Wow, just… wow. All that exposition, all the world-building and history lessons from the previous episodes was set down to support the crazy amount of action that happened in this episode. And by action I mean extreme, crazy violence. And the sex of course. The joust between Ser Loras and The Mountain serves as a good metaphor for viewing this episode and the previous one. Small actions (Loras’s trick with his horse compared to Catelyn’s arrest of Tyrion) result in brutal, violent consequences (The Mountain’s murderous rage, compared with the brutal Stark/Lannister fight at the end of the episode). All throughout this episode, things go from relatively normal to stunningly violent in the blink of an eye. If the court intrigues of the last few episodes seemed slow or boring, this episode exists to remind us that they have very real, very dangerous consequences. Cat’s well-meaning but misguided attempt at vengeance against the Lannisters has clearly set something really big in motion. The results have already been damaging to Ned, and deadly to his loyal men at arms. How much more will the situation snowball from here? A few thoughts below:
* Lets get to the violence first, and holy crap, was there a lot of it. A horse beheading, multiple throat-slittings, a shield bashed head, spear-skewerings, and a dagger through an eyeball. I’m sure I’m missing something in there. I remember the horse-killing from the book, but I was convinced that there was no way they’d show it on film. I was wrong. Poor horse… I’m not one to quail at the sight of a little blood, but at first some of the blood-spilling seemed almost gratuitous. Now that I think on it, I see that it serves an important story point. After a few episodes light on the action, the audience needed to be reminded that this is a dangerous, violent world and that actions have consequences. Furthermore, swords are brutal weapons. They’re intended to sever and dismember; it makes sense that we’re seeing the up-close, messy nature of medieval personal combat. But still, wow… It was really graphic.
* The scene with Cat’s sister and her son in the Eyrie was freaky; the sight of an eight year old or so still breast-feeding was grotesque, and the washed out blue color of the throne room gave the whole thing a nightmarish quality. Cat and Tyrion were both shocked by Lysa’s madness, and again Cat wonders if she’s made a huge mistake by bringing Tyrion to the Eyrie for justice.
* Lysa’s weak, infantilized son (I think his name was Robin) was quite a contrast to Bran. Despite his physical disabilities, Bran is in every way stronger, and wiser than his cousin. He’s still just a boy, though, and I thought he did a great job masking his sadness at his mother’s absence with a ten year old’s petulance during his unwanted heraldry lesson. This scene just drove home Cat’s stubbornness to me. She should be at Winterfell with Bran, but instead she’s pursuing a vendetta that does nothing but put her husband and daughters in harms way.
* Many reviewers really loved the Robert and Cersi scene, in which the two share a brief few minutes of reflection on their sham of a marriage. I thought it was well done, and gave Cersi some added depth of character. It was particularly painful to see her ask Robert if there had ever been any hope for them, only to see him dismiss her without much of a thought. For some reason, though, the scene didn’t hold my attention steadily, and my mind kept wandering on to other things.
* The showdown between Jaime and Ned at the end of the episode was brilliant. I will need to watch the episode again, just for that. Jaime and Ned never got to cross swords in the book, so I think it was a real treat to see them squaring off against each other here. I think Ned would have won. Damn that insolent guardsman…
* And finally, no Jon or Dany this evening, which is too bad because right now, their storylines are the most interesting to me. Based on the previews, though, it looks like we’ll be seeing a lot of at least Dany next week.