Game of Thrones Novice Recap: Baelor
Welcome to our Game of Thrones recap from a viewer who hasn’t read the books. Enjoy the love and snark.
Whoa! This week, an incredibly shocking thing happened on Game of Thrones. Khal Drogo’s horse DIES! Oh no! We are all quitting watching this show now.
Cello, cogs, RPG maps, let’s do this thing.
We start on an exhaled breath in pitch black. This dungeon is really giving the Sky Cells a run for their money in terrible prison accommodations. Varys comes to Ned and gives him some water, plus a side of gossip on current affairs. He’s fairly matter-0f-fact about his castration (Varys, not Ned), which I find inexplicably amusing. He tells Ned he’s the Master of Whisperers, which I think is a good deal better of a title than Master of the Coin or whatever Carcetti is holding onto, but also makes me think of this.
Ned is still going on about Stannis being the true heir. Give it a rest: Varys is possibly the last person who cares about this. Varys says if Ned confesses, he could go spend the rest of his days with Jon up North. Ned’s like, in that case, kill me now. Actually, what he says is “I’m a soldier. I learned how to die a long time ago.” That’s an excellent line on the one hand, but on the other hand what are you talking about.
Anyway, this scene is basically just exposition, a recap for those of you joining us in the PENULTIMATE EPISODE. Where have you been?!
Theon shoots down a bird carrying a message to some guy’s granddaughter for his birthday. Great going, Theon. She’ll be billing her therapy to you for years. Even Robb is upset. He asks something about how long it’ll be before they take Ned’s head. Oh, I’d give it another 40ish minutes SPOILER ALERT.
So, plot MacGuffin: the soldiers have to cross the bridge and old guy #453 is extracting a toll first. Catelyn goes to speak with him personally. This dude is not so nice? Imagine a cross between Quagmire and Argus Filch. Unpleasant, I know. He’s got a listless 15-year-old sitting on his lap the whole time he’s blathering at Catelyn, and after he kicks everyone out of the throne room, he tells Catelyn that “her honey is all mine.” Eeeeugh.
An ellipsis, and then Catelyn is back with bridge passage secured. Everyone’s kind of waiting for the axe to fall, and fall it does: Arya has to marry one of Quagmire’s sons, and Robb has to marry one of his daughters. Arya is laughing from miles away, but Robb’s face is nothing but stony as he inquires as to the aesthetics of the women involved. Catelyn promises nothing. Robb resignedly agrees.
Another old guy, I literally could not care less if they refuse to differentiate these characters enough, don’t email me, is giving Jon a sword. It is apparently a Big Deal, judging by the collective swoons of the fandom. I see kind of a cheap, kitschy-looking wolf handle and shrug. I discern that this Old Guy is Jorah’s dad, and I still don’t understand why of all the things in the kingdom, trading slaves was the one that disgraced Jorah and made him leave Westeros. Uh, Westeronians? You are all kind of terrible, so don’t throw terrible stones at terrible houses.
Samwise lets Jon know that his brother is Alexander the Great-ing his way into King’s Landing, and Jon is like “Peace.” ANOTHER old guy starts harassing Jon about staying and fulfilling his duties, and apparently even Jon can’t keep these guys straight, because he asks him who he is. Turns out he’s a Targaryen in hiding, who wouldn’t even leave the Wall when his family was being slaughtered. Is…this supposed to be a good, decent thing? Sure.
Anyway, they didn’t slaughter all this guy’s family, and as unfortunate evidence, here’s Dany now. Khal’s flesh wound is plaguing him, badly enough that he falls off his horse. The Dothraki are very solemn about this, because a Khal who can’t ride is no Khal at all. Which, okay. Don’t any of them ever get the flu? You don’t have to be so srs about horse riding all the time. Although, I find it very suspicious that Khal’s fairly minor wound is killing him. Is that healing sheep lady a bad healing sheep lady? (Sentences I never thought I would write!) Only time will tell.
Tyrion finds out from his father that he and the savages will be at the front of the line in the upcoming battle. Tyrion is fairly obnoxious as he complains loudly about his chance of survival. I personally find it hilarious that Tywin would go to such lengths to save his son from Catelyn’s imprisonment only to put him in a questionable military position. Apparently, the candidates for Best Dad of Westeros comprise a highly competitive field.
Tyrion’s bro goes and steals a whore for the imp. When Tyrion asks who he stole her from, the bro shrugs. I like him more already. The prostitute sasses him a little bit, but in the end she’s paid for her work and meets the boob quota this episode. We’re in debt for an equitable ratio of male to female nudity, by a long shot. The coffers of penis are woefully empty, with only Theon and Hodor’s units inhabiting the dusty corners. Alack, alas.
Back to Dany, who is an unceasing broken record this episode. “I am the Khaleesi. Save Drogo. Dragons.” That’s it from her all episode. Khal’s second in command is like, when he dies, you’re not our leader. Which: fair enough, right? This society isn’t built on bloodlines, and Jorah confirms as much. And even if it were, she’s been their queen a very short amount of time, she is a foreigner, and the Dothraki don’t exactly respect women in command. What part of this scenario makes Dany think she should stay instead of fleeing as soon as possible, I simply cannot tell you. She is a very silly child.
So, she gets the sheep lady to come heal Drogo, and asks her if she has some magic tricks to save him. The witch is all, sure, I’ll sell you a bridge in Brooklyn. To be fair, she gives Dany the rundown: it’s blood magic, it’s messy, it’s a life for a life. She says, not Dany’s life, but I don’t think she means Khal’s horse’s life, either. I’ve got a feeling it’s that baby who’s doomed. Miiiiiight have gotten the fine print in writing before signing it away, Dany. But also: even if it were just the horse, Dany really doesn’t see the connotations of killing the Warrior Stallion’s…stallion, in Dothraki culture? Okay.
Dany leaves the tent and faces off against the second in command, who at least shares the opinion with Jorah that she is insane. This dude wants to go into the tent? Which? There are a ton of scary horse/demon cries coming out of it, so I personally would stay well away. Jorah kills him. Then Dany goes into labor, so Jorah marches right into the tent with Dany in tow, which: he just killed someone for trying to go in there, then barges in himself. Practice what you preach, mister.
Tyrion is being really pushy with his college drinking buddies, and kind of grates this episode. He doesn’t want to play any physical games — “no fire games, no knife games”, and I’m kind of with him on that. It’d make a great epigraph for a tombstone, though. He wants to play some version of I Never, though, and he does fairly well guessing his bro’s life story. When he turns to the prostitute, however, he fails miserably. She’s got a very intelligent gleam in her eye, and worms the story of Tyrion’s short-lived marriage out of him. He does a bit of self-pitied suffering before telling it, which: really? You’re going to tell an established ruffian and a prostitute that your life is hard? Your privilege knapsack, check it.
As expected, Tyrion tells a fairly tame story by Westeros standards about how Jamie tricked him into marrying a prostitute who was posing as a nearly-raped damsel in distress, and then slept with the whole army on his father’s command. I mean, yikes, but have you met your dad and brother?
The prostitute wins my never-dying love by telling Tyrion he is an idiot who should have known better. “No woman who is almost raped goes to bed with another man two hours later.” SWOON, A+, WOULD WATCH AGAIN. His idiocy seems to turn her on, though, so Tyrion’s friend takes his cue and tells him to put a sock on the door before he hooks up with chicks, man.
The next morning, Tyrion gives his savages a little speech about socking it to the enemy. Ha. It’s no Braveheart, but it’ll do. He steps into the fray and immediately gets knocked out, which is so completely transparent in the showrunners’ lack of budget to show big fight scenes that I almost respect it. What that means, though, is that what transpires during the battle and the War Strategy of It All is really unclear and must be spelled out for us. Basically, Robb diverted his army into two bands, the 2,000 that attacked Tyrion & co., and the 18,000 that attacked Jamie & co. They should have at least shown Jamie being captured, because when he shows up at Robb’s camp (after a nice tearful reunion between Catelyn and son), it’s sort of out of nowhere.
BUT WELCOME NONETHELESS. A Jamie covered with blood and dirt is no less luminous, it turns out. Jamie tries to make the battle come down to a one-on-one with him and Robb, which is a kind of peace accord I have never heard of? I suppose it is somewhat in line with: let me have this knight battle your knight to decide my court trial verdict. The Lannisters are certainly creative in their justice. But it’s no dice.
Arya is basically Aladdin now, stealing meat pies in the streets and eating pigeons raw and some other vagabond antics. Then she runs along to Ned’s public flogging, which goes pretty well at the beginning. He confesses after all, swallowing his vaunted honor at justtttt the wrong time. Since, Joffrey is a psychopath, and orders his execution anyway. Even Cersei is like, um. To which Joffrey is like, u mad? Sansa faints, Arya is clutched to Ned’s minion’s bosom to avert seeing the execution, Ned looks out at the crowd, then cut to black on Arya’s breathing — a nice echo back to the first scene of this episode. R.I.P. Ned, you are blundering your way through heaven with the best of the angels now.
That scene was extremely well done, by the way, definitively the best five minutes of this show they’ve ever presented. It was a short film in itself; the pacing and cutting sped up as the scene progressed until the inevitable climax and slow wrap-up. It was beautifully shot, from the wide landscape shots of Arya on the statue to the close-ups of Ned slowly realizing his mistake. All in all, a very fitting way out for House Stark.
Now, as for the slight fracas resultant from killing off the supposed main character in the first season — I’m glad they did it, what is this, a Disney movie? The change from book to television required to keep Ned around would have been monumental and unwelcome. Also, cowardly. The producers pitched the show with the caveat that Ned would have to die, and it’s good they went through with it — as opposed to the case of Charlie on Lost, who was supposed to die in the first season and then ended up dying twenty-one seasons late when dramatic payoff was nil.
And something something about Sean Bean being the biggest draw here? I literally do not understand. “Sean Bean is the only reason I watched this show” — I hope no person ever. In what universe is Sean Bean such a big star that we are now railing against the heavens for lack of him? I mean no offense to Sean Bean I am sure he is wonderful but come on now. He is busy being a baller in real life, he does not need the Starks any longer. So let us all calm down and come back next week for the finale, okay?
Natasha Simons is a freelance writer living in Brooklyn, if you can imagine such a thing. She blogs here.