of a dragon: a creature that can scorch entire kingdoms in the blink of an eye, yet knows how to be honorable and caring. With the birth of these three dragons, we have come to realize that this story line with Daenerys is not just useless filler; it is integral to the entirety of Game of Thrones.
The final scene with Daenerys is the perfect way for Game of Thrones to close out its first season, inspiring hope and promising more excitement in the midst of these grieving times of war. While the episode as a whole is very reactionary, and thus, doesn't leave much room for further developments, the emotions run high, giving us a chance to see more of the robust acting of the shows's main cast. It was a little slow in the beginning of the season, but once things started picking up, Game of Thrones was off and running, and "Fire and Blood" sets us up for what will be a very promising and thrilling season two.
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