We’ve made it halfway through! This is Episode 5 of my Game of Thrones Read-and-Watch challenge. This has definitely become a much bigger endeavor than I thought it was. I’ve already written around 10k just in discussing this book with these episodes, but it’s been a fun ride!
This part of the book definitely feels like a shift – until this point, things have been rather slow-paced and reactionary, but now we’re starting to see things happen.
I don’t know that I would call it a conflict that was building between Robert and Ned – perhaps a low-key tension between who they were, and the friendship they had, and who they are now, but that tension comes to a head in this part of the book where Robert learns that Daenerys is pregnant and wants her killed, something which Ned just can’t justify. The difference between the man that Robert is now and the man he was is finally clear to him, and he walks out of the small council after giving up his position as the Hand of the King.
This is made painfully clear in the books themselves, as we see time and time again Ned’s faith in his old friend waver, and he is left wondering how much the man has changed. It is touched on far less in the show, and I definitely think the show is trying to characterize the king a little differently.
For one, we see how much Robert likes to sleep with other women in the books. It’s brought up repeatedly, and it’s in this part of the book that Ned remembers speaking of the situation with his sister Lyanna, and trying to assure her that once they are married Robert will stop. Switch to the show, however, and we have a really interesting scene between Robert and his queen, Cersei. This scene was not in the book, but I actually really enjoyed it – I like seeing more of Cersei because she is a really interesting character and she seems like less than a background character in the books. I know she takes a more prominent role as the series progresses, but I like these glimpses.
Anyway, I digress. In the scene in question, Cersei and Robert discuss Lyanna, Cersei admitting to having had feelings for Robert when they were first married. Robert reveals the depth of his loss – that the Seven Kingdoms he now rules are an attempt to fill the void she left behind. Interestingly enough, Cersei asks if they have a chance to start over which struck me as an unexpected extending of an olive branch. They have obviously been unhappily married for many years, and this was a chance for them to at least repair some of that damage. Robert declines, in what ends up being a very revealing, but very bittersweet scene between the two of them. Rather than an irresponsible and unfaithful King, as he appears in the books, in the show, he definitely seems more of a romantic, haunted by a lost love and burdened by the responsibility to rule.
Add to that his reaction to Dany’s unborn child. He seems convinced that she will cross the Narrow Sea with the Dothraki at her side to take back the kingdom. In the books, we understand the king to be blinded by his hatred of the Targaryens, but in the show, he demonstrates a lot more foresight – he understands the gravity of what will happen if the Dothraki cross into Westeros. It isn’t just about his hatred, or his cowardice, though that certainly plays a part.
I do wonder if that was why Jon and Lysa Arryn’s son was given a different name. Like many of the characters in this series, he has been aged up – in the books he is only six, but he appears closer to Bran’s age in the show, but what I thought was most strange for so minor a character was the name change. In the books, he is named Robert, no doubt named for Robert Baratheon who was raised in part, alongside Eddard Stark, with Jon Arryn when he was younger. But the show changed his name to Robin.
Maybe they thought it would be too confusing with another Robert. After all, we do have two Jons – Jon Arryn, and of course, Jon Snow. But Robert Arryn is not a major character by any means, and it makes pretty clear what the former hand thought of his King. Whether or not he felt as Ned did, that the years had changed him, Robert Baratheon was important enough to him that he passed that name onto his son. If we can handle two Jons, why not two Roberts? Or maybe they just didn’t want such a petulant child to have the same name since the show is obviously trying to characterize him a little differently.
Speaking of different characterizations, Ned is definitely seen with the lens of a warrior in the show more so than the books. Early on in the show, his memories of previous battles haunt him as he watches Arya practice, and in this episode we see him fight Jaime Lannister, who we know is one of the best.
After a swordfight with Jaime that was essentially a stalemate, a member of the Lannister guard stabs Ned in the leg. In the book though, Jaime rides away, and in trying to save his men, Ned falls from his horse and his leg is crushed underneath it. A swordfight between two major characters is obviously way more interesting for the audience than an unfortunate twist of fate during a messy fight in the streets of King’s Landing, but it isn’t the first time we’ve seen something like this.
He even gives the veiled threat to Jaime in the first episode when he tells him he doesn’t participate in tournaments so people don’t know what he can do. And at the start of this one, we see him speaking with Barristan Selmy who is considered the best swordsman in the world, and the two trade comments about who would have one had they fought. His battle prowess is something the show clearly focuses on.
Well, that, and of course, his honorable nature. Ned is loyal to a fault, something that becomes clear when his status as the Hand of the King – a role that protects him, is something he rejects when Robert asks him to do something that goes against his honor. Without his influence as the Hand, he is far more vulnerable in King’s Landing, something which Jaime Lannister immediately takes advantage of when word reaches them of Tyrion being taken prisoner. Definitely not the smartest move, but we can understand it. Ned is defined by his loyalty and sense of duty.
We get to see a new location in this part of the story, and the Vale is definitely one of the coolest places we’ve seen in Westeros so far, save for the Wall. It’s described as beautiful, but in an ominous, dangerous sort of way, with the Eyrie built into a mountain, making it naturally fortified and Catelyn’s journey up to the top in the middle of the night was actually terrifying. I have a fear of heights myself though, so maybe I’m just more sensitive to it.
The dungeons are also really interesting – they’re open on the one side, and would hardly be considered secure if it weren’t for the fact that it was at the top of the towers, and the only exit meant you would fall to your death into the valley below. I would have loved to see more of it, beyond a long shot of a CGI tower, but I understand that at this point in the show, the budget was small. We don’t get to see very much.
Some of the more exciting moments for me, knowing what I know, were the mentions of The Faceless Men – highly skilled assassins, and of course, of the vow that Ned made to Lyanna, one he continues to keep long after her death. Thus far, the circumstances of her death have been vague. Robert informs us at the beginning that she was kidnapped and raped by the son of the Mad King, but beyond that, we don’t know much – only that she lost her life during a rebellion that was meant to save her from the Targaryens.
This was another section with long chapters – we really focused on a small pool of characters and the focus was in two places – King’s Landing with Ned, and the Vale, with Catelyn and Tyrion. But it was fun. It finally feels like pieces are moving on the board and decisions, sometimes (and frequently) bad ones, are being made, and the characters are going to have to come to terms with those consequences.
And we’ve only five more episodes to go!
Let’s Talk About Episode Five!
What did you think of episode 5 – The Wolf and the Lion? What do you think of the changes from the book? What were some of your favourite scenes from this installment? Let me know in the comments!