In the latest episode of Game of Thrones, “Cripples, Bastards and Broken Things,” everyone was on the move and making new alliances or new enemies.
Tyrion Lannister (Peter Dinklage) arrived at Winterfell but was not treated very hospitably by Robb Stark (Richard Madden) — in charge in his mother Catelyn’s (Michelle Fairley) absence. Tyrion gave Bran (Isaac Hempstead-Wright) plans for a saddle he designed especially for him to enable the boy to ride upright again. Robb, suspicious of all Lannisters, wonders why he would want to help Bran. “I have a soft spot for cripples, bastards and broken things.” Tyrion is still the wittiest and most appealing character in the series.
On the Wall, Jon (Kit Harington) met and protected Sam (John Bradley), a big awkward guy and self-described coward, with his white direwolf – didn’t know you could bring a pet to the Wall. While they are on watch on the Wall one evening he learns Sam’s story. He had been cast out of his own family because his father considers him “unworthy.” He gave Sam the choice of being sent North to the Wall or staying at home and one day dying while out on a hunt together. Nice family.
While everyone else is struggling against what they feel forced into — Ned Stark (Sean Bean) in his political role, Bran trapped in his wounded body, younger daughter Arya (Maisie Williams) as whatever a girl is supposed to do, Jon feels as if he has no place at all in society. As a bastard, he has no choice of role, no birthright to pass on to a child. And he has some serious issues to work out with his father Ned, who won’t even deign to tell him the identity of his mother.
Ned, still getting used to his role as the King’s Hand, doesn’t want to hold an expensive tournament, which is not making him very popular in King’s Landing. Arya is still enjoying training with her swordmaster. She asks her father, “Can I be lord of the castle [someday]?” Not really taking her seriously, Ned tells her she’ll marry a lord and her sons will be … ” Blah, blah, blah. Arya answers, “No, that’s not me.” The girl’s got spunk and her dad needs to think in a new way about a lot of things. The world they live in is so rigid, in both its division of seasons (winters that last years) and people’s roles in society. But Arya may be able to escape her fate as a “lady.”
Daenerys (Emilia Clarke) seems to have already changed some of the rules she first encountered since she joined the Dothraki. Her brother Viserys (Harry Lloyd), however, hasn’t learned anything since last week – he still thinks the Dothraki are his hired goons and he’s lord of the manor, mistreating slave girls and also his own sister, striking her when she dares to challenge him. But she isn’t taking any more of his crap, “The next time you raise a hand to me will be the last time you have hands!” It worked a lot better in the scene than it sounds in print. Daenerys is the one with dragon’s blood in that family, if you ask me.
The Tournament of the Hand does go on, Ned’s objections apparently ignored. Older daughter Sansa (Sophie Turner) is in the crowd and watches as Ser Hugh meets his end graphically in a joust with Gregor, “The Mountain.” Life and death in their quasi-medieval world is quite harsh. Petyr (Aidan Gillen) tells a repulsed but riveted Sansa (and the audience) a creepy tale about “The Mountain” and his brother “The Hound” and how “The Mountain” maimed his brother when they were just children by holding his face in a roaring fire. Was that during one of those long winters?
The slippery Petyr also works his conversational magic on Ned, “Is there someone you trust completely?” Ned quickly answers “Yes.” “The wise answer is no.” Petyr suggests Ned speak to a certain blacksmith, who Ned quickly ascertains must be King Robert’s bastard son. But the king has numerous liaisons, highly visible (and noisy) in the castle, so the kingdom surely has many more of his bastard children yet to be discovered. And why is this one particularly significant? And why does Petyr want Ned to find him? Petyr was also the one who connected Tyrion to the assassin’s knife. Ned is not the quickest thinker, and diplomatically is way out of his league, but he’s a born soldier and seems to have a good heart. He is definitely Game of Thrones‘ de facto hero. Petyr’s motivations are still completely unclear but he is fascinating to watch.
All of the maneuvering and back and forth continues to deepen the characters, but the biggest scene came at the end of the episode. Tyrion, on his way to King’s Landing, ran into Catelyn, on her way back to Winterfell, at a roadside tavern. (“In all the gin joints …”) The tension mounted as Catelyn ignored his attempt at pleasantries and asked the taverngoers, one by one, for their loyalty, citing their families’ long histories with hers. Game of Thrones keeps reminding us of its genealogies and shared histories, which all cast long shadows. Each man pledged their support and she accused Tyrion of plotting to murder her son and demanded his arrest. Swords were drawn as he culd only look on in shock. Uh oh, Tyrion … and Catelyn, methinks Ned will not be too pleased at your rash move. Game of Thrones is dangerous on the jousting field or on the road and always entertaining.