We begin with Ned talking with Ser Beriston (head of the Kingsguard) looking into the death of Ser Hugh – who died without family or anyone he would have confided in. His investigation somewhat stymied – though there are more clues with the fact that Ser Hugh could afford the armour in the first place. We also get some more of those great Game of Thrones conversations where a few exchanged words carry so much of the history of the lands. I really do admire how we get the world in this series without the info dumping.
Ned also drops in on the king – who is planning to joust, abusing his squire, talking about “whores” (of course, it being Game of Thrones, we do need regular mentions of prostitution) and trying to squeeze himself into armour that is much too small for him. Of course, Ned is, perhaps, the only man who is allowed to speak truth to the king and he slaps Rob down for both the foolishness of trying to squeeze into the armour and how he couldn’t possibly joust because absolutely no-one is going to raise arms against the king. While Robert may be many times unpleasant, the relationship between these 2 is so well done – you can see them as friends.
At the jousting we see another new character – Ser Loras, Knight of the Flowers (lover to Renly, King Roberts brother by both coy looks and Petyr Baelish’s snide comments) jousting against Ser Gregor the Mountain – and winning, albeit with some naughty tricks. And then having his life saved by the Hound, Gregor’s brother (more because he doesn’t like Gregor as anything).
Meanwhile on the road, Catelyn the Spunky is escorting her prisoner, Tyrion Lannister, to the Vale, to the Eyrie where her sister Lysa Arryn (widow of the last Hand of the King, Jon Arryn) will be waiting. Tyrion talks sense to spunkiness and points out he’s not fool enough to arm an assassin with his own dagger – it would be ridiculous. And yes, it is.
Before more logic can be put forward, the hill tribes attack and we have us a battle – in which Tyrion chooses to save Catelyn Stark’s life rather than run away – alas, ensuring that the average intelligence of the nation remains skewed downwards by extreme Spunkiness.
In the Vale, Catelyn is shocked by what has become of Lysa. Breastfeeding her 7 year old son and clearly not very rational or stable and her son not much better and she has Tyrion imprisoned in one of the Eryie’s cells – rooms with one wall open to the perilous drop down the mountain the keep is built on
Up in Winterfel, we’re having some more world building in the form of Bran’s lessons with Maester Lewin while Theon Greyjoy practices his archery. Measter Lewin has to explain Catelyn the Spunky’s absence and discuss whether Bran, without the use of his legs, will ever shoot a bow
Then we go to Theon with, yes, a prostitute. The nudity is equal at least. I am glad that Ros is very willing to defend Tyrion’s skills when Theon disparages him for being a dwarf especially as Theon is disparaging her as a prostitute. We get a little more info about the Greyjoys but it’s starting to get done – I think the writers are being very very sure they explain exactly who Theon is (somewhat necessary because he’s rather a superfluous character)
Back in Kings Landing Varys is probably trying to be comforting to Ned about Bran (not doing a very good job). But, of course, as the spy master is here to pass on information – the poison that was used to kill Jon Arryn (using the ex-Ser Hugh as a poisoner) and that the killers are now aiming at the King. Varys believes he was killed because he started asking questions.
And Arya is chasing cats for her sword learning – and finding dragon skulls in the depths of the crypts. The dragons that the Targaryen’s rode when they first conquered Westeros. But she also hears 2 men plotting – talking about Ned Stark discovering Robert’s illegitimate child and the Lannisters trying to kill Bran – they see a war between the Starks and the Lannisters coming but they’re not ready for it – since Khal Drogo won’t be ready until his son is born. Yes we have some plotting.
On the subject of plotting we have Varys and Petyr Baelish duelling with words – Baelish’s taunts about Varys being a Eunuch against Varys’s information net about the habits of Baelish’s clients at his brothel – including paedophiles and necrophiliacs. And taunts about both of their very very nefarious plottings.
Robert has heard that Daenerys is pregnant and is incensed – and wants them all dead. Ser Jorah Mormont is Varys’s spy and has told them about Daenerys’s pregnancy. Ned is not even remotely happy about killing a young girl, Daenerys and her infant child. But the council and the king are against him. Faced with this determination to murder her, Ned refuses to be Hand any more and walks out to the echoes of the king’s ranting rage.
Which we follow with a meeting between Cersei and Robert – the first time we’ve seen these 2 together alone. And Robert shows some true leadership and wisdom when looking at the threat of the Dorthraki – Ser Jorah and Tywin Lannister said the Dorkthraki has no ability to lay siege to a castle, but Robert sees that they don’t need to. If the king and the lords hide with their armies in castles, the common people would be left at the mercy of the Dorthraki and, sooner or later, would turn against their absent, hiding king. Add in the disparate armies in each Lord’s hands rather than under the crown and the Seven Kingdoms are not united – with their backstabbing and scheming - to face the unified Dorthraki. The only thing that holds the Seven Kingdoms together is Cersei and Roberts marriage – as she points out to their mutual rueful hilarity. A marriage both of them hate and despise. Especially since Robert is still in love with Ned’s dead sister Leanna. The relationship between Cersei and Robert is deeply tragic and painful – and very well acted.
Before leaving, Ned gets news about Catelyn the Spunky’s arrest of Tyrion and checks out more of King Robert’s illegitimate children with Petyr Baelish in one of his brothels. On the way out he runs into Jaime Lannister, angry about the capture of his brother, Tyrion – who has Ned’s guards killed and wounds Ned in the leg.
We have an interlude with Loras and Renly showing that they are lovers. While I like to see some GBLT inclusion, it’s worth noting that the gay man is the “knight of the flowers” both are considerably smaller of stature than the rest of the knights – and they engage in the medieval practice of manscaping. And Renly is delicate and not violent and somewhat sickened by violence. At least Loras is a capable fighter which is some redemption. And at the same time Loras is pushing Renly to be king next since he would be a better choice than Robert, Stannis and Joffrey – a king who doesn’t love killing but kills at need (actually, that’s kind of true. But only because the other options are so very limited).