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I think last night's episode of Game of Thrones featured the series' first real death of a significant character. I mean, the Starks were pretty upset about Jory taking a knife in the eye from Jaime last week, but as far as the story goes he mostly just did errands for Ned. But Viserys finally getting his golden crown from Khal Drogo, after becoming more of a well-rounded character recently (he's still a dirtbag, but we understand why he's a dirtbag better), gave viewers the first true taste of how safe everyone is. Which is to say: not very. And things are going to get a lot worse soon.
This was another week without seeing Jon or the Wall, but that's okay because there was so much going on everywhere else. Before Viserys was murdered, he was prevented from stealing Dany's dragon eggs and watched her eat an entire horse heart in some sort of fertility ritual, before throwing a fit. Daenerys comments that true dragons don't get burned, and that's backed up by earlier when she placed one of the eggs in a fire and took it out without is scalding her. In Winterfell Bran has another dream, with the three eyed crow drawing him farther into his family's crypt, before he gets to try out his new saddle. Robb and Theon are discussing what he should do in response to Jaime's actions, but they realize Bran's missing and save him from a gang of wild people fleeing south from beyond the wall, sparing the life of one of them. At the Eyrie, Tyrion weasels his way out of trouble. First he bribes the guard to get him an audience with Lysa, then he makes a mockery of his own confession. He demands a trial by combat, and Bronn, a mercenary who had originally been hired by Catelyn to help bring him to her sister, volunteers to fight in his place. He wins the duel, and the two men walk out of the stunned court scot-free.
At King's Landing, Robert makes Ned the hand again and forbids him to resign. He then leaves Ned in charge while he goes off on a hunt. Given power, Ned hears an account of raiders destroying a village, and believing it to be the Mountain's work at the bidding of the Lannister patriarch, orders a hundred men to be sent to Clegane's keep, strips him of his knighthood and holdings, and a message to be sent to Tywin at Casterly Rock (where Jaime is believed to have fled after their scuffle) asking for his audience. The rest of the council thinks he's overstepping in Robert's absence, but Ned's finally trying to do something with his influence. After Arya continues her training and Sansa makes up with Joffrey at his most sickeningly fake-noble, they're both disappointed when Ned tells them to pack their bags and get ready to go back to Winterfell. In the conversation he realizes what Jon Arryn figured out before he died - Joffrey's blond hair means he probably isn't Robert's. And given who we know Cersei has been in bed with, we can guess who's child he is.
Once again, the same faces were bringing a lot of the best work in this episode. You see a big difference between Tyrion and Ned in the way they carry themselves. Tyrion wants to live and will do anything to do it, promising (and delivering) gold, relying on his wits, and taking advantage of the primitive justice system in place to save his own skin. Meanwhile, Ned is claiming credit for his wife's actions to protect her, and directly taking on opponents with more strength and money than him becacuse he believes he is right. Both actors did a good job in this episode, and really sell what makes their characters who they are. But Tyrion is carefully playing every card he has, and Ned is going all in with little besides his pride and sense of honor. He is the hand of the king, so he's in a considerable position of power. But we'll see if it's enough to protect him, especially after his latest discovery.
There was some pretty good action in this episode, though maybe not as much as last week. The scuffle at Winterfell is a good reminder that danger is everywhere, and it's only going to get worse as more raiders from beyond the Wall come south, either fleeing or at the behest of Mance Rayder (a name that will be popping up again down the line). The duel between Bronn and Lysa's champion was another nice scene, showing the difference in philosophy between a guy who lives his whole life fighting for his life and one who has only known royal tournaments. The latter fights with honor and has a title, but the former is the one who's still alive. Who wins the approaching war (Some think it's already begun with Jaime's attack and Clegane's raid) might depend on who has more guys like Bronn rather than knights with their own lands and a respectable name.
A couple other scenes I liked were one with Arya and one with Robert. In some ways Arya's continued "dancing lessons" with Syrio were more of what we already saw, but he's just such a cool character, and he's teaching her important things she will need to know as the days get darker. I like how out of step his philosophy is with everyone else in Westeros, and it might come in handy. The scene with Robert on the hunt, getting shitfaced on wine and ignoring real issues while talking about screwing whores was a good one as well, reinforcing how little he really cares about besides his own pleasure and how unprepared he is for what's coming. The only thing that's really bothering him is his continued displeasure with Daenerys not being dead yet, and he's basically completely overlooking the fact that his second in command and his wife's brother tried to kill each other. Generations of hostility are about to come crashing against each other, and there isn't anybody who seems to be able to stop it. I can't wait for the next episode.