The Wolf and the Lion

Ok, so I think the general format of these episode recaps is going to be me using the title of each episode as a way to look into what each episode tries to explore etc. Given all of the importance placed on titles, names and house words within the world of the series, it only seems fitting that the show runners would choose titles that are laden with as much meaning. In addition to this, i’ll generally write about the way that each episode lays the foundations for events that occur further along down the pipeline or pre-empt/ foreshadow the shape of things to come.

The Wolf and the Lion reads onto two large scenes of episode in a fairly simple manner: we have Tyrion and Catelyn at the beginning of the episode and we have Ned and Jaime towards the end. The former involves a brilliant character moment for Tyrion, one that is vital in endearing him to the audience as a man of honour. After asking to be freed from his bonds, Cately and co. are attacked from either side by the savage men of the Hill Tribes. In the hurly-burly of the skirmish, Tyrion convinces Lady Stark to cut him loose as there’s no point to any of this if he dies. He’s then left at a crossroads – does he take one of the lose horses are ride back South and take his chances by himself and in doing so allow his captors to be slaughtered? Or does he save the endangered woman from the hands of the Hill Tribes? Ultimately, Tyrion’s conscience gets the better of him and, armed only with a shield, he brutally maims and kills one of the attackers. It’s carnage. Impressive stuff. He, of course, seals his own fate by doing so but has proved himself an honourable man in front of North men who value honour above all. Perhaps not such a bad move.

We also get to see the first flickerings of a burgeoning bromance between Bronn and Tyrion. The view of the Eeyrie we get is stunning too. Bronn’s claim to be able to ‘impregnate the bitch’ with only ten men and some climbing picks at his disposal is worth a good chortle. The confrontation between Jaime Lannister and Ned Stark bookends the episode nicely, with the second meeting of a wolf and a lion. Jaime has come to hold Ned to account for the actions of his wife in holding Tyrion captive. Jaime snidely comments on the “small pack of wolves” Ned has at his disposal as the Lannister man encircles the Lord of Winterfell with members of the Kingsguard. Ned obviously covers for his wife saying that Tyrion was captured at his command and then states that if he is killed then so too with Jaime’s brother. What commences after is a pretty great fight that I’d almost entirely forgotten about. After an initial spearing, Ned and his men start to put up a good fight. We get to see a bit of the famed swordsmanship of Jaime, as well as the underhandedness that is characteristic of the Lannister heir. [Interestingly his eye-stabbing is totally dependent on the use of two hands. Intriguing, no?] We then are treated to a good one-on-one scrap between J and Ned which seems, surprisingly, too close call until one of Jaime’s men skewers Ned’s thigh from behind with a spear. The look of disgust on Jaime’s face is there for everyone to see as he backhands the offender across the face, leaving Ned bending the knee before finally toppling over.

This might be a little bit of a stretch, but I think there’s a further example¬†of the wolf and the lion motif evident in this episode. It is in another vital scene and occurs about halfway between the two aforementioned instances. We see Arya chasing a cat down into the dungeons of the Red Keep as part of her ‘dancing’ training. Arya = little wolf; cat = little lion? Not sure, but I’ll run with it. Whilst down here she is distracted by the dragon skulls before becoming aware of two people approaching her. She hides inside the skull while Lord Varys and Illyrio Mopatis [fuck yeh, Roger Allam!] discuss their plans for war and how the wolves and the lions will soon be at each others throats. It becomes apparent during this scene that Varys’ allegiances lie with the Targaryens [or with Dany at the very least], which seems pivotal to understanding his motivations.

Perhaps deserves to be a minor point but while we’re on the subject of Arya I think this is worth noting. Lots of instances of Arya being mistaken for a boy this episode. The guards at the gates of King’s Landing and Qhorin Halfhand all mistake Arya for a boy. This androgyny anticipates two things. First, and most obviously, highlights Arya’s ability to change her appearance, which is pivotal in her escape from King’s Landing and also plays into her favour with her time at Harrenhal with Tywin. However, this ability to seemingly shift gender also seems to pre-empt her experiences with Jaqen H’ghar [spelling?], the faceless man. Given that Arya seems bound to become one of the faceless men at some point in the story, it is interesting that her proficiency at disguising herself is highlighted this early in the narrative.

The Wolf vs Lion motif is one that occurs in different capacities throughout this episode is one that constitutes one of the biggest conflicts of the series as a whole and these larger conflicts are given a foundation in ‘The Wolf and the Lion’.

Various other points: There’s a number of great scenes in this ep where just two characters share the screen. They capture a real sense of intimacy [or sometimes a lack thereof] and I think a lot of the performances are due credit for the relationships they build in these scenes.

  • Loras and Renly: As well as being RIFE with innuendo [“Oooh Loras, you’re *such* a gifted swordsman” heh heh heh], this scene establishes some important aspects of both characters and their relationship. We see Loras exhibiting some of the courtly cunning that the Tyrells are renowned for, particularly anticipating the sort of manipulation that his sister Margaery shows with Joffrey. The Knight of the Flowers plants the seed of ambition in his lover’s mind; emphasising that Renly would be a King of the people and questioning why ‘thrones are the sole province of the hated and the feared’. [Compare and contrast with the scene between Cersei and Robery]. Renly laps this up and you can see the allure of glory beginning to take seed in him. I like that Loras is shown to possess the same cunning as the rest of his family. The Tyrell’s are said to always be searching for a royal marriage to further assert their position as the great noble house of the Reach. Their rule is somewhat uneasy, given that they were elevated to the level of the Lords of the Reach during Aegon’s conquering. The biggest noble house of the Reach at the time, House Gardener, fought against Aegon and his forces and were burnt to a crisp in open battle. The Tyrells then opened Highgarden’s gates to the Targaryens and bent the knee. They were rewarded by being elevated to their current position. This was seen as a shun to House Florent who felt they had a larger claim to be elevated due to the fact that they were a cadet branch of the Gardeners. As such, the Tyrell’s relationship with the Florents is icy and they seek a royal marriage to establish their rule over the Reach as more legitimate. /tangent. Phew.
  • Cersei and Robert: This is a properly brilliant scene and tells you everything you need to know about their relationship. Starts off with a delightful quip from Cersei: “I’m sorry your marriage to Ned Stark didn’t work out.” and then proceeds to become a meditation on the prospect of a Dothraki invasion and also a plaintive contemplation on the nature of their marriage, which is profoundly sad. One of the most striking things is the candour with which they address each other – they address each other without reservation and pull no punches in their words. There is an absence of animosity between them, as if they’ve moved beyond anger, into a duller sense of contempt. Robert shows himself to be a much wiser man in terms of warfare than he is given credit for [Jorah suggested previously that Robert would be fool enough to meet the Horde in open battle whereas here he acknowledges that only a fool would do that]. He also understands that while they could preserve themselves, the Common Folk would soon fall victim to the raping and pillaging of the Dothraki. Robert suggest that you rule through fear and blood, which is a clear distinction from the attitudes of his brother’s. Specifically Renly as mentioned above. Clearly showing an understanding that people’s loyalty is fickle when faced with extreme circumstances. After that they talk about how their marriage is all that keeps the 7 kingdoms together: an uneasy marriage maintaining an uneasy marriage. There’s something kind of sweet about the utter lack of passion and total disdain they have for each other. Leads to some really rewarding insight into their respective characters.
  • WILD SPECULATION KLAXON: During their conversation something stuck out like a fucking sore thumb to me. Cersei once again mentions that their relationship began to go sour after they “lost our first boy…” Is it just me or is this coming up way more often than I thought? OR am I only acknowledging it because I’m looking for it? Either way, it’s there and is clearly a pivotal point in their marriage. Would be incredibly sad if it then turned out that sad baby lived and could’ve salvaged their marriage… Who knows, but something to mull over. Also, I’m not sure what is more crushing: Robert suggesting that there was never a time when he felt that he loved Cersei, or Cersei’s admission that that made her feel nothing at all. Ice. Cold. From both sides.
  • The throne room discussion between Varys and Petyr Baelish once again telegraphs their whole relationship. A struggle for power between the two of them. Matching wits and depths of deception whilst having a begrudging respect for each other’s methods. Fun times.
  • Some horrible instances that anticipate the fate of our beloved Lord of Winterfell: After Ned throws in his Hand of the King pin we’re treated to Robert screaming “I’ll have your head on a spike! I’ll put it there myself!”. This is soon followed by Loras telling his lover that Ned is “lucky to still have his head”. Really not sure i’m emotionally prepared enough to go through this again. Can’t say that he wasn’t warned though. If only people listened to one another, they’d last much longer.

Miscellany:

  • I thought that Bran’s lesson with Maester Lewin was a really clever bit of expository dialogue: they managae to establish some of the geography of the continent, as well as some of the major players [the Vale, the Westerlands, Dorne etc], whilst also informing us of the role of the Maesters as well as showing us a bit about Bran. He’s whip smart whilst also being more of a fighter than a book learner. Theon gets a classic cock joke too, which is always fun. [The Lannister’s actual house words are ‘Hear me roar!”, btw]
  • Watching the Mountain decapitate his horse with one fell swoop is absolutely brutal. I’d forgotten how much of a threat they establish him as in this first season. He sort of goes off the map from here on outwards. He’s clearly a bigger part in the new season given that they’ve recast him. I look forward to it.
  • The Hound begins his arc as an unlikely hero by looking awkward as fuck with Loras holds his arm aloft.
  • Episode begins with further admiration of Barristan Selmy’s prowess as a knight, this time from our man Ned. He gets a lot of this boosting from all possible angles. I’m looking forward to seeing for ourselves just what he’s capable of.
  • Lysa and Robyn Arryn are so bloody strange. Really wasn’t any less disturbing second time round. Also, the skycells at the Eeyrie are terrifying. Big fan. Such a good concept.
  • There were some brilliant one-liners in this one: Loras saying that Stannis has the “personality of a lobster”; Robert saying that Lancel Lannister’s mother was a “dumb whore with a big arse” and Renly saying that the table rises 6 inches every time Robert mentions killing Dany all were pretty bloody hilarious.
  • Line of the episode goes to Renly though: “You have to give it to the Lannisters: they might be the most pompous, ponderous cunts the Gods ever suffered to walk the world but they do have outrageous amounts of money”. Bang on the money, Renno. Bang on. Loras’ hurt pride comes to the fore after pointing out that he too has outrageous amount of money but Renly reminds him that they don’t have as much as the Lannisters. All of this ties in with the above about the Tyrells position as being a little uncomfortable with their own status. Cute moment.

Yeh, so this didn’t turn out any shorter…

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