Tue
Jun 7 2011 8:27am

Game of Thrones Episode Eight: The Queen, the Spider, the Pimp, and the Toady

Game of Thrones The Pointy End

Previously on “Game of Thrones”, Ned realized that he’d made a huge mistake in trusting Pimp Daddy Baelish. Also, lots of other things happened, which you can read about in recaps of “Winter is Coming,” “The Kingsroad,” “Lord Snow,” “Cripples, Bastards and Broken Things,” “The Wolf and the Lion,” “A Golden Crown,” and “You Win or You Die.”

We open with another of Arya’s “dancing lessons” with Syrio Forel. Arya is definitely improving although unfortunately, it appears that no one will be alive to attend her graduation from Water Dancing School. As Arya fences with wooden swords, Lannister guardsmen use steel swords to slaughter the few remaining members of Ned Stark’s household who weren’t butchered in the Throne Room already.

Game of Thrones The Pointy End

We cut to Sansa and Septa Mordane who are walking down a corridor in the palace while the Septa complains that Arya isn’t ready to leave for Winterfell yet. Sansa says that Arya’s at her dancing lesson, and that she’s always scraped and bruised because she’s so clumsy. Apparently Sansa thinks Arya actually is learning how to dance.

Septa Mordane tells her to hush, and they hear the distant sound of steel clashing and screams. The Septa tells Sansa to go back to her room, bar the door and not open it to anyone she knows. “Run!” she hisses as Sansa starts to ask what’s going on, and Sansa obediently scoops up her skirts and runs as fast as she can.

The unarmed Septa turns and walks right onto the bloodied swords of the Lannister guards, proving her loyalty to her charge and showing that courage is not the sole prerogative of men with swords.

***

Game of Thrones The Pointy End

Before I can properly mourn the Septa, we cut back to Arya’s fencing lesson where Syrio tells her that he’s feinting right, disarming Arya and telling her she’s a dead girl.

“Only because you lied,” Arya counters.

“My tongue lied,” Syrio says. “My eyes shouted the truth.”

Syrio tells Arya that watching is not seeing; true seeing is the heart of swordplay. It seems that “true seeing” might be the heart of a lot of things, actually, but before we get to mull over this interesting thought, a Kingsguard knight followed by a bunch of Lannister bodyguards bursts into the room, saying that Arya’s father has summoned her.

Arya steps forward, but Syrio asks why Lord Eddard has sent Lannister men to fetch his daughter and Arya sees that this is a trap. She bends down to grab her wooden sword and stands with Syrio as one of the guardsmen moves to take her by force.

With a well-aimed blow to the helmet, Syrio knocks the first Lannister guardsman onto his backside and tells Arya that their lesson is over and that she should go find her father.

The Kingsguard knight orders the Lannister men to kill Syrio and take the girl. As the other Lannister guardsmen circle Syrio, metal swords against his wooden one, Arya looks on, glued to the spot, even though Syrio has told her to run to her father.

For a few seconds, it looks like Syrio is so awesome that he can defeat five heavily armed men with just a wooden stick—he lays about and Lannister guardsmen topple over. But then the Kingsguard knight draws his sword and it’s clear that Syrio, lacking armor or a real sword, doesn’t stand a chance.

“Begone now, Arya!” Syrio says.

“Come with me,” Arya begs. “Run!”

“The first sword of Braavos does not run,” Syrio says.

The Kingsguard knight hacks Syrio’s wooden sword in two and now, facing an armored knight with nothing more than a stump of wood, Syrio decides to make this into a pedagogical exercise.

“What do we say to the god of death?” Syrio asks Arya.

“Not today, “Arya says.

“Go,” Syrio tells her, and she finally moves.

As Arya runs into the corridor, we hear screams and the sound of steel again.

Some people have speculated that this exchange means Syrio’s still alive, but I have to say that one guy wearing regular clothes versus five guards with swords and breastplates and a fully armored knight with a broadsword is pretty much mincemeat, no matter how skilled a dancer he might be. “Not today,” means it’s not Arya’s day to die, but it is Syrio’s. Like Septa Mordane (and Robert Baratheon), I think Syrio dies offscreen, giving his life for his charge.

***

Cut to Sansa, racing towards her room, only to encounter the Hound.

“Stay away from me,” a terrified Sansa tells him. “I’ll tell my father. I’ll tell the Queen.”

“Who do you think sent me?” the Hound asks her with a scary smile.

Uh oh!

***

Cut to Arya in the stables, where corpses of Stark servitors lie all around. Arya sees her overturned trunk and runs to get Needle.

She’s interrupted by a stable boy, not much older than she is. He plans to hand Arya over to the Queen; Arya promises him a reward from her father, but the boy is pretty savvy and realizes that Cersei’s a better bet than potential survivors of the ongoing Starkicide. He grabs Arya’s arm and without really thinking about it, she sticks Needle right into his belly. He falls, and Arya stares down at his body before she turns and runs.

“Sticking them with the pointy end” sounded like fun when Arya said it to Jon and Ned, but she’s just killed an unarmed boy not all that dissimilar to her friend Mycah, save that he’s on the other side. This isn’t water dancing with wooden swords, where Syrio tells her that she’s dead only to have her argue with him; this is the real thing, and it’s horrifying.

***

Cut to Ned in his dungeon, where he gets a visit from our favorite eunuch, Varys, who’s brought him a flask of either wine or water. On Ned’s stare, Varys promises that the flask isn’t poisoned, but Ned is still suspicious.

“Why is it that no one ever trusts the eunuch?” Varys asks plaintively before Ned sips.

Oh, I don’t know, maybe because your nickname is “the Spider” and you’re up to your elbows in plots?

Ned takes a deep gulp and Varys warns him to save it for later, because men have died of thirst in the cells.

Ned asks Varys what’s become of his daughters. Arya has so thoroughly escaped that even Varys doesn’t know where she is. Sansa is still in the power of the Queen. Varys makes sure to tell Ned that the rest of his household is dead.

“You watched my men being slaughtered and did nothing,” Ned accuses Varys.

Just as I’m about to ask what in tarnation Ned thinks Varys could have done—one man, unarmed—against all those armed guys and maybe Ned could think about how he got his men into that situation in the first place, Varys says it for me.

“When you look at me, do you see a hero?”

It’s good to know that imprisonment hasn’t given Ned either an iota of common sense or any more facial expressions. He sneers wordlessly at Varys.

Varys asks Ned what madness made him tell Cersei that he knew her secret, and Ned replies “the madness of mercy.” OK, from where I sit, it’s not the madness of mercy so much as the madness of not having any plan in place in case Cersei didn’t comply with what Ned wanted and/or ignoring what he knows about her character. So let’s call it “the madness of totally underestimating Cersei Lannister.”

Ned tells Varys that he wanted to save Cersei’s children and I grind my teeth a little bit, because Renly actually offered Ned that opportunity when he suggested that they seize Joffrey but Ned turned it down to avoid bloodshed during Robert’s last hours. As we know, that plan didn’t work out so well. (I still want to know whether they actually did eat the boar at Robert’s funeral feast. Or if they even had a funeral feast at all.)

I try a Syrio exercise of watching and seeing: My eyes watch Ned be a good man while my heart sees that he could be a little less rigidly certain of his own rectitude and maybe some of his people would still be alive. Not to kick a downed and imprisoned man, but Ned really is the most frustrating character on the show for me.

Varys points out the truth of what we’ll see in this episode: innocents always suffer. Then he twists the knife a little further and lets Ned know that his decision to share his findings with Cersei was also the cause of Robert’s death by wine and boar, since he gave Cersei a timeline within which to make sure Robert was dead. Varys completes his cheery visit by making sure Ned knows that he too is a dead man.

“The Queen can’t kill me,” Ned says, playing his trump card. “Cat has her brother.”

You can practically hear Varys rolling his eyes as he tells Ned that Catelyn kidnapped the wrong brother, the one the Queen doesn’t actually care about. In any case, Tyrion is no longer Catelyn’s prisoner. Ned finally realizes the pickle he’s in and tells Varys that if what he says is true, Varys should slit his throat and be done with it.

“Not today, my Lord,” Varys says, implying that on some other day he’ll be happy to slit Ned’s throat. Which is more or less true, given his conversation with Illyrio about setting the wolves and lions against each other.

As Varys leaves, Ned asks him whom he truly serves.

“The realm, my Lord,” Varys says. “Someone must.”

Hmmm, I’m not sure how orchestrating a civil war between the Lannisters and Starks as a lead-up to a Dothraki invasion to restore Targaryen rule really serves the realm, but I guess I’ll take a leap of faith and trust him on this since he didn’t explicitly warn me not to.

Varys takes the torch away and Ned is left in the literal and figurative dark again.

***

At the Wall, Jon, Sam and the other rangers who’d gone out to witness their oaths return with two dead bodies, including the dude whose hand Ghost brought back as a chewy toy. Apparently these two men were part of Benjen Stark’s party but there’s no sign of anyone else’s corpse.

Sam notices an odd thing about the long-dead bodies, which is that they have no smell of decay even though they’ve been dead for a while. While I trust that Sam is super-smart, wouldn’t the cold preserve the bodies so there wasn’t a smell, though? Isn’t that why they have refrigeration in morgues? Anyway, everyone else thinks it’s highly suspicious and Jon suggests burning the bodies, as the wildlings do.

Lord Mormont orders that the bodies be examined first by Maester Aemon, and then pays Sam a backhanded compliment of saying that although Sam may be a coward, he’s not stupid. You know, in the world of Westeros, it’s probably smart to be a coward and know your limitations, because this plan of action may lessen your chances of a grisly and premature death.

The impromptu criminal investigation is interrupted by someone telling Lord Mormont that there’s a raven from King’s Landing.

***

In the next scene, Lord Mormont has summoned Jon to his quarters which are lit by almost as many candles as Dothraki tent, but perhaps with greater attention to fire safety. Lord Mormont tells Jon to pour both of them a horn of ale and then he tells Jon to sit down and gives him the bad news: the King is dead and Ned is accused of treason, conspiring with Robert’s brothers to deny the throne to Prince Joffrey.

Jon gets up hastily, and Lord Mormont says that he hopes Jon isn’t thinking of doing anything stupid because his duty lies at the Wall now.

“My sisters were in King’s Landing too,” Jon tells his commander.

“I’m sure they’ll be treated gently,” Lord Mormont says.

I’m sure he hasn’t been to King’s Landing in a long time.

***

Cut to Sansa, who’s sitting opposite Cersei, Varys, Pycelle and Littlefinger. Poor girl! Varys tells her that her father has proven to be an awful traitor, and Pycelle intones pretentiously that King Robert’s body was still warm when Ned started plotting to steal the throne from Joffrey. (Actually, King Robert wasn’t even dead yet, but let’s just gloss over that point.)

Sansa reiterates her belief that her father wouldn’t do that, because he knows how much she loves Joffrey. She pleads with Cersei that there’s been a mistake, that the king was her father’s friend.

Cersei tells Sansa that they all know she’s innocent of any wrongdoing, but still, how can Cersei allow her son to marry the daughter of a traitor? Pycelle chimes in with some toadying agreement about how Sansa is a “sweet thing” now, but a traitor’s kid is unworthy to marry a prince.

Sansa pleads that she’ll be a good wife to Joffrey, a queen just like Cersei.

“The girl is innocent, Your Grace,” Littlefinger chimes in. “She should be given a chance to prove her loyalty.”

Poor Sansa looks completely terrified, as well she should.

Cersei says that Sansa must write to Lady Catelyn and to Robb, telling them about Ned’s arrest and urging Robb to come to King’s Landing and swear his fealty to Joffrey. The Queen, the Spider, the pimp and the toady (they should form a band!) look on disapprovingly as Sansa hesitantly asks if she could see her father and talk to him.

“You disappoint me, child!” Cersei tells Sansa. “Why would you want to speak to a traitor?”

“What will happen to him?” Sansa asks.

Cersei tells her that Ned’s fate depends on her brother and on her letter to Robb. Poor Sansa!

***

In Winterfell, Robb reads Sansa’s message. Maester Luwin says it’s Sansa’s handwriting, but the Queen’s words.

Maester Luwin reminds Robb that this is a royal command. (Hey, didn’t he remind Ned that Robert’s offer to be Hand was a royal command? Let’s stop listening to this guy, Starks!)

Robb says he’ll go to King’s Landing but not alone. Robb orders the Maester to summon his father’s bannermen, and Theon nods approvingly.

After the Maester has left, Theon asks if Robb is afraid. Robb looks down at his shaking hand and says that he must be.

“Good,” Theon says.

“Why is that good?” Robb asks him.

“It means you’re not stupid.”

Ladies and gentlemen, this is the first scene in which I didn’t want to smack Theon! It’s a miracle!

Cut to a cloud of ravens flying off in all directions to summon the Northern lords to Ned’s defense.

***

At the Eyrie, Catelyn races up a flight of stairs to confront her sister. She’s furious that she only just got the message about Ned’s imprisonment, even though Lysa has had the news in her possession all day. Lysa responds that she only gave her sister the message out of courtesy.

“Courtesy!” Catelyn shouts. Her husband is in prison and her son intends to go to war.

Lysa doesn’t think too highly of Robb’s chances against the Lannisters and suggests that Catelyn should go to her son and teach him patience.

Catelyn impatiently dismisses her sister, saying that Ned’s rotting in a dungeon. She reminds Lysa that Ned is her brother-in-law asks if family means nothing to Lysa.

For Lysa, “family” is limited to those whom she suckles. She tells Catelyn she won’t risk Robin’s life for another of Ned’s wars. Catelyn heroically refrains from reminding Lysa that she sent the message that got the Starks all upset at the Lannisters in the first place by accusing them of the murder of Ned’s foster-father, Jon Arryn. I guess Lysa is as selective in her memories as she is about who she deems “family.”

“I’m hungry,” Robin says and starts to fumble at his mother’s gown.

Lysa puts him off, and Catelyn apparently doesn’t even notice the crazy because she asks whether she’s understood correctly, that Lysa won’t support her.

Robin ups the creepiness factor, shouting that he’s hungry. Lysa sends Robin off to have his bath, with a promise to feed him afterwards, mercifully offscreen. She tells Catelyn that although her sister is always welcome at the Eyrie, the knights of the Vale will stay in the Vale to defend their own lord and not go chasing off to King’s Landing to rescue Ned Stark.

***

Game of Thrones The Pointy End

Speaking of the Vale, Bronn and Tyrion are taking a pleasant country stroll down a wooded lane. Tyrion is whistling a merry tune, and Bronn tells him to shut up because there are nasty hill tribes all around them (the same ones—or their cousins—who attacked while Tyrion was being taken to the Eyrie). Bronn says he should just take Tyrion’s food and leave him, and what would he do then. Tyrion says that he’d starve, most likely.

“You don’t think I’d do it, do you?” Bronn asks.

“What do want, Bronn?” Tyrion asks him. “Gold? Women? Golden women?”

He promises Bronn all those things if he sticks with Tyrion, but not a moment longer, and moreover, he points out that Bronn knew this and that’s why he offered to stand as Tyrion’s champion.

Bronn concedes Tyrion’s point, but says that he refuses to call Tyrion “Lord” or be subservient. “I’m not your toady,” Bronn says, “and I’m not your friend.” Awww! Come on now, Bronn, I think you like the little lion just a tiny bit?

Tyrion says that although he’d treasure Bronn’s friendship, he’s more interested in Bronn’s ability to kill people. He tells Bronn that if Bronn is ever tempted to sell him out, he’ll beat his enemies’ price. Hee! I think a good spinoff of this show would be Tyrion and Bronn, bickering, fighting trials by combat and talking their way out of sticky situations. (Music provided by “The Queen, the Pimp, the Spider and the Toady.”)

Later that evening, Tyrion is sound asleep when Bronn hears a sound. A bunch of shaggy men with horned helmets led by Shagga, son of Dolf, (think extras from a particularly grungy production of Wagner’s “Ring Cycle”) circle the tiny encampment. Within five minutes, Tyrion manages to sweet-talk the savages out of immediately killing him and Bronn with promises of gold and real weapons so they can take over the Vale of Arryn from the great lords who despise them. Uh oh, Lysa, I think you might be at the receiving end of a Lannister’s paid-up debt pretty soon!

***

At the Wall, Jon, Pyp, Grenn and Sam are in the kitchens, when Ser Alliser Thorne comes in, apparenlty with the sole purpose of insulting Jon, whom he calls “a traitor’s bastard.” Jon says nothing, but grabs a kitchen knife and attacks Ser Alliser, expressly disobeying Lord Mormont’s command to do nothing stupid. Alliser tells Jon that he’ll hang for attacking him. Lord Mormont, who’s been watching the whole event, orders Jon confined to quarters.

In Jon’s quarters, Ghost is super-restless pawing at the door and whining and growling. Either that pup needs a walk around the block right away or else something wicked this way comes.

Jon opens his own door and follows Ghost to Lord Mormont’s chambers, where there are a lot of scary creaking and knocking noises that creeped me out a lot when I watched this last night. When Jon turns, one of the dead guys from the earlier autopsy has grabbed him by the throat. He strangles Jon, while Ghost goes nuts outside. Jon headbutts the zombie (N.B. The zombies are called “wights” in the books, and so far have no names on the show, so I’m just going to refer to them as wights until the show clarifies that point.) Jon manages to get his sword out of its sheath. He shears off the wight’s arm but this is some quality revivification work here and the wight just keeps on coming. He gets his hands around Jon’s throat again and out of sheer desperation, Jon does the same maneuver Arya did with the stable boy: he stabs the wight through the belly and it falls.

Lord Mormont, who is apparently a very sound sleeper, comes out with a lamp, and as Jon is trying to explain the situation, Ghost goes nuts outside and the “dead” wight bounces back up again as Lord Mormont and Jon look on in horror. Jon thinks fast, grabs the lantern Mormont is holding and flings it at the wight. As the wight is crisped, Jon drags Mormont out of the room.

***

Cut to scenes of devastation in a sacked village; houses burn, statues are toppled, women are carried away; the usual post-sack pillaging.

Dany naively asks what the people who are being pillaged did, and Rakharo replies that the “Lamb Men” make good slaves. Khal Drogo will make a “gift” of the survivors to the slavers in exchange for gold, silk and steel. As Dany walks further through the devastated town, we see Dothraki women despoiling the corpses and a boy is tied to a pillar. Dany says that she didn’t think the Dothraki believed in money. Jorah reminds her that gold can buy ships to sail to Westeros. Drogo’s promise that his son would sit on the Iron Throne has cost the Lamb Men everything, even though they neither know nor care about Westeros or Dany’s claim to the throne. Perhaps it’s the knowledge that these people are suffering because of her desire to retake her homeland that informs Dany’s urgency at stopping the ongoing rapes of various women.

She orders Jorah to make the Dothraki men stop, and Jorah points out that this is the Dothraki way. The men have shed blood for their Khal and now they’re entitled to the spoils of war. Rakharo chimes in that the “lamb girl” is being “honored” by the Dothraki riders raping her. Well, that’s an interesting notion of “honor” and by interesting, I mean revolting.

Rakharo says that if the woman’s wails are bothering Dany, he’ll bring Dany the woman’s tongue and Jorah patronizingly tells her that she has a gentle heart and that this is the way it’s always been. As you may recollect, Jorah also has no problem with slavery which is why he’s in exile among the Dothraki in the first place.

Dany denies that she has a gentle heart and she tells Rakharo in Dothraki to do what she orders or Khal Drogo will know the reason why. That gets her men moving. After a slight hesitation, Jorah joins in to rescue one of the women and then asks what Dany wants done with the rescued women. Dany orders them brought to her, and Jorah, still bringing the indulgent world-weary attitude, tells her she cannot claim them all, to which Dany responds that she can and she will. (But even if she can rescue these women from the actual rape about to happen, she can’t bring back their dead husbands and fathers or save their children from slavery or restore their destroyed village or way of life. Dany looked kind of turned on by Khal Drogo’s promise to give Westeros the Dothraki treatment last week; now she looks sickened by what that means in reality.)

Dany, Jorah, Rakharo and all the women go to find Khal Drogo, who’s hanging out next to a pile of corpses and body parts whilst being harangued by Mago, the guy who was interrupted by Dany mid-rape. Drogo asks Dany if Mago’s telling the truth, and Dany tells him that yes, she has claimed many daughters which means no one gets to “mount” them. (I guess Dany is essentially conferring honorary Dothraki citizenship on the Lamb Women and that renders them off-limits.)

Drogo uses a version of “this is the way it’s always been” with Dany who says that it pleases her to keep the women safe and if the Dothraki are so eager to “mount” the women, they can marry them. Hey, forcible sexual relations with a man to whom she was essentially sold as a slave worked out well for Dany, so she wants to offer that chance to all the other ladies! Mago interrupts scornfully, saying that the horse doesn’t mate with the lamb and Dany puts him in his place, reminding him that dragons eat horses and sheep.

Mago tells her to mind her own business because she’s a foreigner and she doesn’t give the orders, and Dany reminds him that she’s the Khaleesi and says that she does give the orders (but only if Khal Drogo backs her play!) Drogo’s pleased by his wife’s feistiness, which he credits to the fact that she’s carrying “the Stallion who Mounts the World.” He says he’s heard enough and Mago can go “find somewhere else to stick his cock.” Well, problem solved then, right?

Not so fast. Mago decides this would be a good time to challenge Drogo’s manliness for taking orders from a ‘foreign whore.’ When one of Drogo’s men steps forward, Drogo turns him aside so he can start some more epic trash-talking about the impending fate of Mago’s corpse. Mago draws his arakh (Dothraki scimitar/sword thing) and Drogo leans into the weapon so it cuts his chest while continuing to let Mago know that he’ll be food for beetles, worms, etc. Then he draws both his daggers and drops them, so he’s facing Mago unarmed. Then there’s some fierce fighting, at the end of which Drogo grabs Mago’s arakh and cuts a hole in his throat, through which he pulls out Mago’s tongue. Ewww!

After the fight, Dany runs up to Drogo, concerned about the cut on his chest. She calls for a healer. One of the Lamb Women steps forward, introducing herself as Mirri Maaz Durr; she’s pretty cosmopolitan since she speaks both Dothraki and Westerosi. She says that she was the “god’s wife” of the town and Drogo’s bloodrider spits. He calls her a “Maegi” (“Witch”) and then slaps her for good measure. Mirri says Drogo’s wound will fester if it’s not treated. Dany begs Drogo to let Mirri see to his wound and he concedes more to conciliate Dany than anything else while the slappy bloodrider rolls his eyes a bit.

***

At Winterfell, the Northern lords are feasting and one of them, Lord Umber, is busy shouting and trying to give Robb’s orders. He says that either Robb will give in to his desire to lead the vanguard or he’ll take his men and go home. Robb tells him that he’s welcome to go home, but after he’s dealt with the Lannister’s, he’ll come back and deal with Lord Umber the oathbreaker. (I have to mention here that the fur collar on Robb’s cloak matches his hair. It’s quite charming!)

Lord Umber takes offense at being insulted by a “boy so green he pisses grass” and draws his sword. Uh oh! Things are taking an ugly turn until Robb’s direwolf (let me just tell you that his name is Grey Wind) leaps across the table and removes a few of Lord Umber’s fingers. Robb says that Ned taught him it was “death to bear steel against your liege lord” and says Lord Umber doubtless only meant to cut some meat for Robb.

“Your meat...is bloody tough,” Lord Umber says, looking at the stumps of his fingers and starting to laugh. Everyone else starts laughing too. I guess I understand why Ned had such a hard time in King’s Landing if this is the sort of “intrigue” that he had to deal with back at home.

***

Later that evening, Robb comes to say goodbye to Bran, who asks him why he’s leaving so early. Robb says that he’s sure the Lannisters have spies everywhere and so he’s trying to sneak off without their learning his exact plans.

Bran begs to be allowed to go with Robb, saying that he can ride now and he wouldn’t get in the way. Awww! Robb is moved, but reminds Bran that there must always be a Stark in Winterfell. (I’m sorry, every time someone on the show says this, I hear “there have always been Starkadders at Cold Comfort Farm.” Bran did see something nasty in the woodshed deserted tower! How long before Maester Luwin starts telling everyone there’ll be no butter in hell Winterfell?)

After Robb leaves, the forgotten Stark child, Rickon, pops out of the woodwork to be chided by Bran. Bran assures his little brother that everyone will come back, but Rickon, who is showing a healthy and un-Stark-like skepticism, disagrees.

***

In the Godswood, Bran prays for Robb’s safety as well as for that of the Winterfell men “and Theon too, I suppose.” Heh! He’s interrupted by Osha who’s wearing shackles around her stylish UGG boots. I’m distracted by everything she says because her hair is handing straight down into her face and I can’t help think that must be incredibly annoying.

Hodor chooses this moment to supply the obligatory (extremely pale) nudity quotient by randomly running up naked. Bran tells Hodor to go find his clothes and Osha appreciatively says the big man must have giant’s blood in him. Bran is interested in whether there really are giants north of the Wall. “Giants,” Osha agrees. “And worse things.”

She tells Bran that Robb is riding the wrong way with all his men, that he should be riding North.

***

Speaking of North, up at the wall, the Night’s Watch is burning the corpses of their former members turned wights. Maybe now someone will start believing poor Will’s story. Remember him?

Sam says that only fire will stop the wights, who were touched by White Walkers. Jon asks how he knows that and Sam says he read it in a very old book in Maester Aemon’s library. Jon asks what else he read in the book.

“The White Walkers sleep beneath the ice for thousands of years,” Sam says. “And when they wake up ...”

“When they wake up?” Pyp prompts. “What?”

“I hope the Wall is high enough,” Sam says ominously.

***

At Robb’s camp, Robb and a bunch of his lords are looking over maps of the Lannisters’ position. The river lords are in retreat in front of Jaime Lannister’s forces while Tywin is bringing a separate army to attack them. In the middle of the strategizing, Catelyn and Ser Rodrick show up and Catelyn asks to speak to Robb alone.

Lord Umber keeps blustering while he orders everyone out of the tent. Once they’re alone, Catelyn embraces Robb and does one of those mom things where she tells him that she remembers when he was a helpless baby and now he’s all grown up. At least she didn’t show his bannermen pictures of him in the bathtub or remark on how cute his chubby knees were or things like that. Catelyn chides Robb for thinking he’s the only man who could march to war (he kind of is, though, isn’t he?) but admits that she can’t send Robb back to Winterfell now.

Robb shows Catelyn Sansa’s letter and Catelyn notes that there’s no mention of Arya. Her shoulders slump for a moment, and then she puts the steel back in her spine, to tell Robb that their only hope is that Robb can defeat the Lannisters in the field, because if he does go to King’s Landing he’ll never be allowed to leave.

She tells Robb that if he loses, the Starks will all die. Well, that’s a cheery thought!

***

At the Lannister encampment, Tywin is apparently so confident of victory that he hasn’t posted any guards because Tyrion and his escort of mountain men stroll up quite close to the camp without being spotted or challenged. Tyrion suggests that he and Bronn will continue ahead to meet Tywin but the mountain men aren’t quite as woolly-headed as they look. They intend to stick to Tyrion like big furry horned-helmeted limpets until they get what they came for. Shagga threatens that if Tyrion betrays him, he will cut off Tyrion’s manhood and feed it to the goats.

I guess there aren’t too many dwarves strutting around the Lannister camp like they own the place, so everyone figures out that it’s Tyrion leading a band of shaggy ne’er-do-wells right up to Tywin’s tent, but if I were Tywin, I’d consider a better security system.

Tywin and his brother Kevan are in consultation about some kind of strategy thing as Tyrion enters.

“The rumors of your demise were unfounded,” Tywin says, with an air of disappointment.

Tyrion introduces Bronn, son of “you wouldn’t know him” and the various mountain men (and one mountain woman). Tywin hilariously maintains his stone-face. Tyrion sits down, saying it was “kind of you to go to war for me” as he reaches for the wine-jug. Tywin moves it out of Tyrion’s reach as he tells Tyrion that he left them no choice.

“Your brother would never have submitted to capture so meekly,” Tywin accuses Tyrion. Um, he does know Tyrion’s a dwarf, right? And therefore not so well able to defend himself physically as Jaime?

Tyrion points out that he and Jaime are a bit different (“he’s braver, I’m better looking”) but he’s not his usual ebullient self. This scene is such a great bookend to the one between Jaime and Tywin last week; Tywin leaves both of his normally self-assured sons unsettled and belittled.

Tywin uses Jaime’s military successes to further humiliate Tyrion, before he and Uncle Kevan fill Tyrion in on the news from King’s Landing. Meanwhile, Tywin keeps moving the wine out of Tyrion’s grasp. Poor Tyrion! Tywin refers to Robb as a green boy, who’ll go running back to Winterfell with his tail between his legs after one battle, though Tyrion is a little more doubtful, given his last encounter with Robb at Winterfell.

Tyrion begins to enumerate the things he promised the mountain men, but they’re interrupted by a messenger who tells them that Robb’s army is on the move. Tywin orders his brother to let Jaime know that he intends to take Robb on himself. The interruption finally lets Tyrion have a chance at the wine jug, as his father reviews the mountain men, promising them all that Tyrion was going to give them and more. The mountain men agree to fight, but only if Tyrion fights with them. Tyrion doesn’t look very happy about this idea, but Tywin doesn’t seem to put out at the idea of sending his newly-recovered son into the middle of a battle with a bunch of unpredictable mountain people. Uh oh!!!

****

At Robb’s camp, everyone is arguing about the best course of strategy. Lord Umber doesn’t seem any less pigheaded or loudmouthed after the loss of his fingers and poor Robb points out that the only way they can fight either Jaime or Tywin is to cross the river, which is guarded by the castle of the Freys, who are nominally subservient to Catelyn’s father, but who have a reputation for hanging back and waiting things out.

In the meantime, the Stark soldiers bring in a Lannister scout captured while counting Robb’s army. Lord Umber intimates that the scout isn’t going to leave the tent alive, and everyone seems pretty much certain that the guy’s going to be killed, but Robb orders his men to let the scout go. Catelyn starts to say something and Robb basically tells his mother with a look that he’s handling the situation.

Robb tells the scout to tell Lord Tywin that winter is coming for him: Twenty thousand northerners marching south to see if he really does shit gold. I think he’s deliberately feeding misinformation to the Lannisters, because he does seem to know what he’s doing, although Lord Umber would disagree and questions Robb loudly and publicly again, calling him “boy.” Ugh! Maybe this blowhard can be one of the casualties in the next battle? Here’s hoping! Robb basically gets him to shut up with look too, so he gets to keep what’s left of his fingers!

***

A brief scene of Ned dozing in the dungeon, only to be kicked by a torch wielding jailer. I guess that’s so we know that Ned is still alive and still imprisoned.

***


Game of Thrones

In the throne room, Sansa, who is now dressed and hairstyled like a Southern lady, enters to watch the King holding an audience. The first thing that she hears is that the “traitor” Eddard Stark has been replaced as Hand of the King by Lord Tywin Lannister. Lastly, Cersei stands up and calls out Ser Barristan, telling him to remove his helm.

She intends to give Barristan a forced retirement, which is a totally unheard of concept. Barristan argues that the Kingsguard serves for life and only death relieves them of their sacred trust.

“Whose death?” Cersei asks. “Yours or your king’s?”

Her more subtle implications are immediately topped by Joffrey accusing Barristan of letting his father die, saying that Barristan is too old to protect anyone.

Cersei goes on to say that Barristan’s place as Lord Commander will be taken by Ser Jaime Lannister, and Barristan spits out that Jaime is a man who profaned his sword with the blood of the King he’d sworn to defend.

Varys unctuously offers Barristan a seaside castle and lots of servants. Barristan proudly takes off his cloak, and armor, saying that he’s a knight and he’ll die as one. Littlefinger mocks him: “A naked knight, apparently!”

Barristan draws his sword and the other Kingsguard members draw theirs, as does the Hound. “Even now I could cut through the five of you like carving a cake,” Barristan says contemptuously to the other Kingsguard members, but unfortunately, he doesn’t try. Instead, he throws his sword down in front of Joffrey and stalks out of the room.

Now it’s Sansa’s turn to come before the throne. She kneels in front of the Iron Throne and begs mercy for her father. Maester Pycelle plays his role, which is to be the bad cop, saying that treason is a noxious weed. Littlefinger asks if Sansa denies her father’s crime, and she replies that she’s only asking for mercy. She says that her father must regret what he did, and reminds everyone that Ned was King Robert’s friend, that he loved King Robert. She quite cleverly shifts the blame onto Renly or Stannis for lying to Ned.

“He said I wasn’t the King,” Joffrey says. “Why did he say that?”

Sansa argues that Ned was badly hurt, and being fed milk of the poppy by Maester Pycelle. Varys has a little soliloquy about childish innocence (I’m hard-pressed to believe that he was ever innocent) and Pycelle does another trumpety thing about treason being treason.

Sansa begs Joffrey, if he has any affection in his heart, to show her this kindness and be merciful to her father.

Joffrey says that Sansa’s words have moved him, but Ned has to confess and say that Joffrey is the King or there will be no mercy.

“He will,” Sansa says. For her sake, I sure hope so.

And so ends the best episode of the season!


 

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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9 comments
Megan Frampton
1. MFrampton
I thought this was the best episode too, and it's hard to say what I loved about it, only--maybe it felt as though we finally know the characters enough and the stories are further along enough to get some forward plot motion?
I read that Jason Momoa said Khal should have an onscreen fight, because he's the baddest, longest-haired guy, but you never see that. But, boy howdy, we sure did this episode. Leaning into the scimitar. Whoa.
Gwenda Bond
2. GwendaBond
I also thought this was strongest (with strong runner up: horse heart snacking episode) so far. Notable that it was written by Martin himself; hope we'll be seeing more of that. (And I believe the horse heart ep was by Jane Espenson.)
Robin Bradford
3. RobinBradford
Horse heart snacking! LOL. That will make me giggle all day.

As always, I love the recap.
mochabean
4. mochabean
Thanks for another great and fun recap!

"The unarmed Septa turns and walks right onto the bloodied swords of the Lannister guards, proving her loyalty to her charge and showing that courage is not the sole prerogative of men with swords."

I loved this addition -- showing the Septa's courage and dignity. Poor Sansa indeed. I also loved Bronn's exchange with Tywin and Robb's "call me boy again" exchange with the Greatjon.

I predict that will be the last time we like anything Theon has to say. Really hoping we get to see the Late Lord Frey next week.

p.s. Mr Mochabean did watch this one and agreed the FROZEN ZOMBIE and Kahl Drogo's badassery made up for last week. But he was hoping for more FROZEN ZOMBIE than we got. Weren't we all?

Agree this was the best of the season, although I really liked the battle between Jamie and Boromir, I mean Ned, from a few weks ago.
mochabean
5. lady trudy
the last two episodes were great. I've struggled a bit with many of the characters' goals, motivations and conflicts. I've come to look at them all as to always take the most devious, power playing strategic positions. I hope the Dothraki's win. They are the only ones that make the most sense to me!!
Charli Mac
6. CharliMac
Syrio is totally alive! He was weaponless. Why would metal clang if he were not fighting back with a sword! It was obviously done on purpose by the producers/writers/directors, etc. You don't put sound into a scene if not for a purpose, think about it?!?! They want us to speculate. I am rooting for him to be alive and save Ned from peril! Long live Syrio!
Regina Thorne
7. reginathorn
@MFrampton - I think you're right that the forward momentum of the plot is also helping propel these episodes. There was so much in this one, and it still didn't feel rushed. I would have said last week's was the best were it not for the out of character Littlefinger scene, though, so yeah, maybe it's just that we're past the character introductions and into the meat of the story. I do wish sometimes that I were coming to this unspoiled by the books, because I think my reactions would be totally different to a lot of stuff.

@GwendaBond - yes, the horse-heart-eating episode ("The Golden Crown") was written by Jane Espenson. The only thing I didn't like about it was Sansa being so rude to Septa Mordane, because she sounded like Cordelia Chase with the "on second thought ... I don't care" rather than like Sansa Stark. But otherwise, it was a great episode. And I loved last week's as well, with the sole exception of the Littlefinger/whores scene.

@RobinBradford Thank you so much! Glad you're enjoying them. They're getting harder because I can't find anything to snark about in the better-written episodes :P

@mochabean - "I loved this addition -- showing the Septa's courage and dignity. Poor Sansa indeed. I also loved Bronn's exchange with Tywin and Robb's "call me boy again" exchange with the Greatjon."

The Septa was amazing - Syrio's scene is iconic, but I loved that Martin wrote in something to show that she was just as brave and loyal as Syrio, and it bookended Syrio's scene beautifully. Bronn and Tyrion are comedy gold, and I look forward to lots more of them together. And Robb really stepped up in this episode a lot, but I also love that he went to say goodbye to Bran. Awww!

"I predict that will be the last time we like anything Theon has to say. Really hoping we get to see the Late Lord Frey next week."

Heh! Poor Theon! His middle name is "insecurity" but I did like that he was ready to back Robb to the hilt. (Of course, that's probably mostly because he likes the idea of going to war and he proposed it long back when Catelyn first told them of her suspicions of the Lannisters' involvement in Bran's fall.) I know that they've cast the Late Lord Frey, because I saw a preview called "Other Houses" and he was in it. (I always want to pronounce that German-style as "fry" because it's a common Southern German surname.)

p.s. Mr Mochabean did watch this one and agreed the FROZEN ZOMBIE and Kahl Drogo's badassery made up for last week. But he was hoping for more FROZEN ZOMBIE than we got. Weren't we all?

Heaven help us the day that HBO decides to combine FROZEN ZOMBIE and their predilection for breasts. Eeep! (Although Hodor was so pale that he could have done FROZEN ZOMBIE no problem!)

Agree this was the best of the season, although I really liked the battle between Jamie and Boromir, I mean Ned, from a few weks ago.

I loved that episode too, though partly because Jaime is my favorite character (which people who haven't read the books really don't understand! Hee!)

@Lady Trudy - I hope the Dothraki's win. They are the only ones that make the most sense to me!!

Well, given that the Dothraki path to victory will undoubtedly be paved with the enslavement, rape and pillage of many more totally innocent bystander types like the Lamb Men, I'm afraid I can't cheer for their ultimate victory. I think Dany herself might be having second thoughts about what her claim to the Iron Throne means for these innocents.

@CharliMac -Syrio is totally alive! He was weaponless. Why would metal clang if he were not fighting back with a sword! It was obviously done on purpose by the producers/writers/directors, etc. You don't put sound into a scene if not for a purpose, think about it?!?!

It's not entirely clear whether Arya was hearing the sounds from that room or the general mayhem attending the Lannister slaughter, but even if Syrio did manage to lay his hands on a sword, it's not HIS style of sword, and he's one little, unarmored guy against five armored guards and the fully-armored Kingsguard knight who's well-trained in that style of fighting ('the dance of the knights', as Syrio called it.)

In another fantasy, maybe a guy wearing street clothes wielding a broken stick takes out five heavily armored guys, but Martin's world is pretty realistic if you take out the ice zombies and the super-long seasons and it's not realistic to me that Syrio could have survived those circumstances. But we shall see, I guess!
mochabean
8. lady trudy
you are correct, the rape and pillage thing not good. i really meant i 'got' what motivates dany and kahl. she wants her land back (stolen and her people destroyed by lannisters) and he loves her enough to fight for her. dany appears more merciful than catlin or cersei. she is more ned than tywin.
mochabean
9. mochabean
"Poor Theon! His middle name is "insecurity" "

Gods be good, as long as he doesn't unleash his little kraken again, I'm happy!
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