This review contains spoilers.
4. Cripples, Bastards And Broken Things
The great thing about this show is the detail. Not only is every aspect of the production given minute care and attention, but it comes through even in the show’s opening titles, which change each week to show where our characters will be, in proportion to each other.
This week, some of the action takes place in the new location of Vaes Dothrak, the Dothraki capital, and as such, the opening titles feature a new city erupting from the landscape. It’s little details like this that make this author a happy fanboy. Anyway, on with the review.
Cripples, Bastards And Broken Things focuses on arguably the most interesting characters and aspects of the show: Tyrion, Jon Snow, The Night’s Watch and life at The Wall.
The Night’s Watch has a new recruit in the form of Samwell Tarly, a soft young man who’s been forced into the order by his father as an alternative to death. As a coward and a weakling, Sam’s father deemed him unworthy to be his heir and threatened to kill him unless he ‘took the Black’, so now he finds himself among criminals, rapists, former knights and Jon Snow. Unsurprisingly, the other recruits are quick to pick on the dim-witted young man, but after an intervention of Snow’s part (with the help of Ghost, who finally makes a return appearance), it isn’t long before Samwell starts to make friends and open up about his messed up family.
On the subject of sons who disappoint their fathers, Tyrion has returned to Winterfell to check up on the crippled Bran at the behest of his stepbrother. Bran is now being carried around by the large but simple-minded Hodor (“Hodor!”), but Tyrion, who knows his family is responsible, provides the plans for a saddle that may enable the young Stark to ride horses again. Untrusted by the rest of Winterfell, Tyrion opts to stay at a local whorehouse, but not before trading words with a character who has, up till now, remained in the background: Theon Greyjoy (played by Alfie Allen, son of Keith, brother of Lily).
Theon is not a son of Ned Stark, but is instead his ward. He was taken as a hostage ten years ago and is the son of Balon Greyjoy, a lord of the Iron Islands, who tried to seek independence many years ago. Instead of treating Theon like a prisoner, Ned has raised him like a son, and it is not surprising that many viewers may have confused the young man as another Stark. Unfortunately, despite being raised well, there’s still some resentment in Theon, and Tyrion is quick to spot that, chiding him for his dual identity as a hostage and banner man of the Starks. Again, he’s seemly another character in Westeros full of resentment at his father (or father figure), and struggling to make his own impact on the world.
Meanwhile, father figures are at the forefront of Ned Stark’s mind as he begins to put together why Jon Arryn, the former hand, may have been killed. It seems that King Robert had a bastard son. Considering a bastard son may jeopardise the offspring of Cersei Lannister, Ned’s suspicions are compounded when he’s confronted in his quarters by the queen, who underlines her threats that anyone who’s not her family is regarded as an enemy. When you see her scenes with the young Joffrey, her love towards him is clear, but considering her close relationship with her brother, you get the impression it’s a mere few steps from being a full-blown Oedipus complex.
As Ned attempts to discover the truth, a tournament, or tourney, goes forward to honour the king’s new hand. Unfortunately, a potential witness to Robert’s bastard’s identity comes to a tragic end.
It’s during scenes such as the tournament that the writers manage to try and cram in as much backstory to the characters as possible. One neat little scene sees Littlefinger educate Sansa in the history of some of the realm’s more brutal characters, such as Sandor Clegane, aka The Hound.
Another ‘broken thing’ in the land of Westeros, The Hound is a hired thug who sports some disfiguring burns courtesy of his brother, Gregor Clegane, aka The Mountain. (These guys have some great nicknames!) Ar similar scene has Viserys (Harry Lloyd) educate Daenerys’ bedmaid about his family’s history, his claim to the iron throne and the importance of dragons. It’is a wonderful example of concise and succinct screenwriting.
In such a crammed episode, it’s amazing how many other little side character moments the writers manage to fit in: Arya practising her swordplay while informing her father that the future he envisions for her isn’t the one she wants, Sansa’s longing to become a queen, and Daenerys’ clash with Viserys over who truly holds the power in the family.
Meanwhile, the end of episode shows that Tyrion’s days of mocking those around him may have come to head, as Catelyn rallies banner men and bar patrons to her cause to arrest the Lannister she believes is responsible for the attempted murder of her son.