‘First Of His Name’, much like the last two Game Of Thrones episodes, was all over the map: we visited Meereen, the Vale, Craster’s Keep, King’s Landing and wilderness. And much like the last two outings it was a mixed bag: some segments did little to entice viewers and were just there to set up something that will happen somewhere down the line. It comes with the territory of making a show about all these different characters in different areas, but sometimes because of it you get the impression the show is just spinning its wheels. So far the Arya story for example is just her and the Hound traveling, and the same goes for Brienne’s quest; there isn’t that much to it, especially in the latter case because we know where Sansa is but Brienne doesn’t at the moment and is effectively looking for the Stark girl. I didn’t care much for Brienne’s bumbling squire either; it’s the kind of odd pairing we’ve seen countless times already. Daenerys’ part of the episode on the other hand was neat: she came out and said she would actually rule Slaver’s Bay before heading out to Westeros, which was a nice moment, but again also frustrating because that’s the stuff you want to see but have to wait for.
Meanwhile Sansa’s storyline was surprisingly interesting and twisted. She’s been a character that hasn’t really had a choice for quite some time and, again, she was led out of the frying pan and into the fire: Littlefinger helped her escape King’s Landing but now she’s staying with her deranged aunt Lysa, Lady Regent of the Vale. There we learned that Jon Arryn, the murdered King’s Hand from the first episode of Game Of Thrones and before his death Lysa’ husband, was actually poisoned by his wife, a kill orchestrated by Lord Baelish, whose planning is clearly quite devious and also tremendously complicated. Lysa and Sansa are both just two other pawns in his game, but meanwhile Lysa’s demented mind is making her very unpredictable and dangerous to her niece. The scene in which Lysa gripped Sanse and demanded to know if Baelish had had his way with her was incredibly tense and dark but still managed to end on a positive note, because Sansa actually lied about how Littlefinger sees her, thereby putting Lysa at ease. I hope this is the start of a streak of smarts, because she will need it if she wants to get out of the Vale in one piece/not married to her crazy nephew Robin Arryn. Fortunately the other Stark kids are doing better: Jon Snow took care of the marauders at Craster’s Keep this week and Bran escaped using his powers to possess Hodor and kill Locke. The two brothers didn’t meet up and that wasn’t surprising in the slightest, but it also wasn’t as frustrating as it could’ve been: it was the result of a conscious decision by Brandon to pursue his visions north of the Wall, and therefore only logical.
Now, the episode title obviously was a reference to the fact that Tommen is now king. While he didn’t have much to do, Cersei most certainly did and Lena Headey once again knocked it out of the park. While we’ve gotten quite used to seeing Cersei as a cruel and cold woman, ‘First Of His Name’ showed a tremendous amount of warmth, grief and humanity in her character, thanks in large part to Headey’s fantastic acting. She’s a versatile actress, very subtle, and there’s always nuance and depth to her performance. Her scene with Margaery was surprisingly sweet and laid-back, both Headey and Natalie Dormer on the top of their game, conveying a sister-like quality to the conversation. There certainly was earnestness there, but both women were also trying to gauge each other and tried not to give too much away. The scene with Cersei and Oberyn was also wonderfully done: during a stroll the Lannister confessed she missed her daughter tremendously, opened up and even asked Oberyn, an enemy in many regards, if he would present a gift to her daughter. He was civil, seemingly moved even, and so were we.
‘First Of His Name’ contained a few scenes that stood out, but meandered quite a bit once again. 7/10