SPOILERS! SPOILERS! SPOILERS!
The intrigue was ratcheted up with this episode as I’m sure it will be for the next couple of weeks. Not a lot of swordplay, but a lot more back story was provided and the rivalry between the Starks and Lannisters was fleshed out a little more. I particularly liked when Cersei visited Lady Stark at the bedside of the wounded Brandon Stark. It was such a cold blooded performance, knowing full well what happened to the child. Yet she was able to reach out emotionally to Cat, only to put a dig in about the unresponsiveness about the gods as she left the room. The relationship between Robert and Ned showed signs of strain even before the pivotal crisis involving the children and the dire wolves. As the King and his newly appointed Hand lunched, the differences between the two became apparent. A message arrived that Daenerys Targaryen had wed the Dothraki prince. Robert wasted no time making it clear that she needed to be killed. Ned couldn’t believe that they were basically discussing the assassination of a child. Robert rebuked him, stating not only his desire to protect his throne, but to have vengeance on as many Targeryens as possible. While the distaste Ned has is admirable, in Westeros his scruples are the exception, not the rule. Robert is willing to kill a child to preserve his throne the Lannisters are willing to kill a child to preserve their secrets and their power while the Starks are fast becoming pawns in the game. This is highlighted even more when the Lannister and Stark children have a dust up with fatal consequences.
The youngest Stark daughter, Arya, was practicing her sword fighting skills with a commoner when Sansa, her sister, and the crown prince, Joffrey Baratheon, happened upon them. Things escalated pretty fast as Joffrey abuses the commoner, only to be disarmed by Arya. When Joffrey turns on Arya in a rage, ready to strike, her pet wolf attacks him. Arya convinced her wolf to escape, but the Lanister’s still want justice of some sort and demand that Sansa’s wolf be put down. Of course, keeping with the theme of the Starks being played, they only make that demand after Sansa testified to the King that she couldn’t remember what happened with Arya and Joffrey. The final scene is of Ned killing Sansa’s dire wolf symbolizing the Stark loss of power and being overwhelmed by events surrounding them.
Overall it was a very good episode with two strong performances that should be mentioned. First the young actor playing Geoffrey was quite good as a spoiled, sadistic brat. I do believe that it is easier for child actors to play villains, but they often shade over to charicature. Jack Gleeson doesn’t. He managed to be a little jerk while not going over the top. It will be interesting to watch as the story progresses. Speaking of going over the top, Peter Dinklage was fantastic in this episode as a larger than life dwarf. He plays it (and was directed I’m sure) to exhibit command and bombast as a way to make up for his small stature and Dinklage absolutely nails it. He literally takes over the screen when he is part of a scene and it is very believable that this character expects to be listened to, whether it is his nephew, his brother or the servants. George RR Martin has always maintained that he had Dinklage in mind when he was writing the character of Tyrion and it has really been a perfect marriage thus far. If it keeps up, I hope Dinklage gets some recognition when the Emmys come around.
Not much to mention on the other side of the Narrow Sea. Daenerys Targaryen basically learns how to seduce her husband. This will have consequences down the road, but as far as this episode was concerned it pretty much maintained the suggestive/sexual content quota that seems to be a necessary part of any new HBO series.