Game of Thrones: The Wolf and the Lion

“The Wolf and the Lion” was the most brutal episode of Game of Thrones yet – swords through eye sockets, shields mashing faces, horse’s heads being chopped off. But I’ve discovered that if I employ the squeal and cringe method when blood starts to spurt, I can survive the gorier scenes. And it’s worth it because Game of Thrones is getting GOOD! I was skeptical at first – worried that the characters were unlikeable, the plot too sensational – but I’m happy to be proved wrong. I’m starting to clamor for my fix from week to week.

I managed to get my hands on a wonderful chart someone created that not only highlights who is who in the Seven Kingdoms, but also features correct spelling. Thank God for that, because this week the bit players and side characters stepped out of the shadows and onto centre stage … and I had to learn a crap-load of new names and titles!

King’s Landing
Order within the realm is unraveling faster everyday and everyone has their own agenda. Robert may sit on the coveted Iron Throne, but his position is far from secure.

Sir Varys of the King’s Council, the Master of Whisperers, meets with Ned Stark in secret to warn him that King Robert is in serious danger. As Ned suspected, poison was the cause of Jon Arryn’s death, a tasteless, colourless concoction called Tears of Lys. The smart money is on Sir Hugh as the killer, Jon Arryn’s young squire who rose to knighthood immediately following his death. But who paid him to betray his Master? Varys isn’t sure, but they can’t exactly ask Sir Hugh. He was recently skewered through the neck in a jousting tournament. And isn’t it a tad suspicious that on Sir Hugh’s very first ride he drew the fiercest, most violent knight in the capital as his opponent. Sir Gregor “The Mountain” ended his life with ease and pleasure. Ned has been in King’s Landing for a month and demands to know why Varys waited so long to tell him of the treachery. Varys wanted to be sure he could trust him first. “There are few men of honour in the capital. You are one of them.”

But is Varys himself a man of honour? On a cat-catching mission to improve her stealth skills, Arya ends up in the dungeons of the castle. Crouching behind a gigantic dragon’s skull, she overhears two cloaked men debating whether her father should meet the same fate as the last Hand. “He’s found one bastard already. He has the book. The rest will come.” If I’m correct, the two men were Varys and Illyrio, a Targaryen ally from across the Narrow Sea. Illyrio was the one who arranged the marriage between Daenerys and Drogo. Both men are aware of the Lannisters treachery, but it appears to be separate from their own. One of them mentions, “The fools tried to kill his son. And what’s worse, they botched it.“ Their agenda seems to be returning a Targaryen to the Iron Throne. “We need time. Khal Drogo will not make his move until his son is born. You know how these savages are.” Poor Arya is traumatized by the glut of information, particularly the threat on her father’s life. These tenacious Stark children certainly have a knack for being in the wrong place at the wrong time. I admire their exploratory spirit and avid curiosity but they are going to wind up in serious trouble!

Arya runs to tell Ned what she overheard and he initially dismisses her story as the fantasies of an overactive imagination. She can’t identify the culprits, only that one of them was ‘sort of fat’ (Varys). But when she mentions ‘the bastard’, he perks right up. Ned has just discovered Robert’s bastard teenage son and knows Jon Arryn was preoccupied with his existence.

The cloaked cohorts aren’t the only people unhappy with Robert’s reign. His own brother Renly, who serves on the council as the Master of Laws, resents Robert looking down on him because he never fought in a war. Robert sure loves his killing! Renly’s ‘special friend’, privileged pretty-boy knight Sir Loras, thinks Renly would make a far better king than Robert. He even suggests that his father would gladly bankroll him. Who are the other sad sack candidates for the throne anyway? Joffrey the sadistic brat? Tommen the 10-year old? Standish, the King’s other brother who has ‘the personality of a lobster’? Loras swears, “People love you. They love to serve you because you’re kind to them. They want to be near you. You’re willing to do what needs to be done, but you don’t gloat over it. You don’t love killing. Where is it written that power is the soul province of the worst? That thrones are only made for the hated and the feared? You would be a wonderful king.” Of course Loras is whispering all this to his lover as he shaves his chest and relieves him of his pants, so there’s a chance it’s just sexy pillow talk. Nevertheless, the seed has been planted.

Paranoia is sweeping through the council as rumors of Daenerys’ pregnancy reach them. Robert wants to move quickly and slaughter the ‘whore’ and her unborn child. “I want them dead, mother and child both and that fool Viserys as well.” But Ned’s moral compass can’t abide the murder of an innocent young girl. He tells Robert, “You’ll dishonor yourself forever if you do this.” So what, Robert rages, what is honour? It isn’t honour that runs his kingdom, “It’s fear and blood that keeps people in line.” The rest of the council follows Robert’s lead. I mean, sure, it’s vile business and all, but what can they do? It’s better off for everyone, including the girl they’re about to assassinate, that the Dothraki never start a war. Um, I doubt Daenerys would see it that way, but whatever! Ned does what any smart employee would do when their boss has become unhinged; he quits on the spot and walks away as Robert hurls insults and threats in his direction.

I get why Robert is all hot and bothered about the possibility of a new Targaryen heir, but Daenerys is a smart, kind, kick-ass chick and if she raises her son to follow in her footsteps, I for one would love to see him on the throne!

Ned Starks packs his things and makes plans for him and the girls to return to Winterfell, but before he leaves, Lord Baelish entices him with one last outing. He knows who Jon Arryn last spoke with before his death. At Baelish’s brothel, Ned finds a prostitute with a new baby … yet another one of King Robert’s bastards. The mystery lies in why Jon Arryn was so determined to track them all down. What was he really looking for?

As Ned leaves the brothel, Jaime Lannister surrounds him with a small mounted army and it’s no secret what HE’S looking for. He knows Lady Stark has abducted Tyrion and he wants his brother back NOW! Aww, it’s sweet that he’s so close to his family. He “comforts” his sister and defends his dwarf brother. He’s really a stand-up guy if you think about it. 😉 Ned takes the blame for Tyrion’s capture; claiming Catelyn only acted on his orders. Jaime threatens to slice him from ‘balls to brain’ and a sword-fight breaks out. Ned’s personal guard gets a sword through the face and one of Jaime’s men sticks a spear through Ned’s leg. Jaime rides off and leaves Ned wounded, shouting, “My brother Lord Stark, I want him back.”

The North
Lady Stark has pretty much lost her marbles and leads a bound and blindfolded Tyrion Lannister down the road towards The Vale. She wants to bring him before her sister Lysa, who fled back home after her husband’s death. I’m not sure what the deal is with this whole thing. What can Lysa discover about Tyrion’s guilt? Is she some kind of psychic or something? Or does Catelyn just want to dole out justice away from prying eyes? Her loud declarations that she was taking Tyrion to Winterfell were meant as diversions, to throw off anyone searching for him. Tyrion maintains his innocence, but Catelyn is not swayed. She has her dagger and she’s sticking to it! Yeah, well, “What sort of imbecile arms an assassin with his own blade?” Before she can respond, they are accosted by a gang of hill people. As Lady Stark’s guards attempt to fight them off, Tyrion begs her to untie him, “If I die, what’s the point?” Damn…little dude always makes so much sense! She relents and frees his wrists…just in time for him to save her from an attacker by grabbing a shield and bashing his face into bloody mush. Gross, but bad-ass!

With the immediate threat behind them, the party continues on towards The Vale. Tyrion is still technically a prisoner, but is allowed to ride free. As he aptly point out, where the hell would he go anyway? They arrive in the mountain city of Eyrie and greet Lysa who is sitting on a ridiculously large throne while, no joke, breastfeeding a seven year old! There’s a small chance she may have gone bat shit crazy in the five years since Catelyn last saw her. Lysa is furious that her sister would bring a Lannister to her sanctuary after she specifically warned her to stay away from them. Doesn’t she know that Tyrion killed her husband Jon? Tyrion drolly responds, “Oh, did I kill him too? I’ve been a very busy man?” HA. Best line ever. At this point Lysa’s hungry little son detaches himself from his mother’s breast and throws the most bizarre temper tantrum I’ve ever seen, stomping around shouting, “You can’t hurt us! No one can hurt us here! Tell him mommy, tell him!” There are no words to accurately describe the creep factor. Catelyn’s starting to feel that she may have made the wrong choice in bringing Tyrion to the Vale and makes it clear that he’s HER prisoner and is not to be harmed. Lysa has him tossed into an open cell on the side of the mountain … at the edge of a plunging cliff.

Favourite Scenes:
– Arya emerges from the dungeons through a tunnel outside the castle walls and is stopped by the palace guards when she tries to walk back in. She’s wearing pants and covered in dirt and they assume she’s a little boy beggar. She sasses them real good! “My father is Hand of the King. I’m not a boy, I’m Arya Stark of Winterfell and if you lay a hand on me my father will have both your heads on spikes. Now are you going to let me by or do I need to smack you on the ear to help with your hearing?” Her gender is an amusing source of confusion in this episode. A visiting night’s watchman sees her and says, “This must be your son” and she again haughtily proclaims, “I’m a girl!!!”

– Hands down, the most interesting scene of the episode was between Robert and Cersei, who engaged in a screwed up heart-to-heart about their marriage. I love when I see unexpected sides of despicable characters and I felt genuine sympathy for Cersei during this scene. After 17 years of marriage she finally asks Robert about the love of his life, the deceased Lyanna Stark. He wonders why now? “First just saying her name, even in private, felt like I was breathing life back into her. I thought if I didn’t talk about her she’d just fade away for you. When I realized that wasn’t going to happen, I refused to ask out of spite. I didn’t want to give you the satisfaction of thinking I cared enough to ask. And eventually it became clear that my spite didn’t mean anything to you. As far as I could tell, you actually enjoyed it.” The truth is that there was a time when Cersei did love Robert, when she wanted him to love her back … but it never happened and eventually they grew to hate each other. She asks Robert if there was ever a time, even a moment, when they might have had a real marriage and he can only respond, “No. Does that make you feel better or worse?” It really makes you wonder who got the worse deal in this awful relationship. Sure, Cersei has become a cold bitch, a venomous traitor, but she was never given the chance to be a real wife. Robert’s capacity for love died with Lyanna. Although Cersei knew what she was getting into when her marriage to Robert was arranged, it was harder than she imagined to not matter.

Fantastic episode overall! All the tension gurgling beneath the surface has bubbled over and the tenuous peace between the various houses has been shattered. What happens next it sure to be epic! My only beef was that two of my favourite characters, Jon Snow and Daenerys Targaryen, were M.I.A for the entire episode. But the hour was packed full as it was and I’ll just have to hope the next episode features them both heavily.

Photo Courtesy of HBO

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