End of Season Notes:
I thought it would be a good idea to sort of summarize my feelings on this whole season before moving on to season 2 next week. I guess one of the strongest impressions I had of this season was that everything seemed exactly like it was in the books, and while to a large degree that’s a great thing, there are just some things I feel work a lot better in book where the thought process of each character is better explained. I wish I could come up some example from earlier episodes, but there are some scenes which do not really serve a purpose beyond just being there because they’re there in the books. I don’t have any examples that wouldn’t sound extremely nit-picky so I won’t bring them up now, but I will keep this point in mind for future episodes, in case something strikes me.
This season saw several really strong performers and while Peter Dinklage’s turn as Tyrion did and continues to receive accolade after accolade, I think there are several others who deserve as much praise based on the episodes of this season alone. Sean Bean (Ned Stark) worked brilliantly with Mark Addy (King Robert) and both captured their respective character’s tragedy excellently. Lena Headey was a great screen presence as well and her scenes with both Addy and Jack Gleeson (Joffrey) still stand out in my mind as great additions to the show. On the other side of the sea, I thought Harry Lloyd’s performance as Viserys really brought the character to life for me. If he had a little more screen time, I would quite willingly put his performance over Dinklage’s for the season. Lastly, there’s Charles Dance (Tywin Lannister), who didn’t really appear much, but obviously will feature a great deal more over the next three seasons, but nevertheless made a great start with some intense scenes with both Nikolaj Coster-Waldau (Jaime Lannister) and Dinklage. We’ll see more of him in the near future and so we’ll talk more about him then. Conleth Hill seems almost criminally underrated but his take on Varys is sublime as well – he works well with the equally smooth Aidan Gillen to create an interestingly antagonistic relationship between Varys and Littlefinger that I don’t recall from the books, but certainly love seeing. Jerome Flynn deserves a lot of credit for making Bronn every bit the lovable rogue that he was in the books, as well. Last but certainly not least, is Maisie Williams (Arya) who is exactly what everyone has in mind when they picture Arya. She might not even have known it at the time, but the expectations of her were huge given how Arya is certainly a fan favourite.
The next category I guess is the hit-or-miss types. Alfie Allen as Theon would be a big one for me. Having seen season 3 and 4 already, I know that his performance really picks up, but as of this season it’s a little wooden, like he hasn’t fully gotten the role yet. Jason Momoa as Khal Drogo got a lot of praise for a few of his scenes, but on the whole I found his character disappointingly bland. Michelle Fairley is a TV veteran (I loved her on Suits) but here, I would say that she started out rather awkward, but by the season’s end, I had no difficulty believing that she was Catelyn Stark. Sophie Turner, too, had some really weak moments in this season, but nothing that really stood out as disastrous. I do sympathize with her though – playing Sansa Stark seems like it could definitely be a lot trickier than it looks. I would put Sibel Kekilli in this category too just because her version of Shae seems to stand out too much amongst the rest of the cast and not just because of her accent. I do remembering thinking that her chemistry with Dinklage improves but right now it’s not where it needs to be.
I want to end this little note by really appreciating the work that goes into adapting a work of fiction as dense as A Song of Ice and Fire for television. I think the scenes that the writers added in, add a tremendous amount of context and natural background for the characters and the world and I would be lying if I said that in some cases I felt that they were stronger than the source material in terms of dramatic quality. Some of my favourites were the scene that Robert and Cersei shared over some wine, the scene between Cersei and Catelyn and some of Viserys’ lines to really expand on the character. Can’t wait to get started on Season 2!
In the aftermath of Ned’s death, Yoren cuts Arya’s hair so she is less recognizable and tells her that he will be bringing her North. In Winterfell, Rickon and Bran both have dreams of Ned’s death and soon receive confirmation from Maester Luwin. In King’s Landing, Joffrey has a singer’s tongue removed for singing an unflattering song about King Robert. Joffrey shows Sansa her father’s head and gloats about eventually beating Robb. Sansa’s defiance earns her a beating from the Kingsguard. In Robb’s camp, there is disagreement as to who Robb should pledge to. Eventually the Greatjon declares that Robb is the only king he means to bow to. Robb is soon after declared King in the North. Tywin is unhappy that Jaime has been captured. He orders Tyrion to go to King’s Landing and rule as Hand of the King in his place. He warns Tyrion not to bring Shae to court.
Dany wakes up asking for her son. Jorah tells her that the boy was stillborn and deformed. Mirri Maz Dur told her that only death could pay for life. Furious, Dany demands to see Drogo, but finds that he is alive but only technically – he is listless and brain-dead. Devastated that she has lost both son and husband, Dany asks why the witch has done this. Mirri explains that despite Dany’s attempt at ‘saving’ her, she had already lost all that was precious to her because of the Dothraki – this was her vengeance. Jon abandons his vows and leaves the watch, despite Sam trying his best to stop him. Shae convinces Tyrion to bring her to court with him and Sam is able to stop Jon from leaving for good by chasing after him with Pyp and Grenn.
Dany tries, to no avail, to reawaken Drogo but when he does not wake up, she admits to herself that he is dead and smothers him in her sleep. Pycelle is preparing to meet Joffrey as King for the first time as Littlefinger and Varys discuss their various ambitions. Arya gets acquainted with her fellow potential Night’s Watch recruits and faces two of them down before meeting Gendry, who too is headed to the Wall. At the Wall, Mormont talks to Jon about his attempt at deserting the Watch and tells him that their war is more important than the war about who sits the Iron Throne, as they set out from the Wall with 300 rangers.
Dany lights a large funeral pyre, burning her eggs and Drogo before commanding that Mirri Maz Duur be sent into the pyre as well. Dany gives a speech, promising vengeance against her enemies and salvation for her people before entering the pyre herself. The next morning Jorah finds her singed, but unharmed and with three newly hatched dragons.
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Ned languishes in a cell underneath the Red Keep where Varys visits him. Varys informs him of Robb’s actions and while Ned is hesitant to give in to Cersei’s commands Varys reminds him that Sansa’s life depends on the course Ned takes. Meanwhile, Robb and his army are being held up by at the Twins by the Freys. Catelyn goes to the Twins to reason with Lord Frey and negotiate a price for Robb’s crossing. Frey turns out to be a cantankerous, rude old man who eventually demands a high price – various positions for his relatives and for one of his daughters to wed Robb.
At the Wall, Mormont gives Jon a family heirloom – a Valyrian steel sword called Longclaw. Later on, Jon meets Sam who reluctantly tells him of Robb’s decision to march South. Jon longs to march South with his brother and fight for their father’s freedom. Maester Aemon summons Jon and asks his assistance in feeding the ravens. They talk about their vows – specifically the parts that keep them from taking part in the matters of the realm. Aemon recounts when his own vows were tested and it is revealed that he was once Aemon Targaryen and he remembers wanting to go South to defend his family from Robert. He ends his discussion by insisting that he will not tell Jon whether to stay or go – Jon must decide for himself.
Khal Drogo’s condition is worsening and he is falling off his horse repeatedly. The Dothraki inform Dany that a Khal who cannot ride is no Khal at all. The Dothraki are rather hostile towards her since they think she is responsible for Drogo’s approaching death. Tyrion interrupts a war council where Tywin tells him that he will serve on the front lines. Bronn has brought Tyrion a whore – Shae. They arrange a business deal, a formal exchange of gold for sex. Drogo’s wound has festered and Dany asks Mirri Maz Duur to conduct a blood magic ritual to save his life. The witch warns her that only death can pay for life – she asks for a horse to be brought into the tent as she begins the ceremony. The Dothraki are deeply disturbed by the idea of the ceremony and we see why soon enough – unhuman, monstrous sounds come from the tent. One of Drogo’s bloodriders tries to stop the ceremony and pushes Dany aside. Dany falls on her belly and it seems like the birth begins. Jorah kills the bloodrider and brings Dany to Mirri Maz Duur to help with the childbirth.
The night before the battle, Tyrion, Bronn and Shae play a drinking game where they bring up their pasts. Tyrion pins Bronn down easily but is confounded by Shae. Tyrion tells his own tale – he loved a whore named Tysha once and married her until his father found out and annulled the marriage. He forced Tyrion to rape the woman and then passed her around his household guard. The next morning Tyrion is awoken by Bronn – the battle is beginning. When the battle concludes, we see that the Lannister have won the skirmish but only because Robb committed only 2000 men. Robb himself led the remaining 18000 and captured Jaime Lannister in the process.
In King’s Landing, Arya is struggling to get by on the streets without money or friends or food. She finds out that her father is being taken to the Sept of Baelor where he is to be executed. Ned sees her standing on the statue and whispers the name ‘Baelor’ to Yoren on his way to the steps. Ned confesses his treason and reaffirms Joffrey as the rightful king. For a moment it seems like Joffrey will grant him mercy but he does not – Joffrey declares that Ned will be beheaded for treason. Arya and Sansa watch separately in horror as Ned is beheaded.
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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.
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Jaime is with his father, Tywin. They discuss Ned’s warrant from the previous episode that demands Tywin answer for Gregor Clegane’s crimes. Jaime brushes it off, but Tywin tells him that Jaime thinks too much about others opinions of him. He gives Jaime half of their forces (thirty thousand men) and tells him to raid Catelyn’s homeland. Tywin clarifies that he is not fighting this war for Tyrion’s honor but to protect the Lannister name. Tywin expresses disappointment that Jaime has not used his talents and opportunities to do anything more than serve as a glorified bodyguard. He urges Jaime to become the man he was meant to be.
Ned confronts Cersei in the gardens and reveals that he knows her secret. She doesn’t shy away from this. Ned asks why she hates Robert so much but she says that she used to love him but Lyana’s ghost prevented Robert from loving her. Ned offers her the chance to run, while Robert is still gone on the hunt, but she dismisses him saying that in the game of thrones, you either win or die. Littlefinger reveals his backstory to a pair of practicing prostitutes. In the North, Theon tries to take advantage of the wildling captured in the previous episode but is stopped by Maester Luwin. Osha dismisses the threat Theon poses but insists that the real danger is North beyond the Wall, not South where Robb has marched. At the Wall, Jon and Sam spot a riderless horse returning which Jon identifies one as his uncle Benjen’s. Back in King’s Landing, Renly reports that Robert was gravely injured by a boar. Ned arrives and they discuss Robert’s will in private. He dictates the will to Ned asking him to act as Protector of the Realm and Regent until ‘his son’ comes of age. Ned cannot bring himself to tell his dying friend that Joffrey is not his son so he changes the will to say ‘my rightful heir’. Robert also says that Ned was right to stop him from trying to have Danaerys killed and rescinds that order. He asks for something for the pain and tells Ned to let him die in peace. Ned gives these orders to Varys and Barristan Selmy, but learns that it is too late – the orders have already flown out.
Dany is trying, unsuccessfully, to convince Drogo to take the Iron Throne, but Drogo hates the prospect of crossing the sea. Dany visits the market. Jorah receives a royal pardon from one of Varys spies. Later, a wine merchant tries to get Dany to sample his wares but Jorah realizes that it is an assassination attempt and stops it. Back at the Wall, the new men of the Watch are assigned positions. Jon is upset because despite his skill with a sword, he has been assigned to the stewards instead of the rangers. Sam helps him realize that he is being groomed for command, not shunned and humiliated. In King’s Landing, Renly offers his support to Ned and suggests that they take the throne from Cersei and the Lannisters. Ned refuses since Stannis, not Renly, is Robert’s rightful heir. Ned realizes that he needs Stannis to come claim the throne sooner rather than later and writes him a letter saying so. Littlefinger criticizes this decision and suggests that Ned make amends with Cersei and retain his position in the capital. Ned, being honorable, refuses this course and instead asks Littlefinger to help him secure the city watch’s support in deposing Cersei and Joffrey from the throne. Littlefinger agrees.
Sam and Jon go to the weirwood to say their vows to the Watch. Ghost finds a dead man’s hand. Drogo finds out about the assassination attempt and flies into a rage, promising to deliver the Iron Throne to Dany. Ned learns that Robert has passed away. He gathers his men in the courtroom and declares that Joffrey is a bastard and not the heir to the throne. Cersei demands Ned be arrested. To Ned’s surprise, the Goldcloaks kill the Stark men instead of supporting them and Littlefinger himself puts a dagger to Ned’s throat, telling him that he did warn Ned not to trust him.
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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.
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Ned visits the late Ser Hugh and meets Barristan Selmy there. Ned wonders about Hugh’s death and learns that Robert intends to joust at the tourney. Robert meanwhile is raging at Lancel Lannister. Ned and Robert talk about the tourney and Ned convinces him not to joust. Robert is infuriated but concurs and they talk about the past. The tourney begins and Gregor goes up against Loras Tyrell. Renly and Littlefinger bet on the outcome and Sansa implores her father to ensure Loras is not killed. Loras wins the joust, but in his fury, Clegane butchers his horse. The audience is shocked when he turns to attack Loras but Loras is saved by the Hound. Robert, after some delay, orders an end to the violence. Arya continues her ‘dancing lessons’ and is trying to catch a cat. The cat escapes and she ends up in the dungeon where she hears Varys and Illyrio discuss political matters, and mention her father. Varys pays a visit to Ned and tells him that Robert is in danger and mentions a poison that might have been involved in Jon Arryn’s death. Varys implies that Hugh poisoned Jon Arryn and tells Ned it was because Arryn started asking the wrong questions. Varys and Littlefinger discuss some matters including Littlefinger’s illegal activities and Littlefinger brings up Varys’ visitor in the afternoon. Their knowledge of each other’s activities reveals puts them in a stalemate. Arya returns to Ned and tries to tell him what she heard but she muddles it up and Ned doesn’t believe her. Yoren interrupts and informs Ned of Catelyn’s capture of Tyrion. Ned demands to see Robert but Robert has already summoned him – he is in a fury that Dany is pregnant and insists that they send assassins after her. Ned is strongly against this but everyone else agrees with Robert. Ned resigns in protest and makes arrangements to leave the captial and return to Winterfell. Littlefinger visits Ned just as Ned is making preparations to leave. They go to see the last person Jon Arryn saw before he died – a prostitute that Robert fathered a child on.
Meanwhile, Renly and Loras get intimate and Loras convinces Renly to aspire for higher aspirations. Cersei visits Robert and they discuss Ned’s return to Winterfell. Robert admits that if the Dothraki arrive at Westeros, he will be unable to stop them. Robert notes that they have not fought a real war in 9 years and the realm is constantly scheming and backstabbing and wonders what holds it altogether. Cersei answers that it’s their marriage and they both find this very amusing. After a moment, Cersei asks about Lyanna Stark and Robert admits he can’t even remember Lyanna’s face. Meanwhile, Catelyn brings Tyrion to the Vale. They are attacked on the way by hill tribes and Catelyn unties Tyrion so he can help fight them off. Lysa Arryn is less than thrilled at Tyrion’s presence. Lysa accuses Tyrion of killing Jon Arryn and her son Robert insists that Tyrion ‘fly’. Tyrion is imprisoned under the care of the gaoler, Mord.
Ned is ambushed by Jaime Lannister, who is furious about Catelyn’s arrest of Tyrion. Ned says that it was at his command and that Tyrion’s life will be forfeit if Ned dies. Jaime acknowledges this and orders that Ned be taken alive but that his men be killed. Jory tries to protect Ned but is killed by Jaime himself. Ned and Jaime fight and are evenly matched until a Lannister man stabs Ned in the leg. They leave him there and ask for Tyrion once again.
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