It's graduation day at The Wall! Jon Snow is crestfallen to learn that he's only going to be a lowly steward (like Samwell), rather than a dashing ranger (like his uncle Benjen). Oh, and Benjen's horse comes back to the Wall without Benjen on top, so he's probably dead. When Jon and Samwell say their vows at a special spot north of the wall, Ghost (Jon's wolf) comes by with a hand in its mouth. So strange things are going on up there.
Ned has figured out Cersei's secret: all of her children are Jaime's, not Robert's. When he confronts her with this, she admits it, pointing out that the Targaryens spent hundreds of years marrying brother to sister to keep their bloodline pure. That explains Viserys, then. He tells her to get out of King's Landing, because he intends to tell Robert everything when he returns from hunting. But what he wasn't expecting was that Robert got himself mortally wounded by a boar, so the throne is going to pass to his heir. Which, in Robert's opinion, is Stannis Baratheon.
Littlefinger takes some time out from teaching prostitutes how to fake orgasms to give Ned some good advice about not rocking the boat when Cersei announces that Joffrey is the new king. Ned doesn't like taking advice, so he asks Littlefinger to let him borrow the City Watch to help out in the inevitable clash between Cersei's guard and his own soldiers. Littlefinger promises to do so, but then the Watch kills Ned's men and the episode ends with Littlefinger holding a knife to Ned's throat. Oops!
And out in Vaes Dothrak, Daenerys is having trouble convincing Khal Drogo that it would be a good idea to throw a few thousand Dothraki in a ship and go take the Iron Throne. He only likes to sit on horses and doesn't trust water. But then an assassination attempt is made on Daenerys's life! Jorah foils it and now Drogo is all set to go kill some jerks. He vows to give his son the Iron Throne, and he does a much more cinematic job of vowing than Jon and Sam did up at the wall. It's very impressive. Specifically, Daenerys is so impressed that I was surprised she didn't jump him right there.
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This is the episode that "aired" on the Internet a week before it was on HBO. Thanks a lot. Like this show doesn't have enough spoiler issues, right? Sheesh. Anyway, it's finally out there, so let's get to it. The credits have King's Landing, The Eyrie, Winterfell, The Wall, and Vaes Dothrak. It would be great if there was an episode that just had five completely different cities we'd never heard of. Out of nowhere, they just set an episode north of the Wall among whatever lives out there. Or maybe there's one of those stories where it's all about how the larger story affects some peasants we've never heard of. I guess I'm just resisting the steady, logical progression of the story. I'm used to things being more jumpy and broken up because regular shows don't have as much of a plan.
Somewhere with red tents. Jaime is reading Ned's pronouncement about how Tywin is branded an enemy of the crows. He muses about Ned's bad judgment as the man he's talking to, an older wiry gentleman, butchers a stag. Taste the symbolism! This is clearly Tywin, and he's the kind of person who butchers his own stags, if you know what I mean. He also thinks that Jaime showed some bad judgment of his own in attacking Ned, which matches my own perception of the guy. He tells Jaime that Lannisters don't act like fools, which I'm not totally on board with. Jaime says that he had to attack Ned because Ned's wife took his brother, so Tywin shifts gears and asks why Ned's still alive. For all the people on this show who try to act Machiavellian, Tywin's the only one who follows Machiavelli's actual suggestion of killing your enemies instead of leaving them alive to cause trouble. Jaime says that he couldn't kill Ned because one of his men stabbed him in the leg, so it wouldn't have been clean. Tywin doesn't care much about being clean (which is represented visually by Tywin being all covered in stag blood by this point) and suggests that Jaime cares too much about what people think about him. The guy with perfect hair and shiny armor? Heaven forfend! Tywin says, "The Lion doesn't concern himself with the opinions of the sheep." Then he assigns thirty thousand soldiers to Jaime and tells him to go march on Catelyn's girlhood home, because every day that Tyrion is a prisoner, the Lannisters lose respect. Jaime points out that worrying about respect is a little like caring what people think of you, because nothing shows good judgment like smarting off at Tywin Lannister. I really like how this guy's been on screen like three minutes and is clearly someone who gets things done. He's not all drunk and useless like Robert, nor is he tied down by rules and principles like Ned Stark. But he does have one principle, which is that he and all his children will be dead eventually. He wants to make sure that the family name endures and continues to mean something, which means that personal glory is secondary. By now, he has fully skinned the stag (symbolism!) and tells Jaime that he's blessed to belong to the most powerful family in the Kingdoms. And yet, Jaime's been a glorified bodyguard for two kings, which doesn't match Tywin's idea of what he should be doing. He would prefer that Jaime ensure the strength of the dynasty, rather than letting it collapse like the Targaryens. Man, I feel bad for the Targaryens. If you go back a few generations, this is probably not what they had in mind. Tywin delivers more motivation and goes back to his butchering.