When watching ‘Game of Thrones’, I feel like I need some sort of guide book with a list of all the characters and a chart that maps out how they’re related to one another. A glossary of useful terminology wouldn’t hurt, either. I sense a marketing opportunity here for HBO. Would anyone else buy such a thing?
I find that even little things take a while to register sometimes – like in this week’s episode, ‘Lord Snow’, when all of her Dothraki servants keep referring to fair-haired princess Daenerys as “Khalisi.” I picked up that this is a title, but it took me a while to put together that her husband is Khal Drogo. The first dozen times I’d heard that name, I assumed that “Khal” was his first name. Now I realize that’s actually his title. He’s the Khal, and (as his wife) she’s the Khalisi. I’d probably have figured that out sooner if I’d read the book, where I’d be able to see the two words spelled so similarly. It wasn’t as clear to me when pronounced.
In any case, Daenerys is already advancing quickly in her evolution into warrior queen. In ‘Lord Snow’, we learn that she’s pregnant with Drogo’s baby. She also discovers that she has some actual power in the tribe. When she orders the advancing horde to halt for a few minutes, her abusive brother Viserys throws a hissy fit and strikes her, at which point one of the Dothraki warriors immediately puts him in his place and nearly kills him. Daenerys’ first instinct is to beg the warrior not to kill her brother. After a moment, it sinks in that she doesn’t need to beg anyone. She orders him to let her brother go. Viserys is humiliated and made to walk with the slaves. Daenerys holds the cards now.
At King’s Landing, Ned arrives and is quickly set to work in his official duties as the king’s “Hand.” These turn out to be mostly petty administrative tasks. “We are the lords of small matters here,” he’s told by Lord Baelish, the Master of Coin (treasurer). Jaime Lannister also taunts him that, “The king shits and the Hand wipes.” It’s here that Ned learns that not all is well under King Robert’s reign. Robert has bankrupted the kingdom with his lavish spending on useless nonsense such as expensive ceremonies to celebrate just about anything that amuses him. Ned is aghast, not just that Robert would fall so easily into corruption, but that former Hand Jon Arryn would have allowed it to happen.
Ned’s wife Catelyn arrives in King’s Landing to find her husband, but is sidetracked by Baelish, who it turns out used to be a former beau of hers. He hides her in a whorehouse before anyone in town recognizes her, and arranges for Ned to meet her in secret. Catelyn tells about the assassination attempt, and shows the assassin’s dagger. Baelish recognizes it instantly. It was in fact his own dagger, but one he lost at gambling to Tyrion Lannister. Tyrion, not Jaime. That’s an interesting turn, unless of course the dagger made its way from Tyrion to Jaime at some point (which seems likely). Unfortunately, Ned recognizes that this evidence is circumstantial, and he can’t act until he has hard proof that the Lannisters were behind the attack. With all this information, Ned sends Catelyn en route back to Winterfell.
Back in Winterfell, Ned’s son Bran has awoken from his coma but is crippled. He’s despondent and wishes he’d died. Bran says that he doesn’t remember anything about the circumstances of his fall, but seems to be faking that memory loss. Word of his recovery travels fast, both to Ned and to the Lannisters.
Meanwhile, Ned’s bastard son Jon Snow has begun his training for the Night’s Watch. Having previously studied under a master swordsman, he’s a fierce fighter, much more so than any of the other recruits. Tyrion is there as well, not to join the Night’s Watch but rather to live up to his promise of standing on top of the Wall and pissing off the edge of the world, which he does gleefully. Tyrion also spends a fair amount of time buddying up to the leaders of the Watch and stealthily collecting information from them. What he learns is that they believe very strongly that dangerous times are coming, and the Watch in its current diminished form won’t be enough of a defense for the kingdoms. They plead with him to use his influence to convince the king to bolster the Watch’s resources.
The episode has two really terrific scenes that stand out above the rest. In the first, King Robert recounts the story of the first man he ever killed. It’s a sobering tale. This leads to a conversation with Jaime about the death of the former king. It’s here that we discover that, while Robert led the rebellion, Jaime was the one who (literally) stabbed the king in the back. For that, he earned the nickname “Kingslayer.” When Robert asks what the king’s final words were, Jaime replies: “Burn them all.”
In the middle of everything else going on, Ned also has to deal with his children. “War was easier than daughters,” he bemoans. Older daughter Sansa has taken to defending her fiancé, the sniveling Prince Joffrey, despite his attack on younger sister Arya that led to the slaying of her pet dire wolf. Arya, on the other hand, is a little hellion who speaks her mind about her hatred of Joffrey. When Ned finds the sword she smuggled with her from Winterfell, he officially has to chastise her for it. However, he’s clearly quite proud of her spirit. In the final scene, Ned arranges for Arya to be trained by a very flamboyantly entertaining swordmaster, and smiles when he sees what a quick study she’ll be.