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‘Game of Thrones’ Heavy Metal Review – ‘First of His Name’

HBO

How many people had their last meal in this week’s ‘Game of Thrones‘ episode, ‘First of His Name’ — and more importantly, how metal was it?

It all leads to a slaughter. In this Song of Ice and Fire, everything does. ‘Vikings’ had a comparable body count this week, but ‘Game of Thrones’ remains the most heavy-metal show on TV. Even when dudes wrapped in steel and leather aren’t stabbing each other through the back of the head.

In case it doesn’t go without saying, spoilers for season four — especially this week — follow.

And here we are, midway through the season. ‘First of His Name,’ was directed by series regular Michelle MacLaren, who has helmed some of the great television of recent years, including some stunning episodes of ‘Breaking Bad’ and ‘The Walking Dead.’ This week’s subtle ‘GOT’ had a gigantic reveal and a wholesale slaughter, but MacLaren didn’t handle any of it in an obvious manner. This week was another slow build toward blood and fire. Given its highlights, you’d expect more thrashing, though this week was slower, like power metal.

Scene by scene, it went like this:

In King’s Landing, a new king sits on an Iron Throne made from smelted swords of defeated enemies. That’s very metal.

Across the sea, a liberator ponders the perplexing problems of freedom, power, and prices paid in blood.

At the Bloody Gate, those who would assault the Eyrie are slaughtered like goats. But today, all involved stand deceived, and their true conqueror slips by with their help. Littlefinger — that weaselly cat with short hair who’s seldom onscreen — is revealed as the puppet master who has been behind the murder, assassinations and most of the human conflict the series has seen. This moment is handled with a line of dialogue and no dramatic music or kinetic camera movement. If anything that happened in the human realm mattered at all in the face of the supernatural threat in the far North, we’d dwell on it longer. Littlefinger is a slippery s— of a pimp, but he’s a virgin-killer, and that’s kinda metal.

Not far from the throne, another obscure power broker reveals the real fuel that makes the kingdom run. Ruling can be a lot like scoring a major-label record deal and signing a contract with a huge advance: All that advance money has to be paid back. Even an uncrowned king must play by somebody else’s rules eventually. And, as Daenerys shows, you even have to hit the road.

Out on that road, a very metal odd couple exchange thoughts on mortality: Innocent no longer, a young girl stares into a fire, reciting the names of those she lives to kill. And her scarred hesher of a companion wearily speaks words of wisdom: “Hate’s as good a thing as any to keep a person going.”

And so it goes. Once again this week, for most of the episode, not a lot happens. Even this bloody world has its doldrums. People awkwardly gallop toward their fates, the forces that govern them unseen — and the only way to get anybody to take you seriously is to kill somebody.

In the North, on this night of a new moon, heads do roll. Captives. A golden vision. A mission most important. Dirty footprints on the path to a fiery end. And, when darkness falls, traitors, cutthroats and other men in black clash. At the outskirts of a massive melee, a lame young lord makes a sacrifice to find a three-eyed raven. And at the battle’s end, an older lord learns one last lesson about the limits of honor.

The fresh snow runs red, but the bloodletting is staged for drama, not action. The cuts come quickly, the bodies pile up, and we don’t see the gore spill. In this story’s grand scale, 15 violent deaths in the woods is nothing to send a raven about. Not even a regular two-eyed raven. This was not the battle you’re waiting for.

‘First of His Name’ Stats and Count of Assorted Metal Signifiers and Situations:

Onscreen Body Count: Approximately 16
C— Block: 1. Cersei can’t resist the opportunity to get between her son — new King Tommen — and his imminent wife. You’ve been at a kegger with a bunch of metal blasting on the stereo, and there’s precious few women, and the guys ruthlessly interrupt each other’s every attempt to strike up a conversation with the scarce ladies. Like it or not, Cersei made a metal move.
Torture: 1
Broken Chains: 1
Hodor: 1
Witchery: 1
Rabbit on Fire: 1
Bloody Vengeance: 16
Massive Funeral Pyre: 1
Overall Rating for Week Five: Metal.

Song of the Week:  Satyricon, “Fuel for Hatred”

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