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For an episode that seemed somewhat slow-paced, tonight’s Game of Thrones certainly delivered a big finish. Still, did any of you who haven’t read the book see tonight’s ending coming?
Never underestimate the foolishness of a kid-king drunk on power, right? We’ll start with the ending and work our way back.
“I grew up with soldiers. I learned how to die a long time ago”
The episode began with another conversation between Varys and Ned. Varys was there to persuade Ned to agree to confess to treason, swear allegiance to Joffrey and agree to take the black, losing all of his titles and land. Ned didn’t seem fond of this plan. He admitted to having grown up with soldiers and being prepared to die. We know he’s not afraid to die, but he does have his family to think of, and it’s likely that’s the reason he agreed in the end.
Judging by everyone’s reaction when Joffrey announced his decision not to be merciful toward Ned, no one including his mother predicted this was how things would turn out. Perhaps that’s what Joffrey wanted. Maybe he knew, deep down that killing Ned was a hasty move, and that his mother would have tried to talk him out of it. Maybe he thought chopping off Eddard Stark’s head would make him look like a big, strong king. Regardless of what Joffrey’s thought-process was, the decision was made and Ned was beheaded in front of everyone.
I’m sure some, if not many viewers were disappointed that the beheading wasn’t shown. If memory serves, that portion of the book was told through the eyes of Arya, which were shielded from the sight of her father’s execution. Whether it was because they didn’t have the budget to show a proper beheading or because for this scene, they wanted to stay true to the book and focus on the reactions as opposed to the actual head-lopping-off moment, we never actually saw Ned die. I want to say that it was a combination of both, or perhaps all of the blood-bath money was spent on Drogo’s horse.
Major points to Sean Bean for the facial expressions during Ned’s final moments. You could see Ned internally processing and preparing himself for the end he knew was coming. He might have even been considering options of escape. In the end, he bowed his head, exposing his neck and preparing himself for the punishment he was to receive, despite having done everything they asked him to do.
Joffrey’s a weasel for what he did, but considering Robb now has his Uncle (-slash-father) Jaime, I’m thinking he’ll regret not only cutting the head off one very large bargaining chip, but also dumping fuel onto the fire by giving the Starks even more reason to despise the Lannisters.
Speaking of Robb, he and his troupes continued South and hit a road block when they needed to cross the Trident River. Catelynn managed to secure passage for the men, and add on to their numbers by negotiating with Walder Frey, an older Lord whose preference for teenage brides has left him with too many kids. In exchange for passage, Catelynn agreed that Arya would marry Frey’s son Waldren when she’s of age. Also part of the deal was that Frey’s son Oliver will be Robb’s squire, and that Robb will marry one of Frey’s daughters. That last part had Theon snickering at Robb’s expense. Apparently, Frey’s selection of daughters isn’t all that appealing. Robb agreed to the deal because the only other choice was not to cross the river, and that wasn’t an option. Robb’s rising up to become his father’s son, which given how things turned out for Ned, may be a blessing and a curse. He does what he has to do for the sake of his family.
Things worked out well for Robb in the end, as they managed to trick the Lannisters, sending two thousand men to distract them while the rest were off snatching Jaime Lannister and taking him captive.
Tyrion gets the laugh of the night for the dry way he said, “It’s fun! Look at the fun we’re having!” when trying to encourage his newly hired prostitute Shae to play their drinking game. The game led to us learning that Tyrion was once married. Years ago, his brother Jaime hired a whore to pretend to be attacked and nearly raped. After Jaime and Tyrion “rescued” her, Tyrion took the girl to safety, where the two ate lots of chicken, drank lots of wine, slept together and later wed. When Tywin found out about this, he made Jaime tell Tyrion the truth, then had each of his men take Tyrion’s bride, paying her a piece of silver each while Tyrion watched.
It’s stories like this one that explain why Tyrion is the way he is. It’s hard enough to be an outsider, but worse when people that are supposed to love you play an active role in breaking your heart. It sounds like Jaime’s heart was in the right place when he set the whole thing up, though perhaps he didn’t think the whole thing through. He was just trying to give his brother a good time, but Tywin’s punishment was disturbingly cruel.
On The Wall…
Lord Commander Mormont gave Jon a sword called Longclaw, which was once meant for Jorah. Jon barely had time to enjoy the gift when he found out from Sam that Robb was marching south. This is the first major test for Jon as a nights watchmen. Those who take the black abandon all ties, which means Jon isn’t supposed to leave for any reason, including helping his family during a war. While pondering his options, Jon spoke to someone who knew a little bit of what he was going through. Aemon Targaryen, who as it turns out, was related to the infamous Mad King, shared his story with Jon, revealing his identity in the process and speaking of how he too once had to decide whether to stay at the Wall or abandon his post. Whether Jon decides to stay put and honor his vows, or head south to help his family, remains to be seen.
Meanwhile, Out East…
Khal Drogo’s in bad shape. The wound on his chest has festered, resulting in him passing out, right off his horse. Desperate to save him, Dany had Mirri Maz come look him over. Magic was the only thing the witch could offer and Dany took the deal, even after the woman told her “only death pays for life.”
Drogo’s men seemed to have written him off the moment he fell from his horse. A Dothraki has to be able to ride. Not only did Dany have to fear that her husband might die, but she also needs to consider what would be done to her unborn son if another Khal takes over. As Jorah noted, the new Khal wouldn’t want to leave another potential Khal out there who might some day try to claim his place as leader. The baby would most likely be killed.
Love for her husband and son were probably motivation enough to risk whatever consequences might come from the witch’s magic, but I also believe Dany has come to appreciate the feel of being someone important again. She has the makings of a true leader in her. “I have never been nothing. I am the blood of the dragon,” she said, defending her status tonight. Despite how her brother used to make her feel, being married to the Khal has shown her what she’s really made of. I don’t think there’s any going back for her.
Dany’s portion of the episode ended as she was going into labor. The midwives abandoned her, believing she was cursed, and Jorah was left to carry Dany into the tent where the witch was performing her (loud) magic on Drogo.
There’s just one episode of Game of Thrones left. How will people react to the news that Ned is dead? What will become of Arya and Sansa? Will Dany, Drogo and the baby be alright? We’ll find out next week as the season draws to a close.