Game of Thrones, Season 1, Ep 8 “The Pointy End”

Intro: I’m watching Game of Thrones for the first time. I don’t know anything about it more recent than this episode.

The pointy end indeed. Things are really stirring across the land.

The Wall: The Rangers have retrieved two frozen bodies, one missing the hand that Jon’s wolf, Ghost, recovered. They are part of Benjen’s patrol, but Benjen is not found. A raven arrives from King’s Landing, bearing the news that King Robert is dead, and Joffrey has claimed the throne. Jon wants to head south to aid his family, but the commander warns him against doing anything foolish. We know the penalty for desertion is death – as meted out by Ned himself in the very first episode. Jon seems torn between heading south to assist one half of his family, and north to look for Uncle Benjen. Since south would be desertion, it looks like he’ll settle for north.

During the night, Ghost goes wild and leads Jon to the commander’s quarters, where one of the “dead” bodies is lurching around. It attacks Jon and he kills it with fire after a few fruitless stabs of his sword right through its chest. Later, the watchmen burn both bodies, and Samwell says they must have been killed by White Walkers, thus ensuring they rose from the grave to threaten the living. It seems Jon will have his hands full without being able to help further south. If I were to make a prediction here, I’d guess the White Walkers will eventually overrun the Wall and Jon will be among a scant few survivors who are then forced to head south to warn/protect the lands further away.

Winterfell: Robb also gets a raven, carrying a message written by his sister Sansa, asking him to come south and swear fealty to King Joffrey. He interprets this correctly, as Queen Cersei’s words, with Sansa having been forced to write them (as we see in an earlier scene in this episode). Poor Sansa, naive and way out of her league, is losing the battle of conniving nastiness against Cersei.

A couple of notes about Sansa. I mentioned to my wife that Sansa always refers to her sister Arya’s sword lessons as “dancing lessons”, and that I think Sansa genuinely doesn’t know that Arya is learning to fight. Wife thinks she knows and is just being euphemistic. The other thing is that when Cersei handed her the quill, Sansa took it in her left hand. Arya fights left-handed. I don’t recall seeing which hand Ned wrote with, but I suspect it might have been the left as well. An interesting defining feature for House Stark, if it follows the bloodline.

Robb is between a rock and a hard place. He knows he has to aid his father and sisters in King’s Landing, but has the new King’s orders to swear fealty. He decides to rally the Bannermen who are sworn to defend Winterfell, and march on King’s Landing. This is a defining moment in his young leadership. He takes his leave of Bran, telling the youngster that he is now the Stark in charge of Winterfell.

At this point I discussed with my wife. I know there are five Stark children (not counting the bastard Jon). Robb, the eldest. Sansa, Arya, Bran… I had initially thought that Theon Greyjoy was the other brother, before I knew his name and background. So I was left wondering where the other older brother is. Wife said, no, the other brother is the baby. I said, “What baby?” And just at that point, a small boy walks into Bran’s bedroom to exchange a few words, which make it clear that he is Bran’s younger brother. Wow, okay – I don’t remember seeing this kid at all before.

Later, Bran sits by a tree in the forest – the same sort of tree with big red leaves as Jon swore his oath at. It’s a weirwood tree, and it has what looks like a crude face carved into the bark, which bleeds a red sap that looks like blood. The ruffian woman who Robb spared approaches and warns Bran about the stirrings in the north. Hodor appears, naked, apparently after washing in a nearby stream. Bran orders him to go get dressed.

A reader of these posts asked me about my impression of Hodor, compared to what I thought I knew earlier from cultural osmosis. Well, I haven’t seen much of him, but it appears he’s rather simple-minded, and basically just Bran’s servant, to carry him around when he’s not riding his horse. I’d previously assumed he was a more independent person, and smarter, but so far I haven’t seen any evidence of either of those traits. I guess if Bran is in danger, Hodor will defend him, and possibly well, given he looks strong, but otherwise he seems to be a big, harmless oaf.

The Eyrie: Cat gets the bad news from King’s Landing too, and pleads with her sister Lysa to rally an army and go to Ned’s aid. Lysa refuses point blank, and Cat takes her leave. Lysa really is a nasty piece of work. She reminds me of Petunia Dursley (from Harry Potter), only worse. (Which would make Cat Lily Potter… hmmm…)

Cat somehow catches up to Robb’s war camp, and there is a mother/son reunion. It’s clear Robb is having a bit of trouble commanding respect from his followers, because of his youth, and one lord declares he is taking his men and leaving. Another (or maybe the same one) calls him “boy”, and Robb locks a steely look on his face, approaches to within a few centimetres, and says grimly, “Call me ‘boy’ again.” The man (who is much taller than Robb) stares for a moment, then backs down. Robb seems to have established his manhood right there. Good on him.

Lannister camp: Tywin has already headed into the field, with an impressive array of men and red tents with golden lion banners. This is a guy who knows how to wage war.

Tyrion meanwhile has been walking through the wilderness with his champion. It seems they didn’t really know one another well before, and the champion now claims that Tyrion owes him one. They are ambushed by a group of wild men in horny helmets. Tyrion, as he usually does, talks his way out of it by promising them riches and dominion over the land once the local ruling lords have been defeated.

Tyrion saunters into his father’s war camp with the wild men in tow. After some perfunctory greetings, Tyrion says he has promised the wild men some lands, and a Lannister always pays his debts. Tywin says to the wild men that if they join his army he will give them double what Tyrion promised. They accept, but only if Tyrion rides with them too.

Dothraki lands: The Dothraki are on the move. They attack a local village. The Dothraki men want to claim raping rights to the subjugated women, but Daenerys intervenes and claims the women as hers. The men are angry, but Drogo backs up his wife. One man is angry enough to challenge Drogo.

Big mistake. Big, big mistake. Huge.

Drogo drops his weapons and rips the man’s tongue out bare-handed. Although armed with a scythe-like sword, the man only manages a scratch on Drogo’s chest before being disemvowelled (and disconsonanted too). Drogo is happy to ignore the wound, but one of the village women Daenerys saved says she should mix an ointment for it, lest it fester. The Dothraki are sceptical, but Drogo nods grudging assent.

Okay, time for an analysis. Daenerys is starting to gather her own army of women, right under Drogo’s nose. I foresee one of two outcomes: (a) Daenerys drags the Dothraki, kicking and screaming, out of their barbarian state and into the more cosmopolitan world of Westeros. This addresses the very thing holding them back – their reluctance to embrace new ideas. Daenerys is slowly forging the Dothraki into a much more formidable force than they could ever be on their own. Look out. Or…

(b) Daenerys begins building her own loyal band of followers within the Dothraki horde. At the moment she seems like she genuinely loves Drogo… but I would not be at all surprised if this is all an act. And at some point she betrays Drogo and manages to kill him. Drogo seems totally indestructible, but he is vulnerable in exactly one spot – his affection for Daenerys. She is the one person perfectly placed to undo him. Once she has enough power in her own hands… Well, look out Drogo. Don’t say I didn’t warn you. I can totally see Denerys with a horde of women warriors (and any males not foolish enough to defy her) overrunning the Seven Kingdoms. Daenerys is smart, unlike her dear departed brother. She’s managed to learn the Dothraki language pretty fluently in a very short time. Ambition and drive like that – you don’t want to get in the way.

King’s Landing: The episode actually opens with fighting in the palace, following directly from the end of last episode. Sansa is taken aback by the sounds of combat and her elderly handmaiden tells her to hide. Arya is in the middle of a “dancing lesson” with Syrio, practising with wooden swords, when guardsmen arrive to take her into custody. Syrio, using just his wooden sword, defeats 3 or 4 men armed with steel and clad in armour, while Arya runs for safety. A final guardsman chops Syrio’s wooden sword to uselessness, and the scene cuts, so we don’t see the outcome.

Arya searches through her stuff for Needle, her real sword, as a boy comes running up and orders her to surrender herself. Arya stabs him with the pointy end, earning her first kill, and runs off. We don’t see her again for the remainder of the episode. Presumably she’s gone into hiding somewhere and will emerge to perform some heroics when needed. At least I hope so – she is a good, strong character who I really want to see win.

Cersei summons Sansa and forces her to write the letter which Robb receives. There is some court intrigue conversation, which isn’t nearly as memorable as all the action happening in this episode. We see Ned stuck in a dungeon cell. Varys brings him some water and news, but Ned’s situation looks hopeless. Ned asks Varys who he serves. Varys answers, “The realm. Someone has to do it.”

Joffrey holds court, sitting on the Iron Throne. It’s interesting: In all the time King Robert was alive, we never saw him sitting on the throne once. Now that Joffrey has claimed it, we haven’t seen him anywhere but sitting on the throne. One might conclude he has a bit of a complex. It’s certainly highly symbolic. Anyway, Joffrey orders some armies around to stop the Starks. Then he decomissions the captain of the guard, an older man, but still in fighting fit condition, blaming him for being too slow and old. Joffrey appoints Jaime (in absentia) the new captain. The old captain throws his sword on the floor and walks off in disgust. Keep an eye out for him to return and play some part in trying to overthrow Joffrey later.

Sansa appears and begs to speak. She tearfully pleads mercy for her father. Cersei says Ned is a traitor, and hints there might possibly, maybe, be a slight chance of something a bit like mercy (but you can feel the fingers crossed behind her back), if Sansa convinces Ned to confess. She meekly agrees. Roll credits.

Gosh, a lot can happen in one episode.

One Response to “Game of Thrones, Season 1, Ep 8 “The Pointy End””

  1. Chuk says:

    Ha, this is like watching them all over again. Good writeups, thanks for doing this.

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