All hell breaks loose in King's Landing as Robb Stark declares war on the Lannisters to avenge his father's imprisonment

By James Hibberd
June 06, 2011 at 03:35 AM EDT
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Imagine if you’re at lunch chatting with co-workers and all of a sudden a bunch of sword-wielding psychotics rush into the break room and start killing everybody. That’s the feeling we get in these chaotic opening scenes of Game of Thrones Episode 8, “The Pointy End,” which pick up right where we left off as the Lannisters purge the Stark household from Kings Landing with extreme prejudice.

This week, all hell broke loose: There were direwolf attacks, sword fights, deaths, zombies (!) and full-frontal Hodor (!!). And for a show that can often seem disjointed due by having so many storylines unfolding in different locations, this was the most cohesive episode we’ve seen yet, as the entire realm was impacted by Ned Stark being arrested for treason.

At King’s Landing: Sansa is taking a stroll with her Septa when they hear the sound of fighting and death down the hall. I half expected her oft-abused Septa to say, “Hey Sansa, why don’t you go see what that’s all about?” as she takes off the other direction. But no. Her Septa kindly warns the girl to run and then walks right up to the big soldiers, looking like some kind of sacrificial Obi-Nun Kenobi. We don’t see what happens next, but since we’re told later all of Starks’ household were killed, we can probably assume she didn’t make it.

Sansa is quickly captured by The Hound, and tries to play the useless “I’ll tell my father” card. The Hound wears an expression as if he wants to kill, rape and eat Sansa … but in which order?

Arya is practicing with her dancing master. She’s getting good at that thing, though real swordplay isn’t won on points and she’s complaining that her instructor didn’t fight by the rules. (Arya truly is her Ned Stark’s daughter, isn’t she?). Lannister guards interrupt their lesson led by one solider so massive and wearing such complicated armor that for a moment I thought he was a Transformers Decepticon.

The soldiers demand Arya come with them, but her dancing master gently nudges her back. “And why is it that Lord Eddard sends Lannister men instead of his own?”

“My father wouldn’t send you,” Arya says, “and I don’t have to go with you if I don’t want.”

Her instructor convinces Arya to run away and awesomely fights the men using only his wooden practice sword. Once again, we don’t see his fate, but we’re sure hoping he somehow made it out of that room.

NEXT: Arya draws blood; Varys torments Ned

Arya finds her real sword, when some snot-nosed kid tries to capture her and she — hello, stabs him somewhat accidentally in the belly. There was something that didn’t sit right with me about this. You’d think after all those expert lessons Arya would handle a sword with more … deliberation. This beat felt like she was a clumsy kid again, as if all her training had never happened.

In the dungeons, Ned Stark sits in darkness, but at least they gave him a roomy cell. Varys comes to visit, bringing him water and has to convince him its not poisoned.

“Why is it nobody ever trusts the eunuch?” he asks, which is a valid complaint.

Ned is outraged Varys did nothing to save the Stark household, once again expecting everybody to be as noble as he is.

“When you look at me do you see a hero?” Varys asks.

Varys then asks the same question we were wondering last week: Why the hell did Ned tell Cersei he knew about her incestuous secret?

“Mercy,” explains Ned, “that she might save her children.”

“The wine slowed him down and the boar ripped him open, but it was your mercy that killed the king,” Varys says.

Ned looks deeply shaken and, really Varys, way to pile on the poor guy. Ned thinks his family still holds the Imp card to trade for his life, but Varys informs him Tyrion has escaped. “Then slit my throat and be done with it,” Ned says.

“Not today, my lord.”

Upstairs: The queen and her council put the screws to Sansa, putting on a show for her benefit to convince her to pen a letter to her brother Robb so he doesn’t do anything crazy like, say, raise and army and fight to save their father.

“You’re the daughter of a traitor, how can I allow you to marry my son?” Cersei says.

“A child born of a traitor’s seed is no fit consort for our king” raps Grand Maester Pycell, and we can see why this weasel has survived in this gig for so long. “Who knows what treason she may hatch?”

Even now, Sansa continues her winning streak of saying unintentionally hilarious lines: “I’ll be a good queen just like you,” she tells evil queen Cersei, “I won’t hatch anything!” and we imagine Sansa sneaking off to sit on an egg (hmm, note to Dany: Have you tried that yet?).

NEXT: Jon Snow plays Left 4 Dead; Little Robin is hungry again

Sansa, like most spoiled kids, is quick to sense when she starts to have some leverage, and smartly asks what will happen to her father. Cersei says that depends on her and Robb and, of course, makes no promises.

Castle Black: Word spreads of Ned’s arrest as Jon Snow gets the news. But he can’t try to save his dad since he just swore to spend his life defending a giant ice wall. How frustrating is that? “I’m sure they’ll be treated gently,” says the Lord Commander about his sisters.

Meanwhile they’ve found two bodies from the lost patrol, but not Jon’s Uncle Benjen. Sam notices there’s something weird about them because they don’t smell even though they’ve been dead for weeks. “You may be a coward but you’re not stupid,” Sam is told and he looks proud.

That night, Jon’s direwolf Ghost is freaking out and they have a chat like a classic Lassie episode: What’s wrong boy?! Is it a fire?! Is The Wall melting?! Is it zombies attacking the Lord Commander in his chambers?!

Yes, that’s it! We get some Walking Dead action as Jon destroys the zombie. The Night’s Watch guy must have been “killed” by one of those White Walker things we saw in the very first episode.

Winterfell: The Stark’s maester sees right through Sansa’s letter and knows the queen is behind it. Robb sums up the situation nicely: “Joffrey puts my father in chains, now he wants his ass kissed?”

Robb says he’ll go to King’s Landing, but not alone. He’s gonna call his father’s bannermen — the heads of houses from around the North who swear loyalty to Winterfell.

Outside, ravens fly in all directions as Robb spams the North with an r-mail blast — a giant cloud of urgent news that can poop on you.

The Eyrie: Catelyn is angry with her sister Lysa for not wanting to send her knights help fight the Lannisters. And, yes! Adolescent breast feeding makes a Thrones encore.

“I’m hungry,” says little Lord Robin and starts untying her blouse.

It’s really hard to take this argument between Catelyn and Lysa remotely seriously when the kid keeps pawing at his mom for some boob. Lysa tells Catelyn she doesn’t thinking going to war is in The Eyrie’s breast best interests. She then tells pestering Robin to go take his bath — and who knows what happens during those scenes.

The road: Tyrion is back! The Imp makes an uneasy deal with Bronn to protect him in exchange for gold. “If the day ever comes when you’re tempted to sell me out, whatever their price, I’ll beat it,” Tyrion says.

The duo are then surrounded by some rugged Mountain Men, and Tyrion once again talks himself out of certain death (and out of being made to “dance for the children,” which you suspect he would hate even worse than death).

Across the Narrow Sea: The Dothraki are raiding a village and going about their usual burn/murder/rape/enslavement protocol. Dany is all disturbed. It’s like she married a guy, and is only now seeing how he acts when he’s out partying with his friends.

NEXT: Watch your tongue around Drogo!

She wants to rescue a woman from being raped, but she’s told “the riders are doing her an honor.” Oh really pal? Then how about the riders do you an honor.

“If her wailing offends you, we will bring you her tongue,” a warrior offers, which just misses the point entirely.

“You have a gentle heart,” says Ser Jorah condescendingly.

“I do not have a gentle heart” she fires back and orders that the captured villagers to be put under her protection.

But this is depriving the warriors of their rape benefits, which are apparently part of their Dothraki compensation package. The matter is brought before Judge Khal, who’s just chilling out next to a pile of severed heads (that are used for … what exactly?).

“If your riders would mount [the slave women], let them take them for wives,” Dany suggests which, let’s face it, isn’t what either party in that situation really wants. It’s like asking your husband’s buddies to take the strippers out to dinner first.

“See how fierce she grows?” says Drogo, all proud. “That is my son inside her.”

Ahhhhh! You know Game of Thrones is going to be a popular term paper debate topic in women’s studies classes for years to come.

Drogo rules in his wife’s favor, but a warrior disagrees and challenges his leadership — how can you lead men and listen to a woman? In a scene added from the books, Drogo squares off against the warrior in combat, and shows why he’s such the badass, dropping his weapons and ducking his opponents swings.

“First you have to kill me!” the warrior says. “I already have!” Drogo says, and rips out the man’s freakin’ tongue and throws it onto the ground — the tribe has spoken!

Drogo is scratched and Dany wants the slave woman to heal it. “It hurts me to see you bleed” she says, knowing how to play him. Drogo rolls his eyes.

Back at Winterfell: Robb has summoned his bannermen for a hearty feast but, like Drogo, has to face a challenge to his leadership. Somebody else wants to lead the vanguard and things get heated. Robb’s direwolf rushes forward and bites off two of the man’s fingers, which is better than losing your tongue but still looks pretty awful. The man finds this hilarious, though, and falls in line. Ah, medieval bonding…

Meanwhile Bran is in his room when all of a sudden some child just wanders into our scene and started talking to him. This is the youngest Stark kid, Rickon, who I noted in my first Thrones recap is “like the Maggie Simpson of the Starks.” Suddenly Rickon takes out his pacifier and spouts ominous pessimism about Robb’s chances, as if he knows anything. Dude, go back to starring in Tiny Starks or Winterfells whatever TV show you’re in and let the grown-ups handle this. We’re in Thrones Episode 8, it’s too late to pretend you’re part of our plot.

But if you thought that was random, later Bran is talking with the captured wilding woman, whose name is Osha. I really want to wash her hair, or at least comb it out of her face. They’re dishing about worshiping the trees, and how the gods are– Hodor penis!

NEXT: Catelyn Stark, stage mom; Holy hung Hodor!

For no reason whatsoever, it’s there and part of our memories forever. This happened in the book too (Quote: “He was dripping wet from the neck down, steaming in the chill air. His body was covered with brown hair, thick as a pelt. Between his legs, his manhood swung long and heavy”), but felt far more WTF random in our compressed TV version. Does this conversation with Bran now qualify as yet another example of Thrones‘ “sexposition”? (Wish I could claim credit for that term, but I saw it on Twitter).

Later: Robb has assembled his 18,000-strong army and his mom finds him. She doesn’t hug him until all the other men are out of the room — she cannot do anything to make him look weak in front of the men. It’s like dropping your kid off a block from school so his friends won’t tease him.

She agrees if Robb submits to the Queen’s request, he will never leave King’s Landing. She lays out the stakes of going to war with the Lannisters: “If you lose, your father dies. Your sisters die. We die.”

But, hey, no pressure Robb! Catelyn seems like one of those really intense stage moms.

Later, Robb captures a Lannister scout and releases him with message for the Lannisters that “winter is coming” for their ass. Catelyn starts to object to his mercy, but Robb gives her a very stern look — Mooooom! Not in front of the guys!

Somewhere else, another family reunion: Tyrion meets his father, Tywin, bringing along Bronn and the mountain men warriors he picked up.

My favorite line in this episode comes when Tyrion introduces Bronn to his father as the “son of…”

And Bronn goes, “You wouldn’t know him.”

Thrones author George R.R. Martin is the credited writer of this hour and there might be more witty and self-aware lines here than in any other episode. Perhaps Martin feels a bit more free to find humor within his material.

Tywin chastises his son, “your brother would never have submitted to capture so meekly.”

“We have our differences,” Tyrion shoots back, “He’s braver. I’m better looking.”

Tywin sees the mountain men and knows they could provide an advantage. He asks them to fight for him and they agree, but only if Tyrion fights with them (gulp).

NEXT: Layoffs are never easy; Sansa pleads for her father’s life

King’s Landing: In the throne room, Cersei announces the noble knight Ser Barristan is being booted off the Kingsguard. But they could have at least done it like a TV network firing an executive and told him privately, leaked the news to the press, then issued a praise-filled press release wishing him “good luck on his future endeavors.”

“It is time to rest and look back with pride on your many years of service,” Cersei says, with all the oily smoothness of an HR manager.

Yet Joffrey has none of his mom’s tact: “You let my father die. You’re too old to protect anybody.”

They offer Barristan a house by the sea as part of his severance package. He’s super angry, but to me this sounds like a good deal — you really want to protect these jerks?

Ser Barristan throws off his armor and then pulls his sword. “Even now I could cut through the five of you like carving a cake!” he tells the other members of the Kingsguard, then throws it down and stomps out in disgust.

Ooookay, anything else?

Sansa bravely steps forward to petition for her father’s life.

“He said I wasn’t king, why would he say that?” Joffrey asks, looking legitimately confused.

“He was badly hurt,” she says, “Maester Pycell was giving him milk of the poppy, he wasn’t himself.”

(A reader last week, btw, hilariously thought that potion was called the “milk of the puppy”). Varys makes a slight calculated effort to help Ned, noting “wisdom oft comes from the mouths of babes.”

“If you have any affection in your heart for me, please do me this kindness Your Grace,” Sansa says.

“Your sweet words have moved me,” Joffrey says, and its tough to tell here if he’s being sincere. “But your father has to confess and say that I am the king. Or there will be no mercy for him.”

As the camera slinks down, Joffrey’s throne swallows Sansa into darkness as she says in a small voice: “He will…”

But will Ned Stark overcome his ethics handicap to lie and declare Joffrey the legitimate king? You might as well ask Dothraki warriors to stop raping or Tyrion to quit being sarcastic. His best hope seems to be in Robb pulling off a miracle upset and turn the table on the Lannisters in battle.

We’re in the home stretch here. Two episodes left! This hour was jam packed, as evidenced by this recap — six pages and yet it feels like I rushed over some stuff I normally would have spent more time on. Check out my interview with the Thrones producers about this week’s episode on the Inside TV blog, where they talk about Jason Momoa’s big fight scene. Please no spoilers in the comments; follow me on Twitter here and– … You’re still thinking about Hodor aren’t you? Fine. You want to hear an impression of Hodor having sex? OK, it goes like this: “Hodor! Hodor! Hodor! Hodor!…”

HBO’s epic fantasy drama based on George R.R. Martin's novel series A Song of Ice and Fire.
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