I’m going to start this review at the end of the episode, I think, and focus on Sansa’s desperate plea to King Joffrey on behalf of her father. Sansa has been a tough character to like; she’s spoiled, self-centered, and wholly consumed by her idealized vision of noble knights, graceful ladies, and courtly love. She can easily frustrate the average post-modern viewer, who just can’t understand her inability to snap out of her dreamworld and face reality. But we have to remember that she is a teenaged girl, living in a world roughly analogous to a historical period long before our cynical, jaded modern age. She wants to believe that everyone around her is good and noble because she has no reference point for anything else, and if she’s a little self-centered, well… she’s a teenager; we were all like that once.
But after Ned’s imprisonment and the brutal deaths of the rest of the Stark followers, Sansa may finally be realizing how little the real world conforms to the stories of chivalry that she was raised on. She is a hostage now, surrounded by enemies and, unlike her sister, with no physical way of fighting back. She could have remained quiet and silent, hiding in the background in the hopes that she would be little noticed and therefore safe. Instead, she puts herself at risk by begging for her father’s life to a King she knows is cruel and capricious. At the end of her speech to the King, she says that if Joffrey has any love left for her, he will spare her father. The whole thing is a calculated attempt to save Ned, and she uses the only weapons available to her (her beauty and her courtly manners) to sway the King and the crowd of petitioners in the throne room to her side. The more I think about the scene, the more I think that it might be one of the most courageous acts that anyone’s undertaken in the series so far.
Lots of other things happened in this episode too, but Sansa’s act of courage really stood out to me. Either way, things are quickly moving towards a conclusion. I predict a battle or two next week.
* Sansa’s nurse/Septa was pretty courageous too, to stand in the hall and block the Lannister guardsmen. Though we didn’t see her killed on camera, she sure showed a lot of bravery.
* Speaking of courage, it was really impressive to watch Arya’s dancing master Syrio take out a handful of armored knights with his wooden practice sword. He sacrifices himself (presumably, since we don’t actually see his death on screen) so that Arya can escape.
* Arya learns the harsh purpose of her dancing training when she stabs the stableboy with her sword. I felt like this scene lacked a bit of emotional punch; I’m not sure if it was because of the staging, which felt a little wooden, or simply because the poor stable boy wasn’t much of an actor.
* Robb has raised an army to free his father. Though we hadn’t seen much of him in the previous episodes, we got a lot of him this week and it’s interesting to watch him quickly grow into an impressive leader. I’m not sure what he was doing when he let the Lannister spy go; was he trying to send the spy back to Tywin with bad information, or was he simply making it clear to his warlords that he has the final word?
* Some great emotion passed between Catelyn and Robb when they met in the army camp. I can’t imagine it’s easy to see your teen-aged son march off to war so suddenly.
* I think that some of the sword-fighting action in this series has been a little bit clunky, but the fight between Jon and the snow zombie was, for me, totally heart-pounding. I loved the speed at which the zombie got up from the floor, pulled Jon’s sword out of its chest, and rushed towards Jon and the Commander. Jon was quick enough to snatch the red-hot lantern from the Commander’s hands and pitch it at the monster, which promptly went up in flames.
* Finally, Dany and the Dothraki… Dany seemed quite disturbed that the Dothraki were pillaging an innocent village and forcing its people into slavery, but as Jorah said, they need gold for ships. The least she can do is keep all the women from being brutally raped, which sparks a confrontation between Drogo and one of his captains. That fight scene was also brilliantly done, and ends gruesomely when Drogo tears the other man’s tongue out of his mouth. Drogo is wounded in the fight, though, and because of Dany’s urging, allows one of the newly captured slaves to tend to his wound. Would you really want someone whose village you just destroyed to help heal one of your wounds? Doesn’t sound like a good idea to me.