Last season ended with a new king, Joffrey Baratheon (who we know to be not a Baratheon at all, but the child of the incestuous relationship of Cersei and Jaime Lannister), the death of the previous Hand of the King, Ned Stark, who tried to uncover the truth, and Ned’s son Robb girding for war against those responsible for his father’s death. Plus, Dany has dragons!
During the opening credits we see a new location, Dragonstone. Dragonstone is a volcanic island in Blackwater Bay on the east coast of Westeros. As its name suggests, it had housed the ancestral home (Dragstone Castle) of the Targaryens.
It’s a beautiful, sunny day in King’s Landing, perfect weather for murderous battles to amuse the teenage king. We watch a brutal duel held on a wall-walk (or allure, as I learned this was called) at the Red Keep and one man falling to his death. The Mountain is victorious again. Joffrey is quite tickled at the outcome. Well struck! He says. Now watching men fight to the death for your amusement isn’t any fun without someone to share it with, so he asks his betrothed Sansa what she thought of the battle.
Sansa recently saw her father decapitated. She’s alone in the capital with no friends or relatives and she’s engaged to a sadistic psychopath who has already promised to kill more of her family. So forgive her if she’s a little confused on how to answer a direct question. She mimics Joffrey, thinking what could possibly please him more than his own words, but that doesn’t work. And he gets mad. And you don’t want to see him mad. It’s like happy but deadlier.
Time for the next duel, only one of the participants has had way too much mead. He’s sloshed and a sloppy mess and in no position to put on a good fight. But Joffrey is going to get his entertainment value out of this guy one way or the other. He devises a plan to drown the man in wine, a punishment he feels fits the crime of displeasing him. Sansa has seen enough cruelty for a lifetime so she tries to stop Joffrey. “You cahnt!” she exclaims. Joffrey gives her a WTF look. He’s not used to hearing can’t, even with such a posh accent. She looks next in line to lose her head until she quickly comes up with a ruse – it would be unlucky to kill someone on his name day.
Joffrey ridicules Sansa and her silly Northern superstitions and then out of nowhere The Hound comes to her defense! He vouches for her (I’m sure) made up superstition and helps Sansa spare the poor man’s life – at least for today. The Hound is such a confusing character. His brother is easy to figure out – he is evil personified. But the Hound is far more nuanced and seems to possess a soul.
Perhaps emboldened by the support, Sansa goes further in her attempt to save this life. She picks up on what Joffrey said, how foolish Ser Dontos is, and jumps on it. You’re so clever to see that – he’d make a better fool than a knight. A quick death is too good for him, he should perform for you. Truly brilliant – she’s figured out how to manipulate Joffrey without him realizing what’s happening. Nice for her to have this small sense of power in an otherwise powerless situation. Dontos almost blows it by thanking Joffrey AND Sansa, but Joffrey misses it.
Here come Tyrion to the rescue. He greets his king/nephew: “We looked for you on the battlefield. You were nowhere to be found.” Joffrey sputters about how he was needed at the capital and Tyrion ignores him while showering his other niece and nephew with love. They are as happy to see him as Joffrey is ticked and the nature-nurture debate continues, with birth order seeming to be something of an indicator of douchiness.
Tyrion offers his sincere condolences to Sansa for her loss but Joffrey is appalled that she should mourn a traitor just because he was her father and she loved him and he was pretty awesome even if he gave her a lame doll not long before he died. Sansa mouths some words she thinks Joffrey wants to hear and Tyrion looks so sorry for her.
But we the viewer have something to celebrate on this name day. There’s a new sheriff in town. Joffrey didn’t expect Tyrion and seems confused what he’s doing there. He’s not the only one. The small council is blathering about how long the winter will be and what to do about all those commoners who expect to eat and Cersei doesn’t even consider letting them have cake when who should come in to shake things up but the new Hand of the King.
Was it just me or did Cersei not seem excited about having her baby brother there?
Cersei is apoplectic, which means she raises an eyebrow. How could he have tricked father into doing this? Tyrion tells her the truth – she brought it on herself by failing to control her son. But Tyrion is about to learn that Cersei’s lack of oversight has cost them dearly. They had three Starks to trade for Jaime, but she let her son lop one’s head off while allowing a second, Arya, to escape. Tyrion is here to make sure there are no more screw ups in the future, and he couldn’t feel any more smug.
North from here, Bran Stark in the man of the house, the house being Winterfell. As the big cheese, it falls to him to listen to all of the townspeople’s complaints and problems. Bran is spunky and won’t let anyone bad mouth his brother Robb, who is leading a battle to defend the North from the Lannisters. Maester Luwin is there to help him rule and learn what being Lord of Winterfell entails.
We switch to direwolf POV, when we look up and see a comet blazing red across the sky. The direwolf looks at its reflection in a pond then we switch to Bran in slumberland. The direwolf no longer takes him to the crypt in his dreams, so what if anything does the new location mean?
Bran is saddled onto Hodor in a reverse baby bjorn and the wildling Osha is with them as he goes to investigate his dream. They talk about the strange comet and what it could mean. Some say it’s an omen that Robb will win a great victory in the South. Osha said she heard some call it Lannister red and that it means they will rule the Seven Kingdoms. Still others say it’s the color of blood, for Ned Stark. But Osha has her own theory – dragons. Did she watch the last season’s finale?
Across the narrow sea, the comet is hanging over Dany’s small line of followers as they walk through a dry, desolate wasteland called, appropriately enough, the Red Waste. Dany’s horse, her wedding gift from Drogo, passes out and Dany is losing hope. But Jorah tells her they are marching the right way, east to the sea. Dany decides on a plan. She asks three of her strongest men to each travel in opposite directions looking for any sign of civilization, then come back and report on their findings. She’s going to lead her people but not by just marching blindly.
We get a respite from the heat as we shift to the North. This is the search and rescue party organized to find out what happened to Benjen Stark and what the hell is going on north of the Wall. They stop at a small town (Craster’s Keep) and Sam must think it’s a mirage. “Are those girls?” But his brothers tell him to stay away. The guy who lives there, Craster, is pretty territorial about his daughters and his wives who just happen to be the same thing! Sounds like a new TLC show in the making. Jon asks an interesting question – what does Craster do with his sons?
Lord Commander Jeor Mormont is asking Craster if he’s seen Benjen Stark as his plan was to come through this way, but Craster says he hasn’t seen him for three years. Apparently he and Benjen weren’t the chummiest duo. Jon manages to tick him off immediately. Like uncle like nephew?
Mormont wants to know what’s going on up here. Wildlings are abandoning their homes. Craster claims that they’re relocating north to join with Mance Rayder (the former Night’s Watch brother who broke his vows and moved north to claim the title King Beyond the Wall). Craster thinks Mance is gathering an army.
But Craster isn’t worried. He has a nice cushy thing with his obedient wives/daughters and he proves it by having one recite what he’s taught her of how happy she is freezing and living as someone’s sex slave. He shows his guests some Craster hospitality, they can sleep there but if anyone touches one of his wives he loses that hand. Not hard to imagine what one would lose if it goes any farther than that.
When they leave the tense meeting with Craster, Mormont is pissed at Jon. His mouth could get them all in trouble. He needs to remember his place.
The sun had set and the comet is still visible in the night’s sky. We hear a woman’s voice praying to The Lord of Light. This is Melisandre and we are on the island of Dragonstone. There’s a religious ritual going on where what she calls the false gods are burned in effigy. She is leading a group as they set fire to the large statues of the old gods to curry favor with the Red God.
An old man (Maester Cressen) runs in, panting. He’s late for the ceremony. He tells another man (Davos) “we need to stop her.” He is upset that their old gods – the seven – are being rebuked. Melisandre comes over to him, all mysterious and dangerous. “You smell of fear,” she tells the old man. She challenges him to try and stop her. But no one wants to join with him, so he retreats.
She goes over to a stern-looking man. It is the late king’s brother Stannis Baratheon. She tells him to grab
Excalibur the lightsaber fiery sword that signifies that he will be the bringer of light, the one to rule all. When a girl offers you something like that, you can’t say no. He grabs the sword (smartly in a gloved hand, he’s not Dany) and plunges it into the ground and the people go crazy.
The cranky maester and Davos talk afterwards. Cressen does not at all like where this is going, but Davos is loyal and starts singing “I will follow him.”
Matthos, a squire (also Davos’ son), is writing a letter for Stannis to sign and we get great insight into the late king’s brother. He won’t lie (he wasn’t my beloved brother), he won’t sugar-coat and he is proper. The letter exposes the truth about Joffrey, that he is not Robert’s true-born heir. It also takes Myrcella and Tommen down with him. Stannis has learned from very headless Ned not to keep information that explosive secret but to make sure everyone in the seven kingdoms knows the truth.
Davos suggests that Stannis and his younger brother Renly join forces against the common enemy, the Lannisters. But Stannis won’t hear if it, not while Renly is calling himself king. He doesn’t care how popular his brother is, the lines of succession are clear. He also won’t work with Robb Stark because that would entail naming him king of the north. It’s Stannis, one true ruler, or nothing.
Cressen stands and pretends he’s suddenly just fine with Melisandre disavowing his gods and offers a toast. Not that anyone would have been fooled by his 180, but Davos doesn’t help things by saying “Don’t.” The old maester drinks from the goblet
of fire and hands it to Melisandre and she hesitates and then, as he starts spurting blood out of his mouth, she coolly drinks down the poison with no effect. Okay, so she’s not your ordinary religious zealot.
Robb Stark goes to visit his prisoner Jaime Lannister and brings his direwolf Grey Wind with him for muscle. He’s been taking the Kingslayer with him as he moves his army south. Jaime tries to intimidate and unhinge Robb, but this time Robb has something on him – the ravens that have blanketed Westeros telling everyone the truth about Joffrey. Jaime pretends to be unruffled, but it’s not good news that the secret he was willing to kill for is now realm-wide gossip. Robb is sending his peace terms down to King’s Landing, but Jaime gives him one of those “I don’t think you know who you’re dealing with” warnings. Then White Fang comes up and snarls at Jaime just for fun.
In King’s landing, Tyrion’s
whore girlfriend Shae is having her Carrie Bradshaw moment, rhapsodizing about life in the big city. But Tyrion wants her to be careful, lest his father find out she’s there.
Cersei asks for Littlefinger’s help locating the missing Stark
hostage child, Arya. Littlefinger has no clue where she is, but he thinks Varys with all his little birds must have heard something. Interesting fact about Littlefinger. The mockingbird pin he wears is his own sigil – not coming from a storied family, he has started his own. A truly self-made man.
Cersei lets Littlefinger know that she knows all about his childhood obsession with Catelyn Stark and he gives it right back letting her know that he knows all about her brotherly obsession with Jaime. She’s had just about enough of him when he tries the old “knowledge is power” adage. Somehow Littlefinger forgot that both Jon Arryn and Ned Stark had the same knowledge that he possesses and that knowledge did not serve them well. Cersei doesn’t flinch before going for the jugular. Literally. Well, almost. She just wanted to prove her point to Littlefinger that power is power. Well played.
Robb explains to Alton Lannister what his terms are for peace. He sends the queen regent’s cousin off with his demands – return of his sisters, alive, return of his father, in his moribund condition, and with as many parts for proper burial as possible, return of those loyal to the Starks, and freedom for the North. Robb will give them Jaime and withdraw his army. It seems no one thinks the Lannisters will take the deal, so Theon Greyjoy suggests he can be part of a Plan B. His father, Balon Greyjoy, is the Lord of the Iron Islands. The one thing the Iron Islands has is ships. I bet you thought I was going to say iron. Anyway, if Robb wants to take King’s Landing, he’s going to need ships. Robb is hesitant to jump at the idea.
When Theon was young, his father had led a rebellion against the Iron Throne. His two oldest sons were killed and his youngest (Theon) made a ward of Ned Stark’s. Theon thinks he can ask his father to join Robb against the current occupant of the Iron Throne, but Rob’s really distrustful mother Catelyn thinks this is not a great idea. Cat warns Robb not to trust Balon Greyjoy.
Cat is over everything and ready to go home and parent her two boys when Robb asks her to hang with him a little longer. Can she ride to the Stormlands to meet Renly Baratheon and ask for his help? If his supporters join the Stark bannermen, they might have enough soldiers to take King’s Landing. He really sells this, we will crush them then go home and all be together again (except for Ned). But it’s everything she wants, so she agrees.
It’s Extreme Makeover: Iron Throne Edition and Joffrey is more of a diva than any decorator on any of these shows – when he says he wants fierce, he literally means fierce. Cersei instead wants to discuss something actually important like finding Arya Stark so they would have greater bargaining power. She tells her son that he can ask gramps for extra men but he bristles – a king commands, he doesn’t ask.
Joffrey mentions that he’s heard some awful rumors about his mother and Uncle
Daddy Jaime. Cersei brushes it off as all lies but that doesn’t stop Joffrey from asking about others who might have a claim to the throne. He figures King Robert must have been getting very busy all across the Seven Kingdoms because Cersei is such a stone cold bitch. Cersei doesn’t take this well and slaps The King in front of the workers from Lumber Liquidators. Joffrey is pissed and tells her no one has ever slapped Ty Pennington and if she does that again she’ll be chopped. He’s so mad, he can’t even keep his reality TV shows straight!
A new hire is getting the tour of Littlefinger’s brothel from Ros – a high class establishment that caters to the upper class – when Lord Commander Janos Slynt of the City Watch enters. He’s looking for a woman and he’s come to the right place. But the girl he’s looking for has a new baby – with dark hair just like her father, the late King. Uh oh. Operation “kill the bastards” is underway and it’s colder and more brutal than anything we’ve seen in Westeros before. When one of the guards hesitates to slaughter the innocent baby, Janos steps in and handles it himself matter-of-factly.
Slynt gets to the blacksmith, Tobho Mott, and ask about the boy who used to work there. Gendry, is his name the threatened Mott tells him, and he went north to join the Night’s Watch. You’ll spot him by the bull’s head helm he made himself. Segue to the bull’s head helm tossed in the back of the cart carrying Gendry, Arya and the rest up the Kingsroad.
Tyrion (about the Hound): This one doesn’t like me.
Bronn: Can’t imagine why.
Tyrion (to Cersei): You love your children. That’s your one redeeming quality. That and your cheekbones.
Tyrion (to Cersei): It must be odd for you. To be the disappointing child.
Jeor (to Jon): You want to lead some day? Then learn how to follow.
Melisandre: For the night is dark and full of terrors.
Jaime: You don’t trust the loyalty of the men following you into battle?
Robb: Oh, I trust them with my life. Just not with yours.
Catelyn: There’s a king in every corner now.