“When you play the game of thrones you win, or you die. There is no middle ground.”
Game of Thrones
SPOILER ALERT! THIS REVIEW CONTAINS SPOILERS FOR GAME OF THRONES SEASON ONE.
We’re reaching the home stretch now, in the seventh of ten episodes in the first series of Game of Thrones. And, unsurprisingly, war is on its way, as the head of the Lannister family (Charles Dance, folks!) raises an army to rescue the kidnapped Tyrion, while King Robert lies dying in King’s Landing. Ned thinks it’s a good idea to let Cersei know that he knows about her incest, and the White Walkers are coming down from the Wall.
Actually, I seem to remember that this episode came across as a little overwrought, with the ascetic whoremaster Littlefinger waxing unnecessarily (and unconvincingly) lyrical about his Troubled Past (because they all have Troubled Pasts), and Khal Drogo deciding in an impassioned speech to cross the Narrow Sea, apparently with very little motivation. The best segments of You Win or You Die are the relatively restrained scenes at the Wall and in Winterfell, where Winter is Coming and where the Starks’ happily honour-bound family existence is threatened by war. I’m looking forward to the development of the Walkers’ storyline and the continued exploits of the Night’s Watch; there’s something very creepy going on out there beyond the Wall, and I’m curious to find out what. Otherwise, You Win or You Die feels essentially like a set-up episode, pushing the characters into the first stages of the endgame, as it were. That’s not to say it’s not fast-paced, that its characters aren’t, for the most part, compelling and convincing, or that it leaves any plotholes or loose threads; it’s just…less exciting than average.
Still, good enough.