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.
Lysa’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.
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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.