HBO’s Game of Thrones

Game of Thrones episode review: “Lord Snow”

This week on Game of Thrones, we get good news and bad news about Bran, Catelyn hides out in a brothel, Arya gets her first “dancing” lesson, and Tyrion finally gets to piss off the Wall. Episode spoilers ahead.

It’s getting to be a party down in King’s Landing, where Ned, Arya, and Sansa arrive at the beginning of the episode and Catelyn rides up later on. One of the first scenes is probably my favorite in this whole episode: Ned running into Jaime in the throne room. Sean Bean and Nikolaj Coster-Waldau are making a strong argument for being my two favorite casting choices (although “favorite casting choices” is a long list on this show), and watching them be hostile at each other is delightful. Jaime reminds Ned of how Ned’s brother and father died, and wonders if Ned would respect Jaime more if he’d stabbed Mad King Aerys in the belly instead of the back. Ned is unimpressed.

Ned meets with the small council and learns what a mess Robert has made of the kingdom’s finances, and then he gives Sansa a doll she doesn’t want, and then he finds out someone’s given Arya a sword. (“War,” he sighs, “is easier than daughters.”) In the small council we get our first glimpses of Varys, Littlefinger, Renly, and Grand Maester Pycelle. Renly and the Maester don’t have much to do yet, but Varys is appropriately creepy and Littlefinger is his oily self. Later on, Lord Mormont and Maester Aemon make their first appearances, too, on the Wall; a lot of important characters still being introduced as we start the slow build to the end of the season.

You’ve got to feel sorry for Ned in this episode. As he knew it would, becoming the Hand means cleaning up the king’s messes (see: this post’s cut text), and he’s just having a whole string of rotten days. But, as he reminds Arya, “winter is truly coming,” and they’ll all have to depend on each other in the coming days—and right now, since they’ve come to a dangerous place. Meanwhile, Cersei is giving Joffrey some advice to live by, as well, though hers is a bit less orthodox than “let’s all stick together.” When Joffrey is skeptical of her version of what happened in the previous episode, in which he comes out as brave and righteous, she tells him, “Someday, you will sit on the throne and the truth will be what you make it.”

Catelyn arrives in King’s Landing, where she’s met by masked men and taken to a brothel to meet Littlefinger. She’s not too happy about it, and neither is Ned when he finds out, but hey, we get to watch Ned choking Littlefinger into the deal, so it’s not all bad. Both Littlefinger and Varys have some information to give her about the dagger Bran’s would-be assassin carried: Varys identifies it as Valyrian steel, and Littlefinger identifies it as…his own. At least, until he lost it to Tyrion Lannister, betting on a joust.

The word that Bran’s alive—and awake—has gotten around, and Cersei confronts Jaime about pushing him out the window. He doesn’t remember anything yet, but what if he does? They can handle a ten-year-old, but Cersei is more worried about the king. Jaime says if he has to, he’ll kill everyone until they’re the only ones left. Aww, how romantic. No, wait, eww. Speaking of killing, Robert is off drinking and reminiscing about the first man he killed. “They never tell you how they all shit themselves” when they die, Robert remarks. With Jaime the talk naturally turns to his most famous killing. What were King Aerys’s last words? “He said the same thing he’d been saying for hours. ‘Burn them all,’” Jaime tells him coldly.

Back at Winterfell, Bran is not only alive and awake but talking. Everyone else is thrilled over this news, but despite Old Nan’s creepy stories of winters that last for generations, he’s clearly unhappy. He tells Robb he still doesn’t remember anything. Bran has scampered over the walls in all weather, and “you never fall,” Robb says incredulously. “I did, though,” Bran points out, and now his legs are useless. He tells Robb he’d rather be dead, which is the last thing Robb wants to hear.

Farther north, Jon is discovering that he’s the least useless of the Wall’s new recruits. Even when Grenn and Pyp double up on him, he still beats them—which doesn’t make them big fans of his. He’s rescued from an almost certain beating by Tyrion’s characteristic good timing. As if Jon needed more reasons to hero-worship Tyrion; “Everyone knew what this place was,” he tells Tyrion, “but no one told me. No one but you.” The other boys are bullies and thieves. But it’s Tyrion, too, who points out to him that none of them had held a sword before coming here—and who delivers the message that Bran’s finally woken up.

Not that Jon’s off the hook yet when it comes to being emo in this episode. He takes a nifty elevator to the top of the Wall, where Benjen tells him he’s leaving in the morning—but Jon’s staying here. He’s not ready to be a ranger yet. “We’ll speak when I return,” Benjen promises. I assume Jon stays up there to mope in the cold while Benjen heads inside, where he runs into Yoren and Tyrion comparing the strangest things they’ve ever eaten. “Do Dornish girls count?” Tyrion asks with a sly grin. Benjen chides Tyrion for his feelings towards the men on the Wall, who protect the rest of the kingdom so that everyone else can live their ordinary lives. Tyrion protests that he has nothing but respect for the rangers, but doesn’t believe there’s anything beyond the Wall except wildlings.

Tyrion decides to go back south with Yoren, who’s headed to King’s Landing for more recruits. He has time first to nod his approval of Jon, who’s now teaching Pip and Grenn how to fight, and, of course, to head up to the top of the Wall and piss off it, as he’d always wanted to do. Mormont wants Tyrion to convince his sister to send more aid to the wall. “When winter does come,” Maester Aemon warns, “gods help us all if we’re not ready.”

This was a relatively happy episode, compared to the two that came before, and one of the happiest parts for me was when Viserys nearly got strangled. Last time we got Tyrion slapping Joffrey, now Viserys is choking in the dirt: thank goodness, in the world of Game of Thrones, terrible things happen to terrible people as well as the good ones.

Viserys’s near-strangling came about when Dany stopped the khalasar and Viserys was appalled that she had the temerity to give an order to him, the rightful king of Westeros. “I don’t take orders,” he hisses, “from savages or their sluts.” A Dothraki rider lassos him and would kill him at Dany’s word, but she still doesn’t want her brother harmed (what a shame).

Theresa and I have made no secret of our dissatisfaction with the treatment of Dany and Drogo’s relationship up to this point, but if I had only seen the third episode I don’t think I’d have much to complain about. We see Dany and Drogo cuddling (they’ve really branched out from direwolf-style now), she’s learning Dothraki, and—she’s pregnant! They seem to share a moment of real intimacy when she tells him she’s sure the baby is a boy. And then we have Jorah Mormont, who, as soon as he finds out about the pregnancy, has to run off and ride to Qohor. A peculiar reaction, to say the least….

The episode ends on a high note, with Arya’s first “dancing” lesson. Syrio is exactly how I pictured him (which is odd, because I think in the book he’s bald), small and wiry and energetic, and you can see Arya’s troubles melting away as she learns to properly hold Needle. Maisie Williams continues to inhabit this role amazingly well, and I’m sure we’ll get a lot of pleasure out of watching these two interact in the future. (We’ll need it.) Ned enjoys watching them, too, until we hear a clanging that Arya and Syrio’s wooden swords couldn’t be making: Ned’s memories of other, less light-hearded, swordfights are forcing their way to the surface.

 

Share your thoughts below, but please be warned that book spoilers may be discussed. For a true spoiler-free zone, please visit Leigh Butler’s ASoIaF read. (Though the TV show has now outpaced the novel chapters in the Read.)

Game of Thrones airs Sundays at 9pm ET/PT on HBO.


Ellen B. Wright lives in New York, where she works in publishing and takes an excessive number of pictures.

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