Yes this episode includes one of the scenes from the book I’ve been waiting for, if for no other reason than to see my wife’s reaction. I’ll get to that scene a little later. First our focus is put on Ned Stark where we see him reinstated as Hand of the King. Robert is off to do some hunting and he needs someone he can actually trust running the kingdom while he’s out and about looking for some sport. Robert also demands that peace be made between the Starks and the Lannisters, good luck with that Robert! We do see how lonely Robert truly is during this scene as well. He admits he doesn’t love his brothers, nor his wife nor being king. One of the few things in the world he actually cares about is Ned and he’s not about to let him go, even if it kills him, or Ned, or both.
Much like the book, we get a few jumps around Westeros and catch up with a number of characters. I’ll sum up what goes on with Dany in a little bit but we get an interesting view of Winterfell before checking in on Tyrion and his time in a cell. Robert Stark is in charge of the household while his father and mother are away and his friend and ward of the Starks, Theon Greyjoy is there as well. Theon tries to convince Rob that he needs to avenge his father’s wound. During the heated discussion, Bran, in his newly fashioned saddle, rides off without being seen by his brother. He encounters some bandits who attack him. Rob and Theon save Bran but that isn’t the important part of this vignette. No what’s important is what we learn about Rob and Theon. Not only is Rob hesitant to avenge his father, but he also shows mercy to one of the bandits. Theon can’t believe it. If we learned anything about Theon it’s that he isn’t afraid of a little conflict and he is much more committed to action than his friend Rob Stark. If you’ve watching closely, you know that these interactions have repercussions later on, so don’t be surprised if Theon has more to say as the Starks and Lannisters circle one another.
The parts focused on Tyrion and Dany Targaryen are really the meat of the episode and were also the most fun to watch. Peter Dinklage again shines, first when he is trying to convince his jailer that he will pay him a lot of money if he helps him second when Tyrion confesses his crimes. I must admit, I don’t remember Tyrion’s confession being so funny in the book, but as live action, it was hilarious. Of course, he confesses to all kinds of horrible behavior, none of it the crimes he is being accused. Tyrion is playing the system and uses the opportunity to request a trial by combat. He goes a little too far by requesting his brother as his champion, but that isn’t possible. He finds an ally from the men who captured him, Bronn. Another good battle sequence and another graphic end and Tyrion is free. It also contains a very foretelling exchange between Bronn and Lysa, Cat’s sister. She chides Bronn for not fighting with honor and he reminds her that her champion did, and he’s the one who went falling through the Moon Door. Honor is not the path to power, or in Bronn’s case survival, in Westros.
The maturation of Daenys is the most revealing aspect of the episode. She has three distinct scenes that tell us three very important things about her story. First, there is more to the dragon eggs and their connection to the Targaryens than just being symbolic. Dany is able to handle them when placed in a fire without any damage to herself. Second, she fully commits herself to her marriage and more important to the Dothraki people by consuming a raw horses heart. After she does this and is soundly praised by the people, her brother finally realizes he has no power at all. He leaves the Dothraki, only to return drunk and venting his rage at realizing his impotence. Viserys makes a fatal error by doing two very stupid things, he threatens his sister, Drogo’s wife no less, and demonstrating his lack of foresight. He foolishly thought he could not be killed in the sacred space of the Dothraki because they forbid the spilling of blood in the space. Of course just about anybody could figure out alternative methods of killing that don’t involve blood. Points to Drogo for creativity; as Viserys yammers about getting his crown, Drogo assures him he will get it, right after he takes the sword away from Dany. Viserys complies and Drogo has his men seize him and Drogo pours molten gold over his head, giving him the crown he so desperately wanted.
One last tidbit worth mentioning, but just barely. Ned finally puts all of the pieces together regarding Cersei and her brother Jamie. He realizes that all of Robert’s children, are in fact not his at all, but products of Cersei and Jamie’s incestuous relationship. We pretty much saw this coming from the first episode, but Ned finally got on the same page as us. Admittedly it is quite the tightrope to walk, that of giving the information to the audience first and the principle characters second. In some cases the journey of discovery is fun to watch, even though we know the mystery. Other times, it just feels plodding and drawn out, a bit of unnecessary storytelling. It wasn’t as bad as all that, but it felt about an episode too long getting there. Even so, now that Ned has all the pieces, what we’ll he do?