George R.R. Martin brings the zombies back, finally! I really missed their lovely blue eyes.
We’re brought straight back to King’s Landing very soon after Ned’s arrest in the throne room. Sansa is bitching about Arya to Septa Mordane when they hear the sounds of swords clashing. The septa displays much more savvy than her charge, and orders Sansa to run back to her room and bar the door, as she herself walks towards the men in red cloaks with bloody swords… Sansa seems to do her best (did anyone else think she ran realllly sllooowwly?), but is waylaid by the Hound, who brings her straight to the Queen.
Meanwhile, Arya is practicing with Syrio when they are rudely interrupted by more Lannister soldiers. Syrio fights them all off with his wooden practice sword and tells Arya to remember what we say to death, and to run. She runs the depths of the castle and out to the stable yard where her family’s servants had been packing the wagons. She rifles through the trunks for her sword, Needle, and when one of the stable boys tries to grab her to take her to the Queen, she stabs him – with the pointy end, of course.
Some time later, Varys visits Ned in the dungeons to tell him what’s happening: Arya is missing; Sansa is physically unharmed, but with Cersei; and all the rest of his household are dead (including, presumabley, Septa Mordane and Syrio). Varys asks him why he told Cersei what he knows; he says it was mercy so she could save her children’s lives. Apart from being imprisoned in a dungeon with no light or food, Ned is not happy that Varys betrayed him in the throne room, but Varys is nothing if not pragmatic, and tells Ned clearly that it was his telling Cersei that killed Robert. (Although Robert – with Lancel, Renly, and Ser Barristan – had gone hunting before Ned said anything to Cersei. Did she already know or guess?). Most importantly to Ned’s ambitions for the immediate future, Catelyn has released Tyrion, so Ned’s one safeguard against execution for treason is gone.
Ned: Who do you truly serve?
Varys: The realm, my lord. Someone has to.
Sansa, meanwhile, may have the opportunity to save Ned and her engagement to Joffrey, if she writes to Robb to tell him he must come to the city and swear loyalty to Joffrey. Sansa insists there’s been some mistake and wants to speak to Ned, but Cersei refuses, asking her why she’d even want to speak to a traitor. It’s interesting to watch Cersei being so apparently genuine yet toying with Sansa so completely, using Ned’s child in a way that Ned was too honourable to use hers.
Sansa: What will happen to him?
Cersei: That depends… on your brother. And on you.
Sansa’s letter reaches Robb in Winterfell; he decides to go to King’s Landing, but he’ll bring the armies of the North with him. But when the lords arrive, not all of them are prepared to follow Robb unquestioningly, and Lord Greatjon Umber draws his dagger when he’s refused command of the vanguard.
For his trouble, he gets several fingers bitten off by Robb’s direwolf, but seems much happier afterwards. Before he leaves, Robb says goodbye to Bran and tells him that he is now the Stark of Winterfell and must stay in the castle. Rickon follows him in, saying, “They’ve all gone away.” Poor Rickon. Hardly any screen time, and the only family member he has left is only staying because he can’t leave.
The next morning, Bran prays for Robb in the godswood. Osha, feet in chains as usual, tells him that the gods can hear him but can’t help Robb in the south: she would have sent the army north, where the real threat is. (Also, we see Hodor naked. Hodor! I would pay to see Hodor and the Librarian get their own spinoff, can someone get on that?)
In the Eyrie, Catelyn is furious with Lysa, firstly for concealing news of Robb’s army from her, and then for refusing to send her men to join Robb. Catelyn accuses her of not caring about family, but Lysa’s family is her son, and her soldiers must stay to protect him.
Catelyn joins Robb on the march, and after a private hug, they discuss tactics. Robb has 18,000 men to the Lannisters’ 60,000, and he knows that if he loses, all his family will die.
Theon: Are you afraid?
Robb, watching his hand shake: I must be.
Robb: Why is that good?
Theon: It means you’re not stupid.
Later, the Northerners discuss their plan. The only way around the river that separates them from the Lannister forces is at the ford controlled by the Freys, who owe allegience to Catelyn’s family – but they are not certain to be friendly. A Lannister scout is brought in. Robb releases him, telling him to tell Tywin Lannister that twenty thousand men are coming for him. Lord Umber clearly doesn’t value his digits, as he violently disagrees with Robb again for releasing the scout – but Robb wins.
Tyrion is enjoying his new-found freedom and irritating Bronn, but while trying to escape the Vale, they are surrounded by the Vale equivalent of wildlings, the mountain men: Storm Crows, Burned Men, and Black Ears (nominally led by Shagga). Tyrion tries friendliness, slagging, and finally bribery, and gets the mountain men and women to escort him out of the Vale in return for the promise of weapons to fight Lysa’s soldiers (a good lesson in “my enemy’s enemy is my friend”). They bring him to Tywin’s camp: the father-son reunion is, safe to say, atypical. Tywin berates Tyrion for having the nerve to get himself captured in the first place, and relishes catching him up with all he’s missed: Robert’s death, Jaime besieging Riverrun, and Robb Stark marching south. Tywin is delighted that Robb’s army is getting closer, and offers the mountain men more rewards for fighting on his side, but Shagga wants the weapons and armour Tyrion promised him and isn’t leaving him until he delivers. Tyrion takes advantage of the distraction to nab a well-deserved drink.
On the Wall, the rangers have brought back two bodies: men of the Watch who set out with Benjen’s party, and one missing the arm that Ghost found last week. Sam notices that the bodies don’t smell, even though they should, and Jon wants them burned. Commander Mormont agrees but wants Maester Aemon to examine them first. Mormont also tells Jon the news: King Robert is dead and Ned is imprisoned for treason. Jon gets up to go out straight away, and though Mormont warns him not to do anything stupid, later Thorne goads Jon into attacking him with a kitchen knife. Mormont confines Jon to his room as punishment (a bit short of the hanging Thorne expected), but Jon isn’t very obedient, conveniently, as one of the dead bodies is pretty undead, homicidal and doesn’t care very much about being stabbed or speared. As a last-ditch effort, Jon throws Mormont’s lamp at the body, which seems to do the trick. Later, as they watch the bodies burn, Sam shares what he’s read about bodies like this: they’ve been touched by the White Walkers.
Making good on his promise of last week, Drogo’s khal has raided a town of the “sheep people,” to raise funds to invade Westeros. Dany, however, is not comfortable with the up-close-and-personal view of rape and pillage and stops several Dothraki men from rounding up and raping the town’s women – against the advice of Jorah and her guards. The men, led by a man called Mago, complain to Drogo, and Dany asserts her rights. She is the Khaleesi and “it pleases me to protect them.”
Drogo is amused by her authority, taking it as a sign of their son’s strength, and tells Mago to find somewhere else to stick his cock. (Literally. I love subtitles). Mago is not happy and challenges Drogo. Drogo wins, unarmed, with graphic descriptions of the man’s unburned and despoiled body and also by slitting his throat and ripping out his tongue, but in the process is wounded in the chest. He isn’t too concerned, but Dany wants the cut taken care of, and, conveniently, one of the women she rescued is a priestess and a healer. For Dany’s sake, Drogo allows this Mirri Maz Duur to treat the cut.
Back in King’s Landing, Cersei fires Ser Barristan Selmy from the Kingsguard, though she disguises it as a well-deserved retirement. Barristan, however, is not fooled and angrily throws down his cloak and sword in the throne room. Cersei nominates Jaime in his place.
After Ser Barristan leaves, Sansa pleads with Joffrey for mercy for Ned. She claims he was affected by the painkillers Maester Pycelle was giving him for his leg wound and begs Joffrey to have mercy on him for the sake of his affection for her. Joffrey agrees but only if Ned will confess to treason and acknowledge Joffrey as the rightful king.
It feels like a lot went on in this episode but nothing really happened yet, as the plot sets up for the last two episodes: given that the episode was written by the man himself, George R.R. Martin, it didn’t have so many memorable moments as previous weeks (though Drogo’s speech is a contender). It’s also getting even more important than ever to keep track of who knows what when; the Lannisters always seem to be one step ahead there.
Incidentally, the Irish two degrees of separation has kicked in again, and I have it on good authority that Jack Gleeson is a lovely lad really. So that’s all right then.
So, where is Arya? Will Ned confess? And which of the cast would you most like to take out for a drink?