We’ve been told many times that “Winter is coming” on ‘Game of Thrones’. In this week’s episode, war is coming too, and it’s coming fast. Big developments are afoot in the kingdoms of Westeros.
I really love the title of episode ‘The Pointy End’, which of course calls back to the sword that little Arya smuggled with her to King’s Landing, thus prompting her father to sign her up for lessons with master swordsman Syrio. The episode opens immediately after Ned has been taken captive by the queen and back-stabber Baelish. Lannister soldiers rush through the city, slaughtering every member of the Starks’ household staff. Sansa is caught by “the Hound” and brought to the queen. A group of Lannister thugs interrupts Arya’s training with Syrio, who, in an awesome display of skill, fends almost all of them off with nothing but his wooden practice sword. Syrio urges Arya to run away. As she flees, the last we see of him is Syrio with a broken sword in his hand facing down the biggest, meanest, surliest brute. From later dialogue, it’s implied that everyone in the Stark staff was killed. However, we don’t see Syrio die on camera, and I can’t believe this is the end of such a great character.
Arya finds her luggage strewn on the ground and digs through it for her pointy sword. A boy her own age sees her and smugly announces that he’s going to turn her in for a reward. As he approaches, Arya finds the sword and instinctively stabs him in the stomach. This is the first life she’s taken. Arya runs off, and doesn’t return again this episode, aside from word that the Lannisters did not find her.
Up north at the Wall, the bodies of two rangers are retrieved from the woods on the other side of the Wall, but there’s been no sign of Jon Snow’s missing uncle Benjen. Although apparently dead for a long time, the bodies have not rotted. Sam worries that they’ve been claimed by the White Walkers and will revive from the dead unless burned, but Lord Commander Jeor Mormont (father of Jorah Mormont) believes this is superstition and wants the bodies examined. Later that night, one of the bodies does indeed revive and tries to attack the Lord Commander. Jon Snow fights it off but, despite impaling it to the hilt with his sword, the thing won’t die until he sets it ablaze from a lamp, burning his own hand in the process. These White Walkers are basically smart zombies, it would appear.
In King’s Landing, Robb must raise an army for war with the Lannisters. He has some trouble convincing one Lord who had sworn an oath of loyalty to Ned Stark but doesn’t want to take orders from an untested boy. The man is won over after Robb’s wolf bites some of his fingers off. Ouch.
As they make their way alone through the mountainside en route to the Lannister camp, Tyrion and Bronn are set upon by Hill People. The leader asks how they choose to die, and Tyrion has the perfect pithy comeback: “In my own bed, at the age of 80, with a belly full of wine and a woman’s mouth around my cock.” I’ve said it before, but it bears repeating – Peter Dinklage is awesome in this show! Before they can kill him, Tyrion manages to strike a deal. If they’ll escort him safely to his camp, the Lannisters will give the Hill People enough weapons and support to overthrow the Knights of the Vale (Lysa’s people) and rule the Vale themselves.
On the other side of the Narrow Sea, the Dothraki have commenced their pillaging and raping. Daenerys isn’t so pleased with the latter part, and calls off the raping. This upsets one Dothraki warrior, who complains about her to Drogo. When Drogo sides with his wife, the warrior essentially calls him a pussy and challenges him to a fight for new leadership. Drogo slashes the guy’s throat, plunges his bare hand in through the wound, and rips the man’s tongue out from the base. Eww. In the process of this, Drogo takes a small cut on the chest. It doesn’t look like much, but Daenerys frets about it and insists that one of the local healer women she saved from raping must tend to the injury. The way this is played up, I expect that it will lead to a serious infection or something.
On his way to war, Robb leaves younger (crippled) brother Bran at home. “There must always be a Stark in Winterfell,” he says. The slave girl that Robb recently spared warns Bran that the army is marching the wrong direction. They’re wasting their time with these petty squabbles in the south, when they should be heading north to protect the kingdoms from the real danger awakening on the other side of the Wall (the White Walkers).
After her crazy sister Lysa refuses to send any of her Knights of the Vale to fight against the Lannisters, Catelyn leaves and eventually meats up with Robb. She learns that he has 18,000 men, which may not be enough. The Stark army is essentially flanked by the forces of Jaime and Tywin Lannister on each side. Robb has been trying to strategize which to fight first. When his men capture a Lannister spy who was counting their army, Robb asks how many he’d gotten up to before he was caught. The spy replies that he’d stopped at 20,000. (A miscount?) After thinking a minute, Robb elects to show mercy and set the spy free, much to the confusion of some of his own generals. He tells the spy to run off and be sure to let Tywin Lannister know that the Stark army of 20,000 men is coming for his head. I assume that misdirection is part of his plan.
Tyrion, Bronn and the Hill People eventually arrive at Tywin’s camp. Tyrion learns for the first time that the king is dead, and seems quite shocked by it. Though he certainly doesn’t say as much out loud, he seems dismayed by everything that has happened. Tyrion informs his father of the deal he made with the Hill People, and reminds him that, “A Lannister always pays his debts.” Tywin tells the leader of the Hill People that they will get everything they were promised and more… if they join the fight against the Starks. The leader agrees, on the condition that they take Tyrion with them as collateral until they get what they’re owed. Tywin, who has no great love for his imp son, readily agrees. No doubt he hopes that Tyrion will be killed in battle. Tyrion nearly spits up his wine when he hears this.
Back at King’s Landing, newly crowned King Joffrey names his grandfather Tywin Lannister as the new Hand, and Jaime as head of the Kingsguard. This means that he’s forcing the retirement of the existing head of the Guard, Ser Barristan Selmy, which is a huge dishonor. Selmy throws off his armor and storms out.
Ned’s daughter Sansa been kept alive as a bargaining chip, though she doesn’t quite understand everything that’s happened. She still believes that she’s engaged to Joffrey and will be queen one day if she can smooth things over between Joffey and her father. Sansa stands before the court and begs Joffrey to have mercy on her father, insisting that this must all be a big misunderstanding. Joffrey tells her that she must convince her father to confess his crimes and pledge his fealty, or there will be no mercy. Sansa promises that he will.
Unlike other recent episodes, this one doesn’t end with any sort of plot twist or revelation. It’s all about the ways in which the characters set their plans in motion and position themselves for the big conflicts to come. It’s a very good episode, though there’s so much happening in it that I get the sense parts of the original book are probably being condensed. For one thing, the episode cuts to Ned rotting away in the castle dungeon several times. In the first, he has an important conversation with Varys. But later, we just catch random glances of him to remind us that he’s still there. I feel like there’s probably more to that storyline that we’re not seeing.
I have to be honest that I also find that the show’s preoccupation with penises is getting to be a little weird. It’s like the show’s producers are so overjoyed that they’ve been allowed to include full frontal nudity of both sexes (still a rarity, even on HBO) that they feel the need to throw it in at any opportunity, regardless of context. In this episode, during the scene where Bran is talking to the slave girl in the woods, the fat albino oaf who carries him around comes bounding up, bare-ass naked and with a gigantic (probably prosthetic) cock swinging down to his knees. He giggles and then runs off. The moment is a total non sequitur and has nothing to do with anything. It’s like: “Hey there, folks. It’s penis time!” Is this really necessary? The sex scene with Greyjoy and Ros… Fine, I get it. I have no problem with that. The scene where the poisoner is tortured, stripped naked, and dragged behind a horse… There’s at least a plausible excuse for that. But this scene serves no purpose at all, other than blunt shock value. Also, the dude is wicked ugly and absolutely no one of any gender or sexual orientation wants to see that. Really.