Joffrey is holding a tourney to celebrate his name-day when a drunken participant, Dontos, earns his ire. Joffrey is about to have him drowned in wine, when Sansa intercedes on Dontos’ behalf and asks Joffrey to spare him. Joffrey agrees and makes Dontos a court jester instead. Tyrion has been sent to King’s Landing to rule as Hand of the King. He interrupts Cersei during a Small Council session and gets on her bad side though the agree to work together to play their enemies off each other.
Bran holds court in Winterfell in Robb’s absence. He discusses the comet in the sky with Osha who thinks it means that dragons have returned. Meanwhile, Dany and her dragons are stranded in the Red Waste, slowly starving and dying of thirst. In desperation she sends riders out to find help. Jon and Lord Commander Mormont venture into the North and find a man named Craster, who has a little farm where he lives with his daughters, who he also ‘marries’. Jon agitates him leading Mormont to reprimand later in private.
Melisandre burns idols of the Seven as Davos and Stannis watch. Stannis draws a burning sword from the flames of the gods and Melisandre claims that Stannis is a prophesized hero. Maester Cressen does not like these burnings but cannot seem to convince Stannis otherwise. He appeals to Davos to convince Stannis but Davos is unconvinced himself. Cressen tries to poison Melisandre later but the poison affects him instead.
In his camp, Robb meets Jaime and they exchange barbs while back in the capital, Tyrion brings Shae to the Hand’s quarters. Cersei asks Littlefinger to find Arya. Cersei mocks Littlefinger and his history with Catelyn but when he replies with insinuations about her and Jaime, she intimidates him into silence. Robb arranges for peace terms to King’s Landing, knowing fully well that they will be rejected. Robb requests Theon’s father’s assistance in the war but Catelyn is strongly against the idea. Robb sends Catelyn to treat with Renly and his forces, hoping to join forces with him.
Back in King’s Landing, Joffrey is redecorating the throne room when Cersei asks him to request Tywin for some assistance but Joffrey brushes her off, more concerned about the rumours regarding her and Jaime. He continues to provoke her, throwing Robert’s adultery in her face until she hits him. He coldly tells her that she will not do so again. Meanwhile, throughout the city, a hunt for Robert’s bastards has been launched and those found are killed, even the little children. Gendry and Arya leave the city as the City Watch searches for them.
And so we return after a long break (sorry) to the continued atrocities in King’s Landing. The episode is titled ‘The North Remembers’ but we open and close the episode in King’s Landing where Joffrey is now officially the King. We got a brief taste of his as a King last season and we saw that he was every bit as awful a King as we thought he would be. I have given Jack Gleeson a bunch of praise last season for playing the villainous role so well and so far he is definitely on track to continue. There is a certain fine art to playing a credible villain in modern fiction – and Game of Thrones definitely counts as modern fiction despite the technological and social settings of the universe. Gleeson doesn’t overact and become some kind of moustache-twirling madman but instead he’s just the archetypical example of someone who doesn’t even know the first thing about good rule and is too young/spoiled/psychotic to see past his own wants, needs and pleasures to actually make decisions regarding the kingdom.
However, he isn’t the only king we see this episode. We meet Stannis Baratheon for the first time, after hearing about him so much in the first season. He is utterly unlike his brothers – for one, he comes across as humourless and dour and his corrections to the letter sent in his name seem rather petty. The priestess with him has bad news written all over her and opening her introductory scene with her burning religious idols is possible meant to give the audience a taste of what Stannis’ rule will be like. We also meet Davos, Stannis’ right hand man, played by Liam Cunningham. He doesn’t play too big a part yet, so we’ll leave him for some other time. I do like the kind of contrast being setup between our various kings – you have Joffrey who is cruel and vain and then you have Stannis who seems like he would be stern, perhaps cruel or perhaps not, but not maliciously and then you have Robb Stark, who seems kind, fair and just. Yet, Robb is as much a child as Joffrey is and while I would never say that Robb would be as bad a king as Joffrey, I think historically child-rulers have always been a terrible idea.
Tyrion continues to be Tyrion, making his jokes and smooth-talking his way around. He is the second Hand we see in action and already we can a world of difference between him and Ned. Where Ned seemed to blunder his way around, Tyrion seems much more proactive in establishing himself as the Hand. However, he will have his work cut out for him because Cersei seems very unwilling to relinquish the power now that she’s finally in a position to call the shots. The scene between her and Littlefinger is a show-only addition and while I thought it was extremely out of character (especially her character at this point in the series) for her to so openly acknowledge the incest, her little display of power was supposed to show the audience how intimidating she is. I don’t really like the scene though, for several reasons – first of all, Littlefinger is not so stupid as to openly threaten the queen. Furthermore, the effect of the power play is lost when you consider that she was just commanding her own household guards. It’s no big deal making her own guards listen to her, is it?
Nothing really major happened in Dany’s arc, so we’ll skip that till something more substantial happens. Instead, let’s jump ahead to the end of the episode. First, we see that Cersei is losing control over Joffrey. Again, this is unique to the show though the novels imply the same. Joffrey is asserting himself as king right before her eyes, but unlike the last king, she doesn’t have the willpower to have Joffrey killed. How, then, does she intend to hold on to power with her own family fighting her for it?
And then we have that heart-breaking ending scene where we see Janos Slynt kill a little child. It’s not clear at this who gave the order – Joffrey or Cersei – but either way, it’s a terrible thing though it seems perfectly clear what the logic behind it was. It would be cruel irony for Cersei/Joffrey to find Arya while searching for Gendry wouldn’t it?