Baelor (Season 1, Episode 9, Game of Thrones)
Directed by Alan Taylor
Written by David Benioff, D. B. Weiss
“And for 600 years they have never failed to exact their toll…”
Everything in Game of Thrones has a price: passage, victory, defeat, honor, and even life itself.
The price of being a Lannister
Everyone knows that a ‘Lannister always pays his debt’ and that they are the wealthiest House in the kingdom. But that didn’t make for an easy life for Tyrion. When he tells Shae that his mother died during childbirth, he leaves out that his father, Lord Tywin, has never forgiven him for her death. We get a little backstory on Tywin’s treatment of Tyrion that gives a horrifying glimpse of the emotional cost of being a Lannister.
When Tyrion was 16 years old, Jaime Lannister concocted a scheme where Tyrion could play the hero to a young woman in distress fleeing two rapists. The woman was a prostitute. There was no rape. Jamie chased after the two rapists and left Tyrion to console the young woman. The plan went awry when Tyrion married the girl the next day.
While it was probably not the wisest maneuver, it was not done maliciously. Jaime was just trying to do something nice for Tyrion. When Tywin finds out, he makes Jaime tell Tyrion the truth, and then does something so cruel, the upon hearing the story, Bronn says, “I would have killed the man who did that to me.”
Tywin Lannister, Lord of Casterly Rock, Warden of the West and Lord Paramount of the Westerlands, has not grown any softer over the years. He assigns Tyrion and the Hill Tribes to lead the vanguard (pretty much a death sentence). Uncle Kevan Lannister tries to soften things by remarking how ferocious the Hill Tribes are. Then Tyrion gives a remarkable recap of their previous night’s activities the in camp:
Khal Drogo’s wound is worse; he is weak, fevered and falls from his horse. Ser Jorah Mormont is nervous that the Khal’s condition puts the safety of Daenerys at risk. He urges her to flee with him, graphically describing to her what will happen upon the Khal’s death.
Daenerys emphatically tells Ser Jorah that she will not leave Drogo and calls on the healer/witch Mirri Maz Duur to treat the wound. Mirri says she can do nothing beyond easing his pain. Danerys urges her to use blood magic (taboo with the Dothraki) to cure Drogo. Coming out of the transaction, Dany pays much more than she thought she would.
The Dothraki are a primitive culture: nomads that rape and pillage. Strength rules. It is a culture of lethal, brutish simplicity. Because of this their motives are pretty transparent. The story tends to drag when it moves across the Narrow Seas, because the characters lack the complexity of the characters in King’s Landing, Winterfell and The Wall.
The price of oaths: Jon Snow, Lord Walder Frey
“Love is the death of duty.”
Samwell Tarley’s prediction that Jon is being groom to take over as Lord Commander of the Knight’s Watch, gets some affirmation when Lord Commander Mormont gives Jon Long Claw, a sword of Valyrian steel (which had briefly belonged to Ser Jorah prior to his exile).
When the raven comes to the Knight’s Watch with news that Robb Stark is marching south to King’s Landing to battle Tywin and free his father, Maester Aemon calls Jon Snow to his quarters. He tells Jon that his oath will be tested, just as his was tested years ago. In hearing Maester Aemon’s story, Jon realizes that he is a Targaryen, and his oath was tested during the rebellion that Ned Stark and Robert Baratheon led. Maester Aemon tells Jon that he must choose between allegiance to the Knight’s Watch or to Robb Stark.
When Maester Aemon puts this choice to Jon Snow, it seems like he has an option. But we know from the very first episode what happens to deserters. Jon Snow himself witnessed Ned Stark fulfilling his duty by executing the deserter. Was Ned the only Lord to observe the law regarding deserters?
“I needed to get rid of sons and daughters, you see how they pile up.”
As much of a freak show as Lord Walder Frey is, Catelyn is not as shocked by him as she was when she called on her sister. The crass, bitter septuagenarian with his 15- year-old bride, and a crowd of sons and daughters, controls the bridge at The Twins, which Robb Stark needs to cross in order to gain strategic positioning for battle. Catelyn leaves Robb’s camp to broker a crossing.
When Catelyn points out to Lord Frey that Robb has twenty thousand men surrounding them, Lord Frey corrects her and says, “they’ll be twenty thousand corpses once Tywin Lannister gets here.”
She reminds him that he swore an oath to her father. Lor Frey replies, “Oh yes, I said some words. And I swore oaths to the crown too, if I remember right. Joffrey is king now, which makes your boy and his corpses-to-be nothing but rebels, it seems to me.”
Lord Frey ultimately agrees to let Robb cross and to provide him with bannermen, but not without concessions: Robb must take Oliver Frey as a squire and later make him a knight; Arya must marry Waldron Frey when they both come of age (poor Arya!); and when the fighting is done, Robb must marry one of Frey’s daughters.
You can see how distasteful this is to Catelyn; but not as distasteful as Robb and his men being slaughtered by Tywin Lannister. There is a delightful bit of humor when Robb asks his mother, “Did you get a look at his daughters?” Theon just starts giggling.
Ned Stark: The price of honor and the price of dishonor
The price of life for Ned Stark would be to keep Cersei’s secret until the grave, lose all titles and holdings, take the black and spend the remainder of his life at The Wall.
His honor means more to him than his life. But Lord Varys points out that life would be very grim for Arya and Sansa were Ned to die.
Ned is such a beloved character that his death is shocking and painful. As he’s being led to the platform, he passes Yoren and says “Baelor!” He has seen Arya on the statue and senses that things are not going to go well. Yoren immediately grabs Arya and prevents her from watching – but you can watch below:
The Pointy End (Season 1, Episode 8, Games of Thrones)
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/baelor-for-experts,57424/
Watch along with me: Game of Thrones: The Complete First Season