This episode opens with the former denizens of Winterfell arriving in their new home, the appropriately named King’s Landing. The sets on this show are as impressive or more so than those HBO showed off in its series Rome. The production values of Game of Thrones continue to impress and I have to constantly remind myself that it is a television show. The throne room is appropriately grand with a throne made from hundreds of swords front and center, guarded by Jaime Lannister. As we have learned from previous episodes, the Starks and the former Targaryens had bad blood between them and Ned was involved in the last Targaryen king’s overthrow. Jaime recounts his killing the Mad King and asserts he did it because of injustices done to people like what was done to Ned’s father. Of course, Lord Stark does not buy it whatsoever and calls Jaime out for it.
Ned is warmly welcomed into the capital but we know better than to trust anybody in this world. Lord Stark’s duties as Hand of the King begin immediately upon his arrival with the first order of business being a lavish and unaffordable round of games to celebrate Stark’s ascension to the office of Hand of the King. Ned is shocked by the amount of debt the country is in and writes off the tournament as an ‘extravagance.’ Since the realm borrows money from the Lannisters, it is only natural that Ned would be wary to indebt everyone further to a family whose intentions he does not trust. Cersei tells Joffrey about how a ruler can bend truth to his will and cites the example of Joffrey’s…father King Robert as being a traitor before he was king. She also tells him that he will have to marry Sansa because the North is a large region of the Seven Kingdoms that is difficult to control for outsiders. Cersei tells him that everyone who is not a member of the family is an enemy, not just the Starks specifically.
Arya continues to act out because of the incident with Joffrey and her direwolf Nymeria. Lord Stark gives Sansa a doll as a gift but she has not played with dolls since she was a child, illustrating that the two are not terribly close. Arya has guilt over the death of the butcher’s boy because of the Lannisters and their sadistic ways. The butcher’s boy really had nothing to do with the whole thing other than being present. Although she’s just a child, Arya is the stronger of the two girls. Sansa, though older, comes off as younger and naive in a dangerous way.
Bran’s wet nurse begins to tell us the awesome story of the White Walkers – the zombie creatures seen in episode one. Apparently the White Walkers come along with the long winter and are synonymous with the night. The old lady’s awesome story is interrupted by Robb who likely wants to talk about bureaucratic matters or something boring. Robb is suspicious of why Bran fell even though Bran claims that he just fell and does not intimate a conspiracy surrounding it. He claims he’d rather be dead and it’s likely in this world he is not going to have an easy life.
Petyr Baelish lures Catelyn in to his whore house establishment under the guise of a ruse, Catelyn being escorted by city guards. Petyr claims to know to whom the dagger belongs, saying it was his but he lost it in a bet with Tyrion Lannister when betting against him on a jousting match between Jaime and Ser Loras. Back to the Wall, Jon is everyone who attempts to spar with him, making short work of the new recruits because he has been formally trained. Jon easily defeats all of his challengers and several simultaneously. The Night’s Watch is a brotherhood of thieves and rogues, not warriors. We know the White Walkers have reemerged and the force may need to change into something more professional and quickly. Petyr Baelish brings Lord Stark to the whorehouse where Catelyn is and he nearly kills him thinking he has offended his wife’s honor until she sticks her head out the window to say hello.
Tyrion saves Jon from his more violently inclined ‘brothers’ and Jon admits to Tyrion that Tyrion had been honest with him all along about the Wall while his father knowingly let him go to such a hell. Little does Jon know how important his role may end up becoming. Petyr is pretending to work on Ned Stark’s side because he is so enamored with Catelyn. Cersei finds out that Jaime had arranged for the assassin that tried to kill Bran and she scolds him for being so impetuous. Their relationship is so creepy. Catelyn tells Ned that she is convinced the Lannisters are involved in Bran’s accident.
King Robert and Ser Barristan have a discussion about their first kills on the battlefield. The King is a shell of the man he once was, that much is clear. He revels in his past while the present goes to pot around him. His realm is bankrupt, his wife is cuckolding him with her brother and none of his kids are his. This is a man who has made being oblivious a life ethos. King Robert calls Jaime in to ask him what the Mad King said as his last words to which Jaime replied that he repeatedly said, “Burn them all,” for hours on end. Sounds like a healthy guy, definitely fit to rule over these people.
Traveling with the horde through the bamboo forests the audience watches Daenerys come into her own, both expressing her concern for the Dothraki practice of slavery while also reveling in her position as Khaleesi. Her emerging independence is interrupted by her crazed brother Viserys who begins to choke her. When he draws his blade a bodyguard lashes a whip around Viserys’ neck. They ask her if she wants him dead. We say yes, she says no, but everyone knows it is coming. These cultures cannot coexist. Viserys is drunk with the idea of his being a king but has no grounding in reality because being a king takes an army and a realm, both of which he lacks but hoped to trade his sister for which, in the end, was not the best plan for retaking the throne given all of the variables that transaction entailed.
The scenes at the Wall are always cool for two main reasons: it is impressively large and overwhelmingly bleak. These two things make it and the action that takes place there tinged with a sense of dread and foreboding because the Wall, after all, protects the Seven Kingdoms from something. Jon’s Uncle Benjamin tells him he is going on a scouting mission to investigate some ‘disturbing reports.’ Jon wants to go but he is reminded that he is not a ranger yet.
Tyrion expresses his disbelief in the White Walkers and the various things that roam beyond the Wall; instead, he posits that the Wildlings are just feral people and that the citizens of the Seven Kingdoms happened to have been born on the right side of the Wall. We know he’s wrong here but Tyrion can get away with pretty much anything, even skepticism regarding the Wall’s purpose. We learn from her handmaiden that Daenerys is pregnant and Ser Jorah disappears to write to someone. There’s something suspicious about him and it is amazing how quickly he has come into Daenerys’ confidences.
Maester Aemon stresses the needs of the Night’s Watch for resources in a meeting with Tyrion. They beseech him to ask his sister the Queen to help them. In a reversal, Jon reconciles himself with Tyrion and says he is sad to see him leave the Wall. He asks Tyrion to give Bran a message from him, which Tyrion agrees to do. For Jon, Tyrion will likely be the last vestige of his previous life he sees for some time.