The Kingsroad (Season1, Episode 2, Game Of Thrones)

1 The KingsroadDirected by Tim Van Patten

Written by David Benioff, D. B. Weiss

Jon Snow’s instinctive understanding of the significance of the direwolves (which served to convince Ned to save their lives and bring them home to Winterfell) has dramatic consequences in this episode.

The episode also illustrates powerlessness within the structure of Westeros – whether because of gender (Daenerys) or circumstances of birth (Jon Snow and the butcher’s boy); and further develops the character of Tyrion Lannister who is an example of taking the best of circumstances (being born a Lannister and having a sharp mind and wealth) and using that to overcome the prejudices and cruelty aimed at him because he is a dwarf.

Bullies and the powerless

We begin to see Joffrey’s true colors in The Kingsroad and realize that when Tyrion describes him to Jon Snow as “my repulsive nephew,” Joffrey more than lives up to the adjective.

Whether you’re viewing The Kingsroad for the first time, are seeing it again, or have read the books – it’s difficult to see Sansa become so smitten with Joffrey.  Yet, it’s understandable; she is a young girl, who, although wealthy by Westeros standards, has grown up in the sticks, and has the opportunity to marry the young handsome prince and someday be the queen.

2 The KingsroadJoffrey’s sneering demeanor and willingness to insult and bully is a little like his Uncle Jaime. (Jaime verbally mixes it up with Ned Stark in Winter Is Coming, and taunts Jon Snow in this episode).   The difference is that battle-tested Jaime picks on people his own size, so to speak, and is capable of cashing the checks his mouth writes.  Joffrey, on the other hand, is constantly calling on either Cersei or The Hound to clean up his messes.  He picks on Mycah, the butcher’s boy, precisely because he knows, that being a prince, the boy won’t fight back.  Arya, with her father’s sense of justice, free of political guile, intervenes to save the poor boy.   When Joffrey decides to retaliate against Arya, Nymeria attacks Joffrey.

Meanwhile, on the Dothraki horse trail, Daenerys is transforming from a powerless girl to a powerful young woman.  First she has to suffer verbal and physical abuse from her brother, Viserys (who is equally qualified for the adjective of repulsive).  She has been married off to a warrior king, tossed into a brutal culture, and seeks the advice of one her serving women (with past experience in a pleasure house) to try to transform marital sex with her new husband to love making.

The direwolves

Here’s a handy list of the Stark children and the dire wolf of each child (cool infographic here): 

  • Jon Snow/Ghost
  • Robb/Grey Wind
  • Sansa/Lady
  • Arya/Nymeria
  • Bran/Summer
  • Rickon/Shaggy Dog

Perhaps Lady Stark would have been more kind to Jon Snow if she knew that, if it weren’t for him, Summer wouldn’t have been around to save her and Bran from the knife wielding assassin.  In this episode we learn that the direwolves are intensely protective of their child masters.

While Nymeria looks fully domesticated as she shadows Arya as she packs for the trip to King’s Landing, she becomes every bit as ferocious as Summer when Joffrey tangles with Arya.  Granted, I’m an easy mark for these things, but my heart broke when later, as the Queen’s men are hunting for Arya, Mycah (the butcher’s boy) and Nymeria, Arya throws rocks at Nymeria so that she will run away.

Unfortunately, while Nymeria is able to escape, Cersei demands that Lady (Sansa’s direwolf) die in her place.  Rather than have Ser Ilyn Payne, the royal executioner, kill Lady.  Ned does it himself, in a heart-breaking scene.  That scene immediately cuts to Winterfell, where we see Bran wake from him coma.

Sigil Notes:

3 The KingsroadDirewolf (Stark)

  • When Sansa loses Lady, in a sense, does she gain The Hound (Sandor Clegane)?
  • Seeing Robert in action, in the relatively minor incident between Arya and Joffrey, it really becomes clear what a hard duty this will be for Ned.  Robert really is only interested in feasting, whoring and hunting.  While in years past it was probably comforting to have the warrior Robert next to him in battle, seeing how Robert handles a tussle between children, has to have Ned in complete dread of what’s in store in King’s Landing.
  • It’s difficult to watch Lady Stark be so cruel to Jon.  Granted he’s the living, breathing reminder of her husband’s unfaithfulness years ago, but he is so well liked by the other children and so good and loving to them.
  • It’s easy to love Ned Stark, but we fall in love with him again, when he tells Jon, “You may not have my name, but you have my blood.
  • We discover in this episode that Jon’s mother’s name was Wylla.

Lion (Lannister)

  • Tyrion is a charming character, but endears himself even more by slapping Joffrey around when he refuses to go to the Starks and give his condolences with regard to Bran’s fall.
  • It’s fun to see Tyrion interacting with Cersei, Jaime, Tommen and Mycella at the breakfast table.  They seem happy and fond of their uncle.
  • Tyrion verbally spars with Jon in a slightly less mean-spirited way than Jaime’s taunts about the taking the black. While they’re traveling to The Wall, a few new recruits join their party.  Tyrion points out that Jon’s “new brothers” are rapists and that the law gives them a choice between castration or The Wall, with most choosing the knife

Stag (Baratheon)

  • Seven hells!  Robert is not the man Ned is.  When he gives in to Cersei, and allows Lady to be killed, he loses a little luster.

Further reading:

Winter is Coming – Episode 1, Season 1, Game of Thrones

Lord Snow – Episode 3, Season 1, Game of Thrones

Cripples, Bastards, and Broken Things – Episode 4, Season 1, Game of Thrones

The Wolf and The Lion – Episode 5, Season 1, Game of Thrones

A Golden Crown – Episode 6, Season 1, Games of Thrones

You Win or You Die – Episode 7, Season 1, Game of Thrones

The Pointy End – Episode 8, Season 1, Game of Thrones

Baelor – Episode 9, Season 1, Game of Thrones

Fire and Blood – Episode 10, Season 1, Game of Thrones

AV Club:  http://www.avclub.com/articles/the-kingsroad,55009/

Wikipedia:  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Kingsroad

Watch along with me Game of Thrones: The Complete First Season

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