Episode Title: "The Pointy End"
Writer: George R. R. Martin
Director: Daniel Minahan
Previously on "Game of Thrones":
Lord Eddard "Ned" Stark (Sean Bean) finally learned the secret that nearly killed his son, Bran (Isaac Hempstead-Wright). Queen Cersei (Lena Headey) and her brother Jamie Lannister (Nikolaj Coster Waldau) had been carrying on an affair for years; which meant that her husband, King Robert (Mark Addy) was not the father of their children. Ned warned Cersei to leave King's Landing, but news soon broke that Robert was fatally injured during a hunt. In his last hours, Robert urged Ned to stay on as Lord Protector and mentor his "son" Joffrey (Jack Gleeson) until he came of age. But Ned secretly changed his will to allow one of Robert's brothers to assume the throne.
Across the narrow sea, Ser Jorah (Iain Glen) received a royal pardon for spying on Daeneryes Targaryen (Emilia Clarke) and her recently deceased brother. But Jorah interceded when an assassin sent by the King's advisers attempted to poison Daeneryes. Enraged, Daeneryes' husband Khol Drogo (Jason Momoa) promised to lead his armies into Westros and reclaim her family's throne. At the Wall, Ned's bastard son, Jon Snow (Kit Harington) took his vows to become a member of the Night's Watch before his dire wolf, Ghost discovered a dismembered body.
Back at King's Landing, Ned took the advice of Lord Petyr "Littlefinger" Baelish (Aidan Gillen) and attempted to keep Joffrey from assuming the throne. But in a stunning (and yet inevitable) double-cross, Littlefinger arranged for his City Watch guards to murder Ned's men in the King's throne room while he captured Ned with a knife to his throat.
Immediately thereafter, guards loyal to the Lannisters go through the castle and slaughter any servants and personal guards belonging to Ned. Meanwhile, Arya (Maisie Williams) continues her sword lesson with Syrio (Miltos Yorelemou). When the Lannisters' men finally come for her, Syrio impressively holds them off with a wooden sword, allowing Arya to escape. However, her sister Sansa (Sophie Turner) is not as lucky. When she is brought before the Queen, Sansa is forced to write a letter to her brother, Robb (Richard Madden) demanding that he come to King's Landing and declare his loyalty to King Joffrey.
At Winterfell, Robb realizes that the Queen forced Sansa to write the letter. He decides to call in all of the houses that are loyal to the Starks and march on King's Landing. After making the fateful declaration, Theon Greyjoy (Alfie Allen) notes Robb's fear and states that it means he isn't stupid. In the dungeon at King's Landing, Ned is surprised when Lord Varys aka The Spider (Conleth Hill) brings him water. The Spider tells him that Tyrion Lannister (Peter Dinklage) escaped from Ned's wife, meaning that the Starks have no leverage to save him. At the Eyrie, Catelyn Stark (Michelle Fairley) chides her sister for refusing to lend her troops to help save Ned, before leaving to catch up to her son.
At the Wall, Jon Snow and the other Night's Watch examine the bodies that Ghost found and determine that they belonged to their missing comrades. Jon also receives word that his father is accused of high treason. When Ser Allister (Owen Teale) taunts him about the news, Jon nearly murders the man. Confined to his quarters, Jon becomes aware that one of the dead bodies has risen. After a harrowing encounter with Commander Mormont (James Cosmo), Jon defeats the White Walker with fire from a lantern. Across the Narrow Sea, Daenerys becomes upset when the Dothraki attack an innocent village to gain resources for their upcoming war against the kingdoms of Westros.
But Daenerys is even more shaken when she learns that the Dothraki horde intends to rape the captive women. She uses her influence to save the women from sexual abuse, infuriating one of Khol Drogo's lieutenants. Drogo is impressed by Daenerys' growing boldness, but the lieutenant takes offense and challenges Drogo on the spot. To demonstrate his dominance, Drogo allows the man to cut him before he rips out his tongue and kills him. Daenerys is alarmed at the wound to Drogo's chest, which Drogo claims is barely an insect bite. But she insists that he allow one of the captured healers to treat his cut.
On the road, Tyrion and his newfound ally, Bronn (Jerome Flynn) are captured by the Hill Tribes. However, Tyrion promises the give the tribes better weapons and the status of Lords of the Vale if they escort him safely to his father. The Hill Tribes do so, but they insist upon staying with Tyrion when he meets his father, Tywin (Charles Dance). Realizing that Robb Stark's forces are moving against them, Tywin offers to fulfill Tyrion's promise to the Hill tribes if they fight with him. They agree, but only if Tyrion fights on the front lines with them.
During plans for their next move, Robb is challenged by Lord Greatjon Umber (Clive Mantle), who even pulls a knife on him. Robb's dire wolf severs two of the man's fingers, which he laughs off when he sees that the other lords support Robb. Later, Robb's forces catch a Lannister scout counting their forces. Robb spares the man's life and sends a message of warning to Tywin, infuriating Greatjon in the process.
At King's Landing, Queen Cersei uses her new power over Joffrey to force Ser Barristan Selmy (Ian McElhinney) to retire from the Kingsguard, which he angrily does. Afterwards, Sansa approaches the court and begs for her father's life. Joffrey seems to be legitimately moved by her words and offers mercy for her father if Ned will confess his crimes and declare that Joffrey is the legitimate king. Sansa then promises that her father will obey.
I was on the road most of this week, and it's hard to overstate how much I was looking forward to seeing this episode when I got back. "Game of Thrones" is on such a great roll that it's almost not fair to compare it to other TV series. Last week's episode was one of the best to date, but this one may have topped it.
The editing and juxtaposition at the beginning of the episode was particularly stunning, as the mock swordplay between Arya and Syrio took place among the backdrop of the slaughter at King's Landing. For such a relatively minor character, Syrio already had one of the best lines in the show about Death being the only God. And that line actually got a callback here when Arya repeated Syrio's response to Death, "Not today." Unfortunately, this might also have been Syrio's last stand. But what a way to go out: fighting five armored me with nothing but a wooden sword… and almost winning!
Presumably, Siryo was a great warrior before he became a trainer and it seems like Arya is going to be on that path as well. She even gets her first kill as she escapes the castle, although that was definitely in self-defense. But it did strike me as the fulfillment of Ned's observation several episodes ago, when he first introduced Arya to Siryo. As their wooden swords clashed, Ned heard the sound of real swords. And now that future has come true for his daughter.
With Ned out of the way, it looks like Robb might really be able to step up into the hero role on this series. Richard Madden's been a little overshadowed by Kit Harington's Jon Snow, but Madden showed a lot of promise in this episode. I can almost believe that the forces loyal to Ned would rally around him. And I really like the uneasy bond between Robb and Theon. The one moment that seemed false was the easy way that Greatjon laughed off the loss of his fingers. Although it was pretty funny when he reluctantly agreed with Robb's assertion that he was pulling the knife in order to "cut his meat."
The Spider also captured my attention this week in a way that he never had before. When the show was following Littlefinger around, it was easy to just dismiss The Spider as another scheming member of the King's advisers. However, his conversations with Ned this week did a lot to flesh out his motivations… if we can accept what he said at face value.
For a fantasy series, "Game of Thrones" has been surprisingly devoid of most fantasy elements. I think that the resurrection of the dead body at the Wall might have been the first real example of magic on this show since the prologue of the first episode. It was also a great hero moment for Jon Snow, who's been a little bit too disconnected from the rest of his family's story so far. When finally informed about what happened to Ned, Jon was actually shattered by the news.
Something about that speaks to me. For a guy who's been treated like garbage most of his life because he's a bastard, Jon really loves Ned and his siblings. However, I don't expect Jon to meet up with Robb and go to war alongside his brother. We've spent so much time at the Wall this season that there has to be some kind of huge payoff with the White Walkers before the season finale. I figure that if George R.R. Martin put Jon on the Wall, there has to be a good reason for it.
Speaking of Martin, this was the first episode of the series that he actually wrote himself based on his novel. I've got his first book in this series (to be read after the season) and I've been wondering if some of the humor was coming off as intended or whether it was the performance of Peter Dinklage that made Tyrion so hilarious. Judging from Tyrion's scenes in this episode, I think the comedy is coming from both the actor and the words. Tyrion's scene with the Hill Tribes in his father's war tent had a great recurring gag of Tyrion attempt to drink some wine. And at the end of that scene, there was one serious moment when Tyrion knew his father would let the Hill Tribes drag him to the front lines. There's no way in hell the show would ever kill off Tyrion that easily, but just from Dinklage's eyes we could see that Tyrion believes he could die there. That's the mark of a great performance.
This week also did a lot to rehabilitate Sansa Stark in my eyes, although not entirely. But Sansa did seem sincere in her pleading for Ned's life. However, knowing Sansa, I'll bet her promise to Joffrey will cause Ned more problems than if she had said nothing at all.
There's only two episodes left in the first season, which has been stellar to date. HBO had better not make us wait more than a year for the second season. TV shows this good are hard to come by.
Crave Online Rating: 9 out of 10.