We begin across the narrow sea with the Dothraki caravan. Daenerys, with long white-blonde hair and bare arms and shoulders, looks like a bummed-out Lady Godiva when she’s on horseback. Ser Joram rides over to cheer her up and recounts the Dothraki legend of the “ghost grass” that will one day cover the world. You know, like kudzu. He also tells her, “It’ll get easier,” probably referring to the young bride spending all day literally in the saddle, and all night figuratively so with
Genghis Khan Khal Drogo. Her brother Viseryrs looks like an evil young Ian McKellan as he plots the conquest of Westeros.
Viseryrs would be the show’s #1 sniveling, bullying royal pipsqueak were it not for Prince Joffrey (Jack Gleeson). Early on he sasses to his uncle “Better-looking bitches than you’re used to,” when Tyrion wakes up in the kennel. Tyrion orders Joffrey to pay respects to the Stark after Bran’s life-threatening fall, and when the little brute protests, Tyrion reaches up to slap him across the face.
Tyrion shows his cheerful side when he joins the other Lannisters’ for breakfast, calling for bacon and making faces at his niece and nephew. He also reveals that Bran is expected to live, despite Jamie and Cersei having assisted him out the tower window last week. Jamie, concealing his self-interest, says it would be better to die than live as a grotesque cripple, and Tyrion responds, “Speaking for the grotesques, I’d have to disagree.”
The Lannisters may be the show’s most obvious bad guys, but they reveal sensitive sides this week in some low-key, nicely acted scenes. Jamie quizzes Jon Snow about whether he really wants to give his life to the Night’s Watch, and though he’s a dick about it, Jamie makes a good point. While traveling north, Tyrion tells Jon why he reads so much: “A mind needs books like a sword needs a whetstone,” and encourages Jon to make sure he’s not making a mistake. And Queen Cersei visits Catelyn at Bran’s sickbed, and talks about her own heartbreak at the death of her firstborn son. Cersei’s so sympathetic, you’d scarcely guess she’s plotting Bran’s death.
As Catelyn, Michelle Fairley’s a little more pinched and worn-looking than I imagined the Stark matriarch from the books. But give the gal a break: she raised five kids in the chilly climes of Winterfell. For one of the “good guys,” Catelyn shows a harsh side when she spits “I want you to leave” when her husband’s bastard son says goodbye to sleeping Bran. (Incidentally, the custom in the books is for Stark bastards to take the last name “Snow,” and the other noble houses have similar names for their illegitimate kids.)
Eldest son Robb talks to Catelyn and offers to step up and start running the household. But wait — there’s a fire! Robb runs off. Catelyn stays with Bran and a skuzzy cutthroat intrudes, saying, “No one’s supposed to be here,” indicating the fire was his diversion before trying to kill Bran. Catelyn fights back, grabbing blade and clearly cutting the heck out of her palms. When it seems the assassin’s about to get Bran, in comes the boy’s direwolf, like a lethal Lassie. The moral? Don’t mess with the Stark kids, because their pet wolves will fuck you up. Catelyn plans to ride South to warn Ned, suspecting the Lannisters’ involvement in the murder attempt.
Further down the King’s Road, Ned and King Robert speak nostalgically of carefree old times, and allude to the wench who was Jon Snow’s mother. Ned also balks at the prospect of sending assassins to kill the surviving Targaryens.
Speaking of which, Daenerys is tiring of being the passive vessel for her new husband’s night-time visits. One of her servant girls gives her some boudoir advice: “I was nine when my brother sold me to the pleasure houses.” In a Sapphic bit of show-and-tell, Daenerys’s handmaiden reveals the advantages of being a top, and tells her, “Are you a slave? Then don’t make love like a slave.” Later, Daenerys’s face-to-face tryst with Drogo suggests that she’s discovered some of her authority. Note for future reference: Avoid watching the Daenerys scenes if your mother's in the same room with you.
Later, Sansa flirts with Joffrey by a riverside, only to come across Arya practicing swordplay (with wooden sticks) with the butcher’s boy. Arya stops Joffrey from threatening the servant, so Joffrey attacks her — and clearly didn’t get the memo about messing with the Stark kids, because Arya’s direwolf shows up and gives his wrist a good chewing. Arya throws Joffrey’s sword in the river, and drives her pet away for its own good.
There’s a quick hearing as to who was at fault, with Joffrey claiming that Arya and the servant boy attacked him. It’s Joffrey’s word against Arya’s until Sansa, effectively, sides with the Lannisters by claiming she didn’t witness what happened. For her troubles, Sansa sees her own direwolf condemned to death in the absense of the other one. Rather than let “the King’s Justice” (i.e., head-lopper) Ilyn Payne carry out the sentence, Ned kills the animal himself, in a parallel of last week’s beheading of the Night Watch deserter. Ned insists on following the rules of honor, no matter how painful they may be. Can he win a game of thrones with the Lannisters, who have no such scruples?
The episode ends with the wolf’s death simultaneous with Bran waking up. Will Bran remember what the Lannisters did to him?
Why is Ned bringing the girls to King’s Landing? Sansa’s getting engaged to Joffrey, so that makes sense — but given that the Stark’s already have reason to suspect that Ned’s predecessor was murdered, aren’t they putting the girls in harm’s way?
Doesn’t “Illin’ Payne” sound like a Wayans family sitcom?
Given what we know of the twincest, could Jamie be the father of Cersei’s kids?
What’s the deal with Jon Snow’s mother? When Ned says goodbye to Jon, he assures his son that they’ll speak of her when next they meet. Given Ned’s rigid code of honor in terms of killing, could it be that he’s not really Jon Snow’s father, but has claimed him for other reasons? (Yes, I’ve read the books, but I have no idea.)
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