Game of Thrones - Baelor reviewed (spoilers contained)
Review by Jack Foley
IT takes something very special to leave a critic speechless (the climax of Se7en or the opening 10 minutes of 24‘s fifth season to name but two) but Baelor, the penultimate episode of HBO’s Game of Thrones, did just that.
Having consistently thrilled since the halfway mark of its first season, the show truly took its place among the TV greats thanks to a climax that was as shocking as it was audacious.
Having marketed the series heavily around the involvement of Sean Bean as the main hero, it came as a jaw-dropping surprise to see his character, Ned Stark, beheaded in the final few moments. It truly did leave you gasping for breath, scrambling to make sense of what might come next, and turning to your loved one to say: “Well, I didn’t see that one coming!”
Baelor has already divided viewers between those who did see it coming (by virtue of having read George RR Martin’s best-selling A Song of Ice and Fire novels) and those who didn’t, a large percentage of whom have since flooded the fan forums of US websites to proclaim their dismay and disgust.
“How can you kill off a show’s main character?” It’s a common cry. But a bold one that honours the source material and truly does make Game of Thrones the most unpredictable show on TV.
No one, quite literally, is safe. We were promised that as well during the marketing campaign. But few dared believe it.
Bean’s demise will, however, go down among the great TV deaths of the small screen. Yet it was totally in keeping with the tone of the series as a whole and was achieved in a way that ensured maximum emotional effect, especially as it took place before the despairing eyes of his youngest daughter.
His loss will be felt. And the manner of his dignified exit spoke volumes for the honourable nature of the character the actor has spent the past nine episodes creating.
And yet few would dare to have predicted it, even as Ned started the episode languishing in the darkness of his prison, being advised on what course of action was best to take in order to ensure the safety of his beloved daughters (and, apparently, himself).
Similarly, there will doubtless be very few who could have foreseen most of what took place over the course of one of the best hours yet, whether it was the sudden decline in health of Jason Momoa’s Khal Drogo (now apparently at death’s door and requiring black magic as a last ditch attempt at survival), or the tactical military switch-eroo that saw Ned’s son Rob (cleverly played by Richard Madden) capture Ser Jaime Lannister (Nikolaj Coster Waldau) (admittedly off-screen).
It poses limitless questions for what might happen during the season one climax next week: will Jaime now suffer the same fate in retribution? Will Khal be revived? What will happen to his wife, Dany (Emilia Clarke) if not? What will become of young king Joffrey now that he has made the bold decision to execute Ned? And what role will Jon Snow (Kit Harington) play in the fortunes of those who remain alive?
For those weeping ove the loss of Ned, there’s still plenty to savour – not least in the story itself which, as HBO maintains in defending the decision to axe Ned, is the real star of proceedings.
But then there’s Peter Dinklage’s endlessly fascinating (Tyrion Lannister), Iain Glen’s masterful Ser Jorah Mormont and the aforementioned Jon Snow, who have all endeared themselves to viewers over the course of this brilliant series.
One thing is for certain, however – it’s best not to get too attached to anyone as you really cannot predict what’s going to happen next. It’s part of what has helped to turn Game of Thrones into the small screen event of the year so far.
Related story: Find out what HBO and Sean Bean had to say about the twist
- Baelor reviewed
- HBO and Sean Bean defend Baelor shocker
- Sean Bean interview
- Peter Dinklage interview
- First episode reviewed