After focusing mainly on Westeros last week, this week’s focus is on Dany and Viserys – and the sibling relationships between many of the characters. Also, the first death of a major character… (Still no Jon Snow again, though. I’m feeling pretty deprived).
[trigger warning for gender-based violence]
Robb, Bran and Theon: Bran is dreaming of the three-eyed raven leading him into the crypt, until he’s woken up to try out his new, Tyrion-designed saddle. His whoops of joy as he gets to be in charge of his own movement again were really delicious – until he wanders away from Robb and Theon and is followed by a group of wildlings, on their way south, and intent on stealing whatever he has to steal. Bran tries invoking the family name, but they are even more delighted by the thought of what Mance Ryder would pay for Benjen Stark’s nephew. Robb and Theon haven’t yet noticed, as they’re too busy fighting over whether a war is coming and what Robb’s duty really is: go and support his father, or stay at Winterfell with his brothers? Theon pushes for the first option, but Robb reminds Theon that the Starks aren’t Theon’s family, so it’s not his business – so Theon storms off. The boys2men foster-brothers who’ve been raised together for eight years don’t actually get on all that well…
Robb finds Bran just in time to fight off the wildlings, and Theon likewise turns up just in time to shoot an arrow through the one that has a knife to Bran’s neck. The surviving wildling (who should be a familar face to Harry Potter fans) is spared by Robb and, presumably, brought back to the castle.
Later, Theon encounters Ros leaving the North on the back of a turnip cart. War is coming, she says, and so she’s heading for King’s Landing. Theon desperately doesn’t want her to go, and tries not to show it, but he can do nothing but pay her for a last, blurry glimpse at her crotch (this is faux-medieval Europe, friends, and underwear hasn’t been invented yet).
Catelyn and Lysa are at standstill, and in the Eyrie, Tyrion is the one who makes the first move. He’s getting sick of waking up on the edge of his cell, and tries various ways to bribe his gaoler, Mord – but only succeeds in getting a message through to Lysa: that he is ready to confess. Summoned before a full council chamber, he starts his “˜confession’: gambling, drinking, whoring, and “milking the eel” into the family soup (a fine collector of euphemisms, is Tyrion). But he refuses to admit to Bran’s attempted murder or Jon Arryn’s actual murder, and demands a trial – for which the penalty is death, and in the Eyrie, that means an exit through the moon door – straight into the welcoming arms of nothing but air and gravity.
Lysa wants Robin to try Tyrion, but he demands trial by combat. Lysa nominates her champion, and Tyrion, denied the right to summon Jaime, pleads for one: until Bronn, the greasy-looking mercenary, volunteers. Bronn fights nastily, but wins, and Tyrion walks out the door with Bronn – having paid Mord for taking the message to Lysa: because “a Lannister always pays his debts.”
Catelyn is left with no prisoner, barely any men, and an unhinged, pissed off sister.
Robert, Ned, and Renly: Last time we saw Ned Stark, he was unconscious and bleeding from a nasty wound to the thigh inflicted by Jaime Lannister’s guard. He wakes up to Cersei and Robert standing over him, which you’d think would be enough to scare him back into unconsciousness, but no. At his bedside, Cersei displays her excellent talent for spreading lies with just enough truth to be plausible; Ned demands justice for his dead guards, and Robert tries to keep the peace. Cersei goes for the low blow: “I should wear the armour, and you the gown,” and Robert hits her across the face. So much for their brief entente last week.
Robert tries to enforce a deal: Catelyn is to let Tyrion go, Ned is not to chase Jaime (who has left the capital); Ned is the Hand again; and Cersei doesn’t get her family bank to call in Robert’s debts to them. Robert also lays on the emotional blackmail, telling Ned that he is his best and closest brother – the one he chose.
[pullquote]”Killing things clears my head”- King Robert[/pullquote]
Robert then goes out hunting with his actual brother Renly, who is finally sick of Robert’s bragging, ideals of manhood, and misplaced nostalgia for a time of war, whoring and destruction, and gives his brother a piece of his mind before storming off. Robert carries on, boar-spear in hand, with Barristan Selmy and squire Lancel, who knows that Robert likes a drink when he’s upset (or indeed, at any time).
Ned, though he’s been made Hand again by Robert, clearly hasn’t learned his lesson from last week’s exercise in political stupidity and makes another bold and public error. He hears reports of rape and slaughter in the Riverlands (part of Catelyn’s family’s lands) and when the witnesses describe the leader as the Mountain, Gregor Clegane, Ned promptly denounces him, strips him of his property, and sends Lord Beric Dondarrion after him with one hundred men and permission to kill. To add insult to injury, Ned also summons the Mountain’s liege lord and Lannister patriarch, Tywin Lannister, on pain of being declared a traitor. Good move, Ned, because if his children are anything to go by, Tywin’s sure to be a treat. Ned’s actions here are an interesting contrast from when we first met him: the one who who stuck by “the one who passes the sentence swings the sword.” Yet again, also, he misunderstands Littlefinger’s subtle warning: “Gold wins wars, not soldiers,” and ignores Pycelle’s advice too. Ned may have commanded during the war and at Winterfell, but he is making a mess of being this king’s Hand in the big city.
Sansa and Arya are enjoying King’s Landing in their own ways. Arya is making progress with Syrio, who teaches her to set her boring quotidian worries – such as her father possibly dying from an infected leg wound – aside to concentrate on her sword. [pullquote]”There is only one god, and his name is Death. And there is only one thing we say to Death: not today” – Syrio[/pullquote] Joffrey takes his mother’s advice and apologises to Sansa with a gold necklace, a kiss, and enough flowerly phrases to almost make us believe him, if we didn’t already know he’s such a dreadful little toad. Sansa’s being an excellently moody teenager here, which brings home to me just how young she is.
Thus, when Ned tells the girls he’s sending them back to Winterfell, he gets vigorous protests, from Sansa most of all: she wants to be queen and have Joffrey’s babies, babies who’ll have “beautiful blond hair” like Joffrey, not like drunken King Robert. And finally the penny drops for Ned, and he goes to the book Jon Arryn died with, just to check… Did you see the penny falling?
And on to the arguably biggest showdown in this week’s episode: Daenarys and Viserys.
[pullquote]”Who can rule without wealth or fear or love?” – Viserys, who has none[/pullquote]
Jorah succeeds in stopping him, but not before Viserys tries to bribe him by offering Dany as a sex object – again. Back in the party tent, Viserys arrives drunk, with a sword, which he knows is verboten in Vaes Dothrak: but he thinks he’s safe, as the shedding of blood is also taboo (human only, we must assume). Dany tells Jorah to take him away, but Viserys won’t leave. He threaten to take Dany away, and with his sword at her belly, says “he can keep the baby, I’ll cut it out and leave it for him”. Drogo has had enough. He orders a gold necklace to be melted down in the central fire, and Viserys is told he’ll get his crown: as two Dothraki hold him down, Drogo pours the gold over Viserys’s head. Drogo knows you don’t have to shed blood to kill a man.
Dany is finally free of her brother – the only family she’s known.
This week’s episode leaned a little heavier on the mystical elements: Bran’s dream, and Dany’s apparent immunity to fire: her hands don’t burn when she takes the dragon’s eggs from the fire earlier in the episode, but her maid Doreah’s do. And when Viserys dies, Dany quietly declares: “He was no dragon. Fire cannot kill a dragon.”
For all these siblings, the question of where their loyalties lie – the family, or themselves? – is pressing. Dany clearly made her choice, and Renly seems to have: but if Ned makes his discovery public, who will Robert choose? The two possible extremes are shown by the two significant sibling relationships not shown in this episode: Jaime and Cersei, whose foremost loyalties are to each other to the detriment of everyone else in their lives; and the Mountain and the Hound, who would happily kill each other (and came close last week).
Now that Ned knows the devastating secret that got Jon Arryn killed, what is he going to do about it? Is this the end of Tyrion’s troubles? Are you sad to see Viserys go, and what does his death mean for Dany? Do you miss Jon Snow as much as I do?