I was already enjoying Game of Thrones, but maybe this will be the week where I decided I really loved it. If the next couple of episodes are up to this standard, that will surely be the case.
It would be hard to cove all the ways in which this episode, “The Wolf and the Lion”, kicked ass. Yes, it was a return to the extreme violence and sex of the first couple of episodes – but damn, it was used effectively here. There was no much more, though – great scenes loud and quiet, interior and exterior. It says something of the quality of the cast that two settings that were major parts of the first four episodes – John Snow and the Black Watch and the Targaryan siblings with the Dothraki – could be completely absent without the episode missing a beat.
I think my favorite among all the great moments was the quiet, resigned conversation between Robert and the Queen. This was the week Mark Addy really leapt out of the pack – his performance was spectacular top to bottom. But that conversation – two political spouses calmly talking about 17 years of loathing and pain – was like nothing else I’ve seen in ages. The hint of affection was there – just enough to make the scene doubly tragic.
It would be hard to point to one scene that was the most surprising or shocking. Perhaps the defeated Mountain beheading his own horse at the tournament? Catelyn’s sister breastfeeding her son Robin – a boy, way, way too old to be breastfeeding? Loras shaving Renly’s chest before giving him oral sex? Jaime Lannister’s eye-stabbing? All gold, every minute of it. God bless HBO!
Two themes of this ep were certainly family and treachery. It becomes more clear with each passing day that the Capitol is a den of vipers, a place Ned Stark is clearly ill-suited for as a man of honor. And indeed, his refusal to sanction the murder of the now-pregnant Danerys stamps his as a man of honor, even as it loses him his role as The King’s Hand. The treachery of Littlefinger and Verys (Spider) is a joy to watch – each working to out-sneak the other and vying for Ned’s favor. Verys is revealed – via Arya’s keen ears – as a threat of a much more immediate nature.
Things are left in quite a state, now. Tyrion is imprisoned by Lysa, who appears to be truly, delightfully mad – even as Catelyn begins to doubt his guilt. Ned is preparing to flee the capitol after being sacked – taking one last chance to try and lamp out just what led to John Arryn’s death – when Jaime Lannister and his men accost him, severely wounding him and killing his men. As always, this is a show that knows the art of the cliffhanger.