Game of Thrones recap: First of His Name
Another murder mystery solved as Littlefinger is revealed to be the ultimate Westeros puppet master
Game of Thrones has been on a generous streak of giving us answers. Who killed Joffrey? We rather quickly learned it was Lady Olenna and Littlefinger. What do the White Walkers do with Craster’s sons? Why, they turn them into baby White Walkers. And this week, Thrones blows wide open a hugely crucial murder mystery cold-case, one we long assumed had been solved: the mysterious death of Jon Arryn, the former Hand of the King whose demise paved the way for pretty much our whole story. Plus, we see a new side of Cersei, Dany makes a game-changing decision, Jon Snow attacks Craster’s and more as we break down the latest Thrones, “First of His Name.”
King’s Landing: Candles, of course. We see a ceremony where Tommen is proclaimed king. The crowd shouts, “Long may he reign!” Hearing their proclamation is like being at a wedding where everybody secretly thinks the couple won’t last. Getting his crown is Tommen’s big moment, but he cannot resist ogling his real prize — comely Margaery Tyrell, giving him secret smiles of nighttime tuck-in naughtiness. Suddenly their gaze is blocked by Ice Queen Regent Cersei. She’s like one of those moms clinging to their sons in the creepy Old Spice ads. She goes to chat with Margaery and they have a very delicate conversation.
Once again, Thrones surprises us. We think Cersei is trying to trick Margaery into admitting her interest in Tommen and will then pounce on her . Clearly Margaery thinks this is what Cersei is up to as well. But Cersei is unlike we’ve ever seen her on this show. Cersei Lannister is … depressed. This feels emotionally correct; the rage and paranoia she felt in the wake of Joffrey’s death has faded into sadness. At least she’s calm, and in that she has found some room for clear thinking. “He would have been your nightmare,” Cersei tells Margaery bluntly about the prospect of life with Joffrey. “You knew exactly what he was. The things he did shocked me.” And Cersei isn’t easily shocked.
Cersei broaches the idea of Margaery marrying Tommen, asking if she’s interested. I expect Margaery to exclaim, “Look, the pie!” and dart out of the room. But instead, she lies her dimpled face off, saying she hasn’t thought about it yet.
“We may be faced with an alarming number of weddings soon,” Margaery adds. One would think the prospect of going to even one wedding would be alarming by now.
Cersei later goes and talks to her father about Margaery marrying Tommen. Tywin has a hilarious line, grimly recounting how Robert used to pat him on the back — I wish we could have seen that. Tywin explains the Tyrells are the Lannisters’ only true rival in terms of resources, so they have to keep their enemies close. We get another reference to the fearsome Iron Bank of Braavos, to which the crown owes a considerable amount of money. Apparently, these debt collectors are just like the ones in our world: “You cannot run from them, you cannot cheat them, you cannot sway them with excuses.”
I wonder here: If Tywin knew Olenna had killed Joffrey, would it change anything in his behavior toward her and plans with them? I don’t think that it actually would, given how this murder has solved his problem of Joffrey’s increasingly unmanageable psychopathy. In fact, it wouldn’t surprise me if Tywin has secretly figured it out.
NEXT: Dany’s game-changing decision; Sansa visits her relatives
Meereen: It’s another small council scene, except now we get to see Dany’s small council. We learn Daario captured 90 ships for Dany without being asked. “I heard you liked ships,” he says, so very cool and casual, like he just picked up some take-out lunch. “I heard you liked tacos.”
She then contemplates conquering Westeros. Our ears perk up. The first problem, we are told, is she may not have enough troops. Oddly, no mention is made of Dany’s dragons when discussing this plan; one would think they’d at least be some kind of factor in an attack, right? “Oh, we have 10,000 troops, plus three dragons.” It’s kind of a big thing to leave off the inventory list. Yet they’ve been off out of sight and mind since the season premiere.
The bigger problem is the last two cities Dany conquered have slid back into chaos since she departed. Apparently invading a city, ordering its people to radically change their ways, then taking off isn’t the best foreign policy regime-change strategy. You would think that would be pretty obvious — but for some reason, it never is.
The slowness of Dany’s progression toward Westeros has frustrated TV views and book readers alike. But this scene spells out her issue neatly. One of the major themes in Game of Thrones is that conquest is easy — but ruling is hard. Just ask Theon, who took Winterfell, only to quickly lose the castle (along with other things). And remember Tywin’s quizzing of Tommen about what it takes to be a good king? This is one area where Tywin and Dany would agree: You need wisdom to rule. Dany recognizes that she is not yet ready to rule Westeros. She hasn’t accumulated enough wisdom. This is why she has the potential to be a fantastic ruler: Unlike everybody else vying for power, Dany knows what she does not know and has the patience to learn it.
“How can I rule seven kingdoms if I cannot rule Slaver’s Bay?” she asks Ser Jorah. “I will not let those I freed slide back into chains … I will do what queens do. I will rule.”
So Dany’s going to stick around this city for awhile. But again: Pyramid!
The Eyrie at the Vale of Arryn: We’ve all had to visit nutty relatives and try to get a sense of their customs, rules and personalities. Are you supposed to take off your shoes before coming inside? Say grace before dinner? Here, Littlefinger takes Sansa to meet her crazy Aunt Lysa and strange cousin Robin.
First we’re told how this castle, The Eyrie, is super protected from enemies due to its rather unique geography (which probably makes getting delivery rather difficult). This was also mentioned in the first season, when Tyrion was brought here: The Eyrie is impregnable. (“Give me ten good men and some climbing spikes; I’ll impregnate the bitch,” Bronn memorably quipped). If I wasn’t sure before, after this second and more emphasized reference, I’m convinced this location will eventually be a key setting in a battle of some sort.
In the castle, we see Robin is still at his mother’s bosom (thankfully covered this time). Littlefinger gives Robin a pretty glass bird and he promptly throws it out the Moon Door — that hole in the floor the Vale uses to execute people. You wouldn’t think Lysa would just leave it open with little Robin running around — but, you know, her house, her rules.
Lysa tells Littlefinger she wants to marry him now, now, now. He agrees, seemingly reluctant. Lysa arranges an ultra-fast ceremony and they get married. Amazingly, nobody dies.
During this sequence, we get a huge reveal: The inciting incident in the Game of Thrones pilot was the poisoning of Lysa’s husband, Jon Arryn, who was then Hand of the King to Robert Barathon. That event sent Robert to Winterfell to conscript Ned Stark. We’ve always assumed Cersei and Jaime killed Arryn because he learned about their incestuous relationship. Now we learn the truth: Littlefinger sneakily seduced Lysa and convinced her to poison her husband. I bet he also pushed Robert to tap Stark to replace him. Littlefinger then had Lysa write a letter to Catelyn Stark blaming the Lannisters for her husband’s death. Littlefinger also told Catelyn and Ned the assassins’ dagger used to try and kill Bran after his accident was last seen in the hands of Tyrion. Catelyn then kidnapped Tyrion, and tried to have him executed in Lysa’s court, provoking the Lannisters. Then Littlefinger betrayed Ned Stark which led to his arrest and execution. Then: War!
So The War of the Five Kings was in a large part instigated by Littlefinger. Others made key moves, like Joffrey executing Ned Stark. But Littlefinger was deliberately pulling strings, trying to create a chaotic situation where he could benefit. Now he’s killed Joffrey, too, and forged a secret alliance with Lannister frenemy the Tyrells. Plus he’s in a castle that is considered extremely difficult to attack. And he has Ned Stark’s daughter.
We were once warned by Varys that Petyr Baelish is “the most dangerous man in Westeros.” We’ve been waiting to see evidence of that. And as it turns out, we’ve been seeing tons of evidence the past three seasons! So much of the death and mayhem we’ve already witnessed is attributable, indirectly, to Littlefinger.
Then we find out Littlefinger is also quite adept at having sex with loopy aunts. All that time running a brothel probably taught Littlefinger a few little-finger tricks. Sansa lays awake at night and hears strange howling. It sounds like a direwolf being strangled. It’s her aunt absolutely screaming in passion. Given her volume, it sounds like he’s going right up her Moon Door.
NEXT: A raid on Craster’s
Later, Lysa becomes unhinged during a chat with Sansa. She accuses Sansa of sleeping with Littlefinger and being secretly pregnant. Lysa knows something isn’t quite right about Sansa’s presence here. Like many before her, she can’t figure out Littlefinger’s true motive, and that makes her nervous.
Sansa swears she’s a virgin repeatedly until she’s in tears and Lysa pulls her into her bosom. For a moment we’re afraid she’s going to whip out her boob like she does with Robin. Then she reveals that Sansa will marry Robin. And Sansa’s expression is priceless — what, WHAT, what?
Poor Sansa. Again. She’s going from being engaged to a psychopath, to marrying a dwarf member of the Lannister family, to being promised to a mentally unwell child. Once again, Sansa is headed toward a marital fate that even lemon cakes cannot improve. This might be the first Westeros wedding where somebody simply kills themselves.
Riverlands: Arya travels with The Hound. She’s going over her bedtime death prayer. The Hound largely approves of the idea of a death list in general, though he’s a tad startled to discover his name is on it. Be a lot easier if she just wrote all this down. They bicker. Ayra does some rad sword dancing.
Elsewhere, Brienne and Podrick travel too. We find out Pod isn’t very good at doing squire things, like cooking and riding a horse. Even without Tyrion having required such skills, you would think he would have learned this stuff just growing up in Westeros — or perhaps at squire school. Of course, we know Pod has secret other skills, but it’s a fair assumption Brienne would not be interested in them.
Craster’s: Back at the rape shack. This final sequence is unpleasant for a couple reasons — the menace of mutineer Karl threatening Meera and the agony of wondering of whether Bran and Jon will reunite.
Karl terrorizes his captives. This isn’t a villain you love to hate, this is a villain you simply hate. Outside, Jon and his group of Night’s Watch brothers wait to attack. Locke scouted ahead, spotted Bran and lied to Jon to keep him away from the shed where his brother was being held. Between Karl’s villainy, lying Locke and the whole band of evil mutineers, a lot of people we want to die are in this scene. Luckily, Thrones isn’t in the mood to disappoint.
Jon leads the attack, as Locke sneakily kidnaps Bran. Then Bran takes psychic control of Hodor (!), and uses him to Hodor-Smash Locke, which is pretty cool. This is another deviation from the books that will provoke fan chatter. This scene will also do nothing to stop speculation that Bran might be destined to take control of Dany’s dragons.
Bran tries to crawl toward Jon and for a fleeting moment we think Thrones is actually going to reunite them. I imagine somewhere in New Mexico that George R.R. Martin is watching the show and learning forward on his couch. But no. Jojen convinces Bran to remain silent, that if he alerts his brother that Jon will never let him continue north.
The logic of this is sound, I suppose, though we don’t like it very much. We’ve had a lot of frustrating near-miss reunions on this show among the Stark family.
Jon fights Karl, who does the classic villain move of taunting the hero for being too moral in his fighting. Jon is outmatched, but one of Craster’s daughters stabs Karl from behind. He rounds on her and Jon plunges his sword through the back of his head.
This is a shift for Jon, and represents the ongoing coarsening of our heroes. Arya takes pleasure in killing Polliver. Dany crucified the masters. Now Jon fought dirty to win — a lesson his father never learned. They’re all starting to figure out, for better or worse, that to survive and thrive you must get your hands dirty.
Jon offers Craster’s daughters the opportunity to come back to Castle Black, but at this point they rather understandably say no. They’re polite about it, but you know what they’re thinking: We would rather wander in the snow and freeze to death than risk hanging out with more bros with swords. They relish in Craster’s hut being burned to the ground.
This episode was admittedly less eventful than other hours this season. We got Littlefinger’s big reveal, true. But when you think about the storylines, most scenes were either meetings or prodding some minor story and character development — there was conversation in King’s Landing (though no Peter Dinklage, which is rare), conversation on the road, conversation in Meereen. There was action at Craster’s, but it amounted to an “up and back” — we’re presumably now right back where we were a couple episodes ago, with Bran headed North with his friends and Jon at Castle Black (assuming he makes it to the castle without a detour). Such is the strength of the story execution that we’re all fine with this — none of the scenes actually lagged.
Say, have you been curious why the showrunners have been silent about certain week-to-week fandom controversies? See our interview with showrunners David Benioff and Dan Weiss where they talk about how they’re ignoring your online comments for the sake of their productivity and sanity.