Episode Title: "Fire and Blood"
Writers: David Benioff & D. B. Weiss
Director: Alan Taylor
Previously on "Game of Thrones":
Sansa Stark (Sophie Turner) appeared before the royal court and begged for the life of her father, Lord Eddard "Ned" Stark (Sean Bean). King Joffrey (Jack Gleeson) seemed to agree to spar Ned's life if he "confessed" to his treachery and declared loyalty to Joffrey. When Varys (Conleth Hill) passed on the message to a still imprisoned Ned, he rejected the offer until it was clear that Sansa's life was also at stake. Meanwhile, Ned's son Robb (Richard Madden) led his men to a great victory over the Lannisters on the battlefield, capturing Jamie Lannister (Nikolaj Coster Waldau) in the process.
To accomplish that victory, Robb sacrificed two thousand of his forces to the larger army led by Tywin Lannister (Charles Dance); who even forced his son, Tyrion (Peter Dinklage) to battle alongside the Hill Tribes. But after wiping out Robb's decoy forces, Tywin realized that he had been tricked. Across the Narrow Sea, Khol Drogo (Jason Momoa) became deathly ill from his wound and his wife, Daeneryes Targaryen (Emilia Clarke) made a pact with a witch, Mirri Maz Duur (Mia Soteriou) to perform blood magic to save him. During a struggle with one of Drogo's men, Daeneryes went into premature labor; forcing Ser Jorah (Iain Glen) to seek the witch's help in saving her life.
Back in King's Landing, Ned's public confession brought his youngest daughter, Arya (Maisie Williams) out of hiding. But Joffrey rejected Sansa's pleas of mercy and ordered Ned to be immediately beheaded. In the chaos, a Night's Watchman loyal to Ned named Yoren (Francis Magee) found Arya in the crowd and prevented her from watching her father's murder.
In the aftermath of Ned's execution, Sansa faints and Yoren escorts Arya away. He calls her "boy" despite her protests, even when he starts cutting her hair with his knife. But his rough actions make it clear that he is attempting to save her by disguising her. At Winterfell, Bran (Isaac Hempstead-Wright) is escorted by Osha (Natalia Tena) as he relates a troubling vision of his father in the crypt. Once there, they encounter Bran's younger brother, Rickon (Art Parkinson), who had the same vision. And soon, Bran receives a message that his father is dead. Word also reaches Ned's wife, Catelyn (Michelle Fairley), who maintains a brave face in public before sobbing in the woods.
There Catelyn finds Robb angrily striking a tree with his sword. She reminds him that they can not kill Jaime while Sansa and Arya are held by the Lannisters. But once they get them back, she promises that they will kill them all. In King's Landing, Joffrey shows more of his monsterous side when he orders a troubadour to get his tongue ripped out for singing a song that insulted the former King, Robert. Joffrey then terrorizes Sansa by making her look at her father's severed head and those of her servants. He even promises to give her Robb's head as a gift, but she angrily suggests that perhaps Robb will give her Joffrey's head instead.
Incensed, Joffrey orders his servant to strike her and Sansa contemplates killing herself and Joffrey by throwing them both off the castle wall. The Hound (Rory McCann) intercedes and offers Sansa a handkerchief for the blood and advices her to "obey." Back with the Stark bannermen, the assembled lords contemplate declaring loyalty to one of the Baratheon brothers, when Greatjon Umber (Clive Mantle) declares that he will only bow to one King, Robb Stark. To Robb's surprise, the rest of the clans agree and declare him the new King.of the North. Later, Catelyn interrogates Jamie privately and takes a rock to his head.
Although Catelyn gets Jamie to admit that he pushed Bran from the castle window, he doesn't say why he did it. Back in King's Landing, Queen Cersei (Lena Headey) has already taken a new lover in the form of her cousin, Lancel Lannister (Eugene Simon). At the Lannister war camp, Tywin and his forces learn that Robb's men captured Jamie and routed his army. The advisers suggest suing for peace with the Starks until Tyrion points out that with Ned dead, the Starks have no desire to negotiate with the Lannisters. Tywin dismisses the advisers and appoints Tyrion as the new Hand of the King to keep Joffrey in check.
Across the Narrow Sea, Daenerys finally awakens to find that she has lost nearly everything. Her child is stillborn, her husband, Khol Drogo is a vegetable and the Dothraki horde has disbanded without his leadership. Furious, Daenerys confronts Mirri Mazz Duur and learns that witch planned for Drogo to survive in a broken state at the cost of Daenerys' child. Heartbroken, Daenerys smothers her lover to end his shadow of a life. At the Wall, Jon Snow (Kit Harington) defies his oath and rides out to join his brother, Robb at war. However, Sam (John Bradley-West) and his fellow Night's Watch catch up to him and convince him to return.
In King's Landing, Yoren gives Arya a boy's name, "Ari." And when some local boys attempt to bully her, she pulls out her sword and nearly uses it before King Robert's bastard son, Gendry (Joe Dempsie) helps her chase off the boys and joins her on the trip to the Wall. And at the Wall itself, Jon is stunned to learn that Commander Mormont (James Cosmo) knows that Jon nearly deserted the night before. But Jon is forgiven and ordered to join a massive Night's Watch expedition beyond the Wall to uncover the truth about the White Walkers and determine the fate of Jon's uncle, Benjen,
Finally, Daenerys orders Mirri Mazz Duur to be burned in Drogo's funeral pyre, along with the three dragon eggs that were gifts for her wedding. To Ser Jorah's disappointment, Daenerys goes into the pyre herself when the flames are high. Hours later, Jorah and the remaining people are stunned to find Daenerys naked and unharmed, while cradling three newborn Dragons. In awe, everyone bows to the last Targaryen.
If you were expecting a massive battle or a major cliffhanger, then you might have been disappointed by this episode. I was actually a little surprised by how little was resolved of the main story, leaving a lot of loose threads for the second season. I don't doubt that the events were largely faithful to George R.R. Martin's original book, but it did feel like there was something missing from the larger episode.
In a way, last week's episode felt more like the season finale, with this week's episode serving as an epilogue to the season. Ned's death was definitely a major turning point for this show and the unexpected consequences from that were evident throughout the show. First and foremost, Robb is now a King and a serious rival to Joffrey's rule in the south. His impromptu coronation was surprisingly moving, as Greatjon and Theon declared their loyalty to him. Even the Lannisters were affected by Ned's death because without peace as a viable option, their grasp on power is now tenuous.
Watching Sam and his friends convince Jon Snow to return to the Wall was also a great and moving moment for the show. Out of context, the recital of the Night's Watch oath could have seemed corny, But what makes that scene work was the way that the actors made us believe how much the words meant to their characters. The lone disappointment with the Wall storyline is that there wasn't a huge payoff to the White Walker attack in the opening scene of this series. Sending the Night's Watch beyond the Wall is a logical development, but I wanted more from that story after spending so much time there this season.
It was interesting to see Tywin's abrupt change in attitude towards Tyrion, making our favorite character of the season into the new Hand of the King. At first I assumed that Tywin had gained some new respect for the Imp, but the prevailing theory is that Tywin thinks that Jamie is as good as dead and he's making the best of it by focusing on the one son he has left. I'm not sure which is the correct interpretation, but I suspect both may be valid.
The biggest game changer in this episode was Daenerys' reemergence from the funeral pyre with the three newborn dragons. There's so little magic in this series that it's easy to forget that the dragons were actually real. From the stories her brother told earlier this season, we know that Daenerys' ancestors used their power over dragons to rule the kingdoms in Westros in the first place. And while I doubt that Daenerys could conquer anything with baby dragons, when those creatures grow up she may be unstoppable.
Daenerys is the one character I grew from not caring about at all to someone who might be the female lead of this series. At one point I even assumed that she was going to go on to become the villain of the show, but I don't think that's necessarily going to be the case. For the most part, the traditional roles of good and evil are pretty blurred... except for most of the Lannister family. Daenerys is going to be a force to be reckoned with, but it's not clear how she's going to fit into the story next season,
Aside from some minor complaints, the finale was still extremely satisfying. And with recent reports that production on season two starts next month, we may not have to wait longer than a year to see more "Game of Thrones."
Crave Online Rating: 9.5 out of 10.