Game of Thrones S1E9 “Baelor”
Alright ladies and gentlemen, there was quite a dramatic event that took place in this penultimate episode of the first season of Game of Thrones and we may as well start the review by addressing the elephant in the room. King Joffrey went back on his promise to show mercy to Eddard Stark who now finds himself without his head. If Game of Thrones wasn’t based off a book, this would probably be the boldest original move in television history. Even still it comes as a shock to almost every newcomer to the series and shows you that this show does not play by the rules of other television shows. Season one has painted Ned as the closest thing we have to a hero and we are now seriously lacking in that department. Luckily for us, there’s an amazing cast of characters and several enthralling plot lines to pick up the slack. We’ve got a lot to talk about with the happenings outside of King’s Landing and obviously some more on Ned so let’s get this recap underway.
When one looks back at “Baelor”, one would probably realize that Tyrion gets the lengthiest bit of the episode out of anyone on the cast. To start, Tyrion enters Tywin’s tent for dinner with his father and other important people and some bad news is confirmed. Tyrion and the Hill Tribes will fight in the vanguard, the very front of the battle. Distraught that his time on this planet is likely at its end, he leaves the tent and heads back to his own. Before attending dinner, Tyrion enlisted Bronn’s help in acquiring a prostitute for the night and Bronn succeeds in this endeavor as the prostitute Shae has been waiting in Tyrion’s tent. Tyrion tells the bad news to Bronn of their role in the battle to come and Bronn decides to go find a prostitute for himself.
Later on, Bronn returns and the three partake in a drinking game, with Tyrion looking to learn more about his mysterious foreign concubine. Ironically, we don’t learn much about Shae but we do get a better look into the pasts of Bronn and Tyrion. Bronn was beat by both his parents, has been north of the wall for work and killed his first person at the age of twelve (a women who was swinging an ax at him). On Tyrion’s end, we see just why his relationship with his father isn’t particularly a good one. At the age of sixteen, Jaime felt that it was time for Tyrion to lose his virginity so he set up an elaborate scheme in which the two would come to a girl named Tysha and rescue her from rape and Tyrion would woo her afterwards. The plan worked too well in fact, Tyrion actually fell in love with Tysha and the two got married. It was a short marriage that ended upon Tywin’s discovery of the scheme. Tywin made Jaime confess to his brother that the whole thing was a set up. What follows next is cruel as to prove the point that Tysha was just a paid prostitute, Tywin has all his guards have sex with Tysha, a silver per person and she got so much silver that it was falling out of her hands, all the while Tywin made Tyrion watch. Messed up indeed.
The following morning, the battle that we’ve been waiting on for a few episodes now, finally has arrived. Bronn wakes Tyrion up and tells him to get ready. After doing so, Tyrion rallies the Hill Tribers and gives quite the motivational speech to get them ready for battle as chants of “Half Man!” break out. All amped up, Tyrion and friends run into battle, only Tyrion doesn’t make it very far. Due to his short stature, a club that was waist level on one of the Hill Tribers hits Tyrion right on his head and he passes out before he can get into battle. The battle happens off screen and when Tyrion awakes, Bronn tells him that they won and Tywin tells him that there were only 2,000 Stark soldiers at the fight. Where did the rest go?
Whether Robb decided to attack Jaime or Tywin, he needed to cross a river by the name of the Trident. The only crossing that is remotely convenient is a bridge and dual castle called The Twins, held by Walder Frey. Upon their arrival to The Twins, Cat warns that Walder isn’t the most trustful guy so it would be rather stupid for Robb to negotiate with Walder himself. Since the Frey’s are banner men for House Tully, Cat volunteers herself to go negotiate with him and Robb approves. The excellent David Bradley plays Walder Frey, showing us just how creepy this guy is. He’s got more children than you can count and has been married over a dozen times, his newest wife being fifteen years old while he himself is over ninety years old. Knowing the Lannisters will punish him if he helps the Starks, Walder needs some serious motivation to allow the Starks to cross. He decides to allow them to cross, and commit his men to the Stark cause. In return, Robb needs to take on a Frey boy as a squire, Arya needs to marry a Frey and Robb himself has to marry one of Walder’s daughters. Robb accepts and Walder opens the gates to allow Robb and his men to cross the trident.
Remember when Robb told that Lannister scout to tell Tywin that 20,000 men were coming his way? I correctly guessed that this was actually a bait and switch. 18,000 men went along with Robb on a surprise attack on Jaime and it turns out to be a massive success as they capture an extremely valuable hostage, Jaime himself. It was greatly needed with Tyrion no longer theirs. Varys even pointed out when they did have Tyrion that they had “the wrong brother”. Not anymore. For now, Robb holds Jaime as a prisoner but who knows what will happen to Jaime after this episode.
What of the other two thousand men who went as a decoy to distract Tywin? The episode does address that as Robb learns about the sad truths of war. War often comes down to a numbers game, who has more people. It can get lost that we’re talking about human lives. Robb doesn’t forget as he feels guilty about sending those 2,000 men to their graves. Theon tries to cheer him up by saying bards will sing of their sacrifice. Robb says that they’re dead, so they won’t be able to hear these songs anyway. Death won’t be going away anytime soon though so Robb may as well win this war while he’s at it.
Up at the Wall, Mormont rewards Jon for saving his life. He gives Jon his Valyrian steel sword, Longclaw. The pommel was a bear as Mormont’s sigil is a bear but he has it changed to a wolf for Jon. In the mess hall afterward, Sam delivers the news to Jon that Robb is at war. Jon is conflicted as he feels he should be down south helping his brother and trying to save his father. In a way, Jon has the same conflict his father does, is honor or family more important? Aemon has this conversation with Jon and Jon tells him that Ned would always put honor first. Aemon says he’s one man in a million and the overwhelming majority of men would pick family over duty, explaining why members of the Night’s Watch cut all ties and have no lovers. Aemon also mentions that he too had to struggle with this dilemma, revealing that he is actually Aemon Targaryen. Aemon picked duty over family as he stuck with the Nights Watch as King Robert and his men killed or exiled all the Targaryen’s, even the children. Aemon doesn’t try to convince Jon to pick one or the other but tells him that whatever his choice is, there will be consequences and he’s just going to have to live with it.
Things get much bleaker across the Narrow Sea. Drogo’s wound seems to have gotten very infected and Drogo even falls off his horse while riding. Jorah tells Dany that they are best off leaving now. Drogo’s wound appears fatal and there will be a fight over who the next Khal is. Whoever wins will kill Dany and her child to protect their claim from any threats. Dany refuses to listen though and yet again enlists the help of Mirri Maz Duur. She tells Dany what Jorah said earlier, the wound is fatal. Dany in desperation asks if she will use blood magic to save him. Mirri warns her that it is a brutal ritual and the humane thing to do would be to give Drogo a clean death. Dany insists that she try the blood magic. Only death can pay for a life though, so Drogo’s horse is brought in for sacrifice and Mirri asks for the tent to be cleared, as no one can be there while the ritual is taking place.
Nobody except Dany liked Mirri to begin with so when the rest of the Dothraki see that blood magic is taking place, that is simply too much. Qotho, a man who has been skeptical of Mirri the whole time has had enough and tries to enter the tent to stop the ritual but Jorah kills him before he can halt the proceedings. Before the fight, Qotho pushed Dany and this unfortunately caused her to go into premature labor. None of the Dothraki midwives will touch her though, thinking she is cursed. Having no other choice, Jorah brings Dany into Mirri’s tent as we cut away before we can see what all those demonic noises were coming from. I’m not too optimistic this will turn out well for Dany.
And now, the main event. Back in King’s Landing, Arya has been living her days undetected as a beggar. Everyone seems to be heading towards one place and upon asking, she learns that her father is being brought before the Sept of Baelor to be judged. She makes her way over and climbs the statue of Baelor to get a good look at the proceedings. Enter Ned who has a choice to make. Varys told him earlier that Cersei has agreed to let Ned live out his days with Jon up at the wall if he bends the knee and confesses his treason. Ned refuses, saying honor is more important but has to reconsider when Varys says that Sansa’s life is at stake as well. It turns out Jon was wrong up at the wall, Ned wouldn’t pick honor over family every time as he decides to confess to treason in order to save his daughters. If you didn’t realize that Joffrey was a jerk by now, well now you know. Dismissing the begging of Sansa and suggestion of Cersei that Ned go to the wall as the weakness of women, Joffrey promises that treason will never go unpunished as long as he’s king. The shock of the sentence would be enough to carry the scene but Game of Thrones goes above and beyond here. Everything after the sentence is masterful. The chaotic feel of Cersei and the rest of the council as they realize Joffrey is about to ruin everything, Sansa going hysterical as Joffrey ignores his promise to show mercy, Ned spotting Arya on the statue and asking Yoren to keep Arya from looking, the silence during the moment of execution itself. It’s all perfect. I’ll say it again, the shock value would have been enough to carry the scene, but the execution of the final scene makes an already great episode of Game of Thrones, a near perfect one.
Jaime tried to bait Robb into fighting him one on one. Robb has enough smarts to decline that invitation. Things look bleak for Jaime, I can guarantee you he won’t be able to put his fighting skills to use for a while.
Bronn is a real bro. No complaints on his end when Tyrion and Shae go at it, he just exits with class.
I think I’m most excited to see Tywin’s reaction to the news of Ned’s death. He’s the most calculating guy on the show and his efforts are being undermined by his hotheaded grandson who most likely just secured him a whole lot more fighting with the Starks.
We lose our third starring cast member in “Baelor”. Sean Bean’s Ned Stark leaves us via beheading by his own sword, Ice. It would have been awesome to see Ned go up to the wall and kill some white walkers with Jon. We’ll miss you Ned. You’d be the hero in any other show, just not this one. Good guys don’t win in Game of Thrones just because they’re the good guys.
Quote of the Day is chant of the day today. I really liked the big bad Hill Tribers chanting “Half Man!” and rallying behind Tyrion, only to knock out Tyrion before they actually get to the battle.
“Baelor” shows us that Game of Thrones doesn’t play by regular television rules as a shocking event dramatically changes everything.