Tyrion fights for his life, Viserys gets his crown and Ned finally learns the Big Secret (but have you?)

By James Hibberd
Updated May 23, 2011 at 02:41 AM EDT

Be careful what you ask for, you just might get it. Want a golden crown? Want to capture the The Imp and put him on trial? Sure, but you might not like how things turn out. But I sure loved how Episode 6, “A Golden Crown,” turned out. We got a trial that blended Court TV with Spartacus, saw Tyrion putting his famed wit to use, saw an ambush in the woods and, most shockingly, the death of a character who, yeah, had it coming, but I’m not sure anybody deserves that.

Let’s recap: Ned groggily awakes to see King Robert and Queen Cersei. It feels like when you’ve done something really bad as a kid and your parents are standing over your bed. Except if you sass-talk these two, they’ll put your head on a spike.

“Lord Stark was returning drunk from a brothel, when his men attacked Jaime,” Cersei accuses, which is the most unconvincing lie ever. Ned is more likely to build a Kings Landing waterslide park then get drunk with the lads and start fights.

“Catelyn will release Tyrion and you’ll make your peace with Jaime,” bellows The King of Avoiding Conflict.

“He’s attacked one of my brothers and abducted the other,” Cersei shoots back. “I should wear the armor and you the gown.”

Whoa-whoa-whoa, just because plumb King Robert looks like he’s with child doesn’t mean you can put him in a corner. He slaps her. Ned looks displeased by Robert hitting his enemy, because that’s how honorable he is.

“That was not kingly,” Robert admits later, as if he’s normally regal and composed instead of drunkenly going after prostitutes with blackberry jam. “I don’t know what happened between you and those yellow-haired sh–s and i don’t want to know. I can’t rule the kingdoms if the Starks and the Lannisters are at each others’ throats.”

Robert orders Ned to send an r-mail to his wife telling her to release Tyrion and gives him his job back as Hand of the King. Robert has also seemingly found a way to avoid all this high-stakes fighting between two powerful families all together by announcing he’s leaving the city and going on a hunt.

Across the Narrow Sea: Dany has finally stopped staring at those dragon eggs during sex and picked one up. All right. Now what? Remember that story the slave girl told her about how there was once two moons and one drifted too close to the sun and it burst open and all the dragons flew out? Yeah, it’s silly, everybody knows the moon is really full of possums. But Dany must be thinking of that because she takes one of the eggs and puts it on her in-tent grill, which must be handy for when you wake in the middle of the night and have a craving for some BBQ horse ribs.

The thing sits there. It sounds like she was tricked and given a shell full of Rice Krispies. Then again, maybe Dany isn’t trying to hatch anything. Maybe she just got a random preggo-craving for some poached dragon egg.

She reaches to get her dinner just as the slave girl comes in and they both end up touching the hot egg but the Khalessi is not burned. Hmm…

NEXT: Dany wins this week’s gross food immunity challenge. Want to know what she’s playing for?

Winterfell: Theon Greyjoy urges young Robb to declare war on his injured father’s behalf, which Robb is reluctant to do. While Bran, who’s back in the saddle again thanks to Tyrion’s contraption, finds himself riding a horse in the forest. Some Wildlings who were fleeing south (“as far south as south goes,” to be more specific), ambush him. The Wildlings want to steal his gear and hold Bran for ransom, but Robb comes to the rescue. After a stand off, Bran is saved by Theon, who goes all Katniss with his bow.

Across the Narrow Sea: Pledge week at the Dothraki frat house. Dany has a massive horse heart that she’s trying to eat without vomiting, as if she’s on some kind of reality show. It seems the Dothraki believe the heart of a stallion will make her son strong and fearless, but only if she can eat the whole thing. Guess she’s lucky they didn’t want her offspring to be a great lover instead. As she consumes the bloody organ, Drogo watches her intently, like some sort of horse tribe Joe Rogan.

Dany pitches forward and all go quiet. Is she gonna hurl? No, she did it. I half expect Dany to open her mouth and stick out her tongue show Drogo it’s all gone. Obviously fear is not a factor for you, Dany. The tribesman chant about “the stallion who mounts the world” — they’re hoping her son will be their prophesied leader who unites all the horse tribes.

Viserys is disturbed at this outpouring of respect for his sister and sneaks into her tent to steal the dragon eggs and take off. “I’m the last hope of the greatest dynasty this world has ever seen on my shoulders since I was five years old and nobody has ever given me what they gave her in that tent,” he tells Ser Jorah. Ah, and that’s the real key isn’t it? Viserys thinks love and respect is something that should be given to him rather than earned.

But Jorah won’t let him take the eggs, and Viserys accuses him of being pervy around his sister. Viserys drops and treasure and exits. If only he kept on walking…

The Eyrie: Tyrion calls for the jailer. He tries to bribe him without actually having any gold on him, and gets a beating. Then Tyrion tells him, “sometimes possession is an abstract concept” and gets whacked again and, I gotta say, he deserved that one — nobody likes a smart ass. Tyrion spouts his family slogans and pledges he will owe the dim jailer gold if he tells Lysa that he wants to confess his crimes. Suddenly, the guard looks Tyrion as if he just turned into a Leprechaun.

In the throne room, Lysa thankfully doesn’t have her right breast out, or her left one either. Tyrion has a tough task ahead — how do you convince an entire room of people who want you dead to set you free? He begins a terrific monologue confessing a slew of childhood naughtiness, but to not the crimes for which he is accused. Then adds, “I once brought a jackass and a honeycomb into a brothel–” Lysa stops him but, damn, I really wanted to hear the end of that one, didn’t you?

Tyrion and Lysa negotiate a “trial by combat.” She informs his that The Eyrie has no executioner, that “life is more elegant here.” Now we find out what that odd structure is in the center of the room and what Robin meant by “make the bad man fly.” They open The Moon Door, a portal with a deadly drop below.

(Read up on trial by combat, and I was surprised that not only was this common in the Middle Ages, but it was used all the way through the 18th century and even during the founding of the United States. The most common use of trial by combat was to settle a dispute between two people. Seems like wildly unfair way to go about figuring out who is right or wrong — and yes, I realize that’s a painfully obvious statement, but people around the world actually thought this was a terrific criminal justice practice for centuries. I guess it makes things easier for those in charge, you don’t have to make any decisions or dole out any punishment, you just let anybody who’s upset about something battle it out with whoever they’re upset with. Also, this is true: In 2002, a 60-year-old Brit disputing a minor driving ticket demanded a trial by combat against the UK equivalent of the DMV using “samurai swords, Ghurka knives or heavy hammers.” The court refused, unfortunately).

So Lysa asks for a champion and all her knights are jumping up and down to slay Tyrion. The one guy who thinks that such a contest would be unfair, sadly for him, gets the gig. Tyrion asks for volunteers to fight on his behalf and one of the men Catelyn picked up at the tavern unexpectedly agrees. His name is Bronn and I liked how when Tyrion looked at him after volunteering, Bronn just sort of shrugs, like, Why the hell not?

NEXT: Ned finally figures out The Big Secret (but have you?)

King’s Landing: Arya is practicing with her dan-cing master. This is short beat and nothing of note happens, but I have to single out an incredible bit of dialog. It’s from her teacher, after Arya tells him that she prays to the gods every day: “There is only one god, and his name is Death,” her instructor says. “And there is only one thing we say to Death: ‘Not today.'” Amen.

Over in the throne room, Ned is in the World’s Most Uncomfortable Office Chair. You’d think he’d at least add one of those back-support things or a cup holder. A bunch of peasants are telling him a horrific story about soldiers who murdered their families. Pycell actually corrects the guy who calls Ned “your grace,” because after your wife has been raped and murdered and your kids were set on fire, what’s really important is getting somebody’s title right. It sounds like the barbarians were led by Ser Gregor “The Mountain” — the giant psycho who beheaded his horse last week during the tournament, and that he’s taking orders from the Lannister patriarch, Tywin (who we have not seen yet on the show and is not to be confused with his son, Tyrion).

Love Littlefinger here, whispering to Ned: “Can you think of any reason the Lannisters might have for being angry with your wife?”

Ned doesn’t like acts of barbarism and he sure doesn’t like being bullied. He goes over the top — sending men after Ser Gregor and his men, and demands that Tywin Lannister comes to King’s Landing lest he be branded a traitor. The King’s Hand, getting s–t done.

Back at The Eyrie: They open the Moon Door again. No real reason to show this twice, but if you had a room with a Moon Door wouldn’t you take any opportunity to open and close it again? Bronn, dressed lightly goes up against little Lord Robin’s knight, who’s all weighed down in traditional armor and carrying a shield. In the book, Tyrion advised Bronn before the fight how to beat his opponent, but it’s better for TV if the audience figures out on their own what’s going on here rather than being told the strategy in advance. Bronn keeps dancing out of the knight’s way and wears down his opponent. Lysa calls him a coward, but he doesn’t care. Bronn brutally kills the knight and pushes him out the Moon Door, winning Tyrion his freedom.

“You don’t fight with honor!” cries Lysa.

“No,” says Bronn, and points at the Moon Door. “He did.”

Tyrion is released. He pays off the jailer and gives this a perfect f-you bow to Lysa and Robin on his way out. Bronn, no dummy, follows him out the door.

King’s Landing: Sansa is doing some cross stitching and insulting her Septa when Prince Joffrey enters. He gives her a necklace and finally says everything she’s been wanting to hear.”I’ve behaved monstrously,” Joffrey says. “I’ll never disrespect you again. I’ll never be cruel to you again. You’re my lady now. From this day, until my last day.” Sansa looks as if her Disney dream finally came true; Septa looks like she’s going to vomit.

Later, Ned tells Sansa and Arya he’s sending them both back to Winterfell for their safety. Arya wants to stay because of her sword fighting lessons, and Sansa wants to stay to be with Joffrey. Ned offers to match Sansa with somebody who’s worthy of her.

“I don’t want somebody who’s brave and gentle and strong I want him!” Sansa blurts, and Arya rightly finds that totally hilarious (these two sort of remind me of medieval versions of the sisters in Modern Family … no?).

“I’ll give him sons with beautiful blonde hair,” Sansa adds, which strikes something in Ned.

Ned browses his Westeros Wikipedia, and starts reading about how all the sons of Baratheon had black hair — except Joffrey, who has, how shall we say, a golden crown.

OK, now I come to a tricky moment as a recapper. Because at this point, The Big Secret is pretty obvious. Even Ned, who, let’s face it, isn’t the sharpest sword in the scabbard, and has been looking at black haired bastards whose moms had fair hair for weeks, finally seems to have figured things out. It’s a secret that could rip apart the kingdom and is definitely worth killing Jon Arryn over. But since the show still hasn’t spelled it out verbally, I’m not going to either. If you don’t know, and still don’t want to, stay off the boards this week.

Ned figuring this out is a strong finish, but this week’s Thrones has an even bigger moment to come. Ready?

NEXT: Perhaps Viserys should have been more specific

Across the Narrow Sea: The Dothraki’s are having a rave back at the tent and everybody is having fun dancing and roasting meat. Here comes Viserys blundering in drunk and demanding a seat at the “whore’s feast” — and he’s armed. Drogo tries to direct him toward the back of the tent. “That is no place for a king,” Viserys says.

“You are no king,” says Drogo, who– heeeey! The Khal said something in English, er, the Common Tongue. Way to go Drogo, those ESL lessons coming along.

Viserys pulls his sword. He points it right at his sister’s pregnant belly.

And for the first time in six episodes, Viserys has Drogo’s attention.

Even though she’s the one being threatened, Dany’s expression is fear and pity for her brother, not for herself, which is just perfect for this scene.

Viserys demands the crown he was promised or he’ll cut Drogo’s son out of her belly.

Drogo, glaring at him over his eyeliner, agrees. Dany translates for him: “You shall have a golden crown that men shall tremble to behold.”

That … doesn’t … sound … good.

You know Viserys is totally f–ked. You know whatever Drogo has in mind here, it’s something very different than what Viserys actually wants. You just don’t know what form this punishment will take. And no matter what you thought might happen, it’s probably not as awful as what does happen (and if it is, you’re a sickie).

Oblivious, Viserys is relieved, until Drogo’s men disarm him from behind. Drogo takes off his belt of gold medallions and puts it into the stew pot to melt it down over the fire. Viserys realizes what’s going to happen and begs for his life. The way the scene is edited, it only takes a couple seconds for the gold to melt but this whole sequence is so much more horrible when you realize that the belt probably took at least 10 minutes to turn to liquid and all the while Viserys had to wait for it.

Dany doesn’t protest and doesn’t look away. Drogo takes the pot of molten metal and pours it over Viserys’ head. “He was no dragon,” Dany says. “Fire cannot kill a dragon.”

Did anybody else, despite all his terrible qualities, feel sorry for Viserys at the end? And was I right — was episode six the best yet?

Check out my interview with the Thrones producers this week talking about The Eyrie, Catelyn bashing and how much exposition and backstory from the books is too much over in the Inside TV blog. Follow on Twitter here. Remember Episode 7 is available starting now online via HBO Go, its new fancy online streaming service for subscribers, but I’m not posting the next recap after the regular telecast on Sunday. Let’s go ahead and talk about the Big Secret on the boards that Ned is investigating, but please do not reveal spoilers from the upcoming episodes — including #7 since most viewers will wait to watch it on TV. You guys have been great through out all this, let’s keep it going.

Thanks again for reading, and remember: “Not today.”