I guess it wouldn’t be “Game of Thrones” without at least a couple of scenes that make you cringe, and this week was no exception. While the duel in the throne room of the vale was pretty ghastly, nothing could hold a candle to the “Crown of Gold” that Viserys Targaryan wore at the close of the episode. With that, he becomes the first of the major characters to bite the dust. I strongly suspect he won’t be the last.
While Viserys was an obvious villain and a scumbag of the highest order, the majority of the episode focused on a character whose nature is far more complex – Tyrion Lannister. We saw him pretty much at his highest and lowest ebs this week. In the sky cell he was bordering on tears and reduced to pleading, trying to use his name and wealth to buy his freedom. But we also saw him at his cleverest (which is pretty damn clever) in bribing his way into the throne room to confess – and then use that opportunity not just to demand a trial, but a trial by combat.
Every scene in that throne room is cringeworthy in it’s own right. Catelyn’s sister is flat-out crazy, and seemingly sadistic to boot – I don’t know if she was driven to it by John Aryn’s death or she was like that from the beginning. And her son, Robin, is just as unsettling – the apple doesn’t seem to have fallen far from the tree with him. Surely Catelyn can see that these aren’t the people she wants to throw her lot in with – whatever the Vale was once, it’s a Hell on Earth now and certainly no haven of justice. In her defense she did look pretty uncomfortable watching what was happening – whether that was due to a growing suspicion that Tyrion was innocent or simple common decency I don’t know. But it was quite rewarding to see Bronn the Mercenary win the duel and free Tyrion, and exceedingly entertaining to hear Tyrion elaborate on the various transgressions of his youth.
Meanwhile, a wounded Ned is back as The King’s Hand – involuntarily, perhaps, and it would be wrong to suggest that things are OK between he and Robert. But the King knows damn well he needs Ned, and leaves for a hunt, putting The Hand on the throne in his absence. Ned uses the opportunity to basically declare all-out war on the Lannisters, who already seem to be declaring all-out war on the Tullys. I can’t help but feel bad for Robert – his best friend and his wife’s family are tearing each other apart and he can’t live without the both of them.
Just when I’d thought John Snow was going to be the lead character, he’s been totally absent from the show for two eps – but that’s a strength, I guess. This is a huge cast and each of their stories is interesting in it’s own right. This wasn’t quite the masterpiece last week’s episode was, but it was still excellent – especially at showing just how good the folks of the Seven Kingdoms are at behaving abominably towards each other. With humans like that, is there really even a need for the Whitewalkers? Winter may be coming, but late autumn appears to be pretty awful in its own right.