All those out there who do NOT want to claim the Iron Throne and rule Westeros, raise your hand. [Ned Stark is the only one to raise his hand.] Our honorable friend Ned Stark just wants to chill out in Winterfell and stock up for winter (in case you haven't heard, it's coming) but now he's embroiled in a struggle for the Iron Throne—a struggle he'd rather not be a part of.
Let's all hope the title for Episode 7, "You Win Or You Die," is not prophetic. Because Ned is both literally and figuratively in the Lion's den, accused of treason for not bending his knee and swearing loyalty to that punk-jerk boy-king Joffrey. Heck, one of Joffrey's first orders as king was to kill everyone in the room. Not exactly the beginning of a forgiving and peaceful reign.
The question of the day seems to be: "Did Ned play this game of thrones correctly?" I love watching real-time reactions to Game of Thrones on Twitter, and Sunday night there seemed to be equal parts "Poor Ned!" and "Dude, you should have seen that coming." Ned's weaknesses are his honor and his expectation that everyone else should live their lives with honor as well. And those weaknesses bit him in the ass.
I like to imagine that every time Ned says the name "Littlefinger," he does it in the same way that Jerry Seinfeld always said "Newman!" Ned had no reason to think Littlefinger would pull out his middle finger at the last second, turning his promised guards against Ned and his men. Sure, we knew Littlefinger might have had something up his sleeve, but with Ned's back to the wall, I don't think he had much choice but to seek a desperate alliance with Littlefinger, who'd previously pledged loyalty to Catelyn. But alas, Cat and Ned aren't really the same person, and longtime crushes burn deep within men. Did Littlefinger betray Ned as a means of eliminating the competition for the woman he's always loved, or was he siding with the team he thought would ascend the throne? It's probably a two birds/one stone situation.
Now Ned is in the hands of the Lannisters, Joffrey is sitting on the throne (barf!), and the only man who was keeping Ned from being torn to shreds by the Lion Lannisters is dead. To love Game of Thrones is also to be a masochist: There's little room for good news in this world. There's certainly no shortage of dramatic tension—but that means the "good" characters are metaphorical punching bags and the unscrupulous characters (and those who are twats in general) get all the good things in life. Sigh.
Even Jon Snow, who arrived at Camp Wall the most skilled swordsman and rider of all the recruits, had his dream of becoming a Ranger of the Night's Watch crushed. Instead, he'll be changing bed pans for Lord Mormont as his Mormont's steward, which is a nice way of saying man-servant. What a rip-off! On the plus side, as Samwell pointed out, it's possible Jon is being groomed for something more important than being a simple foot soldier, and at least he won't have to trot out in the unknown and face whatever evil lurks beyond The Wall. Though it looks like a bummer in the short term, in the long term, it might actually be a rare instance of good news.
Things were only slightly better (and could have been much worse) for Dany, who avoided a special vintage of wine called Le Queenkiller while wandering through a random market. If that wine guy was able to come close to collecting the bounty on her head, there will surely be others looking to do the same. The situation is clear: Dany (and her unborn son) won't be safe until the threat from across the sea is stopped.
And now's when we get to the undisputed MVP of the episode, Mr. Khal Drogo. Until now, we've mostly known Drogo as a rapist of unwilling blonde teen queens, a quiet man who enjoyed a celebratory disemboweling at his wedding, and a mumbling warrior who is scared to death of water. But that was before someone tried to mess with his baby mama, and his Maori warrior hype-up was the first time we've seen such passion from him. It was impossible to sit idly by and not want to cross the sea and lay Westeros to waste in an orgy of blood. It was like a Coach Taylor pre-game speech on Friday Night Lights, but with more guyliner, biceps, and rape-y promises. Team Drogo!
We also met Tywin Lannister, father of Cersei, Jaime, and Tyrion, who is played by the bad guy from Last Action Hero (Charles Dance). When we met him, he was appropriately carving up a stag (the sigil of House Baratheon), though I'm fairly surprised we didn't see him urinating on a wolfskin rug. In a show that's for the most part been nailing its casting, Dance as Tywin may be the best yet. He's got the gravitas to be as sinister as the head of the Lannister clan needs to be, and his condescending looks to Jaime were ice cold. He's just got that Lannister dick-ishness built into him. He's perfect.
But I can't finish this article without talking a little more about that devious Littlefinger. I know we're all supposed to hate the guy, but I can't help but love him. Of course, I anyone who, in the middle of a story about how he was scarred for life physically and emotionally, can casually drop a "play with her assssss" into the conversation. That guy is such a pimp.
Notes from the ravens:
... No Arya in this episode. Are you okay with how some characters aren't showing up at all in certain episodes? I think it serves the story better when the writers are able to give more screentime to those involved with the principal storylines. If that means we don't get to see Arya or Robb or whoever, I think that's fine. They'll be back.
... Earlier in the season, I wrote an article defending the sex in Game of Thrones, insisting it was necessary to tell the story. But this week's scene with Littlefinger, Ros, and the other whore didn't seem like it had to be as explicit as it was. That said, as a fan of redheads, I'm not going to complain. Side note: The actress who plays Ros is British burlesque star Esmé Bianco, who is the face of lingerie line The Modern Courtesan. You can see more of her on the web site (NSFW). I do this research for you, dear reader.
... I wonder how the show goes about casting some of its smaller roles. How many people line up for a role with a character description that says, "A wine merchant who tries to poison the queen and then is dragged, naked, behind a horse (your penis will be seen by millions)," or "Prostitute who gets her ass played with." Just wonderin'.
... Do you think Renly is going to make a claim for the throne? What about Stannis, who we haven't seen? Who do you think should sit on the Iron Throne?
... Have you ever seen a suit of armor more badass than The Hound's?