Are you up to date with the Game of Thrones? Last week's episode was titled “Lord Snow,” preceded by “The Kingsroad,” and it all started out with “Winter Is Coming.” Make sure you understand, before continuing, that we have mad spoilers if you're not current with the series.
“Cripples, Bastards, and Broken Things” opens with Bran Stark walking again, yay!!! He’s following a noisy crow that seems to be leading him through an empty Winterfell. The crow lands on one of the carved wolves’ heads that decorate Winterfell’s crypts and turns so we can see the third eye in the middle of its forehead.
Bran, who still only has two eyes, opens them, and we realize that it was all a tease; he can’t walk, and is in fact, still lying in his bed with his direwolf and Old Nan and her knitting for company. My hopes that Old Nan is knitting hats for the Night’s Watch are dashed because that thing looks like a scarf now. But at least they could maybe pull the scarves up over their ears and stay warm that way?
Enter Theon, the blondish, buggy-eyed guy who’s been hanging out with the Starks all this time. Theon tells Bran that they have visitors; Bran says he doesn’t want to see anyone, and Theon tells him that if he were cooped up with that old bat all day, he’d go mad. (Watch it Theon! Old Nan is awesome! And I bet she scared the pants off you with her stories too! All she said in this episode was “the little lord’s been dreaming again” and even THAT was scary.)
Anyway, Bran doesn’t have a choice because Robb’s commanded his appearance, and as Robb is the Lord of Winterfell, that means Theon does what Robb says and Bran has to do what Theon says. Theon summons Hodor, a size XXXXXL member of the Winterfell staff, who scoops Bran up like a baby. Poor Bran!
The visitor in question is Tyrion Lannister, along with Yoren, the Night’s Watch guy. Robb and Tyrion are exchanging witty barbs (Well, Robb is being rude, and Tyrion is being witty.) When Bran is carried in, Tyrion asks him if he remembers anything of what happened; the answer is “not so much” which is probably good for Tyrion’s siblings considering what Bran saw them doing.
Tyrion tells Bran that with the right saddle even a cripple can ride. Bran bristles at Tyrion’s terminology saying that he’s not a cripple, but Tyrion is big on telling even unpalatable truths. “Then I am not a dwarf,” he says. “My father will rejoice to hear it.”
Tyrion has a gift for Bran: beautifully drawn plans for a special saddle and advice on training a horse just for the boy. Robb wants to know why Tyrion is helping Bran; Tyrion says he has a soft spot for “cripples, bastards and broken things.” Robb is mollified by Tyrion’s evident kindness to Bran, and offers him a place to stay at Winterfell, but Tyrion says he’ll spend the night at the brothel outside Winterfell’s walls (clearing up the episode 1 mystery of that brothel’s location.)
For some reason, Theon follows Tyrion outside Winterfell’s hall and tediously attempts to match wits with Tyrion. Note to Theon (and everyone else in Westeros): No one matches Tyrion’s wits, so it’s best not to try.
We get some backstory about Theon’s family, the Greyjoys (to sum up, the Greyjoys led a “stupid rebellion,” all of Theon’s brothers died, and Theon is essentially a hostage of the Starks’ to ensure that Theon’s father doesn’t try any more funny business.) Also, Tyrion asks Theon a lot of leading questions about Catelyn’s whereabouts.
At the end of their conversation, Tyrion flips a gold coin at Theon and tells him his next trip to the brothel is on the Lannisters. I think Tyrion just invented the Westeros equivalent of the tip cup. Theon looks ticked off.
At the Wall, where recruits are practicing their swordplay. Jon is teaching Pip and Grenn, the boys he befriended last week, when a new recruit, Samwell Tarly, arrives. Poor Sam is gifted in the girth department, which Ser Alliser Thorne, the master-at-arms, takes as some kind of invitation to have the other recruits abuse him. When Jon defends Sam, Ser Alliser adopts the crude humor of all filmed drill sergeants and calls Sam Jon’s “Lady Love.” He orders Pip, Grenn and a nasty piece of work named Rast to attack Sam by getting through Jon’s defenses. They fail (though Pip and Grenn are kind of half-hearted about the whole thing). Finally, Ser Alliser decides that he’s had enough “fun” and tells Sam and Jon to clean the armory.
When Jon asks Sam why he didn’t get up while he was being beaten, Sam forthrightly says that he wanted to get up, but he’s a coward and so that’s that. Grenn is worried that people will think that he’s a coward (because he was talking to Sam) and Pip tells him he’s too stupid to be a coward. It’s a cute little scene that establishes how Jon is already shaping up to be a leader among his fellow recruits.
The Dothraki approach Vaes Dothrak, their city (I thought they didn’t live in cities, but OK!) The gates to the city have these really cool statues of rearing horses, but the rest of the landscape looks very fake in this scene. On the other hand, the fake landscape matches Dany’s and Viserys’s fake wigs better than their eyebrows do, so that’s something!
Viserys is typically insulting about the Dothraki, dismissing their home as being full of mud and manure, which is what he expects from the Dothraki “savages.” When Dany tells him that he shouldn’t call her people “savages” Viserys tells her that they’re his people and that Khal Drogo is marching the wrong way with his army. Thankfully, Viserys doesn’t know any Dothraki, because I imagine these statements would come as a complete surprise to Khal Drogo.
Dany is starting to wonder about Viserys’s competence to rule the Seven Kingdoms. She asks Jorah if Viserys could really retake their father’s kingdom even with a Dothraki army; Jorah tells her that although Robert Baratheon is stupid enough to meet the Dothraki in open battle, the men advising him are smarter than that.
Then for some reason, Jorah goes off on Ned Stark, blaming him for driving him from Westeros. Dany says what I’m thinking, which is that Jorah brought it on himself by selling slaves. She asks him why he committed that crime, and Jorah says he needed money because he had an expensive wife. Goodness, Jorah is almost as good at taking responsibility as Viserys is! First it's Ned Stark's fault that he committed a crime and was exiled, and now it's Mrs. Jorah Mormont's fault. At least Viserys has the excuse of being crazy; Jorah is just a whiner!
And speaking of crazy...Viserys and Dany’s slave girl are in a HUGE bathtub in a luxurious tent that looks a bit like those super-expensive jungle safaris of which I can only dream. The Dothraki aren’t looking so savage now, are they, Viserys? I’m totally distracted by the fire hazard posed by the hundreds of lit candles—it’s like a Pier 1 display on steroids in there.
In order to fulfill HBO’s breast-per-episode quotient, Doreah and Viserys are, of course, naked while they discuss dragons, and dragons’ skulls, and how the Iron Throne was forged by the breath of a dragon. For a few moments, Viserys is able to slip into the guise of a semi-normal human being, with even a bonus childhood memory of reciting dragon names to his crazy father in exchange for sweets. That all ends once Viserys realizes that he’s nostalgic and sad and that’s not what he bought Doreah for. We close as she’s apparently “waking his dragon.” Ahem!
Back in King’s Landing, Sansa Stark and Septa Mordane are in the deserted throne room, looking at that very same Iron Throne forged by the breath of dragons.
Septa Mordane is proud that Sansa will one day be queen, while Sansa is worried that she’ll only have girl babies and everyone—not just her sister—will hate her.
In case we missed the confrontation between Ned and Jaime in the throne last week, Sansa muses that her grandfather and her uncle were murdered in that very room. When Sansa asks Septa Mordane why they were killed, Septa Mordane tells her she needs to talk to her father about these matters (because we’ve seen how well Ned communicates with Sansa before! Remember when he bought her a doll to make up for killing her direwolf? Yeah!) Sansa tells Septa Mordane that she never wants to speak to her father again.
Speaking of Ned ... he has decided not to abandon his Northern wool and boiled leather so consequently he looks even more sweaty and miserable than everyone else with him in the Council chamber. I wonder if they can all trade for some of those awesome Dothraki bathtubs.
Apparently the city is getting extra-restive in anticipation of the Hand’s Tournament. The GBP (Gross Brothel Product) of King’s Landing is soaring (at least this is what I gather from Petyr Baelish’s self-satisfied smile.) In addition, according to the Commander of the City Watch, there have been numerous fights, stabbings and a small spot of arson. Everyone is having a great time except for the City Watch; Ned promises them twenty of his own household guard to help keep the peace.
All the Council members except Maester Pycelle and Ned leave. Ned asks Pycelle to wait, because he wants to hear more about Jon Arryn’s death. Pycelle remarks again on the suddenness of Arryn’s death and mentions that Arryn had borrowed a book the night before he died.
In Pycelle’s rooms, Ned flips through The Most Boring Book in the History of Westeros (aka the giant tome of other people’s family trees which interested Jon Arryn.) Also, Ned covertly questions Pycelle about Arryn’s illness, and by “covertly” I mean that Ned pretty much shouts out that he thinks Jon Arryn was POISONED. BY A WOMAN! PROBABLY THE QUEEN!!! Good job, Ned!
Pycelle doesn’t seem particularly surprised by the poison accusation but he fingers Varys the eunuch and sniffs that in the good old days, you had to have all your male equipment to sit on the King’s councils. Also he tells Ned that Jon Arryn’s last words were “the seed is strong.” Somehow I don’t think Arryn was talking about gardening!
On his way back to his rooms, Ned finds Arya at the head of the stairs, balancing on one foot. She tells Ned that this is one of her assignments from Syrio Forel and that tomorrow she’ll be catching cats. Apparently, Syrio doesn’t have to worry about lawsuits from concerned parents whose kids get scratches or tumble down flights of stairs.
Arya asks Ned if Bran will be joining them in King’s Landing (I think that was the original plan, that Arya, Sansa and Bran would go with Ned to the capital) and sadly says that poor Bran once wanted to be a knight of the Kingsguard. How sad that a knight of the Kingsguard ended Bran’s dreams!
Ned tells her that Westeros is full of opportunities for the crippled sons of noblemen (Tyrion was definitely right that it’s better to be a rich cripple than a poor one!) Bran could be the lord of a holdfast or sit on the King’s Council or build castles like his namesake Bran the Builder.
Arya asks if she can be the Lord of a Holdfast, and Ned tells her that she’ll marry a great lord and have sons who are knights and princes and lords. So basically, in Westeros, even a crippled noble boy has more life choices than a nobly born girl. Poor Arya tells Ned what should surely be obvious to him by now, that this “marriage and sons” stuff is not her. She goes back to standing on one foot.
Back at the Wall, Jon is shivering on guard duty. (You know what would make you warmer, Jon? A HAT!!!!) Sam (ALSO not wearing a hat) arrives to stand guard alongside Jon. Jon asks him why he came to the Wall. In turns out that Sam, though not a bastard, is even less popular with his father than Jon is with Catelyn. Sam’s father couldn’t bear the thought of having this boy as his heir, so he basically threatened to kill Sam if he didn’t join the Night’s Watch.
Jon and Sam have a nice little bonding moment after they establish that in addition to being overweight and cowardly, Sam also doesn’t see very well. Poor Sam! It sounds like he traded a quick death at his father’s hands for a slow death at the Wall.
Back at King’s Landing, Littlefinger has decided to have a helpful chat with Ned, if by “helpful” we mean that he increases Ned's paranoia by telling Ned that random people in the palace grounds are spies for Varys, the Queen and Littlefinger himself.
Littlefinger further confuses Ned by introducing him to the Liar’s Paradox: If, as Littlefinger says, “distrusting me was the wisest thing you’ve done since you climbed off your horse,” then should Ned trust that Littlefinger is being truthful and therefore not trust Littlefinger, or should he assume that Littlefinger, being untrustworthy, is also untrustworthy about being untrustworthy and therefore trust him? See, it’s confusing!
Anyway, back to the actual scene: Littlefinger tells Ned about Jon Arryn’s squire who was promoted to knight immediately after Arryn’s death. He also tells Ned about a certain armorer whom Jon Arryn was wont to visit and warns Ned to keep his questioning of these people on the down low because he’s being watched.
Ned semi-takes Littlefinger’s advice. He sends Jory to talk to the new knight, rather than going himself. However, Ser Formerly Jon Arryn’s Squire, is hilariously snobbish and won’t talk to Jory because Jory is “only” the captain of Ned’s guard. He insists that he will only speak with the Hand of the King in person.
Then Ned and Jory visit the armorer mentioned by Littlefinger. I'm beginning to think that the “broken things” to which Tyrion was referring include Ned's sense of self-preservation because they go to the smithy in broad daylight, with not even the tiniest hint of hiding their identities.
At the smithy, Ned meets the armorer’s apprentice Gendry, a boy who is sweaty, handsome and looks quite a bit like Renly Baratheon. When Ned asks Gendry what Jon Arryn talked to him about, Gendry says that Arryn had a lot of questions about Gendry’s late mother (blonde, sang songs, died when Gendry was young.) Ned is a bit shaken at meeting one of Robert’s bastards face to face.
Speaking of bastards...Jaime is standing guard outside the King’s door during what is apparently an orgy. Jory approaches him with a scroll from Ned to the King. Jaime is apparently itching to expose Robert’s penchant for lechery to someone because he asks Jory how many women he thinks are in the room with Robert.
Jory is all “um, I’m just delivering this message now" and then is made even more uncomfortable when Jaime goes on to say that Robert likes to humiliate him by making him stand guard and listen to Robert “insulting” Jaime’s sister. (Would Jaime prefer to stand guard when Robert’s shtupping Cersei? Surely that would be worse for Jaime! But anyway, point taken, Robert’s a disgusting lech and Jaime hates his guts.)
Jaime’s bitter rant is interrupted by women in various states of dishevelment slipping out of Robert’s chambers. In the distraction, Jaime and Jory ascertain that they fought side by side for one afternoon during the Greyjoy rebellion. In contrast to Ser Jon Arryn’s Former Squire, Now Snobbish Knight, Jaime is surprisingly warm and unsnobbish with Jory once he figures out that they were comrades in arms. Jaime mentions that he saw Theon Greyjoy at Winterfell and that he’s a ‘shark on a mountaintop’ (heh!) and Jory demonstrates that he’s not a good judge of character by saying that Theon’s a good lad, which Jaime doubts.
Still more women come out the door, and the warm reminiscing about battles ends with Jory asking if he can leave Ned’s message with Jaime. (I guess Ned hasn’t shared his suspicions of the Lannisters with Jory because it makes no sense to me otherwise that Jory would even consider handing off his message to Jaime.) Jaime demonstrates his own poor conniving sense by turning down the chance to read Ned’s message. He turns on the proverbial dime and coldly tells Jory that he doesn’t serve Ned Stark.
At the Wall, it’s dinnertime. Jon tells Pip and Grenn that they’re not going to hurt Sam any more in the training yard, no matter what Ser Alliser says. Sam is one of them now, a brother who had no place in the world outside, just as none of them did. Rast says that he’s not listening to Jon and he’s going to slice off some bacon from “Lady Piggy.”
That night, as Rast is sleeping, Jon, Pip, Grenn and Jon’s direwolf pay Rast a visit. As the direwolf crouches on Rast’s chest, Jon reiterates that no one is going to torture Sam.
The next morning in the training yard, everyone does as Jon suggested, and Sam actually is able to disarm one of his opponents. Ser Alliser rightly suspects that Jon is behind this sabotage of his training methods, and he addresses all the recruits, telling them that when they’re out in the woods beyond the wall, they’ll want a brave man at their backs, not a “snivelling boy.” On the one hand, he’s kind of right, but on the other hand, as we all remember from the first episode, being brave didn’t exactly help those poor Rangers either.
In Vaes Dothrak, Viserys drags Doreah by her hair to Dany’s tent, furious that Dany sent a “whore” to give him commands. He says that he should have sent Dany back Doreah’s head. (Oh hush, Viserys! Who’d wake your dragon if you did that?) Dany points out that she sent an invitation to dinner, not a command. She tries to give Viserys the Dothraki clothes that she had made for him and he dismisses them as stinking of manure. Boy, he sure knows how to make people love him, doesn’t he?
Viserys says that next Dany will want him to braid his hair, and she tells him that he has no right to a braid, because he’s won no victories. Viserys is surprised that Dany’s “talking back to him” and he slaps her to the ground, telling her that she’s woken the dragon. As he gets ready to punch his (pregnant) sister, Dany grabs the metal belt lying on the ground and hits him with it. I cheer!
Viserys is stunned that Dany fought back and even more stunned when she tells him that she’s a khaleesi of the Dothraki, and the next time he raises a hand to her, it will be the last time he has hands. Go Dany, go, go, go!!!
Back at the Wall, Jon and Sam have apparently been punished by having to scrub the tables in the mess hall. Actually, this task looks far more enticing than guard duty, since it’s indoors and there’s a fire going.
Sam is upset about the whole Night’s Watch celibacy requirement, especially since he’s a virgin. He thinks that Jon must have had hundreds of women, but it turns out that Jon is a virgin too. Even though he had an opportunity to, err, seal the deal with the lovely red-haired Ros from Winterfell’s brothel (that’s Tyrion’s buddy from episode 1), Jon says that he realized at that moment that he couldn’t father any bastards.
Ser Alliser interrupts the boys’ fun with a terrifying story of being in a ranging party that got stuck beyond the wall for six months, which required the survivors to emulate the Donner Party. He closes his terrifying narration by telling Jon and Sam that when the real winter comes, they’ll all die like flies. Cold, celibacy AND potential cannibalization by your fellows! No wonder everyone’s lining up to join this organization!
Back at Vaes Dothrak, Dany is telling Jorah that she hit “the Dragon.” Jorah tells her that her brother Rhaegar was the last dragon, and Viserys is nothing more than the “shadow of a snake.” And Jorah would know from snakes, what with the enslaving people and all. Jorah asks if Dany would want to see her brother on the Iron Throne, and Dany admits that that she’s figured out what we’ve known from episode 1 : Crazy Eyes Viserys is never going to recapture the Iron Throne, and it’s a good thing because he’s a raving loon. Apparently, “Mad King” is an inheritable trait.
Cut to “Boozy King” at the Hand’s Tourney. (OK, I’m not sure why everyone on the Small Council keeps talking about how much this tournament costs because it looks like they built the royal box from Lincoln Logs. Also, apparently the population of King’s Landing is worn out from the drinking, stabbing, whoring and arson because about a dozen nobles and 33 commoners have shown up to watch the jousting). King Robert tells them to start the tournament before he pisses himself (maybe Westeros needs to invent Depends in addition to fire extinguishers?); Cersei gets up in disgust and leaves, reducing their already meager attendance by one.
Among those in the front row, however are Sansa, Arya and Septa Mordane and Petyr Baelish, who snags a seat right next to Sansa, introducing himself as an old friend of Catelyn Stark. Arya tactlessly asks why Lord Baelish’s nickname is “Littlefinger” and Petyr tells the story of his small stature and small landholding, clearly not liking Arya nearly as much as he likes Sansa.
Although the girls weren’t invited to the beheading in the first episode, they will get to witness some gory death now. During the first round of jousting, a giant man named Gregor Clegane stabs Ser Formerly Jon Arryn’s Squire right in the throat, thus removing a witness who might have told Ned more about what Jon Arryn was looking for, as well as providing for our weekly HBO-mandated quota of realistic and bloody death.
Sansa is horrified by what she’s seeing, and as if this weren’t awful enough, Littlefinger decides to tell her a story about Gregor Clegane and his younger brother, Sandor (aka Joffrey’s bodyguard with the burnt face whom everyone calls “the Hound.”) Apparently when they were children, Sandor took one of Gregor’s toys to play with, so Gregor retaliated by holding Sandor’s face over an open fire. Yikes! Sometimes I’m really glad I’m an only child! I’m not really sure how Littlefinger is privy to all these details, since presumably he wasn’t actually there, but anyway, the tale is terrifically creepy. Just in case Sansa isn’t scared enough already, Littlefinger makes sure to tell her that unless she keeps her mouth shut, all the knights in King’s Landing won’t be able to save her. Poor Sansa!
Ned is showing his distaste for the tournament held in his name by not attending it. Jeez! Does no one want to see knights coughing up blood any more? Instead, Ned is brooding in his office, with the giant tome of genealogy on his desk held open by the dagger used in the attempted murder of Bran. Shouldn’t Ned keep those things, y’know, LOCKED UP SOMEWHERE?
Cersei has ostensibly come to conciliate Ned about the “incident” on the Kingsroad. She admits that forcing Ned to kill Sansa’s wolf Lady was “extreme, though sometimes we go to extremes where our children is concerned.”
Although Cersei is definitely trying to suss out what Ned is up to she’s also overtly courteous, until Ned bluntly asks her what she’s doing here. Cersei tells him that he’s just a soldier who takes orders, and Ned tells her that he was trained to kill his enemies to which Cersei responds that she was trained in the same enemy-killing school. (I’m amazed that Ned has managed to keep Jon’s mother’s identity a secret for this long, because if this episode has shown us anything, it’s that Ned hasn’t got a subtle bone in his body.)
On their way home to Winterfell, Catelyn Stark and Rodrick “Sideburns” Cassel stop at a crossroads inn. Catelyn is still under the impression that her flimsy gauze scarf makes her invisible; she and Rodrick Cassel attempt to have dinner while being pestered by a persistent bard.
Tyrion Lannister arrives at the inn along with two Lannister guardsmen and Yoren from the Night’s Watch . The innkeeper tells Tyrion that the inn is full-up, and Tyrion offers gold to anyone who’ll give him a room. His offer is accepted by a rather battered looking chap whom Tyrion complements on his cleverness. The bard makes the leap from annoying to troublemaking, offering Tyrion a song about the Lannisters’ sack of King’s Landing. Tyrion declines but the bard has drawn Tyrion’s attention to Catelyn Stark, and Tyrion sees right through her see-through scarf, greeting her by name.
At this point, Catelyn makes a decision that mystifies me even after reading the books multiple times and watching this episode twice. She accuses Tyrion of the attempted murder of Bran and calls on the assembled men-at-arms to assist her in conveying him to Winterfell to face the King’s justice, and the episode ends with a wide-eyed Tyrion surrounded by swords’ points. (I'm mystified because Ned just told her in the last episode that they didn't have enough evidence to accuse the Lannisters of either the murder of Jon Arryn or the attempted murder of Bran, and yet here Catelyn is, making a citizens' arrest of Tyrion Lannister.)
Awww, it’s sort of sweet to see that Catelyn and Ned are truly soulmates, united not just by marriage and their children, but by their shared terrible sense of judgment and complete inability to be secretive. I think my three-year-old could teach both of them a thing or two about long-range planning and obfuscation of his motives. Tune in next week for more adventures of the Dumb and Honorable!
Regina Thorne is an avid reader of just about everything, an aspiring writer, a lover of old movies and current tv shows, and a hopeless romantic.