This review contains spoilers.
7. You Win Or You Die
Like Peter Jackson with the Lord Of The Rings trilogy, the Game Of Thrones writers aren’t slavishly sticking to what happens in any particular book, and have littered their adaptation with the seeds of plotlines to come and little nods to the fans. For newcomers to the show, the small scene of Ser Jorah receiving a pardon from Varys may not seem like much, but for those who’ve read the books, this is a nice little touch about what’s to come.
Don’t worry, that is in no way a spoiler. Neither is the fact that the scene with Tywin Lannister (played by the wonderful Charles Dance) and Jaime started the episode so strongly that I wondered if the rest would live up to its heights.
Gutting a deer while chastising his son for not killing Ned, Tywin is the very essence of an overbearing father. With a hint of menace in everything he says and does, Tywin cares about his family’s legacy most of all, and is not above berating his son for daring to place his ego above the family name.
Why is that important? Well, the time for the Lannisters to rise has come. With Robert dead from a hunting accident (where young Lancel Lannister had been plying him with fortified wine), King’s Landing is set to explode, with all sides itching to seize power.
For Ned, his loyalty is to Robert, and ensuring the kingdom is placed in the hands of a true heir is of the utmost importance. In his eyes, this is Robert’s eldest brother, Stannis, who may be a good soldier, but in the eyes of Renly, would be a disaster as a king.
Unsurprisingly, the younger Baratheon believes he would make the best successor and begins his bid to win the crown. Meanwhile, Cersei places Joffrey on the throne in order to cement the family’s power in the Seven Kingdoms.
There’s everything to play for, but only one man holds the key to seizing the throne and that’s the man who pays the city’s guard. It’s just a shame he’s a conniving bastard.
Littlefinger is arguably one of the most layered and interesting characters in the saga, and Aidan Gillen plays him with complete relish. The scene in which he recounts how he fought for the love of Catelyn, only to be physically bested by Ned’s brother, shows that he’s a man who opts for slyness over swordplay. Not only does his final reveal show the true intent of how far he will go to screw over the type of men who have always stood over him, but it shows he’s not afraid to screw over his closest allies.
Littlefinger’s practicality also extends to his business practices, as he coaches Ros and another whore in how to adequately perform for their clientele. I’m a bit bemused at why Ros seems to be cropping up everywhere, but I trust the writers know what they’re doing and can only hope they have a plan for her.
Planning the development of (currently) minor characters is something the writers are doing well, with this episode even featuring a little clash between Theon Greyjoy, Maester Luwin and the newly imprisoned Osha (Hey! It’s Natalia Tena, Tonks from Harry Potter!), a Wildling who is fleeing the growing evil in the North.
Speaking of the North, it’s been two episodes since we’ve seen Jon Snow, Samwell Tarly and the Night’s Watch, but it’s like we’ve never been away, with the young men about to take their vows. Not only is the direwolf, Ghost, prominently featured now, but the Night’s Watch role is about to be revealed, with Jon’s uncle going missing on a patrol.
What lies out there? Is The Wall about to be attacked? And whose hand has Ghost found? It also helps that Samwell Tarly is one of this writer’s favourite characters and his naivety, optimism and awkwardness around the cooler, more distant Jon Snow makes for a nice break from the darker stuff. Such as poisoning a pregnant lady.
If you are going to assassinate Daenerys, is poison really the best way to go? It’s never going to be easy when she’s surrounded by her blood riders, but this assassin deserves to be caught for his sheer ineptness. Ah well, the scene is now set for Khal Drogo to launch his own D-Day of Westeros. I’d hate to be the ‘men of iron’ he aims to smash. For when that man is in a rage, you can see why he got the role of Conan. He’s terrifying.
In fact, so much happened in this episode that I feel I haven’t even scratched the surface. Plus, it wasn’t until the credits rolled that I realised we hadn’t seen Tyrion at all. And I didn’t even mind.
Read our review of episode 6, A Golden Crown, here.
Game Of Thrones is screened in the UK on Sky Atlantic every Monday night.