Monday, June 6, 2011

Game of Thrones 1.08: "The Pointy End"

“It was your mercy that killed the King.”

“The Pointy End” continues the trend of “Game of Thrones” episodes that actually move the plot forward in a satisfying way as opposed to consisting mainly of history quiz time between characters. So help me, I found myself really, really caring about these characters during this episode. The thought of Robb calling his bannermen to fight against the treacherous, slimy Lannisters actually made my stomach tighten. I really didn’t want Robb or the rest of the Northerners to get hurt. I am now fully invested in this world, and I’m along for the ride wherever the show takes me in the years to come. The only thing that gives me pause is that George R.R. Martin has yet to finish the “Song of Ice and Fire” series of novels on which the show is based, so I’m a little nervous that this story in which I’m now so engrossed will never have a resolution. I suppose that’s a bad reason to stay away from a really high quality TV show I enjoy, though. I want to know what happens to Robb, Jon Snow, and Daenerys most of all. They are all characters that have had compelling story arcs thus far and actually have a prayer of surviving the season. The tensions ratcheted up big-time in “The Pointy End,” so I have no doubt there will be some serious bloodshed in the next two weeks.

The episode opens with the battle in the throne room at King’s Landing escalating into all-out chaos Most of that chaos resulted in some major losses for the Starks. All of Ned’s guard and household staff in King’s Landing are killed by the Kingsguard and the City Watch. Arya and Sansa also appear to be in serious danger. Arya is in the middle of one of her swordfighting lessons with Syrio when the fighting breaks out. The Lannister guard arrives and demands to take Arya to see the new King. Realizing this isn’t good at all, Syrio manages to hold the guard off with his wooden practice sword so that Arya can run away to relative safety. It’s really an amazing fight scene to watch. Arya knows the gravity of the situation when she sees that the Stark household staff who were packing the wagons to take the family home to Winterfell are dead, and she ends up killing a stableboy who threatened to hinder her escape. That kill is going to stay with her a long time, I’m sure. Meanwhile, Sansa is walking down the hallway with Septa Mordane when they hear the fighting drawing closer. The Septa temporarily holds off the guard with a strong gaze while Sansa runs for the Starks’ chambers.

Ned has been thrown in a King’s Landing dungeon, charged with being a traitor. Varys comes to visit him and brings him something to drink. Apparently prisoners often die of thirst in the King’s Landing dungeons, and for some reason, Varys doesn’t want that to happen to Ned. They essentially have a conversation about how Ned’s stupidity brought about a very bad situation. Yes, I’m classifying Ned’s overly rigid sense of honor as stupidity. Honor is well and good, but Ned wasn’t facing a fair fight. Sometimes rules have to change with the times. I’m very curious to know what kind of angle Varys is playing here. Nobody else, including Petyr, is showing Ned or his family kindness, yet Varys seems to want to keep Ned around for now. There must be some strategic advantage I’m not seeing.

Sansa is fairly easily captured, and she’s brought before a very dangerous cast of characters in Cersei, Petyr, Varys, and Grand Maester Pycelle. Pycelle especially is giving her a hard time and being really nasty about the fact that she’s the daughter of a traitor. Cersei manages to keep up an air of venomous civility. She instructs Sansa to write a letter to Winterfell instructing Robb, who I guess is interim Lord of Winterfell since Ned’s been arrested, to come to King’s Landing and swear fealty to Joffrey. She assures Sansa that if she does this and Robb complies, Ned will be spared. Word of what’s happened spreads through the Stark family like wildfire. First to get the news is Jon Snow up at the wall. Jon, Sam and the other brothers of the Night’s Watch are looking at the corpses that belong to the arm Jon’s direwolf brought them. Sam notices no smell, which means the death must have been recent. Back inside Castle Black, the Lord Commander gives Jon the bad news. He breaks it rather gently, telling to Jon to pull a mug of ale for each of them first. He warns Jon not to do anything stupid, which is probably good advice. Deserting the Night’s Watch, even if your family is about to go to war, is still an offense punishable only by death.

Robb gets the news next. He instantly recognizes the letter as being the words of Cersei, even though it is written in Sansa’s handwriting. He’s going to go to King’s Landing, alright, but not to swear fealty to Joffrey. He calls the banners, aka rallies the troops to attack. My reaction was a hearty “boo yah.” Somebody has to stand up to these slimy Lannisters! Cat, still at the Eyrie, gets the news next, and she tries to get Lysa to commit the Knights of the Vale to Robb’s cause. Lysa is a horrible, horrible sister, though, and she refuses. She has the misguided notion that refusing to fight in this conflict will keep her precious, overly sheltered son Robin safe. When Lannisters go on a tear, though, they really don’t care who gets hit in the crossfire. Tyrion and Bronn are traveling through the woods near the Eyrie, presumably on their way to join Tywin, when they’re overtaken by a tribe of mountain men known as the Stone Crows. To ensure their survival, Tyrion promises the Stone Crows quite a lot, including dominion over the Vale, the very realm Lysa thinks she’ll protect by her inaction. The Stone Crows like the sound of that a lot, so they agree to spare Tyrion and Bronn’s lives and fight on behalf of the Lannisters in the coming war. It’s fascinating to see how much Tyrion changes when he’s once again in the presence of his father. He cowers instead of being the confident, smooth talker he usually is. Tywin catches him up on everything that’s going on, and several mountain clans, including the Stone Crows, pledge to fight for the Lannisters. Tyrion has to stay with them as collateral for the armor and weapons they were also promised, though. Fighting in the war was probably not in Tyrion’s life plan.

Up at the wall, Jon is not taking his family’s predicament well. The really obnoxious drill instructor, Ser Alliser, gives Jon a hard time for not only being a bastard, but a traitor’s bastard. Jon tries to attack him, but he’s held back. Ser Alliser says Jon will hang for his actions, but clearly that’s not going to happen. The Lord Commander just confines him to quarters. Jon can’t even obey that order, though. His direwolf, Ghost, puts up a big fuss, and Jon investigates what the trouble is. In the Lord Commander’s chambers, he finds the reanimated corpse of one of the Night’s Watch they buried earlier in the episode. He’s a full-on zombie, and he is not harmed by Jon’s sword. Jon has to throw fire at it to defeat it. The working theory is that the soldier was touched by a White Walker beyond the Wall. Hopefully saving the Lord Commander’s life from a zombie attack will earn Jon some much needed Night’s Watch cred. They end up burning the bodies of the soldiers just to be sure they won’t have this problem again.

The Dothraki are raping and pillaging like there’s no tomorrow. Ser Jorah explains to Daenerys that they are trying to raise money to purchase ships for the trip across the Narrow Sea to Westeros. Dany, since she’s endured her share of abuse in her life time, is not happy about this at all. She decides to save as many of the women of the village the Dothraki are pillaging as she can. She does this by “claiming” them so the Dothraki warriors can’t rape them. This causes a bit of dissent in the ranks. One Dothraki warrior in particular complains to Khal Drogo about it. Drogo is smitten with his bride, though, so he lets her have her way. The warrior gets violent with Khal Drogo when he finds out he can’t rape the woman he wanted to, but Khal Drogo puts a stop to that real fast- he rips out the guy’s throat. Daenerys is concerned about a wound Khal Drogo sustained in the fight, and one of the newly acquired slaves offers to help heal it by cleaning and stitching it up. Khal Drogo is a little skeptical, but he gives into his wife yet again. Something tells me that the rest of the Dothraki aren’t going to take to that too kindly.

Back on the Westeros side of the Narrow Sea, Robb is at Winterfell trying to organize the army he’s raised. Greatjohn, one of the more important and older bannermen, is giving him an especially tough time. The whole group of bannermen in general is pretty unruly. Robb is in danger of losing command before he even really starts the war, when his direwolf comes to the rescue. The direwolf bites off two of Greatjon’s fingers when Greatjohn is being especially unruly. Instead of being upset, Greatjon laughs. Apparently inflicting serious pain is all it takes to get Greatjon’s respect. Robb says goodbye to Bran before the army leaves for King’s Landing, and it seriously almost made me cry. Just like Ned said to Robb before leaving, Robb reminds Bran that there must always be a Stark in Winterfell. Later, Bran is out in the Godswood talking with Osha, and Osha tells him Robb should be going north, not south. Terrible things like White Walkers are stirring north of the Wall.

Cat, I guess, figured out everything that was happening through the Stark family grapevine, because she shows up at Robb’s camp while he’s having a strategy meeting with his bannermen. She has the good sense to wait until all the bannermen leave the tent before giving her son a big hug. Robb seems happy to see his mother and get a hug from her, which reminds us just how young he is to be taking on a job so massive. Cat reminds Robb of what Tywin Lannister did to the Targaryens. If Robb loses this battle, no Stark anywhere will survive. Robb and his bannermen have to decide whether they should move against Jaime or Tywin first. They choose to face Tywin’s troops at a bridge. A Lannister scout is discovered and brought to Robb’s tent. The scout thinks he counted more troops than Robb actually has, so Robb decides to let him go. A false report to Tywin that overestimates the strength of Robb’s army certainly can’t be a bad thing. Robb has this amazing speech where he tells the scout to tell Tywin that winter is coming to see if Twyin really shits gold. That was when I realized that damnit, I actually care about these characters. I really don’t want Robb killed, even though the odds are against him.

Sansa’s trying to help her family’s cause in her own way, even though I doubt it will do much good. She’s in the throne room, and she sees Joffrey and Cersei issuing all sorts of horrible proclamations such as appointing Tywin Hand of the King and replacing Ser Barristan with Jaime as head of the Kingsguard. Ser Barristan’s reaction to the forced retirement was awesome. He threatens Joffrey, then throws down his weapons and armor and gets the heck out of Dodge. Sansa decides to use the opportunity to plead to Joffrey for mercy for her father. Joffrey is reluctant, and Cersei is shooting him daggers, but Joffrey says he’ll have mercy for Ned if Ned confesses to being a traitor and admits that Joffrey is the rightful King. That doesn’t seem like something Ned will be doing any time soon. Nice try, Sansa.

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