Mon
May 16 2011 12:23pm
Game of Thrones episode review: “The Wolf and the Lion”

Game of Thrones episode The Wolf and the Lion

This week on Game of Thrones, Arya discovers dragon skulls—and a plot against her father; Loras and Renly share some quality time with a razor; and Lysa Arryn is a complete nutcase.

We didn’t wander very far afield in this week’s episode, which skipped the khasalar and the Wall completely. There’s enough going on in King’s Landing, though, that I barely noticed the lack until the episode was over. I may be biased since I know what’s coming, but I think this episode does an excellent job of conveying the building tension. We’ve met the characters, we’ve visited the castles, we’ve figured out who hates whom, and now it’s about time for it all to come apart at the seams.

Ned is still doing his best Nancy Drew impression, this time trying to make sense of information he learns from Ser Barristan and Varys. He and Ser Barristan watch Ser Hugh’s throat being sewn up and Ned wonders aloud where he could have gotten the money for the new, expensive armor he wore in the tournament. Barristan doesn’t think it’s suspicious, nor that Hugh faced Gregor Clegane, since the pairs are decided by a draw of straws. “But who holds the straws?” Ned wonders. Meanwhile, Varys tells him that Jon Arryn was killed by poison, and Ned can’t believe it. Why would someone kill Jon now, after he was Hand for seventeen years? “He started asking questions,” Varys answers ominously.

The tournament is still going on, even if Robert won’t be participating in it, much to his disappointment. Ser Loras Tyrell, the Knight of Flowers, makes his first appearance in a joust against the Mountain, Gregor Clegane. He’s not quite how I pictured him but his armor for sure is. Littlefinger and Renly, near each other in the audience, bet on the match and taunt each other about what they could do with the winnings. “You could even buy a friend,” Renly laughs to Littlefinger. (Doubtful.) Sansa is won over by the charming young knight when he presents her with a red rose. Ser Loras wins and Gregor, incensed, attacks him—but Sandor steps in and saves his life. Someone calls Sandor “ser,” a moment I’ve been waiting for since it was a square on our bingo board for the premiere. “I’m not a ser,” he shoots back.

Arya couldn’t care less about jousting, so she’s chasing cats in the Red Keep to hone her “dancing” skills. They lead her to some nicely creepy dragon skulls below the castle... which are not the only creepy thing going on down there: two men wander in, conspiring conspicuously, and she has to hide. She quickly realizes the men are discussing Ned and his prying. “If one Hand can die, why not another?” one of them suggests. At first Ned doesn’t believe her when she relates this, but she repeats something about a bastard and a wolf and a lion and Ned realizes she’s not making it up.

We do slip away from King’s Landing long enough to catch up with a couple other plotlines. Catelyn and Tyrion reach somewhat of an accord after they’re attacked on the road and Tyrion saves Catelyn’s life. That doesn’t stop Catelyn from taking him to the Eyrie as her prisoner, though, largely because she doesn’t realize that her sister Lysa is thoroughly unhinged. Which is a quality you’d want in the woman who has jail cells with missing walls at her disposal. It was great to see this scene on the screen, because descriptions of both her lunacy and the Eyrie do not do them justice. Ten-year-old (I’m conjecturing, since Bran and Robert are the same age in the books and Bran was aged up to ten) Robert still nursing is a pretty horrifying spectacle, especially combined with their mutual tantrums.

The Wolf and the LionLysa’s not too happy that Cat’s brought a Lannister to her home, and accuses him of killing her husband as well as attempting to kill Bran. “I’ve been a very busy man,” Tyrion quips. Lysa doesn’t share his sense of humor, I guess, since she promptly has him taken to one of aforementioned jail cells, where he peers out over the edge to see that ground is nowhere near. It could be worse, of course; young Robert wants to “see the bad man fly.” Is anyone else as excited about seeing the moon door in use as I am?

In Winterfell, Bran is studying the great houses under Maester Luwin, but his heart isn’t in it; Theon’s practicing archery nearby and he keeps getting distracted. He clearly knows the houses backward and forward, but for the Lannister house words he opts for “A Lannister always pays the debts.” Maester Luwin chides him, but instead of correcting himself Bran names the words of several other houses, including House Tully, Catelyn’s family: Family, duty, honor. “Is that the right order?” Bran asks Maester Luwin, his tone cynical. “Family comes first.” The maester assures Bran that Catelyn stayed by his side for weeks while he was unconscious, and wouldn’t have left him if her task weren’t important — but he can’t say what it is. His mother isn’t the only thing occupying Bran’s mind; he laments that he’ll never be able to shoot another arrow. Maester Luwin is able to cheer him by pointing out that the Dothraki shoot from horseback, and if the plans Tyrion brought for a saddle work out, Bran will be able to ride again.

Theon apparently had a busy day planned: archery in the morning, a trip to the brothel in the afternoon. The oft-mentioned Ros shows up, and Theon betrays a somewhat suspicious interest in Tyrion’s bedroom performance with her. He then takes the opportunity to whine about how his family has been around longer than any of the other great houses of Westeros and could totally take the Starks or Lannisters, any day, the Greyjoys will find them behind the playground at recess and take their lunch money.

Back in King’s Landing, the king for once shows up for the small council. He’s learned that Dany is pregnant, and wants to have her killed. Most of the council is in agreement, if reluctantly, but Ned is appalled. “Do you think it’s honor that’s keeping the peace?” Robert asks when Ned balks. “It’s fear, fear and blood!” In Ned’s opinion, that means that they’re no better than Mad King Aerys. “I followed you into war—twice,” he tells Robert. “But I will not follow you now.” Robert says if Ned won’t follow his commands, he’ll find a Hand who will. Ned returns the Hand’s badge, and stalks out of the council as Robert threatens to stick his head on a spike.

I guess this is the episode for lots of male nudity; in addition to Theon’s earlier sexposition scene (I didn’t coin the term, but I’m damn well going to use it) now we’ve got Loras and Renly… committing acts of personal hygiene. I had read before the premiere that Loras and Renly’s relationship was going to be much more fleshed out in the show than in the first book, and I’m pleased that that’s not an exaggeration. Anyway, as the hair is systematically removed from Renly’s chest, he complains about Robert not taking him seriously because he’s never fought in a war. Loras gives him a look that says he agrees. “And how many wars have you fought in?” Renly counters. But Loras does have faith in Renly; in fact, he thinks that he should be king. Robert’s gotten old and fat, Joffrey is a monster, and Stannis—the middle Baratheon brother—“has the personality of a lobster,” as Loras puts it.

Ned’s eager to head back to Winterfell, aware that King’s Landing just got ten times more dangerous for him and the girls. But Littlefinger convinces him to stay a bit longer by offering to take him to the last place Jon Arryn spoke of before he fell ill. It’s one of Littlefinger’s brothels, apparently, where a young girl is holding her daughter: another of Robert’s bastards. She has Robert’s nose and his black hair. Littlefinger theorizes that Jon Arryn was searching down Robert’s bastards because Robert wanted them taken care of. Even Ned isn’t that naive.

As they leave the brothel, they’re surrounded by Lannister men. Jaime rides up, and he’s pissed. He’s heard that Catelyn took Tyrion prisoner and Ned readily admits that it was his idea. At first Jaime wants to kill him, but he acknowledges the sense in Ned’s argument that that’s the quickest way to get Tyrion killed. “Take him alive,” Jaime tells the others, “kill his men.” Two Stark guards go down almost immediately. Poor faithful Jory fearlessly goes after the Kingslayer himself, and gets a sword straight through the brain for his trouble. Then Ned and Jaime go head-to-head, and it’s just as fun to watch these two actors trading physical blows as it is to watch them trade verbal ones. The swordfight’s cut short when one of Jaime’s men stabs Ned in the thigh with a spear. Jaime’s not entirely without honor—he punches the stabber—but then he rides off, leaving Ned surrounded by his dead men with a spear in his leg. Remember a couple of weeks ago when we ended on a high note? Yeah, me neither. 

 

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.

50 comments
Megaduck
1. Megaduck
"Is anyone else as excited about seeing the moon door in use as I am?"

Hmmm... Yup. I can honestly say I'm looking forward to it.
Jim Burnell
2. JimBurnell
Having only read the existing 4 books once through, and not having read anything online from the fans, my jaw dropped to the floor when I found out about Loras and Renly. I totally missed all that innuendo in my read-through. I thought it was something the HBO writers had added for effect, but a little Internet research showed me that all the hints of this relationship had completely escaped me. I didn't think it was possible, but I feel even more sorry for Brienne of Tarth now.
Joseph Kingsmill
3. JFKingsmill16
The speed with which they get to the Eyrie is kinda jarring when compared to how long it seems in the book.

I am trying to understand why we needed to have Loras and Renly’s relationship shown to us so early in the series. Their relationship was barely even hinted at in the first book and it took a good long while before we even got anything close to a confirmation. I would like the show to leave a little mystery in the show like the books have.
Jim Burnell
4. JimBurnell
One more thing: the Eyrie was, by far, the biggest disappointment I've had so far with the sets. In today's CGI world, it should not have been too difficult to model it the way GRRM described it, with three ever-ascending keeps connected by tiny switchback paths and a drop of thousands of feet if one isn't careful.

Also, as someone who never caught on to Loras and Renly, I found the casting of the two characters just wrong. I expected Renly to be more Errol Flynn, less "bear"...and I can't imagine all the girls at court fawning over a twinky Leonardo DiCaprio clone who acted so girly. Although I suppose that was in private with Renly, but still.
Megaduck
5. Dank
@ 4 JimBurnell - right, girls never fawned over Leonardo DiCaprio
Megaduck
6. cranscape
Rainbow Guard. *cough*

I am shocked (shocked I say) if book fans missed the Loras/Renly stuff. :D Please say y'all picked up on it at least with Brienne and Loras.
Theresa DeLucci
7. theresa_delucci
Best episode yet!

@3 It may seem early in the series, but there's really only five episodes left in this season. I can understand them wanting to plant seeds now. I feel so pleased with myself for catching on to the Renly/Loras relationship on my first read-through. I'm glad HBO spelled it out explicitly. Just makes the world look that much more realistic. There are all kinds of relationships here. Plus it give me another excuse to laugh at Sansa's general cluelessness.

@4 Agreed on the casting of Loras. I always pictured him as similar to Jonathan Rhys Meyers in Velvet Goldmine fabulous glam rock kind of hair, much cuter. I'm not buying this guy as the Robert Pattinson of Westeros. I also pictured Renly a bit more Errol Flynn. Perhaps the actor will grow into the role a bit more and toughen up. Right now he's really just young and a bit naive.

And I wanted the floor of the Sky Cells to slope more. Even the description in the books made me feel dizzy. And more of them, like a honeycomb. But honestly, I remember being bored to tears by the ascent to Lysa's. So I'm glad we skipped it. I just wanted to see Lysa and Sweetrobin. Lysa was pitch-perfect. Al anyone's been talking about around the office this morning.
Megaduck
8. Edgewalker
@3,

I think the reason is simple: Renly's motivation for doing what he does in the 2nd book. If they didn't include scenes like this, when he declares himself king in the 2nd season, it would come out of nowhere.

It works in the books b/c they can summarize events that happened, but is less effective in a TV show. This gives Renly the motivation required to make that leap plausible and also establishes Loras as the one doing the pushing. I liked it.
Jim Burnell
9. JimBurnell
@5 Dank - I'm just sayin', this is a medieval setting. I'm sure that boyish good looks appeal to young women, but the Knight of Flowers ought to at least have some muscle tone! Leo's filled out as he's aged, but the guy playing Loras is all "boi", in the sense of:
http://www.urbandictionary.com/define.php?term=boi

Nothing wrong with that; I just can't imagine medieval court women fawning over that type of guy.

And no, while I did snicker a bit at the term Rainbow Guard, every other clue -- even the clue that Margaery Tyrell was still a maiden when presented to Joffrey -- completely escaped me. Color me clueless.

@7 Theresa: I didn't mind skipping the ascent either, but I'd still rather have seen three keeps carved out of a dizzyingly tall mountain, rather than just a single fortress on top of a big hill, with a bridge right up to the front gate. At least the mountain should be more dominant than the fortress, something like this:

Megaduck
10. ChaosOnion
* I cannot imagine Loras being able to stand, much less joust in a suit of armor. He appears frail. Although he won against the Mountain by subterfuge, I still pictured him to be a bit meatier.

* The fight between the Clegane brothers was excellent. The choreography ending with the Hound ducking under the Mountain's stroke into a kneel was superb.

* It pains me to say this, but was I the only one who thought Ned would eventually lose against Jamie? I may need to re-read that portion of the book. He held his own against Jamie but looked sweaty and winded before being attacked from behind. Jaime was winded but appeared primed for round two.
Mo -
11. Astus
I'm surprised you didn't bring up the Cersei/Robert scene. People seem to be contentious about it. Mostly concerning how Cersei is portrayed. I'm in the court of liking it. A lot. Cersei seems a lot less moustache swirling in the show than she was in the books. I liked how they actually had a conversation instead of Robert just being obnoxious as we've seen prior. It was a good scene and you could see the clogs turning in Cersei's head as she came to some conclusions.

As for the Renly/Loras relationship. I was oblivious to it until the conversation between Jaime and Loras. Something along the lines of, "I'll stick my blade somewhere even Renly didn't find."
I was like 'HOKAY' at the time but it does make sense looking back.
Loras looks smaller than I had imagined. You'd think you'd have to have more of a hardened physique than that of a ten year old to hold all that armour.

Also, would've liked to see Cat stab one of the mountain men instead of just cowering in the corner. She and Tyrion could have had a moment ;/
Mo -
12. Astus
@10 - It seemed that way to me as well but it makes sense. Jaime is adept at swordplay and the like. Ned is more average and always has been (and taking into account his age). I think it was said that Brandon was more of the warrior of the Stark boys.
Megaduck
13. ryamano
I just disliked how the editing was done to show the conversation between two men in the crypts. In the books it takes some thinking to realize who these men are. In the TV shows, it's shown directly. Also, the conversation between Littlefinger and Varys also shows a lot of Varys' motivations, which are better hidden in the books. I know why this is so (the book readers can re-read that thing a lot of times until they get, but the TV show must make it more obvious, otherwise people are just going to get confused), but still I prefer the book approach in this matter. OTOH, I prefer the TV show approach to Robert-Cersei relationship.
Ellen B. Wright
14. ellenw
ChaosOnion@10: I don't believe the Ned/Jaime swordfight is even in the book, alas. Generally, though, it seems that Jaime is the better swordsman, so I would expect him to win.

Astus@11: If I'd realized how much contention there would be over that scene, I would have! I liked the scene, but I also thought Cersei was lying through her teeth for most of it. (I don't believe she ever had feelings for Robert, for example; she was just trying to make him feel guilty.)
Megaduck
15. sofrina
the entire episode was a jaw-dropper. from full-frontal theon to horse beheadings, brother on brother violence, face smashing, dragon skulls, eye stabs (worst part is he saw that coming) and suckling 10-year-olds! (who could carry on a conversation in the face of that?!). catelyn actually looked afraid for tyrion.

this environment is all wrong for plainspeaking ned. he can't put aside his high-minded notions long enough to get amnesty for his wife's crazy stunt and he can't resist his investigation long enough to get his kids the hell out of town. and it looks the guy who stabbed him saved his life for the moment. i just don't think he was winning that duel.

and don't let's forget that sad conversation btw the king and queen.
Genevieve Williams
16. welltemperedwriter
Astus: I'm on board with liking the Cersei/Robert scene. It really summed up their relationship rather well, I thought, and I agree that it gives Cersei more dimension. Twincest notwithstanding, I always felt a little bad for her; some women in Westeros are fortunate in their political alliances, some are not. Marrying Robert was a political win but a personal loss. And she's not QUITE clever enough to use her position to real advantage; Robert nails it when he observes that when she opens her mouth, her father's words come out.

It's a little surprising to me that people missed Loras and Renly in the books. It's been a long time since I read them, but I seem to recall that by the second book at least their relationship was fairly obvious. I guess Loras is a bit leaner than one would expect for a knight, but isn't he supposed to be pretty young still? He might not be done growing yet.
Ellen B. Wright
17. ellenw
ryamano@13: It's definitely a drawback to doing a TV show that you can't filter people's appearance through the narrator's POV quite as effectively. This also came up earlier, when Jaime pushed Bran -- in the book, Cersei's lover is never actually identified as Jaime (because Bran doesn't know who he is), but he's described in such a way that you could easily guess it. I didn't mind the editing of that scene, but I wonder how it would have worked if the camera had stayed on Arya the whole time, and we'd only heard their voices.

On the other hand, it's interesting to me that fans of just the show attribute motivations to characters that we know are false in the books. For example, I've had a couple people posit to me that Bran does remember being pushed and is lying about it, while it's clear in the book that that's not the case -- you just can't show his internal monologue in a visual medium. For the most part I've been impressed with how the show juggles these tricky translations to the screen, but I suppose missteps here and there are inevitable.
Megaduck
18. peachy
I always pictured Loras as being on the short & slender side - he's only sixteen or so, for one thing, so he's still got plenty of growing to do. And it's explicitly stated

SPOILER

in book 3 (or 4?) that he wasn't big enough to wear Renly's armour. And it's implied, if not outright stated, that Renly isn't some hulking brute like the young Robert. (Ditto for Garlan Tyrell, who does wear his armour at the Blackwater.)
Mo -
19. Astus
Ellen@14 - Fair enough! It just seemed that everyone was having a go at it, haha.

What would making him feel guilty accomplish though? At this point in their relationship in at least? It doesn't seem like there'd be much point. I honestly think that some sincerity was there, even if I have reservations about her. Almost as if she was testing him before she decides to firmly set some things in motion.
I like how they're both portrayed though. And the vulnerability that Robert shows.
Joseph Kingsmill
20. JFKingsmill16
I was another one who had no idea of Loras and Renly's relationship. Even the Rainbow Guard thing went right over my head.
Joshua Starr
21. JStarr
Really enjoyed this episode, including newly invented scenes. The Cersei/Robert conversation was great television, though it's hard to figure out how honest Cersei is being.

Agree on some disappointment with the Loras casting, and on surprise that they didn't have him bulk up at all.

Interesting that they didn't appear to be keeping the identity of the men Arya overhears a mystery. Not realllly a decision I have a problem with. And I'm finally settling into enjoying the actor playing Littlefinger.

@7, re: sky cells: We did get the streams of water running by reasonably quickly to show the cells sloped! I was actually glad it was a subtle slope rather than something that seemed *likely* to dump a prisoner over the edge.
lake sidey
22. lakesidey
Lysa is chilling. And little Sweetrobin sucks. Literally.

(And Gregor is big and sullen and ugly. Who'd have thunk it?)

There is so much I'm waiting to see that I can't think where to start listing it out! Bring it on....!

~lakesidey
Sean McGuire
23. Exorian
I too am incredibly excited to see the moon door. And while I was disappointed with the accuracy of the Eyrie's depiction, you have to admit, the drama of that establishing shot left nothing to be desired. Also, while I was a bit leery of the more blatant Renly/Loras bromance, I do agree with one of the above commentators, that it really does flesh out (no pun intended) Renly's reasons for declaring himself king, and show the power and ambition of the Martells to control the Seven Kingdoms (which becomes mega-important in SoS).
Megaduck
24. Mad Cow
RE: Robert and Cersei
IIRC, it was mentioned in one of the later books that Cersei induced her own miscarriage when she was reasonably certain that the child was Robert's, so I view her conversations with both Cat and Robert regarding that event to be purely manipulative deceits.
Justin Golenbock
25. jgolenbo
@3, 7, 10, others: I actually thought the actor playing Loras was solid (the scene with Renly in particular was well-done), but he needs to be waaay more sinewy/athletic looking to convince me. Even our Stark/Snow/Greyjoy boys outmuscle him.

Renly is probably my least favorite casting so far. In the books he's supposed to be everything in appearance, regality & charm that his older brother isn't (or isn't anymore)...a Baratheon on the outside, at least. TV Renly seems kinda wan and lame by comparison. But I did appreciate that bit of character-building, as he'll need to be more important in season 2.

That aside, wowzer...what a great episode. Can't wait for next week!
Dave Slaven
26. Dave.41
This is not a complaint, just a thought:

We had in this episode an actor, approximately 10 years old, appearing to suckle at the breast of an adult woman. Can you DO that? I mean, what's the definition of child pornography? (On the other hand, I think it's been done before. The Last Emperor?)

Another thought:
The Robert/Cersei scene had (in my mind) a very strong Lion in Winter vibe to it (O'Toole/Hepburn). Cersei seems to be a little different in the show from how she is in the book. I hope that doesn't lead to trouble later on, in the form of actions that make sense in terms of her book character but don't make sense in terms of her TV character. But so far so good.
Megaduck
27. sofrina
@26 - i think there we have to consider the points that breastfeeding is not a sex act, the boob *had* to be a prosthesis and the laws of the country in which the ep was made as well as u.s. law. the u.s. requires a set representative to ensure the child actor isn't exposed to explicit language, etc. but again, not a sex act and surely not real.

we saw a horse beheaded and there's no way that was real.
alex
28. jerec84
I knew about the Renly/Loras stuff, and I found Littlefinger's comments at the jousting to be a fun little clue. But I don't really think spelling it out this early was a good idea. Clues, hints, then in book 2 make it more of a focus. Renly isn't an important character yet.

Unless they're going to play Sansa's infatuation with Loras for laughs or something. I think it would have made a nice little twist later on.
William Fettes
29. Wolfmage
Brilliant episode.

Sandor v Gregor did not disappoint. Very cool stuff. Go Conan. His chopping the head off the horse was shocking even expecting it, and we finally got the perspective to see why he is called the Mountain. I did think Littlefinger's comment about the mare being in heat was bit mumbled though, so I'm not sure how many non-readers would have picked up what was going on except for Sansa saying something about cheating.

Re: Renly and Ser Loras -- that was probably one of the better sexposition scenes we've had. It nicely establishes Renly's motivations for season 2, the House Tyrell bankroll and Stannis as the other Baratheon brother claimant. There's also just no reason to play it all coy about the existence of the homosexual relationship when we're in the privacy of their bedchambers. Just because the book didn't give Renly a viewpoint and we get only veiled (if increasingly obvious) references to it from the outside, doesn't mean we have to manufacture a similar level of obfuscation when we switch to an objective viewpoint. That would be a bizarre editorial choice by HBO, absent any dramatic purpose, and I'm glad we're getting a closer look at Renly.

Loved the Robert / Cersei scene. Both my wife (non-reader) and I thought it was arguably the most compelling scene of the series so far. It really establishes the complexities of the relationship, and gives us a much more fleshed out understanding of their respective levels of self-awareness. I think this helps soften both Robert and Cersei.

For a start, it shows that Robert’s consciousness of his own descent into self-pity and farce goes beyond just superficial joking with Ned, bleak cynicism and bullying in his cups. His inability to spare Cersei’s feeling with a small lie also shows us some of the duality of his nature; he may bullshit about everything else, but he won’t bullshit about this. In a twisted way, this clearly comes out of respect for Cersei though he spares her no indignity in the process. When Robert says no, it positively reverberates with finality, foreshadowing things to come.

Robert’s comments about the current state of the Kingdom were also a wonderful mirror for his own body gone to seed, and the whole thing ties back perfectly to the Council’s appraisal of the Daenarys as a threat. In truth, Robert is right to be worried about this and his 1 v 5 comment was a brilliant bit of innovation by the writers.

Obviously, the scene also softens Cersei up quite a bit, which some people will dislike. Personally, however, I think it’s a welcome change from the more inscrutable version of Cersei we get in the books. ASOIAF gets billed as a series which eschews good and evil, and that’s certainly true to a certain extent, but the truth is there are several characters who could have stood to be more nuanced. IMO Cersei is one of the chief offending examples of this, so I’m finding that I prefer the tv version of her character because she can still be diabolical, but we also have glimpses of her humanity. Unless you’re Robert Graves writing Livia as a magnificent bastard – I’m not a big fan of the feminine evil trope that Cersei represents.

Yay Bronn! That scene near the Vale had some of the best fighting moves we've seen, I thought. Very cool stuff. Shame they didn't see fit to explain why he was even there though.

Varys v Littlefinger - I'm still not entirely certain about how I feel about this scene. On one hand, it was definitely cool to see the two masters of intrigue trading insults and veiled threats. On the other hand, it was rather more overt than the slyness of their book characters, so I have to think this is more for the benefit of non-readers, where too much subtlety can lead to confusion. It definitely worked on its own terms, however, and it helped make even more obvious Varys' connection to Ser Jorah and Magister Illyrio.

The fact that know Littlefinger peddles in child prostitution, amputees and necrophilia certainly nudges him further along the villain path too.

The Eyrie was way cool. I can't find it in myself to sweat the little stuff about how it deviates from exact descriptions. I was just glad they perfectly captured the slightly unhinged nature of place and its inhabitants. In particular, the breast feeding and tantrums were appropriately creepy. The sky cell was great too - really good CGI for Tyrion's look over the ledge, I thought. My only minor quibble was that I imagined the cell as being a bit smaller and more steeply sloped, but we'll probably get a better sense of the slope in the next episode: either when Tyrion wakes up or when he has a run-in with Mord.

Jaime's fight with Ned was another good innovation. Having Ned's horse slip and fall on him wouldn't be anywhere near as cool as the ending to last night's episode. Ned held his own, but you still got the sense Jaime would win eventually as the better swordsman. He certainly dispatched Jory with easy. At least the poor bastard got a full eye-full before he died! Yikes. Jaime clocking the Lannister guard who stabbed Ned was priceless.
pat purdy
30. night owl
Wow! Yes-jaw dropping, holy $%^&! Reading and using imagination didn't even come close to actually seeing it all unfold. I think HBO is doing a wonderful job, bring it on. Mr. Martin must be over the moon, seeing his creation come to life.
Megaduck
31. ryamano
I also missed Chataya in this episode. It's their brothel Ned and LF visit. There are not many black characters in ASOIAF, why do away with the few that exist? Jalabhar Xho as well has been nonexistant (i know he doesn't have lines, but just his presence is interesting). Let's hope some of the Brave Companions make it in the second season as people of color, as they were in the books.
Robin Lemley
32. Robin55077
For me as well, this episode was way too early to reveal the Renly/Loras relationship. I just don't understand the value of revealing it now.

As for casting, Loras is the worst choice for me so far. In the books, he is considered one of the biggest heartthrobs and best knights any girl has ever seen. As cast, I cannot see even a hint of a glimpse of any of that.

@4. JimBurnell

I too was disappointed in the Eyrie. Of all the locations this is the one they could have "WOWed" the viewer with and they didn't take the opportunity. GRRM did such an excellent job describing the Eyrie in the books. I think HBO dropped the ball on this one.

;-)
William Fettes
33. Wolfmage
Robin55077 @ 32
"For me as well, this episode was way too early to reveal the Renly/Loras relationship. I just don't understand the value of revealing it now."

If you flip that around, what possible reason would there be not to reveal it given we're seeing Renly and Ser Loras in private? I understand that the books release a slow burn of accumulative hints about the relationship -- and depending on how attentatively you read -- most reasonably perceptive readers will figure it out somewhere between the end of aGoT and aFfC. But why copy that obfuscation when you're effectively getting a Renly viewpoint right from the start? It serves no purpose.

The relationship is only obscured by the lack of a direct viewpoint, and it's revealation is purely about how quickly you can put the dozens of references made by outsiders who are in on the secret. Without the viewpoint restriction, what's the point of there being any mystery?
Mani A
34. sn0wcrash
The breastfeeding scene - from the TwoP boards, it was a prosthesis. Without a doubt still one of the most disturbing things I've seen.

Liked seeing the Ned/ Jaime fight - Ned is certainly older & no doubt tires more easily, but from the books, he is one of the better swordsmen in Westeros, having gone up against some of Aerys's Kingsguard & living to tell the tale.

I only twigged about Renly somewhere in the 3rd book, where Loras kept talking about how they would often...."pray" together
Megaduck
35. review
Less summary, more review.
Maiane Bakroeva
36. Isilel
Edgewalker @8:

If they didn't include scenes like this, when he declares himself king in the 2nd season

We'll hear about his proclamation this season, if the show follows the books. And this scene explains handily who the Tyrells are and why they will support Renly, without going into the failed scheme of replacing Cersei with Loras's sister Margaery as Robert's queen.

But yea, not feeling the castings of Renly and Loras. Renly was supposed to be the very image of young Robert, if not quite the fighter his brother was. A much better politician, though.
And Loras was a knightly prodigy, who defeated Jaime in a joust during the last tourney and who defeated several other knights during this tourney to be in a semi-final with Gregor, IIRC. IMHO, he should have been as muscled as Robb Stark/Jon Snow/Theon Greyjoy.

Astus @11:

Also, would've liked to see Cat stab one of the mountain men instead of just cowering in the corner.

Indeed. Funny how almost nobody seems to be noticing or commenting on _this_ change - and it is a big one.

Ellenw @14:

I don't believe she ever had feelings for Robert, for example

According to her POV in AFFC, she did, briefly, but he ruined it by calling her Lyanna on their wedding night as well as subsequently making a habit of coming to her bed drunk and hurting her during sex. And claiming that he didn't remember anything in the morning. So, yea, it's more or less canonical, except that in the show Cersei seems to have given him a bit more time before turning to the full-on hatred. Hence the common child, that didn't exist in the books.

Snowcrash @34:

Liked seeing the Ned/ Jaime fight - Ned is certainly older & no
doubt tires more easily, but from the books, he is one of the better
swordsmen in Westeros

No, the book Ned was only 3-4 years older than Jaime and, while competent, not one of the particularly notable fighters in Westeros. Ser Arthur Dayne would have killed him if not for crannogman Howland Reed.
Theresa DeLucci
37. theresa_delucci
@33 Agreed. There's no reason to pussyfoot around the relationship between Renly and Loras. The books had thousands of pages of events and none from their POVs. This is a character tag. People who didn't remember Renly's name probably will now. And Loras'. Renly's going to become more important sooner than you think in a rather fast-paced show and this added some motivaton for his character, some depth. And unlike GRRM, HBO is very comfortable showing gay sex scenes, so... why not get some sexposition from them? I have to say I'm highly disturbed but sadly not surprised by some of the indignant backlash against "HBO's PC GAY AGENDA" on other boards, with a bunch of man-children complaining they'll never watch again because HBO showed a sex scene between two dudes. I was just happy to see a sex scene between a regular loving couple. No rapey grey areas, no whores. Disconcerting sound effects though. Are they re-using the same sound file from Tyrion's introduction? It's a bit much on surround sound! And did Loras ever get to shave Renly's other armpit? I will think of this burning question again next week and snicker every time Renly is onscreen.

@36 Renly's cute, but certainly not the dashing, uber-charismatic guy I pictured in the books. I wouldn't follow this guy into battle. He's not assertive enough. Maybe he'll become more intense when the story calls for it? Fingers crossed.

And I've already stated my vague disappointment in Loras. I'm a Benjen kind of girl anyway. Guys from the north are just tougher and better looking.

On another note, Aiden Gillen had Littlefinger pulling the best faces this episode. While the look of abject WTF that passed between Tyrion and Cat as they watched Lysa suckle her son was definitely the look of the night, the dagger-eyes Ned shot Petyr when he put his hand of Sansa's shoulder was a close second.

Just look at Littlefinger leer. Everyone's watching the tourney and he is watching... something else.

Megaduck
38. mochabean
I also liked the Robert/Cersei scene, and saw The Lion in Winter echoes (faintly) as well. Not sure I agree that book Cersei lacks as much nuance. She is not a mustache twirling villain. In some of her less guarded conversations (particularly with Sansa before Battle of Blackwater) she reveals a lot about what makes her tick -- her resentment at being born female and not getting a sword like her twin, but being sold to Robert to seal a political alliance, etc.. She was never happy about Jaime's pushing Bran from the tower (for mixed reasons, I grant you) and she is as protective of her children, perhpas even more so, as Cat is of hers. I also enjoy the parallels between her and Arya, who have alot more in common than many of the other female characters in the book.
Nathan Martin
39. lerris
The problem with Loras is he doesn't look like he trains with the sword every day ( as he claims ). He simply is not built like a knight. Daily training with a sword ( and armor ) results in a very developed upper body.

On the other hand, perhaps biology works differently on Westeros than on Earth.
Megaduck
40. carolynh
I'm glad I'm not the only one who thought Loras' arms looked too puny for an uber-knight!

The scene with Cat cowering during the ambush had me thinking I'd mis-remembered that scene in the book. This show has been remarkably faithful in tone to the book, so for this scene to be so different from the book made my question my own memory of it.

Renly seems okay but not great to me. I'm still withholding some degree of judgment on how this character is portrayed.

The glance between Cat and Tyrion during the meeting with Lysa and Robin was topnotch! Even Tyrion was shocked, and I suspect that's saying something.
Megaduck
41. vsthorvs
Loved the episode. And I even like that HBO diverted from the books much more in this one.

My one beef was that the swordfighting looked awkward. All the warriors involved are supposed to be brilliant fighters, so I thought they would look elite, but it looked a little clumsy. I guess that's just how broad sword fighting looks. Oh well.
Theresa DeLucci
42. theresa_delucci
It's all hacking and slashing, not the water dance of Braavos.

(Was so happy to see Syrio in the previews for next episode. Right around Wednesday I get rather impatient for a new episode.)
Amanda Klepper
43. dichotomy08
@36:
Also, would've liked to see Cat stab one of the mountain men instead of just cowering in the corner.
Indeed. Funny how almost nobody seems to be noticing or commenting on _this_ change - and it is a big one.

This reminds me of some changes I have noticed in another HBO series, True Blood, in the first two seasons, which followed Charlaine Harris's books more closely than the third. I can think of two distinct scenes where in the books, Sookie gets herself out of trouble, but in the show, a man saves her. It makes me wonder if there is some sexism going on somewhere in HBO's production process. Maybe having a man save the damsel tests better with audiences?
Megaduck
44. n35
Brilliant episode, though if non-readers thought this was intense, I can't imagine what they'll think of the later episodes (SPOILER - I had actually forgotten how far the book GOT goes into the war).

Its no wonder so many critics who have seen the entire season have been blown away. My only real criticism is of the Winterfell scenes, which didn't do much for me. (We get it already, Theon has a reason to be bitter).

After viewing a second time, I was really impressed at how the action scenes were handled. The Mountain and the Hound looked like two giant men in full plate swinging greatswords should, and Bronn was suitably brilliant (not to mention funny) to ensure that his later exploits don't come out of nowhere. People seem to be complaining about the choreography in the Jaime-Ned duel, but would you really have preferred one of those laughably edited cheesefests that usually pass for "realistic" swordfights? The longsword was not a finesse weapon by any measure, and the two men's fighting skills came through; Ned strong and defensive, Jaime brilliant and deadly.

The decision to blatantly out Renly and Loras this early on is interesting. (How people who read the books didn't pick up on the vibes coming from Loras and Renly is beyond me, though I guess some people just aren't on the lookout for that sort of thing. It's too bad because Loras is a much more interesting character as the books progress when you know what's going on) As people have already said, there simply isn't time for playing coy when an episode covers hundreds of pages. Also the manscaping scene provides some desperately needed insight into Renly's motivations as the series progresses. He was a vague character in the books, and I don't think that would translate well into TV.

As to Loras' physique, he could have been bulked up but then the rest of the knights would have to be scaled up as well to make him look suitably boyish. The logistics of finding scores of good actors who look like they've been training in full plate since they were pre-teens are not realistic.
Nathan Martin
45. lerris
n35 @ 44:
I think the Loras bulking up issue was GRRM's mistake when writing the books rather than HBO's mistake in interpreting the books. Much like the issue of not realizing just how high a 700 foot wall really is.
Maiane Bakroeva
46. Isilel
Lerris @45:

I think the Loras bulking up issue was GRRM's mistake when writing the book

Book Loras is 16. Also, one can be lean and athletic. The series Loras looks like somebody who never did any physical training in his life.
Michael Ray
47. mikeray
"You want to know the horrible truth? I can't even remember what she looked like."

That's all that matters. It was perfect.
It's why they've come to where they are now.
bruce harden
48. buky90
so we have one relationship brought out . But to me the hound is too much in the shadows he should be more sarcastic sansa should be repulsed by him even scared. so that when the prince's total ass holeness comes through she will be looking for any confidant and the hounds gets in grudgling to her heart.
Nathan Martin
49. lerris
Isilel@46:

The variety of athletic physiques in the modern world is a result of a variety of training regimens.

In the medieval world, knight's training was fairly uniform and, especially considering the use of two-handed swords, a daily training regimen would certainly result in broadening of the shoulders and bulking of the upper body.

My point is that a lightly built knight such as Loras is a conceit of fantasy ( perhaps calling it a mistake in my previous post was too strong ) that would have been impossible in the real world. Contrast this to Brienne of Tarth, whose physique is a more realistic depiction of what a woman would look like with knight's training.
Rajan Khanna
50. rajanyk
I am really loving Littlefinger. But I'm not surprised, seeing as Gillen played Tommy Carcetti on The Wire.

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