Episode Title: "The Wolf and the Lion"
Writers: David Benioff & D. B. Weiss
Director: Brian Kirk
Previously on "Game of Thrones":
Soon after arriving at King's Landing as the new Hand of the King, Lord Eddard "Ned" Stark (Sean Bean) took advice from his former rival, Lord Petyr "Littlefinger" Baelish (Aidan Gillen) and learned that the previous Hand, Jon Arryn had discovered one of King Robert's (Mark Addy) bastard sons. Back at Winterfell, the Imp, Tyrion Lannister (Peter Dinklage) arrived with a gift for Ned's crippled son, Bran (Isaac Hempstead-Wright); which may allow the young boy to ride horses despite his paralyzed lower body. Across the sea, Daeneryes Targaryen (Emilia Clarke) was forced to defend herself from her brother, Viserys (Harry Lloyd) and she realized that he will never be fit to rule.
At King's Landing, Ned's daughters Sansa (Sophie Turner) and Arya (Maisie Williams) witnessed Gregor "The Mountain" Clegan (Conan Stevens) kill Jon Arryn's former squire in a jousting match. And on the road, Tyrion came upon Lady Catelyn Stark (Michelle Fairley), who accused Tyrion of plotting to have Bran killed. Calling upon men loyal to Ned, her father and herself, Catelyn took Tyrion prisoner and declared that she would take him back to Winterfell to face the king's justice.
Ned briefly looks in on the dying squire of Jon Arryn before visiting King Robert and convincing him not to joust in the tournament. Meanwhile, Sansa becomes infatuated with Loras Tyrell, the Knight of Flowers (Finn Jones) after he gives her a rose in advance of his match against The Mountain. In a stunning upset, Loras defeats The Mountain; which only enrages the much larger man. The Mountain murders his horse and nearly does the same to Loras until Sandor "The Hound" Clegane (Rory McCann) stands between his brother and his intended victim. Grateful for his life, Loras raises The Hound's hand in victory.
On the road, Tyrion realizes that Catelyn is taking him to her sister, Lysa (Kate Dickie) at the Eyrie. After he warns her that Lysa has gone mad, Catelyn's party is attacked by raiders. Convincing Catelyn to cut him loose, Tyrion actually saves her life and kills one of their attackers; earning the respect of Catelyn's men in the process. In King's Landing, Varys (Conleth Hill) arranges a closed meeting with Ned and tips him off that Jon Arryn was probably killed by his squire because he was asking questions. Later, Arya is playing in the castle dungeons when she overhears Varys and Magister Illyrio (Roger Allam) plotting against the kingdom and her father.
Arya is forced to sneak out of the dungeons and runs into trouble trying to get back into the castle. Once taken before her father, she repeats as much of what she heard as she can before a member of the Night's Watch arrives. In private, Ned is told that his wife had Tyrion taken prisoner. Ned is soon ushered into a consul meeting with King Robert, who is furious that Daenerys is pregnant with the child of Khal Drogo (Jason Momoa). But Ned refuses to sanction an assassination on Daenerys and resigns in protest. As he leaves the room, Robert accuses him of treachery.
Littlefinger catches up to Ned and offers to take him to the last person to speak to Jon Arryn before he was poisoned. At the Eyrie, Catelyn and Tyrion are taken aback by just how deranged Lysa is, especially as she's breastfeeding her son, Robin (who is at least six years old), Catelyn insists that Lysa not harm Tyrion, but the Imp is still locked in a dangerous dungeon overlooking an open wall near the castle's ledge. Back at King's Landing, Robert and his wife, Queen Cersei (Lena Headey) have an honest conversation about the Dothraki threat and their non-existent relationship. Meanwhile, Ned talks to a woman who had another son by Robert.
But just as Ned tries to leave, Jamie Lannister (Nikolaj Coster Waldau) arrives with a group of soldiers loyal to him, demanding the return of Tyrion. Ned lies and says that Tyrion was taken on his orders. Jamie orders all of Ned's personal guards to be killed, and in the ensuing battle only Ned is left alive. Ned and Jamie face off in an epic duel that is only interrupted when one of Jamie's men stabs Ned through the leg. Incensed, Jamie strikes his man and warns Ned once again to return his brother alive before leaving him to his injuries.
HBO used to be the premiere channel for truly ambitious storytelling. But in the last few years, only "Boardwalk Empire" has come close to reaching the creative heights of "Deadwood," "Carnivale" and "Rome."
At least that was true until "Game of Thrones," which has become unequivocally the best epic on TV. Especially when it comes to fantasy, there's no contest.
It was inevitable that Ned and Jamie were going to duel, but I wasn't expecting that to happen in the fifth episode. And it made for some of the most tense and exciting sequences of the entire series to date. I get the impression that the TV series is following the original novel pretty closely, but if the books are anywhere near as good as the show then I'm going to have to seek those out.
I think this was the first time that Daenerys really affected the King's Landing storyline and it's an episode that she doesn't even appear in. Ned's moral stance against killing her and her unborn child further cements his role as the hero of this story. Ned's obviously not opposed to killing, but he's clearly a better man than King Robert and the rest of the royal consul. The duel with Jamie also firmly established Ned as an impressive fighter, although I'm not sure how that leg injury will affect him going forward.
Up to this point, I assumed Jamie didn't even care about what happened to his brother, Tyrion. Now I may have to reassess my opinion of him. Jamie also seemed slightly noble when he struck his guard for interfering during his duel with Ned. Of course, this is still the same guy who tried to kill Bran by throwing him off a building and who sleeps with his sister regularly… so he doesn't deserve that much respect. But he is getting more interesting to watch.
Littlefinger has also proven to be a good addition the cast of characters, although I keep expecting him to betray Ned. Aidan Gillen gives Littlefinger such an ambivalence that makes it seem like he could side with anyone who serves his interests. I should also mention that I found The Hound to be surprisingly heroic in his defense of Loras against The Mountain. Prior to that, I had written off The Hound entirely as just another lackey of the King.
Of course, Peter Dinklage dominated all of his scenes as Tyrion while getting all of the best lines again. I was sure that Catelyn would have been more convinced of his innocense after he saved her life. And maybe she is. The way that Catelyn insisted that her sister not harm Tyrion. almost implied that she cared about him.
Catelyn's sister, Lysa was much crazier in person than I expected. Some friends who had read the novels mentioned her kid, Robin to me and I knew that he was still breastfeeding from her before I saw them. However, I didn't expect HBO to actually show that here. That was pretty strange and decadent, even for Westros.
It's hard to believe that we're only half way through the first season. But if any show deserves more episodes next season, this is it.
Crave Online Rating: 9 out of 10.