Daddy issues: Jaime, who up until now has been a cocky figurative bastard, has ‘em. And so would you, if your dad was arguably the most powerful man in Westeros. Tonight we finally get to meet Tywin, and what a first impression he makes, eh? If ever a show was worthy of a TV-NV (Not for Vegans) rating, it’s this one. Tywin has marshaled the Lannister forces – some 60,000 strong. While field-dressing a deer, he dresses down Jaime, lambasting him for constantly worrying about his image and his somewhat chivalrous nature (recall, dear viewers, how he struck down the guard who stabbed Ned in the back of his leg while they were dueling two episodes back). Tywin’s a realist, and while he may have some respect for those with noble aspirations , he has little use for them (Ned Stark? “Brave man. Terrible judgment.”) The Lannisters are all about seizing power whenever and however they can, and if the deer blood and guts all over Tywin’s hands are any indication, Tywin’s not afraid to get those hands dirty. Jaime is sufficiently cowed: “Are you going to say something clever?”, Tywin snaps and while Jaime looks at the deer and thinks “I thought they smelled bad on the outside“, he’s smart enough to keep it to himself.
Daddy issues: we don’t see a whole lot of Jon Snow and Theon Greyjoy, as it seems that (for now, anyway) they’re on the sidelines of the game being played down south. But their scenes remind us that they’re both trying to emerge from the shadows of powerful fathers. Jon is ready to take his Night’s Watch vows; he and the new recruits gather to listen to a rousing speech by Lord Commander Mormont, extolling the virtues and rewards of “taking the black”. Lousy weather! No women! Crappy equipment! Terrible food! Death around every corner! (On the flip side, there’s a 401K, which the Night’s Watch will match at 2%, and the break room has a foosball table.) If all of this wasn’t bad enough, Jon gets the shaft – rather than join the Rangers, Jon’s tapped to be in the rear with the gear, sent to be a steward with Sam Tarly. Not many opportunities to live up to being Ned Stark’s kid doing laundry and making coffee, he thinks – but because a Stark does the right thing, Jon takes his vows. (And gets a nice gift from Ghost in return – someone’s arm.) Theon Greyjoy, meanwhile, is overseeing Osha’s captivity. He fills her (and us) in a bit more about his whole deal – he’s next in line to run House Greyjoy and the Iron Islands. Osha isn’t impressed, and neither are we; he’s a prince of Not Much, in his own way a prisoner of the Starks, and all he has is a title.
Daddy issues: Dany is in a bit of a pickle. Yes, Viserys is dead but with his death, Drogo seems to have lost all motivation to conquer Westeros. The Khal and Khaleesi have been idling in Vaes Dothrak. We find Dany roaming the marketplace with Jorah Mormont (I mentioned that Jorah is the son of the Night’s Watch Lord Commander, did I not?) and her entourage. Jorah, it should be noted, receives a message from Varys telling him he’s been pardoned…which, hang on, how did Varys know where to find Jorah? Unless…anyway, the group runs into the most suspicious wineseller ever, who turns out to be the best would-be assassin ever, as he clumsily tries to get Dany to take a sip of his obviously poisoned wares. (Boy, did that sound like the worst innuendo ever. My apologies.) Drogo just found a reason to invade Westeros.
Speaking of motivation, we get a considerable amount of insight into Littlefinger’s. At his House of Ill Repute, Littlefinger is conducting a coaching session with Roz and Unnamed Prostitute #1, and he starts monologin’. (And yes, if this scene were a Spice Channel porno short, it would be called Monologgin‘. Two G’s. Get it?) Littlefinger, it turns out, hasn’t really gotten over Catelyn. Bad enough that she picked Ned’s brother over her – after Ned’s brother died, she married Ned. Being a bit of a non-physically-threatening person, Littlefinger snarls that if he can’t fight someone, he’ll fuck ‘em. Figuratively, of course. And so when he tells Ned that he’ll back his play, and that he can ensure that the City Watch will as well, we can’t help but be a bit skeptical. After all, he even warned Ned not to trust him.
Ned, meanwhile, is making his move. He tells Cersei that he knows the truth about her and Jaime. Cersei is nonchalant – after all, she says, the Targaryans were inbreeding for generations (which pretty much explains Viserys). More important, one does what won must to win power. “When you play the game of thrones, you win or you die. There is no middle ground.” (And again, I really like how Lena Headey plays Cersei – even as she declares this to Ned, there’s a hint of sadness and pain in her eyes, a hint of the terrible price she knows she’s paid to attain her status.)
Ned doesn’t have a whole lot of time to ponder this – Robert’s hunting party has returned, and the news is not good. Robert’s been gored by a boar, and doesn’t have a whole lot of time left. He dictates his last decree to Ned – upon Robert’s death, Ned will be Protector of the Realm, taking charge of the Iron Throne until Joffrey is fit to rule. Ned FINALLY does something smart – he replaces “Joffrey” with “rightful heir”. (Then again, he fails to grasp the implications of Robert having Lancel Lannister as a squire.) And now Ned has to deal with the succession question. He tells Renly the truth about Joffrey – but Renly is not next in line to succeed Robert. We’ve heard Stannis, the middle brother, mentioned a couple of times, and we learn a bit more about him via conversation. Stannis is the warrior type, not a beloved leader of men, as Renly claims to be. So Ned’s in a bind – does he back Stannis, or Renly? Ned had better figure it out, as Robert dies an offscreen death. We’ll pour some out for Robert, even though he’d likely protest that we’re wasting wine, dropping to the floor with a sponge, mopping it up and wringing it out into a glass.
And what happens next seems inevitable. Ned is summoned to the throne room. Joffrey takes the throne. Ned produces Robert’s decree. Cersei tears it up. Renly steps forward and stakes his claim to…wait, no, Renly’s taken his men and fled south. Not to worry! Ned has the City Watch behind him. And Ser Barristan! He’s a man of honor, like Ned! Surely he’ll do the right thing and stand by Ned’s side…no, he just kind stands there, slack-jawed. And then things go straight to hell. Ned Stark: brave man, terrible judgment. Swords are drawn, spears are thrust, dudes – mostly Ned’s – are impaled, and the truth is revealed in the form of Littlefinger’s dagger at Ned’s throat, and Littlefinger’s contemptuous, mocking sneer: “I did warn you not to trust me.”