On deck: Episodes 3 and 4 of Season 1 in our Great GoTrewatch. Remember this is for REwatchers. So beware, all ye Unsullied.
First a tidbit: I have it on what passes for good authority these days that HBO took a cue from how RuPaul's Drag Race films their finale with three separate crownings, and has produced MULTIPLE ENDINGS, so that as few people as possible actually know how this is all going to turn out until it's broadcast for real - including the actors and much of the production staff! Suggestion to Benioff and Weiss: film a watching party with the lead actors to catch their reactions to the outcome, like RuPaul does with his top 3 queens. (In general, take as much advice from drag queens as possible for every aspect of life, but that's a whole 'nother tangent.)
Wouldn't it be something if one of the ending options is that Old Nan was right all along and we've all been living in the eye of a blue-eyed giant named Macumber?
Anyway, the moment with Bran and Old Nan brought me back to the goodbye Jon gives to a still-unconscious Bran in the previous episode. "We can go out walking beyond the Wall if you're not afraid." Uncanny, right? The things none of us knew. Oh the places you'll go, future three-eyed raven! Catelyn's motherly warmth radiates towards Jon throughout. Just kidding!
Catelyn, man. Watching this the first time through, you might raise your eyebrows at some (many) of her decisions but we were all learning as we went, too, right? NOW, on rewatch, it is downright painful. The scene in E3 where, upon arrival in Kings Landing on her Secret Mission, she meets up with Varys and Littlefinger and gets completely set up? "You're a true friend," she says to Littlefinger. SUCKAAA. (Creepy also, seeing Lord Baelish insinuating his way into Sansa's radar with the gossip he shares at the Tourney of the Hand.)
Moving on, this episode is where I really started to admire Daenerys. Used as a bargaining chip by her own brother, thrust into a political marriage, surrounded by a totally foreign-to-her culture, what does she do? She accepts her circumstances - not in a complacent, passive way, but in a way that gives her agency. She could bemoan her new position, dwell on what's (genuinely) unfair about it, reject her new community, but she chooses to accept her current reality and make the most of it. She adapts to their dress, she learns their language. She meets them where they're at.
And at the same time, she is figuring out how to embrace being the Khaleesi. Giving commands (however hesitantly at first), making choices, deciding to try and connect with Drogo rather than being a submissive belonging. She is literally finding her voice. Nowhere is this more satisfying than when she stands up to Viserys' threats of "waking the dragon" (please) by declaring "I am a Khaleesi of the Dothraki! I am the wife of the great Khal and I carry his son inside me! The next time you raise a hand to me will be the last time you have hands." Dude, she is standing up to him by embracing the very position that HE put her in. DRACARYS!
All these early qualities expand later into everything I appreciate about her throughout the series. Contrast her approach to the other Iron Throne claimants: Stannis "Technically It's Mine" Baratheon, Renly "But I'm Much More Loveable" Baratheon, Balon "I Am the Violentest So What Else Matters" Greyjoy, and Robb - well, he's complicated, and not nearly as entitled and aggressive as the others, so let's give him a pass for now. Then Joffrey himself, of course, poster boi of privilege.
Dany, unlike her brother (who would have been among the contenders above had he even lasted long enough, not that I'm complaining) who wanted to immediately rush across the Narrow Sea assuming that Dothraki might is all it would take and who cares about actually, I dunno, being a leader, bides her time. And I don't mean that she just treads water; she evaluates the situation. She recognizes that she has a lot to learn - so . . . she learns. And super significantly, she listens to others. She knows she needs advice and takes that need seriously. Humbly, even. It's clear that she lacks the manpower to lay siege to Westeros, so she starts figuring out strategies to get where she wants to be.
And along the way, she rights as many wrongs as she can. Contrast Viserys telling Jorah that he won't be punished for "such nonsense" as selling slaves when he's back in charge, with our Breaker of Chains. She's not going to perpetuate injustice because that's the way it has always been, or because it was once done to her and now she gets to wield the pain (side-eyeing you so hard, Cersei). She can be ruthless when she needs to be, no doubt, but there's no sadism in it.
Throughout, she gains real-life experience with what it means to lead and to rule and yes, to make HELLA mistakes and have to try to fix them. She's becoming truly worthy of the throne. I guess "I will take what is mine with wisdom and compassion" isn't quite as catchy, but honestly, these are things that last after fires burn out and blood stops flowing.
I was already on my way to appreciating Tyrion, but the scene at the Wall where Benjen starts laying into him for no godsdamn reason at all, and makes some remark about "plump little lords" and their lifestyles. Tyrion blinks for a moment, then looks at Yoren and says, "Do you think I'm plump?" God grant me the serenity to maintain my cool so impishly the next time someone is projecting a bunch of their Issues in my face. (3 years until I have a teenager, so, better start practicing.)
Then when he arrives at Winterfell, only to get a load of attitude from Robb who is overdoing the Lord of Winterfell thing just a tad, he presents the Starks with the genius plan for a saddle for Bran. Just between us cripples, bastards and broken things. I'm sold. So it's extra galling in the scene at the inn where Catelyn pulls her power move, calling on all the loyal bannermen present (including a FREY, for crying out loud) to take Tyrion prisoner. Lucky for everyone, though, this is also the moment we are introduced to Bronn.
Next up: Arya and Ned: a lament.