Mon
May 30 2011 8:16pm

Game of Thrones Episode Seven: Wizardry and Stag-Gutting

Game of Thrones Daenerys

Previously on Game of Thrones, Episode Six, aka “The Golden Crown,” Ned Stark’s dim lightbulb went on and he realized that Prince Joffrey and his brother and sister are not Robert Baratheon’s kids. He also summoned Big Daddy Lannister to King’s Landing for a little chat about what his bannermen have been up to. Also, Viserys Targaryen learned that sometimes you should be careful what you wish for ...

Episode five, otherwise known as “The Wolf and the Lion,” was the week prior, and before that was “Cripples, Bastards and Broken Things” (episode four), along with previous epis “Lord Snow,” preceded by “The Kingsroad,” and it all started out with “Winter is Coming.”

Game of Thrones Tywin Lannister

(You caught that bit about the spoilers, right? Okay. Don’t say we didn’t warn you).

This episode opens with trumpet calls, whinnying horses, and a sea of red tents and lion banners. Tywin “Big Daddy” Lannister is traveling to King’s Landing with an entourage of 60,000.

Cut to the inside of Tywin’s lavish tent; his traveling gear better appointed than all of Winterfell.  Jaime (now in black armor to emphasize his departure from the Kingsguard) is reading the message from Ned Stark. Jaime comes to the end of the message and says “poor Ned Stark, brave man but terrible judgement.” His father silently sharpens his knife on a whetstone, letting Jaime talk himself deeper in to trouble.

Finally, knives (metaphorical and actual) sharpened, Tywin begins to gut a stag, telling Jaime that his attack on Ned was stupid. “Lannisters don’t act like fools,” Tywin says as he pulls the stag’s guts out and drops them into a slop pail in a piece of foreshadowing that is both obvious and kind of awesome. (Geddit, the lion—Lannister—eviscerates the stag, the symbol of Robert’s House?)

“Are you going to say something clever?” Tywin asks Jaime. “Go on, say something clever.”

And in those two short sentences, Tywin reduces the fearsome Kingslayer into a guilty boy and shows us why all his children are the way they are.

Jaime justifies his attack on Ned by saying that Catelyn Stark took his brother. Tywin sighs and asks why “he” is still alive, and then elucidates that he means Ned Stark. Given that Jaime did something foolish in the first place, Tywin wants to know why he didn’t follow through on his plans.

A Lannister guardsman interfered, Jaime tells Tywin. It wouldn’t have been “clean” to kill a wounded Ned.

This logic is utterly alien to Tywin, who tells Jaime that he’s too worried about what other people think of him. When Jaime protests that he doesn’t care what people think of him, Tywin asks whether it bothers Jaime that people whisper “Kingslayer” behind his back.

“Of course it bothers me,” Jaime says.

And then Tywin schools him that a lion doesn’t care about the opinions of sheep. (Aaah, so that’s where Cersei gets the “everyone who isn’t us is an enemy” shtick from.) Tywin says he’s grateful Jaime’s vanity got in the way of his recklessness and orders Jaime to take half the Lannister army and bring it to Catelyn’s girlhood home to teach the Tullys that Lannisters always pay their debts.

Jaime stiffly says that he didn’t realize that Tywin valued Tyrion’s life that highly (or at all, really, which is why Jaime attacked Ned in the first place, being the only Lannister who actually cared about Tyrion.)

“He’s a Lannister,” Tywin says. “Every day that he remains a prisoner, the less our name commands respect.”

Jaime tries some backchat about how the lion does care about the opinions of the sheep and Tywin cuts him off, waving his skinning knife around as he says that if another House can seize a Lannister with impunity, then the Lannisters are no longer a House to be feared. Dude, don’t worry, I totally fear you!

Tywin continues to dismember the stag as he tells Jaime that everyone will die, including Jaime, and the only thing that will live on is their family name. He wipes his hands on a dirty rag (increasing the chances that everyone will die of nasty bacteria sooner rather than later) and tells Jaime that he’s blessed with abilities, power and youth, but he’s wasted all of these blessings by being a glorified bodyguard to a madman and a drunk.

Now that Jaime’s as thoroughly eviscerated as the stag,Tywin tells him that they could establish a dynasty that would last a thousand years (what is it with blond guys and thousand-year Reichs dynasties? Run for the hills, everyone!) or they could fade into nothingness like the Targaryens. He cups Jaime’s cheek in his hand (ewwww! Someone needs HandiWipes stat!) and tells him “I need you to become the man you were always meant to be.”

Then he returns to gutting the stag as Jaime exits the tent, presumably to go and wash the stag parts off his face, as we realize that the only thing worse than Tywin’s disapproval is Tywin’s approval.

***

Game of Thrones Cersei Lannister

Back in King’s Landing, the other member of the thousand-year Lannister dynasty, Cersei, is meeting Ned Stark in the deserted palace gardens.

The Queen opens by telling Ned that he’s in pain. (That’s actually just his normal expression!) Perhaps instinctively unwilling to let Cersei see his weakness, Ned tells her that he’s had worse.

Cersei tells Ned to go home, because the South doesn’t agree with him. (Certainly these quaint Southern customs like bathing and washing his hair don’t seem to agree with him. He looks like he hasn’t changed his clothes since he first arrived in King’s Landing.)

Ned’s tired of smalltalk and just comes out with it, telling Cersei that he knows the truth that Jon Arryn died for. Cersei bluffs for just a moment, asking Ned why he’s posing her riddles, long enough that Ned is distracted by the obvious bruise on her cheek from where Robert hit her. He’s sympathetic, asking Cersei whether Robert’s done this before.

“Jaime would have killed him,” Cersei says. “My brother is worth a thousand of your friend.”

She might not be that far off, to be honest, but being worth a thousand of, well, zero, is not worth anything either.

Ned asks “your brother, or your lover?”

Cersei seems almost relieved to be able to just say it out loud. She says the Targaryens married siblings for centuries and she and Jaime transcend even being siblings, because they are twins, who shared a womb and came into the world together.

Ned continues to do simple arithmetic, adding two and two together and realizing that Bran saw Jaime and Cersei together.

Cersei asks Ned if he loves his children to which Ned replies “with all my heart!” Awww!

“No more than I love mine,” Cersei tells him.

Ned’s on a streak here, and posits that Cersei’s children are all Jaime’s. Very good, Ned! Next week, we’ll move on to fractions! Cersei tells him that she hasn’t actually had intercourse with Robert in years (TMI for Ned!) and that she worshipped Robert and thought she was the luckiest girl alive when she married him. And then, on their wedding night, he stumbled drunk into her bed and whispered “Lyanna” in her ear.

It’s hard to tell who looks more upset by this revelation, Ned or Cersei. Clearly Ned has some sympathy with Cersei here, and this combined with his reluctance to cause the deaths of her innocent children makes him make Cersei a generous and extremely foolish offer. He tells her that when the King returns from the hunt, he will tell Robert the truth about Cersei and her children. He warns her to go as far away possible and hope that Robert’s wrath cannot reach her.

“And what of my wrath, Lord Stark?” Cersei asks him proudly.

You know, she’s really not a nice woman at all, but damn, she’s got nerves of steel. She never flinches during this conversation with Ned, and that fact alone should give Ned pause. Of course, it doesn’t.

Cersei goes on to tell Ned that Jaime told her how Ned found him on the Iron Throne after he killed Aerys. All Ned had to do was reach out and take the throne.

Ned says that he’s made mistakes in his life, but that wasn’t one of them. (OK, dude, but you’re seriously making a HUGE mistake right now. At least make sure Cersei and her kids really truly get on that ship, perhaps with a selection of your guards on hand. Speaking of hands, since you ARE the King’s Hand, you probably could arrest Cersei for treason right here and now and put her on the damn ship yourself. But of course, you don’t.)

“In the game of thrones,” Cersei says, “you win or you die. There is no middle ground.”

Hobble for your life, Ned, hobble for your life! Alas, Ned cannot hear me and does not run away screaming.

***

Speaking of screaming ... it’s bath-time for the kids at Baelish’s whorehouse. Before I can ponder the ever more disturbing implications of this scene, we cut to the inside, where our old friends Ros and her perfect breasts are auditioning on Petyr Baelish’s casting couch. As Ros mimics an orgasm with another girl, Baelish curtly stops them and tells them to start over again, with Ros acting the part of the man.

Baelish tells the ladies that men pay them but they want to forget that and pretend that they’re actually engaged in an act of love. “Your job is to make them forget what they know and that takes time.” HMMMM, DO YOU THINK HE’S TALKING ABOUT NED?

Then the girls simulate sex while Littlefinger reveals his creepy obsession with Catelyn Stark and how much he hates her husband. Honestly, even more than the quasi-porn I was bothered by how out of character this was for Petyr Baelish. I mean, sure he doesn’t actually name names or anything, but seriously, would he reveal the innermost wounds of his psyche to a virtually perfect stranger? Has he forgotten what he knows which is that he trusts no one?

“What we don’t know is usually what gets us killed.” HMMM, DO YOU THINK HE’S TALKING ABOUT NED?

More moaning and out of character exposition follow, the gist of which is that Littlefinger likes to screw people over. I’m not sure we needed so many breasts to figure this out.

***

In Winterfell, Theon carries over his feeble attempts to impress Ros by feebly attempting to impress the wildling captive, Osha, with his status and his name. Osha is unimpressed and she hasn’t even seen his little Greyjoy yet. Theon tries to make a deal with Osha that if he gets her out of her chains, she’ll be his girlfriend. I have the feeling that Osha’s probably eaten boys like Theon for breakfast in her day. I mean that quite literally.

Maester Luwin arrives to rescue Osha from Theon’s unwanted attentions. Luwin reminds Theon that the lady is a guest at Winterfell. When Theon says she’s a prisoner, Maester Luwin reminds him that guest and prisoner are not mutually exclusive. Score one for Maester Luwin, reminding Theon of his position at Winterfell!

Luwin asks Osha why she came South and she mentions things that hunt in the Long Night. When he dismisses what she’s worried about as owls, shadowcats or legends, gone for thousands of years, she tells him that they weren’t gone, they were just sleeping. Extrapolating from my experiences with a toddler, I bet the only thing worse than scary nightwalking hunting things are scary nightwalking hunting things that woke up from long naps. They’re probably very hungry!

***

At the Wall, Sam and Jon are standing guard (and still not wearing anything on their heads!!!) Sam talks about missing girls (not talking to them, he clarifies because he’s never actually talked to them, but just hearing them around, awww!) As they look down, a horse comes racing for the Wall; Sam tries to remember how many blasts on the horn (One if by land, two if by sea, etc.) for which eventuality until Jon notices that the horse doesn’t have a rider.

Sam and Jon motor down in the Wall elevator as the Lord Commander arrives in the courtyard as well. The horse is plainly terrified, and Jon recognizes it as his uncle Benjen’s horse.

“Where’s my uncle?” Jon asks the Lord Commander, who cannot reply.

“Where are their earmuffs?” I ask, but no one answers me either.

***

In King’s Landing, Ned is randomly pacing the gallery of the Throne Room (rather than, say, arresting Cersei for her self-confessed treason) when a dishevelled and bloodstained Renly runs up and gasps out “it’s Robert ... we were hunting ... a boar.”

***

Cut to Robert’s chambers where a clearly upset and softened Joffrey is at the bedside of the man he believes to be his father stroking Robert’s hand. “Should have spent more time with you,” Robert tells his “son.” “Teach you how to be a man.” (I think Joffrey can probably learn how to drink lots of wine by himself and as for the other manly things Robert does, I hear Littlefinger has a brothel or something.) Robert says that he was never meant to be a father, as Cersei and Maester Pycelle hover in the background. Cheer up, Robert, you’re NOT this boy’s father so it’s OK.

Renly and Ned arrive (and a quick pan up reveals both Cersei’s nervous face and that Barristan is standing at the foot of Robert’s bed, his breastplate covered in blood.)

“Go on,” Robert tells Joffrey. “You don’t want to see this!”

Cersei manages to look both queenly and nervous about what Ned is going to do.

“My fault,” Robert tells Ned. “Too much wine, missed my thrust.”

Ned pulls back Robert’s covers to reveal a really nasty wound in the gut. (Remember that eviscerated stag from the beginning of the episode? Yeah!) Robert is clear on the fact that he’s dying, but he wants them to cook the boar that killed him and serve it at his funeral feast. The important business out of the way, Robert dismisses everyone but Ned. Cersei tries to say something to Robert, but he dismisses her as well, and she leaves with a super-nervous glance at Ned, wondering whether he will tell Robert the truth about her.

Robert orders Ned to take pen and paper and write down what he says, which is that Ned will serve as Lord Regent and Protector of the Realm until Joffrey comes of age. Ned is suddenly deceitful and substitutes “my rightful heir” for Joffrey’s name. (He has pretty nice penmanship, considering this is all done in a huge rush!) Robert signs the paper and hands it back to Ned, saying that at least everyone can say he did one thing right in giving the kingdom over to Ned’s rule.

Robert tells Ned that he was right about Danaerys, that there was no one to tell him “no!” but Ned. “Let her live!” he commands Ned, and then begs Ned to help Joffrey and make him a better man than Robert.

Ned’s unusually weaselly here, saying that he’ll do everything he can to honor Robert’s memory. I guess he doesn’t want to spring this last surprise on Robert on his deathbed, because who wants to learn that his wife’s been cuckolding him with her twin brother and by the way, his legitimate children are actually all bastards anyway on top of being gutted by a boar? Worst day ever, to be sure. On the other hand, this is just another example of Ned’s unerring ability to do be deceitful only at the most inopportune time. Robert tells Ned to get him something for the pain and let him die.

Ned emerges from Robert’s room into the hallway where Varys, Barristan, Renly and Pycelle are waiting. Cersei and Joffrey are conspicuous by their absence, but Ned doesn’t seem to note this when he orders Pycelle to provide “milk of the poppy” to his dying friend. Knowing Ned, he probably thinks Cersei is off packing her things so she can follow his advice to flee with her children.

Barristan tells Ned that Robert was reeling from the wine he’d drunk and that he commanded everyone to step aside. “No man could have protected him from himself,” Ned says.

Varys asks who gave the King the wine, and Barristan says it was Lancel Lannister. “I do hope the poor lad doesn’t blame himself,” Varys says, cleverly planting the idea in Ned’s head that Lancel should blame himself. Ned is momentarily caught but then swiftly shifts gears to the something that is far less critical to his own survival than the involvement of Lannisters in ensuring Robert’s extra-dangerous boarhunt. He orders Varys to call off the assassination attempt on Danaerys, but strangely enough, he doesn’t order anyone to go arrest the Queen for treason. The treason which she confessed to him and for which he, as Hand of the King, has the power to arrest her. OH, NED, WHAT ARE YOU DOING?

***

In the Dothraki encampment, Danaerys is combing Drogo’s lustrous tresses and trying to get him to commit to a Dothraki invasion of Westeros. Drogo says that horses cannot cross the ocean and anyway the earth ends at the ocean and is all “hey, can’t you just crave ice cream instead of iron thrones?”

Later, Jorah and Dany are walking around in the market in Vaes Dothrak. When Dany expresses her impatience that Drogo doesn’t want to go conquer Westeros for her immediately, Jorah tells her to be patient. Dany says that even though her brother was a fool, he was the rightful heir to the throne of Westeros, and Jorah starts laughing, reminding Dany that, essentially, might is what makes rights to thrones. Dany’s ancestor Aegon had no right to the seven kingdoms; he seized them because he could.

“Because he had dragons,” Dany says.

Jorah responds that having a few dragons makes things easier. Hmmm, well, that’s true of some things no doubt, but I’m sure you spend a lot of money on dragon chow and the vet bills must be something else again.

Dany accuses Jorah of not believing in dragons, and he says that he only believes what his eyes and ears report. He excuses himself to go find his letters, the treacherous spy that he is. A little boy watches him and accosts him; apparently this boy is one of Varys’s “little birds” because he hands over a royal pardon to Jorah, telling him that he can go home. Jorah is left wondering what exactly the timing of his pardon means.

We cut over to a wineseller who’s shouting out about his wares. Dany, carrying something that looks like a toy lobster, approaches him and talks to him in Westerosi (or, English, for the purposes of the show.) The wineseller acts surprised that Danaerys is from Westeros and once Doreah tells him who Danaerys is, he goes off to find a special wine for the khaleesi. Jorah watches this byplay with an increasingly troubled expression.

The wineseller fetches another cask that he hands over to Rakaharo. Jorah steps up, telling Rakharo to bring back the cask, because he, Jorah, is thirsty. Jorah tells the wineseller to pour him a cup of the wine; he tries to weasel out of it, until Danaerys orders him to open the cask. The wineseller attempts to get Jorah to drink, and then refuses when Jorah tells him to drink instead.

“You WILL drink,” Danaerys tells him. The wineseller takes the cup, throws it down and runs off, only to be brought down by Rakharo’s handy whip-work. Jorah escorts Danaerys away from the market as other Dothraki warriors take the wineseller into custody.

OK, I have this feeling that Varys didn’t want the assassination attempt to succeed, because this wineseller doesn’t seem like the most skillful killer out there. I’m wondering what his exit strategy was, or why he wasn’t at all prepared for the whole “drink it yourself” conversation better than he was. Although given the guy who tried to kill Bran, maybe Westeros just lacks skilled assassins in general. (I’m kind of shocked at how much thought I’ve given this, but personally, I would have introduced something into Dany’s wine that made her have a miscarriage and then let nature take it’s course in terms of infections, etc. It totally worked on Rome, OK?)

In any case, I wouldn’t like to be that wineseller right now. In the immortal words of Omar from The Wire: “Ayo, lesson here—you come at the [queen], you best not miss.”

***

Lord Commander Mormont is telling the new Night’s Watch guys that they’re all about to become brothers of the Night’s Watch and their past no longer matters, because they’re going to spend the rest of their lives without the love of a woman or earmuffs, hats, or scarves for their heads, their sole loyalty to the realm, not to their families or a king. Also, the penalty for desertion is death, just in case they forgot. Lord Mormont asks if anyone wants to take their vows in front of the old gods, and Jon stands up. Sam stands up with him, because Jon is his friend. Awwwww!

Then Mormont reads out the different divisions to which the new recruits will be assigned: Rangers, Stewards, Builders. Jon is shocked to learn that he’s been assigned to the Stewards, and when he looks up, Ser Alliser is grinning at him. Although he’s just told Sam that being a Steward is an honorable thing, Jon is totally furious about what he considers to be a demotion from his cherished ideal.

Maester Aemon tells the new Stewards-to-be what their jobs are going to be. Sam is assigned to Maester Aemon, Pyp to the kitchens and another guy to a different outpost at Eastwatch where he’s warned not to make any comments about Borkis’s nose. Hee! Jon is assigned to be Lord Mormont’s personal steward, and when he sniffs that they take him for a servant, Aemon says that they take him for a man of the Night’s Watch, but perhaps they’re wrong. Aemon 1- Jon 0.

Jon storms off, followed by Sam and Pyp. Sam asks Jon if he doesn’t see what Lord Mormont is doing, and Jon says that he sees Ser Alliser’s revenge because he’s a better rider and swordsman than any of the recruits assigned to the Rangers. “It’s not fair,” Jon says.

“Fair?” Pyp sneers and tells Jon that he’s at the Wall because he refused a proposition by a Lord, who promptly told him that he’d either have his hand cut off for theft or go to the Wall. Pyp 1 - Jon 0.

Sam completes the schooling of Jon by telling him what he’s too dense to figure out: that Mormont is grooming Jon for command, and that by being Mormont’s squire, Jon will be in the epicenter of power in the Night’s Watch. Sam finally gets through to Jon.

“I always wanted to be a Ranger,” Jon says wistfully.

“I always wanted to be a wizard,” Sam replies.

Hee! I love him.

***

In King’s Landing, Ned is still hobbling around the corridors, completely incurious about what Cersei is up to when he’s accosted by Renly, who asks whether Robert made Ned Lord Protector. When Ned affirms that he is indeed Lord Protector as soon as Robert dies, Renly says: “She won’t care,” and offers Ned a hundred swords at his command.

“What shall I do with a hundred swords?” Ned asks, a question that is dumb even for him.

Renly explains his plan to strike now, at night, and get Joffrey away from his mother. “He who holds the King, holds the Kingdom,” he tells Ned, and goes on to remind Ned that every moment he delays gives Cersei more time to prepare, that they should act before Robert dies. Ned ignores Renly’s excellent advice and asks “what about Stannis?”

Renly tells Ned that no one likes Stannis, that they need someone who inspires love and loyalty to rule. Renly posits himself as a better King than Stannis. Ned responds that Stannis is a commander, a good soldier, and Renly asks whether Ned still believes that good commanders make good Kings. Ned can’t answer the question, so he says that he won’t dishonor Robert’s final hours by shedding blood in his halls and dragging frightened children from their beds.

Here’s a tip, Ned! You could, say, LIE to Renly and tell him that you support his claim until you’re in a less precarious position. Or at least look into following some of his advice (namely that of making sure you hold the King, so you can hold the Kingdom) if not all of it.d But alas, Ned’s sense of self-preservation is still mysteriously absent. Perhaps he left it at Winterfell.

***

In Ned’s study, where Ned has just finished a letter to Stannis (again, his penmanship is exquisite! A+ for that, anyway, even though he’s flunking Social Studies, Basic Psychology and Stealthy Manouevers.)

Ned hands the letter over to one of his trusted, yet anonymous men, giving him strict orders to deliver it only into Stannis’s hands, not to anyone else. This man will shortly be giving thanks that he didn’t get to accompany Ned into the Throne Room along with his fellow Stark guards, no doubt.

Littlefinger pops around the door just as Ned hands off the letter to his guardsman.

“The King has no trueborn sons,” Ned tells Littlefinger, who doesn’t seem particularly surprised.

Ned says that when the King dies, Stannis will succeed him. Littlefinger says that Stannis needs Ned to claim the throne and that Ned would be wise to deny Stannis the throne and make sure Joffrey succeeds. Ned asks him whether he has a shred of honor. (Pretty sure the answer to that is “no,” Ned, but what Littlefinger does have, and which you so singularly lack is an acute sense of self-preservation.)

Littlefinger ignores Ned’s silly question and tells him that all of the power is his, that he need only reach out and take it. He proposes that Ned let Joffrey succeed to the throne, that he make his peace with the Lannisters, and let Sansa marry Joffrey. Ned gets a hilarious lip-curl of disgust there, but that’s by the by. Littlefinger says that they’ve got plenty of time to get rid of Stannis that way, and if Joffrey causes problems when he becomes King, they need only reveal his parentage then and make Renly King. So that’s two votes for King Renly and one vote for King Stannis. Based on Ned’s judgment of other people, even though we haven’t met Stannis yet, I’m going to go out on a limb and say that he’s probably not a great King. Littlefinger goes on to say that he’ll share Ned’s burden of rule for a modest price. Ned tells him that he’s suggesting treason. “Only if we lose,” Littlefinger sensibly tells him.

Ned again ignores both the sensible parts of Littlefinger’s admonishments and the fact that he could just PRETEND to agree with Littlefinger (whom, bizarrely, he trusts more than he trusts Renly.) Instead, he gets right back on his high horse of honor and moral uprightness. Ned takes the knife that was used to try to kill Bran and says that he can’t make peace with the Lannisters after they tried to murder his boy. Littlefinger points out that we can only make peace with our enemies.

The new Lord Protector says “no” because apparently the iron laws of succession trump everything, including his own precarious position (which he acknowledges in a few minutes) and the peace of the realm. He evidently hasn’t heard a word Littlefinger’s said.

“So it will be Stannis, then, and war,” Littlefinger says, and asks why Ned summoned him since it clearly wasn’t for his advice.

“You promised Catelyn you’d help me,” Ned replies to Littlefinger.

OK, so you just basically said the guy doesn’t have an honorable bone in his body and yet you’re holding him to a promise that he made because...? I’ve decided that Ned’s sense of self-preservation is clearly not at Winterfell but has actually travelled beyond the Wall into the frozen Northern wastes and is wandering directionless amidst the trees up there.

Ned goes on to tell Littlefinger that Cersei has twelve knights and a hundred men at arms, more than enough to overwhelm the small remnants of Ned’s personal guard. (Given this, I’m even more at a loss to explain why he didn’t accept Renly’s men-at-arms for Joffrey deal. Ned, you can always renege later when you have a bigger army at your back. UGH!) He says that he needs the City Watch (the Gold Cloaks) on his side to back his play.

Littlefinger says that the Gold Cloaks are sworn to keep the King’s peace, but if the Queen declares one King and the Hand declares another, whose peace are they keeping? Who do they follow? “The man who pays them,” Littlefinger says.

***

Sam, Jon, various Night’s Watch people and Jon’s direwolf Ghost venture beyond the Wall so that Jon and Sam can take their vows in front of the heart tree sacred to the “Old Gods” of the North. The two boys foreswear women, crowns and winter-proof headgear in exchange for service to the realm, endless night and frostbite. But seriously, the oath is pretty awesome:

“Night gathers, and now my watch begins. It shall not end until my death. I shall take no wife, hold no lands, father no children. I shall wear no crowns and win no glory. I shall live and die at my post. I am the sword in the darkness. I am the watcher on the walls. I am the fire that burns against the cold, the light that brings the dawn, the horn that wakes the sleepers, the shield that guards the realms of men. I pledge my life and honor to the Night’s Watch, for this night and all the nights to come."

After the vows, Sam and Jon embrace the older men; they are all brothers now. Things are almost looking happy until Ghost bounds up, full of puppy-like exuberance and carrying a stiff and frozen human hand. Uh oh!

***

Cut to Vaes Dothrak, where Dany and Jorah are discussing the fate of the unfortunate wineseller who’s tied up to a post in the center of the Big Tent. Jorah says that he’ll be tied to someone’s saddle and forced to run behind the horses as long as he can. Dany asks what happens once he falls behind and Jorah non-answers her question by saying that he saw one man last nine miles. Oh, wineseller, you should’ve drunk the poisoned wine! At least it would have tasted good!

Dany says that she thought Robert would leave her alone, now that her brother is dead. “He will never leave you alone,” Jorah says, and he should know since he’s providing the information that keeps Dany on Robert’s radar. He tells Dany that her son will have Targaryen blood with 40,000 riders behind him and that means she and her child will always be a threat to Robert.

Drogo enters and looks contemptuously at the wineseller. I have the impression that poison is something totally alien to the Dothraki, that they’ll kill you dead with no compunction but they’ll do it to your face. Or melt your face off, whichever.

Drogo asks Dany if she was hurt and kisses her. Jorah looks as though he’s suffering from indigestion. Hmmm, maybe Viserys was right about Jorah having a thing for Dany. Drogo promises Jorah any horse he wishes in return for saving Danaerys’s life. Awww!

Then Drogo promises a gift to his unborn son: the Iron Throne. He shouts that he will take his Khalasar to the edge of the sea and cross it in wooden boats, as no Khal has ever done before. He will kill the men in iron suits, tear down their castles, rape their women and take their children as slaves before he brings their broken gods back to Vaes Dothrak. Dany looks turned on by the vows Drogo is making on her behalf, although I have a feeling that any Targaryen sympathizers still extant in Westeros are going to change their minds pretty quickly after the rape and pillage Drogo is promising.

The next morning, the Dothraki ride out of Vaes Dothrak. The wineseller is naked, tied to Danaerys’s saddle. He doesn’t look like he’s going to make it out from under the horse statues, let alone nine miles. Seriously, should have just drunk that poison, man!

***

Game fo Thrones Joffrey Baratheon

Back in King’s Landing, where Ned is still aimlessly hobbling with a couple of guards at his back. He’s interrupted mid-hobble by the supercilious servitor of Episodes 3 and 5, who tells Ned that King Joffrey and the Queen Regent request his presence in the Throne Room.

“King Joffrey?” Ned asks, surprised. (See, Ned should totally have known the minute that Robert died, not been all surprised by this!)

Ned turns to hobble towards the Throne Room and is met by Littlefinger and Varys. Littlefinger tells Ned that the City Watch is his. When Ned asks whether Lord Renly is joining them, Varys tells him that Renly, whose sense of self-preservation is alive and well, has fled the city with Loras Tyrell.

Before Ned enters the Throne Room, the commander of the City Watch tells Ned that they stand behind him. Well, I guess having a knife at someone’s back technically is standing behind them?

As Ned makes his way towards the throne, slowly and with great effort, someone announces King Joffrey’s titles. Interestingly, Joffrey has given his mother’s House Lannister equal billing with that of his “father.”

Ned approaches the Throne which is guarded by a row of Kingsguard knights. Joffrey announces that he commands the Council to arrange for his coronation and that he will accept oaths of fealty from his loyal councillors (Ned, Varys and Littlefinger.)

Ned and Cersei exchange a glance and then Ned calls Ser Barristan forward to take the parchment with Robert’s instructions. Barristan reads out the contents (Ned is Protector of the Realm to rule as Regent until the heir comes of age.) Joffrey looks bewildered, but Cersei never flinches, asking Ser Barristan if she can see the letter.

She takes it from his hands and tears it into pieces, asking Ned whether this paper was meant to be his shield. Barristan is shocked, saying “Those are the King’s words.”

“We have a new King now,” Cersei tells him.

She advises Ned to bend the knee and swear loyalty to Joffrey and they will let him go back up to Winterfell. I don’t know how sincere Cersei is, but I do believe she doesn’t want to continue a damaging war with Starks when her son’s grip on the throne is tenuous. If Ned accepts Joffrey as King, then others will probably fall into line.

It’s the last call for Ned’s self-preservation instinct. Hello? Hello? I guess it was eaten by a White Walker.

Ned says that Joffrey is not the rightful heir and Cersei tells him that he condemns himself by his own words. She orders Ser Barristan to seize the “traitor.” Ned in turn orders his guards not to do any harm to Ser Barristan because he’s a good and loyal man. The Hound draws his sword, and Joffrey orders him to “kill them all.” It’s nice that Joffrey hasn’t let being King change his personality at all.

Poor clueless Ned orders the City Watch commander to take the Queen and her children into custody. The City Watch head orders his men to level their spears. Ned says that he wants no bloodshed (he’s the only person in that room who feels this way) and tells Cersei to order her men to lay down their swords. Instead, she exchanges a glance with the City Watch commander, who shouts “NOW!”

His men turn their spears on the poor outnumbered Stark guardsmen, who are once again turned into shish-kabobs by people working for the Lannisters. Ned looks around, like he can’t quite believe that this is really happening, only to find himself with Littlefinger’s knife at his throat. “I did warn you not to trust me!” Littlefinger tells him.

Oh Ned! You come at the Queen, you best not miss.
 

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7 comments
alexandral
1. alexandral
This is another fabulous re-cap! Thank you!

yes, as you, I thought that the attepmt of Dany's life was somehwat half-hearted.
Megan Frampton
2. MFrampton
I was bothered by how out of character this was for Petyr Baelish. Imean, sure he doesn’t actually name names or anything, but seriously,would he reveal the innermost wounds of his psyche to a virtuallyperfect stranger? Is he forgetting his own advise and has he forgotten what he knows which is that he trusts no one?

This to me just REEKED of backstory, in the 'As you know, Fred, I've long had an obsession with blah...' just to get the reader/viewer up to speed. Not at all in Petyr's usual style, and odd, as you say. It felt ham-fisted, in fact, on the part of the showmakers.
romance reader
3. bookstorecat
This episode is my least favorite so far. It was full of WTH moments---but also my fave line of the whole series, "I wanted to be a wizard." I am resisting the terrible urge to search out spoilers (maybe even read the BOOK, for heaven's sake). I need to know what happens next! I have too many unanswered questions. Where is Tyrion? How will Joffrey take the news that his uncle is his dad? Did I miss the King's actual demise during a bathroom break?
alexandral
4. mochabean
Thanks for anoher fun recap. So after the first episode, my husband was done watching-- to complicated, too porny. But after the last two weeks of great sword fights and the golden crown, plus the promise of FROZEN ZOMBIES, I convinced him to watch it with me. All is going well, Tywin gutting and killing the stag (brilliant) etc..and then we get to the brothel and Littlefinger's soliloquoy. And after about a minute I'm thinking, okay, so, we are HBO-ifying the book a bit, dramatic compression, plus look, its a metaphor! A really, really long and explicit metaphor. A really, really long, explicit and loud metephor. Poor Petyr practically has to scream his "here is my character's motivation" speech over the fake groaning. My husband is looking at me like "uh-huh, I am still waiting for the sword fights and political intrigue and zombies, honey" Oh well, I am back to watching every week by myself! That being said, I am still loving the series. Only quibble,: Joros Slynt looked too respectable. in my head he was always much more ferrety.
alexandral
5. Kiean E
I don't really think Cersei's offer was very self preserving - permitting her and Joffrey to rule would never work out, even assuming Ned did not suffer an 'accident' on his way back north.
Regina Thorne
6. reginathorn
@alexandral Thank you so much, my dear! Yeah, I think Varys is playing an extremely long and complicated game. I can't quite figure out what he's up to, but I don't think he wants Dany dead, so I suspect his assassin was not of the highst caliber!

@MFrampton - Indeed, it was the hamfisted out of character exposition that I objected to far more than the porny stuff. (I don't know what that says about me to be honest.) Without that scene, I think we still would have known everything we needed to about Petyr.

@bookstorecat Heh, oddly, though I didn't care for the Petyr exposition scene (which wasn't in the books), I really liked the rest of the episode (which is good, because I have to watch them three times in a row for the recaps :D) Your other two questions are spoilery if answered so I won't but when Ned comes out of Robert's room, he tells Maester Pycelle to bring Robert "milk of the poppy" (aka opiate painkillers) so I assume Robert never regained consciousness after his talk with Ned. Why Ned wasn't immediately apprised of the situation is down to Ned's lack of common sense!

@Mochabean - yeah, that scene was a big misstep, IMO, which is a shame because I've loved all the interpolated scenes so far. I just didn't think they needed Petyr to reveal his motivations for screwing Ned quite so blatantly, you know? And I think the producers are a little bit too fond of their invented Ros character. But you can tell Mr. Mochabean that the next three episodes should be more or less nonstop action!

As for Slynt, I guess they took some of his weaseliness and gave it to Petyr Baelish. Who'd trust that guy, like, EVER? Seriously, Ned AND Catelyn, bad show!

@Kiean E. - no, Cersei's offer was no guarantee of Ned's safety long-term, but I'm talking about the immediate present when she actually makes the offer. If Ned had bent the knee, kept his trap shut, and done what she wanted, his men wouldn't have died right then and there. I don't think Cersei actually wants him dead - she needs the Starks to rule the North (remember that she told Joffrey that a southern army could never conquer and rule it) - but Ned would make a great hostage for the good behavior of his bannermen (which is essentially what Theon is in terms of the Greyjoys.)

By this point, Ned has ignored so much good advice, though, and he thinks the Gold Cloaks are on his side, so I guess it's not really that surprising that he ignores Cersei. His flaw is in trusting Petyr Baelish in the first place after dismissing him as a man without a shred of honor.

Sorry, I get annoyed with Ned all over again every time I think about that.
romance reader
7. bookstorecat
Ned would indeed be much better off if he'd followed your advice:)
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