Our episode this week opens up at Winterfell, with Bran having what some readers of the books call a ‘Raven Dream’. There’ll be more on those later in the series. Bran awakens to be brought before his brother Robb, who is now acting Lord of Winterfell while Ned is in King’s Landing. Robb is in fact speaking with Tyrion Lannister, recently returned from the Wall. He notices how cold Robb is acting towards Lannister, but is still very kind to Bran, giving him schematics on how to construct a proper saddle for someone without the use of their legs. The scene at Winterfell was very well done as the actors are now very comfortable in their roles. Peter Dinklage in particular is Tyrion personified for me. It’s like the character jumped off the pages of the book into an HBO show and I’m sure many book fans will agree.
In the Winterfell scenes we also get to see a little more of Theon Greyjoy, who is a pretty big supporting character in episodes to come. He is pretty much a hostage of the Starks, with the pleasent sounding title of “ward”. He is the last remaining son of his father Balon Greyjoy who rules in the Iron Islands off the Northern Coast. Years ago he launched a rebellion, raiding the coastal cities until it was put down by Robert and Ned, among others. His last surviving son Theon is insurance that no more rebellions occur from the Iron Islands. Expect to see more of him in the future. It was also good to see Hodor in the series, the huge guy who carries Bran around now that he is crippled. Hodor has a bit of a simple mind and the only thing he can say is… you guessed it: Hodor.
Ned in the meanwhile is at King’s Landing dealing with the preparations of the Hand’s Tourney and starting to unravel the circumstances of Jon Arryn’s death. There were many pieces to the puzzle presented here that won’t come together until later, but when they do it is spectacular. I guarantee you that the mystery surrounding Jon Arryn’s death will ultimately surprise you and you’ll figure out in the end that you had it all wrong! At King’s Landing we are presented with another character and fan favorite from the books with Ser Gregor Clegane known as the Mountain That Rides. This big sicko bastard is brother to the Hound (Sandor Clegane), the events leading to his burnt face also coming to light in this episode. At the tournament we are shown once more how HBO isn’t skimping on the violent scenes, with one very gruesome throat stab. I was surprised at how long it took poor Ser Hugh to finally croak. That last bubble of blood finally did it.
King’s Landing also had a few nice character scenes. Sansa is just being Sansa and fretting about what everyone will think of her, while Grand Maester Pycelle is played to perfection by Julian Glover. Arya’s scene was the best and shows the true nature of her character when Ned broaches the subject of her marrying a high lord and having kids. She simply responds with –“That’s not me.”– Then she resumes her sword training (standing on one toe). This is why I love the character of Arya! She knows what she wants and speaks her mind in a world where everything will ultimately be decided for her. She’s a brave soul who won’t be kept down by the things everyone else expects of her.
If there’s anything else we learn about Jon Snow in this episode, it’s that he’s a real sympathetic person… and a total badass. He takes on three guys at once and schools them all defending the newest recruit: Samwell Tarly, a young highborn kid who was cast out by his Lord father. I was glad we finally get to see Ghost appear in an episode, I was afraid they weren’t going to include the albino wolf which would have been devastating. It’s fun to see how the Night’s Watch is run like a military: The scene where Jon and his friends hold down the one guy and make it clear to him that no one will hurt Sam anymore at training. He has no reason to disagree as Ghost bares his fangs and growls something fierce. The whole thing reminded me of the scene in Full Metal Jacket when “private pyle” was beaten by his comrades with soap bars in socks, just sort of in reverse. It shows you that the Night’s Watch recruits has a way of dealing with their own under Snow’s leadership.
Daenerys is still dealing with the rudeness and arrogance of her brother Viserys, but this time decides to fight back as she whips him in the face with a metal belt. Upon talking to Jorah Mormont she decides finally that he is not the one who will be reclaiming the throne. Which is good because Viserys is the biggest tool there could have ever been in medieval setting. There was a good scene where Viserys tells a pleasure slave about the dragons and what happened to them. The scene wasn’t in the books but as I told a friend the other day: they need to include these scenes that weren’t in the book because you wouldn’t get all of the backstory otherwise. At this point people wouldn’t know what happened to Ned’s brother and father and that dragons even existed in Westeros without those scenes.
I can’t wait for the next episode as the end of this one cut away with Tyrion in a very tight spot. We can only hope that next episode treats us to the Vale of Arryn and the Eyrie because they will most certainly be visually stunning on film. I give this episode a 5 out of 5 grizzlies. It moved the story along very well and gave us plenty of backstory and future story elements to look forward to next week. It’s hard to believe that we will be at the halfway point for the season next week! It will just keep getting better and better!