GAME OF THRONES: Monday 13th June, Sky Atlantic, 9pm
*Major spoiler warning. Please only continue with this series blog if you have watched up to episode 8 of Game of Thrones*
âYou grew up with actors; you learnt their craft, you learnt it well. But I grew up with soldiers; I learnt how to die a long time ago,â? says Ned Stark in the first scene of this penultimate episode of Game of Thrones. Unbeknownst to him he will indeed be dead in a matter of hours. Itâs a bold move by the showâs producers (HBO), deciding to stay true to the novels and kill off arguably the main star of the show. Killing off major cast members is not the done thing within the realm of television, but then, Game of Thrones has never been your average TV show.
But that doesnât come till the end of the episode, so letâs first catch up with events as they play out; Robb continues the march south with his 20,000-strong army of northerners, but they are unable to cross The Trident without making a Faustian deal with Lord Frey: both Robb and Arya must wed his offspring once the furore has died down. Robb makes an ingenious tactical decision that fools the Lannisters and allows him to capture, alive and (mostly) unharmed, the great kingslayer, Jamie Lannister. In order to do so Robb had to sacrifice 2,000 men and this decision lays heavy on his conscience: âOne victory does not make us conquerors. Did we free my father? Did we rescue my sister from the queen? Did we free the north from those who want us on our knees? This war is far from over.â?
Meanwhile, at The Wall, Jon Snow is entrusted with a great gift; a sword forged form valyrian steel that has been in the Mormont family for five centuries. Mormont decides to give it to Jon, complete with a new pommel, of a wolf rather than a bear, in appreciation of his valiant efforts in slaying the White Walkerâs zombie assassin. Jon is soon told by Samwell of his brotherâs warmongering and is torn between his oath to the Black Watch and his family loyalty.
Back in the land of the savages Khal Drogo forgets how to ride his horse and takes an impromptu nap on the dusty floor of a mountain pass; his wound â a remnant of the throat-ripping fight last episode â has become infected, really, really infected. So infected in fact that he will die before the night is out. And once Drogo is dead Khaleesi will soon follow.
Now, Khalâs wound was treated by the âwitchâ in last weekâs episode, but despite her intervention it seems to have gotten terminally infected. So the ever illogical Khaleesi decides to bring back the inept healer for another go. This time the witch says Drogo is beyond help and gives Khaleesi her condolences. Unsatisfied, and fearing for her life, Khaleesi pleads with her to use magic, a request to which she reluctantly agrees. Drogoâs horse is summoned because the âblood spellâ requires sacrifice, âonly death pays for lifeâ? the witch tells Khaleesi. Everyone must leave the tent while the spell takes place and some of the more prominent Dothraki are less than impressed with Khaleesiâs âblood magicâ. Amid the unearthly noises emanating from the tent one Dothraki decides enough is enough and makes a shoves Khaleesi to the floor. Jorah intervenes, and thanks to his armour, wins the fight outright, beheading the would-be traitor.
Khaleesiâs baby wants in on the action and she goes into labour, unfortunately all the midwives by this time have decided sheâs cursed and refuse to come to her aid. One of the Dothraki recalls the witch is also a midwife and Jorah carries Khaleesi towards Drogoâs tent, unaware of the horrors that wait to befall them inside.
Tyrion takes a liking to a whore his bodyguard stole for him and the three of them play a drinking game, which ends with Tyrion telling the two of his tragic past involving a girl he fell in love with after he and his brother saved her from a group of rapists. At least thatâs what he was led to believe at the time. It turns out it was all a sadistic joke set up by his father, who only divulged the girlâs true disposition after they had wed. This may be an important scene, providing yet more insight into Tyrionâs motivations.
The final scenes are played out in The Sept of Baelor, an area in front of the castle where executions take place. Arya has just caught a pigeon â isnât it cats sheâs supposed to be concentrating on? â and is trying to barter it for food when she sees a mad rush towards The Sept of Baelor: âThe hand of the king is going to confess!â? exclaim excided citizens as they run by. Arya makes her way up just in time to witness her fatherâs confession. Ned admits to âtreasonâ and proclaims Joffrey as the true heir to the throne.
Joffrey acknowledges his plea and explains his wife to be (Nedâs daughter Sansa) and his puppet-master mother have both expressed a wish for mercy to be granted for the traitor Lord Stark. He proclaims they have persuaded him to let Ned live out his days in the Black Watch, where he will protect the realm from the dangers found north of the wall. Joffrey, however, is an inbred little bastard and seizes his chance to make an example of Ned: âAs long as I am your king, treason will never go unpunished. Ser Ilyn, bring me his head!â?
âNobody can believe it, even the characters who are corrupt. The Queen and Littlefinger and Varys are looking around in astonishment because they can’t believe that this guy, this young King has done this. He’s gone against everyone. It’s a big step to actually take, to chop off Ned Stark’s head,â? said Sean Bean, speaking yesterday about the shock events of todayâs showing.
This penultimate episode appeared to be more of a set-up for the epic events yet to unfurl during next weekâs season finale. With so many questions left unanswered it will be interesting to see how many the showâs producers see fit to resolve and how many they leave for season two. One thing is for certain though, after Joffreyâs ill-thought-out execution of Robbâs father no one would want to be in Jamie Lannisterâs shoes right now.