This was a really juicy part. Lots of fun stuff happening and of course, the big reveal – Robert’s children are not his true heirs, something the reader would have figured out with the myriad clues being dropped, but it’s a truth that Ned has finally uncovered.
Let’s get into it, shall we?
The book opens with a dream, which we know from earlier (and it’s even confirmed in this part) that dreams are important – even prophetic. Ned dreams of the vow he made to his sister when he tried to save her from the Tower of Joy, the place where she inevitably died. Guarding his way are three faithful knights and members of the Kingsguard – they are sworn to protect their king and yet they guard the tower. The reason, they explain, is that they were away when Jaime Lannister killed the Mad King, and now they stand before Ned, fulfilling another vow. We never learn what either of their vows are, frustratingly enough, though it’s interesting that he refers to the blowing petals at the end of his dream as “blue as the eyes of death.” Way back in the prologue we see the dead Ser Waymar Royce rise, and his eyes “burned blue”.
There is one thing interesting about the show – we aren’t in the heads of the characters and restricted to their point of view – the show can explore events and perspectives that the text glosses over, or things we might not have seen at all.
For instance, we see Viserys watching his sister eat the horse heart in Vaes Dothrak, and we know the scene from her point of view where she is intently focused both on her husband and on not gagging or showing some sign of weakness. Because we are in her head, we see Viserys for the snivelling, pathetic little man that he is, but the show explores another facet – the threat that Daenerys now poses to his rule. She has the favour of the Dothraki, whom Viserys expects to give him his army, and they all believe she will give birth to a son who will become “the stallion who mounts the world,” and to whom “all the people of the world will be his herd.” In the show, he immediately decries her son’s claim to the throne by claiming that he “won’t be a true dragon.”
We also get a little scene of Robert as he’s hunting, which we know is his element. He lives for battle, and he likes to fight, and in lieu of a war to fight he takes to hunting. Robert revels in the glory and the fighting but baulks at the softer side of peace – the balls and the parties that Renly seems so fond of, only for Renly to turn around and remind him of the actual horrors of past events, the brutal reality of war and what it costs the kingdom. I thought this was a nice touch. Robert dislikes ruling, so much so that he remembers his time in the war as “the good old days”, but the reality is not so clean.
There were a few things I took issue with the in the show, though I’m sure a bulk of them come down to production costs. I much preferred the battle between Bronn and Ser Vardis in the books, mostly because the books emphasized Bronn’s footwork and skill, and in the show, while that is definitely shown, it definitely makes Bronn look more opportunistic. I can see why they would do that, given that he is a sellsword and that was what Tyrion was counting on in the first place. But I think it went a long way in trying to make him seem a lesser swordsman because of it – Lysa even claims that he ‘fights with no honour.” We learn that he slit the throat of his travelling companion, so he’s certainly not a hero, but I would have liked to see the more competent, capable Bronn of the books. Or maybe I just didn’t like the fight choreography.
Another thing I found frustrating, and this is becoming a theme, was Ned himself. We see Ned overreacting in the show – being stern with his sentencing of Gregor Clegane, but then taking it a step further and using his power as the Hand of the king to summon Tywin Lannister – the father of queen and the one to whom the crown is heavily in debt. He’s overstepping here, giving in to Littlefinger’s needling, and he is clearly trying to satisfy his own need for vengeance.
In the books, he plays things far more close to the vest. When he learns the truth, he wants to give Cersei and her children a chance to escape because he knows what the King’s wrath will mean for them – they’ve already seen it with Daenerys and her unborn child.
What’s even more frustrating is that Ned would have made a good king. He’s an honourable man, and he doesn’t let the Mountain get away with wrongdoing just because he is one of Tywin’s Bannerman. Though this marks the first time that he is unable to “pass the judgement” himself because of his injury. His ruling was harsh but he emphasized justice, not vengeance. At least, he did in the book. And Cersei later remarks that he had a chance to take the throne for himself, and he didn’t, leaving him with an ominous threat – you either win the game of thrones, or you die.
And of course, we close off both this section of the book and the episode of the show with the death of Viserys at the hands of Khal Drogo – a very poetic death, I might add, as he is doused in molten gold, the crown he so desperately craved.
We’ve passed the halfway mark and things are really picking up, which is a weird thing to say for the 800-page tome that this book is. I’ll admit it isn’t for everyone, and the beginning could come across as frustratingly slow. But now we get to the good stuff – truths are being revealed, loyalties are tested, and characters are making decisions they will ultimately have to pay for. This definitely feels like the dropping of a snowball from the top of a hill, and we’re only going to see it grow from here.
Should be fun!
What did you think of episode 6 – A Golden Crown? 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!