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Recap / Game of Thrones S1E9: "Baelor"

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He'll be fine. They wouldn't be crazy to kill the protagonist... right?

Once again we are in the black cells beneath the Red Keep, where Eddard Stark rots in the dark. Varys visits with more news, particularly of Sansa's pleas for Ned's life. Ned asks if he can free him, and Varys admits that he can, but won't. Varys is playing the long game; what he wants is peace, and he asks Lord Stark to bend the knee because it will best serve The Needs of the Many. He believes Ned will be allowed to take the black and join the Night's Watch. Ned is dismissive of the offer: "You think my life is some precious thing to me? That I would trade my honor for a few years of..." Varys walks away, pitying: "And what of your daughter's life, my lord? Is that a precious thing to you?"

Outside The Twins, the ancestral seat of House Frey, Theon is putting his skills as an archer to good use, shooting down any messenger ravens to prevent their location from being leaked. Robb frets over the situation: Storming the Castle would take too long, he cannot meet Lord Frey in the castle for fear of being taken hostage, and he cannot send other men to do his work for him. Catelyn, plainly no man, goes in his stead as she has known Lord Frey since she was a girl, confident Lord Frey would never harm her. Lord Walder Frey is just as prickly and lecherous as we've been led to believe, and he sees no point in aiding any of the other Houses, all of whom look down on him and his House. "Stark, Tully, Lannister, Baratheon... Give me one good reason why I should waste a single thought on any of you." (Not that the Walder Frey himself really helps the issue. Have we mentioned he's on his eighth wife? Have we mentioned she's 15 and he's 90?)


At Castle Black, Lord Commander Mormont checks in with Jon Snow. Jon's hand is healing from its burns, which means it's time for Mormont to give Jon his reward: Longclaw, a Cool Sword made of Valyrian steel which Mormonts have carried for five centuries. Even better, it's a hand-and-a-half sword, sometimes known as a "bastard sword,” and it’s been refitted with a wolf’s head pommel. Its last bearer was Mormont's son Jorah, who at least had the decency to leave it behind when he fled across the narrow sea. Mormont reveals Alliser Thorne has been sent to King's Landing, bringing Othor's severed hand with him as proof that things are going wildly awry beyond the Wall. Jon goes to the dining hall, where the other boys are all excited about Jon’s Cool Sword. However, Jon becomes somber by the news of his brother Robb's march south: "I should be there," are the first words out of Jon’s mouth, "I should be with him."


Catelyn returns just after sundown; she has found one good reason why House Frey should ally itself with the Starks, and has won Robb his crossing, as well as Lord Frey's levies. In return, Catelyn reveals that Robb must agree to take on one of Frey's sons Olyvar as a squire, trade Arya's hand in Arranged Marriage to another son (also named Walder), and give his own hand in Arranged Marriage to one of Lord Frey's daughters.

Robb: Did you get a look at his daughters?
[Theon snickers]
Catelyn: I did.
Robb: ...And?
Catelyn: One was... [she trails off]

Catelyn asks Robb if he consents and Robb asks his mother, "Can I refuse?" When Catelyn answers, "Not if you want to cross..." Robb agrees.

As Robb's forces cross the Green Fork, Jon is sent to Maester Aemon to help him feed the Watch's ravens. Aemon asks Jon what his father would do if asked to choose between honor and the lives of his family and Jon answers that his father "would do whatever was right, no matter what," which doesn't really help us figure out what Ned is going to do now that this dilemma has been posed to him. Aemon tells him that most would choose family. This is why, he explains, the Night's Watch forswear lands, family, wives, children — so that they can remain True Neutral and mind the realm as a whole. Aemon knows that, sooner or later, every man is tested eventually and tells Jon he understands his pain — love for his family vs. observance of the Watch’s oaths: “Oh, it hurts, boy, oh yes.” When an upset Jon explains he can’t know his pain — Ned is his father and Robb is his brother — Aemon reveals how he experienced the same painful conflict Jon is experiencing now. He tells Jon he was old when his vows were tested, when ravens brought news of the ruin of his House and the death of his family, revealing that he was helpless when he learned of his family members being killed. Stunned, Jon asks him, "Who Are You??" and Aemon replies, "My father was Maekar, the first of his name. My brother Aegon reigned after him when I had refused the Throne and he was followed by his son Aerys, whom they called the Mad King." Still stunned, Jon realizes, "You're Aemon Targaryen." Today, Aemon is an old blind maester in service at Castle Black and he tells Jon, "I will not tell you to stay or go. You must make that choice yourself, and live with it for the rest of your days. As I have..."

Across the Narrow Sea, Daenerys becomes more and more worried. Khal Drogo has been slumping in his saddle and has now toppled off entirely. Even with his clothes on, it is clear that the wound in his breast is festering. She commands the khalasar to make camp for the day, and that Mirri Maz Duur be brought to her. However, even at these few commands, Drogo's bloodrider Qotho balks. From the books... 

Tyrion joins his father's strategy-cum-dinner party just in time to hear that the Lannister army is about to fall upon the Starks. In between gripes over the wildlings' perceived efficacy in battle, Lord Tywin mentions that they (and thus Tyrion) will be placed in the vanguard. The wildlings are ferocious enough, but Tyrion highlights their discipline problems—which is the last thing you want on the front lines. Now aware that this is probably his last night on this earth, Tyrion retires to his tent. Fortunately, Bronn has some solace for him: he's found Tyrion a camp follower named Shae. She's pretty, certainly, but she also has the sass to keep up with him in conversation. Soon they're smooching. And since they're happily occupied for the nonce, we'll leave them and go bother someone else.

Khal Drogo is mumbling in his feverish sleep, calling for his horse; Daenerys attends him, but there is little and less she can do. Ser Jorah's assessment is that Drogo will not live out the night, and he advises her to flee at once, but Dany refuses to leave her sun and stars. Jorah explains why she has had so much trouble bending the khalasar to her will: the Dothraki only respect strength; her authority derives from her husband, and the riders' fear of same. Once he dies, Dany and her son will be killed. Mormont's assessment is reinforced by Qotho, who has progressed to open defiance of his khaleesi.

Finally, the godswife arrives. She announces that the khal is indeed beyond her healing arts... though not beyond supernatural ones. "There is a spell. Some would say death is cleaner." Even worse, the spell is Blood Magic: "Only death pays for life." Drogo's horse has its throat slit, the blood splashing down over the khal's body. Mirri Maz Duur then banishes Daenerys as well: "Once I begin to sing, no one must enter the tent. The dead will dance here tonight." As Daenerys leaves, eerie wails begin to echo from within, though it may be that Daenerys is the only one who can hear them. Qotho, furious at the spilled blood on her face, begins to enter, but is prevented by Ser Jorah, now armed and armored; the two duel furiously. Jorah wins, settling the "Armor Is Useless" debate once and for all, but Dany was tossed aside during the madness, and her labor has begun. She is helpless to protest as Mormont carries her inside the tent.

We return to the other tent we vacated so hastily, to find Tyrion, Shae and Bronn playing drinking games. Tyrion gets mutated form of "Never have I ever" going in which one player guesses a true-or-false statement about the other, and the loser drinks. Tyrion Sherlock Scans his way through Bronn's past, but is completely flummoxed by Shae's. The most interesting dollop of Back Story, though, is that Tyrion himself used to be married. (It's long, so here's a folder if you wanna skip it.)

    "I loved a maid as fair as summer, with sunlight in her hair..." 
Tyrion: I was sixteen. My brother Jaime and I were riding when we heard a scream. She ran out onto the road, clothes half torn off and with two men on her heels. Jaime scared away the men easily enough while I wrapped her in my cloak. She was too scared to send off on her own, so while Jaime hunted down the rapers, I took her to the nearest inn and fed her. Her name was Tysha. She was a wheelwright's orphan. And she was hungry. Together we finished off three chickens and a flagon of wine. Impossible as it seems, there was a time when I was unaccustomed to wine. I forgot how afraid I was around girls, how I was always waiting for them to laugh at me, or look away embarrassed, or ask me about my tall handsome brother. I forgot about everything but Tysha. And somehow I found myself in her bed.
Bronn: For three chickens? I should hope so!
Tyrion: I didn't last long, I didn't know what the hell I was doing. But she was good to me. She kissed me afterwards... sang me a song... And by morning I was deep enough in love to ask her for her hand. A few lies, a few gold coins, one drunken septon, and there you have it, man and wife. For a fortnight, anyway, until the septon sobered up and told my father.
Bronn: Well, I imagine that was the end of all that...
Tyrion: Not quite. First my father had Jaime tell me the truth. The girl was a whore, you see. Jaime had arranged the whole thing. The road, the rapers... All of it. He thought it was time I had a woman. After my brother confessed, my father brought in my wife and gave her to his guards. He paid her well: silver for each man. How many whores command that kind of price? He brought me into the barracks and made me watch. By the end, she had so much silver that the coins were slipping through her fingers and rolling onto the floor.
Bronn: I woulda killed the man did that to me.
Shae: You should have known she was a whore.
Tyrion: Really? I was sixteen, drunk and in love.
Shae: A girl who's almost raped doesn't invite another man into her bed two hours later.

The next morning, Tyrion is roused by the sound of warhorns. It turns out that the Starks stole a march and are arraying for battle. He summons his clansmen and gives a Rousing Speech that gets them all charged up... and charging. Tyrion is carried along by the press until a clansman's mallet swings out of nowhere and knocks him out. And when he wakes up, the battle is over! (No, seriously. We're giggling too.) The after-action report indicates that the battle was largely a slaughter; the "twenty thousand men" reported by Robb's friend the scout turned out to be only two thousand, with no Stark leaders or lords in sight. The Lannisters are left victorious, but wondering where Robb took the other eighteen thousand.

The answer: the Whispering Wood, just outside of Riverrun. Again, this battle isn't shown, but it wasn't shown in the book either, so fans were less put out. The battle was a well-orchestrated ambush, resulting in the Kingslayer's capture. It's a great victory, but Robb is not happy about the two thousand men he sent to their deaths, and his father is still captive. "This war is far from over," Robb declares.

Finally, we find ourselves in King's Landing, a place we haven't been since the start of the episode. Arya is hunting pigeons to trade for food, and successfully kills one, but is distracted when the bells begin to ring at the Great Sept of Baelor (the Westerosi equivalent of the Vatican). Kingslanders tell her that the Hand of the King is being brought out to confess his crimes. Arya makes haste, eventually perching on the statue of Baelor the Blessed himself.

Ned is brought out into bright sunlight, King Joffrey and his court awaiting him, a thousand people screaming abuse at him. The only friendly faces are Sansa, on the dais; Arya, whom he sees on her perch; and Yoren, that recruiter from the Night's Watch. "Baelor," Ned says to him, "Baelor!," and Yoren turns to see the girl on the statue.

Eddard Stark is brought up to the dais and is called upon to confess his treasons. Will this Trope Exemplar of Honor Before Reason choose his honor or his family? Every Man Has His Price; is Ned's love? He Will Not Tell a Lie, but will he go against his own nature to save those he loves?

He chooses his family. He proclaims his crimes and treason in the sight of gods and men, suffering yells and thrown stones. "Let the High Septon and Baelor the Blessed bear witness to what I say: Joffrey Baratheon is the one true heir to the Iron Throne."

Joffrey steps forward, smugly triumphant. "My mother wishes me to let Lord Eddard join the Night's Watch. Stripped of all titles and powers, he would serve the realm in permanent exile. And my lady Sansa has begged mercy for her father." He smiles at Sansa, and Sansa smiles back.

"But they have the soft hearts of women," Joffrey continues. "So long as I am your king, treason shall never go unpunished.

"Ser Ilyn... bring me his head!"

Then it's chaos on the steps of the Sept of Baelor. Everyone on the dais, from Cersei to Varys, yells for Joffrey to change his mind. The only exceptions are Littlefinger, who stands aloof, and Lord Janos Slynt and Ser Ilyn Payne, who hasten to obey His Grace's orders. Joffrey shakes off the protesters, a smug little grin on his face. Arya stares down at the crowd, appalled at the sight of all these people cheering at the idea of her father's death. She jumps down from the statue and starts hustling towards the dais, one hand on Needle. The crowd is jostling, yelling, heedless. (Audiences are hardly calmer.) Slynt forces Ned to his knees whilst Payne advances, donning the black hood of his office. Arya is intercepted by Yoren, who tells her to not look and blocks her view with his body.

Ned is conscious of his own breathing; the jeers of the crowd and Sansa's hysterics are a background din. He looks up at the statue of Baelor and sees that Arya is gone; she at least will be spared the sight of the following horror. He bends his head, exposing his neck, startlingly pale and vulnerable. The sword — his own sword, Ice, the Valyrian steel BFS of House Stark, the one he beheaded the deserter with nine episodes agoclangs and sings as Payne pulls it free of its scabbard. Eddard Stark mumbles a prayer as it arcs down.

There is a swish and a squelch. Then the only noise is a flock of pigeons, and Arya's breathing as she screws her eyes shut and presses her face into Yoren's chest.

And the episode ends, with the viewer realizing in shock that the series just killed its protagonist... while there are still seven more seasons.

Tropes employed in this episode include:

  • Abusive Parents:
    • Tyrion correctly guesses that Bronn's father beat him as a child. Bronn's response is that his mother hit harder.
    • Yet this pales before Lord Tywin, who had Tyrion's commoner wife gang raped by his guards.
  • Adaptational Wimp: In the novels, Tyrion doesn't do too badly in his first battle, even capturing a knight. Here, he spends the entire battle unconscious after being Own Goaled by his own men.
  • Adapted Out: King Jaehaerys Targaryen II is removed to simplify the timeline, with his role as the Mad King's father going to his father Aegon V.
  • Adult Fear: Ned gets this when Varys points out Sansa might well pay with her life if he continues to defy Cersei.
  • All There in the Manual:
    • The novel describes (albeit through third parties) exactly how Robb was able to capture the Kingslayer and defeat an army much larger than his own. Tyrion is also awake and thus a witness to the battle against the 2000 men Robb sent to fight his father.
    • Varys says that boys have been conquerors before, likely a reference to Daeron Targaryen, who conquered Dorne at the age of fourteen (though he wasn't able to hold onto his conquest for long).
  • Altar Diplomacy: In order to let the Stark army pass through the Twins and for House Frey to join Robb's rebellion, Catelyn agrees to marry Arya and Robb to two of Lord Walder's children.
  • Answer Cut: Lord Tywin gripes that Robb Stark and 18,000 men are unaccounted for. Tyrion asks; and where are they? Cut to the Whispering Wood.
  • Anyone Can Die: Lord Eddard Stark.
  • Armor Is Useless: Averted. Qotho's arakh gets stuck in Jorah's armour without causing him harm, and Jorah kills him before he can pull it free again. Jorah might have fared even better if he'd bothered to wear a helmet, though—Qotho does manage to deliver a shallow wound to Jorah's unprotected cheek before that.
  • Armor-Piercing Question: "And what of your daughter's life, my lord? Is that a precious thing to you?"
  • Asskicking Equals Authority:
    • After Khal Drogo collapses off his horse, Daenerys' hold over his khalasar becomes dangerously fragile. A khal who cannot ride is no khal, and Daenerys only holds authority through him.
    • On seeing Shae, Tyrion asks how Bronn got hold of such a pretty Camp Follower at short notice. Bronn implies that her last lover might not have given her up entirely willingly.
    • Averted when Catelyn Stark tries to intimidate Lord Frey with the large army camped on his doorstep. As the Twins are protected by two castles and a wide river, with Lord Tywin's army bearing down on them, he's not impressed.
  • Ax-Crazy: The Mountain Clans; some of them cut another clansman's throat in a squabble over a sausage, and after the battle they're seen enthusiastically finishing off the wounded Northerners. Literally in Shagga's case; he insists on having two battle-axes provided for him while keeping his original axe.
  • Bait-and-Switch Comment: Played for Drama when King Joffrey shows Sansa and everyone else his true colors.
    Joffrey: My mother wishes me to let Lord Eddard join the Night's Watch. And my lady Sansa has begged mercy for her father. [beat] But they have the soft hearts of women.
  • Batman Gambit: The 20,000 northerners that Lord Tywin was told were coming for him were only a Red Shirt Army of 2,000 men sent to distract the Lannister army from Robb's true target: Ser Jaime.
  • Battle Discretion Shot: Played for Laughs when Tryion spends the entire battle unconscious. Robb's forces annihilating Jaime Lannister's army isn't shown even in the aftermath, except for Jaime being hauled in as a prisoner.
  • Beneath the Mask: You can feel the anger and contempt in Maester Aemon's voice as he describes the destruction of his house, House Targaryen.
  • Black Speech: Mirri starts chanting in an unidentifed language while preparing the Blood Magic ritual to save Drogo. What's worse, when Daenerys leaves the tent and when Jorah takes her back inside, something else can also be heard screeching inside...
  • Blood-Splattered Innocents: Daenerys gets splattered with blood when Mirri cuts the horse's throat.
  • Cannon Fodder: Lord Tywin sticks the Mountain Clans in the vanguard of his force, though they actually do quite well.
  • Central Theme: Conflicting Loyalties. Several characters (Jon, Ned and Maester Aemon) struggle between the conflict of love for family vs. oaths and duty. Lord Walder Frey points out that he has sworn to obey the crown, an oath that (theoretically) supersedes his allegiance to Catelyn's father. This even extends to the episode's title. From the books... 
  • Call-Back: Yoren recognises Arya after having previously met her in "A Golden Crown". Important because he first met her while wearing breeches and being covered in dirt - which is the state she's in now. As a result, he knows who she is while the others don't recognise her.
  • Combat by Champion: After being taken hostage by the Stark army, Jaime Lannister proposes one to Robb Stark to end the war. Robb, knowing he stands no chance against the Kingslayer, refuses.
    Robb: If we do it your way, Kingslayer, you win. We're not doing it your way.
  • Conflicting Loyalties:
    • While Walder Frey is a bannerman of Catelyn Stark's father, he's also sworn loyalty to the Crown as he points out, which Robb Stark and his army are currently rebelling against.
    • Jon Snow is torn between his oath to the Night's Watch, and his love/duty to his family (as was Aemon before him).
  • Cool Sword: Longclaw, the sword of House Mormont, brings about this reaction In-Universe when Jon shows it to his friends.
  • Cover Innocent Eyes and Ears: Yoren clasps Arya to his chest so she can't witness her father being decapitated.
  • Curb-Stomp Battle:
    • The battle between the Lannisters' and the Starks' forces ends with the Lannisters routing their enemies so quickly that Tyrion accidentally gets knocked out at the start of the battle, and by the time he comes to, it's all over. However, it turns out that the battle was just a feint on the part of the Starks, to distract from their real plan of attack, in which...
    • Robb's main force of 16,000 ambushes and utterly destroys Jaime's force of 30,000—offscreen. The battle ends with Jaime's humiliating capture.
  • Damn With Faint Praise: When Robb asks for his mother's assessment of Lord Frey's daughters, she says, "One was..." and trails off, clearly unable to think of anything complimentary that isn't a bald-faced lie. Well, Theon finds it hilarious, at least.
  • Deadpan Snarker: Shae can outsnark even Tyrion. He likes it.
  • Decoy Protagonist: Ned Stark. It seems a lot of the show's marketing was done to set this up. Judging by the outcry amongst non-reader fans, up to and including threats to stop watching, it worked.
  • Didn't See That Coming: Cersei thinks she has everything under control until her psychopathic son decides to exert his newfound authority.
  • Dirty Old Man: Lord Walder Frey, an elderly man who forces women of age to be their granddaughters to be his wives.
  • Dispense with the Pleasantries: Lord Frey has no problem getting straight to the unpleasantries.
  • Dissonant Serenity: While Varys and Cersei panic, Littlefinger just coldly watches Ned's execution, raising the question of whether he knew in advance that it was going to happen.
  • Downer Ending: For the Ned Stark arc and for fans of the House Stark. The best father in the story and the archetype of the good king (though he did not rule) is executed. His daughters have to watch his gruesome death and are unable to stop it.
  • Dramatic Irony: Lord Eddard is beheaded with his own sword, which he used to execute someone in the first episode.
  • The Dreaded: Stannis, who is an experienced and ruthless battle commander with (thanks to Cersei's incest) a righteous cause. The Lannisters are entirely willing to come to terms with the Starks so they can be free to deal with this greater threat.
  • Ear Ache: Chella grabs some more trophies after the battle, not waiting until the previous owners are dead first.
  • Early Installment Weirdness: Considering that the series would eventually become known for featuring large-scale battles that would put most feature films to shame, the two battles in this episode fall very conspicuously under Take Our Word for It. The first one features Tyrion and maybe two-dozen extras charging towards a field, then Tyrion accidentally knocks himself out, and the rest of the battle takes place entirely off-screen. For the second battle, we don't even get that; the whole thing is just described to the viewer by Robb after the fact.
  • Even Evil Has Standards:
    • Qotho, the most Jerkass of Drogo's bloodriders, is disgusted with Daenerys's willingness to use blood magic to cheat the natural order.
    • Cersei—as well as Pycelle and Varys who are more morally questionable than evil—is taken aback by Joffrey's sudden order to kill Ned, and all three rush (and fail) to persuade him otherwise. The concern came less from morality, and more from their realization of the utter political hell that would result.
    • Some of the younger Freys do their best to rein in their father's vitriol towards Catelyn. He blunty tells them to shut up and keep their noses out of it.
    Stevron Frey: Father, you forget yourself. Lady Stark is here-
    Walder Frey: Who asked you?! You're not Lord Frey yet, not until I die! Do I look dead to you?!
    Ryger Rivers: Father, please!
    Walder Frey: I need lessons in courtesy from you, bastard?! Your mother would still be a milkmaid if I hadn't squirted you into her belly!
  • Evil-Detecting Dog: Khal Drogo's horse whinnies and rears in fear as it's lead into the tent to be sacrificed.
  • Evil Is Hammy: Tywin of all people has a dramatic sounding moment when he enthusiastically says, "The wolf rushes into the lion's jaw — so be it!"
  • Equivalent Exchange: Only a life can pay for a life.
  • Face Death with Dignity: Ned says to Varys he's not afraid to die. And he proves it when he realizes he's actually gonna get executed, even though he was promised exile at the Wall. Once he sees that Arya has disappeared from the crowd and won't see anything, Ned closes his eyes and quietly embraces his impending death.
    Eddard: I grew up with soldiers. I learned how to die a long time ago.
  • Failed a Spot Check: At the execution, only Ned sees Arya standing on the statue of Baelor outright. Yoren does see her once Ned tells him where to look. Varys, the Hound, Pycelle, Meryn Trant, Joffrey, Cercei, Sansa, Littlefinger and Janos Slynt all fail to notice the most conspicuous person in the crowd. To be fair, Arya is wearing her Street Urchin clothes, which Yoren is familiar with (having seen her wearing them in "The Wolf and the Lion") but not the others (except Sansa and Trant, and their attention is on what's happening with Ned).
  • Failed Attempt at Drama: Tyrion's attempt at a Rousing Speech works fine until the mountain clans charge over him, knocking him unconscious and trampling him into the mud. Gilligan Cut to Tyrion waking up, being hauled along on a cart with Bronn standing over him.
    Bronn: You're a shit warrior.
  • False Confession: Varys tries to convince Ned to give one, to save his life and the lives of his daughters. He does, though it doesn't save him.
  • Fanservice: Shae quickly gets topless for Tyrion.
  • Forced to Watch: Arya is spared the sight her father's decapitation. Sansa is not so lucky... and she's very, very close.
  • Foreshadowing:
    • Tyrion's ability to see through people doesn't work on Shae. Tyrion experiences his own Didn't See That Coming moment when Shae betrays him.
    • Varys tells Ned that he could free him from the black cells but he won't. He does free someone else from the place in Season 4.
    • Tyrion calls for his squire to help him put on his armor, but Bronn points out that Tyrion doesn't have one. This is rectified in Season 2.
    • Bronn says he "would have killed the man who did that to me" when Tyrion talks of how his ill-fated marriage worked out. Tyrion does collect what is owed to him in season 4.
    • Before asking for Drogo's horse for the Blood Magic ritual, Mirri Maz Duur briefly looks at Dany's womb, hinting at the true price of the ritual. Daenerys doesn't catch this.
    • The conversation between Maester Aemon and Jon, where Aemon questions Jon about whether Ned would choose honour or family in a complicated situation, like the one going on. In the episode, Ned chooses family for Sansa's sake over his honour, which, as we learn in Season 6, is the same choice he made at the end of the Rebellion years ago. Ned protected a child, his family, despite this being treason against his friend and king. The discussion between choosing honor or love for your family will also be very important in the final season...
  • Hell Is That Noise: Unearthly sounds come from within the tent where Mirri is practicing her Blood Magic.
  • Heroic Breakdown: Sansa appears to be going into a full-scale one in the final scene as she tries to stop her father's execution.
  • Heroic BSoD: Ned has an incredibly brief one when he realizes that he's going to be executed despite being promised exile. This disappears when he ensures that Arya, at least, doesn't have to watch it happen, and he instead chooses to Face Death with Dignity.
  • Heroic Sacrifice: Theon tries to convince Robb that the two thousand men he used as a decoy force were necessary and that they died for a noble cause. Robb is less than comfortable with it.
    Robb: I sent two thousand men to their graves today.
    Theon: The bards will sing songs of their sacrifice.
    Robb: Aye. But the dead won't hear them.
  • Honor Before Reason:
    • Ned always chooses honour even when it might not be the most pragmatic and reasonable thing to do. Ultimately subverted when he lies to try and save his daughters from the Lannisters. Unfortunately Joffrey has him executed anyway.
    • Arya's first instinct is to rush to her father's rescue, armed only with a small rapier against the King's Justice and several fully-armored Kingsguard. Fortunately Yoren is there to stop her.
  • Hope Spot:
    • For Ned. Joffrey seems ready to go with mercy as was promised (i.e. he will be sent to serve in the Night's Watch), but then... Ned is executed.
    • For the entire kingdom. Ned was the Only Sane Man here, the single person who could have possibly stopped this snowball of violence before things get worse. He can't exactly do that without his head.
  • Hypocrite
    • Varys urges Ned Stark to put aside his pride and bring peace to the realm, but we know Varys is only doing so because the planned Dothraki invasion isn't ready to go ahead yet.
    • "If soldiers lack discipline the fault lies with their lord commander." The question of exactly how much responsibility Lord Tywin bears for the actions of his soldiers becomes an issue in Season 4.
  • Hypocritical Humor: Walder Frey griping about all the sons and daughters he needs arranged marriages for. Well whose fault would that be then?
  • If I Do Not Return: Tyrion asks Shae to weep for him if he's killed in today's battle. She responds that he wouldn't know if she did so.
  • I Have Your Wife: I Have Your Son for Tywin Lannister. Jaime Lannister is taken hostage by the Starks.
  • I Kiss Your Hand: Lord Walder Frey greets Catelyn with one. As fitting for a Dirty Old Man, the kiss is very sloppy and disgusting.
  • I Owe You My Life: The Old Bear not only doesn't prosecute Jon for attacking an officer, he presents him with his own sword for saving him from the wight.
  • Instant Messenger Pigeon: Instant Messenger Raven, as ravens deliver messages. Averted; the Stark forces shoot down several ravens sent by the Freys, for fear they'd carry news alerting their enemies to their position. Later, news of Jaime's capture is sent, but still hasn't arrived by the end of the episode, and is certainly far too late to make a difference.
  • Last-Minute Reprieve: Ned is offered the chance to join the Night's Watch instead of being executed for treason. Subverted. Joffrey kills him anyway.
  • Leave the Two Lovebirds Alone: Bronn removes himself when Tyrion and Shae start snogging again.
  • Liquid Courage: After tasting wine for the first time, Tyrion gained the confidence to seduce a woman for the first time.
  • Macho Masochism: Gender-inverted when Shae proves better than Tyrion at a game of balancing a burning candle on your arm. Tyrion doesn't like the idea of a Braavosi knife game either.
  • Maternity Crisis: Daenerys goes into labor, but the midwives refuse to go near her. Jorah carries her into the maegi's tent.
  • Mathematician's Answer:
    • Bronn.
      Tyrion: You've been north of the Wall.
      [Bronn drinks]
      Shae: What brought you up there?
      Bronn: Work.
    • Shae:
      Tyrion: What kind of accent is that?
      Shae: Foreign.
  • Mass "Oh, Crap!": Sansa, Cersei, Pycelle and Varys collectively lose their shit and try to stop Joffrey after he orders Ned killed. Littlefinger remains unfazed.
  • Meaningful Look: Mirri Maz Duur glances at Dany's womb when she talks of the price of the ritual she is being asked to perform to save Drogo, hinting that it will be the child who is the price, not the horse she requests.
  • Ms. Fanservice: Shae the Camp Follower is played by former porn actress Sibel Kekilli.
  • My Friends... and Zoidberg: The start of Tyrion's Rousing Speech.
    Tryion: Stone Crows! Black Ears! Burned Men! Moon Brothers!
    Clansman offscreen: And Painted Dogs!
    Tryion: And Painted Dogs!
  • Neck Snap: Arya kills a pigeon this way.
  • Never Heard That One Before: Bronn's advice to Tyrion before the battle: "Stay low."
    Tyrion: [incredulous] "Stay low"?
  • Nice Job Breaking It, Hero!: Varys, in an attempt to stop the Lannister–Stark war, tries to persuade Ned to confess treason to save his life and the lives of his daughters. However, Joffrey has him executed anyway, eliminating any chance for peace.
  • Not Afraid to Die: Ned tells Varys he's not afraid of the prospect of the Lannisters killing him...but as Varys points out, he's afraid of the prospect the Lannisters will kill his daughter as retaliation for defying them.
    Ned: You grew up with actors. You learnt their craft and you learnt it well...but I grew up with soldiers. I learned how to die a long time ago.
  • Not So Above It All: Even Catelyn can't find anything nice to say about Walder Frey's daughters.
  • Not-So-Harmless Villain: Joffrey spent the entirety of the show so far simply listening to his mother and following her orders. The realization that he can no longer be controlled comes at the absolute worst possible moment, and it costs Ned his life.
  • Not So Stoic: Varys is always seen as calm and composed, if not condescendingly sweet. Once Joffrey orders Ned Stark to be beheaded, however, he runs to stop it.
  • No-Sell: Tyrion's Living Lie Detector and Sherlock Scan skills don't work at all on Shae (that or she's lying).
  • Off with His Head!: Ned Stark's fate. Illyn Payne, the King's Justice, takes his head. To add salt to the injury, he uses Ned's own sword, Ice, the ancestral weapon of the House Stark.
  • Pre-Climax Climax: Tyrion tells Shae to screw him like it's his last day on Earth, which may well be the case. On hearing why (they're going to be in the vanguard), Bronn quickly rushes off to find a woman as well.
  • Puppet King: Joffrey seems to be a puppet of a ruler, generally following along behind the Queen Regent. Subverted when he goes off-script at a critical moment and in front of several thousand people.
  • Pragmatic Villainy: Queen Cersei has a moment when she heavily objects to Ned's execution, because that means war with the North.
  • Pregnant Badass: Daenerys, who simply refuses to leave Drogo and gives orders to some angry Dothraki even if she's powerless without her husband.
  • Put on a Bus: Jeor Mormont sends Alliser Thorne to King's Landing to keep him and Jon Snow well away from each other. He's to present the severed hand of the wight to King Joffrey.
  • Pyrrhic Victory: While the Lannisters win at the Green Fork, it quickly becomes clear that Robb was never looking to win that battle and merely wanted to keep Tywin in one place while the Stark army heads towards Riverrun. This results in the Lannisters losing a much more important battle and Jaime being taken prisoner. Tyrion even points out that despite the defeat at the Green Fork, Robb is winning the war.
  • Reality Ensues: Drogo took a fairly deep cut on his chest from his opponent's sword in the previous episode, then contemptuously wiped his hand across it after ripping the man's throat out. It would've been more surprising if he hadn't developed sepsis.
  • Replacement Goldfish: The Old Bear passes on his family's sword to Jon Snow. This is Serious Business as Valyrian steel swords are rare and highly expensive, and so Longclaw should go to the next male member of his line. Unfortunately Jorah Mormont disgraced the family name and fled overseas.
  • Reveal Shot: Tyrion is shown floating effortlessly above the field of the slain. Is our brave dwarf being carried off to Valhalla? Nope, he's just being hauled along on a cart.
  • Rousing Speech: Tyrion attempts to give one to the hill tribesmen before their battle. None of them really understand, so they're content to just use "HALFMAN!" as a Battle Chant.
  • Sacrificial Lion: Ned Stark demonstrates to viewers that Anyone Can Die in this series, even main characters.
  • Sexy Shirt Switch: Shae is wearing Tyrion's gold-embroided leather vest during the Drinking Game.
  • Shameless Fanservice Girl: Shae signals her acceptance of Tyrion's job offer by slipping off her dress and making out with him.
  • Sherlock Scan: Subverted; Tyrion boasts of his skill at judging people, yet is unable to unwrap Shae's Mysterious Past.
  • Shoot the Shaggy Dog: Ned finally understands that there are things more important than honor. He pleads guilty to treason to save the realm from upheaval. He is executed anyway and the war that he is trying to stop begins.
  • Silk Hiding Steel: Sansa is proved to be this as, when Joffrey orders Ned's execution, two guards have to restrain her and she never stops trying to get to her father.
  • Smug Smiler: Theon Greyjoy and the Greatjon take evident amusement in Robb Stark having to marry one of the Freys.
  • Stock Scream: The Wilhelm Scream is heard while the tribesmen are killing the wounded.
  • Suddenly SHOUTING!: Varys, unusually for him. "I want you to serve the realm!"
  • Swipe Your Blade Off: Tyrion wakes up to see Bronn doing this.
  • Tap on the Head: Tyrion gets knocked out inadvertently by a charging tribesman. He wakes up after the battle with no ill effects.
  • The Uriah Gambit: Tyrion believes that Tywin placed him in the vanguard in an attempt to get him killed, and confronts his father about this. Tywin neither confirms nor denies it, though given his reaction to Tyrion's return in the last episode...
  • Vader Breath: We open with Ned in the Black Cells where only his breathing can be heard, until Varys appears holding a torch.
  • Villain Ball: Joffrey has Ned executed out of petty sadism and to assert his newfound authority, plunging the country he rules into war.
  • Villain Respect: After belittling Robb previously, Tywin gives him grudging points for being The Determinator after his army crosses the Trident.
  • Villainous Valor: Jaime killed ten men before he was taken prisoner, and still has plenty of snark.
  • Wham Episode: The single biggest shocker until "The Rains of Castamere" topped it in season 3. Ned, the protagonist of the series, is executed in the penultimate episode of the first of the series' eight seasons. This not only makes it clear to the viewer that nobody is safe in this universe, but it also destroys any chance of the conflict between the Lannisters and Starks ending in a peaceful way.
  • Wham Line:
    Joffrey: So long as I am your king, treason shall never go unpunished. Ser Ilyn, bring me his head!
  • Would Hurt a Child: Invoked: Jorah points out that when Drogo dies, his lieutenants are sure to fight amongst themselves to take his place, and whoever emerges as the victor will undoubtedly kill Dany's son, rather than risk the boy growing up to be a rival.
    Daenerys: Why would I run?! I am Khaleesi, and my son will be Khal after Drogo-!
    Jorah: This isn't Westeros where men follow blood. Here, they only follow strength. There will be fighting when Drogo dies; whoever wins that fight will be the new Khal. He won't want any rivals. Your boy will be plucked from your breast and given to the dogs.
    • Varys also implies that the Lannisters will kill Sansa to punish Ned if he continues to act against them.
  • You Shall Not Pass!: As Qotho goes to stop what's happening in the tent, Jorah draws his sword and challenges him.


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