Ned wakes up from a restless sleep. His leg has been injured in his fight with Jamie Lannister. Robert and Cersei visit him, Robert is annoyed that the peace has been broken but Cersei demands justice. Cersei and Robert fight and Robert hits her. Robert returns Ned to the office of Hand. Arya is upset because Jory has been killed and her father is injured and cannot focus on her sword fighting lessons. Robert later goes hunting with Selmy, Lancel and Renly but tensions between the Baratheon brothers run high. In Robert’s absence, Ned sits the Iron Throne. Peasants complain that knights have been burning their crops and raping their women – Ned realizes that it was a Lannister knight, Gregor Clegane. Ned denounces him and demands Tywin Lannister come to King’s Landing to answer for the crimes of his bannerman. Ned sends Beric Dondarrion to bring Gregor to justice. Joffrey makes amends with Sansa but her happiness is cut short when Ned tells her that she is returning to Winterfell. In her anger, she claims that Joffrey is nothing like Robert which makes Ned realize that Joffrey is in fact Jaime’s bastard.
Back at Winterfell, Theon tries to convince Robb to call the banners and march to war, but Robb rebuffs him. Bran is accosted by brigands but Robb and Theon are able to fight them off. One of the surviving brigands pleads for mercy and Robb takes her back to Winterfell. In the Eyrie, Tyrion tells Mord that he will confess. Mord brings this news to Lysa and Catelyn who begin the trial. Tyrion confesses to numerous petty, amusing misdemeanours from his childhood but insists that he is innocent of the crimes he stands accused of. He demands a trial by combat. A mercenary represents Tyrion and the fight commences. The sellsword, Bronn, wins and Tyrion is freed.
Dany’s maid finds her heating the dragon eggs, but her hands do not suffer from burns. Later, the Dothraki perform a ceremony in which Dany must eat an entire horse’s heart raw without vomiting. She does so, barely and the priestesses prophesize that her son will be a mighty warrior who will unite the world under a single tribe. She announces her son will be named Rhaego. Viserys notes that her people love her and is perturbed by this. He goes to steal the dragon eggs, but Jorah stops him. Viserys interrupts a feast later, drunk, and demands Drogo give him his due, or he will cut the child out of Dany. Drogo responds to this by giving Viserys exactly what he asked for – a crown made out of molten gold.
This episode is named ‘A Golden Crown’ and it is so very apt given the two big events at the episode’s end. Viserys death should come as a surprise to literally no one given how abrasive and generally scorned he is though the brutality of it surprised me. Of course, him threatening to cut Dany’s child out of her meant that there was no other way for that particular fiasco to end, but somehow, until this episode, my impression of Viserys was that he was generally harmless. Yes, he was abusive, both physically and mentally, but I always thought that he should stop short of severely wounding his little sister. Apparently, I was wrong so I say good riddance to Viserys and a fonder farewell to Harry Lloyd, whose portrayal of the character was absolutely perfect. He was just sympathetic enough to make wonder if he could be redeemed but annoying enough otherwise that the character won’t be missed.
What is interesting is the frost in Dany’s reaction – she notes Viserys’ death with an almost impassive face and we see she’s made real progress so far this season. Her scene with the horse’s heart was pretty gross, but it served to show how well accepted she has become amongst her people and that there is a genuine affection between her and Drogo. Interestingly enough, Emilia Clarke did actually almost vomit while filming the scene – she was given a dense mixture of carbohydrate and protein shaped like the horse’s heart and she did in fact eat it on camera. Meanwhile, Tyrion’s misadventures look set to continue now that he’s free. The fight between Bronn and Lysa’s champion (whose name eludes me and is tragically irrelevant now) was rather intense given the settings it took place in. You would think that they would have cleared the room before asking people to fight but no, apparently collateral damage is also the will of the gods. Tyrion’s trial places us in a strange position as viewers since we like both Tyrion and Catelyn. Tyrion is generally funnier and more entertaining to watch and I think this particular course of events tips the popularity contest in his favour, combined with the fact that the audience knows that he’s innocent.
Let’s talk about the other big scene this episode – Jaime’s a father! Apparently, he’s been one for a long while too and the immediate consequences are huge. What will Ned do? What will Robert do? Cersei? The ramifications are huge and the whole matter appeared from the oddest of sources – Sansa, who was being particularly bitchy this episode. Avid viewers will also note that Cersei mentioned that her and Robert’s first born child had black hair before he died and so the contrast between Joffrey and his siblings would have been even greater. I’m not sure that I’m a fan of how the reveal was spelled out, with Ned reading aloud from the book like a small child. I can’t think offhand of a better way to do it, but the current way felt clumsy.
Speaking of clumsy, Littlefinger’s constant reminders to the audience about the symbolism of certain actions were also ham-fisted. His constant whispers into Ned’s years were rather in character I felt, but the contents of those whispers were things Ned already knew and felt forced in just for the audience’s sake. I guess I can’t complain too much since so much has happened this season that most people would actually forget the smaller details.
This episode served as a mini-climax for the season so far – everything that has been building since the first few episodes has delivered their respective payloads and now the rest of the season will be the fallout and the culmination of these events. We have a resolution to the tension between Stark and Lannister now that everything is out in the open, the conflict is no longer hidden and passive. Viserys death can be seen as Dany’s chance to finally come into her own while Tyrion’s own mini-arc of arrest and escape has concluded. The rest of the season will show us where these characters end up.