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 8: The Pointy End
Remember this? It’s a callback to Arya’s first ever lesson with Needle, courtesy of Jon Snow: “First lesson- stick ‘em with the pointy end.” I don’t have much commentary on the title other than Arya uses this pretty effectively, so let’s start with King’s Landing!
It’s within the first hour or so since Ned was taken captive after Littlefinger’s ruse, and the Lannister soldiers move in to sack the Tower of the Hand, which is full of the remaining travel party from the North. Septa Mordane hears clashing and urges Sansa to run and hide, faces the Lannister soldiers as if challenging them to show their true colors- it’s a death that happens offscreen, but it’s a powerful moment. Sansa does run, but straight into the Hound
Upstairs and in the Scene of the Episode, Arya and Syrio are practicing. Syrio gives Arya her final lesson: Watching is not seeing. He also continues to call her “dead girl,” a nickname heavily used in later seasons when Arya is training at the House of Black at White in Braavos. It’s not confirmed if Syrio is or isn’t a Faceless Man, but he has exceptional training- I would expect him to have at least studied there for a bit as the First Sword as Braavos. Meryn Trant interrupts and demands Arya go with him, which Syrio immediately finds suspicious and says Ned would have called for her himself. Syrio tells Arya to run, with “What do we say to death?” and Arya replies “Not today” in a very simple and emotional callback
It’s one of the most heroic and memorable final scenes of any character on the show. You might see some tinfoil-y theories elsewhere about how Syrio and Jaqen H’ghar are one and the same or that Syrio is alive. In general, there’s a whole party to support the argument of “if they didn’t die on-screen, the character is still alive.” Not only is that just a really uncreative argument, but look at the editing in this moment- as soon as Syrio goes to re-engage Meryn in battle, it cuts to Arya hearing the noise, then the lack of noise coming from her training room. The moment of Syrio’s death isn’t to serve his character- it’s to serve hers and immediately in next moment, she is using his lesson of watching versus seeing. Arya uses Syrio’s presence in her life to become a survivor.
TL; DR, Syrio is dead. Be more creative with your theories.
Arya then gets her first kill! Oddly, when they show Arya coming across the bodies of the remaining Northmen and through the rest of this scene, the music playing is later used as the theme for her scenes in Braavos, specifically while she is training and in the House of Black and White. The Winterfell theme has made a couple of appearances but hasn’t really been played up or used to the extent we see later on. In general, I don’t think I got the chance to associate the Winterfell theme with Ned. It’s possible that they were still working things out, maybe still in the development of the motifs, but I do find it interesting that they chose the HOBAW theme over Winterfell, because this scene could be read as the start of Arya’s evolution into an assassin or the demise of the North. Since the latter is… well, the worst has yet to come, so I guess it does make sense to use this solely for Arya’s purposes. Never mind, l take it all back.
Below the Red Keep, Ned gets sassy, telling Varys to kill him already, to which Varys says “Not today.” Maaaaybe Varys could be a Faceless man, but I’m going to chalk this choice of words up to being yet another callback to a phrase that implies that the person must serve a higher purpose. This scene is also where Varys is the most honest in his intent and actions and it’s easy to forget the three minutes here where he declares his true loyalty.
I guess this could also easily be lost in the next scene, as Varys is shown with the Small Council, manipulating Sansa into convincing the rest of her family to come down to King’s Landing. Sansa, in the same shade of blue Cersei has been wearing, is called “little dove” for the second time, and Lena Headey gives us another warm, yet chilling Cersei, telling Sansa that Ned’s life depends on Robb and Cat swearing fealty to Joffrey.
Somewhere across the Narrow Sea, Khal Drogo is going all in on getting the moon of his life her ships and that Iron Throne so he’s pillaging towns, burning things, stealing goats, and killing people and his men are allowed to take and rape whatever women they want. Dany commands them to stop and of course they go complain about her in THE SCENE OF THE WEEK. I know last time I said, “Meh, it has to play overall impact in the rest of the show,” but this scene has so much adrenaline- Drogo’s bloodrider pulls a weapon on Drogo, who walks straight into it and then walks some more, pushing the dude back, like the Uruk Hai who further impaled himself to reach Aragorn. Badass. A quick scuffle and Drogo rips the throat of said bloodrider out like a pipe from the wall.
I’m glad, if anything, we got at least one Drogo fight scene that shows he lives up to his reputation. All you hear is he’s never lost, has the longest braid out of all the Khals, and is the most feared, so this scene has a big payoff to it. Dany concerned about Drogo’s pec and he’s all, “It’s just a flesh wound!” but Dany has the genius idea to believe one of her victims- Mirri Maz Duur- who claims to be a witch healer.
Dany starts to show a pretty fierce sense of entitlement- she’s already declared that she’s a KHALEEEEESI, but it’s pretty clear in this episode that she thinks she deserves respect when all she’s really done is marry the right guy and have sex with him face to face. A really important takeaway of this scene, as well as all the treatment of Viserys, is that the Dothraki pay respect to those who have demonstrated great strength or leadership- they quiver in fear when Drogo stands up due to his history. Dany hasn’t done anything yet that gives her any identity outside “Khal Drogo’s wife.” Simply being in the right place at the right time isn’t good enough for them. It’s further exemplified in Dany’s immediate trust of Mirri- Dany thinks that she’s shown mercy in one instance and deserves the same in return- but she hasn’t come up with a long term plan to guarantee safety or make a societal difference. Once these women leave Dany or vice versa, they will most likely be subject to rape again. The Dothraki will continue to act in their traditional ways when she’s not in their presence.
Somewhere up at the Wall, turns out that Ghost’s gift to Jon was a hand of a [dead] member of the Night’s Watch and two [dead] men who had accompanied Benjen on his last ranging mission are discovered. Sam remarks that there’s no smell- Jeor rewards ten points to House Tarly and sends the bodies to be examined. The Wall gets their information a little bit late and JUST receive a raven that says the King is dying- spoiler alert: he already ded- Ned conspired against the throne, and reminds Jon that he got married pledged his life to the Watch. As if daring Jon to abandon the Watch, Jeor says his sisters should be treated “gently.” THANKS, JEOR. I’m sure Jon can sleep peacefully knowing his favorite 12-year old sister will be “treated gently.”
Even though he’s grounded after punching Alliser Thorne, Jon and Ghost go sleuthing around Castle Black and break into Jeor’s chambers because something is suspicious. Turns out the suspicious thing is one of the dead rangers, who is now a wight, which is not a White Walker and more of a zombie minion. Jon grabs a lantern, burns his hand, and kills the wight by setting him on fire. Sam says the bodies must have been touched by White Walkers to transform, because he read about it in Hogwarts: A History. (This is incorrect or just forgotten, as it’s later determined that a WW’s touch turns its subject into a WW and simply dying on the WW’s lawn will turn people into wights.) (Jon’s burning of the hand- just going to chalk that up to an inconsistency or oversight from his R+L=J lineage.)
South of that, at Winterfell, Robb and Luwin read straight through Sansa’s letter as Cersei’s voice and ROBB CALLS THE BANNERMEN. In my Scene of the Week runner-up, Robb is feasting with his big-time supporters Greatjon Umber, Donald Galbert Glover, and members of noble houses House Karstark, House Manderly, House Dustin, House Tallhart (or is it Mollen?) and so on and so on. You know who’s not present? Roose Bolton, be damned, even though the flayed man banner is visible. More on him in Season 2. I am a Bolton fanatic. Don’t worry- I, too, hate myself for it. Not enough, but it’s the thought that counts.
Greatjon is challenging the other Northmen to a dick measuring contest so that he can have the prestige of leading the vanguard and frontline of the upcoming clash with the Lannisters. Robb says he’s already made up his mind and it’s not Greatjon. Greatjon draws his sword, saying Robb is too young to lead, testing Robb for common sense, allegiance, and maturity as Robb technically has never seen battle yet, and he’s the son of a great leader. Can’t just go to war for anyone. Can you imagine these guys taking Joffrey seriously? They’d laugh him away. Greatjon gets his hand bitten by Grey Wind because direwolves love hands. Technically, Greatjon can be put to death for threatening the direct heir of his liege lord but Robb knows he must seem like a boy and wins over Greatjon and the other Northmen by saying Greatjon wanted to help him mealprep. It’s a good test for Robb and he passes by displaying grit and that Northern loyalty, as well as a good sense of humor.
Outside at the weirwood, we get a full frontal of Hodor that’s absolutely necessary because just kidding, it’s not. Osha reveals that the North and the Wildlings share the same gods and that the gods speak by sending the wind, in the first reference to “words are wind,” a phrase repeated several times in the books, specifically the last book A Dance with Dragons, and also a possible foreshadowing of Bran’s Three-Eyed Raven time-travel abilities in future seasons. It’s heavily theorized that when Bran travels back in time and attempts to speak to characters, it sounds like wind- and as the Three-Eye Raven, Bran is more-than-human. Osha decides she’s still not going to drop the phrase White Walker, instead saying the army should be marching North and- really Osha? Just freaking say it.
Down south, Cat leaves the Eyrie because she’s tired of seeing a grown boy breastfeed. Tell me I’m wrong. Lysa says she won’t lend her men to fight for a cause that will mean less protection from Robin and I can’t blame her because that kid is helpless.
Outside the Eyrie, Tyrion FINALLY calls Bronn by “Bronn,” and the two begin the banter we know and love them for. Bronn is a mercenary with no title and no house and no name to speak of- but he’s a pretty damn good fighter and will show loyalty where the coin is. Tyrion says that’s fine since House Lannister can outpay pretty much everyone. There’s an affection between the two though both are reluctant to show it- but they are very much kindred spirits right off the bat. When challenged by hill tribes, Tyrion enables his greatest weapon and skillset- his mouth. He talks the tribes into fighting for them and promises them steel-forged weapons and the Vale in return for his safety.
Somewhere southwest in the Vale- like where the Vale meets the Riverlands- Tyrion and Bronn finally arrive at dear old Tywin’s camp. Tywin’s attitude and manner of speaking with Tyrion is extremely different from the scene he had in the previous episode with Jaime- his temper is shorter (no pun intended) and he seems exasperated the entire time. Golden Child Jaime has been busy racking up victories in the Riverlands; Cersei has King’s Landing locked down, and Tywin just has to worry about suppressing the North. Some squire runs in and, clearly, no one has any issue interrupting Tyrion and thinking he contributes nothing. The news is that Robb is moving South and has just crossed the Neck, the area where the North meets the Riverlands, which Tywin sees as a rash decision and an immediate win. He then butters up the tribesmen, and convinces them to fight for him. This says a lot about Tywin- if he had met them outside this tent, he wouldn’t have even sniffed in their direction, but if he’s nice enough, they’ll fight for him and he won’t need to risk the lives of his own army. It’s a smart move.
Tywin also agrees that Tyrion will join them in battle, which would be an easy way to get Tyrion killed and not feel guilty about it. Tywin doesn’t even try to argue or protect Tyrion in anyway and Tyrion is about as useful to Tywin as an average-sized fourth born daughter.
Finally, stories begin to overlap and characters begin to run into each other- so Cat and Ser Rodrick run into the Stark camp. When Cat sees Robb, it’s almost as if she was expecting a child and doesn’t recognize the man in front of her. Beautiful acting by Michelle Fairley where she recognizes he’s no longer a child and allows him to lead and gain the respect of his bannermen. Robb is arguing about where to go next and the consensus seems to be that they’ll head over the to the Riverlands to help their allies, Tullys, and their noble and vassel houses against Jaime Lannister. To do this, they’ll have to cross the Twins, which controls passage over the Green Fork, a river that cuts the path that leads from the North to the western side of the Riverlands and direct route from Winterfell to Riverrun. Without the Twins, Robb and Company would be forced to use the Kingsroad, which takes them too far east, then go even further south, and then back North, or through a huge swamp. All Robb has to do is appeal to Walder of House Frey, the second most powerful house in the Riverlands and longtime supporter and sometimes enemy of the Tullys.
I have to say, Greatjon is the perfect summary of a true Northman- he displays a fierce loyalty to Robb, respects his decisions, and enjoys a good fight. I… I… really hate the Northmen in Season 6 because they ruin this. They really do. There’s absolutely no way I can see any of the bannermen in Seasons 1-3 refuse to support the Starks, as they openly value loyalty and family. Look, I don’t give two shits about how the North feels about the Wildlings- if Ned Stark’s last living child showed up, there’s no way these guys here would support the Boltons, the longtime enemies of the Starks and slayers of their head of house. No way. Next.
Finally, Robb feeds some false information to a Lannister scout, saying that 20,000 Northmen are riding to see if Tywin Lannister shits gold- a wonderful Westerosi urban legend about how rich the Lannisters are and how money-driven the house is. Alone, Robb tells Cat of the letter and Cat replies, “You mean the queen” which is such a brilliantly layered line- it’s a reference to Cersei, as well as Sansa’s engagement to Joffrey, an acknowledgement of Cersei’s influence over Sansa, and perhaps even Sansa’s narrowmindedness when it comes to royalty.
Cat says she wouldn’t put it past Tywin Lannister, who ordered the Targaryen children to be killed, to give the same order for the Stark children and that Robb can’t beat the Lannisters in politics- but he may be able to beat them in the field.
Closing out the episode in the Throne Room of King’s Landing, Joff and the Small Council play up another seemingly rehearsed scene so that Joff can appear like a merciful king towards Sansa and appeal to any Stark sympathizers. He demands Ned to confess that he was plotting against Joffrey wearing the crown to take it for himself, a story that makes absolutely no sense except to dumb people as Ned had the opportunity to claim the throne for himself after Robert’s Rebellion and has done as much as he could to stay away from King’s Landing.
People are dumb. People who followed Joffrey and all of his impulsive shrieking are dumb. Next!
On Deck: 1.9 Baelor