Wednesday, June 15, 2011
Well, here we are. The penultimate episode of Game of Thrones in what has been a fulfilling season far exceeding expectations. And yet, sadly for those of us who have read the first book, the title of tonight's showing clearly brings home a certain fateful event that will transpire. One which, to this viewer at least, lends me a heavy heart in anticipation of what's about to come.
But as the British say: stiff upper lip, ol' chap!
And so, mentally fortified, I pick up the remote and switch to my trusty Tivo HD box where tonight's episode is already queued up. But before I do, please take a moment to check out my previous episode reactions by clicking their appropriate links below:
Episode 1: "Winter is Coming."
Episode 2: "The Kingsroad."
Episode 3: "Lord Snow."
Episode 4: "Cripples, Bastards, and Broken Things."
Episode 5: "The Wolf and the Lion."
Episode 6: "A Golden Crown."
Episode 7: "You Win or You Die."
Episode 8: "The Pointy End."
And now . . . the show must go on.
Preview clip reminds us that Ned is locked in the dungeon, Tyrion has reunited with his father at his battle camp, and Robb is at the head of a huge horde of some 20,000 northmen heading south to crush the Lannisters' armies. Seems the Game of Thrones is about to start right proper here in this episode. Glad we at least know who the players are now. Or do we?
Oh man, I wasn't expecting a change in the opening sequence tonight -- although I should have! With Catelyn no longer at The Eyrie, and her sister no longer of any significance for the remainder of the book, I should have expected that location to be removed from the game map. In its place is a new location north of King's Landing and south of Winterfell, around the area known as the Riverlands.
Yes my friends, it is The Twins, domain of Lord Walder Frey, bannerman to Lady Catelyn's father. I mentioned in last week's reactions entry that The Twins was the key to Robb advancing farther south. We shall see how this works out for him tonight.
Oh, and hey! We have ourselves a new director finally. One Alan Taylor. I imagine he must be a more than capable director to have been given the reins on what is probably the most pivotal set of chapters in the first book. Can't wait to see his mettle tested here.
The Master of Whispers, Lord Varys, visits Ned in the dungeon once again. Somehow this fat eunuch is able to slip in and out of the place at will, disguised as a gaoler. He tells Ned that he's going to die for his vaulted morals and scruples, but that he can live and take the black at the Wall, serving alongside his brother and son, if he would only tell Cersei what she wants to hear and confess to the court. Seems she's more worried about Robert's ruthless warrior brother, Stannis, who's intent on seizing the throne now that he suspects the true parentage of Cersei's children.
Varys claims he's only trying to keep the realm from war and bloodshed.
Ned cautions the Spider against believing that he values his own life so precious as to betray all that he stands for.
". . . I grew up with soldiers. I learned to die a long time ago."
Varys calls this a pity. He turns to leave, but then stops and tries one last tactic.
"What of your daughter's life, my lord? Is that a precious thing to you?"
Got you there, Ned.
It always amazes me when honorable men are so blinded by honor that they can't see how their enemies may use those they love against them instead. This is why honor be damned--sometimes you have to fight fire with fire!
If I were Ned, I would tell that ice bitch of a queen all she needs to hear in order that I might live to plot and get my revenge another day. But maybe that's just me.
Damn, things are looking grim indeed.
Ah, THE TWINS!!! Wow, they look absolutely GORGEOUS! Better than I ever imagined them from the books. The Twins represent the fortified crossing over the Green Fork river, granting access to the Riverlands and the rest of Westeros to the south, and to the Neck and Winterfell to the north. Lord Walder Frey sits atop this river, and he's a crusty curmudgeon of an old bastard. It's he whom decides who gets to pass through the gates and over the bridge.
He also has like a gazillion children, from various different wives, mistresses and servants over the many years. He's known as the "Late" Walder Frey because, at the Battle of the Trident 17 years earlier, he waited until the tides had already changed in favor of Robert Baratheon to send his own forces in support of Lady Catelyn's father and the rebels.
LOL! Theon Greyjoy is putting his archery skills to good use, shooting down messenger ravens as they leave the Twins. Cat fears the Freys may be trying to communicate in secret code with Tywin Lannister's forces, trying to see which side offers him the best deal.
But if Robb means to cross and meet Tywin's army on even footing, he'll need Walder Frey's permission. However, the old man is still angry that Catelyn's father refused to marry her to one of his sons, or her brother to one of his daughters, so many years ago.
Catelyn decides that it's too risky for Robb to go inside and meet with the lord of the castles himself. He could be taken hostage or killed outright to serve as an offering to the Lannisters. Because of her standing and her family's history with the Freys, she makes the decision to go alone herself.
Damn, that's a brave woman!
Ick! Lord Walder Frey is even more slimy and lecherous on screen than he was in the book. He has some young teenage strumpet sitting on his left side, who he steals a pinch off of every now and then. He's rather rude to Cat.
Old fucker better watch himself with that shit!
He tells all his many children to go fuck off so that he can speak with Cat in private, smacking the girl on her backside to send her off as well.
"Do you see that? Fifteen she is--a little flower." He licks his old man lips. "And her honey's all mine!"
He's probably doing this to unnerve Catelyn, but this is Eddard Stark's wife you're dealing with here. She's of the north now, asshole. Her blood is as icy as Winter!
Hmmm, looks like old man Walder is going to take some convincing . . .
At the Wall--yay! My favorite place in the show, as it was in the books. Things are simpler here, more workaday like. Although, after what happened a few nights earlier with that business with the wight, this might be changing rather quickly . . .
Lord Commander Jeor Mormont gives Jon Snow a present. It's his family's sword--Longclaw!
Oh FUCK YEAHS!
I've been waiting for this moment! Like Ned's great sword, Ice, this sword is made of Valyrian steel. The best and strongest steel in all the lands. The sword was meant to go to Mormont's son, Jorah, but now that his son dishonored the family and is living in exile with the Dothraki, the Commander decides that Jon is the most worthy person to have it now. Especially after saving his bacon the other night.
Jon is clearly touched. Shit, I would be too. I want that sword!!!! When he shows it off to his friends, Sam has some troubling news delivered by raven from King's Landing. Jon learns that his half-brother, Robb, is marching south to make the Lannisters pay for what they did to their father. He wishes he can leave the Wall to join him in rescuing Ned.
Cat returns to Robb's camp from the Twins. She has good news . . . and bad news. But of course! There's always a catch, ain't there?
The good news? Lord Frey has agreed to let Robb's men pass across the river, along with additional numbers of his own men thrown in. In return, he asks that Robb take one of his sons, Olyver, as his squire, with the expectation of making the young Frey a knight after the fighting's done.
Robb: "Fine, fine. And?"
And, uh, yeah. That's the bad news, son. It seems that the old man intends to marry another one of his sons--Waldron--to Arya, when the two come of age.
Yeah, good luck making that happen. Arya now knows how to use the "pointy end" as we saw for ourselves last episode. On that wedding night, it might not be the Frey boy doing the poking, if y'all know what I mean.
Yeah, and that ain't even the worse part. Robb will also be expected to marry one of Walder's daughters, too. He has free pick of the litter, though, so that should help.
Robb: "Did you get a look at his daughters?"
Cat: "I did."
Cat: "One was . . ."
She can't even finish the sentence. That bad, eh?
Meanwhile, Theon is cracking the fuck up! Damn, dude. I think Robb just got PUNK'D!!! But Ashton Kutcher never comes running out of the back tent with camera crew in tow. Sucks to be you, kid. You might want to hope you don't make it out of the battle. I don't know which fate is worse, actually.
But Robb's a good laddie. He knows that, with war, hard decisions need to be made. He accepts the terms.
Ladies and gentlemen -- I think we got ourselves a battle ahead. Hot DIGGITY!
The next morning we see Robb's forces, joined by Frey men, crossing the Twins. Part of the army splits and heads south toward the Trident. . . while the larger portion heads west toward Riverrun.
If you smell yourself some strategy a-brewing here, you just earned yourself a horn of ale!
Jon, acting all emo and shit, heads up to the rookery where he finds old Maester Aemon chopping up raw giblets for his many messenger ravens. For a blind man, he's sure as hell handling that knife with wanton disregard for his fingers.
While Jon moodily assists with feeding the hungry birds, Maester Aemon explains why it is that men of the Night's Watch do not take on wives or father any children. It's so that their hearts are always on their duty to the Wall, and not on any loved ones.
Seems he knows why Jon is tormented.
Aemon: "We're all human. Oh, we all do our duty when there's no cost to it. Honor comes easy then. But, sooner or later in every man's life, there comes a day when it is not easy. A day when he must choose."
Jon cranks up the emo dial past 11, yelling that the old man doesn't know what it's like. No on does!
So then the old man sets him straight, revealing a long held secret about his past that perhaps only Lord Mormont alone knows at the Wall. It turns out that the Maester of Castle Black was already an old man, too feeble to do anything, when his own noble family was in trouble. He goes on to describe the rebellion 17 years ago -- Robert's rebellion against the Mad King Aerys Targaryen
LOL! Jon is shook! Realization dawns in his eyes as he regards the old man anew. The Maester is none other than Aemon Targaryen--the Mad King's great uncle!
To those of you who read George R. R. Martin's Dunk & Egg novellas (or the graphic novelizations thereof) -- this makes him the older brother of Egg -- aka, the future King Aegon V, grandfather to Aerys II.
I hope your minds are properly blown. I know mine was when I first learned this. Jon is in the presence of royalty!
It also means Daenerys is not the only Targaryen still alive. Although what good that does her so many thousands of leagues away remains to be seen.
Aemon: "I will not tell you to stay or go. You must make that choice yourself, and live with it for the rest of your days. As I have."
Speaking of the silver-haired Targaryens, we're taken across the Narrow Sea to find Khal Drogo is in dire straits. He's feverish and completely out of it, a legacy of the now festering chest wound he received last episode. When he falls off his horse--something that would normally disqualify a Khal from rule--Daenerys is quick to her husband's side.
Qotho, the Khal's chief bloodrider, seems ready to write him off already, but the Khaleesi tells him to bring the Godswife, Mirri, who was supposed to be healing Drogo's wound.
Qotho causes a big stink over this, and it's clear he's all ready to disobey this khaleesi who is really nothing but a lowly foreign woman in his eyes. But because Drogo is still alive, he reluctantly does as he's told.
Tyrion shows up at his father's main tent, where Tywin is having dinner with his top lords and generals. But when he learns that he's to ride the vanguard with his mountain clansmen of the Vale, Tyrion looses his appetite and leaves. The frontlines is likely to get him killed in a hurry, which is probably just as his father intends.
Damn, that's some cold shit right there.
It's clear that there really is no love lost between father and son. Tywin despises him that much, and is the one person Tyrion will never be able to influence with his wit and charm.
Meanwhile, back at Tyrion's sumptuously appointed tent, the dwarf walks in to find Bronn has brought him a present. And a pretty one at that!
Oh my god--it's SHAE! I can't believe I finally get to see what she looks like. Mmmm, not bad. In fact, I like her a lot. She's nothing like the camp follower described in the book, of course. Darker here, and not from Westeros. This was a change made to accommodate the actress--German-born Sibel Kekili--and her accent.
Personally, I think she's way hotter than how I imagined Shae from the books. Something about her face really does it for me. So I'm stamping her with the Batista seal of approval, right on her lovely forehead!
Tyrion asks Bronn where he found a whore so pretty at this late hour.
Bronn: "I took her."
Tyrion: "Took her? From whom?"
Bronn: "From, eh . . .what's his name? I don't know -- ginger cunt, three tents down."
Tyrion: "And he didn't have anything to say about it?"
Bronn [smirks]: "He said something."
OH MY GOD! That's fucking hilarious! Bronn was always one of my favorite characters in the book, and now he has the same standing in this show. This dude is pure badASS!
LOL! @ Tyrion stating the terms of Shae's contract:
Tyrion: "I want you to share my tent. I want you to pour my wine, laugh at my jokes, rub my legs when they're sore after a day's ride. I want you to take no other man to bed for as long as we're together. And . . . I want you to FUCK me like it's my last night in this world. Which it may well be."
But Shae is a shrewd and cunning woman herself. She's Tyrion's match in a lot of ways.
Shae: "And what do I get?"
Tyrion: "One, safety. No one will hurt you for as long as you're mine. Two, the pleasure of my company -- which I have heard is SPECTACULAR!"
Shae: "Who told you this? Women you paid?"
Tyrion: "And, three: more gold than you could spend if you lived a thousand years."
Ding, ding, ding! Instant panty remover!
Shae readily accepts the terms and gets right to business . . . stripping down and climbing atop the dwarf man.
"Let's start with your last night in this world."
The Dothraki have made camp so that Drogo's wounds may be tended to.
Uh-oh, I think this is the scene where we get our first whiff of truly dark magics at work in this world. At least, we did in the book.
Inside the Khal's tent, Daenerys meets with Ser Jorah Mormont who tells her that her husband won't survive the night. Dany refuses to believe this, even though Drogo is feverish and beyond communication. Ser Jorah suggests they run for it while they still can. Once the Khal is dead, the new one will not suffer her or her unborn child to live.
Dany believes her new people will be loyal. Yeah, good luck with that.
Qotho brings in Mirri Maz Duur, who takes one look at the wound and knows it is all over. Qotho blames Dany for letting the "witch" put her hands on their Khal. He won't follow her anymore once the "blood of his blood" is dead.
Qotho: "When he dies, she is nothing."
Dany: "I have never been nothing. I am the blood of the dragon."
Hmm, she's sounding a lot like her late brother Viserys. She's even got some of that "crazy eyes" action going on, too.
Qotho leaves the tent abruptly. Dany tells Jorah he better go put on his armor. Jorah agrees.
Now we get to the interesting part. Drogo is beyond any healer's skill, but Dany asks the Godswife to use magic to bring him back.
Mirri's eyes light up. Hmm, if it were me, that right there would have been a warning. But Dany is too desperate to see it.
MMD confirms that there is a spell that might work, but that it is very dangerous. It requires a life for a life.
Is Daenerys willing to pay that price for Drogo? You bet his horse she is!
No, I mean literally. They bring a scared horse into the tent, and right then and there Mirri slits its throat!
SEVEN HELLS! Blood goes splattering everywhere -- all over the tent, all over Drogo, all over Dany. It's fucking insane!
The healer orders everyone out of the tent for what will come next.
"You must go also, Lady. Once I begin to sing, no one must enter the tent. The dead will dance here tonight."
Outside the tent, the entire khalasar is gathered in fright as strange otherworldly sounds scream from within.
Holy shit, the sound effects here are SPOOKY! Gives me chills, no lie.
Ser Jorah is now in his armor, and none too soon. For Qotho shows up, mad as hell and not going to take it anymore!
He tries to enter the tent, but Jorah calls him out. The two fight, and Qotho learns the lesson Rakharo was taught back in episode three: Dothraki curved blades are no match against full plate armor.
Well, that's the end of the Qotho conundrum, but of course he won't be the only challenger for the title of Khal.
Meanwhile, however, Jorah has more immediate concerns. Dany falls to the ground grasping her belly. Hey, thanks HBO. It's the only way I know of to tell if a woman is about to give birth. Books, schmooks. I learned all I never needed to know in life from tv!
With Dany in great pain, Jorah has no choice but to pick her up and head for the tent where all the demonic growling and crazy singing is coming from.
Uh, dude? Are you fucking DEAF? You really think it's a good idea to bring a woman in labor into a devil worshiping rave?
No, this can't be good.
Back in Tyrion's tent, the merry trio are playing drinking games when the dwarf suggests the Westerosi version of "I Never."
Bronn: "This sounds like a boring game."
Tyrion: "It's not. I make a statement about your past. If I'm right, you drink. If I'm wrong, I drink. And no lying! I'll know if you're lying."
Shae refuses to play, so Tyrion starts on Bronn first. He correctly guesses three things about his sellsword companion, increasing in order of incredulity: one, that Bronn was beaten by his father. Two, that he killed a man before the age of 12. Well, actually Tyrion gets that one sorta wrong. Bronn tells him it was a woman!
He looks at Shae and explains: "She swung an axe at me!"
And, three, Tyrion surmises that he has been beyond the Wall.
Shae: "What brought you up there?"
However, when Tyrion turns his impressive powers of deduction on his lady companion--utilizing all the tired clichés one can imagine for why someone might be engaged in the sex trade--he falls dead flat on all accounts. Turns out Shae was not the daughter of a whore, her father did not abandon the family, and she did not fall into the trade out of poverty, despair, and a desire to see the wider world.
Wrong, wrong, wrong. LOL! Tyrion is forced to do a lot of drinking, and he's utterly baffled by this strange and wonderful woman sitting across from him now.
Wow, I like this scene! The dynamic at play here between all three characters is brilliant to watch..
Next up, however, Tyrion is forced to reveal a deep secret about his past which no one else knows saves his immediate male relatives.
Seems the dwarf was once married! Peter Dinklage should win an Emmy just for this scene alone. He recounts the tale with such candor and aplomb that I found myself hanging on his every word. And what a story it is!
When he was 16, he and his brother Jaime came upon a girl being chased through the woods by men who had just raped her. Jaime went on a merry long chase after the men, while Tyrion came to the girl's aid and put her up at the nearest inn, nursing her back to good health on roasted chicken and wine. The two hit it off and went to bed together. The next day, they found a drunken Septon and were married right then and there.
It was a dreamy two weeks of marital bliss that followed . . . until the Lannister patriarch caught wind of it and forced Jaime to confess his prank. Seems the girl, Tysha, was really a whore paid for with Lannister gold to give Tyrion his first taste of a woman. They were never really married. To prove the point, Tywin had his men take Tysha into the next room and have their way with her one at a time for the payment of a single silver coin from each. Tyrion was forced to sit there and watch the entire time.
By the end, Tysha was swimming in silver . . . and Tyrion lost all his innocence about the way of the world and his particular place in it.
Whoa, another fucked up Tywin Lannister moment! Is it no wonder I told you all he's the Big Bad of Game of Thrones?
And trust me, it only gets worse!
The next morning, Tyrion is a little groggy headed but in great spirit due to Shae's expert ministrations the night before. That is until Bronn walks in and rudely reminds him that the battle is starting without him!
As Tyrion climbs into his armor and rushes out, the sellsword has some advice for his first time at war:
Bronn: "Stay low."
Tyrion: "Stay low?"
Bronn: "If you're lucky, no one will notice you."
Tyrion: "I was born lucky."
Tyrion meets up with his Mountain Men brigade, and he delivers them what he thinks should be a rousing speech.
"Tribesmen of the Vale, gather 'round! Your dominion over the Vale begins now. Onward to claim what is yours!"
The clansmen sing his praises. They're rip-roaring ready to get this party started, and Tyrion is genuinely surprised by their support of him. They cry out "Half-Man, Half-Man, Half-Man!!!"
Russell Crowe, dressed as Maximus, wanders out and raises his arms, shouting: "Are you not entertained?"
But the dwarf outshines him, screaming: "To battle!"
Unfortunately, as the men rush off to meet doom or glory on the battlefield, one of the tribesmen inadvertently clobbers Tyrion on the head with a large battle hammer, knocking him out cold!
Looks like the little man's luck is good after all, for he misses the entire battle! When he awakes, the day has already been won by the Lannisters.
What the fuck? What happened to the big battle from the book? Not just one, but TWO battles, in fact! Arrgh! I know HBO had a limited budget for this show, and that we only have one more episode left after this -- but PISS ON THAT! I wanted my gory fight scenes!
This is some BULL to the motherfucking SHIT!
Anyway, whatever. I'll live. It seems that while Tyrion slept like a baby through the whole dang affair, Robb's forces had been defeated. Bronn and Tyrion are alive to talk about it, at least. And his Vale tribesmen had apparently accorded themselves well.
But his father, Tywin, rides up just then to tell them the reality of what went down. In effect, pissing on their parade. What a Debbie Downer, boy!
Remember that Robb's forces had split after crossing the Twins? Well, seems it was part of a brilliant ruse.
Tywin: "The scouts were wrong. There were two-thousand Stark bannermen, not twenty."
Tyrion: "Did we get the Stark boy at least?"
Tywin: "He wasn't here."
Tyrion: "Where was he?"
Tywin: "With his other 18,000 men."
Tyrion is stunned by this news. "And where are they?"
It's a good question. One which we'll be finding out the answer to . . .
The scene switches to Catelyn and Ser Rodrik looking anxiously into the woods near her childhood home of Riverrun. Eventually, a small contingent of horsemen come riding out from the trees toward her.
But are they friend or foe?
She visibly breathes a sigh of relief as she recognizes Robb and his horse, riding back triumphantly. And he comes bearing a gift -- one Jaime Lannister, all trussed up and missing only a bow on his head!
Robb: "By the time they knew what was happening, it had already happened."
Yeah, boyeee! Look at Robb, strutting around and flushed from his first major victory. Is anyone reading this out there part of Team Robb now? After tonight, I should think so.
Catelyn looks like she wants to rip Jaime's head off with her bare hands. The Greatjon and Theon certainly think Robb should do the world a favor. But of course, Jaime has to try and scheme his way out of his predicament. By appealing to Robb's youth and sense of familial loyalty and honor.
Jaime: "We could end this war right now, boy. Save thousands of lives! You fight for the Starks, I fight for the Lannisters. Sword and lances . . . teeth, nails -- choose your weapons and let's end this, here and now."
Yeah, Jaime would just love that. The best sword in all of Westeros he is, remember? Luckily, Ned's eldest is far wiser than his years.
Robb: "If we do it your way, Kingslayer, you'd win. We're not doing it your way."
LOL! That's right! HAHAHA -- I love that!
Robb knows it makes more sense to keep Jaime around as a bargaining chip for the release of his father and sisters. Good man, this boy. He's shaping up to become quite the war leader, ain't he? The speech he gives to his men afterward is proof of that.
"Did we free my father? Did we rescue my sisters from the queen? Did we free the North from those who want us on our knees? This war is far from over."
Oooh, I can't WAIT for a certain pivotal scene to show up involving Robb and his army. But judging by the clock, that will probably have to wait for next week's episode.
We're back at King's Landing now. Wow, it's hard to believe the last scene here was at the very beginning of this episode.
Anyway, now we're outside the Red Keep in what I assume is Flea Bottom -- the "ghetto" of KL.
Oh, yup! There's Arya, Needle tied to her waist, running dirty while catching pigeons and snapping their necks for supper. See, Syrio's training chasing cats has paid off. Although, I'm not sure pigeon stew is something to crow about.
Heh, heh . . . get it?
Eh, never mind.
But -- uh-oh, the bells are ringing. I know what that means! And, sadly, so will you in a little while.
A pair of scruffy street urchins come running past. Arya asks them what's happening.
Boy: "They're taking him to the Sept of Baelor!"
Boy: "The Hand of the King!"
Arya arrives at the large central square outside the Great Sept . . . to find the place CRAWLING with spectators. She climbs the base of the huge statue of Baelor the Blessed for a better vantage point -- and spots her father!
Down below, being led bound and shackled through a screaming, cursing, hitting throng -- Eddard Stark stumbles toward the clearing. Cesei, King Joffrey--the prick!--and the entire Small Council is already waiting. Sansa's there two, oddly smiling.
Oh, you sweet dumb child. Surely even you can't be that much of an airhead, can you?
Ned turns at the right moment and catches Arya crouched by the feet of the great statue. He's relived to see that she is in fact still alive and apparently free of the Lannisters hold for the time being. But he also knows that this won't last for long.
Wow, the camera work here is AMAZING! It swoops in and out of the crowd, up and about the square, before flying back down to street level and the platform where the Royal Court awaits.
Ned bumps into Yoren of the Night's Watch on his way there. Remember this dude? He's the affable fellow Tyrion was sharing ale with back at Castle Black somewhere in episode 3. He's also the same guy who came into Ned's chambers at the Tower of the Hand to tell him that his wife had taken Tyrion Lannister prisoner. The one who thought Arya was Ned's son at first.
Ned sees him and shouts: "Baelor, Baelor!" with the hopes that the man will realize in time what he's trying to say.
And, yup, Yoren gets it! He turns quickly to the statue and sees Arya there. He makes a quick beeline for the little girl.
Ned is brought before the king and turned around to face the crowd so that he may confess his crime. You have to wonder now if he's going to stand by his principles and reveal for all to hear that Joffrey is not the true heir to the throne. Or is he going to bow to the queen's checkmate and promote the lie for the sake of his family? To take his bannerman back North and then retreat to the Wall for the rest of his years so that Cersei and her family can direct their attentions toward Stannis and Renly Baratheon?
Come on, now. You don't really think he has a choice, do you?
Ned: "I am Eddard Stark, Lord of Winterfell, and Hand of the King. I come before you to confess my treason in the sights of Gods and men. I betrayed the faith of my king, and the trust of my friend Robert. I swore to protect and defend his children, but before his blood was cold I plotted to murder his son and seize the throne for myself."
The crowd boos, and someone throws a stone at his head like this is Jerusalem at the dawn of the Christian era.
Ned next proclaims Joffrey the true heir and ruler of the realm.
Joffrey--that little shit!--is over the moon. He looks to his mommy dearest, who smiles back. The crowd boos some more, and Sansa has the temerity to seem shocked by their reaction.
That old, doddering fool Grand Maester Pycelle gives some bullshit spiel about the Seven showing compassion and mercy even on traitors, should they confess. In showy ritual, he asks of the king what is to be done with Eddard.
Joffrey--may he choke on a donkey's cock!--smiles and raises his hand to quiet the crowd.
"My mother wishes me to let Lord Eddard join the Night's Watch. Stripped of all titles and powers, he would serve the realm in permanent exile. And my lady, Sansa, has begged mercy for her father."
Sansa smiles at her betrothed, but has the decency at last to look just a bit nervous now. Because, damn it all if you can't hear the ominous BUT coming a mile away:
"But they've the soft hearts of women! So long as I am your king, treason shall never go unpunished."
Joffrey--that cunt whistle!--turns suddenly to where the royal executioner stands waiting.
"Ser Ilyn--bring me his head!"
The place goes absolutely APE SHIT! What's interesting to note here is the immediate reaction of those around Joffrey. Cersei is stunned and clearly upset, perhaps seeing all her plans for a peaceful resolution between the Lannisters and the Starks go up in smoke.
We see Lord Varys rushing to sway the stupid punk away from his mistake, but of course it is too late. The king can hardly go back on his decree after proclaiming it to the public at large for all to hear.
Damn, damn, damn, DAMN!!!
Arya can't believe her ears. She climbs down from the statue and runs at the platform, no doubt planning some way somehow to pull Needle and rescue her beloved father.
Aww, you gotta love her for that. Arya has no concern for her own life. All she knows to do is fight for her family!
But, luckily, Yoren is there to intercept her. He grabs hold of Arya and crushes her to his side, saying: "Don't look!"
Ser Ilyn Payne draws a huge ass broadsword of Valyrian steel from its sheath. For the more astute of you out there--yes, this is Ice. The Stark family sword. The same sword Ned used himself to behead Will, the deserter from the Night's Watch in the very first episode of the season.
We've come full circle.
Sansa is in hysterics, and Ned looks around bewildered. I have to think it's dawned on him just how wrong he's been to think these Lannister snakes were ever ones to treat fairly with. But now it's too late. Ned bows his head, ready for what's to come. He was raised a soldier, he told Varys earlier. He knows when to die.
In a nice touch, the sound goes out as he glances one last time around King's Landing. Arya, he sees, is no longer at the statue. You have to think he's grateful for that small comfort.
Somewhere in that dense sea of dirty faces, Yoren holds on to Arya tight. Her head's tilted back so that her eyes are pointed to the sky when the felling blow finally comes. All she sees are pigeons taking flight -- a small blessing in a cruel, unfair world.
Rest In Peace, Lord Eddard Stark.
Damn, I need a moment. Excuse me . . .
Okay, where was I?
Yeah, that. That was just . . . damn!
I'm sure what was just witnessed took the wind out of many sails across tv land. And I'm sure some of you new to this story are pissed off to PISSTIVITY over what you saw. Yes, it's something us book fans had to deal with, too, once up a time ago. For me it was roughly 14 years ago when I first read A Game of Thrones. At the time I was numb with shock for a few days--literally!--after reading that chapter. I'd never seen anything like it in a book before. Certainly not a fantasy book, where the hero always wins eventually.
No, this was too much.
But you know what? In time I picked the book up again and continued reading to the end page. George R. R. Martin had me hooked for sure, now! This man had got me to care about a character so much, that when he died so shockingly it felt like a member of my own family had passed.
Phew! Now that's writing, folks. Seriously.
And I have to say, the directing in this episode was really top-notch. Kudos to Alan Taylor for doing such a wonderful job framing everything so expertly and satisfyingly. I like how the episode starts off with darkness and Ned breathing, only to end with the sound being dialed back until all we hear is his breathing again. Like I said before, nice touch!
I also like how Robb struggles to uphold his father's beliefs without also suffering from his same mistakes. It's a hard thing to be an honorable man in a den of thieves. Moreso in a world as ruthless and backstabbing as Westeros. Robb will have to overcome the failings of his father and learn to play the Game of Thrones better than the Lannisters. This doesn't necessarily mean he needs to stoop down to their level, but it also means he can't remain all high and lofty like his father, either.
Personally, I feel Jon is more suitable for what's about to come next. But he has his own problems.
And what about Arya? What will she do? Where will she go? Even though Sansa is effectively a prisoner at King's Landing, at least she will be treated fairly well and accorded hospitality befitting her noble standing. But if Arya wants to avoid being captured, too, she'll need to totally disappear herself.
Remember, she's only 11.
Let us not also forget that Bran and Rickon are alone in big, drafty Winterfell. And they're even younger still! What will they do once the Starks are deemed enemies of the state and ambitious lords come to take what they feel is theirs from the North?
See, Ned might be gone, but his family will now have to deal with the repercussions of what he's sown. He spared the queen out of mercy for her children, but now his children are going to live a waking nightmare for the rest of their natural lives.
Was it all worth it, Ned? Was it?
There is a big uproar in the tv watching community right now. Some people are ready to write this show off. Some are giving it one more episode for HBO to do right by them.
Uh, first of all: dudes, it's just a tv show. And, secondly: um, you might want to stop watching now then if this is your attitude. Because, honestly, if you're expecting the season finale next Sunday to wrap things up nicely, you got another thing coming. A rude awakening, in fact.
See, let me let you in a on a little secret on this ongoing series I've been enjoying for a decade and a half. Nothing is sacred! Anything bad that can happen to the characters, will happen. Any preconceived ideas you might have about where you think the plot is going--throw them out the window now! Because trust me, you'll never see it coming. Ever.
Right now, how many of you think that the war between the Lannisters and the Starks will be over next week? How many of you believe Jaime will be executed once Robb and his men find out about Ned? How many of you think Drogo will make it out of that tent alive? How many of you are betting Joffrey will get his just desserts?
Well, I'm not going to tell you you're flat out wrong about any one of these possibilities. But let's just say you better keep your money in the bank. George R. R. Martin doesn't care about you feeling good with the world when you come to the end of one of his books. He doesn't care that major plot lines are tied up with a neat bow, either. All he cares about is that the developments are real and true to life; that is, that the plot is as brutal and sometimes random as real life is. Nothing gets sugar-coated. Your favorite characters are not guaranteed to live beyond chapter 2, let alone the end of the book. Innocent children die, strong women get brutalized, and great men meet ignoble ends.
This is the harsh reality of a quasi-medieval setting. Get used to it, because you ain't seen nothing yet.
I would hope that many newcomers are mature enough and supportive of good storytelling to want to continue watching this series even after a lot of the momentous shit that is going to go down in the finale happens. If not, then give it time. It took myself a couple of days to get over it before I was finally ready to move on to the next book. Even if that next book was two years later in the coming. But look, you only have less than a year before the next season of Thrones airs! So deal with it. I did.
I will say this, however. The last scene of next week's episode--if they play it right according to the book--will leave you floored!
God, I hope they get the CGI right . . .
In any event, no matter how you feel after next Sunday's finale, please join me when I eventually get around to recapping Ep. 10: "Fire and Blood."