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Looking Back: ‘Game of Thrones’ Season Four, Episode 5: “First of His Name” Review

(The eighth and final season of Game of Thrones debuts on April 14th, marking the beginning of the end for HBO’s cultural touchstone. Over the years, we’ve covered all 67 episodes of the series, and are revisiting those original reviews in our new retrospective series titled, “Winter is Coming”. We’re pulling these straight from our vacuum sealed digital time capsules, so step into the virtual time machine with us and read our impressions from way back! With the benefit of hindsight, there is plenty of reasons these reviews will raise some eyebrows)

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First of His Name” directly refers to Tommen, as the episode opens at his coronation. It doesn’t take long before we get a new King sitting on the Iron Throne, and judging by the conversation Cersei has with Margery, it doesn’t take long to realize one of the episode’s major themes: In “First of His Name,” the show places a focus on how several characters come to understand and accept the roles they are required to play. “First Of His Name” brings the fourth season of Game Of Thrones to its midpoint, and leaves viewers questioning just how much power The Lannisters actually hold.

One of the recurring themes explored in the series is the corruption that grows deeper and more dangerous as you move higher through the ranks of power. There is no coronation for Littlefinger, as he operates within the underbelly of the political underworld, but he’s better off without one. This contrast between Littlefinger and the anointed Tommen demonstrates the difference between true power, and the illusion of power. Considering we spend so much time surrounded by the Lannisters and Starks, it is often easy to ignore the plight of the poor in Game of Thrones. And while the series spends a good time focusing on the scheming and manipulations of the rich and famous, the series is just as concerned with the plight of those who are not born into wealth. Petyr Baelish isn’t born a descendant of royalty, and so he’s had to conspire, manipulate and basically work for everything he’s ever had. Unlike Tomman, or even Joffrey for that matter, Petyr is creating his own legacy by brilliantly cunning his way into a position of power. And that is why Lord Baelish is the most interesting character on the show.

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“Know your strengths and use them wisely, and one man can be worth 10,000.” -Littlefinger

Littlefinger and Sansa Stark make their way through the Bloody Gate that leads to the Vale of Arryn where he reunites with his bride-to-be Lysa Arryn. In “Oathkeeper” we discover that Littlefinger seemingly orchestrated the death of King Joffrey, and this week, it becomes clear that he’s also responsible for setting the entire series in motion. When Lysa reveals that Littlefinger convinced her to poison her husband Jon Arryn, it certifies him as the greatest mastermind in Westeros, since Jon Arryn’s death is what started the political upheaval. Yes, Lord Baelish has been devising a plan since the start of the series, and yes Petyr Baelish has been fooling everyone who surrounds him. He’s the wild card in the series, and his scheming and skulking is what makes season four all the more interesting.

“First of His Name’ brings the show’s greatest mastermind to light

In Meereen, Daenerys is consulting with her council, Barrister Selmy, Daario Naharis, and Jorah Mormont. They’ve received news of Joffrey’s death, and Dany finds out that Daario has taken Meereen’s navy. They now have ships and an opportunity to try to take King’s Landing, only the news that her previously conquered cities Yunkai and Astapor have basically relapsed into the slave trade, makes her realize that she can’t rule the Seven Kingdoms if she can’t even control the cities of Slaver’s Bay. Dany’s character arc has been frustrating all season and while her scenes here are short, they promise a new direction for the Mother of Dragons. As she tells Jorah “I need to be more than that,” I couldn’t help think that yes she really does. The biggest problem has been that Dany and her army have been moving so quickly in their quest, and without any major roadblocks en plus. It has been scene after scene, of her arriving at the gates of a new city, delivering a motivational speech, and winning a battle offscreen. Not only have we been robbed of any epic battle scenes (clearly due to budgetary constraints), but there hasn’t been any time allocated to exploring the ramifications of her actions. Thankfully, her brief scene with Jorah effectively lays out many of the problems, and now it seems the writers, and Dany might finally explore the actual dynamics of freeing slaves. Dany decides that in order to be worthy of The Iron Throne, she must first do what a Queen does, and rule. And while Westeros seems ripe for the taking, she decides to do what she believes is right.

The best scenes of the episode are without a doubt those that involve Arya and The Hound. Arya is turning into a little psychopath with her list of people she intends to kill: Walder Frey, Melisandre, Beric, and Thoros, Ilyne Payne, The Mountain, Meryn Trant, and now she’s added The Hound to her Kill List. Her turning to the camera and delivering The Hound the bad news is a terrific character beat. Later Arya pays tribute to her water dancing lessons with Syrio Forel. You got to love The Hounds reaction as he offers a swift and harsh reality check. Meanwhile, our second favorite traveling duo (Brienne and Podrick) find some time to get to know each other better. Considering Podrick is considered by some, the world’s greatest squire, he sure has trouble riding horses, lighting campfires, cooking rabbits and well, doing anything useful. Yet although Pod is lacking in many of the skills that would come in handy when surviving the great outdoors, he at least impresses Brienne with the very modest retelling of his heroic deeds during the Battle of Blackwater. The scenes between Brienne and Podrick don’t really add up to much, but like the Hound with Arya, Brienne sees something in Pod that she likes, even if she doesn’t want to admit it. More importantly, knowing he speared a King’s guard right through the head in order to protect Tyrion, not only proves Podrick has the ability to kill, but also demonstrates his undying loyalty.

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North of The Wall, Jon Snow continues to prove his leadership of the Men of the Night’s Watch. While these action scenes continue to disappoint, the intercutting of the hectic swordplay around Craster’s Keep at least ends with a sword lodged right through Karl’s skull. Not far away, Bran uses his puppet mastery skills to get inside Hodor’s head, giving the giant strength to break his chains and save the day by snapping Locke’s neck like a twig. While it should have been obvious the Stark brothers wouldn’t actually reunite, the storyline was highly effective at giving us hope they would. Bran is left to make a tough choice: Does he return to Castle Black with Jon, and become the rightful heir to Winterfell, or does he move forward to the North to find the three-eyed raven, and fulfill the prophecy in Jojen’s visions? I guess in the world of Game of Thrones, fate wins out over free will. As he chooses to move forward, it becomes abundantly clear that the Stark children are never, ever going to meet again.

– Ricky D

Other thoughts:

How great is it to see the Bloody Gate of The Eyrie?

Let’s just take a moment to make mention of the psychotic performance by Kate Dickie as Lysa Arryn. We haven’t seen her since season one, but her performance in this episode shouldn’t be easily forgotten.

Poor Sansa. She goes from one lunatic to the next.

I really could have done without the sounds of Lysa’s sex moans.

Cleon has taken control of Astapor.

Yunkai has been reclaimed by the Wise Masters.

Cersei gives Myrcella a boat!

So Locke is dead. That was surprisingly fast.

The scenes over at King’s Landing were surprisingly dull this week, offering mostly expository dialogue.

Tywin confesses to Cersei that the Lannister fortune has run dry, and that they owe the Iron Bank a tremendous amount of gold.

I love how Michelle MacLaren directs the opening scene by moving around each character like a chess piece and revealing others in the foreground or background of the frame.

Game of Thrones, Season Four, Episode 5: “First of His Name”
Directed by Michelle MacLaren
Written by David Benioff and D. B. Weiss
Featured music Ramin Djawadi
Cinematography by Robert McLachlan
Editing by Crispin Green

Originally published May 4, 2014

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