Well this is it boys and girls. This episode is either going to make you throw up, crap your pants, cry, or punch something. Whether it’s from hatred of King Joffrey, love of Ned Stark or the ravages of unpredictability. Whether or not you read the books, or you’re a first timer for Game of Thrones, you’ll still be impacted. I told Dr. Kronner I didn’t even want to watch the episode because of what happens in it. Even having read the book and knowing the outcome, it’s completely different watching it on-screen.
Keep reading to find out what could possibly have happened in the episode to make me open the review like this. In the last episode you have a couple major things happening. Ned is now a prisoner of the Lannisters as is Sansa just not in a dungeon in chains. Arya is missing and Robb has called all of the banners of the North to march on King’s Landing to free his father and now is running headlong into a clash with Tywin Lannister’s forces. On the Lannister side, Jaime is commanding his forces against the River Lords of Riverrun whom are the kin to Catelyn Tully Stark and Tyrion has found himself in the predicament of fighting alongside the Hill Tribesmen he enticed to guide him out of the Vale of Arryn with promises of steel.
The episode starts with Ned still in the dungeon with Varys all but pleading with Ned to make peace and keep Joffrey’s birth a secret and put the realm before his honor. Ned all but refuses and Varys leaves him in the dungeons.
Robb and his forces are at an impasse: they need to cross the river using the bridge system at the two keeps known as the Twins. The Twins are held by the House of Frey, their Lord being Walder Frey who is an lecherous piss pot. I actually expected him to be a hell of a lot older looking but he was masterfully played by Harry Potter alum David Bradley, the second one on the show so far.
Lord Walder is met by Catelyn Stark to negotiate terms for crossing at the Twins and Walder makes it abundantly clear that he knows how Catelyn’s father Lord Hoster Tully has always disliked and avoided him, as have the other great houses. But Catelyn is able to convince him by offering to marry one of his sons to Arya and Robb to one of Lord Walder’s many daughters. Robb gives his consent to the arrangements and the Northmen move across the river unhindered.
For Tyrion, life just keeps getting better and better because now his dear old dad has ordered him to not only fight in the upcoming battle, but he will be in the vanguard of the force. The vanguard being the people to move in first for those of you who don’t know. So in preparation for what may be the end, Tyrion has Bronn find him a whore in the camp tp travel with him and we are introduced to Shae, who becomes something of an important character in the coming episodes.
In the scenes with Shae we get to learn more of Tyrion’s relationship with his father and the story of Tysha. Then it is off to battle for Tyrion and the Hill Tribes, but after a rousing speech to his men Tyrion gets knocked out and trampled by their excitement.
By the time he wakes up they have won, but it was only two thousand of Robbs men as he had divided his forces with the other 18 thousand riding off to stop Jaime Lannister in the Riverlands, and stop him they do with the sister-layer’s capture. Jaime tries to challenge Robb to a fight that would decide the war, but Robb isn’t stupid in knowing that he would lose. He refuses and sends the Kingslayer off to be put into a nice set of chains.
Way up North on the Wall, Jon is the talk of Castle Black, even receiving Lord Commander Mormont’s Valaryian steel blade known as Long Claw in lieu of his efforts in saving Mormont from the wight that attacked him. (A wight is a person who is reanimated after being killed by a White Walker.)
Not much else happens with Snow except the conversation with Maester Aemon at the rookery. It turns out that Aemon is the uncle to the Mad King Aerys and he tries to point out to Snow that even though his family was killed by the Lannisters and their bannermen, he stayed true to his oath as a Maester of the Citadel and Jon should do the same instead of rushing off to rescue Ned and fight alongside Robb.
Daenerys has some major problems going on across the Narrow Sea, as Drogo’s wound is becoming worse and he is literally falling out of the saddle. His blood riders are distrustful of Daenerys using Mirri Maz Duur to try and nurse Drogo back to health, one of them pointing out to her that once Drogo dies that she is nothing.
Jorah urges Daenerys to flee with him to Asshai before Drogo does pass but Daenerys refuses to lose her husband and authorizes Mirri to use ‘Blood Magic’ to heal Drogo, which many of the Dothraki are not too keen on. She leaves her husband, his sacrificed horse and Miri to complete a ritual which honestly sounds creepy as hell. We finally get to see Jorah in action as he fights one of Drogo’s blood riders to stop him from interrupting the ritual. The blood rider gets a joker smile from Jorah to end the fight. Daenerys is about ready to give birth as Jorah carries her into the tent where the ritual is still happening.
Now to the biggest part of the episode, where I’m sure many viewers might stop watching the show or realize what a fantastic writer George Martin is. As Arya is trying to survive in the streets of King’s Landing, some kids inform her that the Hand of the King is being brought to the Sept of Baelor. At the sept, Ned is brought before the masses and the King and his cohorts. He spots Arya and in passing tells the Night’s Watchman Yoren where she is and Sansa also stands at Cersei’s side to watch her father… as he confesses to attempting to murder Joffery and betraying the realm to take the throne for himself.
All lies of course, but Ned wanted to save his daughters and was content to serve on the Wall as Cersei planned. Joffrey however has other plans as he order Ser Ilyn Payne to behead Stark on the spot with his own sword ‘Ice’. The scene was beautifully shot, following the book pretty much exactly from what I can remember in reading the book. Like I said above though, seeing the scene on film even had an emotional impact on me knowing what was going to happen so I am curious as to what first timers of the series thought of the moment when Ned Stark met his tragic end. I know people say he made terrible and stupid decisions but Ned was truly doing the right thing and acting honorably as every knight and lord in the realm is supposed to, but unfortunately no one else out there is honorable enough. As Robert said, it’s all about backstabbing, money-grubbing and ass licking. No one cares about the good of the realm or honor. I’ll admit that the scene with Ned dying did cause me to tear up and it could not have been portrayed any better.
I give this episode a 4.5 out of 5 bears. It was a little slow but still managed to fit everything in without feeling bloated or rushed. The finale next week will have some great moments in it, though it might not be as memorable as this one. This episode should remind everyone who watches the show that no character is safe and that there aren’t always happy endings. George R.R. Martin is a genius and the show will only get better in the coming seasons, so get ready everyone! Season Finale next week!