Recap / Game Of Thrones S1E8 "The Pointy End"

Eddard Stark has been taken prisoner, and George R.R. Martin is wielding the quill of this episode. You know what that means: it's time for blood and death!

Stark household servants are butchered as they attempt to load Sansa's and Arya's chests onto the wayns. Septa Mordane tells Sansa to bar herself in her room before confronting Lannister guardsmen, their swords already dripping red. It's for naught: Sansa is intercepted by The Hound, dispatched by the queen to take her in. Arya's dancing lesson is interrupted by more red-cloaked Lannister guardsmen, accompanied by Ser Meryn Trant of the Kingsguard. Syrio Forel shows why he was for nine years the First Sword of Braavos, fighting an inspired Multi-Mook Melee and winning, but when Ser Meryn gets involved it's a Knight in Shining Armor against a wooden sword, which is a very different story. Arya flees to the yard, where she retrieves Needle from her upended chest amongst the corpses of her family servants. A stableboy tries to apprehend her, but her very first swordplay lesson with Jon Snow serves her well: she sticks him with the pointy end and then escapes into the city at large while he dies on the floor.

Ned Stark, the center of this storm of swords, is in the black cells beneath the Red Keep. His only visitor is Varys, and he is not much comfort, berating Ned for giving Cersei advance warning of his plans. It is this warning, Varys claims, which led Cersei to arrange for Robert's "hunting accident." Even worse, Ned's life is no longer a guarantor of Tyrion's safety, because news has reached Cersei that Tyrion has walked free. Ned, in desperation, asks who Varys serves. Varys answers only, "The realm, my lord. Someone must."

Up at the Wall, the Night's Watch have succeeded in tracking down the corpses associated with the hand Ghost found at the end of the previous episode. Othor and Jafer Flowers were rangers, last seen in the company of Benjen Stark, but there's no sign of what happened to them. In fact, their circumstances are completely queer: as Sam points out, though both are dead, they aren't rotting. In the book, he goes on to point out that there is no evidence of spilled blood despite their gaping wounds. (He also stutters his way through the entire conversation, adding to both sides of his Badass Bookworm label.) Either way, the Old Bear praises his astuteness before retiring to his solar to receive a letter. It's the news of Robert's passing and Lord Eddard's arrest and accusations of treason. As Jon storms away in anxiety, Mormont warns him not to do anything stupid.

Sansa is being interviewed by the queen, Grand Maester Pycelle, Varys and Littlefinger. She pleads for mercy for her father and promises to be a good queen, just like Cersei. (Cersei produces a wonderfully uncomfortable grimace at these words.) Littlefinger suggests that Sansa be allowed to demonstrate her loyalty, and Sansa obediently pens a letter to her family—her handwriting, but the queen's words. Obviously, Robb doesn't take kindly to the situation; he calls his banners, declaring that if he goes to King's Landing, it will be with an army at his back. Catelyn, for her part, is frothing with anxiety when she gets the news and asks Lysa to lend her some swords. But Lysa is having none of it, preferring to keep her knights close and protect her son, and Catelyn leaves the Eyrie empty-handed.

Tyrion is about as empty-handed as Catelyn as he wanders the east road, with only his wits and Bronn for company, but they serve him well. When the mountain clans of the Vale try to mount a second attack, Tyrion dishes out another serving of Guile Hero cunning, bribing them not with gold this time, but with steel—arms and armor, swords and helms and shields and axes, everything they will need to conquer the Vale of Arryn for themselves.

Remember how, the last time saw Jon, Lord Commander Mormont warned him not to do anything stupid? Well, Ser Alliser Thorne comes upon him in the kitches with taunts and snarkery, and Jon tries to stab him for insulting his father. With, as it turns out, the Lord Commander watching. Jon is confined to quarters, with Ghost locked in with him. Jon awakes to see Ghost very clearly agitated; the direwolf leads the way to the Lord Commander's chambers, where someone is shambling about: Othor. You know, the guy who was dead? Evidently it didn't stick. Jon uses his sword to re-dead him, but this one doesn't stick either. Only the appearance of the Old Bear, holding a lantern and confused by the noise, saves the day; Jon grabs the lantern, burning his hand, and puts Othor to the torch. This time, it sticks.

Over on Essos, the Dothraki are sacking their way towards victory. Today they have come across a town of Lhazareen, called "Lamb men" for their meekness, and are taking slaves and loot to finance Khal Drogo's naval expedition to Westeros. Daenerys is dismayed to see Lhazareen women being raped, and takes them under her care. She then goes to attend to her sun and stars, who is already getting an earful from one of his warriors, Mago, about her actions. When Drogo rules in favor of the moon of his life, Mago makes it a duel. It's a Curb-Stomp Battle, with Drogo theatrically discarding his weapons, deliberately taking a cut across the collarbone and then still ripping Mago apart (almost literally), but Dany's concern is for the khal's wound. Here providence smiles on her: the first woman she saved is Mirri Maz Duur, the "godswife" of the village. She offers to help clean and sew the wound so that it doesn't fester, and Khal Drogo consents.

At Winterfell, Robb is having trouble exerting authority over his bannermen, many of whom rode to war alongside his father. Particularly, he has trouble controlling the Greatjon of House Umber, a Boisterous Bruiser if ever there was one. Fortunately, Grey Wind is there to chew off a couple of the Greatjon's fingers, after which the man falls in line. Hilarity Ensues! (Bran sits there amongst these laughing men and has this "what is this I don't even" look on his face.) Robb and his forces depart in the black of night, leaving Bran as the Stark in Winterfell. Rickon then enters and gives his first line of the season, declaring that he doesn't think anyone's coming back. Finally, Bran has a scene with Osha in the godswood while he prays to the old gods for Robb's safety. Nobody is listening to her when she tells them that they should be marching north, not south. "The cold winds are rising." This is only confirmed by the funeral (such as it is) for the corpses of Othor and Jafer Flowers, where Sam announces his belief that they were reanimated as "wights" by the White Walkers... and that the White Walkers are returning.

Catelyn and Ser Rodrik Cassel arrive at Robb's encampment, implying a Time Skip of some duration. (It's impossible to say how long because Robb's exact location is not given. In the books, he's at Moat Cailin, the major defensible spot on the marshy Neck which separates the north from the south, but the Seven only know where TV!Robb is. Place certainly doesn't look swampy.) She arrives whilst Robb is at war council, addressing the general retreat of the river lords at the hands of Jaime Lannister's host; there is a wonderful moment where Robb moves to hug her but realizes that he can't, surrounded by his lords bannermen as he is. Catelyn makes Robb's choices clear—he wins or House Stark dies—and Robb decides that he'd better not lose then.

Tyrion has done some traveling as well. The mountain clans have attached themselves to him like stray puppies, giving him an impressively ragged tail when he arrives at his father's camp. Tywin is at council with his younger brother and right-hand-man Kevan when Tyrion arrives, and discussion is soon interrupted by news from Ser Addam Marbrand that Robb Stark's host has crossed the Neck. (Ah! A location! ...Vaguely; half the damn continent and six of seven kingdoms are "south of the Neck." Let's assume it was three weeks or so.) Tywin then more-or-less dares the mountain clans to fight at his side. The clans consent, but only if Tyrion leads them into battle.

Once again we're with Robb's host at strategy conference. Ser Rodrik wants to find a good and defensible place to deal with Lord Tywin's army, whilst the Greatjon advocates breaking the Kingslayer's siege of Riverrun and thus winning to their cause the lords of the Riverlands. Robb points out, correctly, that to do this they will need to cross the Green Fork of the Trident, and the only bridge is owned by House Frey, who have made a name for themselves by making that bridge their castle. Catelyn warns them not to trust "the Late Lord Frey," who values winning more than loyalty. The meeting is interrupted by some northern soldiers, who have discovered a Lannister scout. Robb takes the unprecedented step of releasing the scout, though with a warning: "Tell Lord Tywin winter is coming for him. Twenty thousand northerners, marching south to see if he really does shit gold."

Sansa attends a court session over which King Joffrey presides. Janos Slynt, whose primary virtue seems to have been deciding to back the winning side, is raised to lordship and granted seat at Harrenhal. From the books...  Tywin Lannister is named the new Hand of the King. And Lord Commander Barristan Selmy is called forward to receive his reward for his years of loyal service. That reward? He is forcibly retired from the Kingsguard—despite the white swords traditionally serving for life—making room for The Hound to join the Kingsguard (even though he is not actually an anointed knight) and the Kingslayer to be promoted to the post of Lord Commander. Selmy, defiant to the end, rips off his cape and gloves, refusing to play along with Cersei's game, when Littlefinger makes a joke about Selmy. This elicits a laugh from the court, until Selmy pulls out his sword.

Everyone stops laughing, because they know what is about to happen next.

Despite the threat—no, sorry, fact that he could easily slice through his own brothers in the Kingsguard (like carving a cake!), Selmy throws the sword to Joffrey's feet, telling him to "melt it down with all the rest", then strides from the hall to find his own future. The entire court is dumbstruck (even Joffrey seems taken aback).

Finally, Sansa comes forward to plead her case. She begs mercy for his father. Joffrey eventually relents, agreeing to show mercy if Ned recants his treasonous statements and acknowledges Joffrey's legitimacy.

Tropes exhibited in this episode include:

  • Badass Boast: Lots of them in this one. In addition to Khal Drogo's prolonged description of what he's going to do to a clansman who pissed him off, there's also Ser Barristan "The Bold" Selmy reminding the rest of the Kingsguard of his Badass Grandpa credentials, Syrio Forel making sure the Lannister guards know the first sword of Braavos never runs, and Robb Stark's warning. Even Daenerys gets in on the action:
    Mago: "Does the horse lie with the lamb?"
    Dany: "The dragon feeds on horse and lamb alike."
  • Badass Grandpa: Ser Barristan Selmy, beyond a doubt. Note the way the Kingsguard and City Watch freak out when he draws his sword.
    "Even now I could cut through the five of you as a man carves a cake!"
  • Berserk Button: When Lysa fails to inform Catelyn of the danger her family is in, Catelyn gets pissed.
    • Drogo ramps it up to 11 by eviscerating one of his soldiers for basically insulting his wife.
  • Boisterous Bruiser: The Greatjon has shades of this.
  • Bread, Eggs, Breaded Eggs: Tyrion asks Bronn what he wants. "Gold? Women? Golden women?"
  • Bullying a Dragon: When Barristan Selmy refuses to play along with Cersei and Joffrey's game, he declares that he shall "die a knight". As he's stripping off his helmet, gloves, and cape, Littlefinger notes that's "a naked knight", getting a laugh from the assembled Court. Then Selmy pulls out his sword, and everyone stops laughing. Littlefinger in particular looks like he either wants to beg Selmy for forgiveness or use Varys as a human shield.
  • Cape Snag: Syrio disables one Lannister soldier by choking him with the cape that seems to be standard Lannister uniform.
  • Chekhov's Lecture: Syrio lectures Arya on the difference between watching and seeing, then puts it into practice moments later.
    "And why is it that Lord Eddard is sending Lannister men in place of his own?"
  • Compliment Backfire: Sansa insists she'll be just a good wife to Joffrey and a queen just like Cersei. Cersei's reaction is priceless.
  • Compressed Adaptation: the scene where Arya stabs the stableboy carried much more power in the books, but here was kind of glossed over.
    • In his commentary, George R.R. Martin regrets the loss of the stableboy's pathetic last words, "Pull it out."
  • Creepy Child: Rickon when he sneaks in Bran's room in the middle of the night, saying that their parents and their brother aren't going to come back again.
  • Cut His Heart Out with a Spoon:
    Shagga: If the half-man betrays us, Shagga, son of Dolf, will cut off his manhood -
  • Defeat Means Friendship: Greatjon Umber is angry at the much younger and completely inexperienced Robb presuming to command him, but happily accepts him after Grey Wind bites off two of his fingers.
    • Osha is remarkably friendly to Bran given that she and her group were going to kidnap or kill him a few episodes back before being stopped by Theon and Robb who killed everyone in the group except her.
  • Dying Moment of Awesome: Syrio Forel knocking out several armored knights with a wooden sword, before finally being overcome... maybe.
  • Face Death with Dignity: Septa Mordane, apparently.
  • Foreshadowing: After Khal Drogo's duel, a great fuss is made about the possibility of his minor wound getting infected.
    • Before being given the news of Tyrion's release, Ned thinks that Tyrion can be exchanged for him. The Spider points out that he's the wrong brother (being the most despised member of the family whom the Queen loathes). A few episodes later, the Starks go to great trouble to capture Jamie whom they know is a far better hostage.
  • Gag Penis: Hodor, in a surprisingly non-euphemistic version of this trope.
  • Gentle Giant: Hodor is clearly good-natured, if... simple. Osha thinks he's got some literal giant in his bloodline.
  • Get It Over With: Ned, locked up in the dungeon, tells Varys he might as well slit his throat and get it over with, as he expects nothing resembling a fair trial from Cersei and Joffrey with Tyrion no longer held captive by Catelyn. Varys refuses.
  • Gondor Calls for Aid: Seemingly hundreds of ravens are sent to the Starks' bannermen as Robb prepares to go to war.
  • Good Cop/Bad Cop: When Sansa is brought in front of the queen and the small council Cersei is sweet, caring and lovable, while Maester Pycelle treats the girl as a ticking bomb because she's Ned Stark's kid.
  • I Am X, Son of Y: All the clans of the mountains take this as their introduction; we meet Shagga son of Dolf, Timmett son of Timmett, and Chella daughter of Cheyk.
    • Subverted right after:
    Tyrion: And this is Bronn, son of...
  • I Need a Freaking Drink: Tyrion reaches for the first booze he's seen in days; his father pointedly moves the jug out of reach.
  • Ironic Echo:
    Syrio: What do we say to the god of Death?
    • In book one, Catelyn tells Ned that he doesn't have to go and fight another one of Roberts wars. In this episode, Lysa tells Cat that she's not going to send men to fight another one of Ned's wars.
  • Kick the Dog:
    • Thorne mocking Jon about Ned being a traitor
    • Littlefinger mocking Barristan before the court
    • Maester Pycelle's constant picking on Sansa
  • Kill It with Fire: Apparently how you have to deal with zombies at the Wall. The wildings burn their dead, and now we all know ''why''.
  • Large Ham: The Greatjon is a rather large cut of fine Northern ham.
  • Leave No Witnesses: Likely the reason why the Stark household is massacred, in case they overheard Ned talking of Joffrey's illegitimacy.
  • Manipulative Bastard: Cersei manipulates Sansa very well.
  • Mass "Oh, Crap!": Everyone in the throne room at Kings Landing when Ser Barristan Selmy pulls out his sword.
  • Mean Character, Nice Actor: In the commentary for this episode, Martin makes a reference to this when talking about Jack Gleeson, the actor who plays Joffrey Baratheon. At the end of the season, he wrote a congratulatory letter to Gleeson, saying "Congratulations on completing your first season! Everyone hates you now!".
  • Meaningful Echo: "Not today" said by Syrio and later Varys.
  • Mook Chivalry: Syrio's fight scene. Justified because he doesn't look very dangerous and downplayed because the second wave of Mooks at least try to gang up on him.
  • My Friends... and Zoidberg: Bran's prayer to the Old Gods.
    Bran: Please watch over Robb. And watch over all the other men from Winterfell. And Theon too, I suppose.
  • Naked People Are Funny: Hodor forgets to put on his clothes when he finishes bathing, and meets up with Osha and Bran in the nude. Both of them are more amused by him than anything.
  • Odd Couple: This episode establishes Tyrion and Bronn as one.
  • Oh Crap!: Syrio Forel knocks out several Lannister soldiers with a wooden sword. Then Ser Meryn - a fully armoured knight of the Kingsguard - chops his sword leaving just a stump.
    • The Mountain Men won't fight unless the 'halfman' stays with them to ensure they won't be cheated. Tywin turns to look at his least favoured son with a smirk, and Tyrion is for once devoid of a snarky comment.
    • Janos Slynt is smirking at Littlefinger's dig at Barristan Selmy...and then a pissed off Selmy draws his sword and the smirk is abruptly wiped off Slynt's face.
  • Our Zombies Are Different: They are sent by the White Walkers and can only be killed with fire.
  • Out-of-Character Alert: None of the recipients of Sansa's letters have any trouble figuring out that Cersei forced her into it. The very fact that there is a letter at all means that the current rulers of King's Landing have allowed Sansa to send one, meaning that its contents can only be beneficial to them.
  • Pre-Mortem One-Liner:
    Mago: First you have to kill me.
    Drogo: I already have. [rips Mago's tongue out through his neck]
  • Puppet King: Joffrey, apparently. Lampshaded (twice!):
    Tywin: Joffrey rules in King's Landing.
    Tyrion: My sister rules, you mean.
  • Ragtag Bunch of Misfits:
    • The Stone Crows, the Burned Men, the Black Ears, and the Lannisters. Tywin and Kevan are clearly wondering what the hell Tyrion was thinking.
    • But when Tywin realises the battle is on, he immediately recruits the Mountain Clans for his own army, knowing that even an undisciplined rabble of Blood Knights can have their uses.
  • Refuge in Audacity: When the leader of the Hill Tribes asks Tyrion how he'd like to die, Tyrion responds, "In my own bed, at the age of eighty, with a belly full of wine and a girl's mouth around my cock." The leader finds this so funny that he decides to keep Tyrion around, which Tyrion uses to as a step to buy their loyalty with promises of land and shiny new weapons.
  • Relative Button: One of Jon's primary triggers. He attacks Throne for insulting his father.
  • Reports of My Death Were Greatly Exaggerated: Tywin apparently believed Tyrion had been killed by the Arryns. He doesn't seem exactly happy to see him alive and well again.
    • Especially funny because Tywin was using Tyrion's kidnapping as an excuse to start the war in the first place. Both Jaime and Tyrion lampshade the fact that he seems a lot more interested in having a reason to attack the Starks than he is in actually getting Tyrion back alive.
  • Screw This, I'm Outta Here!: Ser Barristan Selmy this time, refusing to let Cersei and Joffrey insult his honor by forcing him into retirement. He also, adding to his badass credentials, throws his sword at Joffrey's feet, telling him to "Melt it down and add it to the others." He's of course talking about the Iron Throne which is made of the melted swords of the first king of Westeros' enemies. He just, in essence, declared himself Joffrey's enemy, while also adding a personal 'You know what? Screw you," by contemptuously calling Joffrey 'boy'.
  • Shoot the Dog: Arya stabs the stable boy — as much to her surprise as his — before he can tell Cersei her whereabouts.
  • Talking Your Way Out: Tyrion again! This time with the Mountain Clans.
  • Tension-Cutting Laughter: Doesn't work with Shagga (after laughing he tells his men to kill Bronn and seize Tyrion) but the Greatjon invokes it deliberately and successfully, forcing himself to laugh off the injury he just sustained and accept Robb's lenience.
  • You Shall Not Pass: Syrio Forel fights five armored guys at once with a wooden sword, and then squares off against a knight of the Kingsguard to give Arya time to escape.