Swords, spies and sexy times
Writers: David Benioff, DB Weiss
Director: Brian Kirk
The One Where: News of The Imp’s arrest arrives in King’s Landing, King Robert plans Daenerys Targaryen’s assassination and Catelyn takes The Imp to her sister at the Eyrie.
What Works: As Ned investigates the death of Hugh Of The Vale with Ser Barristan Selmy, the two discuss being on opposite sides at the Battle Of The Trident, and the air is thick with history. What could have felt extraneous considering how much is currently going on in Game Of Thrones instead serves as a pointed reminder that nothing is forgotten, and what has gone before the start of the series is influencing what is going on in the Seven Kingdoms now whether overtly or not.
King’s Landing is of course a nest of snakes, and when Littlefinger (Aidan Gillen) and Varys (Conleth Hill) compare the size of their – ahem - spy networks and attempt to out manoeuvre each other, it’s as if the spin doctors from The Thick Of It have had a fantasy make-over. They snipe and spit at each other, and it’s obvious that the real power in the capital doesn’t lie in strong arms and swords but in knowledge. Littlefinger’s greedy ogling of the Iron Throne makes you wonder whether he’s satisfied with simply sitting on the King’s Council – a man as connected and devious as he is must surely have greater ambitions?
As Ned comes into conflict with Robert over the fate of Daenerys Targaryen, we’re reminded that it is not honour that is holding the kingdom together, but rather “fear and blood,” as the king bluntly puts it. Instinctively you want to agree with Ned, the voice of reason and chivalry, but when you picture 40,000 Dothraki nutjobs rampaging through the kingdom – well, maybe the king has a point. Regardless on whether he’s right or wrong, the threats against his reign are steadily mounting. Even his own brother is considering going after the Iron Throne, although you suspect Robert would do Renly and the Knight Of The Flowers some serious damage if it came to fisticuffs.
Talking of punch ups, the fight between Jaime Lannister and Ned Stark as the Kingslayer seeks retribution for his brother’s arrest by Catelyn is brilliantly executed. It’s a piece of tightly choreographed action that felt functional rather than flowery, the sword strokes those of battle hardened killers, not tournament show-offs. It’s a shame that Ned and Jaime’s fight is cut short by an over-eager Lannister guard (who Jaime rightly gives a slap for getting in the way), but this will no doubt be the first of many clashes between the two great Houses.
Catelyn and Tyrion’s encounter with a bit of trouble on the road to the Vale casts new light on The Imp. Peter Dinklage is on fine form once again, and it’s due to his multi-faceted performance that his character is quickly coming to dominate the show. His arrival at the Eyrie and meeting with the wonderfully loopy Lysa introduces yet another stunning locale and intriguing set of characters with the sort of flourish we’ve now come to expect from Game Of Thrones. You’ll possibly be a little bit sick in your mouth when you see young Lord Robert chow down on his liquid lunch though.
Perhaps the most revealing scene in this episode is between Robert and Cersei as they chew over their largely unhappy marriage. The union between the two has kept the peace for many years, but they are both clearly tired of each other and their situation. The weary resignation of the king and his queen are palpable, and as Cersei wonders aloud how much longer hate can keep the kingdom together, the answer – although unstated – is clearly a resounding “not much longer”.
Arya’s discovery of dragon skulls in the cellars of the Red Keep is a thrilling hint at what the future might hold should Daenarys manage to hatch her three eggs. Maisie Williams is once again fantastic as the adventurous younger Stark girl, and she seems to double in size when giving the guards at the Red Keep a grilling. She’s overshadowing the other Stark kids at the moment, but it’s easy to see why – Sansa is pampered and hard to love, Bran is a ball of frustrated rage, Rickon is too young and Robb hasn’t had much to do but glower at people thus far. Still, she’s standing out in a cast that is outdoing itself week in week out.
What Doesn’t: The sex scene with Theon Greyjoy (Alfie Allen) and his favourite whore felt like an excuse to shoehorn in a bit of shagging, although it did serve some purpose – we learn how Theon came to be at Winterfell, and where he stands in the pecking order there.
It’s also slightly disappointing that we don’t see anything of Daenarys and Khal Drogo, as their story is just beginning to get interesting. Ned and Robert’s discussions about her keep the Targaryen princess in mind though, and her presence looms large. Here’s hoping Robert doesn’t bump her off before we’ve seen what those Dothraki chaps can do on the battlefield – they look pretty handy.
The Fight Stuff: It’s not every day you see a chap casually lop off a horses head – you’ll not forget Ser Gregor Clegane in a hurry. As if that wasn’t enough, Jaime Lannister’s eye-opening method of dispatching Jory will have you wincing. Poor old Jory.
Don’t I know you? Couldn’t place where you knew chest-shaving, knee-trembling Knight Of The Flowers Ser Loras Tyrell from? That’s right, Finn Jones also played Santiago Jones in The Sarah Jane Adventures two-parter "Death Of The Doctor".
Petyr Baelish : “Tell me, does someone somewhere keep your balls in a little box? I’ve often wondered.”
Lord Varys : “Do you know, I have no idea where they are, and we were so close.”