"WOW..." That was my initial, stunned, reaction to this, the ninth episode of Game of Thrones. As with all of these About Last Night pieces, you shouldn't read on unless you've actually seen the episode, or are prepared for spoilers galore. But, if you're like me and did see last night's episode, "Baelor", you're going to want to discuss what the hell just happened.
Before we get to the big headline grabber, let's not forget all the other stuff that happened this week. This being a fantasy series, I was wondering how much longer we were going to make it until a character receives a sword with its own name and lore. I'm happy that it's Jon Snow who received the badass wolf-headed Longclaw as reward for saving the Lord Commander from the zombie dude in last week's episode. Snow's storyline has been one of the most engaging of the series, ever-wrought with tons of conflict, both internal and external. Also, Ghost is the best.
I also have to say, it's sort of hard to feel like the Lannisters are completely villainous when Tyrion (played by The Dink) continues to be such an enjoyable character. Sure, the rest of their clan are totally miserable and loathsome, but when Tyrion marches off to war with them, its conflicting. I want their army to be wiped out by the Starks, but I also want him to be OK. After this episode, of course, I've given up assuming any character will be around forever, and took extra joy in the backstory we got from Tyrion, regarding his first love. This one scene further humanized Tyrion and shed an important light on how awful his father has always been to him.
The storyline with Khal Drogo's injury seems to have gotten the least amount of care and attention from the show's writers. From the initial cut, through this episode's happenings, it's felt very rushed. Here's a guy who is the toughest of the tough, presumably having much worse cuts and injuries befall him in his years of battling, but for some reason this one is different. In spite of last week's scene where Daenerys has to fight tooth and nail just to get the witch lady to treat it, that all seems for naught, as it's done Drogo no good. Did I just miss something explaining why her cure last week didn't take?
I thought the show handled the battle business really cleverly this week. Whether it was simply due to budget constraints or an artistic choice, not showing the action of the two big battles was a bold move. We've all seen epic scenes of battle many times before, and I imagine the book dealt with these in great detail, but I welcome the extra time skipping these afforded the writers to deal with the many complex plots twisting through Game of Thrones. It was both economic and efficient to learn of Rob Stark's cunning strategy in dealing with the two armies by way of Tyrion's post-battle debriefing.
Ok, this all brings us to the conclusion of "Baelor". I was as shocked as poor Ned seemed to be by Joffrey's decision to execute him. I'd totally bought into the idea that Rob's army would come and save him, so I have to give major props to Game of Thrones for throwing what felt like the biggest curveball ever. But upon reflection (and watching this episode a second time), I suppose it's only fitting and even a bit obvious that this had to be Ned's end. From the beginning he's been the even keel, the level head always striving for peace and reason to prevail. He never learned to deal with the backstabbing politics of King's Landing or work within the slimy paradigm of the city, so there's no other end he could have met that would have been more fitting, really. That said, I'm going to miss Ned, as he was the character I was most easily able to hang my hat upon.
I wonder how the show will fill the hole Ned's death leaves in the narrative. Who will be the character the story centers around now? Perhaps just "The Starks" at large will take that position, as they sort of have for this whole season, but I hope we get a single character who steps up in place of Ned. Rob Stark seems obvious, but despite his leading the army of the north, he actually hasn't received very much character development as yet. Perhaps Jon Snow could be the one? What do you think?