One of the things I love about ‘Game of Thrones’ is how jam-packed with important detail almost every frame of the show is. If you’ve been paying attention, even the opening credits sequence occasionally changes to highlight the particular kingdoms that are relevant to each episode. While this week’s episode may not be quite the breakthrough that the previous week was, it’s pretty great all the same, and ends with a genuine “holy crap!” moment that viewers will remember for a while.
In ‘A Golden Crown’, Ned is recovering from the attack by Jaime Lannister that left him with a serious leg injury. Jaime has fled the city. King Robert, having cooled down now that some time has passed since their argument, reinstates Ned as his Hand, but orders him to end his feud with the Lannisters immediately. He also will not budge on his decree that Daenerys Targaryen is to be assassinated. Robert then announces that he’ll be going on a hunt (“Killing things clears my head”), and leaves Ned in charge of the city while he’s away.
In Winterfell, Bran has gotten the special saddle that allows him to ride a horse. Elder brother Robb takes him riding in the woods, but Bran wanders off alone and is set upon by a group of wildlings (savage tribesfolk) who try to steal his horse. Robb and Theon (Ned’s ward, the one who had the full-frontal scene recently) rescue him and kill all but one of the wildings, a woman who begs for her life until Robb agrees to keep her as a slave.
At the Eyrie, Tyrion announces that he will confess his crimes, but makes a big joke of it in front of Lysa Tully (Catelyn’s crazy sister). He then demands a trial by combat, as is his legal right. Lysa agrees and chooses one of her knights to make short work of him (no pun intended). Tyrion then requests to name a champion to fight for him, and calls for his brother Jaime. Lysa insists that the trial must happen that day; she won’t wait for Jaime to be summoned. Tyrion asks for volunteers with a promise of future reward. Most in the castle merely laugh at him, until Bronn (one of the mercenaries that Catelyn acquired at the inn) steps forward. He seems overmatched by the knight at first, but is quick and cunning. He gets the upper hand and kills the knight. By law, Tyrion is set free. “This little man is going home,” he gleefully announces.
While sitting in for the king, Ned is informed of a village that was ransacked by someone matching the description of “the Mountain,” that beastly knight who chopped his own horse in half at the joust. Ned senses an opportunity. In the name of his king, he orders that the Mountain be arrested and sentenced to death. And because the Mountain is a retainer of House Lannister, he calls for the family patriarch Tywin Lannister (Jaime and Cersei’s father, the richest man in the kingdom) to be summoned to court and held accountable for his man’s actions. This is a very ballsy move, in direct contradiction of Robert’s order that he end the feud with the Lannisters. Lord Baelish asks him, “Is it wise to yank the lion’s tail?” I’m guessing probably not.
Ned tells his daughters that he’s sending them home to Winterfell for their safety. Arya is upset that she won’t be able to continue her sword training, and Sansa whines about not being able to marry douchebag Prince Joffrey. Apparently, she was quite looking forward to being queen one day. An offhand comment she makes about Joffrey’s blonde hair gets Ned’s wheels spinning. He orders the girls away and digs through the genealogy book again. For generations, all of the male children of House Baratheon have been born with dark hair. Ned recalls that both of Robert’s bastard children that he’s found so far have also had dark hair. A light goes on in his head. Joffrey is not Robert’s son. (No doubt, Jaime is the real father.) This is the information that Jon Arryn discovered, and must be the reason he was murdered.
On the other side of the Narrow Sea, Daenerys gets an odd notion to put one of her gift dragon eggs in the fire. Nothing happens to it. She picks it up with her bare hands and is not burned. That’s weird…
Later, her brother Viserys, realizing that he has lost his position of power, tries to steal the eggs (which are incredibly valuable) so that he can raise an army somewhere else. Jorah Mormont stops him.
That night, the Dothraki hold a feast where Daenerys is made to eat a fresh horse heart. (Eww…) It’s horrifically bloody and disgusting, but she gets it down. Then she proclaims that her son will fulfill a prophecy and unite the seven kingdoms.
Viserys gets drunk and makes an ass of himself at the feast. He pulls a sword and threatens to take his sister back from Drogo – and cut out her baby – unless Drogo makes good on his promise. Viserys demands his crown. Drogo says something that Dany translates to her brother that he will get what he came for. Appeased, Viserys lowers his sword and is seized and held down by a couple of Dothraki guards. Drogo tosses the crown and some other gold trinkets into a pot over a fire and watches it melt.
Viserys sobers up really quickly and puts together what’s going to happen to him next. He begs for his life, insisting that he’s the dragon and they can’t kill the dragon. While Dany watches dispassionately, Drogo pours the molten gold right onto Viserys’ head. In a disturbingly realistic visual effect, Viserys screams in agony until suddenly keeling over dead. His head, now coated in the golden crown, clanks on the floor. Dany coldly declares: “He was no dragon. Fire cannot kill the dragon.”
Obviously, since she wasn’t burned by the fire earlier, this must mean that Daenerys is the rightful “dragon.” Here’s my question: I understand that the Targaryen family were originally dragon lords, and have taken the symbol of the dragon as the family sigil – but does this supernatural twist of Dany’s immunity to fire mean that one of her ancestors literally mated with a dragon at some point? Because that’s gross. Like, grosser than eating a raw horse heart or her brother’s head getting melted gross. Ick.