Dany tries to get accustomed to life with the Dothraki but her life is far from easy. Jorah assures her that it will get easier with time. Back at Winterfell, the crown prince Joffrey is dismissive of Bran’s condition and Tyrion hits him and orders him to offer his condolences to Lord and Lady Stark. Tyrion joins his siblings and family for breakfast and hints to Jaime that he wonders what the boy saw before his fall. Cersei visits Catelyn and shares the story of how she lost her first born. Jaime mocks Jon’s choice to join the Night’s Watch and Jon offers his younger sister Arya a sword that he made specially for her.
Jon says his goodbyes to the rest of his siblings. Bran is still comatose and Catelyn cruelly remarks that she wishes it was Jon who was in Bran’s place. Ned follows Jon out of Winterfell with the promise that the next time they meet he will tell him about his mother. Robert receives news of Daenerys and Drogo’s marriage and Robert feels threatened by the wedding, sensing that there will be a war coming.
Tyrion and Jon talk more on the journey north to the Wall where Tyrion also mocks Jon’s choice to join the Night’s Watch. An assassin sneaks into Bran’s room and tries to kill Bran and Catelyn but they are saved by Bran’s direwolf, Summer. Catelyn believes that the Lannisters tried to kill Bran and decides to convey this message to Ned herself and leave Winterfell.
Dany learns the arts of love from her maid and tries them out on Drogo who is very receptive to them. Joffrey meanwhile charms Sansa and they take a walk down the river as the entire entourage moves towards King’s Landing. They find Arya practising sword fighting with a butcher’s boy. Joffrey finds this amusing and begins threatening the butcher’s boy, cutting him with his sword and taunting him to defend himself. Arya intervenes and Joffrey is about to turn his blade on her before her direwolf tackles Joffrey. Nymeria and Arya escape but Arya realizes that Nymeria will be put down if she is found and drives Nymeria away.
They find Arya sometime later, but instead of being returned to Ned, Cersei brings her to the King for punishment (whipping). Robert is willing to let the matter pass, but Cersei demands at least the wolf’s blood. Since Nymeria is gone, Cersei takes Sansa’s wolf. Ned requests that he do it himself. The episode ends with him putting Sansa’s direwolf down.
Like the previous episode, this one ends on a something of a downer. The whole episode is a little bit slower, and understandably so since it’s largely the reactions to the last episode’s shocking ending and we’re still very much in the world-building/exposition part of the story and are still trying to get to know our characters a little better. Having said that though, the tension between the characters, on both an individual and family basis, is building up and the audience should be able to see the battle lines much more clearly now. Unsurprisingly, Dinklage and Bean stand out from the rest of the cast though Coster-Waldau is a close third. Each of them is quite capable of carrying a scene by themselves, though obviously they don’t need to. In fact, I rank these three above the others simply because of their on-screen presence and chemistry with the rest of the cast.
I love how we’re given no explanation about why Tyrion was in the stables surrounded by dogs. I’m not still not fully sold on this version of Tyrion – he seems more interested in drinking and whoring than in pursuing other, more intellectual pursuits. Sure, he says his mind is his weapon and all, but showing is more important than telling, especially in visual media.The scene that Tyrion and Joffrey share remains exquisite – because we already see Joffrey as a tool, Tyrion slapping him puts Tyrion firmly in the good guy category. This is especially important in TV since the audience are not privy to Tyrion’s thoughts. It speaks volumes of Dinklage’s on-screen presence that he is able to walk away from that scene looking every bit the badass – it’s rare for a grown man to earn the audience’s appreciation for hitting a child, but then again there’s something special about Joffrey that makes violence against specific children perfectly acceptable. Tyrion’s dynamic with his family is interesting here – everyone in his family either loves him or hates him. Apparently there can be no middle ground where Tyrion is concerned – Cersei loathes him, and won’t even bother hiding it whereas her younger children seem to adore him. I can’t help but think that Tyrion’s ‘good guy’ street cred is bumped simply by having adorable kids root for him. Dinklage commands every scene he is in regardless of who he shares it with – him strolling into breakfast late and giving the Westerosi equivalent of a ‘Sup Yo!’ to Jaime and Cersei is just impressive just by virtue of the lack of fucks given. Similarly, he walks away from the Hound, who is very much taller and more physically intimidating with a certain swagger that grants him that most hallowed of titles – ‘badass’.
The Jon and Catelyn scene was nothing less than extremely awkward though every bit of that awkwardness was intentional. Ned’s presence in the background makes it all the more uncomfortable since he gets to see how his promises and lies are pulling his loved ones apart. The inclusion of Cersei’s firstborn is obviously meant to make the revelation at the end of the series seem less startling and more logical. However, it does tend to humanize Cersei a little too early and I, for one, am all in favor of demonizing her as much as possible. In a world so filled with detestable characters, it is only just that some of them get what they deserve. Notably though, despite Cersei’s insistent belief that the loss of his first born did not truly affect Robert, the audience can see that perhaps it did and more importantly that there is a fundamental dysfunction in their marriage. It is deeply enough set that one partner cannot believe the other shares her grief over the loss of a newborn child. It also shows that at some point Cersei and Robert did share some sort of affection for each other and makes us wonder what came between them, or perhaps who.
I fail to understand what purpose the Jaime and Jon scene serves, apart from establishing Jaime as a foil to Ned and by association, the Starks as a whole. The antagonism between the Lannisters and Starks was already obvious to the audience by the end of the last episode – these smaller interactions set up Ned as the symbolic representative of the Starks and Jaime as his Lannister counterpart. Jon and Tyrion have an almost antagonistic chemistry – they push each other, though not always in the right way and the tension between them is palpable. Ned and Robert’s chemistry is far from perfect though – while the actors themselves seem to understand their roles and work well together, the characters are undergoing a discovery period where they are discovering each other’s’ stance over political and ethical issues. Clearly, neither likes what he sees.
From a purely visual point of view, I have to commend the shot of Jon’s first view of the Wall as breath-taking and very loyal to the image that most readers would have had of the monument/structure. The godswood in Winterfell still stands out as beautifully exotic – it is hard to imagine that this forest is in the middle of Winterfell. It was also interesting to see Arya and Joffrey’s clash come to life on-screen. Watching Joffrey torment Mycah, the butcher’s boy, made him sink like a rock in the audience’s popularity ratings and demonstrated just how deeply troubled the boy is. More than that though, watching him recklessly swing at Arya, who unlike Mycah, is someone of social importance in this society, establishes him as psychotic and reckless.
The episode of course ends poignantly with Lady’s death with the audience left feeling a sharp sense of injustice at how Lady suffers for Sansa’s spinelessness and Joffrey’s lies. We feel the loss of the butcher’s boy significantly less since we have little emotional attachment to him. However, the scene where Arya is forced to drive Nymeria away is heartbreaking and establishes that this world is not for the innocent and naïve – if audiences didn’t receive that message by the end of the last episode, they would do well to get it now.