Explaining that the future of the Lannisters is at stake, Tywin (Charles Dance) presses Jaime to “be the man you were meant to be” as they prepare for battle. Ned confronts Cersei about the secrets that killed Jon Arryn. With the fate of the missing Benjen (Joseph Mawle) very much on his mind, Jon Snow takes his Night’s Watch vows, though not with the assignment he coveted. After Ser Jorah (Iain Glen) saves Daenerys from treachery, an enraged Drogo vows to lead the Dothraki where they’ve never gone before. An injured Robert takes pains to ensure an orderly transition at King’s Landing.
Matters now come to a head in King’s Landing, in the aftermath of the Lannisters beginning a war in the riverlands. The king’s unexpected returns brings with it massive changes, changes that Ned may not be ready to deal with. Others at court offer to help, each in their own way… but who to trust? The scenes in King’s Landing are almost entirely pulled directly from the novel, with one very notable exception early on that is likely to spark a lot of discussion.
In the aftermath of the last episode’s finale, Daenerys and Drogo seem to be in something of a holding pattern, with the khal resisting her arguments concerning their future and that of their unborn son. The scenes out in the east certainly emphasize the exotic side of things, with a vibrant market coming to life on the screen, though again, the scale is not quite what the novel presents. If this area really belongs to anyone this episode, it’s probably Iain Glen’s Ser Jorah Mormont… but Drogo caps things off very nicely indeed.
And up on the Wall, the story advances for our young hero, Jon Snow, and his companions. Called at last to take their vows, it proves to be an anti-climactic event for one of them. We get a nice look at the various officers of the Night’s Watch here, and again, extensive dialog from the novels that really shines through when coming from actors like James Cosmo (Lord Commander Jeor Mormont) and Peter Vaughan (Maester Aemon). And then, beyond the Wall, an ominous discovery which will have a big impact soon enough.
If this episode misses anything, it’s a complete lack of Tyrion, Catelyn… and even Sansa and Arya, despite the focus on King’s Landing. But we expect all four characters to get quite a lot of coverage in the next episode. However, this is certainly made up by the fact that Charles Dance finally appears on screen as Lord Tywin Lannister, the wealthy, powerful patriarch of the Lannisters. He’s been mentioned a number of times before, most recently as a man who “wants to own the world” according to King Robert, and now we get to see him for himself. Dance—one of the most popular choices for the role among fans—was born to play this role.
All in all, this is an excellent episode which is certainly not going to disappoint most fans, although some may feel a little deflated afterward, when they realize that it played out pretty much exactly as they expected, which takes a little shine off the climax.
[HBO’s video preview.]