The Pointy End (Season 1, Episode 8, Game of Thrones)
Written by George R. R. Martin
“The madness of mercy.”
The story lines of Ned Stark and Daenerys Targaryen have an interesting similarity: the unintended consequences of interfering, of bestowing mercy. When Westeros appears to be a place where no good deed goes unpunished.
The Khaleesi’s Mercy
As Khaleesi, Daenerys has grown confident and more comfortable as the Khal’s wife. (For an interesting read on Daenerys, as well as Cersei, I recommend Mariann Develin’s ‘A Feminist Examination of Game of Thrones’ in which she brings up the fascinating observation that Daenerys is suffering from Stockholm Syndrome.) When she and Ser Jorah Mormont stroll through the latest village to be plundered by the Dothraki, they come upon the khalasar warriors raping the village women.
It’s obvious that Daenerys is meant to be a heroine of the saga, and her popularity with viewers of the series is undeniable. However, it’s hard to cheer for her success as Khaleesi because, as austere as life in the Seven Kingdoms is for the common people, it’s nothing compared to the nightmare that would entail were the Dothraki to cross the Narrow Sea. And, we’re getting a glimpse of what that arrival might be like in this village of ‘sheep people’.
Daenerys tells Ser Jorah to stop what is going on. After advising her against interfering, when she makes a second demand, he reluctantly acts. In an act of mercy she takes the women as her own slaves.
This angers Mago, and the warrior brings his complaint to Khal Drogo. Daenerys insists that it is her right as Khaleesi to take these women. The argument becomes more heated, and Mago and Drogo fight. Drogo slays Mago, but not before sustaining a wound. Daenerys calls upon one of her new slaves, Mirri Maz Duur a healer whom the Dothraki believe to be a witch, to treat Drogo’s cut. (What is not clear is whether the wound in and of itself ultimately kills him or if the witch’s treatment makes it a deadly wound).
Daenerys believes she is being merciful, but she is setting into motion a series of events that will have disastrous effects.
The Mercy of Ned Stark
“What madness led you to tell the Queen you’d learned the truth about Joffrey’s birth?” Lord Varys asks Ned Stark, now imprisoned by Cersei and Joffrey. Ned responds, “The madness of mercy.”
Sansa is hostage, Arya’s whereabouts are unknown, and the entire Stark household staff has been slaughtered. True, Ned thought he had the support of the City Watch, and was willing to let Cersei and the children flee had he not been betrayed.
Lord Varys then adds new light to the details surrounding the death of the King. Yes, the wine slowed him down; and yes, the boar ripped him open, but it was Ned’s “mercy that killed the king.” This seems to indicate that perhaps Robert might have survived the accident, but that Cersei intervened knowing that it was Ned’s intention to tell Robert about Joffrey when he returned from the hunt.
Ned is a father whose ten-year-old son was tossed out of a tower window; it’s easy to understand why peace with the Lannisters is so distasteful to him. But he is, in many ways, equally as responsible as Cersei for his current situation.
The episode ends with Sansa begging for mercy for Ned. Joffrey tells her that Ned must confess to being a traitor and proclaim Joffrey king, or there will be no mercy.
“The wolf rushes into the lion’s jaws. So be it.”
We get to see both Robb Stark and Lord Tywin Lannister preparing for war. Robb is every bit the Lord of Winterfell, calling the bannermen and mapping out a strategy for going up against Lord Tywin and Jaime Lannister.
It’s a very touching scene when Catelyn arrives at the camp and both she and Robb hide their emotions and refrain from embracing until the bannermen have left. Catelyn spells it out that if they are to survive as a family, they will have to defeat the Lannisters in the field of battle, as Lord Tywin will show no mercy.
Later, the Stark camp captures a Lannister spy who is counting Robb Stark’s troops. While the bannermen want to put him to death, Robb realizes that they spy has overestimated the number of men he has and sends him back alive, with the instruction to “Tell Lord Tywin winter is coming for him. Twenty thousand northerners are marching south to find out if he really does shit gold.”
“…in these times of treason and turmoil…”
Cersei Lannister and King Joffrey are making changes. Obviously, with Ned services as Hand no longer wanted, they name Lord Tywin Lannister Hand of the King. They also remove Ser Barristan Selmy as Lord Commander of the King’s Guard, replacing him with Jaime Lannister.
Just as we saw the Kingslayer lose a bit of confidence when talking with his father in the last episode, we get to see Tyrion interact with Tywin in this episode. Even flippant Tyrion is a bit cowed by his father.
It’s interesting to note that who would get to lead the vanguard was something Robb’s knight wanted as an honor. But Lord Tywin seems to view the vanguard as fodder – or maybe because the Hill Tribe entourage looks so brutal and fierce he hopes to startle and intimidate the Stark troops – but he doesn’t seem the least bit concerned that Tyrion will be in harm’s way.
- “Lannister smiths shit better steel.” Tyrion Lannister on Stone Crows weaponry.
- “How would you like to die Tyrion, son of Tywin?” The response to this question can be found in numerous YouTube videos.
Dire Wolf (Stark)
- Dire wolves this episode! Ghost alerts Jon Snow to the White Walkers. Grey Wind helps himself to a couple of Lord Umber’s fingers when he pulls a weapon on Robb Stark.
- “Watching is not seeing, dead girl.” Arya Stark approaches her swordsmanship much the way Ned Stark approached King’s Landing politics. And perhaps the smartest thing Ned Stark did while in King’s Landing was to arrange for Arya to be tutored by Syrio Forel.
- Rickon Stark appears in this episode, sadly hiding outside of Bran Stark’s room. He seems to have the same kind of ‘second sight’ that Bran has.
- While Bran Stark and Osha are in the God’s Woods, a naked Hodor makes an appearance.
- How could Catelyn Stark not be comforted by Lord Umber’s “Have no fear my lady, we’ll shove our swords up Tywin Lannister’s bung hole and then it’s on to the Red Keep to free Ned”?
- We learn from Catelyn Stark that the Targaryen children were murdered in their sleep on the orders of Tywin Lannister.
The Black (Night’s Watch)
- Ser Alliser Thorne still loves to antagonize Jon Snow.
- Samwell Tarley continues to flourish at The Wall. He’s been reading Maester Aemon’s books and is learning a bit about White Walkers.
You Win Or You Die (Season 1, Episode 7, Game of Thrones)
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)
AV Club http://www.avclub.com/articles/the-pointy-end-for-experts,56911/
Watch along with me: Game of Thrones: The Complete First Season