Quick and Dirty Plot:
The episode starts with the introduction of Tywin Lannister (Charles Dance), the patriarch of the Lannisters. Jaime (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau) is criticized for both fighting Ned Stark (Sean Bean) and not seeking proper retaliation for Catelyn Stark (Michelle Fairley) kidnapping Tyrion Lannister (Peter Dinklage). Pretty high expectations there, Papa Lannister.
Ned, meanwhile, has figured out the twincest and confronts Cersei (Lena Headey). Ned tells Cersei he plans to tell Robert (Mark Addy) when he gets back from hunting, and Ned offers to give Cersei a head start to get out of King’s Landing with her children. Cersei is not having Ned’s stupidity. She mentions the Targaryens have a long tradition of incest — which explains Viserys (Harry Lloyd) if you ask me. Cersei tells Ned that he has to step things up because when you play the game, “You win or you die.”
Before Ned can tell Robert of Cersei’s affair with her OWN TWIN BROTHER (I cannot stress this enough), Robert returns mortally wounded by a boar. Robert talks with Ned and asks for him to serve as regent to Joffrey (Jack Gleeson). Deciding to finally play the game, Ned writes “my rightful heir” rather than Joffrey’s name. As the inevitable approaches, Ned attempts to build alliances to overthrow Joffrey once Robert dies. Renly (Gethin Anthony) tells Ned to assist with overthrowing Joffrey now, but Ned plans to “honor” Robert by not starting stuff until after he dies.
At the Wall, Jon Snow (Kit Harington) begins to worry for his uncle when his uncle’s horse returns without a rider. Jon then learns that he has not become a ranger, but Sam (John Bradley) points out that Jon has been appointed to assist the commander. Sam surmises that the commander intends to train Jon directly. During their very dramatic oath to join the Night’s Watch, Jon and Sam discover a hand.
Daenerys (Emilia Clarke) remains with the Dothraki and is trying to convince Khal Drogo (Jason Momoa) to go for the Iron Throne. Despite a dying Robert rescinding his orders to kill Daenerys, it is learned that there is no reversing his previous order. While out in a market, an assassin almost kills Daenerys but is captured by Jorah (Iain Glen). This assassination attempt fuels Khal Drogo to seek the throne for his wife and unborn son. Jorah plans to continue supporting and protecting Daenerys despite receiving a pardon to return to King’s Landing.
Back at King’s Landing, Ned writes a letter to Stannis Baratheon, noting that he is the rightful heir to the throne. Robert officially dies so Ned assembles an entourage, believing Renly, Littlefinger (Aiden Gillen) and Varys (Conleth Hill) are on his side. Before going to the throne room, Ned learns Renly has peaced out. Following through, Ned confronts Joffrey and Cersei. He quickly learns that he has no friends and is captured by the crown with that bitch Littlefinger putting a knife to his throat.
Things were absolutely BONKERS in this episode. First of all, what in the heck do you think you’re doing, Ned Stark?! The man acts as if he’s bigger than joining in on the game, but then pulls crap like this? He was utterly unprepared and way too cocky. And I knew his moral convictions were going to get in the way. Ned should have listened to Renly and attacked Joffrey when he had the chance.
Plus, another stupid move: letting Cersei know exactly what you’re doing. Ned should not have shown his hand to Cersei Lannister. The Starks and Lannisters HATE each other, and yet, he decides to give her a head start to get out before Robert learns none of his children are his own? The last person you want to tell you secrets to is a Lannister, let alone Cersei Lannister! How frustrating.
I think this has been my problem with Ned. He hides behind his moral convictions, dips his toes into the game, but then is surprised by the eventual consequences. You do not get to have your cake and eat it too. At least with everyone else, you can understand their actions. Cersei wants power. Littlefinger wants power. Jaime wants power — and his sister. Robert wanted to keep his power. What are Ned’s motivations? Being moral and all judgy-judgy? There are moments that I really like Ned, and then there are times when he really frustrates me. Throughout this episode, I was extra frustrated with Ned.
This was a very busy episode. Outside of Ned, we had some big set-ups for Jon and Daenerys. Jon didn’t become a ranger like he wanted to but still takes his vow to join the Night’s Watch. During his vow, his direwolf brings him a severed hand. Very “Winter’s Bone” of his direwolf. I feel like this is to really ramp up the White Walkers and their existence. Then we have Daenerys, who was almost assassinated. I know what happens to Daenerys at the end of the show so I knew this was not her time, but I was still sweating bullets. They did do a great job with that scene.
This episode was a great showcase of Lena Headey. I had seen her before in “Imagine Me & You” which is like the opposite of “Game of Thrones.” That film had her be very charming and endearing. In “Game of Thrones,” Headey has to be more difficult to reach. Cersei can be downright evil and ruthless. But, at the same time, Cersei really does care about her family. It is not like Cersei lives in a time where women are seen as equals or are respected. Cersei has to be playing the game. Headey makes her unapologetic in her fight for survival and thriving. Do I like Cersei? No. But does Headey make it difficult to write her off as completely evil? Absolutely.
Robert Baratheon – cue “Time to Say Goodbye” by Andrea Bocelli feat. Sarah Brightman
Robert, I mean, what can I say? Truly. You were a bit of a drunk. Kind of rude. Totally inappropriate to be a king. But it is sad to see you go. You were instrumental in getting a lot of stuff rolling. I hope, for you, there’s bacon in heaven.
- Ned has put two and two together! TWINCEST.
- Daenerys is just braiding Khal Drogo’s hair. Normal couple things.
- This is a dramatic Night’s Watch graduation.
- Renly is the only one who knows what’s up.
- Ned has no intention of making peace with the Lannisters.
- That tree is SCARY.
- Daenerys is real into Khal Drogo’s speech.
- Joffrey is king. No no no.
- Littlefinger is a backstabber. When does he die??
“Game of Thrones” is available to watch on HBO and HBO Max.
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Featured image credit: HBO
Morgan Roberts (she/her) was by films and television. She spent many nights watching “The Mary Tyler Moore Show” or whatever the family rented from Blockbluster. Morgan is particularly interested in cinematography, supporting female filmmakers and “Fleabag.” Outside of a deep love of film, Morgan is passionate about mental health advocacy, gender equality and true crime podcasts. Morgan also contributes to In Their Own League.