I saw a tweet the other day that read, “Just watched last night’s Game of Thrones. Keeps getting better and better.” I can’t disagree. The intrigue in this episode was taken to the next level. The mystery might not be the most difficult riddle to unravel, but it’s what is going to happen when the answers are uncovered that make it fun to watch. Ned Stark dug deeper into what his predecessor was looking into before he died. Of course now it’s becoming apparent that John was murdered because he was looking into the lineage of the great houses, the descendants of Robert Baratheon and what exactly was going on in the king’s court. Anyone who could shed some light on this for our noble Ned has an annoying habit of dying. Take for instance the introduction of the Mountain, of House Clegane, loyal to Lannister. In the first joust of the tournament honoring the new Hand, he manages to “accidentally” kill the one knight who may or may not know what happened to John. It was a little subtle, but the Mountain used a broken lance to skewer Ser Hugh of the Vale through the throat. More than that though, it demonstrated how the folks at HBO and those associated with GOT are really being efficient with the storytelling. Instead of slowly bringing in the character of the Mountain, with this one scene we get all we need to know: He’s a bastard. Before the joust is even over, we know where his loyalties lie, that he’s a sociopath and he is incredibly devastating in a fight. All of this is accomplished without the actor uttering a word. That’s a pretty neat trick.
While the joust was going on, Ned Stark was away, in protest really. Even though the tournament was being held in his honor, he wants it to be known, and not too subtly, that he believes the monarchy is wasting money and he doesn’t want to be a party to it. Of course his absence doesn’t go unnoticed. Not by the king, of course who doesn’t seem to care about anything except whoring, drinking and rubbing the Lannister’s nose in his throne. No, Ned’s absence was noticed by the true power in King’s Landing, Cersei. It was a sly little meeting, but two things become apparent. First these folks don’t like each other, but Cersei knows a lot more about Ned than he knows about her and the Lannisters. Ned seems to think that his nobility and honor will be enough to protect him in the high court, but he is so obviously out of his element that something, sooner or later will have to give.
Another fun character from the novels is introduced in this episode, Sam Tarly. Not only do we get to meet a friend of Jon Snow but we gain a stronger understanding of the society that populates Westeros. Sam comes from a minor family in the Seven Kingdoms, but the importance of heredity, status and title are still important even further down the social ladder. Turns out Sam pretty much was forced to join the Black Guard, or be killed by his own father who finds Sam to be a colossal disappointment. Sam is a horrible fighter and a coward and the drastic measure his father takes regarding him highlight that this is a cruel society to say the least. Of course, all of this focus on toughness and physical prowess pretty much falls into a bit of a fantasy stereotype. Namely, that if a society is dependent on swords and sorcery then it must also be a patriarchal society that values men more than women. No matter where one travels on the map of fantasy, the idea of equality between genders is obviously a modern concept that can’t exist in a pseudo medieval world. Yes, the more recent the fantasy and science fiction writing and films the more the world is populated by ass-kicking warrior women, but overall women are not in positions of power. So, instead of having a weakling son inherit his lands, Sam’s father ships him off to the edge of the world to basically disappear.
Speaking of powerful women, is beginning to see how weak her brother truly is. As she talks to her bodyguard, she realizes that her brother has no power at all and that of the two, she actually has much more power in their new situation. She also realizes that her brother is a bit out of touch with reality. He imagines that the people of Westeros want him back and that with the aid of the Dothraki he can recapture his throne, but he is wrong on both counts. No one wants the Targaryens back on the throne and even with 40,000 horse warriors they wouldn’t be able to conquer the Seven Kingdoms. No, all of his plans are foolish and Daenerys is starting to understand that if the situation is going to change, she will be the one who makes it happen, not her delusional brother.
The final scene is an excellent cliffhanger that will play out over the course of the next few episodes, perhaps up until the end of the season. By a major stroke of luck, Cat Stark manages to capture the Imp and charges him with the attempted murder of her son, Bran. It was a fun scene to watch unfold. Lady Stark reminds all of the men sitting at the inn who is the major power in the north and who they have sworn loyalty to. When she finally announces her charge against Tyrion Lannister, all swords are drawn and leveled at the accused. Obviously the rivalry between Stark and Lannister has just been ratcheted up and at some point it will be resolved, probably with a lot of violence and bloodshed. It is just getting started, folks.