In this week’s episode of ‘Game of Thrones’, Westeros has a new king, and a lingering mystery from Season 1 finally gets answered.
Episode ‘First of His Name’ commences with the official crowning of Cersei’s younger son, Tommen. He’s bound to be an improvement over his brother. (Honestly, Ser Pounce the cat would probably make a better king than Joffrey.) During the coronation, Cersei spots Margaery flirting with the new king and walks over to have a chat with the girl. Margaery braces herself for the worst, but Cersei actually seems to be OK with the match. She speaks frankly about Joffrey’s often shocking behavior (“Do you think I’m easily shocked?” she asks), and agrees to facilitate the new pairing, which she later follows up on with her father Tywin. I’m reminded here that Cersei had a few moments of seeming humanity toward Sansa as well, but still ultimately stabbed the girl in the back. Cersei’s actions are always motivated solely by her own self-interest.
As for Sansa, she and Baelish arrive at the Eyrie as promised. Because her life is still in danger, Sansa must keep her identity a secret and is announced as Baelish’s niece. Only Baelish, her crazy aunt Lysa, and Lysa’s halfwit son Robin know her secret. I suspect that the young boy will prove problematic, especially since Lysa plans to marry Sansa off to him. That poor girl just can’t catch a break.
Lysa pressures Baelish into marrying her immediately. During this, we learn that the two had a secret affair years earlier, and that Lysa poisoned her husband, Jon Arryn, at Baelish’s urging. You may recall that Jon Arryn was the previous “Hand” to King Robert, whose death prompted Robert to promote Ned Stark to the role, thus instigating almost everything that has happened in the series. Ned spent much of the first season investigating Jon Arryn’s murder, but when Ned died, the mystery was basically abandoned and forgotten as a MacGuffin. Its revelation here seems like an afterthought.
Also en route to the Eyrie are Arya and the Hound. Early one morning, the Hound wakes up and catches Arya practicing her swordsmanship. He isn’t much impressed and ridicules the girl, then demonstrates how useless her elaborate dance maneuvers are in the face of brute strength and good armor. While reciting her death list, Arya reveals that the final name she plans to kill is the Hound himself. She says this aloud, knowing that he can hear her. He acts unphased, but I bet his feelings are hurt, the big softie.
Across the Narrow Sea, Danerys doesn’t get much screen time this week, but it’s an important scene. In capturing the city of Meereen, she has also obtained a Navy that could be strong enough to sack King’s Landing and put her on the throne. However, when she also learns that cities she’d previously conquered (Yunkai and Astapor) have been overthrown and retaken by slave masters since she left, Danerys decides to postpone her attack on Westeros and recapture those cities. How can she be taken seriously as a liberator and a queen if she can’t even rule the territories she’s taken?
Finally, the episode climaxes at Craster’s Keep. In scouting out the opposition, the ranger named Locke discovers Bran Stark locked up, but he doesn’t tell Jon Snow. Instead, when Snow and the Night’s Watch raid the camp, Locke kidnaps the boy himself. He clearly has his own agenda and isn’t the good friend that Snow thinks he is. Unfortunately, we may not learn much more about him. Before they get too far, Bran goes wargy and takes over Hodor, causing the big oaf to break his chains and snap Locke’s neck. Bran tries to call out to Snow, but his friends Jojen and Meera advise him to slip away instead, because Snow will just try to bring him back to Castle Black.
As the battle at the Keep winds down, Jon Snow has to face off against the psycho named Tanner. Their fight once again reiterates what the Hound told Arya about the inferiority of fancy, honorable swordsmanship. Tanner almost gets the best of Snow, until one of Craster’s wives sneaks up behind and injures him, allowing Snow to dispatch him in a particularly gruesome fashion. All told, the Night’s Watch lost four men plus Locke, and all of the mutineers were slaughtered. (One almost sneaks away, but he gets picked off by Snow’s direwolf Ghost, after Bran sets the animal free.) Rather than go with the men to Castle Black, Craster’s wives decide to head out on their own, and ask Snow to burn the compound down.
Since the episode aired on Sunday, I’ve read a bunch of complaints from fans who felt that this entry was too dull, and that the battle with the mutineers (which apparently isn’t in the George R.R. Martin books) is a pointless addition that doesn’t accomplish anything. The complaints puzzle me, honestly. While the episode may not be the most exciting the series has aired, it doesn’t feel much different from the last few to me, and I’m willing to cut the show enough slack to let it develop its storylines without expecting major game-changing plot twists every episode. I would have thought that anyone who has stuck with the series this far should understand that it can be a slow burn at times.