Game of Thrones S1E4 “Cripples, Bastards, and Broken Things”
The Game of Thrones universe is a massive one built on history dating back hundreds of years before the events of the show even take place, all the while recent relations between people and houses are just as important to the plot. With all that information needed, it’s little surprise to anyone that the first half of this season has been loaded with exposition. For some shows, this would prove to be too much. In “Cripples, Bastards, and Broken Things”, Thrones continues to do what it excels at, deliver exposition in an interesting and meaningful way in small enough doses while the plot moves forward. In its best episode yet, we see Jon make a new friend, Dany flaunts some power, Ned plays detective and Tyrion finds himself in a less than pleasant situation. Let’s get to it.
At Castle Black, a new recruit is introduced. Fat cowardly Samwell Tarly. He is immediatley received with insults but that proves to be the least of his problems. Thorne gets him armored up to show his worth with a sword and immediately gets wrecked, not even bothering to get up and try to defend himself. Jon can’t bear to watch and steps in to defend the new recruit, downing three recruits Thorne threw his way for defending Sam. Throughout the rest of the episode, Jon and Sam take a liking to each other and look to be good friends in the making. Jon gets yet another look at just how good he had it back home at Winterfell when he hears Sam’s story. Sam was the heir to House Tarly, a powerful house but his father didn’t view him as man enough to inherit his lands. Sam was given the choice of the wall or an untimely death at the hands of his father. Just goes to show a name isn’t everything.
Jon goes around to the rest of the new recruits and tells them that they are done messing with Sam. He’s an outcast just like the rest of them and they are all brothers now. One recruit isn’t having it and says if Thorne puts him to fight with Sam, he’s going to fight. Jon and his direwolf, Ghost pay him a visit at night to make him reconsider. Ghost got the job done. So the next day at sparring practice, when no will even touch Sam, Thorne is livid. When Jon and Sam are scrubbing tables in a later scene, Thorne comes in and tells him this soft take it easy mentality isn’t going to work when winter rolls along. He’s got a point in that you have to be tough to make it here but his cold attitude doesn’t earn him any slack in trying to defend him. With Jon, Sam, and the rest of the new recruits nearing their swearing in ceremony, the wall is becoming my favorite narrative of this first season.
Across the Narrow Sea, Viserys, Dany, Jorah and the Dothraki arrive to the capital (and maybe only) Dothraki city, Vaes Dothrak. Dany sends her maid Doreah over to ask Viserys for dinner which he again misinterprets as a command and comes in fuming, dragging Doreah by her hair. He tells Dany once again that he does not take orders from her and that the Dothraki are no better than vermin. He slaps her, but this time Dany fights back and explicitly threatens to take his hands off should he raise a hand at her again.
The irony in all of this is that Viserys arranged the marriage so that he could get his power back but now his sister has more power than he has. In a conversation Dany later has with Jorah, she admits he’ll probably never be king, to which Jorah agrees. Jorah also suspends any notion that the common folk are waiting for him to come back saying they only care if the king is fair, and Viserys is far from that. He’s a very hot headed individual and I do not think he’s going to take very kindly the fact that he’s losing all of the slim power he already had so his situation looks to worsen before it gets better.
At King’s Landing, Ned is getting bogged down in politics. This tournament that Robert insists on throwing in his name is so far a disaster. Aside from the large sum of money the tournament requires, fights, riots, fires, and drunken horse races have all broken out as more people come into the city than the city guard can handle. Ned decides to give some of his own personal guard to the city guard until the tournament is done and decides that’s enough politics for the day. He’s got more interesting stuff to deal with.
In this episode, Ned decides to start his search into Jon Arryn’s death. He gets his hands on a book that Jon was reading shortly before his death and Grand Maester Pycelle tells him that Jon’s last words were “the seed is strong”. Nothing particularly useful comes of this but Littlefinger comes along and changes that. First he tells Ned that he should be very careful in how he proceeds as everyone with power in King’s Landing has spies and you’re bound to upset someone. He then gives him a tip to head over to a forgery Jon visited and see a young apprentice who works there. Ned heads on over and meets Gendry, who is undoubtedly a bastard of Robert. With the promiscuity Robert has shown throughout the show, it’s tough to think what importance he has right now but Ned seems insistent about getting to the bottom of Arryn’s death. He’s the closest thing we have to a hero in the show so far so let’s hope the wrong people aren’t looking if and when Ned decided to continue his investigation.
Up at Winterfell, Bran has an odd dream where he is walking and runs into a raven with three eyes. Before we can get any more on this peculiar dream, Bran is woken up by Theon. His presence is required and it’s not optional. Hodor, a friendly simpleton giant of a man carries him to the great hall where Tyrion has made his return. Robb is perplexed as to why Tyrion is here but eases up on him when he sees that Tyrion is here to help Bran. He gives Bran plans to a customized saddle that will allow Bran to ride horses despite his useless legs. Asked why he went to the trouble, Tyrion gives us our episode title origin by saying that he has a “soft spot in his heart for cripples, bastards, and broken things”.
With that kindness done, Tyrion departs from Winterfell and continues his journey home. A fateful encounter with Cat back at the crossroads inn from “The Kingsroad” leaves him in a very compromising situation. The crossroads inn is located in a region known as the Riverlands. Cat’s house is House Tully which so happens to be the ruling house of the Riverlands. Cat therefore has plenty of friends she can call upon to arrest Tyrion for conspiring to kill Bran. She trusts Littlefinger’s word when he told her last episode that the knife was Tyrion’s but it seems very apparent to the viewer that he was lying about that as Littlefinger is coming off more and more like a schemer and Tyrion just did a great service to Bran literally in his previous scene. The Stark Lannister relationship was already filled with tension and this new development is bound to make the situation combust.
All nineteen starring cast members were credited and appeared in the episode. The first instance of this in the series.
As mentioned earlier, we got a fair bit of exposition dumped on us in this episode. Tyrion tells us more about Theon and how he is essentially a hostage of House Stark as punishment for his house’s (House Greyjoy) failed rebellion attempt. His brothers died in the rebellion so becoming a ward is probably getting off easy.
The other exposition bit was recited by Litttlefinger to Sansa at the tournament. In the little monologue, Littlefinger explains the troubled sibling relationship The Hound has with his brother, The Mountain. The Hound was playing with The Mountains favorite toy when they were children and rather than say anything, The Mountain threw his brothers face into a fire resulting in his scars. Certainly not a case of boys will be boys.
It seems as though Jaime drawing guard duty when Robert’s having fun with whores is a regular occurrence. Jaime takes it as an insult to his sister. Can’t say I blame him.
Quote of the day comes from Littlefinger, speaking to Ned. “I hear you’re reading a boring book”. I just really liked the delivery of that line.
“Cripples, Bastards, and Broken Things” continues the skillful telling of exposition and moves the plot forward more than any episode before it.