In the latest episode of Game of Thrones, “The Wolf and the Lion,” the Hand’s Tournament continues, setting the tone for the escalating violence in both the pageant and the world around Ned Stark (Sean Bean) and his family. Ned watches a bit of the tournament, but he is still brooding about the death of Ser Hugh, suspicious that the man had a new suit of armor, and no apparent means to afford it.
But the King’s Hand must also get involved in wardrobe malfunctions. King Robert (Mark Addy) is too fat for his armor and Ned’s not afraid to tell him so — or that he shouldn’t joust, as any opponent will only let him win. The King’s bloodlust and itch to get into battle gear will have to be satisfied from the stands, “Let’s watch him ride, at least I can smell someone’s blood.” He’s an old soldier and seems to realize that he’s not much of a politician, but he’s also as quixotic and deadly dangerous as any tyrant, taunting others around him and just moments from going off the handle at the slightest provocation.
On the field the young Knight of Flowers, Ser Loras Tyrell (Finn Jones), resplendent in his flowery armor, gives Ned’s oldest daughter Sansa (Sophie Turner) a rose. She is obviously flattered, but doesn’t realize that the knight is having an affair with the King’s brother. For once, slimy Petyr (Aidan Gillen) holds his tongue — at least in her direction.
After the tournament Ned meets with one of the King’s council, a eunuch who warns him that the previous Hand, John Arryn, was killed by poison. He suggests Ser Hugh poisoned him. Ned isn’t politically savvy, but he’s practical, and points out that Arryn was the Hand for years, why poison him now? The eunuch’s answer: he started asking too many questions. Everyone wants to give Ned information, but he must sort out what, if any, can be trusted. He is also informed of Catelyn’s capture of Tyrion, which does not please him one bit.
The King and Queen Cersei (Lena Headey) talk frankly about the realm and their marriage. Cersei is a far from one-dimenional character. She may have married the King to win power for her family, but she once had feelings for him and still mourns the son they lost. She has also had to deal with the shadow of his former wife. She wonders if he ever was able to forget his first wife, or cared for her, “Was there ever a time for us, a moment?” He doesn’t lie to her. “No.”
On the road, Catelyn (Michelle Fairley) is taking the captured Tyrion Lannister (Peter Dinklage), who she is convinced tried to murder her son Bran, to her sister (John Arryn’s widow)’s lands. Her anger or paranoia has extended her suspicions to his also being involved in the death of John Arryn. Is she avoiding taking him to her home in Winterfell because she is afraid of what Ned will do or say if he finds out? Tyrion protests his innocence and tries to appeal to her common sense, and claims he was obviously framed with a very distinctive weapon. “I had nothing to do with the attempt on your son’s life.” But Catelyn isn’t listening. The party is ambushed, and Tyrion pleas to at least have her cut the ropes binding his hands so that he can defend himself, “Untie me. If I die what’s the point?” She finally does and he saves her life, helping to drive off the bandits.
But when they arrive at her sister’s castle Tyrion is still a prisoner and Lysa Arryn (Kate Dickie) is quite nutty. She sits breastfeeding her older son (7, 8, 9?) while she sits on a throne. It is clear that Catelyn doesn’t trust her sister, and is immediately put off by the scene and the woman’s murderous attitude towards Tyrion and all Lannisters. When it starts to look like a quickie execution might take place she objects, “This man is my prisoner, I will not have him harmed.” So why did she bring him there?
Back at King’s Landing, Ned’s younger daughter Arya (Maisie Williams) chases a cat through the castle. It leads her to the dungeons where she hears two men talking about her father, “If one Hand can die, why not another?” She runs and warns him, which puts a cherry on the sundae of the day he is having. He is then called to an emergency council meeting. King Robert is pissed — word has reached him that Daenerys is pregnant. The King’s immediate response is that he wants her dead — to finally squash the Targaryens’ claim to his throne (and before the Dothrakis could launch an attack). Ned is not in favor of the King’s desire to kill the girl, and goes against him and his entire toadying council. He listens in disgust as Petyr callously remarks, “Cut her throat and be done with her.”
Ned is fed up with his thankless role as the Hand and the whole bunch of them, “I will have no part in it.” He quits, walking out on the group with the King yelling and cursing him as he goes. Always-oily Petyr tempts Ned, who is packing up to leave, with one more clue relating to John Arryn’s death — taking him to see “the last man who John Arryn saw.” But he actually brings him to a brothel, to meet a young woman, the mother of another one of the King’s bastards. Ned wants to know how many bastards are there in the kingdom. Petyr has no answer and then Jaime Lannister (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau) rides up with a group of soldiers, spouting angry words at his brother Tyrion’s capture. Set up? Ned, ever the hero, protects Catelyn by saying Tyrion was taken at his command.
It’s the bloodiest episode yet, with Ned’s men being killed brutally in the street by Jaime and his men as Petyr looks on from a safe distance. Ned and Jaime confront each other, one-on-one, and it could have been to the death, but the swordfight is ended when Ned is wounded by one of Jaime’s men with a dirty blow from behind. Jaime rides off on a white horse, “My brother, Stark. I want him back.”
Ned is left in the dirt, on his knees, his dead men around him. It’s not clear whether he has been captured or merely punished by Jaime, now to be sent on his way to release Tyrion. Will King Robert let him leave King’s Landing? We are halfway through this season and Game of Thrones continues to get more interesting and deepen its characters and its world with each episode.