A Dissertation of Ice & Fire – Episode #5

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In today’s entry of a Dissertation of Ice & Fire we’re going to be tackling the most recent episode of Game of Thrones titled “The Wolf & The Lion.” For those who are not paying attention close enough to grasp the house sigils yet the Wolf is in reference to the Starks and the Lion is for House Lannister. The title foreshadows the events that lead to a “holy shit!”of an ending. But, let us start from the beginning.

This week’s episode begins with Ned continuing his investigation of Jon Arryn’s death as he meets Ser Barristan. We get a brief history of their past and how much of a former badass “Barristan the Bold” used to be. He also mentions King Robert plans to compete in the tournament today. This leads Ned to talk with the King about how poor of a decision that would be. That leads to another scene with Sean Bean and Mark Addy that just continues to show their incredible charisma together. I can’t say enough how much Addy is knocking this role out of the park thus far. Also, a nice add in of Robert’s helmet with the stag horns in the background was nice for longtime fans. For those who missed it, that’s the helmet Robert wore in the rebellion when he slew Prince Rhaegar Targaryen. I love these little additions they’re making for us fanboys.

Then we get the conclusion of The Hand’s Tournament and things start to go crazy. We finally get to see Ser Loras Tyrell, The Knight of Flowers, in action as he takes on “The Mountain” Gregor Clegane. But beforehand he gives a red rose to Sansa making her quickly forget about Joffrey, who still isn’t speaking to her, and quickly changing her affections towards Ser Loras. This, as we see later, shows that Sansa really knows how to pick the wrong guys. After seeing Gregor kill Ser Hugh in the last episode, Sansa fears for Loras until he unseats Gregor with his lance. Littlefinger points out that Loras’ mare being in heat made Gregor’s horse cost him the joust. The Mountain, enraged either at his horse or the fact that he lost the joust calls for his sword and takes his fury out on the poor beast. In what will likely get animal rights activists in a tizzy again, Gregor cuts the horse’s head off in a very graphic scene that actually had me yelling “Ohhhhhh!!!!!” when I saw it. And I knew it was coming. Props to HBO for not holding back on the violence and realism there. But back to Gregor, who then goes after Loras. As soon as he is about to deliver the killing blow on the Knight, his brother Sandor intervenes and the two massive men fight it out until King Robert demands they stop. A scene that was almost page-for-page from the book and extremely well done.

We then catch up with what has become of Tyrion, who has been taken captive by Lady Stark in last week’s final scene. Tyrion realizes that they are going to The Vale to face punishment for his “crimes” under the rule of Lysa Arryn, Catelyn’s sister. Tyrion continues to talk of how big of a reward his father would be offering for his safe return. This is something that certainly seems to get the attention of Bronn, a sell sword. Then they are attacked by a group of mountain clansmen and guys start falling left and right. Catelyn takes cover and Tyrion decides this is his chance to make his escape. However, he sees Catelyn about to be killed and he attacks her assailant from behind and proceeds to cave in his skull with a shield. Another scene of very welcome gratuitous violence. A terrific action scene that also sees Bronn and Ser Rodrick showing off their skills with a blade. Surely, this had to satisfy the viewers that were clamoring for some action. But why would Tyrion save Lady Stark if he was the evil mastermind she seems to think he is?

In a scene added for the series, we got some more exposition on Theon Greyjoy and see entirely too much of him for my taste. And I don’t mean the backstory, that part was great. But I didn’t really need full frontal male nudity. What can I say? I’m a selfish bastard like that. HBO seems to be equal opportunity when it comes to those depictions. Still, this scene gave some great fuel to the blaze Theon eventually becomes in the series a little earlier than usual. A terrific setup for a character that many non-readers probably didn’t understand up to this point.

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Back at King’s Landing Arya is continuing her unique dancing training by chasing cats. It sounds odd to be sure until she follows one into the dungeons and we get an incredible visual of a dragon skull. She then overhears two men plotting to have Ned dispatched in due time. Two men who I honestly didn’t know the identity of until this episode. George didn’t make it very clear in the book, but it makes sense now. Arya tells Ned what she heard but he thinks she is just being her usual immature self and shrugs it off as he is interrupted by Jory telling him that Yoren from the Night’s Watch has come to see him. Yoren tells him how Catelyn has taken Tyrion captive and Ned looks like any man would when his wife does something completely boneheaded.

Ned goes to tell Robert about what is going on but he is told that Robert needs to see him in the small council’s chambers where he tells him that he wants Daenyrus killed. Ned isn’t too thrilled with the idea of killing a little girl and he eventually resigns as Hand of The King over the decision. This doesn’t please Robert as he tells his longtime friend that he’ll cut his head off and stick it on a spike if he ever sees him again. But Ned has bigger things on his mind as he is shown immediately packing up his things to return to his daughters to Winterfell as he will ride for The Vale to stop Catelyn. But he is again interrupted, this time by Littlefinger who tells him that he knows the last person Jon Arryn spoke with.

Back at The Vale, Catelyn and company is approaching The Eyrie (The keep at The Vale) and we get an absolutely breathtaking sight of the domain — a gorgeous visage that is everything I imagined and more. Once there, we meet Lysa Arryn and her eight-year-old son, Robin… who is still breast feeding! This was a scene I surely figured they would cut out of the series but, HBO continues to not pull any punches. Lysa has gone quite insane the past five years since Catelyn saw her last and the casting is about as perfect as could be. Because she just looked batshit crazy and has Tyrion sent to a “sky cell” to rest. A sky cell is a cell that has three sides of the wall and the missing side leads out to about a five thousand foot drop. So, in essence, you can leave any time you want to. Did I mention that the floor has a slight downward slope as well? So you may not want to toss and turn in your sleep that much. Another visual that is just incredible and exactly as I pictured it. I’m still not sure if it was CG or not, but it looked fantastic. At this point it is clear that saving Catelyn’s life has had no bearing on her belief that Tyrion did conspire to kill Bran.

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Then came the controversial scene of the night. Something that was never fully explained in the books is the relationship between Ser Loras and Renly Baratheon. Many missed it judging by the fan reaction from readers of the book, but the two are indeed lovers. In those readers’ defense, it is something that is a “if you blink you’ll miss it” description in the books that doesn’t even occur until the second novel. But, HBO never passes up a moment to portray some man love and they do it here in a way that really helped set up Renly’s story for season two.

Another new scene is a conversation between Robert and Cersei that is just terrific. It answers so many questions for people new to the series and provides more backstory to how their marriage has failed to be a loving one. Two terrific actors bearing their characters’ souls. Absolutely magnificent and a more than welcome addition to the story.

In the final scene we return to Ned talking to a young whore who apparently has yet another bastard of King Robert’s who says that Jon Arryn came to talk to her but can give little in resolution to Arryn’s death. As Ned and Jory exit the brothel they are surrounded by Lannister guards and Jaime rides up and says that he knows of Ned’s wife apprehending his brother and threatens to kill Ned. Jory doesn’t like this one bit and is ready to fight. Ned tells Jaime that if he dies, so will his brother. So Jaime orders his guards to take Ned alive but to kill all of his men. More insanely graphic violence as the guards impale some of his men with spears and Ned and Jory cut through about five or six of them. Jory makes it all the way to The Kingslayer but Jaime is way too quick for him as he parries and shoves a dagger through his eye socket. Then we get an alteration from the novel as Ned and Jaime actually clash swords in a lengthy duel. Ned holds his own but is clearly not the swordsmen that Jaime is. But for some stupid reason one of the Lannister guards interferes in the fight and drives his spear through Ned’s thigh and he crumbles to the ground. Jaime, not pleased with this at all thrashes the guard and mounts his horse before proclaiming to Ned “I want my brother back.” In the novel, Jaime kills Jory but Ned doesn’t even get off his horse before it falls on top of him, breaking his leg. Another change that was clearly made for those that were thirsty for some action.

I have to say that this is probably the best episode of the show yet and it’s going to get even crazier from here on out. We’re halfway through the season and there are quite a few more twists and hard lefts to make newcomers to the series jaws drop on the floor. As for the best moments of the night:

Best Overall PerformanceMark Addy as King Robert Baratheon

Mark Addy continues to play the Baratheon King so well that I’m liking his character more than I did in the book. He is yet to have a bad scene in the series, but his scene with Cersei in this episode was his best.

Best QuoteMark Addy as King Robert Baratheon

Another win for King Robert. When Cersei asks him to tell her about Lyanna he leaves everything on the table and floored us with the words, “ Someone took her away from me and Seven Kingdoms couldn’t fill the hole she left behind.” Powerful stuff. A close second would be any line by Peter Dinklage as Tyrion. But I’m trying to let someone else get some recognition here for a change.

Best VisualThe Vale, The Eyrie & The Sky Cells

The Vale was easily the best eye candy. HBO has spared no expense at getting epic shots of the landscape and probably opening the checkbook for the special effects shots.

So, what to look forward to in next week’s episode “A Golden Crown” that wasn’t answered this week? Obviously, the aftermath of Jaime’s actions towards Ned will be first and foremost. And how does Tyrion plan to get out of the predicament he finds himself currently in? With no scenes from The Wall or across the Narrow Sea, I’m sure we’ll get a healthy dose of action from both of those. How are Sam and Jon adjusting to life in The Black? Is Viserys getting even more impatient with the Dothraki in the delay to invade Westeros? All this plus a few surprises should be addressed next week. Catch the preview below.