Episode 6: A Golden Crown

Harry Lloyd as Viserys Targaryen in Game of Thrones.

*This post contains spoilers for Episode 6 and the books (mostly the first novel)*

The Good Old Days Are Long Since Gone

Episode Six opens with Ned waking to the blurry image of Cersei Baratheon’s face. Once he focuses, he sees that she looks smug and irritated (so essentially, she looks like herself). Robert is there too, looking far more solemn then we usually find him. Cersei, always the lioness, attacks immediately, pouncing on Ned like he’s an injured antelope. When Robert doesn’t side with her, she attacks him as well with words she knows will cut right through him: “I should wear the armor, and you the gown.” If there’s anything Robert truly loves, anything he’s genuinely proud of, it’s his role as a soldier. Talking of taking his armor is like taking his manhood and the only truly happy part of him that still exists. The blow is too much to bear, and he lashes out as a soldier would – violently – with a slap to Cersei’s cheek. After she leaves and he’s calmed down, Robert realizes that he shouldn’t have hit his wife because it wasn’t kingly. He is unknowingly on to something, because deep down, Robert has absolutely no idea how to be a king. He tells Ned he can’t rule the Seven Kingdoms with Starks and Lannisters at each others’ throats; truly, he can’t rule the Seven Kingdoms at all. He believes being King equates to getting what you want. This line is both a gross misunderstanding as well as a terribly sad irony. On one hand, Robert seems oblivious to the fact that being King requires reciprocation with one’s subjects. One the other, this line is sad because Robert never got the one things he believes he wanted most in life: Lyanna.

Later, Robert is hunting with a miserable-looking Renly, a flagon-carrying Lancel and a fully armed Barristan Selmy. Robert laughs and reminisces about the “old days” – fighting and sleeping his way through all the regions of Westeros. Renly seems uncomfortable for a few reasons. Robert equates happiness with bedding leagues of women. We can assume that Renly takes offense to this as a gay man. But we also learn something deeper about Renly when he calls Robert out and asks if “those days” were really so great, what with all the war, murder, fires and destruction. We see that Renly, despite his displays of sarcastic nonchalance, actually does care about the common people. He wants the Seven Kingdoms to be ordered and prosperous and happy. This is important exposition for Season Two, which (if it follows A Clash of Kings) will show just how popular Renly is when thousands of men ride for him in the War of the Five Kings.

Renly storms off after he confronts Robert about his frivolity. Robert is silenced, but Lancel Lannister is at his side in a flash with a skin of wine. Robert takes up his “get what I want” mantra once again and downs the drink. Ser Barristan Selmy watches the king’s hedonism, and Lancel, with an uneasy look. I’m glad Barristan is getting some screen time this early on in the series. He will be important in a different part of the story later on, and not so long ago, George confirmed he will be a POV character in A Dance with Dragons. With regards to Barristan, the more, the merrier, I say.

Dreams, Desire and Death

Bran dreams of the crow and wakes up to Hodor with his saddle. He will practice riding today. When Robb and Theon take him out, they talk about revenge and duty and justice. Theon tells Robb to avenge Jory and the other men killed by the Lannisters, as well as the injury inflicted on Ned. Robb, a Stark to the bone, has far too much honor for that. However, he’s lacking just enough honor to snappily declare that Theon does not belong to House Stark. The boys lose track of Bran, who has been captured by wildlings. Robb arrives just in time, but ironically enough, it is Theon who saves the young Stark’s life. Instead of being grateful that Theon still cared enough about Bran to intervene after he was verbally ostracized, Robb turns on him again and scolds him for potentially missing. Theon replies he merely did what needed to be done. This demonstrates a critical difference between the Starks and many of the other houses in the series: Other houses will do whatever it takes to survive, but the Starks would rather die honorably than take a chance. Also, it’s possible that Robb was upset with himself and took out his anger on Theon.

A little while later, Theon is riding and sees Ros leaving in a turnip cart. She says she’s going south to King’s Landing because there will be nothing left for her in the North once all the men march off to war. She jokes about being Lady Greyjoy, and despite Theon’s proclamation that the idea is ridiculous, he says he will miss her. It’s not illogical to think that Theon truly took solace in Ros’ company. Both live outside their society: she as a whore, and he as a ward.

Arya doesn’t want to train with Syrio because she is upset about Jory’s death and Ned’s leg. Syrio teaches Arya that she needs to block out her troubles in order to stay on top of her game. Syrio asks if Arya prays to the gods, to which she answers the Old and the New. Syrio tells her there is only one god – the God of Death – and that they tell him only “not today.” This line was never in the book, and it makes for a fascinating interpretation of Syrio’s character. Many fans believe Syrio Forel is Jaqen H’ghar, a mysterious man Arya meets in A Clash of Kings. Jaqen is a Faceless Man, one of a cult of assassins who worship a god of death. The theory has been debated by fans for years, but this quote from Syrio was one of the strongest pieces of evidence so far.

Ned is sitting on the Throne in Robert’s absence and hears the woes of the Riverlands townspeople. Their families have been murdered and their homes burned by someone a foot taller than the tallest man around; Ned immediately understands the Mountain has been up to no good. When the commoners display a line of dead fish – the sigil of House Tully – Littlefinger eggs on Lord Stark by asking why Gregor Clegane, bannerman to Lord Tywin Lannister, would be upset with House Tully. Ned stands, denounces Gregor of all his titles, lands and holdings, and installs Lord Beric Dondarrion as the commander of a hundred-man justice squad charged with bringing Gregor back to King’s Landing. Ned also commands Grand Maester Pycelle to send a raven to Tywin to summon him to court to answer for the crimes of his bannermen. Ned declares that should Tywin show, he will be considered an enemy of the crown. Even Littlefinger remarks on his boldness. In the book, Ned never summons Tywin. I’m guessing they’re trying to tie Lord Lannister more tightly into the storyline earlier on so he is established by the time war breaks out.

Sansa is sewing with Septa Mordane, who comments on the teenager’s new Southern style. She reminds Sansa it’s important to remember where you come from, but Sansa simply writes her off. Joffrey enters and gives Sansa a lion pendant like the one Cersei wears. He says he has acted rudely the last few weeks but that he wishes Sansa would forgive him. He calls her his lady, talks about their marriage and regency, and promises to never disrespect Sansa or be cruel to her again. He says she is his lady from this day until his last day, and they share a kiss. Anyone with half a brain knows Joffrey is a lying little scumbag, but Sansa is really a bitch in this scene as well. Symbolically, we see her identity as a Stark slipping away: She has already lost her direwolf, she has changed her appearance to mimic Southern culture, and she accepts a lion pendant to adorn her neck.

Ned tells the girls he’s sending them back to Winterfell. Arya says she doesn’t want to stop her lessons with Syrio, but Sansa can only think of Joffrey and the life she will have with him: Lady Baratheon, Queen of the Seven Kingdoms, wife to a golden lion, and mother to golden-haired children. Arya says Joff’s a stag, but Sansa says the prince is nothing like his father. Ned has an epiphany and returns to the book of lineages of Westeros. Inside, he finds Joffrey to be the only fair-haired Baratheon in a several generations of dark-haired men. The truth is finally out there: Cersei’s children are not actually Robert’s children, but bastards born of the Queen’s incest with Ser Jaime.

Honor Hath No Wings

All this hullabaloo in King’s Landing is a result of the imprisonment of Tyrion Lannister (even though I find it highly amusing the Queen pretends to give even the littlest damn about him…er, no pun intended).  High in his sky cell in the Eyrie, Tyrion tries to bargain with Mord, the dimwitted gaelor, who seems to enjoy responding to the dwarf’s pleas with beatings. After a few attempts, Tyrion uses a variation of the Jedi mind trick to get Mord to act as a courier to Lady Lysa in exchange for a pouch of gold. Mord stops clubbing him long enough to accept. Tyrion declares that he wishes to confess his crimes. We’re finally getting to see the true Tyrion. Up until now, he’s just been boozing and whoring and sightseeing, but with his tricks in the Eyrie, we were introduced to the Tyrion who uses his cunning and charisma to survive.

Tyrion admits many crimes: stealing a servant girl’s robe, filling his uncle’s boots with foul material, and doing questionable things to a certain turtle soup. He gets rather far into his list of “crimes” before Lysa catches on and stops him. Cat reminds him of what he’s actually accused of – attempting to assassinate Bran and plotting the death of Jon Arryn – but Tyrion still does not confess. He instead demands trial, and Lysa introduces him to his judge, Robin Arryn, and his potential fate – an exit through the Moon Door, an opening in the floor that drops hundreds of feet down to the Vale floor. Tyrion, ever clever, requests trial by combat. Several knights step up to avenge Jon Arryn, but Lysa chooses Ser Vardis Egen. Tyrion names Jaime his champion, but Lysa insists the trial be that same day. Tyrion asks for a volunteer and receives only chuckles until Bronn steps up. He knows he’ll get crazy paid if he saves the skin of a Lannister. Bronn uses his sellsword tactics to his advantage and defeats the more chivalrous Ser Vardis. In an exchange that illustrates the core of Game of Thrones, Lysa shrilly cries, “You didn’t fight with honor!” and Bronn replies, “No…he did,” as he points out the Moon Door, through which Vardis’ body had just been thrown. Little Robin Arryn asks if he can make the “little man” fly, but Tyrion just shrugs him off, saying “this little man is going home.”  This line showcases how great Peter Dinklage is:  It’s a fairly simple, matter-of-fact line, but Peter infuses it with just the right blend of relief, pride and humor.  Tyrion walks out of the Eyrie with Bronn at his side, but not before reclaiming his purse and tossing it to Mord, because, as we’ve been told several times by now, a Lannister always pays his debts.

A Crowned Prince, a Freed Queen

Daenerys puts one of her eggs into the fire. Just as she reaches to remove it, Irri enters, and the handmaid rushes to take the egg, now burning like a hot coal, from the khaleesi’s hands. Irri has burns covering his palms, but Dany is unharmed. HBO has been touting this series as a “realistic fantasy,” so I was a bit surprised they went all Mother of Dragons/Unburnt in only Episode Six. But the scene was important, because it sets up a very strong contrast between Dany and her brother that is important later on.

In her next scene, Daenerys tears into a horse heart as Drogo, Viserys, Jorah and the dosh khaleen look on. The Dothraki cheer for her, but everyone quiets when she nearly wretches. Instead she straightens herself up and swallows the last bite, as a very proud Khal Drogo looks on. The unborn child inside her womb is marked as the Stallion Who Mounts the World, and Dany declares he shall be named Rhaego. Jorah explains to Viserys about the Stallion’s role in Dothraki prophecy, and, as the Dothraki cheer unborn Rhaego’s name, Viserys remarks on how much the people love her. Before Ser Jorah can respond, the Prince is gone from the feast. Jorah finds him in Dany’s tent, taking her dragon eggs. He says he needs to buy an army and a ship in order to invade Westeros and take back his crown. When Jorah warns him to put the eggs back, Viserys reaches for his sword. Jorah plainly warns him not to draw a blade in the sacred city of Vaes Dothrak; the crime is punishable by death. Viserys actually shares his feelings, and expresses the tremendous weight that has sat on his shoulders since he was a child: a responsibility to uphold the several-hundred year Targaryen dynasty. I never sympathized with Viserys in the novel, but Harry Lloyd’s performance has made me feel a little bad for the Prince. He’s always overshadowed by his more beloved siblings: As a child, he lived in his older brother’s shadow, and now, as an adult, he finds himself blocked out of view by the shining bright future of his sister. Also, he’s been lusting after a kingship his entire life but has never come close to achieving it. Dany marries Drogo and although she suffers many hardships at first, she immediately assumes the role of khaleesi. And in a khalasar of 40,000+, it’s safe to consider that a queen. So despite Viserys’ cruel intentions, I pity him.

Later, Dany’s “bridal shower” is getting along well (food, fire, drums, dancers!) until Viserys shows up drunk. He demands the crown Drogo promised and threatens to take Dany back. It’s a moment in which Viserys once again sees his sister as nothing more than a commodity, a tradable item. Khal Drogo agrees to provide the crown, and while Daenerys looks unsettled, Viserys appears to have a moment of genuine happiness. He smiles the smile of a child, or a weary traveler who has just made it home after a long, long trip. It’s the only moment of true happiness we see in him. He finally believes he will fulfill his destiny and have his moment in the sun. But within moments, bloodriders restrain him and Drogo melts down a medallion belt. As the gold melts, Viserys understands his certain fate. Here, we see him snap out of his fantasy world – where he is king of Westeros – and back to his current reality, in which he is nothing more than a whiny tagalong. He realizes his sister is royalty here and only she has the power to save him, and so he pleads to her for his life. He does not plead to her as a queen, however, but as “Dany,” his little sister. Yet Daenerys does not save him. She cannot. She knows he is no dragon, and as long as he lives she’ll never be truly free. She no longer needs him, because she has a new family: Drogo supports her, Jorah teaches her, and Rhaego fills her with the hope to survive. The dreams Viserys perpetuated, the dreams of the Iron Throne…they do not matter as much now that Dany can dream in Dothraki.

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