I'm starting to remember why I stopped doing weekly reviews of things airing on television. Not because I didn't enjoy this episode of Game of Thrones (in fact, I was very happy that the pace was WAY up versus the necessarily slow and set-up-y pilot), but because, well, you have two options in reviews. You can do a recap (which is what most weekly "reviews" are) or you can do something a little more literary, discuss theme, character, etc. A lot of television wears theme on its sleeve (or announces it via voiceover).
If week one of Game of Thrones was about loyalty, then this week was about duty. It wasn't a question of "will you go" (Ned, becoming the Hand of the King, Dany becoming Drogo's wife) but a question of "how far will you go?" It's a question that, in a way, began with Jaime throwing Bran from the tower window at the end of the pilot. "The things I do for love."
While my favorite scene in the episode was the illuminating, riddled with undercurrents breakfast between the Lannisters (okay, it was really Tyrion slapping the crap out of Joffrey), I felt this episode really served to highlight the Stark women, who were all underserved in the loaded pilot. We saw new colors to Catelyn, Sansa, and Arya.
Catelyn, the mourning mother, hasn't left her sick son's side in a month (time is just flying in every episode of this show). But when she fends off an assassin's attempt on comatose Bran's life (with a serious assist from Summer, Bran's direwolf... so cute), she is activated and must leave Winterfell to warn her husband. The treachery hinted at in her sister's letter is certainly afoot. And she reminds eldest son Robb of his duty: there must always be a Stark in Winterfell. I forgot to note this last week... but how gorgeous is the weirwood tree in the godswood at Winterfell?
Sansa wishes to live in a Disney movie. Unfortunately, she lives in Westeros. Arya seems much more aware of this. So, when Sansa goes on a stroll with "her Prince" Joffrey (he of getting the shit slapped out of him) and he challenges the butcher's boy practicing swordplay with Arya to a duel... Joffrey using a sword and Mycah using a wooden stick. Arya intercedes and Joffrey threatens to kill her, but Arya is saved by Nymeria, her direwolf. Arya throws Joffrey's sword into the river, then, knowing Nymeria will be killed because she injured the King's son, chases her pet direwolf off (and doesn't it seem as if these direwolves have a duty to protect their Starks). Arya is brought before the King and it's a case of he said she said. Sansa is called as witness, but claims ignorance, to Arya's protests. Duty. Did Sansa pass the test? Or fail it? This is a world where family and clan is everything and she's just betrayed her sister... to become Queen. I think we will judge Sansa for her actions, but they're completely understandable.
King Robert has no idea who to believe, his son or the daughter of his new Hand. It's massively complicated given the political ties Robert is trying to forge by marrying Joffrey and Sansa... and he balks. Ned is grateful, but Cersei seems to be aware of the politics at play and demands her husband do something about their son's injury. It's subtle leverage and it works as the King declares that the remaining direwolf, Sansa's Lady, will die. Lady, who we have seen all of once in the scene where she is well-behaved and walking through the party before Sansa goes on the fateful walk with Joffrey. Sansa may have lied, may have had her reasons... and they have already come back to haunt her.
Here is where Arya shows her true colors and just how awesome she is (besides, y'know, whacking Joffrey with a stick - I guess hitting Joffrey was a motif in this episode): she comes to Lady's, and thereby Sansa's, defense. Lady didn't do anything. She doesn't deserve death.
But the King has spoken. And Ned insists on being the one to do it. It's his duty, and echoes what he told Bran in the first episode: "The man who passes the sentence should swing the sword." Robert, clearly, does not subscribe to this, but Ned feels it is his duty and we see the great pain he takes in killing Lady, realizing just what a Devil's bargain he has made in agreeing to become Robert's Hand.
Elsewhere, Jon Snow and Tyrion discuss the duty of the Night's Watch... what are they protecting Westeros from beyond the Wall? Tyrion, an intelligent dwarf, does not believe what we saw in the opening minutes of the pilot... that there are true horrors beyond the Wall. It's the stuff of legends and myth for Tyrion.
Elsewhere, still, Dany learns a valuable lesson in how to do her duty better as Khal Drogo's wife from a handmaiden named Doreah who was sold to a brothel at age 9. But it's okay, because she spent three years learning how to please men before actually having to do it at age 12. Here's hoping Dany will be able to walk without help soon now that she's looking on Drogo's eyes.
I'm honestly not sure what's more disturbing... Ned's killing of Lady (which was off screen!) or the imagery of Drogo and Dany. Either Jason Momoa is a very, very large man or if Emilia Clarke is very, very small or some combination of the two or there is film magic going on because it really, really does take on the look of a man having sex with a child. Which, y'know, that's the story so okay. But, whew, it's another thing to look at it.