In honor of the title of this episode, let’s look at episode four through three different yet similar lenses:
Cripples: Poor Bran, dreaming of useful legs and three-eyed crows (yikes), but waking up to a depressing world in which he is carried around the castle in the arms of a simple-minded giant. His hope of one day becoming a knight is mostly dead, though a spark of hope comes through when Tyrion stops by Winterfell to offer a specially designed saddle that will let Bran ride a horse again. The gift is a nice gesture of compassion, from one cripple (Tyrion, in a way, because his size so limits his mobility) to another, in a world that seems to lack any compassion. But Tyrion does seem to have an ulterior motive when he questions Bran about what he can remember from his fall, so we are left wondering whether this latest visit to Winterfell was really a kind-hearted gesture, or more of a reconnaissance mission. Or was it both?
Bastards: Jon seems to be settling well into life on the Wall, but the arrival of the bumbling, overweight, pathetic Sam complicates things. While Jon stands up for the new recruit, protecting him from the violence of the other recruits and the spite of their drillmaster, we can see that he quickly becomes disgusted with Sam’s cowardice; one of Jon’s friends acts as if the condition could be contagious. It’s not until Sam tells his backstory, explaining that his father gave him the choice of service in the Night’s Watch or untimely death in a hunting “accident” that Jon warms up to him; Sam is de-legitimized and disinherited by his father because he’s soft and weak, making him a bastard just as much as Jon. If you had forgotten the story of Grenn (or was it Pyp? I forget) from last week, who was exiled to the wall because he stole a wheel of cheese to feed his starving sister, Sam’s story of familial exile reinforces that the world of Westeros is a harsh and brutal place. Now that Jon has taken Sam under his wing, though, we know he’s carrying around a liability. Will Sam’s weakness come back to hurt Jon and the rest of the Night’s Watch somehow? Winter is coming, as we’ve been told, and it’s not for the weak.
Broken Things: In this episode, Dany really comes into her own. She refuses to let her tyrant of an older brother command her any longer, and she comes to the realization that he is inherently broken. Viserys is cruel, capricious, vain, and arrogant and because of these qualities, could never become a leader effective enough to win a kingdom, let alone rule as a king. Speaking of broken kings, if there weren’t enough hints by now, this episode really drives it home that Robert is an awful king. We only see him on screen once, shouting drunkenly at people to start the jousting tournament before he “pisses himself,” though later on we do hear him involved in some sort of orgy with at least half a dozen women. Sure, he hasn’t gone around burning people alive like the Mad King, but Robert’s negligence has damaged the realm, and allowed Kings Landing to grow into the nest of vipers, full of plots, counterplots, and spies, that Ned now finds himself entangled in. Dany has all the good qualities that Robert and Viserys lack: she’s charismatic, kind when necessary, but also just and fair. If anyone, at this point, deserves to sit on the Iron Throne, it’s probably her.
* I really loved the scene with Sansa and her tutor in the throne room. Seeing the squalor of the Kingsroad and Kings Landing has really disabused her of her previously romantic notions of brave, just knights and kind high-born ladies. She now knows that her “noble prince” is a pretty bad egg, the kind of person who would blame her if she doesn’t produce any male heirs, and she’s justifiably worried.
* We didn’t see much of Arya in this episode, but there was an interesting scene where Ned sits her down and sketches her future out for her. She’ll marry, run a lord’s household, and her sons could be warriors and knights. Very calmly, she tells Ned that life is not for her. While it may not be what she wants, it’s what is expected of her by society. So far in the show, we’ve seen that bad things tend to happen to those who try to buck social conventions in Westeros, (remember the poor butcher’s boy?) so it makes you wonder how the hammer will fall on her for her unladylike aspirations.
* I felt like this episode moved rather fast. There was a lot of exposition, and honestly, Ned’s continued investigation into Jon Arryn’s death was a little unclear to me. Once again, though, the ending was great. Catelyn arrests Tyrion for Bran’s attempted murder, saying that she’ll take him to Winterfell to receive justice. This certainly seems like a bold, maybe reckless move on her part, since she still doesn’t have conclusive evidence that Tyrion was behind the plot. While it seems clear that the Lannisters (or at least Cersi) aren’t the biggest fans of the misfit Tyrion, he’s still one of their blood, and I doubt they’ll take an insult to their house like this lying down. No matter what happens, Ned, Arya, and Sansa’s position in Kings Landing just got much more tenuous and dangerous, which is the last thing they needed.