Synopsis: Our first introduction to the great Tywin Lannister (Charles Dance), and as befitting the character, his first scene is him skinning a stag (foreshadowing the episode’s big death?) while he shames Jaime. We then go back to King’s Landing where Ned confronts Cersei. He pulls a Maury and says he knows Jaime is the father of her children and not the King. She doesn’t deny it. Clear sexposition scene as Baelish coaches a couple of his naked whores on how to please men, while also explaining how deep his affection for Catelyn is. Theon taunts Osha before Luwin interrupts. Osha talks of the White Walkers, creatures that Luwin is sure have been dead for hundreds of years (but being dead and being a threat aren’t mutually exclusive, are they?). On the wall, Jon Snow bromances with Samwell, talking about girls until they see Benjen’s horse, sans Benjen. Renley finds Ned to tell him about Robert, he’s had a hunting accident. Robert, grumbling in bed, says goodbye to Joffrey as Ned arrives, Cersei and the others standing by. Robert sends everyone out, and has Ned take a letter, naming him the Lord Regent ruling in his stead until Joffrey comes of age, but sneaky Ned changes the language to read “rightful heir” instead, knowing that Joffrey is not legitimate.
Ned learns from Varys and Selmy that Robert may have been poisoned as it was a Lannister (Lancel) that handled his wine. Ned also tries to call off Robert’s attempt at assassinating Dany, but Varys says those birds have flown. Dany and Drogo get shmoopy before Dany walks into town with Jorah, discussing the rightful heir of the seven kingdoms. Jorah is handed a royal pardon from one of Varys’ little birds as he watches Dany with a local merchant. The merchant offers Dany some wine but Jorah stops it as everyone slowly understands that it’s likely poisoned, the merchant running away before taking a sip himself was the big tip off. Jeor rallies the Night’s Watch troops, as Jon, Samwell and the others get the sorting hat into their official roles. Thorne has put Snow into the Seward’s group, which Jon is none too psyched for.
Renly offers help to Ned because he knows that Cersei doesn’t give a crap about Robert’s wishes, but Renly has designs on the throne himself. Ned and Littlefinger discuss succession. As Robert’s kids are really Jamie’s, succession falls to Stannis, but Baelish thinks they should keep that info to themselves. As Jon and Samwell take their oaths, Ghost is busy finding severed hands. Robert’s plot against Dany has energized Drogo to take the iron throne. By episode’s end Robert has passed, Renly has taken off, and Ned is called in front of the new King-Joffrey. It…does not go well for Ned. He presents Robert’s letter, but Cersei rips it up, and then demands Ned take a knee for Joffrey. Gang signs are thrown, swords are drawn, blood is spilled, and Baelish puts a knife to Ned’s throat.
Comments: Heady is really amazing throughout, strong and unwavering. Alas, Benjen, we hardly knew ye. So much that when he does show up again I had completely forgotten who he was. Robert’s note suggests a happier ending with Ned on the throne and facing down his enemies, but we know it doesn’t go that way. Dany begins to really covet the throne as with Viserys’ death, it moves beyond merely an abstract thought. The introduction of the mythical Tywin Lannister is perfect and even though he doesn’t share any scenes with Cersei and Tyrion yet, he feels connected to them instantly. With Robert’s death happening off camera, the plot shifts quite dramatically and leaves on a whatthefuck moment that is one of the show’s signatures. Really a lot of movement this episode and all of the season’s momentum picks up.
Memorable Moments: Cersei and Ned’s confrontation. Tywin’s introduction. Robert’s death happening off screen after Viserys’ demise the last episode and suddenly it’s game on for anything can happen.
Cersei: When you play the game of thrones, you win or you die. There is no middle ground. (Works as both a good marketing pull quote, a thesis statement for the series as a whole, and good foreshadowing to how the episode ends. Cersei is in it to win it, and Ned’s good nature is what prevented him from playing at her level and winning.)
Baelish: I did warn you not to trust me. (As close as he will get to a catch phrase.)
Tywin: A lion doesn’t concern himself with the opinion of a sheep.
Foreshadowing: More mentions of Stannis, and I understand his claim on the throne and his mission a little more than the first time. The stag being the sigil of house Baratheon suggests Tywin’s butchering of one in the intro akin to Cersei’s surreptitious defeat of Robert in the episode.
Title: Spoken by Cersei, obviously huge reference to the show itself and the overall challenge of Starks vs. Lannisters.
Deaths: Robert by a boar. Varly and his men after chaos erupts in the court.