I will begin by again linking to HBO’s most excellent guide to the 10,000 characters on this show, to help people keep up with who is who.
We start in Kings Landing where the whole party is arriving – and instantly Ned is summoned to a meeting of the Small Council. But first he gets to spar with Jaime Lannister who also gives some insight into the actions of the last king – how cruel and sadistic he was. Ned doesn’t approve – he hated the last king, but Jaime was a Kingsguard (personal bodyguard of the king). He gets to meet the rest of the council, Varys (who wishes for Prince Joffrey’s recovery – but Ned Stark is more concerned for the murdered butcher’s boy) and Renly Baratheon, King Robert’s younger brother and then lord Petyr Baelish who once loved Catelyn (Ned Stark’s wife) and grand Maester Pycelle. Yes more new characters, but they’re fairly easy to keep track of – with the guide anyway. And it does do an extremely good job of introducing and setting the world building without infodumping.
Quickly it becomes clear that things are not well. Not least of which because the king doesn’t bother to show up for the meeting – and rarely does. The King also wants a tournament to honour Ned’s arrival – an expensive one. And it turns out that crown is 3 million in debt to the Lannisters – and 6 million in debt overall.
We move to Cersei and her awful son Joffrey – and she’s teaching him well in the art of lying and using your rank to create a fantasy version of events. She also has lessons to teach about marriage and “fucking painted whores”. I swear the number one industry in the seven kingdoms is prostitution – dwarfing all the rest together. And Cersei shows just how far spoiling a child can go. But she also skewers his delusions when he dreams of conquering the north – showing that while Cersei has many flaws, being foolish is never one of them (though his idea about the standing army isn’t exactly wrong). And she may encourage delusions but she has none of her own. And she encourages the manipulation of Sansa – and the idea that everyone who isn’t us (a Lannister) is an enemy.
Sansa and Arya are at dinner – Arya angry because the Prince had Micah killed and Sansa is a liar (both true) though Septa Mordane corrects her for her unladylike truth-telling. Sansa isn’t particularly happy either after the death of Lady and Ned doesn’t make things better by giving his teenaged daughter a doll to play with. Ned finds Arya’s sword Needle and Arya makes it clear, again, that she doesn’t want to be a lady. And Ned tells Arya the position Sansa’s in because she’s betrothed to Joffrey – and that the family has to stick together in Kings Landing since it’s dangerous.
In Winterfell Bran is bedridden and attended by his old nursemaid who uses stories to give us some good world building – the story of the years long winters (in this world, Summer and Winter each last several years) and the White Walkers beyond the Wall coming south to conquer and kill. Until Robb comes to visit (and dismisses their old nursemaid rather disrespectfully for a woman of her age – and a woman who raised them). He wants to know what Bran saw – because Bran never falls, but Bran remembers nothing. Bran is now paralysed from the waist down after his fall.
Meanwhile Catelyn has arrived in Kings Landing where she thinks she will be anonymous – but she is found and summoned in seconds by Petyr Baelish where he arranges to meet her in a brothel. Lady Stark is not pleased, bringing her to such a place – and lo, there is this episodes compliment of naked breasts. It wouldn’t be Game of Thrones without naked breasts and prostitutes. Lord Varys is a spy master and he already knows why Catelyn is there and when she was due to arrive. Petyr Baelish recognises the dagger that the assassin used – he says he lost it when he bet on Lord Jaime against the Knight of Flowers in a joust. And Tyrion won it.
Time to get Ned to meet Catelyn – and Ned isn’t best pleased with the location either. Petyr Baelish points out the dagger is no evidence since Tyrion can deny that he had the blade so they have no evidence against Tyrion. Catelyn knows it in her bones but they have no proof – Baelish will find proof for them, he promises, and Ned can take it to the King. Meanwhile, Catelyn can return to Winterfell.
Meanwhile to the real culprits – Jaime and Cersei. Cersei is panicking over Bran waking up, though he remembers nothing and the foolishness of sending and assassin. Jaime doesn’t take, well, just about anything seriously.
Up with the Nights Watch, Jon Snow is training with the Night Watch and doing well – he’s been brought up with a sword and how to use it; most the rest of the Watch are peasants and criminals. He’s obviously much more skilled than them and easily beats them – but Tyrion is there to give some extreme lessons on class and advantages. Tyrion is, again, awesome.
Jon’s uncle, Ned’s brother, Benjin Stark, the Head Ranger of the Night Watch is going north of the wall to scout – and he also takes the chance to tone down Jon’s arrogance. He tries as well with Tyrion – which isn’t so easy. Tyrion makes a point that the Wildlings are just people with the bad luck to be on the wrong side of the wall, but Benjin points out he has gone north of the wall – and who is Tyrion to tell him what’s north of there or not or what will kill the men on the wall. Especially since winter is coming – after 9 years of summer. And wildlings and rangers have seen white walkers north of the wall – as they try to convince Tyrion as the Night Watch has dwindled to a fraction of what it once was. They need help and supplies to bring them back up to strength.
Jon learned from Tyrion at least and starts teaching his fellows rather than arrogantly smacking them down. He has another meeting with Tyrion giving Tyrion chance to be awesome again
Over to Daenerys and we’re establishing more of the savage nature of the Dorthraki – killing on a whim, slave owners, don’t believe in money, raiding, killing etc. But Daenerys is growing in confidence – giving orders to the horde as Khalesis. But Viserys, her arrogant and awful brother takes offence at being ordered and attacks her – which is a bad idea with the Dorthraki around. Attacking the Kahlesis is a bad bad idea.
Later, in her camp, Daenerys’ attendants notice she is pregnant and spread the word. The news causes Jorah Mormont to seek to reach a city. Possibly to send news to the Seven Kingdoms – Robert is spying on Daenerys and we know the king is uptight about
Back to the King, we find him reminiscing about the people he’s killed in war, the cost of it – and the cost of aging – including how he has aged. And lashing out generally at his servant, at Jaime and in general. We get a little more history and a little more sense of Robert as a character.
Meanwhile Arya has a Bravosi sword fighting instructor provided by Ned – again to see the gender roles being forced on Arya, her instructor calls her “boy”. Sirio has a style suited to smaller, lighter weapons.
Ned saying that Sansa must support her husband no matter what, even when he’s wrong, even when it’s Prince Joffrey, says so much about the gender roles. There are some good exposures of the terrible I do like Arya’s story – and the way it shows how oppressive and restrictive the gender roles they’re pushing on top of her no matter what she wants or who she is.
I’ve mentioned the Dorthraki last episode – the same still applies, alas.
Tyrion continues to bring the awesome with his wise words on both disability and class as well as just being awesome.