The Old Cast but Not the New
‘The Old Gods and the New” brings “Game of Thrones”back to a focus on season one characters, reminding viewers how far we have come, and grounding events that may have grown too complex for some.
One thing that has always stood out in Game of Thrones is the quality of acting the children bring to an adult world. Bran has never been given a time to shine however. In the books, most of Bran’s development is through internal monologues and complex dreams. Due to the nature and tone of the TV series a direct adaptation would not fit in. Isaac Hempstead-Wright is able to represent Bran’s calm confidence and then radically make him into the scared child he is when he witnesses Theon execute those he cares for. This reflects the shift in the show in regards to Winterfell. Winterfell has always been a safe haven in sharp contrast to the rest of the major locations where danger lurks in every shadow.
After Sansa is nearly raped during a riot against Joffery two very blunt but well designed scenes play out. Tyrion confronts his despicable King-nephew about his role in inciting the rioters and his lack of an attempt in saving his betrothed. Without Sansa, there is no way that Robb will trade back Jaime, Joffery’s true father, back to him. Tyrion has been consistently amazing this season and every scene he is in has been fascinating to watch. The slapping of Joffery again is a season highlight for me. Part of this has to do with Jack Gleeson unsympathetic yet spot-on portrayal of Joffery. Watching the two converse in the middle of the chaos shows the damage that Joffery has inflicted and the struggles Tyrion has trying to keep the king and the kingdom in order. In another scene, Sansa talks to Shae about her hatred for Joffery. Shae worries that someone might hear her but Sansa does not care. This is the first that Sansa has spoken out against the man she is forced to publicly declare her love for despite the abuse.
Can you feel the love tonight?
The older Starks have the sparks of romance in their scenes, which is out-of-place in the tone of the show but is welcome. Robb is playfully trying to find out the identity of the nurse Talisa. Catelyn reminds Robb that he is betrothed and that the reality of his role is one where one must not marry for love but for political gain. Daenerys is facing the same problem in the East as men propose to her in an attempt to gain power through her dragons. In the civilized world of ‘Game of Thrones’ love only exists in bedside stories. The rules are different beyond the Wall. Jon encounters a wildling woman named Ygritte who appears to have an interest in him. Despite being captive, she keeps trying to let Jon know she is physically interested in him. Jon constantly refuses as relationships are forbidden in the Night’s Watch. Beyond the Wall and the laws of Westeros it seems like anything goes and Jon has to decide to follow his honor or his own desires. Sex can be bought easily or can be acquired through forceful means, leaving true intimate relationships to be a rarity as political marriages are favored only to claim lands and continue bloodlines.
Arya is now Tywin’s servant and sits in on his meetings. This gives her an understanding of how her scattered family is doing amongst the turmoil of the world. One of the most intense scenes in an episode packed with tension is when Littlefinger and Tywin meet in Arya’s presence. Littlefinger is aware of what the children of his beloved Catelyn look like so Arya avoids making contact with him the entire time. This however brings up one issue I have with the show and that is a lack of a sense of time and distance. The opening title shows that the world of ‘Game of Thrones’ is massive yet characters like Littlefinger move across continents in what feels like no time at all. Without the feeling of distance between locations, the feeling of isolation of the Starks and Daenerys does not feel drastic.
‘The Old Gods and the New’ bring back the storylines to ‘Game of Thrones’ season one roots and reminds us why we follow these characters. The quality of the acting from the entire cast intensifies the scenes and makes the characterizations and plots deeper. Placing Robb and Jon in flirtatious situations allows exploration of their vulnerable sides, challenging their positions as leaders. This episode shows that there is still plenty of ground to explore with the old cast and by focusing on them, the stakes brought in by the new cast are raised even further.