It’s All Downhill From Here…Or So It Seems
Sunday night’s Game of Thrones episode “The Pointy End” was a massacre. The House of Stark is being annihilated and Ned is rotting away in the King’s Landing dungeons as Cersei’s prisoner. Named a traitor to the crown, his future and that of his family looks bleak and his allies seem like a puny number against the might of the Lannisters. Tyrion is set on getting even with the inhabitants of the Vale and Daenerys and Khal Drogo’s love is causing discord within the Dothraki ranks. With Joffrey set up as Cersei’s puppet king on the Iron Throne, Daenerys coming into her own, and Catelyn Stark by her son Robb’s side encouraging him to fight, it’s becoming clear that it is the women moving the force of fate in Westeros and beyond the Seven Kingdoms.
The episode opens with Syrio and Arya sparring. As the Starks are preparing to move their household back to Winterfell they are being mercilessly slaughtered by Lannister men. With Cersei ruling through Joffrey, this injustice goes unchecked. Walking in the halls, Sansa and Septa hear the sounds of fighting. Being wise, Septa tells silly Sansa to flee to her room and bar the door. Sansa runs and Septa bravely faces the armed men in the corridor. What is her fate? We are left to imagine, but I’m certain she isn’t spared the sword.
While Syrio and Arya are practicing sword play, Lannister soldiers bust in and demand that Arya come with them. Though they try to trick her by telling her Ned Stark summons her, Arya is too clever for that ploy, and in lovable Arya fashion, she tells them off. Both Arya and Syrio know better. It is here that we see the extent of Syrio’s skill and honor. Though he only has a wooden sword and they are armed to the teeth, he manages to defeat a handful of men effortlessly. One Lannister soldier remains standing, the leader, and he and Syrio prepare to fight. Syrio tells Arya to flee again and even though she is reluctant, for she knows what is in store for her sword master, she has no other choice and flees for her own safety. Syrio’s departing words to her are, “What do we say to the gods of death?” Her answer to that is, “Not today.” We do not see what happens to this sage master swordsman, but one can only imagine the worst.
Meanwhile, the Hound intercepts Sansa as she is running to the safety of her rooms. Sansa threatens to tell the queen, who she foolishly believes to be her friend and ally, if he doesn’t leave her alone. With a malevolent laugh the Hound responds, “Who do you think sent me?” Wily Arya, arrrives in the courtyard to see the carnage of her slaughtered household, poor thing. She ‘s so young and yet she is realizing that sword play is ultimately about dealing death and dying by the sword. As she searches for Needle, a boy determined to gain a reward by delivering the ‘Wolf Girl” to the queen, accosts her. In one shocking moment, a moment that shocks both us and Arya, she kills him.
The oily eunuch Varys visits Ned in the dungeons, bringing him water and news of the realm. “Why is it that no one ever trusts the eunuch?” he asks. I’m not sure what to think of him at this point, are you? There’s just something about him that inspires trust, and having the nickname Spider doesn’t help either. Ned asks after his girls and Varys matter of fact-like delivers the news that Ned’s household is dead. Varys questions Ned’s foolish actions and claims his mercy killed the king. Maybe that’s a bit of an exaggeration, but I mean don’t you question the way Ned handled things? I mean, I understand his honor and all, as well as his desire to spare the children, but come on, Ned! You are dealing with vipers in a pit! There’s a time for honor and there’s a time for survival. As much as I like and respect Ned, he put his honor and pride before the kingdom and his family, and has made some bad decisions to boot. What did he think would happen? He’s dealing with the cunning Cersei. He underestimated her, and that has proven to be deadly. I can’t wait for him to unleash hell. It’ll be glorious to see Ned the Warrior.
Ever the bearer of bad news, Varys informs Ned that Tyrion is free. Obviously disheartened by the sequence of events, Ned tries to decipher for himself who Varys serves. Varys answers in cryptic Varys fashion that he serves the realm. Why does he care if Ned lives or dies? Why bring him water and news and check on him? Varys’ motives are unclear. I want to think that he will prove to be trustworthy, that he’s not so unprincipled as to switch loyalties like he does his clothes. Hopefully he really does serve the realm and wants what is best for it. Hopefully he can see that Cersei is not the best candidate to run things. At this point, Ned knows he’s a dead man and wonders why Varys toys with him? Ned says, “Slit my throat and be done with it.” Oh Ned, don’t you know Fate isn’t done with you yet?
At Night’s watch, two dead members of the Watch have been brought in. One is the source of the hand that Ghost found. They rode out with the missing Benjen and now they are dead. Samwell, who is obviously educated, notices that they do not have the rotting smell of dead men and so instead of burning them, the Lord Commander wants to do a little CSI work and orders an autopsy.
A raven brought the grim news about Ned Stark being charged with treason from King’s Landing and Joffrey’s ascension to the throne. Jon can do nothing to help his family because of his vows. Jon can be a bit of a hothead, so I wonder how he will handle this yoke.
Silly Sansa falls for Cersei’s obvious manipulation and writes to her brother Robb, urging him to come to King’s Landing and bend the knee and keep the King’s peace. Robb and Master Luewin see right through the ploy. They know that the queen’s hand is all “in ya on ya all over ya” in the letter. So what does Robb do? He calls the bannermen — all of them. The flock of ravens that leave Winterfell is astounding. He’s riding south with an army.
We all know Lysa Arryn, Catelyn’s sister and lady of the Vale, is off her rocker. Refusing to put her precious and inappropriately still nursing son in jeopardy, Lysa refuses to help her sister. Her refusal isn’t shocking. And she will have a war of her own on her hands soon. Tyrion is set on revenge for his treatment at the hands of Lysa. Wily tongued and clever as ever, Tyrion manages to enlist the aid of his would be captor Shagga son of Dolf, leader of the Stone Crows. They escort Tyrion out of the Vale and straight into Tywin Lannister’s war camp.
Meanwhile, Jon’s temper has got the best of him and he’s confined to his rooms. Ghost senses that something is wrong (Thank the gods for the dire wolves, hey?) and Jon straps on his sword and scabbard and goes to investigate, disobeying orders. Yet it is because of his lack of discipline that he manages to be in the right place at the right time. Remember those dead men? Well, they’re zombies. One of them is reanimated and happens (coincidentally?) to be in Lord Commander Mormont’s room. The zombie attacks Jon and is immune to being skewered through the chest by Jon’s sword. Jon manages to toss a lantern on the zombie and the monster goes up in flames. Jon has just managed to rescue his master. In the end the bodies are burned and the threat beyond the Wall, the White Walkers has just become a reality.
The Dothraki are doing what they do best — warmongering. Dany isn’t down with it, even though they’re raiding to fund her bid for the Iron “chair” as Khal Drogo calls it. “I do not have a gentle heart,” Dany states boldly and claims all the women of the conquered clan, saving them from being raped. This pisses of the Dothraki men who have been denied their spoils and they tattle to Drogo about his foreign wife’s interference.
Dany proposes an honorable solution for the women and this does not sit well with the warriors. Siding with his wife who he obviously adores, and admiring of her fierce spirit thinking it is his son growing within her — the Stallion Who Will Mount the World— that is giving her her fire, Khal Drogo lets Dany keep all the women she claimed. This starts a mutiny and Drogo is challenged by a disgruntled Dothraki warrior. Drogo, who is a bit of a madman as well as mighty, defeats the other man without a weapon. It’s a bit of a crazy and thrilling barbarian moment; the fight shows us why Drogo is feared and why his reputation as the best fighter is well deserved. He does get a small wound that he calls a scratch and this concerns Dany who insists it be taken care of. A big deal was made about the wound. Is this a hint that something is going to happen to Khal Drogo?!? NOOOO!
Robb has proved that he is capable of leading an army into battle. Greatjon Umber opposed him for a little while, but after getting his fingers bitten off by Robb’s dire wolf Grey Wind, he has a change of heart. You don’t pull steel on the Lord of Winterfell in his own hall! All the men share a great laugh over all of this, Greatjon laughing the loudest. This scene makes me wonder about the minds of men.
Robb visits Bran to say farewell. Robb tells the boy, “There must always be a Stark in Winterfell.” The next day, feeling alone and scared for his family, Bran is praying at the foot of a heart tree in the Godswood. Osha tells him that his brother is marching the wrong way and that the gods won’t help Robb because they have no power in the south. Basically she’s telling him that in the south they are godless, which Cersei and her clan of Lannisters have proven to be true. She also tells Bran of the threat of the White Walkers and that it is this threat that Robb should be marching against. At Castle Black they are burning the zombies. Samwell has read that this is the only way to defeat them. He prays that the Walls are high enough to keep them safe.
Catelyn and Ser Rodrik Cassel arrive in Robb’s camp. Despite the fact that they have less soldiers than the Lannisters, Catelyn tells Robb he must fight— their lives depend on it. The only problem is that they must cross the Trident, and their success depends upon the unpredictable Lord Walder Frey.
Tyrion is seemingly safe in his father’s camp and learns about the state of the realm. Wanting to pay his debt to Shagga, he begins to list what he owes to his Hill Tribe allies. His request is interrupted by a messenger who tells Tywin that Robb and his army have arrived. Tywin makes an offer to Shagga asking the barbarian leader to fight with him against the Starks, promising to reward him even more richly than Tyrion promised. Shagga agrees only if Tyrion fights with them. Not something Tyrion is keen on doing.
At King’s Landing a rearranging of nobles as per the new regime is taking place as Joffrey holds court. Tywin Lannister is named Hand to the king and Ser Barristan is fired in a way that leaves him shamed and angry and storming out of the throne room absolutely disgusted.
Sansa begs for mercy for her father and I can’t help but think that she was coached and this big display was all planned. Joffrey — and his adolescent, smug puppet of a presence on the throne sickens me — declares that Ned, who is still languishing in the dungeons, must confess his crimes and declare that Joffrey is the rightful king or there will be no mercy. Silly girl that Sansa is earnestly replies that her father will do this.
Oh Sansa, don’t you know that you shouldn’t count your chickens before they hatch?