I’m still waiting for the show’s first weak episode, because this was top-notch.
Let’s begin with that astounding Ned-Cersei face-off. I loved everything about this war of words, particularly the speed in which the writers are burning through plot. They could just have easily had Ned hold on to the Lannister secret for a bunch of episodes, but they had him immediately confront Cersei with the truth (I know they follow the source material, but it’s still pretty quick). Of course Cersei’s reaction is phenomenal: not only does she defend the incest and cites the Targaryens as proof, we discover why she hates the Starks so much: all Robert could think of on their wedding night was poor Lyanna Stark. Ouch! And of course her line (captioned above) is a hefty bit of foreshadowing while cleverly namedropping the show’s title. Too good!
You Win or You Die is also notable for its introduction of the infamous Tywin Lannister, played to perfection by Charles Dance. He only gets one scene, but boy is it a good one. The character is introduced as he savagely skins a stag while belittling the all-powerful Jaime Lannister like any good father would. Their conversation is tremendously enlightening, revealing just how much weight Tywin places on the Lannister name, and how much of a disappointment he considers Jaime to be (“a glorified bodyguard”). More of him please!
And then there’s Robert’s accident during the hunt (perhaps that pesky Lannister squire gave him too much wine?). Mark Addy is terrific on his death-bed, conveying a whole lot of pathos and regret, while Ned cleverly rewords his will to “heir” instead of explicitly stating the name Joffrey. Robert’s regret is also evident by his decision to stop the assassination attempt on Dany (too late, but it’s the thought that counts).
And then Robert dies and all hell breaks loose: Renly skips town, and Cersei promptly places Joffrey on the Iron Thorne as Ned reveals Robert’s latter. Naturally an all-out battle erupts leading up to Littlefinger pulling a dagger on Ned’s throat with the prophetic line “I did warn you not to trust me.” Damn!
Bits & Beheadings
– Great touch with Tywin mentioning that he doesn’t want the Lannister name to fall like the Targaryen name did.
– The scene in which Littlefinger directs Ros and the other prostitute in their love-practice session is insanely gratuitous and pornographic. Nevertheless, if you manage to listen (and I wouldn’t blame you if you got distracted), it reveals a lot about Littlefinger: he’s only ever loved one woman (Catelyn), and he believes you can’t beat those in power by being honourable.
– Greyjoy’s scene with Osha the Wildling prisoner is brief yet amusing. She sure answers back a lot!
– If I needed any more reason to love Jorah, he went on ahead and saved Dany from the wine poisoning. Good man!
Benjen’s horse returned to the Night’s Watch on its own. Hmm…
– The fact that Snow was assigned a steward and not a ranger? Not cool!
– It says a lot about Littlefinger’s character when he tries to convince Ned to keep the Lannister secret so that they can use Joffrey as their puppet. This throne business really is a game!
– All this talk about Stannis Baratheon, I can’t wait to meet him!
– Bone-chilling sequence with a worried Drogo vowing to get his son to the Iron Thorne after the attempt on Dany’s life. His speech in Dothraki is quite intense, and it’s Jason Momoa’s best performance thus far. But can we please not “rape women?”
– Even more full-frontal male nudity: the assassin being forced to walk naked while being dragged by Dany. Akh!
– Cersei reaction to Robert’s letter is priceless; she casually tears it to pieces like a boss.
Kings & Quips
Tywin: I suppose I should be grateful that your vanity got in the way of your recklessness.
Cersei: My brother is worth a thousand of your friend.
Ned: Your brother… Or your lover?
Cersei: The Targaryens wed brothers and sisters for 300 years to keep bloodlines pure. Jaime and I are more than brother and sister. We shared a womb. We came into this world together. We belong together.
Cersei: In the rare event that Robert leaves his whores for long enough to stumble drunk into my bed, I finish him off in other ways. In the morning, he doesn’t remember.
Ned: Because wherever you go, Robert’s wrath will follow you.
Cersei: And what of my wrath, Lord Stark?
Littlefinger: I’m not going to fight them. I’m going to fuck them.
Ros: And what do you want?
Littlefinger: Oh, everything, my dear. Everything there is.
Ned: I’ll do everything I can to honor your memory.
Robert: My memory. King Robert Baratheon, murdered by a pig.
Ned: What you suggest is treason.
Littlefinger: Only if we lose.
Another episode, another rich hour packed with complex motivations and shocking developments.