All aboard the Hype Train! In preparation of Season 8 of Game of Thrones, Kelly is doing a rewatch for the greater good to refresh our memories, catch the things we might have forgotten, pick up the things we might have missed, and maybe make predictions! Hold onto your fur rugs from Ikea and AWAY WE GO.
Rules of this series: We’re deep diving into these episodes and I’m watching them on a per-episode base because I like digesting the episodes. Spoilers lie ahead. As much as I can, I am going to try and keep things episode/season specific. It’s out of respect to the narrative as well as the later seasons. Onwards!
1.5 The Wolf and the Lion
In an obvious reference to the Starks and the Lannisters, we get the pairings of Tyrion and Cat, Cersei and Ned, Joff and Sansa, and Jaime and Ned. Let’s get into it! We will be at King’s Landing for a looooooong time.
Already we can tell the improvement in production value- the costumes are better made, better fitted, and the wigs look like they fit the actor’s heads. Compared to Dany’s wedding dress in the pilot (which, let’s be honest, looked like it was from Xena: Warrior Princess), 1.5 is definitely upping the visual bars.
In King’s Landing, Ned is inspecting the body of Ser Hugh, who was close with Jon Arryn. Barristan says that the order of jousting is done by drawing straws and Ned, still suspicious, drops, “But who holds the straws?”
In one of Robert’s more redeeming scenes, he’s trying to put on armor because he wants to compete but he’s too fat. He tells Lancel to go get the breastplate stretcher (headlight fluid and elbow grease, anyone?) and Ned remarks that Lancel is a Lannister. Lancel is apparently Robert’s squire under Cersei’s insistence and Robert admits that his marriage was purely a power move. To his credit, the Lannisters are the richest family in Westeros and hold a lot of political power, but Robert seems unaware or at the very least, doesn’t care, that Cersei is using him to install Lannister power all around the throne. It’s never mentioned, but just take a look at all the visual references to the Lannisters- the Baratheon colors are gold and black, yet it’s red and gold (Lannister colors) that are all over King’s Landing. When we first see Cersei and Joffrey, only the mutual gold is emphasized; Cersei seems resistant to wearing anything remotely symbolic of the Baratheons- this is probably why the blue stood out on her so much in the previous week.
More jousting! We’re introduced to Loras Tyrell, who has some sweet, complicated armor and is just the picture-perfect knight. Sansa immediately crushes on him. Loras throws the Mountain from his horse, the Mountain gets up furious, and CHOO CHOO THE HOUND STEPS IN AND ALL ABOARD THE HYPE TRAIN FOR CLEGANE-BOWL. Which in theory, sounds awesome, since they have this lifelong sibling rivalry, hate for each other, and larger than life stature; but from what we see here, it’s pretty lame in execution, as the armor seems to weigh them down and they’re both so big that they each move really slowly. Hahahahahahahaaaaaa and we spend all this time praying for Clegane-Bowl. Hell, I still pray for Clegane-Bowl and I’ll keep praying for it.
The important tidbit here is that Littlefinger is providing Sansa with some play-by-play commentary and goes so far as to touch her shoulder and Ned has the most disgusted look on his face. Again, small details in Sean Bean’s performance that tells us everything we need to know- Littlefinger isn’t trustworthy and he should give us the creeps. It’s also within these few seconds that I’m reminded that Sansa is just a child when this all begins- it’s easy when you have a year in between seasons to forget how young the characters are supposed to be and whine that they should know better. As Sansa is in this really susceptible, easy-to-manipulate phase, I just get chills knowing what comes later.
Varys feeds Ned the idea that Ser Hugh poisoned Jon Arryn with Tears of Lys in exchange for new armor, money, and knighthood. Ned drops the line that Jon was Hand for 17 years and Varys says he was killed for asking questions. Let’s recap this really quick- it’s been 17 years since Robert’s Rebellion, the death of the Mad King, and Robert was named as King. It’s also been at least 16 years since Cersei and Robert were married and Cersei gave birth to her first child, the “black haired beauty” she mentioned in 1.2. It’s about (maybe) 15 years since Joffrey was born, and then Myrcella, then Tommen. Also within those 17 years, Robert fathered Gendry, the armorer’s apprentice, and who knows what other bastards are running around. It took Jon Arryn 17 years to see the maturing of the children and to note that they looked nothing like Robert and to suspect that the “legitimate” Baratheon children were actually the product of an affair between Cersei and Jaime. So this wasn’t a conspiracy- it was something Jon Arryn had raised suspicions about for maybe two or three years.
Arya’s not at the tournament because she’s chasing cats, under Syrio’s direction. She stumbles across the legendary dragon skulls from the last Targaryen reign and overhears Varys telling someone that Ned has found a bastard and is slowly making the connections that Jon Arryn was killed for. I never realized until now that Varys is talking to Illyrio, who had been housing Viserys and Dany and this indicates that Varys is a Targaryen supporter. Varys tells Illyrio that he needs to move the Targaryens faster and that there are now more than two players. I find it hard to read Varys in these scenes- he seems to really like and trust Ned, so I’m not sure where or if Ned would have played into anything if Dany had made it to the throne while he was Hand.
Runner-up for Scene of the Episode, Littlefinger and Varys have fantastic conversation, where it’s revealed Varys utilizes children as his main method of gossip, which is often mistaken for pedophilia. Varys basically accuses Littlefinger of being a purveyor of questionable, immoral fetishes and Littlefinger goes for a eunuch comment. I see this as the equivalent of two fourth graders arguing and when one has lost, says, “You’re being stupid.” It’s a baseless comment with no teeth. Win for Varys! Fun fact, Aidan Gillen and Conleth Hill are good friends in real life. More fun fact, most of the Irish actors in GOT have starred together in random plays- Ciaran Hinds (Mance Rayder), Michael McElhatton (Roose Bolton), Ian McElhinney (Ser Barristan), Hill, Gillen, etc.
I’d also like to take this time to point out that in small intervals throughout the series, Varys reveals he was kidnapped and mutilated as a child- and so he shows particular empathy for children, outcasts, and the poor. When understanding his backstory, these earlier scenes play out quite differently.
Arya tells Ned what she overheard between Varys and Illyrio and he doesn’t take her seriously until she says, “Wolves are fighting the lions.” What a great “Oh shit” face that comes across Bean’s face. Arya is mistaken twice for a boy in this episode, once by a city guard and by Yoren, who has ridden straight from the Inn at the Crossroads to King’s Landing to tell Ned what Cat has done.
I need a break from King’s Landing, so let’s visit Cat. Cat, Tyrion, and Company are attacked by a hill tribe and Bronn immediately shows he’s a worthy swordsman. Let’s note that Bronn doesn’t even have a name yet but we love him anyway. Tyrion saves Cat and this still doesn’t register with her that she might be wrong in her accusation. I love Cat, but she had several warning signs that this was going to go bad- she was just so hellbent on getting revenge on her Bran’s fall. She doesn’t even try and stop Tyrion and Bronn from becoming pals. They immediately bond and become the first of many wonderful roadtrip pairings we get in the series.
Tyrion also drops the great, “A Lannister always pays his debts,” the first of many… many… many debts (sobs).
When they get to the Vale, Tyrion says the Eyrie, the capital of the Vale, is “impregnable” and Bronn has the classic line of “Give me 10 good men and some climbing spikes- I’ll impregnate the bitch.” Let’s get into the Arryns, whose sigil is a falcon and motto is, “As high as honor.” The geography of the Eyrie is purely defensive- there’s no way to get to its entrance except a long, narrow chasm, which forces large armies to cluster and allows the Vales smaller army to focus on the frontmost people; archers can line the tops of the chasm and shoot down; the chasm can be blocked at both ends and lock them in. The Eyrie itself sits on top of a tall, isolated cliff, accessible by a narrow staircase. Just a bunch of nopes for a siege.
Cat and Company reach the Eyrie’s… throne room? Main building? Palace? Cat’s sister Lysa is breastfeeding… a 7-year old. How the heck did they get clearance to film this scene!? It’s recognized pretty immediately that Lysa isn’t all there and is more delusional and doting than Cersei. It’s like Cersei times twenty. The first time around, I instantly hated this family and I wasn’t sure why. I still hate this family from the get-go. There was the creep factor and crazy factor and brattiness. They throw Tyrion into a cell, which is three walls and an opening to a very long fall. The floor is also slanted so that people can fall out! AS HIGH AS HONOR. GET IT.
Really digging this geography lesson so let’s head over to Bran, who is getting quizzed about all the Great Houses by Maester Luwin back in Winterfell. The Tully family motto is “Family, Duty, Honor”- let’s remember that these are the values that Cat was raised with as a girl. Now, as a Stark and Northerner by marriage, her values have changed- or should have changed- to the reverse order. Ned clearly demonstrates (and states often) living by honor, then duty, then family. Watch carefully: Cat goes from practicing these Stark values and the regresses back into the order of the Tullys’ motto- something that causes her to make the wrong decisions as the series progresses. BOOM.
Anyone else get something in their eye when Luwin says that, “From that moment, until the moment she dies, she will love you. Absolutely. Fiercely”? It’s a beautiful, beautiful line and so accurate to Cat’s character.
We also get some more tidbits on Theon, who is busy with GOAT: Prostitute Edition, Ros. I’d like to point out that she seems bored but Theon seems ultra-proud of his sexing. When Theon insults Ros for her profession, she immediately hits upon his pride as a Greyjoy, giving us some insight into Theon’s sentiments on the two families- he was raised with the values and pride of the Greyjoys, but under the love and morals of the Starks, two sides that can’t coexist by their very nature. It gives Theon a bit of an identity crisis as he feels guilty about feeling like a Stark and somewhat resistant to either.
Ah, back at King’s Landing. Already? Robert caught wind about Dany’s pregnancy and wants her, Viserys, Drogo, and the baby dead. Ned refuses saying that Dany is a child and resigns as hand. The Small Council is all for killing Dany in exchange for saving the thousands of lives that would be lost in a war and… I can’t say I disagree with them.
But let’s keep in mind that Ned interprets Robert’s decision to assassinate Dany as a very bad sign of what Robert were to do if he were to find out Lyanna birthed a Targaryen. Not only is Robert under the belief that Lyanna was raped by Rhaegar, but he would believe Jon to be a product of that rape. A product of an act against the love of his life plus a Targaryen would mean instant death for Jon.
Cut to Renly, who is hanging out with Loras. Shirtless. These two are involved romantically. Loras plants the seed (… not the seed Jon Arryn was referring to) that Renly would make a great king- he’s popular, kind, genuinely loves the people. We learn that the Tyrells are almost as rich as the Lannisters, Renly is fourth in line for the throne, and Stannis (another older brother) has the personality of a lobster. We now have another contender to compete with Robert and Dany for the throne.
Now, the real Scene of the Episode is the exchange we get between Cersei and Robert, who show fading glimmers of a relationship that… would actually work. They have a very rich dynamic and offer each other perspective and insight into the throne’s politics and in a perfect world, they would make an incredibly powerful ruling couple. This is broken when Robert tells Cersei he never loved her and there was never a chance for them, as he was apparently so in love with Lyanna Stark. Again, I just can’t fully blame Cersei- she was willing to make it work and tried to. It was Robert’s resistance and stubbornness that really caused a lot of pieces to fall out of place. If treated with respect, she might not have felt compelled to act out against Robert. She claims that his comment doesn’t make her feel anything, but this scene really humanizes Cersei. It might be one of the last scenes we see this side of her. Note that from this point on, we’ll see Cersei in a shade of red that will get deeper as the series goes on.
Just when Ned is ready to leave, Littlefinger runs in and says he has more information on Jon Arryn and a girl at his brothel claims her baby is Robert’s. Jaime and a pack of Lannisters are waiting for Ned outside and demand he explain Cat’s actions for taking Tyrion hostage. Ned claims it was under his order, which immediately puts the Starks and Lannisters at odds with each other. The Stark men present are slaughtered and Ned is stabbed through the leg. If we thought Ned was getting a chance at leaving King’s Landing now, that hope was killed just as quickly as Jory Cassel, the first casualty of the series that I felt somewhat emotionally connected to. He was a good character, not in the sense of character development, but good in the sense that he had good values, was loyal for the right reasons, and looked after the Stark girls as if they were his own. Goodbye sweet Jory!
Next up: 1.6 A Golden Crown