Cripples, Bastards, and Broken Things (Season 1, Episode 4, Game Of Thrones)

1 CripplesDirected by Brian Kirk

Written by Bryan Cogman

Tenderness in a hostile and rigid world

The title of the episode comes from an exchange between Robb Stark and Tyrion Lannister.  Catelyn has shared her suspicions that the Lannisters are behind the two attempts on Bran’s life.  So when Tyrion Lannister appears at Winterfell on his way back to King’s Landing, Robb is none too pleased to see him.  Tyrion has asked to speak with Bran: he has brought him a blueprint for a specially designed saddle.  Robb is suspicious of the gesture, “Is some kind of trick? Why do you want to help him?”  Tyrion replies, “I have a tender spot in my heart for cripples, bastards, and broken things.”

There’s not much tenderness to be found in Westeros. There are glaring delineations of power, sex, and class.  And, while one group may be more comfortable than the others, there is no safety for anyone in the genuinely dangerous and shifting landscape.  All of the Game of Thrones characters struggle within the confines of this very rigid social structure and most of the characters will take every opportunity to keep people in their place.

2 CripplesEven delightful Tyrion takes the opportunity to verbally joust at Theon Greyjoy as he’s leaving Winterfell, “Now, here you are, your enemy’s squire.” reminding him that he is a captive of the Starks – well-treated, but nonetheless hostage to the post-rebellion world with Robert as king. When Theon tries to engage in friendly guy talk about the brothel, Tyrion further insults him by tossing him a coin and saying “Your next tumble with Ros is on me.  I’ll try not to wear her out.”

As Ned Stark continues his investigation of Jon Arryn’s death, he sends Jory Cassel (son of Ser Rodrik Cassel) to speak with newly knighted, former squire of Jon Arryn, Ser Hugh of the Vale and later to give a message to the King.  Jory gets nowhere with Ser Hugh, because he is a knight and Jory is not, but as Jory later reports to Ned, he’d be happy to speak to the Hand of the King himself.  When Jory goes to deliver the message from Ned to the King, Jaime Lannister is standing outside of the king’s chambers as Robert entertains several women.  Every thing Jory says earns a sarcastic or salty response from Jaime. Jory reminds Jaime that they fought together, side by side at the siege of Pyke.  They share their memories of the battle, which Jaime recalls fondly, but only briefly snapping at Jory’s request to deliver the message with, “I don’t serve Lord Stark.” Unfortunately Ser Hugh is not a knight for long.

Jon Snow is truly the one who has a tender spot in his heart for cripples, bastards and broken things.  He has taken Tyrion’s lessons to heart and worked at helping the other recruits of the Night’s Watch.  When hopeless Sam Tarwell is dumped in their midst, it is Jon who protects and befriends him.  Later, when Sam and Jon are on cleaning duty, Jon shares with Sam how he managed to remain chaste even with the lovely Ros naked and in the same room – “All I could think is what if I got her pregnant…another bastard named Snow – not a good life for a child.”  We know that Ned did not abandon Jon; he recognized him and brought him back to Winterfell.  If it’s a bad life for the bastard child of the Lord of one great houses of the Seven Kingdoms, it must be absolutely miserable throughout the rest of society.

3 CripplesLong histories and short lives

“The seed is strong.”  Jon Arryn’s last word according to Grand Maester Pycelle.  Ned receives information from both the Maester and Petyr Baelish on the details of the last days of the Hand.

That Ned lugs around the last book Jon Arryn read, “The Lineages and Histories of the Great Houses of the Seven Kingdoms” just as we learn a lot of history in this episode.  What we learn, comes from discussions between the characters from the names of the great dragons, to the Grayjoys part in the rebellion, to how Sam Tarwell ended up at The Wall, and so much more.

Lineage is on the mind of Sansa too, as she worries about princesses without any princes.

One of the most fascinating histories is that of The Hound’s.  While at the tournament, Ser Petyr Baelish shares with Arya how he got the name “Littlefinger” and share with Sansa the horror story of the Clegane brothers, concluding with the ominous warning not to share it with anyone since all the knights of King’s Landing would be unable to protect her from The Hound were he to find out.

Sigil Notes:

The Wall

  • We hear Mance Rayder mentioned for the first time when Ser Alliser Thorne tells Jon Snow and Sam about one of his horrific assignments beyond The Wall.

Direwolf (Stark)

  • We see three of the direwolves in this episode.  When Theon comes to tell Bran that Robb wants him to greet the visitors, Bran’s direwolf, Summer, is on the bed.  Robb’s direwolf, Grey Wind, is lying near the table in the great hall.  And, we see Ghost when Jon tells one of the Night’s Watch recruits to leave Sam alone.
  • When Septa Mordane tells Sansa that she will find it in her heart to forgive her father – I am assuming it’s about killing Lady, because I can’t think of another reason why she would be so angry with Ned.

Dragon (Targaryen)

    • Ser Jorah is back from his mysterious side trip and the horde has arrived at the City of the Horse Lords, Vaes Dothrak.
    • Daenerys continues to discover that her brother is anything but king’s material.

Stag (Baratheon)

  • “Start the damn joust before I piss myself.” I don’t think a better actor than Mark Addy could have been chosen for Robert Baratheon.  Every line is a delight.
  • We are introduced to a new character, Gendry, Robert’s bastard.

Further reading:

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

The Kingsroad – Episode 2, Season 1, Game of Thrones

Lord Snow – Episode 3, 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


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