(1.4, "Cripples, Bastards and Broken Things")
Bran is walking around Winterfell, following a crow that turns out to have three eyes. He’s having a dream, and he awakens to Theon summoning him on behalf of Robb to greet their visitors. Tyrion has stopped in on his way south, but Robb is suspicious of his presence, a fact he does nothing to hide. Tyrion has brought Bran a gift, he’s designed a saddle that if fitted to the right horse will allow Bran to ride, and be as tall as any man. Tyrion chooses to spend the night in the town brothel instead of accepting Robb begrudgingly offered hospitality. Theon sees Tyrion to the gate, letting it slip that Catelyn isn’t in Winterfell. Tyrion goads Theon about his deference to the Starks despite the fact that he is a hostage because of his father’s rebellion against Robert. At Castle Black there is a new arrival, Samwell Tarly, an overweight young man who falls at the first practice sword blow and is unwilling to get back up and continue training. Jon stops Throne from continuing to beat him, for which Sam is thankful. Sam admits to being a coward, an admission that doesn’t endear him to Pyp and Gren, but makes Jon thoughtful. Dany and the Dothraki arrive at the City of Horse Lords. Viserys has finally found something he likes; the pleasure slave he bought for Dany, and we as viewers are subjected to a really uncomfortable conversation about the Targaryen family history. Ick. Things are only slightly less uncomfortable in King’s Landing, as Sansa admits to her septa her fear of having only daughters as well as her determination to remain angry with Ned for Lady’s death. The Hand’s Tourney is causing drunk and disorderly conduct in the streets of the capital, but Ned insists that the money can be found for more security. Ned talks with Pycelle about Jon Arryn's death, which Pycelle claims to believe was an unfortunate cruelty of nature, but admits to Ned that Jon Arryn asked him for a book detailing the noble families just before his death, which he happily lends to Ned. Pycelle is less willing to concede to Ned’s suggestion that Jon Arryn was poisoned. On his way to read his newly acquired book, Ned finds Arya balancing on one toe at the top of the stairs, her lesson for the day from Syrio. Arya asks Ned what Bran will do now that he cannot be a knight as he wanted to be, and Ned makes it clear Bran has a happy future ahead of him, but when Arya asks if she can rule a holdfast he tells her that her sons will be the rulers, she reminds him that he’s talking about his other daughter and returns to her training. On duty atop the Wall, Sam is sent to join Jon as his watch partner, revealing his fear of heights and bad eyesight. Jon asks Sam what he is doing at Castle Black, and Sam tells him that his father told him that he would take the Black or his murder would be made to look like an accident. Appropriately aghast, Jon lets the rest of the training group know that they aren’t going to hurt Sam in the training yard anymore, but he has to use Ghost to help convince some of the others. Thorne isn’t fooled for a second the next day that Jon isn’t responsible for the class’ unwillingness to bloody up Sam. Intrigue abound down south, as Littlefinger guides Ned in a round of spot-the-spy (seems everyone is on someone’s payroll) and continues his helpfulness (you know, because he promised Cat) by pointing Ned towards Jon Arryn’s former squire and an armorer Jon Arryn visited several times. Jory goes looking for the squire, whose a knight now, and has no interest in talking. Ned visits the armorer, who’s talented but sullen apprentice Gendry (Joseph Dempsie) Jon Arryn was visiting. Ned takes a good look at his dark hair and blue eyes and figures out that he’s Robert’s bastard son. Viserys is back to his old self, furious that Dany invited him to dinner and made him a vest in the Dothraki fashion. He attacks her, and looked like he was going to rape her, but for the first time, Dany fights back, smacking him in the face with a golden belt and informing him that if he ever lays a hand on her again she will have that hand cut off. She’s a bit scary, but in a good way. Far from the warm grass, Jon and Sam are scrubbing tables and doing what young men do when they have time on their hands, talking about girls. Sam is suspicious when Jon admits to being a virgin as well, prompting Jon to tell him a kind of sad story. Jon was unable/unwilling to bed the whore bought for him because as a bastard he couldn’t stand the idea of the possibility that he would get the whore pregnant and that another child would have a life like his. Sam manages to cheer up his friend, but Throne comes in, basically for the sole purpose of telling Sam and Jon that they are not men, will die in the next winter, and if need be, will be eaten by their brothers in order to survive. Now that is a man who should be in a position of power over others! As much as it isn’t what she thought it would be Dany realizes that she needs to make her home with her husband and his people, because she and Jorah agree that Viserys will not be able to take them back to Westros, as he is no king and no dragon. In King’s Landing, the Hand’s Tourney has begun, but Jon Arryn’s former squire is the first to fall, jousted to death by Gregor Clegane, Sandor’s older brother. Horrified by the blood, Sansa listens to Littlefinger tell her the story of the Mountain and the Hound: as children Gregor found Sandor playing with one of his toys and so he held his face in the fire while his face melted off. Instead of watching the fun, Ned is working and receives a visit from Cersei. She’s apparently in a fence-mending mood, admitting that her demand to have Ned kill Lady was an extreme reaction but reasonable because it was in defense of her child. She asks Ned why he’s in King’s Landing, claiming that he cannot change Robert into a better king. She scoffs at Ned’s reply that it is his duty to serve his king, reminding him that he was a younger son, not born to leadership. At an inn headed home, Catelyn runs into Tyrion at an inn and decides to take the lead herself. Calling on her father’s bannermen scattered throughout the room she takes Tyrion prisoner to answer for his “crimes.”
I'm going to try and write this review without it turning into a soppy love letter (a friend once told me that I'm a much better writer about things I hate and he was right, the jerk), though I make no promises that I can achieve this, as I was so enamored of this episode that I have already watched it twice (in lieu of watching some other show that I'm behind on, and there are many). It was watching this episode (the first time) that prompted me to admit something to friends that made them shake their heads in pity: I realized that when GoT comes out on DVD I won't be able to wait the time it will take for it to go on sale and due to the combined facts that HBO shows are really frakking expensive and that I live on an extremely constricted budget, I should start a savings fund now for my future purchase. Yup, there was shame-to-know-me in their eyes.
What are you doing here? That was the question of this episode, both asked from one character to another as well as what some characters should have been asking themselves. This question was meant in both a completely literal as well as a rather existential way, illustrating that there is a connection between our suspicions of others and our understanding of ourselves. What an action is is at least in part defined by why an action is taken.
Tyrion designs a saddle for Bran because he knows the difficulties of being handicapped, in addition to the freedom that will be available to Bran if he can ride a horse, and he is upfront with Robb when asked for his motivation. What he is doing and why he is doing it are perfectly transparent and harmonious, lending less credibility to the claim that he tried to have Bran killed. In contrast, Sansa should have been questioning Petyr’s motivation for telling her the Cleganes’ dirty little secrets, but she has so little awareness of why she does what she does she doesn’t even think to question why someone else does something completely and utterly inappropriate and unnecessary. And if he’s telling people things they don’t need to hear, and could even harm them, doesn’t that call into question what/why he’s telling others?
The same fundamental question provides an array of views about the concept of duty. Cersei derides Ned’s motivation for staying on as Hand because she assumes that as the second son, born to follow not to lead, he is no more than a soldier following orders. She exposes her own belief that duty isn’t a real human virtue; rather there are only those who command and those who obey. Finding out that Sam would be murdered if he were not on the Wall, Jon recognizes it as his duty to protect him; he responds to the internal impulse to do what is right even when he know it will be difficult. (Okay, despite my above stated goal, how can you not love Jon?) But things are not always so clear. As a Knight of the Kingsgaurd, Jaime stands duty outside the door while Robert has a tea party with a variety of whores. Obviously, this bothers him as an affront to his sister’s honor (um, hypocrisy much?) and as a waste of his skill with a sword, yet still he stands. But he won’t pass along a letter from Ned to Robert, as he doesn’t serve Lord Stark. What does he consider his allegiance to, his king or his vow to protect his king? What does he consider his duty? Conversely, Catelyn decided that she must act in opposition to her word to her husband, and in order to do so called on the duty of others to help her. She has attempted to exploit an attribute in others in an act that subverts that attribute in herself, and in such a scenario one must be completely assured of the truth. Does she have any right to impose on the obligation of others when she shouldn’t be doing what she’s doing in the first place?
And in the end, can a hostage be anything but a hostage? Based on the Lannister assessment of Theon, the prevailing answer is: no.
The TV Girl