Who killed Jon Arryn? During the tournament, Ned is thinking that it might have been Ser Hugh of Bloody-Cough-upon-Deathrattle. For starters, he was wearing brand spanking new armor for his joust, not that it did him much good…or maybe whoever gave it to him knew that the neck area was unprotected. Then, of course, he just happened to draw Gregor “The Mountain” Clegane as his opponent. Clegane is not the best of sports, and his chopping the head off of his underperforming horse was easily the second most disturbing thing in this episode. The Mountain is an outright psychopath, and only his brother Sandor, The Hound – if not Man’s Best Friend, then certainly Ser Loras’…ok, Ser Loras’ second best friend (hi Renly!) – has the stones to try and stop him. Ned has good reason to be concerned about King Robert – for starters, he’s got another bastard, and he’s really let himself go, both physically and mentally. Now, Ned also needs to worry about himself, as Varys confirms that yes, Arryn was most definitely killed, likely with a colorless, odorless, flavorless poison. Inconceivable? Hardly.
Meanwhile, Catelyn and her crew are marching Tyrion to the Vale, where Jon Arryn lived with Cat’s sister Lysa. Tyrion, not an imbecile, makes a pretty good case for why he’s not behind the attempt on Bran’s life – “What sort of imbecile sends an assassin with his own blade?” Along the way, they’re set upon by Hill People. During the fracas, he begs Cat to untie him so that he can at least defend himself – ah HA! He’s going to try to escape! Surprisingly, or maybe not, he does not – Tyrion’s playing a deeper game, and wants to learn more about what’s happening with the remnants of House Arryn. Either that, or he’s too short to climb up on a horse. There’s a pretty gnarly fight scene, in which Tyrion kills a guy by smashing his head in with the blunt edge of a shield, easily the third most disturbing thing in this episode. They’re then met by a group of soldiers from The Eyrie, the Vale’s main fortress, perched atop a mountain. Cat and Tyrion are taken before Cat’s sister and Jon Arryn’s widow Lysa, who is…ok, here’s the thing with breastfeeding. If the kid’s old enough to ask for the boob, it’s probably time to wean. If the kid’s old enough to play Wii Tennis while on the boob, well, there are greater issues at play here. Lysa didn’t get that memo, and so we get what’s easily the most disturbing thing in this episode, the shot of her breastfeeding her six-year-old son Robert. Robert Arryn, son of the late Jon, heir to The Eyrie and the Vale, is not entirely right in the head. (Glad I’m here to tell you these things, aren’t you?) He wants Tyrion tossed off of the Eyrie walls – “Make him FLY, Mother!” – but Cat intervenes, and instead Tyrion ends up in a Skycell, the three-walled cells of The Eyrie. No need for a fourth; it’s a long way down. And the floor slopes ever so slightly towards the open end. Sleep well, Tyrion!
So the myriad characters and backstories are being funneled into these two overarching plotlines, the implications of which don’t bode well for King Robert. And as Arya discovers, it’s every man, woman, and eunuch for him/her/shim self. On a cat-chasing mission, Arya (hiding inside a dragon’s skull, so, hey, guess dragons aren’t just metaphors for bleached blonde wanna-be-king’s inadequacy issues) overhears Varys and Illyrio (the guy from Pentos who plotted with Viserys to sell Dany to the Dothraki) discussing, among other things, the plan to kill Bran, the preparations for the Dothraki invasion, and the need to kill Robert’s current Hand because he may know too much. Varys and Littlefinger have a bit of a spat; Varys threatens to tell Cersei about Littlefinger’s role in getting Tyrion arrested by the Starks, and Littlefinger responds by bringing up that guy from Pentos that Varys has been hanging out with. Touche’.
All of this serves to hammer the point home: Robert’s surrounded by enemies, and he’s barely holding on to power. And that makes for some poor decision-making. At the council meeting, Robert announces that he’s learned that Daenerys is pregnant, and that’s enough to firmly convince him to have her killed. The rest of his council agrees – except for Ned, who’s going to have to do the deed. Ned hands in his Hand badge, and all of a sudden realizes that maybe King’s Landing is not the best place to be hanging around, what with a drunken temperamental king and a bunch of Lannisters who are probably going to be pissed when they find out that the Starks have arrested Tyrion. When Robert sits to have a glass of wine (or several) with Cersei, it becomes pretty clear that they both realize the bind he’s in: he’s dumped the one guy who tried to do his best by Robert, there’s a whole army of Dothraki waiting to sack Westeros, and Cersei – well, she could give a rat’s ass. So Robert’s got nobody watching his back: he’s pushed Ned away, his advisors are all looking out for themselves, and even his brother Renly is thinking about the Iron Throne, thanks in no small part to Ser Loras. Very convincing fellow, that Loras. Then there’s Theon Greyjoy; he and his penis appear briefly, and everyone’s favorite whore Roz reminds him and us that the Greyjoys made a play for independence, and we get the sense that if things do go south for Robert, Theon and House Greyjoy aren’t going to go down with him.
So it’s just a matter of time before swords start swingin’. After finding yet another of Robert’s bastard kids, Ned and his bodyguards find themselves surrounded by Jaime Lannister and his men. Jaime’s not happy that the Stark’s have seized Tyrion – and he reminds Ned that he’s no longer the Hand, merely a lord of “somewhere very far away”. Littlefinger threatens to summon the King’s guard – if Ned is killed, Jaime’s next. Fine, whatever, says Jaime. “Kill his men”, he tells his soldiers. And they do – alas, poor Jory, we knew him…well, about as well as we knew any of the show’s umpteen supporting characters. Ned and Jaime square off, and have a few swings at each other before one of Jaime’s men puts a spear through Ned’s leg. This pisses Jaime off – he decks the trooper who interrupted a good fight, and storms off, but not before warning Ned: “My brother. I want him back.” Ned collapses, from pain, and I’m guessing the realization that he’s in waaaaaay over his head.