Mon
May 16 2011 6:31pm

Game of Thrones Episode Five: The Invention of Manscaping

Game of Thrones episode five, titled “The Wolf and the Lion,” begins even before the beginning, since each credits sequence changes, depending on where that episode's action takes us.

(If you're not up-to-date, episode four, also titled “Cripples, Bastards and Broken Things,” is recapped, as well as previous epis “Lord Snow,” preceded by “The Kingsroad,” and it all started out with “Winter Is Coming.” All-righty, then. Let's begin.

***SPOILERS BELOW***

The amazing credits encompass a new location tonight—the Eyrie, which is up in the high mountains. Also, I  have a Pavlovian reaction as soon as that lilting cello melody begins! Let the game of thrones begin!

Ned walks over a bridge from the castle to the tourney field. Horses whinny, and some poor schmoes are still trying to scrub away the gallon of blood that the late Ser Hugh of the Vale (formerly Jon Arryn’s squire) coughed up after Ser Gregor Clegane speared him in the throat in last week’s episode.

Ned finds Barristan Selmy in a tent where the Silent Sisters (Westeros’s version of undertakers) are stitching Ser Hugh’s throat back together. Ewww! Barristan says that he stood vigil for Hugh because he had no family in the city (aww, Barristan’s nice!) Ned says that Ser Hugh’s armor is brand new, and Barristan remarks that it was his bad luck to fight the Mountain in his first joust. Ned has finally met someone even more naive than he is; Ser Barristan turns away all suggestions of foul play that Ned keeps floating in his direction.

For some reason, Ned commends the Silent Sisters on their “good work” (and I have a bizarre flashback to the first episode and Sansa’s embroidery lessons.) Then Barristan tells Ned that they once fought on opposite sides of the war that made Robert the King they all know and love today.

Ned and Barristan exchange compliments on their respective badassery, and Ned says that his late father thought Barristan was the greatest knight he’d ever seen. Barristan responds that what the Mad King did to Ned’s father was a terrible crime. For some reason, Ned isn’t bothered that Barristan did nothing to stop the Stark Roast, even though he snarked at Jaime about this very thing not long before.

Instead, Ned changes the subject, wondering how Ser Hugh, who was just a squire a few months ago, could afford an expensive suit of armor. Very fishy, but Barristan doesn’t bite at Ned’s foul play hook, and says that maybe Hugh inherited money from Jon Arryn.

Meanwhile, we learn about something much more disturbing than either fishy jousting or mad Kings. Barristan tells Ned that the King wants to joust today; when Ned says “that will never happen” Barristan remarks that the King usually does what he wants, like the big overgrown spoiled toddler he is.  Ned says that if Robert always got what he wanted, they’d still be fighting a rebellion.

***

Ned finds the King in his tent, where his poor squire, Lancel Lannister, is trying to squeeze him into a breastplate that’s at least ten sizes too small for him. Robert continues his charm offensive by telling Lancel that his mother was a “dumb whore with a fat arse.” And Robert should know from whores AND fat arses!

Ned speaks truth to power and tells Robert that he’s too fat for his armor; since we are getting a full view of Robert’s immense wine belly, this is somewhat of an understatement. Robert verbally abuses Lancel a little bit more just for kicks. After Robert sends Lancel off for a “breastplate stretcher”, Ned tells him that he has no business jousting because everyone will let him win. Personally, I feel that Ned should let Robert joust, because it’s a win-win situation: either someone does knock him off his saddle which would be awesome and hilarious or else Robert wins the 40,000 gold dragons of the winner’s purse and the crown is that much less in debt.

Robert bitches some more about how Jon Arryn “made” him marry Cersei and sniffs that he thought being King meant he could do whatever he wanted. Ned looks uncomfortable because he’s undoubtedly suppressing the urge to say “boo hoo, you big baby!” Or maybe I’m just projecting. Ned has to remind Robert to think of the children and lace up his shirt before he goes out. They’re going to have enough nightmares after today anyway.

***

At least thirty or forty people (including Ned Stark) have turned out for the joust, and oddly many of them seem to be cheering for the Mountain, Gregor Clegane. Probably because they’re worried he’ll kill them if they don’t yell loud enough. Absent from today’s events are Cersei Lannister and Arya Stark; Arya is having her dancing lessons and it’s quite possible that Cersei is doing some dancing herself, and by dancing I mean the horizontal mambo she does with her brother. Who knows?

Sansa Stark is star-struck by the Knight of the Flowers, who offers her a rose while exchanging significant glances with the King’s brother Renly, seated behind Sansa. As Gregor Clegane and Loras “Flowers” Tyrell salute the King, Gregor’s big black horse gets really restless, and Loras gets a smug little grin on his face.

Sansa and Littlefinger are both convinced that Gregor “the Mountain” Clegane is going to kill Loras as he killed Ser Hugh the day before. While Sansa is upset by this, Littlefinger sees the situation as an opportunity to become even richer.  He bets a 100 gold dragons on the Mountain. Renly accepts his bet, saying that if Littlefinger wins, maybe he can buy himself a friend.

Poor Sansa says she can’t watch, and her father tries to reassure her that Ser Loras rides well, but he doesn’t sound too convincing. Much to everyone’s surprise, Ser Gregor falls off his horse at the first pass. Sandor Clegane, standing behind Prince Joffrey, gets the tiniest hint of a grin at his brother’s humiliation.

Renly says it’s a shame that Gregor lost the joust, because it would have been nice for Littlefinger to have a friend; Littlefinger responds with a patented eyebrow waggle, asking when Renly will “have” his friend, Loras.

Littlefinger puts his hand on Sansa’s shoulder and whispers to Ned and Sansa that Loras knew his mare was in heat. Ned glares at Littlefinger who removes his fingers immediately; Sansa bristles at the accusation that Loras would win by means of a trick.

“There’s no honor in tricks,” she says.

“No honor,” Littlefinger agrees, “but quite a bit of gold.”

Meanwhile, Ser Gregor Clegane proves that he’s not only enormous and scary but also a really sore loser. He calls for his sword, and beheads his malfunctioning horse, before turning on Ser Loras. Gregor has Loras down on the ground and clearly intends to kill him, until Sandor intervenes. Aaah, Westeros, where everyone is either killing or screwing their siblings and where life as warhorse or Night’s Watch deserter is fraught with unexpected beheadings. But believe me when I say that this episode has even more horrific images in store for us!

The brothers’ duel is shaping up to be epic until Robert finally heaves himself up off and yells at the Cleganes to “stop in the name of their King.” Sandor bows, and Gregor stomps off to smash things offscreen. I bet his squire is even more miserable than Lancel Lannister.

Loras has recovered from his near-death experience and lifts Sandor’s arm high, essentially declaring him the champion of the tourney. “I owe you my life, Ser,” he says to Sandor, who growls that he’s no knight.

***

Cut to a rustic pathway (and by rustic, I mean “rockslides are imminent”). Catelyn Stark orders that the hood over Tyrion’s head be removed. The troublemaking bard from the inn where Catelyn captured Tyrion is singing a Monty Pythonesque song about the Imp; if looks could kill, that dude would be so dead from Tyrion’s glare right now. (It’s OK though, because I think he’ll be dead from a bandit’s axe in a few minutes!

Catelyn is sort of sweetly proud of her skill at deception and how she made everyone think that they’re headed for Winterfell although they are obviously not going there. Tyrion remarks that word has probably gotten to his father and that there will be a handsome reward for Tyrion because “a Lannister always pays his debts.” The scruffy guy sharpening his sword is deeply interested in Tyrion’s words.

Tyrion asks Catelyn to untie him; there’s no way for him to run away, since he’d either be killed by hill tribes or wild animals. He’s figured out that Catelyn is bringing him to her sister in the Vale of Arryn. Tyrion warns Catelyn that her sister is a bit hinky and says “you might as well kill me here.” Catelyn proudly informs Tyrion that she’s not a murderer, to which Tyrion responds “Neither am I.”

Catelyn recites the evidence against Tyrion, but even she’s starting to see that it’s a bit circumstantial and thin. Tyrion presses home his advantage, saying that he’s not “imbecile” enough to send an assassin with his own dagger. Ser Rodrick wants to gag Tyrion to which Tyrion asks, “Why? Am I starting to make sense?” Hee! I love Tyrion.

Before Tyrion can demolish people with logic any more, the hill tribes attack. There’s lots of shouting and clanging and hacking which result in the death of the annoying bard as well as several other members of Catelyn’s party and assorted mountain men. The sword-sharpener Bronn demonstrates his mad fighting skills and Catelyn pulls out her tiny dagger. She might not be a great long-range thinker, but no one can fault her courage.

In the midst of all the confusion, Tyrion convinces Catelyn to untie him, because “if I die now, what’s the point?” Good thing she listens to him, because he manages to grab a shield just in time to avoid being conked on the head by a big rock. He then demonstrates his good heart by saving Catelyn from the attentions of one of the mountain men, taking him down with a well-placed blow to the back of the knees, before battering him to death with the shield. Tyrion takes out all his frustrations on the unfortunate mountain man and continues to pound on him long after he’s dead. (This scene reminded me of Octavian in the first episode of HBO's Rome: two super-bright guys who are not normally martial killing someone for the first time.)

The fight is over as quickly and confusingly as it began. Bronn asks Tyrion, who’s still standing over the body of the man he killed, if this was his first kill because if so, “You need a woman."  Sadly for Tyrion, there are no whores available at the moment. He glances over at Catelyn and says “I’m willing if she is.” Tyrion, remember Catelyn’s little knife please!! You don’t want to end up like Varys, do you?

***

At Winterfell, Bran is having a boring lesson with Maester Luwin while Theon shoots at a target and says obnoxious things. I think we’re getting the point now; Theon Greyjoy is annoying!

Bran gets bored with his lessons, and gripes about how his mother’s house words are “family, duty, honor” but his mother chose honor over her family, because she went off and left him. Maester Luwin tells Bran that his mother had to leave him, and that she’ll love him until the day she dies (sniff!) Poor Bran isn’t convinced by all of this, but he perks a little bit when Maester Luwin tells him that if the saddle that Tyrion designed works, Bran can probably shoot arrows from horseback, like the Dothraki horsemen.

***

Speaking of Dothraki ... well, at least their methods of sexual congress ... Cut to yet another doggie style sex scene between Theon and Ros, the red-headed whore from Winterfell’s brothel. For some reason, Ros and Theon are discussing Tyrion Lannister, while Theon demonstrates his penis and social-climbing skills. I’m not really sure what the purpose of this scene was other than to showcase Ros’s breasts (which are lovely) and Theon’s obnoxiousness, which is considerable (unlike his penis.)

***

Back to King’s Landing where Arya is chasing cats (per Syrio’s directive) while Varys smarms his way around Ned’s office, closing windows and doors and being super-secretive. Varys inquires about Bran’s welfare, telling Ned that he too was mutilated long ago. “Some doors close forever, others open in most unexpected places,” Varys tells Ned. I think he’s trying to be encouraging about Bran’s future, but Ned doesn’t seem too convinced about this.

Varys says that if the wrong people were to overhear what he’s about to tell Ned, there would be some beheadings of a non-equine variety. According to Varys, Ned is the only person who can save Robert. Oh dear, if Robert’s life depends on Ned’s talent for intrigue and deception then he really is doomed! I should note, though, that Ned’s poker face is coming along nicely, because he doesn’t sneer when Varys says that he and Ned are the only honorable men in King’s Landing.

Ned requires clarification on the vague “doom” thing, and Varys tells him about the iocaine powder Tears of Lys, a tasteless, odorless and very expensive poison that the late Ser Hugh of the Vale in all probability administered to the even later Jon Arryn. Ned asks who paid Ser Hugh, to which Varys replies “someone who could afford it” and who’s the richest family in Westeros, hmmmmm?

Ned asks why, after seventeen years, someone would kill Jon Arryn. “He started asking questions,” Varys says, ominously.

***

Arya’s still chasing her cat through the cellars when she comes upon the great dragon skulls that Viserys mentioned in the last episode. She hears voices, and wisely decides to hide in the only place she can—inside the jaws of the largest dragon skull.

Varys and Illyrio Mopatis (the guy in Pentos who housed the Targaryen siblings and fed Viserys’s delusions of grandeur) discuss that Ned has found one of Robert’s bastards, and that he has the book. Varys dismisses the Lannisters as fools for trying to kill Ned’s son and botching the job and tells Illyrio that the wolf and the lion will be at each other's throats and “we will be at war soon.”

Illyrio says it’s too soon for the war, because “we’re not ready.” If one Hand died, why can’t another? (Hmmm, now I’m beginning to wonder whether Varys poisoned Jon Arryn!) Varys is all “hey, you try getting these noblemen keep to a schedule for their feuds” and Illyrio grumbles that Khal Drogo won’t make a move until his son is born. Varys tells him that there’s no stopping what’s been set in motion. Their voices fade away down the tunnel.

Arya is justifiably terrified, and tries to get out of there as soon as Varys and Illyrio have moved on.

***

In the Throne Room, Varys and Littlefinger have a hilarious conversation, in which Varys reveals that he knows the sexual proclivities of half the nobles of Westeros who frequent Littlefinger’s brothels (Some of these guys make Jaime and Cersei sound positively wholesome!)

Varys and Littlefinger threatens to betray Littlefinger’s pro-Stark sympathies to the Queen, while Littlefinger threatens to tell King Robert about Varys’s contact with Illyrio. The not-so-veiled threats are interrupted by Renly, who tells them that Robert is coming to the meeting of the Small Council that’s about to convene. It’s a miracle!

***

Arya stumbles out of the castle through the sewer system. When she tries to get back inside, the guards at the castle gate bar her away, believing her to be a lowborn boy. Arya gets out her poshest accent and snootiest great lady attitude of entitlement, and tells them she’s the Hand’s daughter and the Hand will have their heads on spikes if they lay a hand on her. (And we know Ned will do the beheading himself, because that’s the Northern way!)

***

Apparently Arya was convincing enough that she’s now in Ned’s office, getting a talking-to from her father. She interrupts by telling him about the conversation she overheard, and though her narrative is a little garbled, Ned is clearly interested.

They’re interrupted by the arrival of Yoren, the Night’s Watch member who was traveling with Tyrion and who has some news for Ned. Yoren won’t say anything until they’re alone (although at this point, privacy seems to be an illusion. For all Ned knows, Varys or Littlefinger is hiding in his desk drawers.)

Ned asks Jory to take Arya to her room. She asks Jory how many guards Ned has in King’s Landing and

“You wouldn’t let anyone kill him, would you?”

“No fear on that account, little lady,” Jory tells her.

Yoren makes Ned’s day even worse by telling him that Catelyn’s captured the Imp.

***

In the Vale, Catelyn’s group is intercepted by a group of Lysa Arryn’s retainers, led by Ser Vardis Egen, who has a delightfully Welsh-sounding accent. Ser Vardis gets a bit shirty with Catelyn, who, like Arya, is forced to pull out the lordly entitlement.

Tyrion looks up at the castle on the mountain and says “the Eyrie—they say it’s impregnable.” To which Bronn responds with one of my favorite lines of the episode: “Give me ten men and some climbing spikes and I’ll impregnate the bitch.” Hee! Bronn and Tyrion could have their own comedy show.

“I like you,” Tyrion says. I like Bronn too!

***

Ned goes in search of Robert, presumably to try to get the Stark side of the story about Tyrion in before the Lannisters hear the news.

En route, Supercilious Manservant #1 (who wanted Ned to change his clothes in Episode 3) intercepts Ned, and tells him that the King has summoned him to a meeting of the Small Council. Ned is as surprised as everyone else that the King has deigned to attend a council meeting and he asks “is this about my wife?” Supercilious Manservant is all “huh, what? Wife?” but hides his confusion well and superciliously (of course) tells Ned that it’s about Danaerys Targaryen.

***

“The whore is pregnant,” Robert growls. Again with the whores, Robert! For some reason, the King blames Ned for this development, and says that he wants all the Targaryens dead, Danaerys, her unborn child and Viserys. (Um, why not Khal Drogo too, thus destroying the guy who might want to seek vengeance? Hey, if you’re going to kill them, kill everyone!)

Ned is totally against this idea, telling Robert he’ll dishonor himself forever and Robert starts shouting about how he’s got seven kingdoms to keep in line. “Do you think it’s honor that’s keeping the peace?” he yells. “It’s fear, FEAR AND BLOOD!” (And Lannister gold too, don’t forget that!)

Ned tells Robert that they’re no better than the Mad King if they assassinate a girl based on a rumor passed along by Varys the Spider. Varys is nettled and says that it’s not a rumor, but a fact, because Jorah Mormont is his information source. Uh oh!! Ned’s contemptuously dismisses Jorah’s news as “the whispers of a TRAITOR” and Littlefinger points out that Jorah was a slaver, not a traitor. (Point to Littlefinger. You’d think the King’s Hand would be able to keep his capital crimes straight!)

Robert asks what happens if Danaerys has a son, a Targaryen at the head of a Dothraki army. (I guess no one thinks that Viserys is any danger at all, but the son of Danaerys and Khal Drogo would be a different matter.) Ned says that there’s still a sea between Westeros and the Dothraki and he won’t be scared until the day the Dothraki teach their horses to run on water. I realize Winterfell is landlocked and all, but surely Ned’s heard of this invention called “boats” which can be used to “transport” warriors AND horses?

Robert is angry that Ned wants to do nothing until his enemies are on their shores, and asks the rest of the council to counsel this “honorable fool.” Varys continues to play his double game, basically saying that with great power comes great responsibility including assassinating people; Pycelle points out that thousands of people may die in a Dothraki invasion; Renly says they should have done this years ago; and Littlefinger predictably likens the situation being in bed with an ugly woman, saying they should just get it over with it as quickly as possible. “Cut her throat, be done with it!” (I’m assuming he’s talking about Danaerys and not the hypothetical ugly woman, but who knows with Littlefinger?)

Ned is unconvinced by any of these arguments; he tells Robert that he followed him into battle all those years ago without doubts but he doesn’t know this Robert, who trembles “at the shadow of an unborn child.”

“She dies,” Robert says implacably. Ned says he’ll have no part in this, and Robert tells him that as the King’s Hand, he’ll do what Robert says or else Robert will find a new Hand. With that, Ned resigns his position, throwing the Hand’s badge onto the table in front of Robert.

“Good luck to [the new Hand],” Ned says as he leaves. “I thought you were a better man.”

Ned leaves through the Throne Room as Robert rants and raves about how he’ll have Ned’s head on a spike, and how he should go back to Winterfell and how he thinks he’s better than Robert, etc., etc., etc.

OK, so here’s the thing: As much as Ned is an honorable man and as much as I like Danaerys, I think Ned is wrong both in terms of the political situation and in terms of his own personal situation at the moment. Even if the Dothraki can’t actually conquer and hold Westeros (which they might not be able to do, given that they’re nomadic horsemen who conquer, pillage, and move on, rather than serious invaders who stick around), they sure could do a lot of damage to the populace in the interim. Plus, if our world’s history teaches us anything, the unexpected can always happen (cf. Duke William of Normandy and the arrow to King Harold’s eye at Hastings). Also, I don’t think Illyrio invested all that money in the Targaryens (dragons’ eggs are EXPENSIVE, I’d imagine) just so that a Dothraki-led restoration of them to the throne of Westeros would inevitably fail.

Given the right conditions, the Dothraki might well prevail against a disunited realm with a King who can’t count on the support of his greatest nobles because they’re fighting each other. Hence Illyrio’s comment that the “wolf and the lion” are fighting each other ahead of schedule, which upsets his plans. So, given all that, I actually don’t think Robert’s idea is that crazy, even if it is morally questionable in terms of Robert’s personal honor. On the other hand, I’m sure all the pillagees of Robert’s realm would probably not care that much so long as the Dothraki don’t show up.

Also in terms of Ned’s own personal situation, his wife has kidnapped (or, depending on your perspective, arrested) Tyrion, thus pissing off the Queen’s powerful family as soon as they hear of it which is a matter of days, if not hours. One of Catelyn’s motivators was the knowledge that her husband is Hand of the King and close friends with the King. But now Ned’s sacrificed both of those advantages and the King is pissed off enough at him that maybe he’ll be less inclined to listen to Ned’s side of the story, which puts Ned, his daughters and their fifty guards quite firmly in the lion’s den. I think this is an example of “quick tempers, slow brains” at work again. ARGH!

I really, really like Ned (though I like the television version less than I like the book version) but sometimes he is frustratingly naive! ANYWAY ...

***

Ned is packing up his things; he tells Jory that he’ll ride ahead to Winterfell with the girls (a wise move) and orders Jory to ensure the girls get their things and says this should all be kept on the down low.  These are all sensible precautions which makes what happens next all that much more inexplicable to me.

Littlefinger interrupts the packing to ask when Ned is planning to leave King’s Landing. Ned suspiciously asks why Littlefinger wants to know. Littlefinger replies that if Ned’s still interested, he can take Ned to the last person Jon Arryn spoke to before he fell ill. Ned sensibly says that he doesn’t have time, and Littlefinger implies that Ned is chicken and “it won’t take more than an hour.” For some reason that I do not fully understand, Ned agrees to go with Littlefinger. I guess he wants to feel like he accomplished something during his tenure in King’s Landing, but really? REALLY?

Ned orders Jory to round up all the Stark guards and station them outside Arya’s and Sansa’s chambers. Jory and the two other “best swords” will go with Ned and Littlefinger. What could possibly go wrong?

***

And now we cut to the Eyrie, for the most disturbing part of the episode (and that includes horse beheading and daggers through people’s eyes.) Catelyn’s sister Lysa Arryn sits on a high throne (which is an awesome design like a gnarled old tree) and berates Catelyn for bringing Tyrion to the Eyrie without permission, all the while breastfeeding her eight-year-old son (peace to all nursing moms, breast is best, etc., etc., but maybe not when your kid is eight and you are insane.)

Tyrion and Catelyn are united in their look of “oh, shit, this woman is INSANE!” (Ser Vardis and the other knights are more subdued, but that’s probably because they’ve seen this before.) Catelyn breaks into Lysa’s digression about how beautiful her milky-faced son is by reminding Lysa that she was the one who told the Starks about how dangerous the Lannisters were. Lysa says her warning was to make sure Catelyn avoided the Lannisters, and not telling her to bring one to the Eyrie.

Robin, Lysa’s son, stops suckling for a minute to ask if Tyrion’s a bad man and remarks on Tyrion’s small stature. Lysa tells her son that Tyrion murdered Jon Arryn. “Oh, did I kill him too?” Tyrion asks. “I’ve been a very bad man.” Hee! I love Tyrion.

Lysa tells Tyrion to watch his tongue, because the men surrounding him loved Jon Arryn and would die for Lysa, his widow. Tyrion says that if any harm comes to him, his brother Jaime will see that they do.

Robin is frightened by Tyrion’s threat. Lysa reassures him that no one will hurt her baby, although Tyrion’s doing that death glare look that suggests he very much wants to hurt both of them. Robin tells his mother that he wants to see “the bad man fly”; although it’s unclear exactly what this means, it’s obviously nothing good for Tyrion.

Catelyn firmly reminds Lysa that Tyrion is her prisoner and she will not see him harmed.

Instead, Lysa tells Ser Vardis to take him down into the prison cells, where he meets Mord, the jailer, who apparently thinks it’s hilarious that Tyrion is a dwarf, and like everyone else we’ve met at the Eyrie, may not be getting all the oxygen his brain needs.

The prison cell is airy, by which I mean that one side of the cell is open to the precipitous drop below. Poor Tyrion is definitely caught between a crazy woman and a hard place here!

***

Back at King’s Landing, Renly and Loras are discussing politics while barechested. Loras is shaving Renly’s chest because he likes his man smooth (even including his armpits!), while Renly expresses a desire not to be cut by Loras’s badass looking dagger. (Hey, the Romans were a lot more hardcore; Maecenas on Rome had a slave PLUCKING his leg hairs!)

Renly and Loras discuss Robert’s desire to kill Targaryens and love for Lannister money, and we learn that Loras’s family is also very wealthy and that Loras thinks Renly should be king. Loras tells Renly he’d fight for Renly if he claimed the throne, and Renly mentions his older brother Stannis who’s ahead of him in the line of succession. Apparently everyone knows Joffrey is a monster, and Loras tells Renly that people love him, and he’d be a great king. OK, we’ll just take Loras’s word for it. As Loras unties Renly’s trousers, he tells him that he’d be a wonderful King. (At least he wouldn’t spend the kingdom’s money on whores, so there’s that!)

***

Also at King’s Landing, Robert is brooding at his desk/wine-imbibing table. Cersei comes in, saying that she’s sorry Robert’s marriage to Ned Stark didn’t work out. Hee! Robert tells her that he’s happy to have done something to make her happy and wonders if she wants him to put Jaime in the Hand’s position. How would that even work, with his guard duties? But Cersei declines the honor on Jaime’s behalf, saying that he’s not serious enough. (I think she wants her papa in that position.)

Robert and Cersei have this amazing conversation that is so beautifully written and acted that I actually start to like Robert for the first time. He’s a lot less whiny and a lot more self-aware in this scene, and Cersei displays some serious political and strategic acumen (which Robert of course dismisses as her father’s words, which causes me to be annoyed by him again.) Cersei argues that Ned was right about not having to kill Danaerys, and although I disagreed with Ned’s conclusions at the council, somehow the fact that Cersei and Ned are both saying the same thing gives me pause.

Robert points out that, unlike the Dothraki, his realm is not united, and asks what’s holding it together. Cersei says that their marriage is what holds the realm together and the two of them have a good laugh about that. Robert asks Cersei whether she doesn’t get tired of all the hatred. “Every day,” she says.

For the first time ever, she asks Robert about Lyanna Stark and what made her so special. Robert admits that he can’t even remember her face, but he knows that with her death, he lost something that he has never been able to replace. And now I’m back to being angry with Robert, because you know everyone in this world had some tragic stuff happen to them, and they don’t use it as an excuse to abdicate their responsibilities.

Cersei asks Robert whether there was ever a point when they might have made their marriage work, while I try to figure out if anything she says contains an ounce of sincerity. Robert says “no!” and asks if that makes her feel better or worse. She says that it doesn’t make her feel anything.

***

Ned is in Littlefinger’s brothel, talking to a red-haired girl with a baby who is another of King Robert’s bastard children with King Robert’s black hair. (Are there no other brothels in King’s Landing? Has Littlefinger engineered some sort of brothel monopoly?) The girl who is super-sweet, but maybe not the brightest bulb in the chandelier, asks Ned to tell King Robert that the baby is beautiful, and that she’s never been with anyone else. She says she doesn’t want any jewels, just the King himself. (Well, I’m sure Cersei would be glad to hand him over to you, honey!)

Ned asks what Jon Arryn wanted when he came to see the girl, and she tells him that all Jon Arryn wanted to know was whether the baby was healthy and happy. Ned says the baby looks healthy enough and shall want for nothing. Awww, Ned takes care of everyone’s bastards.

When Ned emerges from the backroom, Littlefinger is lounging around with a couple of bare-breasted ladies. He tells Ned that brothels make a better investment than ships because “whores rarely sink.” This is a very random comment, and I wonder whether he’s trying to sell Ned stock in the Acme Brothel Co.

Ned asks Littlefinger how many bastards Robert has, and Littlefinger tells him “more than you” (ouch, low blow! But a Jon Snow shoutout, yay! I hope he’s wearing a hat, finally.) Meanwhile, Jory is eyeing up the topless blonde girl in the background.

Ned asks if Jon Arryn tracked them all down, and why. Littlefinger responds that maybe Robert had an attack of “fatherly love” before he and Ned both mentally go “Nah, that would never happen!” The Mystery of Robert’s Bastards continues to mystify Ned, while the Mystery of the Blonde Girl’s Breasts (Real or Fake? Speaking of, my hopes and prayers are that Lysa Arryn’s was a prosthetic!) continues to mystify Jory. Ned has to speak to him twice before Jory realizes that Ned is leaving. (Um, given what’s about to happen, I feel like Jory should let Ned go and stay inside the brothel himself. Poor Jory!)

***

Eddard Stark’s Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day culminates outside Littlefinger’s brothel, where a line of Lannister guardsmen with pikes have drawn up to await him.

Jaime, who sure knows how to make an entrance, gallops in on his white horse. “Such a small pack of wolves,” he remarks to no one in particular.

Jory tells Jaime to stay back, because Ned is the Hand of the King. “Was the Hand of the King,” Jaime says. “Now I’m not sure what he is. Lord of somewhere very far away.”

Littlefinger emerges from the brothel without buttoning up his coat, so you know things are serious. Jaime tells him to get back inside where it’s safe, and Littlefinger wisely follows this advice. Jaime tells Ned that he’s looking for his brother, “blond hair, sharp tongue, short man.”

Ned claims that Tyrion was arrested at his command, to answer for his crimes. Jaime draws his sword and Littlefinger makes an ineffectual attempt to calm things down before slinking off, ostensibly to summon the City Watch.

Jaime tells Ned to draw his sword because “I’d rather you die with sword in hand.” Ned reminds Jaime that if he dies, Tyrion’s a dead man too.

“You’re right,” Jaime says. “Take him alive,” he orders the Lannister guardsmen. “Kill his men.”

So much for the poor Stark soldiers who had the misfortune to be the best of their cohort. They’re piked at once, leaving Jory and Ned to deal with the Lannisters. They’re doing surprisingly well, considering how badly they’re outnumbered, until Jory faces off against Jaime, who takes care of him in about two strokes, driving his dagger through Jory’s eye, finishing off the job the Greyjoys started. (Aww, poor Jory and his bonding with Jaime last week.)

Ned watches Jory fall and now it is ON. The live Lannister guardsmen fall back, leaving Jaime and Ned a clear space in which to duel, and we finally get to see that the Kingslayer is the real deal.

I’ve read some speculation about the outcome of the duel being in question, but honestly, I think it’s clear from the way that Ned is doing the Monica Seles forehand grunt after every blow while Jaime barely breaks a sweat that someone is the superior swordsman. Someone whose name begins with “J”, that is. (Also, I have to point out that Jaime’s not actually trying to kill Ned here—given his worries for Tyrion's safety if Ned dies - whereas Ned is quite obviously trying to remove Jaime's head.)

Nevertheless, Jaime’s speed and agility versus Ned’s strength and determination make for a fascinating duel until one of the Lannister guardsmen decides that he doesn’t want to work overtime and spears Ned in the hamstring.

As Ned falls to his knee, Jaime looks exasperated. He reverses his sword, walks up to the guardsmen and punches him hard in the face. Incest and child defenestrating are one thing, but the manly bonding of a swordfight is not to be messed with! Honestly, was that guardsman raised in a barn or something?

As I await the kill shot from the Uruk Hai and Aragorn swooping in ... Oh, wait ... sorry ... I’m still having post-traumatic flashbacks to Fellowship of the Ring. Where were we? Oh, right, Ned stays on one knee as Jaime mounts his horse and rides away, telling Ned: “My brother, Lord Stark! I want him back.”

Ned manages to stay upright until the Lannister guardsmen follow Jaime out of the square, and then he collapses amongst the corpses of his friends and enemies.

 


 

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.

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17 comments
Susanna Fraser
1. Susanna Fraser
Eddard Stark’s Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day

LOVE this! And I look forward to these recaps every week.
Jill Slattery
2. JillSlattery
Haven't watched the episode yet but I look forward to reading this after I watch it tonight!
April G
3. April G
As I await the kill shot from the Uruk Hai and Aragorn swooping in ...
Oh, wait ... sorry ... I’m still having post-traumatic flashbacks to Fellowship of the Ring.

I'm so glad I wasn't the only one having those flashbacks! I look forward to your recaps, they make every episode better!
April G
4. alexandral
I adore your re-caps. So funny and so full of important information. Thank you so much for doing these.
Megan Frampton
5. MFrampton
I had many favorite moments in this epi (and not-so-favorite--that poor horse!), but I have to say I was taken aback when Robert announced that he thought he'd get to do what he wanted if he were king.
Um, dude, isn't whoring and drinking what you want to do? Because if you're being held back, I'd hate to see what you'd do if you were really unleashed.
Regina Thorne
6. reginathorn
@Susanna Fraser - Thank you so much. I'm so glad you like them - I seem to be getting wordier and wordier each week!

@Jill Slattery - what did you think of the episode? This was the first time I was just breathless from excitement, even having read the books and knowing what was going to go down.

@April G - alas for Boromir! That scene still makes me cry! And thanks for your kind words about the recaps.

@alexandral Thank you so much, my dear! I'm so glad you enjoy them.

@MFrampton For me, this was the first episode where everything clicked perfectly. I've enjoyed them all, but there were some slow parts to the other episodes, and I thought that perhaps it was just because of my familiarity with the books. In this episode, though I knew what was going to happen, the suspense was immense.

I think the "get to do what I want" is some kind of foreshadowing of what he says to Cersei, that someone took Lyanna away and he's never been able to fill the hole she left behind. On the one hand, it's deeply romantic, I guess, but on the other hand, Ned's sister, brother and father died in the war and he managed to make a life for himself and take on responsibility so I just shake my head at Robert's nonsense.
Megan Frampton
7. MFrampton
Another of our bloggers, VictoriaJanssen, just tweeted this Tumblr site:
MyMomWatchesGameofThrones. NSFW, but very funny.
April G
8. MarchFan
Great recap! But I have to disagree on the idea that Ned is wrong in not wanting Robert to assassinate Daenerys and child. What Robert wants to do is the first step on the road that the previous bad king took -- killing people just because he's the king. If Ned doesn't say no to this, no one says no to this, and now Robert is a king who can kill without needing much if any justification at all.

In addition, taking this action is destructive to the peace and stability of his kingdom. The real power behind the Dothraki isn't the Targaryens, but Khal Drogo, and he seems terrifically uninterested in actually putting Viserys on the throne -- he's in fact riding in the opposite direction. It seems to me that killing his wife and unborn child is the quickest possible way to get him deeply motivated to cross that sea and burn Robert and his kingdom down to the ground. It's true that someday, Daenerys' child, if it's a boy, if it lives, if he can amass support, could be a threat; but killing Daenerys and child provokes Khal Drogo into a very immediate threat, with no ifs at all. If Robert was really about protecting the kingdom and truly believed the Dothraki, despite making no moves to do so, are on the verge of invasion, the one to go after in this scenario is Khal Drogo himself -- but Robert's more driven by fear and hate than sense. He's been looking for an excuse to kill the last Targaryens -- this is the justification he wants, and all his counselors except for Ned just encourage him to go right off that cliff for their own reasons. Varys is supporting this because he wants to give the Dothraki reason to invade! So I don't think this is a good move for the safety of the kingdom, in fact the opposite.

I do agree, though, that Ned throwing away his power and just stomping out of the room when his own family is in trouble and vulnerable is just suuuuuch a bad idea. Oh, Ned. He wants to leave all this behind, but after what Catelyn's done, how can he?
Kiersten Hallie Krum
9. Kiersten
As I await the kill shot from the Uruk Hai and Aragorn swooping in ...
Oh, wait ... sorry ... I’m still having post-traumatic flashbacks to Fellowship of the Ring.

Had a good chuckle at this and the iocaine powder crack. Always refreshing to learn that mine isn't the only mind that goes to these places.

Great recaps. GREAT episdode. FINALLY this show has some foreward momentum. Not that the slow meander hasn't give us some amazing scenes. The Cersei and Robert tete-a-tete was merely the latest in a long line of compelling conversations. And how funny was that dance between Varys and Littlefinger? Thrust and riposte indeed.

Anyone else think that "I wanna see the bad man fly" is when they toss people out of those open-door cells?

Really, how much longer is it gonna take for people (Hello NED!) to figure out that Robert's blonde "children" are really Jamie's?

Arya continues to be a frustrating delight and Sansa merely a frustration.

And that swordfight. All these little moments inside the brawling and killling. Jamie's expression when Ned gets spiked is priceless. And Ned - soon as he started swinging, I thought "get him, Boromir!"

Every single time an episode ends, I can't wait for the next one to begin. It's just so good in so many amazing ways. Love this show!
Regina Thorne
10. reginathorn
@MarchFan I don't know, Ned seems to value honor about realpolitik pretty consistently and I don't think Robert's solely motivated by hatred of the Targaryens. We see from his conversation with Cersei that he understands precisely what Illyrio and Varys are discussing - his realm is divided, fractious and riven by feuds between the great houses, and that this state of affairs will increase the chances that the Dothraki could mount a successful invasion of Westeros.

I would also posit that Illyrio Mopatis is not housing and feeding the Targaryens for nothing - he's playing a long game, counting on Varys to make sure that the ground is prepared in Westeros - and he clearly believes that under the right circumstances (i.e. the Wolf and the Lion at each other's throats) the Dothraki could invade and put a Targaryen back on the throne. I don't get the impression that he's a dreamy idealist and he and Varys seem to be orchestrating the breakdown of civil order in Westeros in order to facilitate Khal Drogo's successful invasion. So if he's calculated that the odds are good an invasion could be successful, I'm going with his take on things rather than with Ned's. Ned's a formidable tactician (from the books, he was one of Robert's generals who helped win the war) but so far he hasn't shown me any kind of gift for strategy, because he can't keep a secret no matter what.

Where I think Robert is wrong is in limiting the killing to just Danaerys and Viserys - he should take out Khal Drogo too!

Basically if Ned says someone shouldn't do something because it isn't honorable, that immediately makes me think that that's the smart thing to do. Because Ned is so honorable and so STUPID sometimes. (As in, claiming that Tyrion was captured under his orders instead of being all "hey, yeah, my wife may have jumped the gun there but let's see if we can sort things out without bloodshed." Or following Littlefinger in the first place.)

Also, I may have been reading too many books about the Borgias lately.
April G
11. MarchFan
But in this case, I don't think Robert's "realpolitik" is the smart thing to do. He's not stopping an invasion by doing this, but playing into the hands of Illyrio and Varys -- they want to encourage this invasion, and he's providing cause to the Dothraki by threatening to kill Drogo's wife and heir. Illyrio and Varys can provoke and stir things up, but they can't actually force Drogo to make a move and invade, even if they think it would succeed. Robert is creating the actual reason for the Dothraki to invade his kingdom, by provoking Khal Drogo.

Also, I don't think Ned's taking a stand on opposing murder is stupid. I don't believe he's doing it out of lip service to an unrealistic ideal of honor, but because the king ordering the assassination of a pregnant young girl who has done no harm to anyone is a horrific act. If Ned doesn't say no, who will? What horrific act will be justified next? That appears to be an actual danger here as well -- Ned's father and brother were murdered by a previous king to whom no one said no. He's got real experience in what that means. I definitely agree that Ned is not going about it in a smart way, however, i.e. a way that's actually going to get the result he wants.
April G
12. mochabean
"You've fallen victim to one of the two classic blunders: the first is never start a land war in Westeros, but the other, less-well known, is never go up against a Lannister when death is on the line!"
April G
13. ellemck1
12. mochabean Tuesday May 17, 2011 03:33pm EDT "You've fallen victim to one of the two classic blunders: the first is never start a land war in Westeros, but the other, less-well known, is never go up against a Lannister when death is on the line!"

Hahaha, nice!

I also had visions of Boromir in that last scene. And got really worried. I hate it when Sean Bean dies early in a movie/series!

This was definitely the best episode so far. I was not expecting the horse bit at all! It actually made me scream. And the whole Lysa is crazy thing. Just the most akward scene so far there...

I hope Tyrion gets out okay. And Ned wakes up and sees all that is truly going on around him.

I think Khal Drogo can tell that Viserys has some of that Mad King gene in him, and doesn't feel like backing a crazy. At least that's my feeling... could be wrong!

Love these recaps! There's a lot I wouldn't know/would miss without them.
April G
14. cyberducks
I love your recaps, they are witty and full of recappy goodness!

Go Jaime, my darling badass!
Regina Thorne
15. reginathorn
@MarchFan

Illyrio and Varys can provoke and stir things up, but they can't actually force Drogo to make a move and invade, even if they think it would succeed.

But you're just assuming that Drogo has no intention of invading. We have no idea whether he intends to keep his promise or not, since he hasn't said anything. All Illyrio said is that it's "too early" because Khal Drogo won't do anything until after the birth of his child. But it's just as likely that the birth of a son would spur Drogo to conquer new lands (though I don't think he has any intention of crowning Viserys King) - the Dothraki probably don't want to come settle down and "colonize" Westeros, but there's really nothing to stop them from invading, and even if they were defeated, a whole lot of Robert's subjects would likely die and/or be enslaved in the process.

I don't believe he's doing it out of lip service to an unrealistic ideal of honor, but because the king ordering the assassination of a pregnant young girl who has done no harm to anyone is a horrific act.

I don't know whether you've read the books or not, but in the books, during the last war, King's Landing was sacked by Robert's allies the Lannisters, and several young royal children were murdered. So in the books, that informs Ned's opposition to killing Danaerys too.

But I DO think Ned's version of honor here is unrealistic and incompatible with ruling a kingdom. Danaerys hasn't harmed anyone yet, but she certainly carries the potential for great harm to Robert, Ned and their families (of course in the eyes of Danaerys and Viserys, Ned Stark is just as much guilty of usurpation and treason as Robert is!) Not to mention, again, that any invasion by the Dothraki is likely to hurt the smallfolk (whom Ned seems to care about to a greater extent than most other noblemen we've seen) much more.

Moreover, even if everything Ned said was true, he went about it in the worst possible way - he didn't press the argument that the Dothraki were no threat, that killing Danaerys might precipitate the invasion, etc., etc. No, he went all out with the "this isn't honorable/ we might just as well be the Mad King/ I'm so much better and more morally upright than you are" to Robert in front of numerous witnesses. Contrast this to his handling of Robert's desire to joust, which he did in private, relying on his knowledge of Robert's pride and saying just the right words to make Robert realize that it wouldn't be "fair" if he jousted.

Here, Ned can't be arsed to be even the tiniest bit diplomatic - he could have laid out the arguments against killing Danaerys clearly and calmly and then gone to Robert in private and discussed this with him, instead of burning his bridges so decisively.

I like Ned, but I do think he's sometimes incredibly and annoyingly self-righteous - more so in the tv series than in the books, where since we're privy to his inner monologue, we can see how riven with self-doubt he really is.
April G
16. Tedberens
1. Jaime is quite a bit younger than Ned. So, it's not surprising that Ned has an uphill battle. But Ned has true grit.

2. Why on earth do none of the advisers point out that, whereas Khal Drogo might never attack, he or his hordes will have a good reason to do so if the Khal's wife, unborn child, and possibly the Khal himself are killed? And does Robert really think he will still be alive by the time Khal's unborn child becomes old enough to lead an army?
April G
17. sofrina
illyrio and varys aren't trying to restore viserys to the throne. they're using him and his sister to unseat robert. and they're pitting the starks and lannisters against eachother to destabilize robert's realm so he doesn't stand a chance. the dothraki don't want to live in westeros. they won't stay long. they idea is for them to sweep in and create a power vacuum. illyrio and varys haven't nearly revealed what the ultimate goal is. why on earth would they want an ass like viserys in power? he's selfish, cruel, and has never been in charge of anyone but his sister. and look how that's gone. who's to say he won't go nuts like his father?
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