The fallout from Ned’s arrest the previous week ensues as the Northern men are slaughtered, including Septa Mordane. Arya is almost arrested but Syrio sacrifices himself to let her get away. Arya inadvertently kills a stable boy who tries to stop her from escaping. Varys visits Ned in the cells and tells him that his mercy led to the Robert’s death. Varys encourages him to confess so that Arya and Sansa can be safe. At the Wall, the Rangers inspect the dead bodies from the previous week and the bodies are sent to Maester Aemon for inspection. News from King’s Landing reaches the Wall and Jon is upset that Ned is accused of treason. Alliser Thorne continues to instigate Jon and Jon loses his temper. Sansa meets with the Small Council, who threaten to break off the engagement unless she writes to Winterfell asking Robb to come in and bend the knee. Robb receives this letter and is understandably incredulous. He makes a decision to call his banners to march on King’s Landing. Catelyn learns of the news and asks Lysa for help but is turned down.
Tyrion and Bronn make their way back from the Vale but are ambushed by tribesmen. Tyrion is able to win them over to his side by promising them weapons to fight the knights of the Vale. Confined to quarters after his confrontation with Thorne, Jon is woken by Ghost who leads to the reanimated bodies of the men found at the start of the episode. Jon fights them but they do not stay down till they are burned. The Dothraki sack a small village, raping and killing the innocents indiscriminately until Dany stops them. The Dothraki is angered by this and take up the case with Khal Drogo who takes Dany’s side. This enrages one of the warriors whose victim was taken away from him and he insults Drogo openly, resulting in a fight. Drogo wins easily but takes a wound in the process. One of the women that Dany rescued offers to heal the wound and Dany requests Drogo let her despite the disapproval of everyone around her.
One of Robb’s bannermen refuses to listen to orders until Robb threatens him. He bares steel at Robb but Robb’s wolf jumps on him and tears out a finger after which the bannerman is sufficiently mollified. Robb will be marching towards the South soon and he says goodbye to Bran. Rickon overhears and says that none of them will come back. Catelyn meets with Robb’s army on their way down South and warns him that this is no game – if he loses, they will all die. Tyrion leads his odd army into the Lannister camp where he is distinctly unwelcome. His father, cold and hostile, offers to let him lead the vanguard. Robb catches a Lannister scout but lets him go to the surprise and dismay of the GreatJon Umber, his once unruly bannerman.
In King’s Landing, Cersei strips Barristan Selmy of his white cloak and he leaves the court in a rage. Sansa makes her plea to King Joffrey to spare her father and it seems like she is successful as Joffrey insists that Ned must confess, plead guilty to treason and reaffirm Joffrey as the Hand of the King or there will be no mercy for him.
This episode is a deal slower after the rush of last week’s episode as we begin looking at the repercussions of Ned’s arrest. His men are slaughtered and his daughters’ lives seem to hang in the balance, though in very different ways. Arya out in the urban wilderness of King’s Landing where she seems safe from the Lannisters for the time being but is utterly cut off from any kind of help while Sansa is stuck right in the thick of things without even realizing the trouble she’s really in. I would say that this episode is equal parts moving the various characters into place for the next episode (which will have the first full Lannister versus Stark battle) and will resolve the treason arc. This episode is named ‘The Pointy End’ but it’s an odd choice to me – is it a reference to Arya’s first encounter with death? Or is it more a reference to the deaths of the Starks at the beginning of the episode? I guess there’s no shortage of swords in the series or this episode because it could even (and I know I’m stretching it here) refer to the wound that Drogo takes.
The focus this week was understandably scattered – there was no one plotline that really stood to me, but there were a number of great, small scenes. The heroic death of Syrio Forel was a pleasure to watch, not because I wanted the character to die of course, but just because of the way he was able to manhandle his opponents right until his sword broke. I will miss Syrio Forel just because he was so very different from the rest of the cast and Miltos Yerolemou did an excellent job capturing his mannerisms and small little quirks. I won’t say that the scenes with him and Arya were the greatest of the season but they had their own charm and certainly, their own appeal.
On the other hand, I can’t say that I really liked the scene with Tyrion and the mountain clans. I find their addition here a little superfluous in that I really don’t see what they have to add to the story. The whole concept of him winning them over with promises of slightly better weaponry seems forced to me too, but it is in the source material so I guess that’s something I should take up with Martin rather than Dan & David. I enjoyed the scene in which Barristan’s white cloak is taken away and his anger after it. I wish we could have gotten a look at his fighting skills – it would have been fun to see him tear through the Kingsguard that contemptuously though I have to wonder if the actor has it in him to perform such a physically demanding scene. I also, really, really disliked the scene in which Robb’s wolf rips out Umber’s finger, mostly because of the way it was shot. The wolf looked like a puppy and it seems ridiculous that a man the size of the GreatJon would go down under something that size, much less lose a finger to it. This time, I can certainly point the finger at Dan & David because the concept behind the scene was pretty cool but the execution was just pathetic.
Jack Gleeson, who plays the despicable Joffrey, is doing a great job in making the little twat as unlikable as possible. I have to say, I never imagined him growing into the role as well as he did – he has captured the very core of the character perfectly. His portrayal of Joffrey has that precise, unholy mixture of entitlement, arrogance, cruelty and ignorance that makes our new King just so easy to hate. His scenes this week really bring out the worst in the character and the best in the actor. That said, I think the strength of his performances do highlight how short of the mark Sophie Turner’s own performances are. There are a couple of reasons why I can’t really buy her as Sansa – there is too much petulance and not enough innocence and as a result Turner’s Sansa comes out as bitchier than naïve. As course, a good chunk of that is just because of the script but it is also the way Turner fails to nail down Sansa’s mannerisms and expressions. I’ll stop short of saying that Turner is terrible, but her deficiencies do appear worsen when she shares scenes with the likes of Lena Hedley and Jack Gleeson.
For an episode that seems mostly about building the hype for Ned’s big decision next week (I feel like I’ve said this before), this is still a strong episode, though the scope is wider now than it has been for a few weeks. I continue to find Jon’s storyline rather dull and overall a distraction from the pace of King’s Landing and similarly Dany’s storyline this week really seems like more of a day-in-the-life kind of episode as we see her grow and change and then change her people but there doesn’t seem to be a great deal of long-term tension growing there.