‘Game of Thrones’: At midway mark, body count low, plot twists high

May 05, 2014 | 3:07 p.m.
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Arya (Maisie Williams) and the Hound (Rory McCann) meet some unexpected travelers. (Helen Sloan/HBO)

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Meera (Ellie Kendrick), Bran (Isaac Hempstead Wright) and Hodor (Kristian Nairn) on their way to the sacred tree. (Helen Sloan/HBO)

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A scene from "The Watchers on the Wall," the ninth episode of Season 4 of HBO's "Game of Thrones." (Helen Sloan/HBO)

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A scene from "The Watchers on the Wall," the ninth episode of Season 4 of HBO's "Game of Thrones." (Helen Sloan/HBO)

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A scene from "The Watchers on the Wall," the ninth episode of Season 4 of HBO's "Game of Thrones." (Helen Sloan/HBO)

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Rose Leslie as Ygritte and Kit Harington as Jon Snow in HBO's "Game of Thrones." (Helen Sloan/HBO)

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Oberyn (Pedro Pascal) and the Mountain (Hafþór Júlíus Björnsson) in battle. (Macall B. Polay / HBO)

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Daenerys (Emilia Clarke) speaks harshly to her once-trusted adviser Jorah (Iain Glen) while Grey Worm (Jacob Anderson) looks on. (Helen Sloan / HBO)

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Roose Bolton (Michael McElhatton) rewards his bastard son Ramsay (Iwan Rheon). (Helen Sloan / HBO)

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Tywin Lannister (Charles Dance) sits on the Iron Throne as judge at Tyrion's trial. (Helen Sloan / HBO)

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Jaime Lannister (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau) advises his brother (Peter Dinklage). (Helen Sloan / HBO)

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Tommen (Dean-Charles Chapman) is crowned king by the High Septon (Paul Bentley). (Helen Sloan / HBO)

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Arya (Maisie Williams) shows the Hound (Rory McCann) her sword-fighting moves. (Helen Sloan / HBO)

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The lead mutineer (Burn Gorman) threatens Bran's friends (Ellie Kendrick and Thomas Brodie-Sangster). (Helen Sloan / HBO)

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The Lannisters pay their respects to the fallen King Joffrey. With Lena Headey, Dean-Charles Chapman, Jack Gleeson and Charles Dance. (Helen Sloan / HBO)

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Littlefinger (Aidan Gillen) to the supposed rescue of Sansa Stark (Sophie Turner). (Helen Sloan / HBO)

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Littlefinger (Aidan Gillen) gives Sansa Stark (Sophie Turner) a lesson on his power. (Helen Sloan / HBO)

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Natalie Dormer in Sunday's episode of "Game of Thrones," "The Lion and the Rose," written by George R.R. Martin.

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Natalie Dormer and Gwendoline Christie in a scene from "Game of Thrones." (Macall B. Polay / HBO)

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Jacob Anderson and Nathalie Emmanuel in a scene from "Game of Thrones." (Macall B. Polay / HBO)

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Michiel Huisman, Nathalie Emmanuel and Emilia Clarke in a scene from "Game of Thrones." (Macall B. Polay / HBO)

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Nikolaj Coster-Waldau and Peter Dinklage in a scene from "Game of Thrones." (Neil Davidson / HBO)

“Game of Thrones” is now halfway through the fourth season, and judging by last night’s relatively low body count, HBO’s sprawling drama is pacing itself — for the moment. Twitter fans tamed their blood lust and praised Sunday’s episode for its clever plot machinations.

Of course, moderation only goes so far where George R.R. Martin is concerned: “First of His Name” didn’t skimp on the grisly details. Brain skewers, anyone? (Ahem, now would be the time to stop reading: spoilers ahead.)

Westeros already seems a little kinder, now that Tommen Baratheon (Dean-Charles Chapman) is officially king. As he sits smiling in the Iron Throne, his mother calls him “a good boy, a decent boy,” seemingly the opposite of his late rageaholic brother Joffrey. Cersei (Lena Headey) and Margaery (Natalie Dormer) have a friendly chat about all the weddings (a.k.a. bloodbaths) coming up. She hints that Margaery, once her competition, wouldn’t be a bad sidekick for Tommen.  

In Meereen, Danaerys (Emilia Clarke) gets word that Joffrey is dead. She contemplates storming Blackwater but her counsel is split on whether she has a big enough army. Once she hears that Yunkai and Astapor have fallen apart, she decides to cool her heels. “How can I win the Seven Kingdoms if I can’t control Slaver’s Bay?” she ponders. And then she resolves: “I will do what queens do. I will rule.”

Poor Sansa (Sophie Turner). Pigeon pie at King’s Landing is starting to look pretty good, after her weird aunt Lysa (Kate Dickie) accuses her of sleeping with Petyr “Litlefinger” Baelish (Aidan Gillen) and promises (threatens?) to marry her off to Robin, her tween son (and Sansa’s first cousin) who still breastfeeds.

And at long last, Craster’s Keep burns to the ground. Before the hovel for raping and incest goes up in flames, Jon Snow (Kit Harington) leads a battle against the mutineers from the Night’s Watch. In mid-conflict, devious Locke (Noah Taylor) kidnaps Bran, but Locke’s neck is snapped by Hodor, possessed by the young Stark in warg mode.

In the show’s most gasp-worthy killing, Jon Snow plunges a sword into the back of Karl Tanner’s skull. The mutineer leader (Burn Gorman) gave him the advantage when he turned around to punish one of Craster’s wives who had managed to stab him in the back.

In a chat with Hero Complex, Harington spoke about his character’s brawl with Tanner: “This is a very interesting season for him because it is about honor. When he was young in the first season, honor was a simple thing. Now — in fact, in this scene — he learns that honor isn’t a simple thing. To win you have to be dirty sometimes to get to an honorable place.”

Other plots spun forward, in an episode that set the table for many twists to come. Twitter reacted thusly:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

How did “First of His Name” sit with you? Did you crave more action, or was one good brain-spearing enough for now? Leave your comments below.

— Margaret Wappler | @MargaretWappler

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