Another fortnight has passed, and with it another episode.
If you’re wondering what this is all about, I decided to use my copious amount of time in self-isolation to start a Game of Thrones read-a-long, wherein we read the chapters along with each of the episodes and then discuss the two. If you want to know more, I explain it all in this post.
This book and I have not got along in the past, but I am thoroughly enjoying this second attempt at reading it. I found after finishing this second part that I didn’t want to put the book down. I wanted to keep reading and learn more. I was fascinated by the complexity of these characters, and I loved everything we were learning about Westeros.
I’m still so impressed by Martin’s writing. This bi-weekly chunk of the book neared almost a hundred pages, but we are introduced to a plethora of characters and we learn so much more about the world and the history of it. The episode was also fantastic, though it did not follow almost one-to-one the way it did for the first episode so it’s a little harder to draw comparisons.
We’re definitely seeing a lot more variation in scenes, though with the same information, and I think it’s meant to give certain characters more screen time. In the books thus far, Cersei hasn’t featured prominently, and her scene with Catelyn was a way to show us more of the character while also giving us some key information. Namely the fact that Cersei had a child before Joffrey, a child with black hair that unfortunately died. We see how much Cersei loves her children and the similarities between her and Catelyn. I thought it was really well done, and I actually would have liked to see that in the book. Having watched the show already, I know that Cersei is going to play a bigger role, but she feels rather insignificant in the book thus far.
Compared to episode one, we really get to see the sort of life that Jon must have led for the last fourteen years of his life, as Catelyn is so overtly hostile towards Jon when he tries to visit Bran. It’s a glimpse of what he has to endure as Ned’s bastard. The circumstances of his birth cast him as an outsider regardless of what he is capable of and how much he loves his family. It’s understandable why he is drawn to the Night’s Watch – a place where his birth doesn’t matter and the opportunity it affords him to prove himself.
Unfortunately, that’s a catch-22. Because your background doesn’t matter, the Night’s Watch is full of criminals – slavers, rapists, and the like. It’s used as a prison, and Jon learns along the way to the Wall that it isn’t noble and glorious the way he might have imagined it. It’s a collection of all of society’s undesirables.
When Daenerys and Drogo are married, Ilyrio gives Dany the three dragon eggs as a wedding gift, which you just know are going to be important later based on how much time Martin spends describing them. That was one thing I’ve noticed after reading near 200 pages – Martin has beautiful writing, and despite the length of these books, he doesn’t waste words. This book is dense, so when he spends time describing how beautiful and almost jewel-like these eggs are, you know they’re going to be significant later.
One of my favourite scenes was between King Robert and Eddard after the two of them ride away from their entourage for a one-on-one chat. they have a chance to talk about things they wouldn’t normally be able to in front of the others, and we learn a lot of their backstory. We learn more about Jon’s mother, Wylla, though Ned is unusually cagey about it. We also learn a lot more about the Mad King and Robert’s rebellion. Most interesting of all, we learn of Ned’s intense distrust of the Lannisters.
And it’s with good reason – the battle was not won the way people may think. The Lannisters were not allies or enemies of the Targaryens and they tricked the Mad King when he was cornered, making him think they were there to help. When Ned finally arrives at the Red Keep it is Jaime Lannister sitting on the Iron Throne after having slain the king he was sworn to protect. And now he is sworn to protect King Robert.
This part of the show is cut short, with a lot of the pertinent information being cut or redistributed in other scenes, but I think it’s one of the most interesting parts of the story. Robert is only King because the Lannisters allowed him to be, something that Ned is keenly aware of but Robert is willing to overlook because of his blind hatred of the Targaryens.
There are obviously going to be some differences between the show and the source material, but I’ve noticed that most of them thus far seem to be about Catelyn Stark. In her scene with Jon, the madness brought on by her grief is far more downplayed in the show, and she’s not nearly as cruel to Ned’s bastard son. Her attitude is framed less as hysteria and more that she is overwhelmed at the prospect of having to run things in Winterfell without her husband, and that’s only compounded by what happened to Bran.
We later see Catelyn come to her senses and begin investigating the Broken Tower after an assassin is sent to kill her son. It’s only after she finds the long blond hair that she gathers those she trusts and reveals what she suspects. The Catelyn of the show appears generally more restrained, where the book has the character react far more emotionally.
At the end of the episode, where Arya is brought before the King after she and Nymeria attack Prince Joffrey, Sansa’s role is instead framed as Cersei manipulating her. In the books, Ned brings her along to be another witness, but in the show, instead of a little girl who is scared and overwhelmed, it is the Queen who summons her, and her lack of testimony only damns Arya and Nymeria further. I’m not sure yet how I feel about this, but I understood the change, especially with the characters being a little older. It is harder to believe that Sansa wasn’t able to recount what happened, and more believable that she is trying to impress the Queen and the prince. Essentially she is being forced to choose between her current family and what she believes will be her future family, and she’s made her choice, at least for now.
There are some parts of the show that I absolutely wish were part of the books, and Jon and Eddard’s farewell scene happens to be one of them. The two of them are going separate ways – Jon going north to the Wall and Ned heading south with the king. Compared to how Catelyn treats him, you can see just how much Jon loves his son. More than that he tells him that he’s a Stark, and regardless of his birth, he is still Ned’s blood. It gives Jon a chance to ask about his mother, and it was nice to be shown how Ned felt about Jon. We don’t get nearly the same affect from Ned in the books.
Knowing what happens later on in the series, I love that these characters have this chance to say goodbye and that Ned feels the need to give Jon that kind of support. It was sweet. It’s one of the drawbacks of having so many characters, I think – it is that much harder to spend time on all of them and there is only so much Martin can show us. Some things have to be cut. But I loved this addition to the show.
That brings us to the end of Episode 2! I’m really starting to get into this series again and I’m remembering everything I loved about the show. I’m also really enjoying the book, so I can’t wait to keep reading!
Instead of doing a link-up for every episode, I figured it’d be easier to link to the original. So I’ve included that here if you want to share your thoughts!
What did you think of episode 2 – The Kingsroad? What do you think of the changes from the book? What were some of your favourite scenes from this installment? Let me know in the comments!