Game of Thrones Moment of the Week: “First of His Name”

The Moment: Cersei and Oberyn talk about their daughters

Setting the Scene: Cersei visits Oberyn to talk about her daughter Myrcella, who has been sent to Dorne. As they talk, she learns about his eight daughters, and they discuss the way neither of them could save the ones they loved, despite all the power they’re believed to possess.

Why It’s Awesome: “First of His Name” was quite possibly my favorite episode of this Game of Thrones season so far. And I think much of my love for this episode comes from the performances we were treated to throughout. This was especially true in the scenes in King’s Landing, where little plot movement happened (beyond Tommen being crowned king), but I was reminded that this part of the cast is so talented that I would watch most of them talk to each other about nothing of plot importance for a whole episode because they would still manage to give it weight.

In an episode anchored by great acting, no one was better than Lena Headey. From her opening scene with Natalie Dormer to her conversation with Charles Dance, I found her to be the perfect scene partner in “First of His Name.” But my favorite moment of Headey’s came opposite another actor who seems to be an excellent partner for anyone he shares a scene with: Pedro Pascal. Both Headey and Pascal bring so much weight to even the most seemingly innocuous pieces of dialogue. In this scene, there is such understated tension between both of them but also an odd but beautiful kind of understanding that comes from both of their roles as parents to daughters in a world that is often too cruel to little girls—a fact both of them know very well.

I’ve loved everything about the development of Oberyn Martell as a character so far. Pascal brings an unexpected softness to the role that makes his pain and grief feel more accessible than they did without having his point of view in the novel. When he talks about his daughters, you can feel his love for them, but you can also feel the sadness and rage he still feels over what happened to his sister. The fact that he can speak so freely and so softly about wanting to avenge his sister’s death to the current matriarch of the family who ordered her death is chilling when you really stop to think about it.

But for as much as I loved Pascal in that scene, Headey stole the show. Cersei’s sense of helplessness (because of her gender) becomes a major point for her character in the novels, so I love seeing the show already exploring her thoughts about being from a powerful family but ultimately having no power in the things that matter most. And I have always loved the way Headey plays Cersei as a woman whose love for her children is something you don’t doubt. Cersei may be a lot of terrible things, but she is a mother who loves her children; Headey makes sure we never forget that. When she talked about hoping Myrcella was happy in Dorne, I felt her pain for having to give up her baby girl. It was subtle, and that’s what made it even more affecting.

Sometimes Game of Thrones has a moment of dialogue that will stick with you for a long time. “We don’t hurt little girls in Dorne.” “Everywhere in the world they hurt little girls,” is one of those moments. Both actors said those lines perfectly, and for me to break it down into further analysis would be discrediting everything they did in those few seconds. It was brilliant because it didn’t need analyzing. It said everything—about the differences between Dorne and King’s Landing, about Cersei’s anger over being born a woman, and about the gender politics of this world—without needing to bash us over the heads with the idea that this was an important moment.

The beauty of Game of Thrones is the way it can give characters more depth and flesh out their stories more fully than the novels because it isn’t burdened by limited points of view. Cersei and Oberyn are two characters who have benefitted immensely from this broadening of the storytelling, and we as an audience are reaping the benefits, as we get to watch these two great actors share moments that never existed in the novels.

Honorable Mentions: Cersei and Margaery discussing Joffrey, Cersei and Tywin discussing the Lannister legacy, Sansa being threatened by Lysa, Jon reuniting with Ghost

7 thoughts on “Game of Thrones Moment of the Week: “First of His Name”

  1. This was also my favorite episode of the season. I don’t think it will surprise you at all that my favorite part of the show is the gender politics and specifically the way women in Westeros assert what little power and agency they have over their lives.

    This was Cersei’s (and Lena Headey’s) week. In every scene, we got an understanding of who she is and who she wishes she could be as a leader. She is deeply frustrated at being the Lannister who most desires to see them remain in power but isn’t the right gender to do anything about that other than be married off. So she plays the game in the only way she can – with her words. She’ll never trust either Oberyn or Margaery and knows they’ll never trust her but she can attempt to get them on her side so they’ll give her what she’s looking for (protection of Myrcella/Tyrion’s death and some continued role in Tommen’s life and kingship, respectively).

    This was also the week of feeling really badly for Sansa. She’s gone from being prisoner to the family who is responsible for the deaths of 3 family members to being a prisoner of a jealous aunt and new uncle who is obsessed with her mother. I just need to know that things will work out for her and she will have a happy (or at least a peaceful) life at the end of the series.

    • Why am I not surprised that our similar tastes are showing once again? 😉

      I am so happy that you brought up one of the most fascinating things about Cersei’s character: She is the only Lannister who cares about their family staying in political power, but she has basically no political power of her own. It becomes such an important part of her character later on, and I’m thrilled the seeds are being planted now.

      I also could not agree more with your thoughts on Sansa. Sophie Turner was incredible in that scene with Lysa, and it reminded me just how much I want this character to have a moment to feel safe and secure at some point in this series.

  2. It was hard to pick my favorite moment of Cercei’s, because as you mentioned, there were so many good ones, but I think I am going to go with her conversation with Margaery at Tommen’s crowning as my favorite. It was pretty much the first time ever, either in show or the novels, where I actually had a moment of compassion for her. And I think it had to do with the fact that at that moment, I felt she was being 100% honest. It wasnt about making a power play, or trying to manipulate anyone, or keep up an image, or proving a point. It was just her realizing that Margaery was actually an ally in this situation, and instead of fighting for control over Tommen, she actually lets go. And that is an action I can actually respect. Her moment with Oberyn was also very real, but I still felt a tinge of politics being played in that scene, which puts it not quite on the same level as the scene with Margaery.

    If Cercei keeps this up I might actually be sympathetic to her once things spiral out of control later on.

    • I had so much trouble deciding between Cersei’s scene with Oberyn and her scene with Margaery as my favorite moment. I think you are completely right about Cersei being completely honest in her moment with Margaery. She’s not trying for any kind of power play in that moment, and it surprised me in the best possible way. The way Lena Headey delivered those lines about how Joffrey shocked her was absolutely perfect. The show is doing such a great job of adding depth and dimension to her character, and it’s making me anxious to see how everything is going to play out with her as the seasons go on.

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