But the most engrossing convo was between two people who know each other quite well: Tywin and Tyrion Lannister. The first time we met Tywin, he was skinning a deer and lecturing his eldest son, Jamie, on filial duty. Here, his preoccupation was letter writing. That's a less gory but more chilling distraction, given the uncharacteristically plaintive, vulnerable way his youngest addressed him. When Tywin's disinterest turned to hot contempt—"You are an ill-made, spiteful little creature, full of envy, lust, and low cunning"—you could see Tyrion taking a deeper wound than he received at the Battle of the Blackwater. Peter Dinklage may have sewn up another Emmy in the instant he looked back, nodded, and then walked out of the room as Tywin threatened to hang "the next whore I catch in your bed."
So yeah, a nice hour of television. A few things left me cold, though. I find it impossible to care about the Stannis Baretheon storyline: The series has only ever told, not shown, why anyone would follow this morally confused lunk into war, much less risk death and invite imprisonment to redeem him after a loss, as Davos Seaworth did in Dragonstone. And the reveal of Barristan Selmy in Astapor didn't live up to the high drama suggested by the music and the scene's placement at the end of the episode. I barely remember him being in previous seasons. Moreover, does the khaleesi need another dutiful has-been following her around?
I suspect, though, that these two moments, and a few others, would resonate more deeply had I devoured George R.R. Martin's books. Chris and Ross, you're the learned Maesters here and I'm as unread as Bronn. Without spoiling what looks to be a pretty fun season, what am I not picking up on?
Orr: Ah, Spencer. You have wisdom beyond your education, my scarcely housebroken sellsword.
It's apt that you should mention the show's expository dialogue, which—for obvious reasons—tends to be particularly prominent in the early episodes of each season. Specifically: Here are two characters, interacting in such a way that you learn important details about a) each one as an individual, and b) the relationships between them, public and private (the two rarely being the same).
It's a narrative mechanism that seems particularly well attuned to viewers who haven't read the books. I was in your shoes less than two years ago: I hadn't read any of the novels, but I was persuaded to give the show a try (despite my decades-long fantasy disappointment post-Tolkien) by a couple of friends, among them our co-recapper Ross—who, for his sins, I have corralled into participating into this conversation despite his having a brand-new baby. (Those readers who believe in fate can take her name as an omen: Eleanor Snow Douthat.) When Ross, who'd read the books, described the first season to me, he said it started slowly, but gathered pace to become transfixing by the end. I certainly agreed with the latter half of that assessment, but I found the first few episodes fascinating as well: meeting the Starks and Lannisters, visiting the Wall and exiled Daenerys among the Dothraki, slowly absorbing this almost indigestibly rich world...