Game of Thrones Recap From a GoT Novice: “The Wolf and the Lion”
One of the things The Mary Sue is committed to is being a place that’s open to all kinds of female geek voices (even if we maybe don’t agree with every argument that’s offered), just so long as those voices say things that make us think. Because not all women agree on every issue and certainly not all geeks agree on every issue, and so when you put the two together, well, there can be a lot of discussion to be had. So! We’re trying something new with our Game of Thrones recaps, starting this week. We’re well aware that GoT has a rich canon completely independent of the HBO series, and so when Donna Dickens (one of our earliest contributors) kindly offered to be our GoT recapper who can recap from a reader’s perspective, we jumped at the chance to produce twinned Game of Throne recaps every week, from each perspective. You can find Donna’s recap for this episode here.
Here we are, friends, midseason on Game of Thrones. Thinking back to just mere weeks ago, we were all a little younger, a little more naïve, a little less inured to the exposed inner workings of horses. That’s all about to change. Roll the credits!
King’s Landing, Tournament of Empty Coffers. Ned’s visiting the Casualty House, which has claimed its first squire. Ned is briefly suspicious of the circumstances surrounding the lad’s death, and his face clouds with the burden of SECRETS. Then it unclouds and he goes to chum it up with Robert…
…who is getting dressed, displaying his considerable gut, which figuratively displays the motif of the decline of a kingdom in the decline of the body of the king. He berates a dense ward who’s helping him get his breastplate on. That’s how you get some poison in your wine, Robert. Since it’s drunk o’clock, Robert wants to joust with the hot young stuff and get his very own spike through his neck. Ned patiently explains that most of the king’s subjects aren’t much for beating their king, and Robert growls, concedes and pours himself some (more) wine. He peer pressures Ned into having some, too, and Ned looks like he wants to crawl into the nearest D.A.R.E program as he swigs it back.
Trumpets! It’s not a tournament without trumpets. The Knight of Flowers, who apparently is not constantly made fun of for his strong knight-y nickname, prances up in front of Sansa and makes a heterosexual proffering that is instantly undermined by the bedroom eyes he makes at Some Brunette Guy. (Don’t email me.)
I realized I’ve been missing the opportunity for tons of immature penis jokes with Littlefinger by calling him Carcetti, and now all the recappers have gotten there first. Always a recapper maid who misses a penis joke, never a recapper bride. That analogy holds up, don’t worry about it.
The Knight of Flowers and the Mountain face off in jousting. You know what I always say about Game of Thrones, there aren’t enough names and nicknames to learn. Flowers beats Mountain, and Mountain, to put it lightly, does not put it well. His horse has dishonored him and for that must be summarily beheaded. It releases its gallons of cartoon blood as the Mountain goes to cut some Flowers. The Hound steps in and prevents his brother from casual murder, and Mountain gives him a look that frankly says someone’s in for some more fireplace in his face later.
Over on the Trail of Kidnapped Imp, Catelyn Stark is at full Mommie Dearest on Tyrion. She’s decided to take the law into her own hands and present Tyrion to her sister for attempted child-murdering justice. Tyrion has to get all logical and upset her fun: “What kind of imbecile arms an assassin with his own blade?” Ha, your brother and sister. Suddenly they’re beset by Sand People! Lacking an Obi Wan to mimic a Krayt Dragon, Catelyn’s men fight the tribes off, to various levels of success. Tyrion whacks a guy to death with the business end of a…shield. It was his first kill, so one of the company men tells him he needs a woman. Tyrion was halfway to the brothel already, buddy.
In the North of Convenient Amnesia, Bran is reciting facts about the various families in Westeros and their mottos. Legions of fans point-blank refuse to listen to background and history without someone getting taken from behind.
THERE IT IS. Robb (Ed. note: Robb) and the oft-lauded red-headed prostitute Ros share a romantic moment of doggy style in the castle. Since Dany doesn’t show up this episode, it’s a much needed interlude. Robb gets a little fresh with her and says “I don’t want to pay for it.” Ros responds, “Then get yourself a wife.” Ros is far too clever to just be a whore. I sense a Lannister adoption in her future.
Arya is chasing a cat, of Curiosity Killed the, into the castle basement. She hides inside a basilisk skull (don’t email me) as two minions walk by, spouting vaguenesses into the ether. Targaryen forces inside the castle walls plotting to kill the king! It’s my own personal viewpoint that the tailor Robert berated earlier is in charge of them.
Ned and Varys “the Spider” are talking some things out upstairs, including the revelation that Jon Arryn was poisoned TO THE DEATH. Varys ventures that it may have been because Jon was asking questions. Ned goes all patented cloudy-face as he considers that is exactly what he’s doing.
In the throne room, Carcetti and Varys have a penis-jousting match to complement the tournament outside. Basically, each one goes back and forth with what they know about each other (thanks to their many strategic spies), each upstaging the other with some new terrible piece of information. This seems like something these two kids do rather frequently, as when they’re interrupted, they kind of just go back to whatever it was they were doing before. I’ll give them this odd form of entertainment, I suppose, since no one has Nintendo in Westeros. (For what’s it’s worth, I credit Carcetti the point here, but only because Varys’s “scandalous” information about him seems moot, since, you know, this guy owns all the brothels.)
Arya probably gets some poor guardsmen killed when they don’t recognize her straggly ass coming up from the underbelly of the castle. She reports what she heard to Ned, who’s distracted by the news of his nutty wife having kidnapped a Lannister without even taking him to a nice seafood dinner first.
Speaking of Catelyn, she’s taken Tyrion to the eyrie her sister Lysa lives in. As she brings him in and Lysa starts shrieking about a Lannister in her eaves, her FUCKING ELEVEN YEAR OLD SON LOOKS UP FROM SUCKLING HER BOOB. I want to meet the parent who let their child be cast in that role. Nikolaj Coster-Waldau (Jamie Lannister) gave an interview this week where he commented on the creep factor: “I spoke to my dialect coach and he’s like, “It’s just horrible. She had this fake tit and he just came in there and he had to suck it. You shouldn’t make kids do that.” Amen. (Incidentally, Coster-Waldau also says that the Dany-Drago honeymoon scene was rape. #Justsaying.) Catelyn and Tyrion are typically tactful, but their faces kind of say it all.
So, Lysa is nursing her teenager or whatever. Too bad there don’t seem to be therapists in Westeros. She sticks Tyrion in a very pretty jail cell with a very pretty steep cliff drop that aren’t prone to any guard-induced “accidents,” I’m sure. Catelyn is filled with regrets.
Ned resigns as the King’s Hand. It’s extremely soapbox-y, so I’ll just say that he’s angry that Robert wants to kill Dany, who is carrying the son of the proximate threat to the realm and is posed to be the next queen of Westeros should the Dothraki take over. Okay, Ned. Take a break. Carcetti points out that when you’re stuck in bed with an ugly woman, best thing to do is get it over with and cut her throat, or something. Well, he must have a lot of dead bodies in his wake, then.
The Knight of Flowers and Some Brunette Guy are waxing each other at the King’s Landing Salon. Apparently this is a direct choice of the television series, to make them textually gay instead of just implying it. I think it’s fine, though the Knight of Flowers is portrayed a bit predatorily here. There’s some real innuendo about riding stick. The Middle Ages: just as immature as we are! Also of note: Sansa’s luck with men ain’t great. Also to mention: if anyone had a problem with the suggestion of a blowjob here and not the hundreds of depicted breasts, they are welcome to kindly shut up.
Which brings us to the best scene in the episode, which is apparently also not from the text. Cersei and Robert have a little strategic sit-down to discuss the latest tournament standings, war paths, and Perez gossip. You know, they keep saying the Dothraki won’t set sail across the sea. I think that’s called foreshadowing, Google it.
Cersei and Robert keep talking kingdom current events. Best exchange:
Robert: That’s all the realm is now. Back-stabbing and scheming and arse-licking and money-grubbing. Sometimes I don’t know what holds it together.
Cersei: Our marriage.
I kind of imagine that this is how Bill and Hillary’s marriage is. When Robert starts talking about other women, that cements it for me. But it’s not just any woman, it’s Ned’s sister, who’s really got her claws into Robert. Cersei asks, wistfully, if there were ever a moment for them to have made it work. Robert pauses before answering no. What an excellent scene.
Ned speaks to the person Jon Arryn saw right before he died, taken there by Carcetti. Not surprisingly, the person is a prostitute, and she’s got yet another Baratheon bastards. Ned’s like, on a spiritual bastard quest in this episode. Gotta catch ’em all.
FINALLY, JAMIE LANNISTER. Magnificent, shining Jamie Lannister. Cartoon blood is shed everywhere as his men surround Ned and his men to apprehend them for Tyrion’s kidnapping. Jamie’s putting the Tully house to shame with their “Family, duty, honor” motto. Jamie can actually fight pretty well when he’s not combing that brilliantine hair of his. He relishes the swordfight with Ned (the Wolf and the Lion, indeed) before someone brings Ned down from the back. Jamie, of the ever-shifting and magical morals, is not a fan of that and smacks the guy upside the head before telling Ned he wants his brother back. Fade out.
Now that it’s the halfway point in the season, it might be worth it to consider what I think is being done rather well and what’s not on the show, here.
- Lena Headey’s resplendent performance as Cersei Lannister. The past two episodes she has had exactly one scene each, and they have both been high points of the hour. Her interactions with every character on the show are nuanced and thrilling to watch. I’m also digging Mark Addy as Robert, still.
- When the show slows down for a minute and lets their actors act, it’s generally a lovely sight to behold.
- The character development of characters that are textually shitty is extremely well done (Robert, Cersei, Jamie, Sansa) and manages to make an incestuous couple sympathetic, so, you know: bravo.
- Generally, the lore is presented in an easily digestible way.
- The sets continue to be stunning.
- Jon Snow and Daenerys Targaryen weren’t in this episode at all, and I barely noticed, and certainly didn’t miss them. The treatment of these two main characters is bland, or bland and uncomfortable, respectively. Since we don’t see them that often, their psychological developments seem forced and tacked on.
- Aiden Gillen as Carcetti/Littlefinger. The Irish actor just can’t hide that accent, and it comes out in this flat, weird tone that makes discerning any nuance out of him impossible.
- I still don’t buy Dany’s newfound love of the man who raped her. (They do, in this episode, call her a child, and I doubt they would do that if she were 17, as some fans have been claiming. It seems she’s far younger, even possibly the 13 of the books.) The aesthetic between them was chosen deliberately for color contrast, and the unfortunate racial undertones are still present, despite her assimilation.
- The quick cuts between storylines. They remedied this a bit in “The Wolf and the Lion,” but they had to do it by cutting two entire main characters out. The show needs to focus on just a few characters per episode, and make it less of an entourage-style series. Bran, for instance, would not suffer from being minimized. Nor would Robb.
- The clunky exposition. I get that there’s a lot of lore here from the books, but that’s the hardship of translating 1000-page books into hour-long shows. Even though it’s being boiled down, the only way the showrunners keep making it palatable is by shoehorning sex onto the scenes, too: which sort of ensures no one’s listening to the dragon backstory.
Well, we’ve made it this far, Throners. Come for the horse beheading, stay for the teenage suckling. See you next week, as we start the descent into the denouement of the first season.
Natasha Simons is a freelance writer living in Brooklyn, if you can imagine such a thing. She blogs here.
Have a tip we should know? [email protected]