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!
Season 1, Episode 4: A Golden Crown
Ah yes, another layered title. A Golden Crown is a reference to quite a few things, but mostly the wealth of the Lannisters, which is unmatched throughout the realm and something Tyrion mentions quite heavily. Also in this episode, we get more insight into how Tywin buys alliances and depends on bribes as a way to advance his family and keep the Lannisters in power.
In King’s Landing and after the initial Lannister/Stark scuffle, Robert and Cersei visit an injured Ned. Turns out Jaime has fled King’s Landing, which is certainly suspicious. Cersei says Ned was coming home drunk from a brothel (LIES!) and wants Ned arrested for attacking her family and treason against their family, which… yeah… ok, that part isn’t entirely untrue. It makes sense on paper. Robert straight up slaps her and immediately regrets it, which makes it seem like this might be the first time he has physically assaulted her- but that part isn’t clarified. I’d like to think it was the first time and this is where Cersei definitely stopped caring about their marriage- then again, Robert seems like the kind of guy that doesn’t mind pushing women around.
Robert doesn’t care how it’s done, he just wants the Lannisters and Starks to stop fighting because it’s making things difficult for him. He then denies Ned a journey home to sort out things with his family and instead reinstates him as the Hand because Robert is selfish, not perceptive, literally doesn’t care about anything other than ladies and killing things, and is a bad king. Robert even goes so far to say that if Ned doesn’t stay, he would name Jaime as Hand AND WE CAN’T HAVE THAT, CAN WE.
It’s pretty safe to say that Ned and Robert are no longer friends at this point. Ned is staying more out of obligation and duty to the realm over the previous relationship he had with Robert- the distance before might have allowed Ned to believe or at least pretend that Robert was still the same boisterous young man he supported 17 years previous, but being so close to King’s Landing reveals a true persona that Ned can’t just ignore.
This is only intensified in Ned’s next scene, when a farmer says that the Mountain has been raiding and setting fires throughout the Riverlands. Littlefinger leans over to say that the Mountain only takes orders from Tywin Lannister, and “Isn’t that your wife’s house? Tully?” This line is more for viewers and to clarify why Ned decides to act, but also delivered a little too eager to give us yet another reason not to trust Littlefinger. Ned calls up Beric Dondarrion Version 1, commands him to arrest the Mountain, and strips him of all titles, ranks and lands, THEN goes one step further to summon Tywin Lannister or otherwise name him a traitor. This is incredibly drastic action and while Ned has disagreed with every action Robert has taken as King, this is the first time Ned publicly acts out against him.
The throne room scene also brings us our first reference to the title comes in the middle of the episode, where Littlefinger tells Ned that gold wins wars and Ned says if that were the case, Tywin Lannister would be king. Ned is more of a… literal guy, failing to realize all the strings Tywin is pulling, how many conspiracies the Lannisters are running, and how much power Cersei (and thus Tywin) has over King’s Landing as a Lannister. I mentioned before that King’s Landing has always visually seemed very Lannister-friendly and not so much Baratheon- the palace is even called The Red Keep, which is a giant red flag even if other families have ruled here- and all the information we get in this conversation just confirms that the Lannisters are the ones who are actually ruling the realm.
While Ned is busy ruling, Robert is off drinking, hunting, and- of course- talking about his glory days. Lancel is one hell of a bartender. Younger brother Renly is also fed up with Robert, pointing out that Robert’s Rebellion was people dying and the country at war and not actual ruling. He’s got a point and that conversation with Loras in the previous episode might have been what Renly needed to hear- you know, a confirmation from another person who shares his feelings that Robert wasn’t doing such a good job.
Elsewhere in King’s Landing, Arya and Syrio are practicing and this is Arya’s real first lesson in extending her fencing lessons to life philosophies. Syrio tells her to bury her hate and sadness, because those things will make her weak in a fight. Then, we get the one Syrio line that sticks with us throughout the series: “There is only one god and his name is Death and there is only one thing we say to Death: not today.” I’d give my left foot for this line to make it back into the final season.
Sansa, on the other hand, receives a few comments that she looks like a real southern lady with no inkling of the North in her. This seems to be a throwaway line, but having now seen Sansa’s full character arc, gives me an entirely different perspective. Sansa is the most lost and without any firm sense of identity when she is physically distant from the North and her family. It’s only when she struggles to hold onto these things that she really starts to build as an adult. Joff storms in and gives Sansa a lion necklace, “like the one your mother has,” and Sansa gets her first kiss after a very remorseful apology. Daw.
Then we get our second interpretation of the title. Ned tells his girls to pack up and go home but Sansa yells out that she needs to stay in King’s Landing so she can marry Joffrey and have beautiful lions with beautiful blonde hair, which catches his attention. Get it? Golden crown? As if that wasn’t enough, Arya really drives this point home when she counterargues that the Baratheon sigil is a stag, so their children wouldn’t be lions. Ned plays detective and using his big old book, discover that all the Baratheons prior to Joffrey have “black of hair” and can’t possibly be a Baratheon. Like the power structure of King’s Landing, we’ve always associated Joffrey with the Lannisters- very rarely do we see him in Baratheon colors and typically all we get are some decorative antlers. He even gave Sansa a Lannister sigil as a gift.
Up at Winterfell, Bran’s saddle is ready and while he’s out riding, Theon is arguing with Robb that he needs to take action against the Lannisters, for the lives of Jory (still not over it) and the other Northmen who were killed because reasons. Theon says Robb needs to represent the Starks where Ned cannot- but then Robb kindly reminds Theon that he has no place to comment because Theon is not a Stark. Ouch. Theon is visibly wounded and this is most likely where he begins to move away from the Starks- first identifying himself as an outsider, then later as an ally, before attempting to fully move back into the Greyjoy family.
We get our first encounter with the Wildlings too, after they discover Bran and Robb kills ‘em all but spares the life of Osha, a Wildling woman played by Nymphadora Tonks. There’s another throwaway conversation, but the important things to take away from this is that the Wildlings are moving South- as far South as South goes- because the White Walkers are moving in. We still know next to nil about White Walkers so it’s pretty easy to lose track of the information we are getting about them. We also get a little insight on how the Starks and Wildlings used to fight- the basics are that the Wildlings, located mostly North of the Wall, choose not to live under any rule and don’t have a power structure. Sometimes they pursue land and goods South of the wall, but other than the Wall being a marker of territory, there’s no real explanation for the Realm’s overall bias against them.
Elsewhere in the Vale, we are really going to beat this AS HIGH AS HONOR into the ground. Tyrion goes on a bit of a Goonies rant, talking about all the impure things he’s ever done, throws in a few euphemisms for masturbation, and finally declares he wants a trial by combat, where two men represent the prosecution and the defendant and steel cage match it out. Bronn, still without a name, offers to be Tyrion’s rep after Tyrion offers lots of gold and some no-name signs up to represent the Vale. Bronn also has no armor and is quickly able to outrun, outpace, and outlast Ser Vardis, who quickly tires out, dies, and gets sent through the Moon Door. If the sword to the throat didn’t kill him, the thousand-foot fall certainly did. Bronn cheekily states that Ser Vardis fought with honor, which is probably why he died and- AS HIGH AS HONOR. Honor doesn’t really mean much in a one-on-one fight for survival, hrm? And in Bronn’s case- gold.
Across the Narrow Sea, Dany is hanging out with her dragon eggs and places one in a fire pit (it looks like this is Drogon’s egg). When removed, the egg burns her handmaiden’s hand but not Dany’s.
During a Dothraki ceremony, Dany eats a raw horse heart. If she’s able to keep it down, it means her baby will be strong. The complete opposite if it comes back up. All the spirit animals of Dothraki people are horses- there’s a great deal of respect for the animal. In general, I think the show does a piss poor job of explaining the Dothraki traditions and they just glide over it. The Dothraki follow the leader with the strongest steed/mount/ride and the fact that Dany’s son is proclaimed to be the Stallion Who Mounts the World is indicative of just how strong her child will be.
I’d like to point out Khal Drogo during this scene, who is totally getting turned on watching his tiny wife eat this bloody mess. Jason Momoa is a victim of unintentional smoldering sexiness. Somewhere else in the camp, Jorah confronts Viserys, who attempts to steal the dragon eggs and Viserys accuses him of treason, not seeing that Jorah has loyalty to the crown and whatever is more likely to bring him home, not necessarily the line of inheritance.
Our final and most literal reference to the title comes in the last few minutes of the scene where Viserys threatens Dany with a sword, another Dothraki tradition that gets swept under the rug- in Vaes Dothrak, fighting is generally not allowed unless other people are in danger. To carry a blade within the city is basically a felony, as its purpose is for commerce. Viserys demands the crown that was promised when he gave Dany to Drogo and we get the third and most literal interpretation of the episode’s title, as Drogo melts a gold belt and dumps it over Viserys’ head- the first, “What the-“, really out of the box death we’ve had on the show so far.
The episode ends with Dany realizing that Viserys was never the fireproof dragon meant to inherit the throne- and that it’s her destiny to lead the Targaryen Comeback Tour.
Up next: 1.7 You Win or You Die