Game of Thrones Review: “A Golden Crown”

This week’s Game of Thrones wasn’t quite as action packed as last week’s, but to me it was one of the most interesting episodes so far, and it certainly raised the most questions.

Plots are getting more and more complex as political tensions rise in the kingdom, and to top it all off, we finally got our first real major character death in an incredibly excellent fashion.

Notably absent from the episode was once again Jon Snow on the Wall, as presumably nothing important is happening up there as the White Walkers are on holiday. I do expect his plotline to play a significant role next week, or else that’s some pretty poor show planning.

What did happen was the follow-up to the epic Stark/Lannister street brawl of last week, where Ned was crippled by Jaime (well, Jaime’s bitch bodyguard at least), and I’m hoping the damage isn’t going to be permanent and he won’t be limping around for too long. Still, that was a pretty hefty spear through the leg.

“Leg injuries make me sweaty OK?”

Also not permanent was Ned’s resignation as Hand of the King, which was completely expected. Robert essentially just said “get the f*** over it” and threw him his pin back. I loved the line where he said if he gave it up again, he’d “pin the damn thing on Jaime Lannister.” That got Ned moving again, so to speak.

He carried out some particularly ballsy acts as Hand while the King was out hunting to clear his head. Word had it that The Mountain attacked one of his wife’s people’s village, presumably on Lannister orders, so he took the decisive step of stripping him of his knighthood, and sending out a party to kill him. Additionally, he called for the transport of Tyrion Lannister back to King’s Landing to stand trial for his alleged atrocities against his family. It’s the gutsiest we’ve seen Ned all series, and it was nice to see him take charge and embrace his role for what seems like the first time ever.

Meanwhile, back in the Vale (not “Veil” I’m told), Tyrion tries to worm his way out of their rather bizarre justice system that mainly involves imprisonment in “sky cells” without trial. He bribes a guard to get him in front of  the queen (or whatever she is), and demands a trial by combat, a concept which seems rather ridiculous to me, even in medieval times. So you can commit any crime, and then request to fight your way out of it? And you can even pick someone way more skilled than you to fight for you? Are you serious?

Who are you, and why did you do that?

The battle scene was cool, but I do not understand who Tyrion’s champion was, nor why he risked his life for the Imp. I guess he really liked his stand-up routine about jerking off into his sister’s soup. And after all that, they just let him walk right out the door? Well, some guy unrelated to the crime killed some other guy completely unrelated to the crime, so I guess that settles that. That justice system seems exceedingly strange to me on a lot of levels, and the whole event bothered me. I’m sure there’s going to be more hell to pay, but it was just a very strange sequence.

In addition to kicking ass and taking names, Ned furthers his research into why the old Hand died, and based on an off-hand remark by his daughter about Jauffrey, uncovers something that I postulated last week. Looking through the archives, he finds all Baratheon men throughout history have had black hair (though Robert’s is pretty brown, is it not?) and he now understands why the old Hand was looking for Robert’s bastards to see what they looked like. Hair color is apparently the medieval version of DNA, and so he’s figured out, or is about to, that Prince Smallmouth is in fact not Robert’s son. Who knows when he’ll discover that he’s the product of Lannister twin incest (which has to be the case), but all hell should break lose when that happens.

But how can this ever be proven? Hair color is NOT DNA, and though I’m sure no one in this universe knows what a recessive gene is, it stands to reason that on occasion, a child might have his mother’s hair color. I’m not sure how he’s going to catch the Lannisters in this abomination, but when he does, I can’t wait to see what happens. I’m predicting lots of heads on spikes.

And why was he being so nice all of a sudden?

This, however, wasn’t the only important development this week. We’re back across the Narrow Sea and seeing how Princess Hotstuff is taking to her new role as queen of the savages. In trying to make a dragon egg omelet, she learns that she’s immune to fire because of her “dragon” bloodline. I’m hoping if she cooked it a little more, it was going to hatch, but I’m guessing they’re saving that for down the road.

More pressingly, Viserys is as unhinged as ever, and after being thwarted in his attempt to steal the dragon eggs so he can sell them and buy an army, he stumbles into his sister’s party drunken and threatens to cut the baby out of her unless Khal Drogo gives him his kingship by helping him invade the mainland.

I was rolling my eyes at first when he said they “couldn’t spill blood in their sacred city” as really, the most violent people in the world have a no blood law in their hometown? Fortunately, Drogo was willing to bend the rules for the flagrant public threatening of his own wife and unborn son, and gave Viserys a crown, but not the one he wanted. Molten gold was poured onto his skull, and his sister remarks that he wasn’t a true dragon, or else he would have been immune to the fire. Is molten gold still fire? Is this implying that she and Viserys aren’t actually related, or he just wasn’t “worthy” of the Targaryan name?

He is dead, right? He’s not going to show up in some later season as “Viserys the Golden Headed” is he?

More importantly, what does this mean now for Daenyrs and the Dothraki? There was a bunch of prophecy mumbo jumbo about her child growing up to rule the world, so does that mean once he’s born, the Dothraki are going to invade the mainland anyway? They’re not content just chilling with their huts and islands and horses and sex parties? Doesn’t seem like the worst life in the world, so I’m wondering if they’re still a major threat. What’s going to motivate them to cross the sea, and how will they do it?

I really do love this show, and not because there’s nothing else on TV worth watching right now. It’s interesting, exciting and most importantly deep, and I hope it’s HBO’s next multi-season classic, something the channel has been missing for far too long.


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  1. “he called for the transport of Tyrion Lannister back to King’s Landing”

    It should be Tywin Lannister he called out for if i’m not mistaken,
    their Father.

  2. Well, I think the king is going to send someone out to try to kill her and the baby (he wants to, ned is against it). That is going to start the war, where as if the king wasnt such an idiot it might not happen.


    She has said over and over again that she wants to go home. Perhaps with her new-found dragon powers, she feels she is worthy of more powerful ruling and will do what her brother intended herself!

    We shall see, nontheless it was an incredible scene.

  3. Oooo, you’re not going to like the next episode at all, Paul. Not one bit… I won’t spoil what happens, but I will say that George R R Martin does the same thing at least once per book, and it is what caused me to stop reading the series halfway through the third book.

  4. Also Joffrey is now acting nice all of a sudden because his mother the queen told him to apologise and give her a gift to mend fences. I think that happend an episode or two back.

  5. The trial by combat thing is rooted in the fact that they believe that the gods will intercede on behalf of the the just party. Picking a champion is related to the fact that women who don’t normally study combat would have a knight stand in for them.

    The guy who stood in for the Imp is named Bronn. He is a sell sword (merc.) who was at the tavern and tagged along with Cat and company to protect them on the way to the Vale. While traveling to the Vale (which takes a lot longer in the books) and when the mountain clan attacked, he and Tyrion become chummy.

    He knows that the Imp’s family is rich and by saving the son of a high lord he will be richly rewarded.

    They did a great job with the crown of gold and no he is not coming back. The are true brother and sister but he is pathetic where she is discovering how strong she really is. The egg in the fire is a big foreshadowing for events that are coming.

  6. 1. Trials by combat actually happened in the early middle ages of Europe. Along with walking on coals, picking a stone out of a cauldron of boiling water and so on.
    The outcome was thought to be the “Judgment of God”*, until the pope expressly forbade the clergy in the Lateran Council of 1215 A.D to give their blessings to such ordeals.

    *In the case of the ordeals by fire/water mentioned above, the “Judgment olf God” was “innocence” if the wounds healed well after a few days and “guilt” if they became festered..

    2. The Dothraki ARE on the mainland already, Westeros (whee the Seven Kingdoms are) is a large island to the northwest of the main continent.

  7. Yes Danny and Viserys are really related, Viserys is just a lil punk that isn’t as strong as the other dragons. Danny is really coming into her own and i really get into her scenes.

    The prophecy (i guess thats what ill call it) about Danny and Drogo kid uniting all the Dothraki hordes and uniting the world I think only applies to there section of the world and making all the Kalashar (i think thats what they call their tribes) into one, I don’t think they are refering to Westeros as they are not aware of what Danny may be planning for there IMO

    I think someone will attempt to kill her (mormont maybe?) to get back in the graces of the king, which mormont wants more then anything else, im sure something will flush out with the order to kill danny.

    Ned has finally caught on to what is going on with the lannisters, but here is something i picked up on that i was wondering if someone could add to or blow it up as i may have missed something….

    In ep 2 i believe, cat and lady lannister are talking by Brans bed and she talks of her and roberts first son, that dies of a fever, and I think she mentions how she use to sing to him (remember that), now when Ned goes and meets Roberts first bastard kid he notices he has Roberts Hair and eye color, and he asked about his mom, the bastards says he remembers her golden hair (Lannister trademark) and that she use to sing to him before the fever took her, sounds really familiar to lady lannisters story about her first kid except the kid died of fever and not the mom, I think the the blacksmith apprentice is actually Roberts first born son, that the Lannister disposed of (but didn’t kill) so that they could continue with there plan to take over the crown, remember Tywin desires to rule everything

    Also as far as the DNA and hair color and all that stuff goes, this is not our world, it is a fantasy about a made up place, that does not mean that our rules or that our science applies to this world, Hair color may be a good sign of lineage in Westeros, I understand its hard to break that programming of how OUR world works, but again Westeros is not OUR world

  8. I read all four books of the series and am waiting for book 5. Anyway, it is hard watching knowing what is going to happen next but at the same time I can’t wait to see how the put what’s written on paper on the screen and I have not been disappointed so far. You guys are in for some serious shockers before the season is over, and believe me people, it gets much much better!! George, you are the man!!

  9. “Leg injuries make me sweaty OK?”

    He is sweaty because he has a fever, he has a fever because he has an infection, he has an infection because they didn’t have antibiotics back then, hopefully nothing serious.

  10. I’m loving what they’re doing with the series so far, and I look forward to the new episodes weekly.

    One nitpick though, Ned didn’t order Tyrion to King’s Landing, he ordered Tywin (Tyrion, Jaime, and Cersei’s father) to King’s Landing to answer for the Mountain’s crimes. Pretty much saying “The Mountain is your man, now explain why the hell he did what he did or pay the consequences.”

  11. The point of trial by combat is sort of misunderstood. It isn’t about ‘justice’ it is about social standing. It is a sort of judicial loophole that gives advantage to people of privilege or those that are well loved. The basic setup of a trial in westeros is you say your piece, I say mine and the lord decides. However since everything hinges on one man if he dislikes me I am shafted. So as the accused I short circuit the whole equation by demanding the “the gods” decide by favoring the righteous party. The assumption is that the ‘state’ can field a pretty powerful champion at a whim so this is an option that is only really viable if you have people to stand at your back. If you are friendless and alone, or a grubby peasant with no training you are screwed, unless you can convince someone of status that you are worth while. It isn’t really about guilt or innocence it is about maintaining the social order.

  12. @SodiumAzide

    That was a very articulate explanation, yet it still remains impossibly stupid to me. Though I guess the moral of the story justice system always favors the rich in any era, it’s just doing so in a stranger way here.


    Oh, I didn’t even realize Tywin was still alive and would be an active character on the show. We haven’t seen him yet, right? Or am I an idiot?

  13. @Paul Tassi
    Tywin has not been seen on the show yet. The actor is credited with 7 episodes though. Tywin himself only appeared in the last 100-150 pages of the book but should play a larger part once he is introduced.

  14. @Sodium/Paul

    I disagree, in Westeros, the Trial by Combat is firmly rooted in religious belief that the gods will intercede and have the innocent man (or his champion) win. Even in that episode Tyrion wanted to use Jaime but because he was far way they said no, if you are innocent you’ll win anyway.

    Before the Targaryens landed and started burning up the place with their dragons, Westeros was invaded by the Andals, a very religious people who brought “the Seven” gods to Westeros. Most people in the South are descendants of those people and firmly believe in the Gods. A lot of inner monologues prove that many main characters do as well (although not Tyrion).

    Just as a side note, most of the Northerners are descendents from “the First Men” who were the guys there before even the Andals, they believe in the old gods, who have no names.

  15. Tyrion’s champion/sellsword Bronn should have been more clearly named and explained as most viewers do not seem to notice him. Shame because he is a great character in the book (funny, sly, and a total badass in combat).

  16. SodiumAzide:
    The trial of combat, in its social aspect, was more about RENEGOTIATING a social order due to breakdown of the former one, rather than merely asserting the one previously:

    If we look at early Germanic law, a standard component was to find oath-helpers (say, between 6 or 12), who should be men of “good standing” and would swear on your innocence.

    This system pretty much guaranteed that inferiors could not unsettle superiors they might have legitimate grievances against.

    But, there would be, on occasion, instances where there was a rough equality in social standing, yet no peaceful resolution to satisfaction of both would be possible.

    In order to minimize the very real danger that this should degenerate into a family feud, the trial by combat acted as a safety valve, in which the loser would experience a LOSS of social standing relative to his erstwhile social equal.

    Thus, the trial of combat was primarily about feud management, at minimal social and societal cost.

  17. I would have liked another quick scene or conversation with Tyrion and Bronn like in the books… it would be easier to understand why Bronn would risk himself for Tyrion (gold) with just a couple quick exchanges. Bronn is the character after all who takes Tyrion’s gold for his room in the inn.

    Also, I do very much like the whole trial by combat system. In a medieval / feudal society where the gods would play a big part in everyone’s lives, the thought of the gods helping the righteous would likely be common sentiment. Obviously, it’s a system where it can be heavily exploited by the powerful / rich (see Lannisters).

  18. In episode 4, Bronn offers Tyrion his room after the Imp offers a coin. Tyrion calls him “a clever man”.

    In episode 5, when Tyrion talks to his captors, he mentions that “A Lannister always pays his debts”. You then see Bronn, who has joined Lady Stark´s party and is sitting on a stone, sharpening his sword. After Tyrion´s words he pauses for a moment and looks up. It´s pretty obvious that from this moment on he started to think about helping the Imp.

    Tyrion and Bronn also did appear to get along quite well after the attack of the Mountain-Tribesmen on the way to the Eyrie.

    So after all, Bronn´s intervention on behalf of Tyrion was really not a surprise if you watched closely, even without all the additional dialogue from the books.

  19. Apart from the historical references, the trial by combat system is nothing new to medieval fantasy. It was also featured in the film Excalibur; Percival was knighted because no one stood up for the queen till Lancelot returned to defend her honor against the allegations of Sir Gawain.

    The difference here being that in the case above you had to be knight to fight, while Bron was only a sellsword.

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