RIT S1E9: Baelor

Summary

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.

 

Discussion

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

Advertisements

RIT S1E8 The Pointy End

Summary

Fresh off the arrest of Ned Stark, the Lannisters begin to massacre the rest of the Stark’s servants and guards throughout the castle. Arya successfully flees after stabbing a stable hand, while Sansa is taken prisoner and forced to write to her family in the North.

With news of his father’s imprisonment Rob Stark calls the banners to begin a march to King’s Landing. This brings its own host of issues as Rob has to maintain the banners while being inexperienced at war in general. As the Lannister’s march toward their camp, Rob must make a decision of where to send his army.

On the Wall Jon Snow faces the consequences of Ned Stark’s treason, but this development  is overshadowed with the presence of a man coming back from the dead assaults Jon.

Daenerys experiences her first raid by the Dothraki on another group of people who are just simple herding folk. A dispute arises after Danny attempts to take all the female slaves so none of them are raped. One of Khal Drogo’s riders takes offence to this and accuses the Khal of being controlled by Danny, who is a foreigner. In the fight that ensues Khal Drogo is injured.

 

Discussion

The Pointy End marks the end of the beginning. Throughout the show so far there has been few depictions of violence of existential threat to any of the characters, this episode now begins to change. Ned Stark is now locked away deep in the dungeons, unable to protect his family from the dangers of the world.

The title itself is extremely important. It references the conversation between Jon and Arya before they go their separate ways in episode one. Arya summarizing the act of wielding her a sword as stabbing them with the pointy end.

I think that carries a lot of weight in this episode and for the show. The phrase Arya says is obviously true, even Jaime Lannister makes a similar allusion about men being filled with water that are prone to leaking. But this phrase also oversimplifies the act of killing, there are other consequences including on the people doing the killing themselves. Underlying a lot of this season has been the inexperience of killing for a lot of the younger characters.

Many of the characters are “green” or “Summer children”, never seeing combat or experiencing the hardships of Winter. Rob Stark himself is sending an army to war and has never experienced a battle. This is made clear with Lord Umber challenging his authority and demanding he lead the vanguard, which Rob answers the challenge by holding his ground as the leader. But clearly the facade is not real, nearly breaking down in front of his command when he sees his mother arrive and looking to embrace her immediately like a boy lost in a world he does not understand.

Arya, the coiner of “the pointy end”, has to kill a child in order to escape and save her own life. Although the act was simple, it is clear that it did have an impact on her. It also parallels nicely to the fact that the Hound killed the Baker’s son while she killed a stable hand.

Out of all of the Starks and most characters on the show, Sansa gets a bad rap. This is mostly attributed to her naivete and immaturity. She often is infatuated with the story she tells herself, that Joffrey is a good person and he will be a great king with her as the queen. She even romanticizes and emphasizes that she wants his babies. Of course, at this point in the show the facade of a good Joffrey has a few cracks but it has not been shattered yet.

But can we as an audience blame the naivety of Sansa on her? As mentioned earlier she is a “Summer child” relatively sheltered from the bulk of dangers in this world. She is also a woman of the aristocracy, given stories to better swallow the pill of forced marriage for political gain between great houses of Westeros.

Some have pointed out the historical similarities between her and a certain monarch that became extremely successful in her time. Sansa is naive, especially in this episode, but I think as the season goes on it is important to look at how she grows in terms of navigating the politics around her.

Danny herself also has new experiences as she walks through a raid on a  small herding community. Although she has ambitions to conquer Westeros and reclaim her throne, she is sickened by the bloodshed and the enslavement of the people here.

Her biggest issue though appears to be the enslavement and rape of women, which she has seen throughout her life. This is where the Daenerys as a liberator of the slaves begins to formulate in her head. Obviously, she has some political leverage since she is pregnant with the Khal’s child who is prophesied to rule the world. She uses this to try to work within the system of slavery to get them some kind of quasi free status. They will be her slaves instead of harmed by anybody else.

During all of this conflict down South the Jon storyline brings back the forces that have been mounting since episode one. Not only has the world of the show been negligent on the White Walkers, but the show has as well. This is the first time we see a byproduct of them since the very first scene in episode one.

Through this bizarre creature that is dead but alive that only dies to fire we see the horror scenario begin to play out. While the entire kingdom is about to be plummeted into a civil war, greater forces are mounting an existential attack on all of them.

Finally, let’s talk about Ned Stark. After failing to establish Robert’s decree and not bending the knee he is now sealed deep under King’s Landing in a dark dungeon. In this dungeon Varys comes and discuss events with him.

These scenes are incredibly interesting because we see the flaws of not only Ned Stark’s logic, but of most of the aristocracy in Westeros. Specifically with Ned Stark’s actions though, Varys criticizes the fact that Ned played his hand while announcing everything.

Considering that so far in the series one could write everything important about Ned Stark down to a paragraph and struggle to get more information out of Varys besides the fact he is a eunuch shows the two extremes they occupy. One of them is stuck in a dungeon with the real possibility of dying and the other one is Varys.

One of the greatest lines this season and one that defines Varys perfectly comes when Ned asks who he truly serves. “The Realm, my lord. Someone must.” In this we see that Varys is above the petty inner house rivalries. To Varys his main pragmatic goal is the overall well-being of Westeros even if that means having to go along with regime changes that are not so easy to swallow. There is obviously more to this that can be discussed at another time but clearly in this dungeon we see that Ned was in over his head while others had much larger machinations.  

Few other highlights that were awesome but not really a lot to expositate on:

  • Barristan Selmy being dismissed from the King’s Guard.
  • Syrio fighting with a wooden sword against men in full armor. But did he die though?

 

Next time: Baelon

RIT S1E7 You Win or You Die

Summary

After finishing training as a recruit, Jon Snow and his friends take their oath to be members of the Night’s Watch. Jon has been assigned as the squire for Lord Commander Mormont. The horse of Benjen Stark has also returned to the Wall without Benjen, leading to further mysteries as to what is happening there.

Danny is caught in an assassination attempt on her life, causing Khal Drogo to rise up for more ambitious goals of crossing the Narrow Sea and conquering Westeros.

In King’s Landing, the King returns from his hunting trip with a fatal injury from a boar. Although King Robert’s dying wish is to have Ned as the protector until Joffrey is of age, Cersei has other plans and gains control of the situation.

 

Discussion

Beginning with the last few scenes, let’s talk about Robert’s death and its impact. Obviously, the slow death of the King creates this tension of who is next to ascend in line to the throne and everybody has their own intentions about who is next in line. Cersei has the interest of keeping her secret in check and allowing her children to immediately gain control of the throne with no outside involvement. Ned Stark clearly does not want anybody with Lannister lineage to be on the throne, even writing it into Robert’s final decree. The Baratheon brothers obviously want the throne in their own best interest.

All of this is happening because there is no clear line of succession in this world. In the Targaryen dynasty this was much clearer, but obviously the rebellion of Robert Baratheon has upended this. Now a man with no real heir has two brothers both with significant political power and children who are actually not his from the most powerful house. This clearly sets up a house of cards that begins to tumble down here.

The scene involving the double crossing in the throne room is such a good representation of how history can be determined by the new regime and how political norms do not matter. When Barristan Selmy presents the decree, which for all purposes is just a piece of paper from a dead man with no more authority, Cersei dismisses it and puts forth the new message that Joffrey is king. She of course also has an army to back this new story.

Throughout this whole sequence of the Robert dying Ned Stark continues to be making all of the wrong moves once again. When Robert dies he is literally the last person to know, which is strange considering that he as Hand to the King and Lord Protector should be on top of this knowing that the Lannisters will not give up power that easily. In the end all of his stupid decisions mount up to the inevitable betrayal he faces.

Speaking of getting to know the Lannisters better, the opening scene is incredible as well. Charles Dance as Tywin Lannister is one of the best performances that this show has ever produced. Tywin Lannister is great and most of what you need to know about him is laid out in this tiny camp for viewers to see. He is the patriarch to one of, if not, the most powerful house in Westeros, boosting a large military and economic influence. But in this power there is also subtlety and hard work. This man is afterall skinning and gutting a deer presumably for his own food.

Tywin also has a complexity that even the show makes clear in a few lines of dialogue. One of the key aspects of Tywin’s character is legacy. It comes up here and it will be continued in later episodes, but essentially Tywin is obsessed with the big picture. Yes, Tywin himself is a military genius and wields massive influence, but what about when he is dead. Tywin does not want to have a power vacuum like the one that is literally created after this episode with the death of Robert.

Because of this need for a continued legacy, Tywin operates on a level of three dimensional political chess. Not only power, but the very image of power are vital for the survival of the Lannisters. That is why Tywin is criticizing Jamie here, Jamie failed to cleanly kill Ned Stark when he should have left him alone of killed him outright. Tywin obviously picks out the fact that Jamie was reluctant to kill Ned in the streets. In this context the “opinions of sheep” do not matter because the people who would have seen the brawl were literally less than pawns on the 3D chess board that Tywin is playing on.

Even though Tywin seems to be critical of Jamie’s recent decisions, Tywin trusts him and gives him more responsibility by giving him command of half of their army. Tywin loves his children, that is kind of the whole point of continuing the Lannister legacy but at the same time Tywin’s perfection has not been passed down to his three children. Jamie has the prowess for battle, Cersei has the political machinations, and Tyrion, the closest to Tywin, is a dwarf with too much compassion for others. There is a lot of baggage between Tywin and Tyrion which will be covered much later.

The Jon Snow stuff to me continues to be some of the weakest stuff here. Clearly the Night’s Watch, and criminal justice in Westeros, has some glaring flaws in it but that is not too far off from justice in the medieval period anyways.

Jon Snow’s character continues to flip flop between caring for others and being selfish. It takes Sam to explain to him why being a steward for the Lord Commander is actually beneficial for Jon rather than just being a ranger who goes and dies in the field. Jon is supposed to be young and we’ll see growth later I guess, but right now it is kind of mediocre.

One of the smaller scenes in this episode that still deserves recognition is between Theon and Osha. Not only is this one of the funnier scenes in a season that lacks a lot of laughs, definitely channeling a lot of Monty Python, but it further shows the red flags of Theon’s character long before they become a serious issue. It also hints at the larger scale battle between the living and the White Walkers that will inevitably happen.

 

Next time: The Pointy End

RIT S1E6 A Golden Crown

Summary

Injured by the conflict with Jamie Lannister, Ned Stark faces the consequences of Catelyn kidnapping Tyrion. Robert Baratheon, still angry with Ned, forces Ned to return to his role as Hand of the King. Ned finally begins to piece together the conspiracy that was alluding Jon Arryn before his death.

In the Eerie, Tyrion is granted a trial by combat. With the help of the sellsword Bronn he is able to win his freedom and leaves.

In Winterfell, there is discussion between Rob and Theon about the possibility of raising the bannermen to rescue his father. Being the current Lord of Winterfell it would be Rob’s responsibility to do it, despite his youth and never seeing real combat. We also see the gap between Theon and the Starks continue to widen.

Bran is assaulted by a group of wildlings and all are killed except for one, who is taken as a prisoner to work in Winterfell.

Daenerys and the Dothraki are celebrating her pregnancy and the omen that her son will be “the stallion that mounts the world”. These festivities are interrupted by Vanerys who shows up drunk threatening Daenerys’ life. His life ends when given the crown of gold he has always wanted.

 

Discussion

To start with the obvious, the title has multiple meanings for important parts of the episode. This definitely can’t happen every episode, but it is always great when that is a possibility.

The Robert, Ned, and Cersei scene is one of the things that stick out to me most in this episode. Every scene that Robert is in he steals the show. His scenes have this extra layer of Shakespearean oratory and camera direction. Robert Baratheon himself is this tragic character, a man who is was so good at war and not much else but it earned him a kingdom nevertheless.

At this point in the story even Robert himself seems prescient of the possibility of civil war yet does nothing to dissipate the boiling war that is apparent throughout Westeros. When his best friend and essentially second in charge is severely injured by his wife’s brother he chooses to go on a hunting trip rather than make an immediate decision.

Obviously, this forces Ned’s hand. It’s really interesting that the whole time in King’s Landing we have yet to see anyone actually sit on the Iron Throne, the literal representation of power in a world filled with whispers and promises of power. George RR Martin has been able to retell the story of the Sword of Damocles in such an interesting way in the books. While having a throne made of sword forged by dragon fire seems totally badass, it is worth remembering that it is not a great place to sit long term.

The throne parallels itself to governing, more specifically the allegory of the Sword of Damocles. Too careless and you might cut yourself unexpectedly on an edge you were not noticing. A lot of this of course does not translate completely from the books, something the show will address later on in its own interesting way. But Robert, the king who we have never seen in the entirety of the show sit on the throne, remarks about how uncomfortable it is.

When Ned himself sits on the throne in Robert’s place he is confronted with issues that need a steady hand. He orders the Mountain to be brought forth to the king for justice. While this does seem like the right thing to do, there are clear issues with confronting one of the Lannister bannermen and calling his lord to come to court as well or face arrest.

This is also where Ned creates the men without banners, a group of characters we will talk about in the future. But this group would have been impossible without the uninformed or not thoroughly thought out plans of Ned Stark. It is Ned after all who seems to single-handedly come to a decision about dealing with Clegane without considering the shock to the system it will bring.

As I am sure I have said before and will say again, one of the great things about this show is the subversion of typical fantasy tropes. After Tyrion is jailed in the Erie for the attempted assassination of Bran, he gets himself out of it by tricking his captors into allowing him to fight for his freedom through a trial by combat.

As much as Game of Thrones gets a wrap for elaborate combat sequences, which it does later on, the first season is rather devoid of large scale conflicts. Fights we do see are typically personal and focused.

The fight between Bronn and Ser Vardis is one of the best at showing this. When looking for a champion, Lady Arryn asks the knight why he is not as vocal in support as other knights. The reason is that he would find it dishonorable to kill Tyrion since he is a dwarf and it would not be a fare fight. Of course he is willing to fight whoever represents Tyrion, this person being Bronn.

In the fight there are many moments that speak to the overriding thesis of the show, honor is not the correct way to navigate this world. Throughout the fight Bronn, who is extremely outclassed in terms of armor and weaponry, uses the environment around him to disadvantage Ser Vardis. The final trick that ends the fight really is Bronn tripping the knight in his heavy armor leaving him incapacitated on the ground. The dialogue after the fight between Lady Arryn and Bronn capture the fight, and the show, perfectly.

“You do not fight with honor.”

“No, he did.”

So Tyrion after the fight is free to go. But as an audience should we be celebrating this achievement? Tyrion is one of the most loved characters of this show, being clever, funny and showing human decency. But when did this happen?

As of this point in the show Tyrion is being accused of murdering one of the Starks. As an audience we are suppose to be cheering for them. They are our first introduction into this world, we know the most about them, and they are good because the show tells us so because they are the traditional protagonist.

So once again why is it that we as an audience are at least relieved when Tyrion does not die here, after he has outwitted the matriarch of the Stark family? Food for thought.

Finally, Game of Thrones ends this episode with another one of those classic cliffhanger endings. Viserys is killed by means of ironic phrasing. In a drunken rage demanding a crown of gold, Khal Drogo gives him a molten golden crown that obviously ends his life.

In a show filled with a lot of characters that do terrible things, very few reach the rank of having no redeemable qualities. In my opinion Viserys is one of these characters that had zero redeemable features to him.

There is a moment in this episode where he mentions that he had never received the love or praise that Daenerys has received as a Khaleesi. He also claimed that the Targaryen dynasty had rested on his shoulders since he was a child. While this might technically be the case, we know that he had little control over a lot of his own destiny. Viserys and Daenerys are political refugees and for most of their lives most likely did not understand their position or fully accept why people took them in under their protection.

One of the elements that the show picks up on in political leaders is irrationality and points to that as a flaw of a bad character. Many characters who are political leaders tend to lack the appropriate experience, but most of the “good” characters learn from their mistakes. The fatal flaw comes from those that think their word is final with no repercussions. It’s something that can be seen in Robin, who even though a child, is only interested in throwing people from the moon door. Joffrey as well looks to find an excuse to torture or kill people he might not like simply because they tell him no.

Viserys himself seems to suffer from this same fate, which if we dig into the history of Westeros is a similar situation to his father, the Mad King. The important thing to realize and something the show does well is that Viserys is not for the most part dumb. He might make dumb decisions, but then again he is a pretty desperate dude. He knows he needs an army, and the only way to get that is through a few tactics but gold being the best for him. Of course, gold is the thing that ends him.

 

Next time: You Win or You Die

RIT S1E5 The Wolf and the Lion

Summary

With Tyrion as prisoner, Catelyn begins her journey to the Eerie in order to prosecute Tyrion for his crimes with the help of her sister. However, upon arriving it is clear that her sister is not as sound as Catelyn anticipated.

Word arrives to King’s Landing that Daenerys is pregnant, prompting Robert to order her death. This creates a fissure between Ned and Robert over the morality of killing an girl who is pregnant. Ned Stark, being the honorable man that he is, resigns as Hand to the King.

Before departing the city Ned is offered to talk to another person who saw Jon Arryn before he died. This possible new lead prompts Ned to stay for a little bit longer.

When Ned departs he is created with Jamie Lannister, who having just found out the news, wants Ned to be detained until Tyrion is returned. This interaction ends with a majority of the Stark guard dead and a javelin through Ned’s leg.

 

Discussion

I think this episode is interesting because it begins to create the typical formula for Game of Thrones moving forward. What I mean by that is that there is this continuation of stories that may not be resolved ever or are just ways to continue to build out the world of Westeros.

In this episode alone we get multiple scenes that are with characters we barely know or just met. A perfect example of this is Renly and Loras who both get this extended shaving scene discussing their machinations to move closer to the throne. Littlefinger and Varys are another group of characters that have a lot to say and little of it is actually about the Starks, more on that later.

One of the things that stick out to me in this episode is the amount of and variety of sexual discussion that is made in this episode. It has become a meme that even non-viewers of the show know there are a lot of boobs bouncing around in the typical Game of Thrones episode. But how often is there a show that not only has sex scenes in it but discusses it too?

It is clear and not surprising that Game of Thrones is a world that mirrors the social conservativeness of Medieval Europe. It would be unrealistic to think that this type of society would, but the fact is that just because society does not look favorably on a person’s sexual orientation does not mean it does not exist.

Easily one of the best scenes in this episode was that of Varys and Littlefinger. Both people who deal with secrets each with varying success. Their conversation is almost like a cold war of information, each possessing or hinting at secrets that might destroy the other one but never actually firing off on it. Although, Littlefinger has to make a lot of assumptions in terms of Varys while Varys has much clearer information.

What are their true intentions? This question is super important because so far as viewers we have had few experiences with either one, although Littlefinger seems to be more helpful. This whole scene, of course, taking place in the background of the Iron Throne.

Once again we should discuss a single thread that is continually made clear throughout this first season, how irresponsible Ned Stark is and how it starts a civil war that will last for the rest of the show.

When defying the King of something that has little personal consequence besides his conscious, it is clear that Ned needs to leave King’s Landing. This is a place full of spies and secrets and Ned has been snooping around like a blind Sherlock Holmes. Unlike Sherlock he has none of the pieces put together so far.

This mystery is the thing that entices Ned to stay despite his own feeling of danger. He has already planned on making a nighttime escape from the city with only his 50 or so guards and family.

But Ned throws away the chance of leaving and avoiding conflict when Littlefinger presents another thread in the mystery of Arryn’s death. Without giving much detail Littlefinger dangles this possible clue for Ned to take the bait on.

And who exactly is it that Ned risks death to see?

Just another one of the whores that Robert has impregnated during his rounds of pleasure seeking. So the more I think about it the more red flags that pop up. Firstly, why does it take so long for Littlefinger to procure this person when it is likely that she is employed by Littlefinger himself. Secondly, how can we even know that this person or her child are actually who they claim to be? Littlefinger has a massive number of brothels in King’s Landing and as he points out sometimes they have “presents”. So why would it not be feasible for Littlefinger to just bring a sex worker with a child and say that she talked to Jon Arryn and her child is the King’s for a few gold?

As we know much later on in the show, Littlefinger is the architect of the War of the Five Kings. A lot of this is engineered off screen but it affects a lot of characters actions. Here is a clear example of Littlefinger actively involved in stirring the flames of war.

If Ned left King’s Landing there might have been a freezing of relations. A war of words and small skirmishes but Robert never really would have gone against Ned. The North is larger than the rest of Westeros combined, even though it is the least populated and bitterly cold.

But Littlefinger’s filibuster creates a time period for things to ferment, for news of Tyrion to reach Jamie and the queen as well as prevent the number of miles Ned could have made before then. This clearly comes to fruition during the street brawl where Ned is injured and probably would not have been able to ride a horse back.

 

Next time: The Crown of Gold

RIT S1E4 Cripples, Bastards, and Broken Things

Summary

Ned begins to investigate the cause of Jon Arryn’s death. While he pieces of the puzzle begin to come together, it is clear that the city full of people asking the same question or trying to hide the answer.

Tyrion starts his journey back to King’s Landing. On the road he meets Caitlyn who is making the trip back to Winterfell. With the assistance of bannermen from the Riverlands on the road they arrest Tyrion for the attempted murder of Bran.

Across the Narrow Sea, the Dothraki reach Vaes Dothrak where more news will come of Danny’s pregnancy. Danny also presents an ultimatum for Vaseras as he continues to escalate out of control.

 

Discussion

The Ned Stark storyline continues to be the mainstay of the show so far and it takes interesting turns here. Ned, trying to figure out his friend’s death, puts Game of Thrones in a place of a murder mystery or espionage film, but in a medieval setting. Just the scene with Littlefinger and Ned Stark discussing who in the garden each person is a spy for creates this great tension that everybody knows everything.

With that being said, on another viewing you can begin to see the train crash in slow motion. What is actually wrong with Ned Stark?

When presented with multiple points of concern (his friend dying under mysterious circumstances, attempts on members of his family, and actively being surveyed wherever he goes) he continues to make poor decisions. As a high member of the elite he decides to venture into the city to visit a blacksmith that Arryn visited with no real idea of what he was looking for. Being out in the open like this he will clearly be known by everybody with spies about where he is going, that garden scene after all was prior to this.

On top of that his main confidant and head of his security is just as clueless and lost as his lord is. Presented with the task of bringing Arryn’s squire and now promoted knight to meet Ned he is brushed off by this man. A man who guards the Hand is told no and there was no resistance or repercussion. Even when given the news Ned seems to take it as bravado, not even remarking that they should definitely talk to this person.

The scene between Ned’s head of security and Jaime Lannister further highlights the disparity of the Starks and their place in the capitol. When Jory  asks Jamie to give a message to Robert Baratheon Jamie refuses to even take the scroll. This leads to a great scene of these two soldiers pinning about a past battle while at the same time they are both keeping their ground on the current affair going on. Meanwhile, women continue to stream out of the King’s bedroom.

Arya shows us that the Starks only hope of winning is change. That is the tragedy of the Starks, this old noble house has not caught up with most of the rest of the houses in what is actually going on. Even if the Starks hold a noble cause, which is arguable as the series progresses, it is clear that tragedy is on the horizon.

But Arya shows the potential for change. Presumably the talk between her and Ned is the first time she is being told of her future, that she will be married to a lord of some great castle to make tons of heirs and knights, a very real world historic parallel. Instead of accepting it she simply declines the offer even though it was a polite decree from her father and not an offer.

In the Stark children that the show cares about long term, we already see that the ones that go on more supernatural stories are already differentiating themselves from society. Arya, a girl who will become a lady and marry someone as a deal of political power, will instead go on to become something much different in a role traditionally reserved for males in this world. Bran, a boy who is told he will be a knight someday, is now unable to use his legs thus rendering him unable to go into battle.

Tyrion continues to be super interesting in this episode. I have always wondered why Tyrion is viewed with such great fascination. He’s obviously meant to be liked. In the books he seems to be the strongest parallel to GRRM and Peter Dinklage also presents a great performance in the show as well.

But in the show so far we have very few threads to count Tyrion as somebody we should support. He has given good advice and even schematics for Bran to ride a horse again. He also seems to not be extremely violent or deceptive, simply witty when confronted with it himself.

On the other hand, the show is clearly not saying whether or not he did hire the assassin. His presence again at Winterfell seems simple enough mentioning in the previous episode that it is one of the only places in the North with a feathered bed. Couldn’t Tyrion of come to also see what information Bran remembers in regard to his accident.

What does Tyrion know about his siblings incest?

It is an interesting question that I have been wondering and cannot remember the answer to. In the first episode it is clear that Tyrion is curious about Bran’s fall, but the way he voices it to Jamie is clear that he might be curious for many reasons.

The bar scene is one of the best scenes in this episode. Tyrion is clever, but not impeccable. Sometimes his sharp jabs and wit actually land him in trouble just as many times as it tends to save his life. Here is one of those times when it screws him over.

What makes this scene great is the change of status between the start and end of the conversation. It starts with Tyrion quickly dispensing coin for food and bed ending with him being arrested at sword point by a bar full of men. For Caitlyn, it begins with hiding behind a head scarf to proudly proclaiming her identity and using it to call bannermen to arrest Tyrion for an accusation that to the best of her knowledge is fully vetted.

Just for those unfamiliar with what exactly happened real quick. Caitlyn is from the Riverlands, a place in Westeros noted with its many bodies of water and fertile land. The medieval system is based on bannermen who pledge loyalty to a greater house in times of war. Although Caitlyn has lived in the North for many years, the Tully house is the great house of the region. This allows for the bar scene to make sense, most people may have never seen her before but they would know her father or heard of what she looks like.

One of the things that has surprised me in this rewatching is how this is truly the first episode that Danny’s story is actually kind of interesting to me. She is finally developing as a counter to her brother after being a victim of his abuse for so long. While this season (and the show) let time be a very fluid thing, I wish we could have seen more development of Danny before she slams a heavy ass gold chain against Vanerys’ face.

The Vanerys scene itself is kind of boring and the only reason it is there is to show there are no redeemable qualities left in him. He is emotionally juvenile with a privilege to match while at the same time being weak physically and unable to raise his own army.

 

Next Time: The Lion and the Wolf

RIT S1E3 Lord Snow

Summary

Ned Stark arrives at King’s Landing, but he quickly realizes that everything is not what it seems and the kingdom is in deep desaray, specifically the debt. Catelyn is close behind,arriving to King’s Landing undercover, and informs Ned that Bran’s attempted assassin was hired by Tyrion Lannister, this vital information given by Littlefinger.

At the Wall, Jon Snow becomes a star amongst the new recruits due to his combat abilities, although this is more from being raised in a castle and not pure skill. His popularity is viewed with a mix of contempt and admiration. Meanwhile, Tyrion’s visit to the Night’s Watch is filled with requests for more troops.

Across the Narrow Sea, Danny is now expecting a child from Khal Drogo as they continue to journey to the capital Vaes Dothrak. Viserys’ temper continues to escalate.

 

Discussion

Where the last episode was about travel, this one is now about new locations. Most characters have finished their respective transits (except Daenerys but the Dothraki are nomadic so that is not too surprising). The key aspect here is that the Stark’s are not for the most part prepared for their new locations.

Ned Stark, the patriarch of the Stark family, seems to be flung from one scene to the next with little control of his own. His entrance to the city is marked by a Small Council meeting, something that as Hand of the King he can surely postpone but doesn’t even though he is told about it from a page. And before the Small Council meeting where it would be more presentable to change from a long journey, Ned chooses to just walk in.

The meeting of the Small Council is one of the scenes where Ned Stark is in over his head as Hand. When faced with the amount of debt that the crown is in the first reaction is not why would Robert do it but why wouldn’t Jon Arryn stop it from happening.

Jon Snow on the other hand was expecting the Wall and the Night’s Watch to be this place of honourable men but it is full of criminals. Jon even thanks Tyrion for being honest with him and trying to explain that it was going to be like this.

The episode title itself even hints at the superiority that Jon seems to possess over the other new recruits to the Night’s Watch. Despite being a bastard, Jon had an upbringing that was better than nearly every person with no noble connections. It’s a privilege that Jon needs to learn he has and do so quickly.

I think Tyrion has one of the most interesting roles in the episode after multiple viewings. When Tyrion mentions his desire to travel to the Wall to see its wonder, it is only the partial truth. Tyrion is not simply a tourist, he is the closest thing to the King’s ear to a politically and geographically important part of Westeros that seems to be neglected. He’s discussing troops with the leaders of the Night’s Watch, even supporting a trip for recruitment in King’s Landing.

Speaking of season one in general, the most important this is context of what is to come and what has happened. It can be difficult to keep up on the first viewing of what exactly is going on while trying to determine who people are and what they do. And for those without a viewing or two under their belt or not really paying attention it seems that we should be rooting for the Starks throughout the show.

This feeling, although I think wrong, is completely rational. The Starks are our main characters and as such most conventional storytelling tells us that we should cheer for their victories and mourn their defeats. But should we really?

In this episode Ned exhibits aggressive and irrational tendencies. Everything from being baited by references to the past to even pushing Little Finger against a wall because he thought he was insinuating that his wife was a whore. Look at Ned’s brother Benjen who in this episode is stern to Tyrion for making small talk with the man in charge of getting new recruits.

Let’s think about that for a moment. A person with access to the King and vast amount of riches is showing an interest in helping the Night’s Watch and the result is to be mad because he is a Lannister?

Arguably, this is foolish from my perspective because as an audience we are nearly omniscient with nearly complete knowledge that the Starks do not have, but at the same time the Starks’ motto is “Winter is coming” the prescient phrase marking the need to prepare.

One final note here I liked how Maester Aemon noted that eventually even the Starks are right about the approaching of Winter. Showing how the hard headedness eventually works in their favor almost like a broken clock.

It’s interesting to me that the Daenerys stuff in the first few episodes so far is not the most eye catching stuff. We’re continuing the ride, the “dragon” is continually being awoken to escalation, and dragon eggs are being seen in almost every scene. Not much else.

I think this episode had some really great scenes. The one with Robert, Ser Barristan, and Jamie discussing their first kills is perfect. This not only establishes a new character, who will have some influence later on in the story, but you also get to know everyone a little bit better.

Also, the fact that this is brought up by King Robert himself. He could be doing a million different things to better the lives of people but he chooses to sit, drink, and nostalgically reminisce about the days of old. Really great stuff.

The scene with Ned and Jamie talking about the death of Ned’s father and brother in front of the Iron Throne by the Mad King was also a great scene. While Jamie’s transformation or almost character flip in later seasons is far away, it is interesting to already see the seeds of it here. In this episode he never recoils from killing the king and continues to point out the absurdity of the time. Something we as viewers on our first watch do not truly comprehend yet.

Finally, can we talk about Sergio? Let’s talk about Sergio. In an episode filled with a lot of heavy heavy shit with no action really it is great to see Arya and Sergio. This world is filled with an extremely typical medieval fantasy elements of knights with heavy armor and a strict masculine outlook, Sergio is a breath of fresh air. He is this man that seems to be one of the best fighters we have seen so far on screen and he is doing it in the context of dancing and water in this strange new accent. One of my favorite characters.

 

Next time: Cripples, Bastards, and Broken Things