You Win Or You Die (Season 1, Episode 7, Game of Thrones)

2 You Win or You DieDirected by Daniel Minahan

Teleplay by David Benioff, D.B. Weiss

Facts, truths and opinions as well as honor, rights and opportunism are the motivating factors in You Win Or You Die.  Just as the attempted assassination of Bran Stark has had a myriad of consequences, so will the attempted assassination of Daenerys Targaryen.  Much plotting, much positioning and a hunting mishap all serve to heighten the action in this episode.

“A lion doesn’t concern himself with the opinion of the sheep.”

Thus far, we have only heard of Tywin Lannister.  Now, in the seventh episode, in the opening scene, we are introduced to him, every bit the force to be reckoned with, as others have described.  In a casting decision every bit as brilliant as Sean Bean playing Ned Stark, Charles Dance portrays the patriarch of House Lannister – confident, powerful, and demanding.

Jaime reads the summons sent by Ned Stark, as Lord Tywin Lannister dresses a stag  (which is rich with symbolism as the sigil of the Baratheons is a stag). Lord Tywin gives Jaime a dressing down – it’s time to become the man he was meant to be.  Clearly, Lord Tywin doesn’t place much stock in the honor of serving among the Gold Cloaks.  Tywin gives Jaime 30,000 men and orders to attack Riverun (Catelyn Stark’s childhood home) in retribution for taking Tyrion.

(The dialogue is linked here, you’ll need to scroll down just a bit – read the dialogue first, and then watch the video snippet below.  It really demonstrates how talented these actors are and how deftly they depict the relationship between Jamie and his father in a few short lines.)

“I know the truth Jon Arryn died for…”

1 You Win or You DieBack in King’s Landing, Ned meets with Cersei to let her know that when Robert returns from his hunting trip, Ned will reveal the truth Jon Arryn died for.  The always-honorable Ned tells her to take her children and flee.  He is clearly unaware of who has the upper hand.

Cersei reveals to the audience that during the rebellion, Ned could have taken the Iron Throne.  She tells Ned he made a mistake in not taking the throne when he could have.  She also confesses that in the beginning she worshipped Robert but couldn’t compete with the memory of Lyanna Stark.

“I should have spent more time with you.  Shown you how to be a man.”

These are the words King Robert utters to Joffrey on his deathbed, Robert having been gored by a boar in the hunt.  I wonder how much time Robert has spent with Joffrey.  We’ve seen Robert torment Jaime and Lancel.  His treatment of Cersei is awful (even Ned is put off by it).  As early as the visit to Winterfell, he insisted on seeing Lyanna’s tomb immediately and later at the banquet, he flirted with serving girls in front of Cersei (publicly humiliating her) and in the last episode struck her.  Joffrey has certainly witnessed at least some of this behavior.

But it’s fascinating that with all the strong men in his life and bloodline (he’s the grandson of Tywin), he’s not adopted any of their better characteristics.

Robert sends Joffrey away after throwing in “I wasn’t meant to be a father” and meets with Ned alone to share his dying wishes.  Robert asks Ned to grab the pen and paper and dictates his final wish that Ned serve as Lord Regent, Protector of the Realm, until Joffrey reaches legal age.  However, Ned writes “rightful heir” rather than “my son Joffrey” as Robert specifically said.

Who says: “My brother was a fool, I know, but he was the rightful heir to the seven kingdoms.”

  1. Renly Baratheon
  2. Daenerys Targaryen
  3. Jon Snow
  4. Tyrion Lannister
  5. None of the above

The answer is Daenerys.

Even though Robert has given Ned permission to call off the assassination of Daenerys, Lord Varys tells Ned that it is too late.

Ser Jorah receives word from Lord Varys that, in exchange for the information about Daenerys he has shared with the Small Council, he has received a royal pardon and may return home.  Having a change of heart due to his growing feelings for Danerys, Ser Jorah thwarts the attempt to kill her.

Equally as dramatic is that, a heretofore indifferent, Khal Drogo, upon hearing of the attempt on her life, pledges to cross the Narrow Sea with his khalasar and take the Iron Throne.

“That didn’t matter when you rebelled against the Mad King”

3 You Win or You DieBoth Renly and, later, Littlefinger approach Ned with the idea of taking control with the end game being for Renly to become king.

Littlefinger has what appears to be solid plan of moving forward with the idea of making Joffrey king when he comes of age, but having Ned rule the realm.  And, if Joffrey becomes a problem later, reveal the truth that Jon Arryn and Ned discovered, and install Renly as king.

Ned, stubbornly insists that Stannis is the rightful heir, but asks for Littlefinger’s help in getting the Gold Cloaks to side with Ned, should Cersei and Joffrey fail to leave peacefully.

Ultimately, Littlefinger turns on Ned, and the Gold Cloaks protect Cersei rather than Ned.  But, the question lingers, would Littlefinger have delivered to the Gold Cloaks to Ned (had Ned agreed to his strategy), or was Littlefinger setting him up by suggesting the strategy, and in rejecting it, Ned made it easier for Littlefinger to get him out of the way?

Sigil Notes:

Lion (Lannister)

  • Given what Tywin has to say about family and the Lannister name, it occurs to me that it’s odd that neither Jaime nor Tyrion is married.
  • The Lannisters are the most interesting house in the Seven Kingdom’s.
  • Cersei seems to be the most gifted Lannister – good looks, intelligent, politically astute and only limited by the fact that she’s a woman in a world that severely limits women.
  • No Tyrion in this episode!  Last we saw him, he and Bron were leaving the Eyrie on foot and with no gold.

Dire Wolf (Starks)

  • Ned is the only Stark we see in this episode.
  • Ned’s household guards get smaller and smaller.  It was sad to lose Jory in The Wolf and the Lion.    Jory is Ser Rodrik Cassel’s son.  So the Cassel’s have been a part of the Stark house for at least two generations.

Dragon (Targaryen)

  • While it’s nice to see the Khal and Khaleesi in love and awaiting the joyous arrival, I’m jolted periodically by remembering what it would mean for the poor people of Westeros if the Dothraki do cross the Narrow Sea.
  • The Drogo/Danearys scenes have been slowly developing into a richer story, but I find myself preferring the King’s Landing story line.

Stag (Baratheon)

  • “I want everyone to taste the boar that got me.” Robert Baratheon
  • Joffrey screaming “Kill them!  Kill them all!” is something we’ll probably hear again.

Kraken (Greyjoy)

  • In the interaction between Osha (the only wildling to survive the attack on Bran) and Theon, we learn how the death penalty is meted out in the Iron Islands.
  • Theon is reminded once again by Maester Luwin of his place in Winterfell.  And, even Osha takes a jab at him.

The Black (Night’s Watch)

  • Hurray!  Dire Wolf appearance!   After Jon Snow and Sam take their vows, Ghost finds a dismembered hand (symbolic of Ned?) and brings it to Jon.
  • Like father, like son when it comes to Jon Snow and Ned Stark.  Not seeing the forest for the trees, Jon is upset at being assigned to steward duty.  But as Sam points out, it’s steward duty for the Lord Commander, and obviously Jon is being groomed for the bigger and better things.

Further Reading:

A Golden Crown (Season 1, Episode 6, Game of Thrones)

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

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

Lord Snow (Season 1, Episode 3, Game of Thrones)

The Kingsroad (Season 1, Episode 2, Game of Thrones)

Winter Is Coming (Season 1, Episode 1, Game of Thrones)


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