I'm going to try and make Monday posts about the previous night's Game of Thrones episode. They will NOT be spoiler-free, so be warned. They also won't be full-on recaps. Westeros does that much, much better than I ever could. I also find myself inevitably comparing GoT to the last show I followed and wrote about -- Lost.
My initial reaction to last night's episode was that it set up a lot of things, but not much really happened. I've backed off from that initial sentiment. Plenty of things did happen -- especially in terms of character introduction and development. But I think the show struggles with balancing those elements with general back-story and forward plot movement. I think that struggle is inevitable, given the source material and format they've chosen for the show.
The scene I liked least about the episode was probably the one between Ned and Cersi. It felt a bit necessary; I think we get Ned's in over his head a bit down in King's Landing and we get (or will get, soon enough) that he and Cersi aren't terribly fond of one another. I was also a bit disappointed by the joust. The whole set just seemed like the thing they do at the local Renaissance Faire, minus the blood spurting.
Certainly my favorite scene was at The Inn of the Crossing. We get more great acting from Dinklage, we learn a bit about the feudal system of Westeros, and get a very nice dramatic moment as all the bannermen draw their swords on Tyrion. Thinking forward a bit, it's this moment, almost more than anything else, that sets the future war between Stark and Lannister in motion.
Other really nice parts included the scene at the door between Jamie and Jory and the introduction of Sam. For the later, I like how Sam comes across as both pathetic and likable. I never really liked Sam much in the books: I pited him. But this Sam has a sense of humor and even makes fun of Jon a bit. And I half-expected him to bust out the "tracts of land" line as he asked questions about Ros the Redhead. The former was nice for a number of reasons. Jory comes across as instantly likable. Jamie still goes back and forth between smug self-importance (with a touch of self-loathing) and aiming for something better. In the books, the later aspect of Jamie doesn't come out for quite awhile; he's generally loathsome in the first book. But they have to speed things up a bit and I think they are doing it well.
Across the Narrow Sea, things played out fairly normally. Viserys is still an ass, to his sister and his love slave (though we get a nice bit of dragon backstory from the later). And Daenerys gets more confident as queen while realizing her brother is a complete tool.
Again, I think they really should have done a "character episode" model. This one could have been Jon, where we would have gotten Sam, the Thorne speech, and maybe moved all the way up to his Night's Watch induction. It could have been Ned, where we could have gotten all the King's Landing stuff, including the complete tournament. It could even have been Tyrion, where we would have gotten Robb & Bran at Winterfell, his capture at the Inn, and then on into the mountains toward the Eyrie, where we'd meet Bron and those nasty mountain clan guys. Next week would have been a Daenerys episode, containing all of this weeks stuff, plus 'flash-acrosses" to Robert saying she must be killed, and maybe ending with the Crown of Gold.
My .02, anyway.