Recap: Game of Thrones S1, Ep9 ~ “Baelor”
RIP Lord Eddard “Ned” Stark, patriarch of House Stark and ex-Hand of the King.
Most will not have seen that coming. How could you when the famous Sean Bean was playing him? You’d expect the show would keep him as the main attraction until the end where he’d obviously triumph over the evil Lannisters, gather up his family and return to his home in the North to live happily ever after.
Now we’re left grieving for the most painfully honourable man who sacrificed his highest principle for the sake of his daughters, only to be deceived and betrayed by the most powerful in the land, the dishonourable King Joffrey. Notice I didn’t mention his mother, Cersei. She lunged for her son when he ordered Ned’s death. Alive and he would be a future asset to be manipulated later. Dead and he’s a martyr worth fighting for.
It appears Ned had foreseen the possibility of betrayal when he passed Yoren and says “Baelor”, indicating Arya watching from the statue of Baelor, who taught the people to be merciful. The Lannisters were absent that lesson. Yoren took the hint and sought out Arya, shielding her from her father’s gruesome death whereas Sansa has a front row seat. No longer is she a sheltered and cosseted child. This event surely marks the end of her childhood with a lesson of ultimate betrayal. And that’s the theme of this episode: truth, lies and sacrifice.
Poor Jon up at The Wall, rewarded for saving the Lord Commander’s life with his most precious family heirloom he had to give -a sword (“That’s a man’s sword. Takes a man to wield it”), he is faced with the ultimate choice: Robb and his family vs. his honour and duty to the Black. If he chooses family and runs he’ll be branded a traitor and will receive the same punishment as his father should he be caught. If he chooses to stay at The Wall he could be forced to stand by and watch his family die, one by one, just as The Wall’s Maester Aemon Targaryan of the Royal House Targaryan, uncle to the dead “Mad King”.
Meanwhile, Catelyn puts her life in the hands of the ancient and yet still virile “late” Lord Frey when she bargains for the safe passage of Robb and his army across the river via The Twins, Frey’s stronghold, to ambush the Lannisters. She brings Robb the deal on the table – a sacrifice of choice: of Arya’s husband, Robb’s wife and his personal squire -all to be plucked from Frey’s enormous number of children. Robb reluctantly agrees, knowing his future wife will not be pretty. His tough decisions do not stop there when he
sacrifices sends “2,000 men to their graves” to fight the main Lannister camp as a diversion so he could re-take Riverrun, Catelyn’s home, beseiged by Jaime Lannister in the Riverlands. Jaime’s capture is a great coup for Robb, his first victory but he refuses to celebrate when so many had died for it.
Over in the enemy camp, when Tywin places his son Tyrion on the front line with his “wildings” he asks Bron to find him a woman, if he is to die the next day. Shae is young and savvy, bargaining her worth and surprising Tyrion when his assumptions about her and her parents prove untrue during a true or false drinking game, either that or she was lying. As a penalty for the offence he caused, Shae presses him to disclose the distressing details of his former marriage to another whore and its painful end, orchestrated by his cruel father.
Awakened from his bed to stop him from “sleeping through the war”, Tyrion goes into battle and is ordered to “stay low” by Bron which is swiftly followed by Tyrion being trampled by his own men in their excitement to fight. Unfortunately we don’t see any of the battle scenes in the book, most likely due to budget constraints. All we know is that Tyrion was injured and is named a “shit warrior” by Bron when he wakes up after the battle has ended.
When we join the Dothraki, we find that the almightily sexy Khal Drogo has fallen from his horse due to his mortally infected wound -a bad omen because “A Khal who cannot ride is no Khal.” Dany struggles to maintain authority over his bloodriders and denies the seriousness of her husband’s condition. Jorah however, sees exactly how bad things are and encourages his Khaleesi to leave with him before Drogo dies and his men kill her unborn son for the competition he represents as future Khal. She refuses and instead calls for the witch she rescued, claiming “I have never been nothing. I am the blood of the dragon” to which a bloodrider responds “The dragons are all dead, Khaleesi.”
The witch demands a death for a life for the injured Khal. Dany assumes it would be her own but the witch says no, not her life, implying she would need the life of another. She says no more and slits the throat of Drogo’s horse, splattering both him and Dany with blood in the process. When she leaves the tent, the witch warns everyone to stay away whilst she does her spell but a bloodrider takes offence at the magic being performed prompting a fight between him and Jorah. All this is too much for Dany though and she goes into labour, leaving us with the image of the victorious Jorah carrying Dany to the tent and the witch, who has midwifery skills. We have to wait to see how Dany and her son fares until next week, for the last episode of the series.
We can’t hope for too much. We’ve seen that George R. R. Martin is not one for happy endings. No one is safe from the Grim Reaper.