We start with Bran Stark and an ominous vision that will have more relevance later. In the waking world, Tyrion Lannister has returned to Winterfell on his way south from the Wall. He does a kindness for Bran that goes a long way towards giving the now-crippled boy the return of his mobility, although ultimately proving a source of stress for his brother, Robb and for Theon Greyjoy. Speaking of Theon, Tyrion has less kindness for the hostage/ward of the Starks. At the Wall, Jon Snow and his companions are introduced to the newest recruit, Samwell Tarly, who is nearly fit nor a fighter. His reasons for being at the Wall may be the saddest of anyone’s. Viserys finally discovers why the Dothraki are beginning to hold his sister, Dany, in such high regard. Ned begins to see why the King is going bankrupt and as he begins to gather some vital clues, he learns a lesson from Petyr Baelish as to how how many ears are listening to his every word and how many eyes are watching his every move. Tyrion comes across Lady Stark traveling incognito, an encounter that ends badly for the imp. Oh, and we meet Gregor Clegane, otherwise known as “The Mountain” and for good reason.
This is the point where you really need to start paying attention to conversations and really listen to what the characters are saying and, in some cases, not saying. I will say right now that some vital clues are at least hinted at if not out right waving at you. At least one major character more or less seals his fate by actions he takes in this episode. As one who has read the first four books, it is interesting for me to look back at this point in the story and be surprised by how much of what is to come is informed by a few scenes here. The apple cart is certainly on its way to being turned over and I’m going to stress again the importance of really paying attention, if you haven’t been already. The title of this episode, “Cripples, Bastards and Broken Things,” refers to many characters in the story so far, and not necessarily those that befit the titles most obviously.
Along with the superbly strong story this week we also get what is becoming usually magnificent acting work as well. Peter Dinklage continues to dominate as Tyrion and is sort of making this show his own. His expressions alone convey so much depth, but when combined with his dialogue it is particularly powerful. Sean Bean does an amazing job of portraying a Ned Stark who is ever more haggard by the realization that he is in an increasingly difficult position and the contrast to how he brightens when talking to his daughter Arya is a sight to behold. Aiden Gillen continues to play Petyr Baelish in an appropriately sly and subdued way and Lena Headey is obviously relishing the role of Cersei. Those are the performances that really stood out to me this week, but, really, everyone in this phenomenal cast deserves at least an Emmy nomination if not the award itself.
Another outstanding episode. It may just be getting cliche to talk about Game of Thrones in such lofty terms, but this is a show that has deserved the high praise. It is currently the best show on TV, bar none, and has set an ever elevating bar that will be nearly unreachable at this point. If you want to see the perfect storm of script, acting and direction, then look no further than Game of Thrones.