Game of Thrones 1.07 "You Win or You Die"

A column article, Shot For Shot by: The TV Squad
Continuing our discussion of the epic fantasy series from last episode, the latest installment in the Game of Thrones saga some riveting chats, girl-on-girl exposition, a major but unsurprising betrayal and at least one assassination attempt. If this gets any more harrowing, our review panel might turn into a support group.

Morgan Davis: So I'd say we did a fairly good job predicting events in our last crosstalk.

Danny Djeljosevic: I figured all this stuff would happen by the end of the season, not in episode 7 of 10. But, I suppose if this is season the entire first novel, then this would be the right spot to start hitting the climax.

Paul Brian McCoy: I'd just like to say right off the bat that I want the Dothraki to ride in and rape and pillage the whole damn lot.

Morgan: Adding to the growing list of things Paul Brian McCoy approves of: rape.

Paul: Only when combined with pillaging.

Morgan: What's interesting, though, is none of the episode felt rushed.

Danny: It helps that the first episode established a certain pacing and denseness to the series. So, we should never expect it to take forever getting somewhere à la some of the weaker moments of Lost.



Morgan: What especially impressed me was how much of this episode was built on actions happening through words rather than physical acts: Robert receiving his death blow offscreen and through his general lack of kingliness setting off the climax. Because what kind of idiot does something like that when he knows the kingdoms are on the brink of civil war?

Paul: I kind of get the feeling that Robert was ready to step aside and let Ned take over. Although that Lannister boy feeding him booze couldn't have hurt.

Morgan: Then you have Littlefinger broadcasting where he's heading with his speech about his unrequited love. And as if that wasn't enough, you had an extremely tense verbal throwdown with Ned and Cersi as well as confirmation that the White Walkers are on the way through that panicked "graduation" for Snow and company.

Danny: Robert's injury and death offscreen reminded me of The Wire, where a lot of hugely important things would happen between scenes. It's a show where the verbal battles are just as striking as the physical ones.

Paul: What's interesting (in a book vs. TV sense) is that the Cersi showdown is straight out of the book, but the Littlefinger monologue is all-new for the show. It was like they weren't quite sure that the audience would accept the betrayal, but were perfectly comfortable with showing just what a simpleton Ned could be. Plus, lesbian scene!

Danny: The lesbian scene was hilarious. Such a tongue-in-cheek way of covering up obvious exposition.

Paul: "Tongue in cheek." Heh.



Morgan: I wonder if Littlefinger's scene was meant as a way to fuck with our expectations, because I'm personally not entirely convinced Littlefinger is on the side of the Lannisters.

Danny: I'm convinced Littlefinger is on the side of Littlefinger.

Morgan: Well, yeah, obviously. But I think his "betrayal" of Ned there may be even more deceptive than we think. Is it possible he's just trying to make Cersi think he's on her side? Is he saving Ned by ending that showdown himself? Because you know Ned would have fought like an idiot all by his lonesome against that whole crowd.

Paul: I don't think Littlefinger is entirely on the Lannister's side either, but Ned has bungled every moment of his time as the Hand and it was pretty clear that he was going to screw things up for the sake of "honor". I think "saving" Ned was his commitment to Cat coming through. But Ned was going to fuck everything up.

Danny: Yeah, Ned is that kind of character, for sure. Surely Littlefinger has saved Ned because he sees a purpose to him not being slaughtered before the throne.

Morgan: Ned was presented numerous opportunities to make that scene play out differently and I love how the writers are continuously showing how little "honor" counts in the real world.

Danny: Yeah, the bits about honor are a great subversion of the genre, the way I see it. Being honorable means that you get thrown out from a castle in the sky.

Morgan: That may be the most important scene from this season, in retrospect. In terms of theme, at least.

Paul: He's living in just as much a fantasy world as Sansa.

Morgan: More so, because her fantasy marriage is far likelier to happen. Or was.

Paul: His acting like Robert was a legitimate king was another interesting bit of self-delusion, given that he helped put Robert on the throne in the first place, overthrowing the Mad King.

Danny: That's also the best way to preserve order. By actually honoring the king as legitimate he would have been able to finagle some succession fuckery, considering how he worded the King's dying wish.

Paul: But by pushing for the unpopular brother to take the throne, he blew it all.

Morgan: Admittedly, Ned didn't have very appealing alternative choices. He's got the blacksmith, Robert's unseen other brother, snooty incest kid and then Renly.

Paul: I'd have gone with Renly. At least long enough to clear out the Lannisters.

Morgan: I think that would have been a disaster in its own way too, though.

Danny: I'm beginning to think this Game of Thrones is rigged, you guys.

Morgan: It's rigged -- by Tyrion. Really, I hope he wins. Please make that happen. Please.

Danny: Tyrion will be the Horatio of this story. He'll come to King's Landing and find a bloodbath at his feet.



Morgan: Given that we've got two massive forces coming at the seven kingdoms from opposite direction, do you think this season is going to end with the conflict we're witnessing now getting a massive detour, though? Is it possible all of these players are going to lose because of those forces?

Paul: I'd be happy to see everyone suffer while the Others and the Dothraki meet and kick each other's asses.

Morgan: Every time you say Others I just imagine Ben riding in on a fucking dragon.

Paul: I'd pay to see that.

Morgan: There is no one who wouldn't pay to see that.

Danny: I'm wondering which force will hit first. It's gotta be the Dothraki, considering that the potential long winter gives the White Walkers loads of time to murder everyone. I imagine Drogo is pissed off enough to try out boats.

Morgan: I think it will be the Dothraki. The White Walkers seem to move at their own pace whereas the Dothraki we've already seen heading towards their "wooden horses." Maybe the White Walkers are waiting for the Dothraki so they have more victims.

Paul: How awesome was that speech by Khal Drogo, though?

Danny: I didn't think Jason Momoa had it in him.

Paul: It gave me a little more hope that Conan won't suck.

Morgan: The acting on this show is flat-out incredible.



Danny: Who's our MVP this episode? I'm leaning towards Aiden Gillen as Littlefinger. His acting was really shaky and wooden when he first appeared, but he's really settled into the role. Especially with that amazing expository lesbian scene.

Morgan: I'd say Littlefinger.

Paul: I have to say, I'm starting to grow fond of Iain Glen as Ser Jorah Mormont. He was given a royal pardon and threw it away to save Daeny. There's something interesting building there.

Morgan: I'm still not entirely sure that's the entirety of what happened. I have my suspicions about his loyalties because, really, outside of Ned is anyone on this show actually loyal? Did he know that merchant was going to assassinate her prior to receiving the pardon? Or did the pardon explain what was going to happen?

Danny: So far Ser Jorah has been the guy who explains to Daerenys and her brother (and, thus, the audience) just what the Dothraki are about. This episode has to be one of the first times he's had any agency.

Morgan: Yeah, but they did tell us in a prior episode that he's the one who's been feeding Robert and them information on the Dothraki. Given that we already know part of what the Spider is up to, is it too much to assume the Spider wanted Jorah to "stop" that assassination to prove Jorah's loyalty? Or maybe the Spider even wants the Dothraki to invade.

Paul: No, given the time it takes to send and receive messages, I'm comfortable assuming that the pardon was in effect if he allowed the assassination to occur. Watching the actor, I think he made a conscious choice to break ranks.

Danny: If he's feeding them information, then he probably knows what's in for them.

Paul: Better to come home behind an invading force than to come home a "forgiven" criminal.

Danny: It's no coincidence that he got the pardon as soon as the poisoning attempt happens.

Morgan: There's also the possibility that the Spider was expecting what Jorah would do.

Paul: And he hasn't just fed info (to Daeny and the audience), he also stepped up to stop Shitty Brother from stealing the dragon eggs, and guide Daeny toward standing up to her brother. He's always been all about getting to come home, and he's hostile to the Stark's given that they banished him in the first place. I think he's making a stand.

Morgan: Do you think the Dothraki will keep that in mind when they find out he had been a traitor to them previously?

Paul: Odds are they'll never find out once they kill everyone in their way.

Danny: Yeah, the Dothraki don't strike me as the guys who wait for an explanation.



Paul: I almost forgot! What did you guys think about Old Man Lannister? I've liked Charles Dance ever since Alien 3 and The Last Action Hero, so this was a treat.

Morgan: Yeah, I was waiting until he came up. Fucking badass.

Danny: It's nice to see someone that isn't impressed by Jaime Lannister.

Morgan: Carving up a stag is the new sucking on your mother's teat for incredible entrances. But talk about an incredible scene that was all talk. I don't know any other shows that master the monologue the way this one does. Boardwalk Empire tries but usually comes up short

Danny: This show is a masterclass on how to do dialogue-heavy scenes.

Paul: This is The Wire level dialogue. And Deadwood level.

Morgan: I think it's actually ahead of where Deadwood was at this point of its development.

Paul: I don't know. I'm a Deadwood fanatic. The monologues in that were some of the best I've ever heard on television.

Morgan: Oh, I agree, but Deadwood's first season didn't have as many monologues that were able to have one actor carry the intensity the way Game of Thrones is. Or at least I don't remember it being as effective in that way, most of the dialogue heavy scenes I loved then had multiple actors carrying the weight.



Paul: I'd also like to say that I'm happy to see Sam shaping up this episode. Standing up and denying his father's gods was sweet.

Danny: I was wondering what you guys thought of the Jon Snow section of this episode. It feels like a while since we've seen him, but also feels like the most divorced part of the show. It'll come into play later with the White Walkers, I'm sure, but right now it's easy to wonder what the point is.

Morgan: It may be by design, given how the Wall is divorced from everything else. I'm reserving judgment on the Jon Snow section until later. It felt a little petulant and whiny this go around. Other than that bit with the disembodied hand.

Paul: I was a little disappointed with the depiction of the Old Gods faces in the trees.

Paul: If they stick with the book, something feaking crazy is coming.

Morgan: Damn it, Paul, you're making me even more impatient for next weekend than I already was.

Danny: If it's even crazier than all the stuff coming to a head in this episode, I dunno if I can take it.

Morgan: It's true, Danny has to take special medication just to get through a normal episode.

Danny: It's called "Wine."

Paul: Speaking of booze, I just finished a Weyerbacher Imperial Stout called Heresy that was dee-lish.

Danny: That sounds strong.

Paul: It is.

Morgan: That sounds like a Ned drink.

Paul: It is a Ned drink I'd forgotten how much I love Imperial Stouts. Not a summer drink, though.

Danny: Have you had Old Rasputin, Paul?

Paul: I fuckin' love Old Rasputin.

Morgan: I really hope we can get some banner ads out of all this product placement. Drop us a line, Old Rasputin!

Morgan: And don't forget Weyerbacher, we came up with your new Game of Thrones-oriented ad campaign first! Feel free to hire us.

Paul: North Coast Brewing, pay attention!


THE FINAL WORD

Morgan:

Paul:

Danny:

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