Jun 6 2011 10:54am

Game of Thrones episode review: “The Pointy End”

So it’s safe to say that even when he’s writing for television, George R.R. Martin takes a long time to tell a story, right? In last night’s episode of HBO’s Game of Thrones, written by the man himself, the action and drama was ratcheted up so fast, I was caught off guard when the end credits came up and realized the episode actually ran longer than an hour. It sure as hell didn’t feel any longer.

There’s now so much happening on this show, I don’t even know where to begin my review. I also only watched this episode once, so please forgive me if I leave some things out. But I make mention of Hodor’s hodor. Have no fear.

The showrunners have been doing such a largely fantastic job of adapting A Game of Thrones these past seven weeks, so I was very curious to see if Martin’s own voice would change the rhythm the show. But if you didn’t know this episode was written by Martin, I don’t think you’d notice much difference in the episode. If anything, this episode seemed to have few new scenes at all. But so many hugely important things happened here, to change any one of them would have been messing with the source material far too much.

Martin keeps good on his promises and an episode called “The Pointy End” certainly delivered on the fight scenes. We open with the Lannisters flushing out all of Ned’s men in King’s Landing. I think the Stark guards should be the ones wearing red armor. And if you don’t hate Lannisters after this episode, there’s something hugely wrong with you. Septa Mordane met her fate with great dignity, but nothing beats Syrio Forel. Miltos Yeromelou was definitely a standout of this show. His performance matched the spirit of his counterpart in the books so perfectly, I basically just nodded my head saying “Right on, right on. You will be speaking to him with more respect... before he beats your ass with a wooden sword.” I think Arya’s ability to see was really awakened in that moment. She will never be the same. Shit got way too real. And now she is a murderer at the age of ten. And on the run, just like her direwolf.

And her sister Sansa, while not executed like Lady, is being punished for a crime she didn’t commit. I never liked Sansa as a character in the books, and i think she’s even more of a naive brat here, but I’ll give her a pass in this episode because she’s reacting pretty much exactly how a naive teenage girl would react in her predicament. She’s terrified for her father’s life even more than she’s scared of being stripped of her Disney princess dreams. I really do wish her conversations with The Hound were left as they were in the books. They were some of my favorites and really drove home that she wasn’t living in a fairy tale of lemon cakes and heterosexual Knights of Flowers.

And will Sansa get her father to confess to treason? Not even Sansa can believe that in her heart. Oh, Ned. Can he really be surprised that he ended up in a dungeon? I love Ned, I really do. He’s honorable where other men are not. I don’t even believe that Jon Snow is even his bastard because Ned doesn’t cheat at anything. But it’s is SO GODDAMED FRUSTRATING to watch him. The madness of mercy, indeed. If your enemy is boinking her twin brother under the king’s nose and claiming their inbred bastards are the rightful heirs and pushing adorable Stark kids out of windows, why in the hell would you think they play by the rules?

This is Westeros. It’s for men like Tyrion and Bronn. And Shagga, son of Dolf. They feed Ned’s honor and manhood to the goats. I wish Tyrion and his mountain clans would go fight for Robb instead. It’s not like Tywin was glad to see his dwarf son alive anyway. As a sidenote, Chella was way uglier on TV than how I pictured her in the books. I had to laugh at that.

Over at Winterfell, I thought it was a lovely, powerful shot to see all of Maester Luwin’s ravens taking flight to call the Stark bannermen to war. I like TV-Robb more than book-Robb. I guess because time’s condensed, he has less time to have arguments with people. Though the one he had with Greatjon Umber was worth showing. “Your meat... is bloody tough.” No one can complain that this episode had a lack of direwolves. Or unexpected Hodor... hodor. Seven hells. When I complained that this show had too many naked prostitutes for my tastes, I didn’t mean I wanted to see more random hodor. I just meant more Khal Drogo. I feel incredibly cheated. I was promised lots of naked Jason Momoa.

At least we didn’t have to see feeding time over in the Eyrie again.

I like TV-Catelyn more than her book counterpoint, too. Also due to a lack of screen-time. She is foolish and impulsive, but I really felt for her this episode. Her husband is imprisoned, one daughter is being used by Cersei and the other is missing, and she’s got two little boys alone at home. And now her firstborn is riding to war. He’s a man. I loved that moment when he went to hug her hello in front of his men and he stopped himself. In the books it felt more like Catelyn who had to exercise restraint, but here, it came across as mutual. Robb looks as surprised as Catelyn to see himself leading an army.

I imagine Shagga, son of Dolf, and his mountain clans would get along famously with the Dothraki. I still feel this storyline gets the shorter pointy end when it comes to epic feel, but the scant extras certainly gave raping and pillaging their all. If your tribe is called the Lamb Men, you’re basically asking to get slaughtered. Tough break. Dany is certainly a changed woman. Is it Rhaego’s fire inside her or her own latent dragon blood? It takes some cajones to stand up to Khal Drogo and we learned what he does to people who disagree with him. I love gratuitous gore way more than Hodor hodor. Only with these last two episodes have I started to feel the love between Dany and her sun-and-stars.

The only Stark I don’t feel bad for in all of this madness is Jon. On the one hand, how else should he behave when the rest of his family is danger and he’s trapped on the Wall? But his emotional outbursts are as predictable as any other young hero’s at the start of a fantasy quest. Next he’ll be whining to Jeor Mormont about wanting to leave the Wall to go to Tosche Station and get more power converters.

On that note, only Jon seems to be out of hot water this week. It’s probably for the best that his last name isn’t officially Stark or else he’d be on the run, going to war, crippled, or starving in a dungeon. I’d rather kill ice zombies for the rest of my life. Maybe Barristan Selmy should take the black in lieu of forced early retirement. His name is Barristan the Bold and Joffrey should be speaking to him with more respect. They need quality knights at the Wall and he’s smarter than any Stark for getting the hell out of King’s Landing while he still can.

Everyone I care about on this show should follow Ser Barristan’s lead. With only two episodes left (!) there doesn’t seem to be much time for a neat resolution. Game of Thrones feeds your need for justice to the goats.


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.

Theresa DeLucci hodor hodor HBO Go hodor hodor. Hodor you, Time Warner Cable!

Rob Munnelly
1. RobMRobM
The Hodor shot is taken directly from the book. I'm glad it stayed in, as it makes clear that Hodor is simpleminded and socially unaware. I also really liked Osha noting that Hodor had giant blood in him - which implies there are in fact giants living north of the Wall.
Justin Golenbock
2. jgolenbo
Aww, Hodor's Hodor was hilarious! Oh, HBO comedy...

On a serious note, for book fans you could feel Martin's touch all over this episode. So many small but poignant moments were captured near perfectly: Syrio's final confrontation, Robb/Great Jon & Rob/Catelyn, Sansa's pleading to Joffrey (the one first moment, imo, when you go from hating Sansa to empthasizing or at least pitying her situation).

Also: throat tearing! Direwolves! Armies! We better get at least one Braveheart-esque big battle set piece...
J.A.R. Huygebaert
3. J.A.R. Huygebaert
This episode was way better then the last one. I think the last one was also the baddest in the whole series until now, where the quality of the episodes was high before. SHIT, I love Game of Thrones, and what an end for Arya's swordmaster! Better then in the books, I would say. I hope Ned gets his nice end...
Theresa DeLucci
4. theresa_delucci
@3 I just edited your comment. Spoilers are okay here, but we're trying to avoid the huge ones. ;)
J.A.R. Huygebaert
5. Bourgeois Nerd
Hey, if we get to see Ros's boobs and pudenda all the time, it's only fair we get to see some Hodor hodor. And, really, it's not like he has anything to be ashamed of!

Something that always bugged me: do Dothraki really not know how to clean and bind their own wounds? It seems like something they'd totally learn at about, like, five, in between horseriding and throat-ripping.
David Thomson
6. ZetaStriker
Bourgeois Ned@5: I seem to remember something about barren women and cripples doing that work, or something like that. The horse warriors felt it was beneath them.
Justin Golenbock
7. jgolenbo
@5 Agreed. You spend your time fighting, riding, and living outdoors, you'd think infections would be more common...

@3/4 Staying away from huge spoilers, I've been wondering if/when we'll see any large plot divergences from the books. The major characters are the major characters, the action's been unfolding as I remember, and apart from a few minor changes and all the necessary cutting/compacting you'd expect, I can't really think of any real huge differences so far? The biggest I can think of is the way they've changed Renly's character, but that's not exactly major.
Rob Munnelly
8. RobMRobM
@7 - major missing: Blackfish; flashback to key event in Rebellion time; Bran's dreams.
Herb Schaltegger
9. LameLefty
I totally less-than-three last night's episode. I want to marry it. Pure, unadulterated awesomesauce from beginning to end. My only regret is that we are unlikely to ever see Miltos Yeromelou's Syrio Forel ever again, even if certain fanboi fantasies (*cough* Jacquen/Faceless Man/ *cough*) come to pass. Remember, we never do see Forel's death on screen (even in the book). So even if the man inside the "Dancing Master" isn't actually dead, he won't be Syrio Forel and so we probably will never see Miltos Yeromelou again, even if the show makes it 5 or 6 seasons. And that makes me sad.
Justin Golenbock
10. jgolenbo
@8 Bran's dreams have been in there, though cut down (so far). And I have a feeling that we'll be introduced to the Tully clan once Robb takes the field against Jaime -- the siege of Riverrun was highlighted in the Stark planning tent. Both subplots could have more play in season 2, though.

Hmm what flashback to the Rebellion are you referring to? We've had a lot of exposition in the show (assumedly less so in the books, though I don't remember) but it sounds like you're referring to a specific scene from the books? I can't recall anything that dramatic from book 1
J.A.R. Huygebaert
11. DarrenJL
I think we will see him. People seem to be forgetting how much a part of Arya's internal monologue is her lessons from Syrio. I'm thinking we'll see him in some internal flashbacks. He's Mick to Arya's Rocky (although I hope they don't do it in quite that manner...)
Theresa DeLucci
12. theresa_delucci
@9 Syrio will live on in my heart forever. I will definitely miss Miltos and his mighty Greek afro. I think if that fanboy fantasy were true, it'd cheapen the noble death of a badass character.

I wonder where the Blackfish is. Was he moved to Riverrun, perhaps? I was kind of hoping Maester Aemon would divulge his last name to Jon last night. Maybe that's for another episode as well? Jon's not the only one with a family he must leave behind for the Night's Watch. He'd do well to remember.

@5 I'm with you. The Dothraki need more healers. 40,000 riders and there's got to be some of their own medicine women with them. Well now Dany can build her own chick army of healers and rape-avengers.

@10 Personally, I'd like a bit of flashback to show us at least Lyanna's death. I mean, her abduction started the whole rebellion in the first place and I'm very convinced that her story will be important as the series continues. Also, I'd really like to see Aerys burning a ton of stuff. But that's just me.
Sky Thibedeau
13. SkylarkThibedeau
@9 I never thought about the Swordmaster being a faceless man but its very possible.

@12 I wonder if they haven't shown the 'Blackfish' nor flashbacked to the rebellion and the murder of Ned's family by the mad King because it would require more actors. The ensemble is pretty big as it is and as the series goes along will only grow.
J.A.R. Huygebaert
14. mochabean
@10,12 - Next to Dany's visions in the House of the Undead in CofK, some of Ned's dreams and memories in GOT give so many clues about some of the series' big mysteries (I am looking at you, hipster Jon Snow), as well as the history of Robert's Rebellion. And Ser Barristan's dismissal is even more sad when you consider Ned's "dream/recollection" about facing him at the Tower of Joy before Leanna's death. But I can't imagine how the showrunners could have translated those memories to the screen without it being cheesy, clunky, etc. So I am happy with HBO leaving it out.
Rob Munnelly
15. RobMRobM
- Bran's dreams are much, much more extensive in the book. TV ones are serviceable but it is an important deviation.
- I was thinking in particular of Ned facing off against Arthur Dayne, etc. That scene. (Note to Mocha - Barristan wasn't part of that scene; he was in the Trident.)
- I don't expect to see Tullys in Season 1. I hope we see Blackfish in Season 2 but don't expect to do so as his "role" can be picked up by others in the cast.

@12 - I would expect the Aemon-Jon scene to come this Sunday, and will be incredibly ticked off if it is cut. Needs to be there for all sorts of reasons.
Janet Hopkins
16. JanDSedai
This would be an excellent episode to watch for a first-time viewer. It's self-explanatory enough (in terms of TV tropes) to hang together, and then you want to find out more about the characters and watch the previous episodes. Then the expository sessions become more interesting.

Also, Rickon's prophecy that his parents and brother won't come home; its seems less like the fear of abandonment normal for a three-year-old (in the book) than a true statement. In this setting, it seems like a Seeing. Maybe there's more to Rickon than we suspected...
Vincent Lane
17. Aegnor
This episode was fantastic. The only thing I didn't like about it was Arya's scene where she kills the stable boy. It felt rushed. Plus I really liked the line "Oh gods, pull it out". Something about it drives home the impact of taking a life. That it isn't some faceless extra, but a real person afraid for his life.
J.A.R. Huygebaert
18. mochabean
@RobM -- you are right. Getting my kingsguardians confused -- in my mind they (Dayne, Barristan, etc.) are lumped together as "the good guys" of the good old days of the Mad King (to the extent there are "good guys" in ASOIAF).

@JanD -- Agree with you about Rickon and the Seeing. Also I am still not sure how I feel about the aging-up of the Stark children, Dany, etc. In Dany's case the reason is obvious, but why make the Stark children older? The scenes between Robb and The Greatjon would have been even better, in my opinion, if Robb looked 15. But I don't feel the show has to be a slave to the books and I am not sure I could take seeing a little three year-old Rickon (and Shaggy Dog!) wandering around Winterfell.
J.A.R. Huygebaert
19. Boohaha
@15 I agree that it wouldn't make sense to introduce Blackfish at this point now that they've left him out of the scenes in the Vale, but I'd think we have to meet the Tully's if the series follows the arc of the book.

And looking at the chapters that are left, I fully expect that to be the case. There is a lot left to happen, but in the books most of it happens off-screen. It will be interesting to see how the series deals with it.
Theresa DeLucci
20. theresa_delucci
Wasn't Khal Drogo injured off-screen in the books? It wa handled nicely here, bringing it a bit more into the story. Two birds, one stone. Plus any chance to see Jason Momoa act pissed off is good in my book. I may have to check out Conan now.
J.A.R. Huygebaert
21. vsthorvs
Loved the episode. My only problem was with Ghost making so much noise. He's supposed to be silent.
Dan Layman-Kennedy
22. maestro23
There was but one thing I asked from the old gods when this series began: "Please, please let me hear Peter Dinklage give the answer to the question 'How would you like to die?'" And look! The gods were good.
Rikka Cordin
23. Rikka
1. I wish we got more naked Jason Momoa too. :(

2. The woman who plays Osha is spectacular. Is it too early to be excited to see how HBO handles Meera and Jojen? (Yes).

3. One of my favorite scenes in GoT is when Aemon tells Jon how he chose and I reaaallllllly want to see it this season...
Herb Schaltegger
24. LameLefty
Theresa @20 - yes, his injury was on an off-screen raid.
William Fettes
25. Wolfmage
Re: Syrio

I’ve loved every scene of Miltos Yeromelou, and this one was suitably epic for his finale. There was some really nice choreography there in terms of how quickly and elegantly he dispatches the Lannister guardsmen. Trant was also appropriately imposing, and the way it leaves his fate hanging, with the practice sword cut off at the hilt, was a nice touch that rivals the quality of the book scene.

Re: Arya

OMG Arya got her first kill, and along with it the first resonance/call-back to Ned’s foreboding battle sounds. I can’t help but note that the stableboy's death was far more accidental than in the book, and Arya had some genuine regret on her face. But I think that’s probably a good decision. There are plenty of other inflection points coming up in future episodes for the show runners to cement her loss of innocence with more deliberative acts. This is just the start of her journey, afterall.

Re: Jon

Well the ice zombie was pretty cool. The eyes were a little less vivid than the Wildling girl from the pilot, but still supernatural-looking. It looks like Jon burns his hand on the lamp so everything is on track in that department.

Re: Dany & the Lamb rapes

Well, we got to see more confirmation of the brutal sexual morality of the Dothraki this week. Following on from the Khal's speech the other week, where he expresses his intention to rape the women of Westeros, we now see first-hand what a typical Khalasar campaign means for the innocent female victims of their conquests in Essos. Even Dany's intervention was appropriately qualified. We see that Dany only has a limited capacity to prevent this kind of thing in the future, because her retinue is not infinite and it is doubtful whether the Blood Riders will really accept marriage to slaves. Indeed, it is only Drogo’s stature as a powerful Khal that few will defy, and his indulgent attitude to her eccentricities, that makes this possible. Even then, he doesn’t acknowledge Dany’s feistiness as a feature of her own inherent personality as a woman, but instead thinks she is being lent masculine power by the son growing in her belly, which is, of course, grossly sexist.

All of this shows exactly what I’ve been arguing all along about Khal Drogo and the Dothraki people. Dany may love the Khal but for all that he is badass warrior with genuine affection for her, he is still basically only a somewhat forbearing husband within a hugely limited, misogynistic cultural horizon. In that context, the wedding night from the show actually makes much more sense than the book. The book protects Drogo by not linking his agency as Khal to the Khalasar's wide-spread practice of rape, which is not remotely realistic given how habitually ingrained it is and how he has been immersed in this culture since he was a boy, making conquest after conquest, effectively ratifying countless rapes and no doubt taking many himself. It also fudges Dany's consent during the wedding night to conceil Drogo's absolute cultural right to take his wife regardless of what she wants. You really have to pay attention closely to the subsequent scenes to understand what is happening with the spousal rape on their journey to Vaes Dorthrak. The shows take a more direct approach that is better off for not dodging these issues.
Julian Augustus
26. Alisonwonderland
I thought yesterday's episode made Maester Pycelle far too obvious a Lannister toady. I thought in the books he was much more subtle.
Ellen B. Wright
27. ellenw
I liked this episode a lot. It was like being out boating and suddenly realizing that you're staring down a waterfall, and there's nothing you can do about it -- calm with an undertone of sheer panic. Good stuff.

I really hope, as others have commented, that we'll get a bit more about Lyanna's death in the next episode, before . I, too, think it'll be important to future events and now's the time to plant the seed.
Tricia Irish
28. Tektonica
Great episode. It's all I can do not to spill the beans to my husband as we watch these! My tongue is full of holes. Loved Syrio and the slim ambiguity of his death/survival. The young lady playing Arya is wonderful. So is the one playing the princess bride, Sansa....I hope it's acting, anyway. I was hoping for more dialogue with Sansa and The Hound. And Tyrion...always a treat.


Isn't the woman who plays Osha...and she is good...from the Harry Potter films?.....The wizard who's hair can turn pink and she makes her face have a piggy nose? Damn, what is her name??? Anyway...I think it's her.

Calling Hodor's hodor "a hodor" is just hysterical. I think I have a new name for that, er, appendage.
Katie McNeal
29. Katiya
Re: Lyanna flashback, perhaps Martin deliberately left it out of the show? Since many fans have certain (VERY VERY LIKELY) theories about Lyanna and personages of the main cast, perhaps he wanted to avoid anything that might confirm/deny these theories. Maybe seeing it would give too much away...?

Or maybe he thought it would confuse new viewers, since the whole story of the war is never actually revealed, even to's a lot to get into, and most of the info that we do get comes in the form of boring lecture exposition. Not TV conducive, that.
J.A.R. Huygebaert
30. vsthorvs
Isn't this forum open to all spoilers?

I really liked the Pycelle, Littlefinger, Varys trio. They clearly have opposing viewpoints, but from the point of view of Sansa, they're all united against her. That's perfect.

I also like that they removed mention of Sansa tattling on her father's plans to Catelyn. That always seemed like a contrivance that only served to make readers hate Sansa, when most already didn't love her.
Rob Munnelly
31. RobMRobM
Tek - that would be Nymphadora Tonks, and, yes, also played by Natalie Tena.
Marcus W
32. toryx
I finally saw it last night. Definitely a great espisode. Syrio was everything one could hope for. Hodor's hodor was suitably hodor. Jon's fight with the wight was nice and hot, and I personally don't mind Ghost growling at all. I always thought Ghost's silence was a little too supernatural in the book.

I am NOT pleased that Sansa didn't go to Cersei. I thought that was incredibly appropriate to her character and was disappointed to see they removed it from the show. I'm also really displeased that they aren't developing that twisted relationship between Clegane and Sansa. Though that one makes a little more sense to me to remove.

Varys is one of my favorite characters from the book and I'm quite pleased with how they're portraying him in the show. He really did a great job of responding to all the crazy choices that Cersei was making. Barriston the Bold was also pretty awesome.

Tyrion has been looking a little more frightened than I would have liked but I still enjoy the interplay between him and Shagga. I actually think Shagga was better cast than Greatjon Umber.

I'm also going to agree with those who like Robb better in the show than in the book. The actor hasn't had a whole lot to do but he's been great with the role. I actually like his performance more than the guy playing Jon.

I may come off as a total wuss for saying this but I'm glad they didn't go into too much visual stimuli for displaying the Dothraki rape scenes. Generally speaking, while I appreciate the reality of all the violence against women I could do without actually seeing it so often.

And finally, I've been disappointed by no Blackfish. I understand why he hasn't been there, but I've been missing him nonetheless.

Only two more episodes left? But there's still so much more to happen!
Sean Vivier
33. SeanVivier
I personally loved Tyrion's ambivalent, "Well... let's go see my father."
Regina Thorne
34. reginathorn
I guess there's something wrong with me, because I absolutely don't hate the Lannisters. I love Tyrion, for one thing, and for another, they're fascinating to watch. And Show!Ned's self-righteousness and utter lack of humor have really made me like him a lot less than I liked his book counterpart.

I sort of wish I weren't so deeply spoiled by having read all the books multiple times, because I often think my reactions to things are based on what I know is going to happen later rather than on what is happening now.
Tricia Irish
35. Tektonica
Rob@31: Thank you...that was driving me nuts...Tonks! Of course. Loved her too.
J.A.R. Huygebaert
36. WelfareNinja
Did anyone else notice how Tywin kept moving the wine away from the near-drooling Tyrion in the tent? Drinkage had that Homer Simpson "mmmmmm donuts" look about him that was hilarious. When he finally does get to the wine after Tywin gets up he gets the news that he'll be taking up arms - total bummer lol.

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