As the Guardian blog put it, this was “…clearly Small Council character development week in Westeros,” with nothing of Dany (meh) or Jon (boo) to be seen. But let’s start further afield, with Catelyn Stark, vigilante lady of justice. Catelyn, after spontaneously arresting Tyrion Lannister in an inn last week, brings him to her sister Lysa (Jon Arryn’s widow, who fled to her Eyrie after Jon’s death). Encountering a minor ambush from “mountain men” along the way, Cat frees Tyrion to fight when he asks, and he ably batters a man to death with a shield to the face. Continuing on to the eerie Eyrie, we meet Lysa, whose place on the very edge of all kinds of Bell curves is heavily underlined by her seven-year-old son Robin latched on to her breast.
(We also meet Bronn briefly on the road ““ the blond wisecracking sword hand. You’ll be seeing him again. UK and Ireland readers may also not recognize him from a certain ’90s singing double-act.)
Lysa and Cat fight over Tyrion, because Lysa also blames him for Jon Arryn’s death and wants to “make the bad man fly,” as Robin says. Tyrion is thrown in one of the Eyrie’s scary open-sided cells while the Tully sisters fight it out. We also learn that Jon Arryn’s last words were, “The seed is strong!” though having met Robin, do we really think that’s who he was talking about? And has Cat compounded one bad decision with another by bringing Tyrion to Lysa?
In Winterfell, Bran is learning about the ruling families of Westeros (and conveniently giving background info for us humble viewers), and resenting his mother’s absence. Theon is back with the delightful and famous red-haired Ros: getting naked and nursing his sense of entitlement and injury (and also giving us the first full-frontal male nudity shots on this show).
Back in King’s Landing, we catch up with the Small Council. After seeing him in the background at parties and occasionally catching his eye in the pub, we’re finally formally introduced to King Robert’s younger, thinner and more handsome brother Renly ““ and his close personal friend, Loras Tyrell, the Knight of Flowers.
As well as being renowned for his fighting skills ““ even beating the Mountain at the joust, though the glory dimmed somewhat when he had to be rescued by the Hound soon after ““ Loras is smoother, richer, and more cunning than Renly, and happily discusses talent and treason over shaving and some oral sex. [pullquote]”It’s not a gift, no-one gave it to me”- Loras on his fighting skills.[/pullquote] Renly is only fourth in line to the throne (after Joffrey, Tommen, and his older brother Stannis, who has “the personality of a lobster”: all-male succession FTW!), but Loras is undaunted: Renly should be king, be smooth-shaven, and be given blowjobs (not in that order). All I could think during that scene was that Renly now had one shaved and one hairy armpit. Distracting.
Sansa’s gaydar is clearly off as she is developing a wee bit of a crush on Ser Loras. [pullquote]”All desires are valid to a man with a full purse” ““ Littlefinger[/pullquote]Littlefinger, being the man-of-the-world brothel owner than he is, knows all about Renly and Loras and was happy to let Renly know he knows.
In one of the best scenes so far, Cersei and Robert share a slow, leisurely drink and discussion of their wreck of a marriage, and why a Dothraki invasion would be disastrous for Westeros. Lena Headey is doing a brilliant job as Cersei: I have no idea who the “real” Cersei is, and I doubt we’re supposed to. Cersei asks about Lyanna, for the first time ever: but Robert can’t even remember what she looks like. We also learn ““ crucially ““ that their black-haired first baby, the “bird without feathers” that Cersei told Catelyn about way back in Episode 2, really did exist. This is two people who know each other very well, and hate each other equally. The fact that their brittle, formulaic marriage might be the only thing holding the kingdom together is hilarious, apparently: but if it’s “fear and blood” that’s really keeping the peace, which of them is which?
And most importantly: the net closes in on Ned Stark. Varys confirms what Ned suspects: the dead Ser Hugh was paid and knighted for giving poison to Jon Arryn – and now Ned may be next. Arya, hiding in a dragon skull in the dungeons (as you do), overhears Varys and another man (who we know as Dany’s patron Illyrio) plotting his death, and escapes to tell her father. Robert wants Dany and Viserys killed: Ned opposes him, and loses his job as Hand for his trouble. When he returns to his quarters, a messenger tells him what Cat has done. Ned wants to leave the city straight away, but Littlefinger offers to show him another of Robert’s bastards, in his brothel ““ a baby girl (also with black hair, apparently, though she looked pretty bald to me): her mother is the last person Jon Arryn spoke to before he died. Because of this delay, Jaime has had a chance to hear of Tyrion’s arrest and has followed Ned – and he is not a happy Lannister. Ned tries to protect Catelyn by claiming the arrest was on his orders even though it was Cat’s own spontaneous ““ and reckless ““ idea. For his trouble, loyal Jory loses his eye, then his life; Ned and Jaime fight; and Ned gets stabbed in the leg by one of Jaime’s guards.
Two themes that jumped out at me this week. The first: the flow of information; it’s vital to keep track of who knows what, and when.
- We know that it’s unlikely that Tyrion was behind the attempt on Bran’s life: who tries to stab a child one month and then gives him a way to live with his injuries the next? And as Tyrion himself puts it: “What sort of imbecile arms an assassin with his own blade?”
- But Cat doesn’t know that: so Cat arrests him in public. Which leads neatly to Ned’s injury and arrest, because Cat’s move is widely known. The lack of Westerosi cell phones is a real problem; someone should get on it.
- The masters of information are Varys and Littlefinger: Varys the Spider is the acknowledged spymaster, but Littlefinger isn’t far behind, and I really enjoyed seeing them clash. They don’t like each other, but are they really on opposite sides ““ or indeed on anyone’s side but their own?
[pullquote]”Do you think it’s honour that’s keeping the peace? It’s fear. Fear and blood.” – King Robert[/pullquote]
And the second: what is honour worth in Westeros?
- Loras is renowned for it, but he sabotages the joust and plots against the king.
- The Hound, Sandor Clegane, is not even a knight, but has more of a sense of justice than Loras does.
- Varys thinks of himself as a man of honour while conspiring against Ned.
- Jaime has enough honour to punish his guard for injuring Ned, but he’s keeping his own secrets.
- Jorah Mormont is informing on Dany, but is despised in Westeros ““ so whose side is he really on?
- Robert knows it’s not honourable to assassinate Dany; but it’s the only thing he knows how to do. Honour is expendable for Robert, who is under pressure to hold Westeros together.
- Ned is the only one who is really honourable ““ and honour just got him arrested and badly injured.
- And if honour can be twisted for the taking, then what is the nobles’ social system really built on?
Want to discuss someone or something that I haven’t mentioned? Want to lament the absence of Jon Snow from this week’s episode? Join me in the comments.