Facing the impending Lannister army, Catelyn makes a deal on behalf of Rob so they are able to cross the Twins. This allows the Stark forces to trick the Lannisters and capture Jaime Lannister.
Tyrion meets Shae who he quickly recognizes as an intellectual equal and seems to genuinely care about him. Before the big battle Tyrion is knocked unconscious by a rogue hammer so he misses much of the fighting.
Trapped in the dungeon and promised life, Ned makes the decision to publicly bend the knee to Joffrey in order to receive mercy. When he finally does do this he is met with an unexpected consequence of getting his head chopped off by his own blade.
Khal Drogo’s injury becomes progressively worse preventing him from being able to ride his horse. In the Dothraki culture this is effectively the end of a khal’s life. Not wanting to abandon him, Daenerys entrusts a witch to perform blood magic to prevent his death.
This is one of the most consequential episodes of Game of Thrones. For viewers on their first watch this is where the training wheels are pried off with severe violence. For all purposes Ned Stark is the assumed protagonist since the beginning of the story. He is this lord who seems cool and will always decide to do the right thing. He represents all the cues that standard audiences would view him as the “good guy” of the story.
But obviously this does not save him from this world. In fact, this supposed morality is what gets him killed even when he was guaranteed safety by multiple people. That is the point where this show’s deaths have more impact than other television series like the Walking Dead where the illusion of “any character can die” is severely weakened by the sheer unpredictability of it.
Audiences like rules because they allows us to better predict what will happen and also because there are rules or tropes to how stories are written in structured. In Game of Thrones we know that pardons are granted because the show has shown it to us. So it adds another shock when Joffrey decides at a wimp to have Ned executed.
The execution itself is seen from the point of view of Arya so we see it as if we were the common folk of King’s Landing. We even miss the direct action of the execution, a sly editing job that shows the blade slicing down only to miss contact as we see birds flying overhead because that is what Arya is seeing.
Rob Stark is one of the few characters that quickly dispels any notion of glory in the conflict he is facing. Crossing the Twins requires a personal sacrifice which he is willing to partake, and other sacrifices that affect others that he does without their consent. But the cost of victory of the battle and capturing Jaime Lannister costs him the lives of 2,000 men which he does not take lightly.
The dynamic between Tyrion and Tywin continues to evolve here. This is something that I’ll probably talk about in later episodes and seasons as well but here we see that Tywin is not outwardly warm to his son but does give him responsibility of leading the mountain people as well as insights into the military strategy.
On the other hand later in the episode we hear a story of Tyrion’s first time falling in love. The basics of the story is Tyrion rescues a woman who then falls in love with him, even going off as a teenager and marrying her. It turns out that it was a ruse, that it was a sex worker hired by Jamie so his brother could lose his virginity. Upon finding out about the marriage, Tywin forces her to have sex with all of the Lannister guards to the point that she cannot even hold all of the money.
It such a well performed scene and well written. From it we learn why Tyrion is not exactly romantically involved despite his seeming sex addiction and drunkenness. But also it is a way to humiliate his son. We are not supposed to like Tywin Lannister. He obviously is the head of the Lannisters and they are still painted as the antagonist of the story, but are all of these things that Tywin does to Tyrion actually make Tyrion a better person?
I won’t get too far into it here but essentially out of all the Lannister children Tyrion is ironically the most like Tywin. Hell, even their names are the most similar out of all of the Lannister brood.
The illness of Khal Drogo further deepens this breaking of conventional stories. When we are introduced to Khal Drogo he is a mighty warrior and leader of a massive band of domestic peoples. Now, after getting a simple sword wound he is so ill he is unable to stay bridled onto his horse.
This fall from his horse causes the whole thread of this Khalasar to unravel at incredible pace. The tension builds as Daenerys brings in the witch to perform blood magic in order to save Khal Drogo from death thus causing the need to bring the horse into the tent. This of course causes protest from the warriors in which Jorah kills one all the while the sounds of a dying horse (almost draconic?) emanate like an otherworldly ghost from the tent.
Watching this episode again makes me realize and appreciate the slow burn that the first season has payed off especially considering how emotional it can be with limited effect. They built Ned Stark up so well in the first 8 episodes that his death has an effect for the rest of the season and the show.
Next time: Fire and Blood