Ned reaches King’s Landing and meets Jaime Lannister in throne room before a meeting of the Small Council. Ned and Jaime clash verbally with Jaime mocking Ned’s position as hand and Ned bringing up Jaime’s broken vows. Jaime recalls Ned’s brother’s and father’s deaths in the very throne room they stand in. The tension builds until Ned walks away and into the council meeting. He meets Varys, Littlefinger, Renly and Pycelle. Ned learns that the crown is deeply in debt and is further annoyed when he learns that Robert wants a tournament to celebrate his appointment as hand.
Cersei sees to Joffrey’s injuries and gives him advice on ruling and why the North cannot be conquered. They discuss the Starks and Cersei concedes that the Starks are their enemies. Meanwhile Arya and Sansa are arguing over the events of the last episode. Ned comes in and dismisses Arya and tries to cheer Sansa up, but to no avail. He visits Arya, who is practicing with her sword in her room, and he helps her make sense of the events of the last episode which have left Arya understandably anger and miserable. He tells Arya that he will arrange for sword fighting lessons for her.
Back in Winterfell, Old Nan tells Bran stories about winter. She tells him the story of the Long Night, a decade long winter. Her story is interrupted by Robb’s entrance. They discuss Bran’s fall but Bran cannot remember anything about what happened. Bran is desolate about his disability. Meanwhile, Catelyn has reached King’s Landing and is surprised to see that Littlefinger has already learned of her arrival. He brings her into one of his brothels and she is upset at this treatment. He apologizes for the locale and brings Varys out. Varys reveals he knows of their reasons for coming to King’s Landing but admits he does not know who the dagger belongs to. Littlefinger then chimes in saying the dagger is his but that he lost it to Tyrion Lannister over a bet.
In the North, Jon is easily the best of the new trainees of the Night’s Watch though he is merciless on the training ground. Tyrion and Lord Commander Mormont watch over the training and Mormont admits that the training is slow and will take a long while. A raven from Winterfell arrives bringing news of Bran. A similar raven has arrived in King’s Landing but before Ned can read it, he is taken to Catelyn by Littlefinger. Tyrion rescues Jon from his fellow trainees before giving Jon some advice about his arrogance. Catelyn tells Ned he can trust Littlefinger. Cersei and Jaime discuss Bran’s awakening.
Robert and Selmy discuss their first kills before Robert gets bored and decides to mock Lancel and Jaime instead. Jon is distraught that his uncle will not let him go ranging with him. Benjen takes offense to Tyrion’s gentle teasing of the Night’s Watch and Tyrion decides to head south with Yoren. Dany learns that she is pregnant. Maester Aemon tells Tyrion to tell the King of their great need in the North. The episode ends with Arya having her first dance lesson and Ned having a flashback to a previous battle.
I really like how well paced this season seems to be. Four episodes in and it already seems like so much has happened. The ties and tensions between the characters is beginning to really solidify though a part of me feels that the battle lines are being drawn a little too sharply. The season’s central theme of Starks vs Lannister really comes to the forefront this episode, with Cersei almost blatantly telling Joffrey that the Starks are their enemies.
So having said that I think the best way to look at this episode is through storylines – the events in the North, events in King’s Landing and Dany’s storyline. King’s Landing is starting to get more and more complex especially with the bunch of new characters introduced this episode. The small council is introduced here but it seems like a fairly weak group of individuals. Littlefinger comes across as a particularly sleazy individual and this is despite Catelyn’s assurance that Ned can trust him. The way that scene was framed along with the fact that a pimp is almost always untrustworthy gives enough clues that Baelish is bad news. Another interesting scene in King’s Landing was where Cersei gives Joffrey advice on how to rule. She is certainly pampering him but what struck me was that Joffrey’s idea to have a standing army didn’t seem that bad. He is certainly spineless and has a cruel streak running through him but at the same time he gets no discouragement from his mother and has an absentee father. Speaking of his father though, I’m not sure that I really liked his scene with Selmy and Jaime. I get the sense that Robert is just this brute who enjoys killing though the way he kept repeating ‘Stupid kid’ made me wonder whether there weren’t some hidden depths to Robert beyond the debauchery. My two favourite scenes from this episode both come from King’s Landing however. The first is Littlefinger telling Ned his wife is in a brothel – followed by Catelyn greeting him from the balcony of said brothel. It was just a nice moment of light-heartedness even though it annoys Ned enough to choke Littlefinger (some people just can’t appreciate humour apparently). The other scene of course, was the introduction of Syrio Forel and his dancing lessons. I love the instant chemistry that Arya and Syrio share – it’s just plain adorable!
Meanwhile, in the North, Jon Snow continues to receive life lessons from Tyrion. I feel at this point Tyrion has probably done more to help Jon adapt to life at the Wall than either Benjen or Ned have and they’re supposed to be his family. Tyrion himself could benefit from learning a few lesson; his out of hand dismissal of the Night’s Watch seemed a little high handed though I do like his newfound friendship with Jon – after seeing all the fighting between Lannister and Stark it’s probably a little ironic that a Stark bastard and a Lannister end up being friends. The scene where Mormont and Aemon tell Tyrion of the Night’s Watch’s dire situation and the threat beyond the Wall was interesting. The Night’s Watch does seem rather bare in terms of resources and men but I had not realized the situation was quite so desperate from the show’s portrayal.
Meanwhile, Dany is pregnant! That was fast! The relationship between Drogo and Dany seems to have progressed fast since their uncomfortable first night an episode ago. The conversation Jorah had with Dany’s bloodrider was an interesting piece of world building too. We see two different schools of thought regarding how to fight. Jorah’s is the more conventional of the two – offense and defense but the other school isn’t that different. Speed and agility are possibly just as important in a fight as brute strength and it’s interesting that this is similar to the principles that guide Arya’s own learning.
The episode kept the momentum going though it does give the audience a little bit of a breather from the tension of these first couple of episodes. We can see that Ned has a huge task on his hand bringing this group of schemers to work together but at the same time we can see how poorly suited he is to this task. Meanwhile, Viserys continues to alienate himself from Dany in a character conflict that is sure to end poorly as Dany rises in influence and status among the Dothraki. Lastly, we leave the Wall with Snow making significant headway in feeling at home at the Wall.