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GAME OF THRONES with Context: “A Golden Crown” Recap (S1, E6)

GAME OF THRONES with Context: “A Golden Crown” Recap (S1, E6)

Winter is coming, but not soon enough. So to help pass the time until season seven of Game of Thrones, we’re doing a weekly re-watch of the series, episode-by-episode, with the knowledge of what was to come, and more information about the yet unrevealed rich history of events that took place long before the story began. Be warned, though, as this series is full of spoilers for every season, even beyond the episode itself. So if you haven’t watched all of the show yet immediately get on that and then come back and join us for Game of Thrones Re-Throned.

Because the next best thing to watching new episodes is re-watching old ones.


Season 1, Episode 6: “A Golden Crown”

Original Air Date: May 22, 2011
Director: Daniel Minihan
Written by: David Benioff, D.B. Weiss, Jane Espenson

Even in the harsh world of George R.R. Martin, sometimes the good guys win and the bad guys lose—we just don’t always realize who is who at the time, like in the sixth episode, “A Golden Crown,” where Bronn and his lack of fighting “honor” saved the seemingly evil Tyrion Lannister from “flying” through the Moon Door of the Eyrie. Sometimes though we know exactly who and what we were watching, and we get to revel in it, like in this episode’s final scene.

Before that though, we start with Ned waking up from Jaime’s attack and slaughter of his men to find another Lannister standing over him—Cersei (and Robert, who was last seen threatening to have Ned’s head put on a spike). Cersei is all fire and brimstone, wanting retribution for the arrest of her brother Tyrion (funny), and Ned wants Jaime to answer for his attack, but Robert basically tells them to shut up because he loves Ned (and doesn’t want the North in open rebellion because the North is large and a pain in the ass to deal with) and he’s in debt to Tywin.

Cersei mocks Robert for not taking action, so he hits her. She says she will wear it as a badge of honor, and this is either the final moment where she elects to kill him (not even because he struck her, but because he doesn’t take action against the Starks) or it merely solidifies her resolve to do it.

The good news is Robert isn’t angry, he loves Ned too much (“I never loved my brothers. A sad thing for a man to admit, but it’s true. You were the brother I chose.”), but the bad news is he won’t let him go back to Winterfell, insisting he become Hand of the King again, especially since he needs Ned to rule while he goes on a hunt. A hunt that will be fatal for both of them.

We then get another scene so full of foreshadowing I think if you turn the volume up enough you can hear the ghost of Aegon the Conqueror whisper, “These dragon eggs are definitely going to hatch,” as Daenerys lovingly looks at one of the petrified eggs, places it in a fire, picks it up, and doesn’t get burned by it, unlike her servant.

Nobody was surprised at the end of the season when she walked out of the fire with three dragons, right? It’s an amazing scene, but they weren’t exactly subtle about it happening.

From there we get a longer look at Bran’s dream of the Three-Eyed Raven, this time as the Raven flies deep into the crypts at Winterfell, an actual example of subtle foreshadowing. He’s woken up by Hodor arriving with his special, Tyrion-designed horse saddle, which gives us this glorious image.

Bran then happily takes to his horse, riding with Theon and Robb. Theon wants to go to war with the Lannisters immediately (“Blood for blood”), but Robb says that’s a lot easier said than done. When Theon persists, arguing it is his duty to protect his House, Robb says, “And it’s not your duty, because it’s not your House.” I was angered by Theon’s betrayal of Robb, but looking back it shouldn’t have been that shocking. They really laid the groundwork for it.

The two then notice Bran isn’t nearby, and we find him before they do—being attacked by three wildlings, including Osha. The attackers mention Mance, White Walkers, Benjen Stark, and getting as far south as possible, but Robb arrives and brutally slices one’s throat before grabbing Osha. The leader then grabs Bran and demands Robb drop his sword. It’s all pretty tense until an unseen Theon puts an arrow in the wildling’s back, an act that gets him scolded by Robb for putting Bran at risk. Robb’s not wrong, but he’s also kind of an asshole. Theon believed the situation required action and he took it, and in the process saved Bran, even if there was a danger. They then decide to let a groveling Osha live.

In the Eyrie, Tyrion’s life almost comes to an unfortunate end, as he awakens on the edge of his sky cell. He then calls the turnkey/prison guard Mord, asking him if he wants to be rich, but since he doesn’t have his gold on him (taken at the time of his arrest) or even really a plan (escape would be impossible), Mord just whacks him and leaves. Later, when he calls Mord again, he will show just how powerful House Lannisters’ wealth really is (as well as Tyrion’s skill in knowing how to talk to all people), when the simple-minded Mord knows what it means to be “rich as a Lannister” and that “a Lannister always pays his debts.” Mord eagerly agrees to bring the message to Lysa that Tyrion wishes to “confess” in exchange for the promise of gold. The renown (though not love) the Lannisters have in Westeros allows Tyrion to get away from his sloping room of death.

We then see a “troubled” Arya tell Syrio she doesn’t wish to practice today, but he tells her that is the exact time to do so. “Good! Trouble is the perfect time for training. When you are dancing in the meadow with your dolls and kittens, this is not when fighting happens,” he says, “You’re not here. You’re with your trouble. If you’re with your trouble when fighting happens–more trouble for you.”

Syrio was the best.

The former First Sword of Braavos then says something very similar to what a future mentor will teach Arya in that same city one day, “There is only one god. And his name is death.” However, unlike Jaqen, Syrio does not worship at the altar of death, telling her, “And there is only one thing we say to death — ‘Not today.'”

From there we head back across the Narrow Sea for a totally normal scene of a pregnant lady eating a raw horse heart.

I think we’ll let Viserys sum this one up for us:

Jorah translates the chanting from the Dothraki for Viserys: “The prince is riding. I have heard the thunder of the hooves. Swift as the wind he rides. His enemies will cower before him, and their wives will weep tears of blood.” He then says she will have a boy, and he will be “the stallion who mounts the world.” Viserys, troubled by the prophecy because he can already see the threat this child will pose to his rule of Westeros, says that the boy won’t be a real Targaryen.

This prophecy from the priestess of the Dosh Khaleen—to which Daenerys will return in season six—feels very different now. Read it not as being about her son (who she said will be named Rhaego, in honor of her dead brother Rhaegar), but about her or even Drogon. That’s not good news for Queen Cersei, is it?

Viserys storms off in anger after he recognizes how much the Dothraki love his sister, and he heads to her tent to take the dragon eggs before he flees. However, Jorah confronts him and demands he leaves the eggs behind. Viserys then gives a sad little speech about never getting anything close to the love he just watched his sister get, as well about how obvious Jorah’s love for her is.

“I’m the last hope of a dynasty, Mormont. The greatest dynasty this world has ever seen, on my shoulders since I was five years old and no one has ever given me what they gave to her in that tent. Never. Not a piece of it… How can I carry what I need to carry without it? Hmm? Who can rule without wealth, or fear, or love? Oh, you stand there, all nobility and honor. You don’t think I see you looking at my little sister, hmm? Don’t think I know what you want? I don’t care. You can have her. She can be queen of the savages and dine on the finest bloody horseparts, and you can dine on whichever parts of her you like. But let me go.”

Jorah, who we know is currently betraying Daenerys to Robert and the Small Council, refuses to let him leave with the eggs, and a great moment takes place that may have been lost on non-book readers. Viserys asks about loyalty (in regards to the oath he swore to him), and Jorah says loyalty means everything to him.

“And yet here you stand?”
And here I stand.”

The words of House Mormont? “Here We Stand.” Go re-watch this scene and enjoy those goosebumps.

Naturally, Viserys leaves without the eggs.

Having managed to convince Mord to help him, Tyrion stands in front of Lysa, her little brat of a son Robin Arryn, Catelyn, and the court of the Eyrie to confess his “crimes.” He will do the exact same thing years later in the Iron Throne room while on trial for Joffrey’s death, though that scene and his confession isn’t funny like this sequence, where Tyrion lists a bunch of terrible things he did as a child. (The one about his sister’s soup being particularly crude and funny.)

Note: His last confession is about how he “once brought a jackass and a honeycomb into a brothel,” but Lysa cuts him off. He would begin this story/joke again in season six with Grey Worm and Missandei, but get cut off yet again before getting to the punchline. Now that we know Jon’s real mother, this is the greatest mystery on the show.

An angry Lysa says she will put him in a smaller, slope-ier (not a word) sky cell, and he demands a trial by combat, naming Jaime as his champion. Lysa says the trial will happen today and she basically forces Ser Vardis to be hers. Tyrion asks if anyone will be his, and Bronn, who laughed his way through Tyrion’s confession, and who also recognizes an opportunity when he sees one, stands up.

Ser Vardis fights like a true knight, but Bronn fights like a guy trying to actually win, and he does, slaying Vardis and pushing him through the Moon Door. This is a recurring theme throughout the show, about how a strict adherence to honor can be deadly, and sometimes you need to take the pragmatic approach. Bronn understands this as well as anyone, which is why he is still alive all these years later (and why him and Jaime’s covert operation to Dorne felt so stupid).

We then join the hunt, where the normally sheepish Lancel continuously comes forward and asks Robert if he wants more wine. Remember, he is drugging Robert here, which is what will lead to Robert being gored by the boar. (Kind of a stupid assassination plot by Cersei, no? But hey, it worked, so kudos.)

Robert embarrasses Renly, who gives a little speech about the stupidity of war and Robert’s pining for the good old days of bloodshed.

“What days were those? The ones where half of Westeros fought the other half and millions died? Or before that, when the Mad King slaughtered women and babies because the voices in his head told him they deserved it? Or way before that when dragons burned whole cities to the ground?”

Considering that Stannis is a man of war too (but without any of the mercy of his older brother) this partly explains why Renly (so stupidly) made a claim for the Iron Throne himself, and it shows the audience that Renly is a better, more caring man than his brother the king.


Renly was a good person, but his illegitimate, baseless claim cost the lives of countless people and helped to destroy his house. (Yes, in fact I do feel strongly about this.)

With Robert hunting Ned, now using a cane, is sitting on the Iron Throne when he learns that The Mountain, bannerman of Tywin Lannister, has been terrorizing the Riverlands, home of Catelyn’s family House Tully. Considering The Mountain left behind a bunch of dead fish the reason is not exactly subtle–this is about Tyrion. A coy and cunning Baelish, hoping to create more chaos, urges Ned to act (while Pycelle, secretly a loyal servant of House Lannister urges caution), and Ned turns the dial to 11. He strips The Mountain of his titles and land and demands Tywin come to court or be labeled a traitor. Ned does this in Robert’s name, which will blow up on him when Robert soon dies.

Ned sends this guy to bring The Mountain to justice:


That was the original Lord Beric Dondarrion, who will be recast when we meet up with him as a member of the Brotherhood Without Banners (either that or all those deaths really changed him).

We then see Sansa be the worst person in the world, as she is absolutely rotten to Septa Mordane, which is funny because then the actual worst person in the world, Joffrey, comes with a gift for her, apologizing for his behavior. (It’s a necklace.) He’s completely charming here, and Sansa falls for it. This sequence ends up being very important very soon, because Ned tells his daughters later that he is going to send them back to Winterfell and Sansa loses it, saying she is going to be the queen and that she loves Joffrey. This will lead to her telling Cersei about her father’s plans, in an effort to remain in King’s Landing, which tips off the Queen and ultimately helps get Ned killed.

However, something Sansa says here puts all of the pieces of the puzzle together for Ned and his quest to learn what Jon Arryn was doing before his death. Sansa says she will give the golden lion Joffrey “sons with beautiful blond hair,” and Arya points out he is a stag of House Baratheon, not a lion of House Lannister. Sansa says, “He is not. He’s nothing like that old drunk king.”

When the girls leave Ned immediately goes to that giant book of noble houses and turns to House Baratheon, where he sees that all men of Baratheon blood have dark hair, whereas Joffrey has golden hair like the Lannisters (the first of two “golden crowns” referenced in the episode’s title).

“The seed is strong” were Jon Arryn’s last words, and all of Robert’s bastards have his dark hair. Ned realizes Robert’s children are not truly his.

History note
: Ned mentions a few names from House Baratheon. Here’s a super quick rundown:

  • Orys: the founder of House Baratheon and its first Lord of Storm’s End, possibly a half-bastard Targaryen, and Westeros’ first ever Hand of the King (under Aegon)
  • Axel: unknown
  • Lyonel: the Laughing Storm, Robert’s famous (infamous?) great-grandfather
  • Steffon: Robert’s father, died off the coast of Storm’s End while Robert and Stannis watched

There’s a quick scene during all of this with Theon seeing Ros, who is moving to King’s Landing to ply her trade. News of the animosity between Starks and Lannisters has reached the Seven Kingdoms, and she can see war coming, which means she’ll soon be out of customers in the North (though moving to King’s Landing will prove fatal for her). A prostitute in the North can recognize what is about to happen, but King Robert can’t. Not a great look for him.

Finally we get to the literal golden crown of the episode, which results in one of the best lines in the show’s history.

A drunk, belligerent Viserys shows up with a sword to confront his sister and Drogo. Since it is forbidden to carry steel in Vaes Dothrak or to shed blood, he isn’t worried about the room full of Dothrakis (we’ll label that line of thought as “poor”). He says he wants his sister back since Drogo never paid for her with the crown he was promised. He puts his sword to her belly, and Khal Drogo remains completely calm. Through a translator he tells Viserys he will give him “a golden crown, that men shall tremble to behold.”

Surpised, Viserys relaxes, then is grabbed from behind by Drogo’s bloodriders, who break his arm. Drogo throws some gold into a pot to melt, and Viserys pleads with his sister to save him. It falls on deaf ears, and she refuses to look away from what is about to happen.

Drogo says, “A crown for a king,” (the best) and pours the gold on Visery’s head, brutally murdering him, but fulfilling his payment.

And just in case we didn’t notice the whole “her hands didn’t burn” moment from earlier, Daenerys ends the episode by saying, “He was no dragon. Fire cannot kill a dragon.”

The short, miserable life of Viserys the Beggar King, comes to a horrible, glorious, ironic end. It doesn’t happen often, but sometimes bad things do happen to bad people in this story. Which we should all hold on to as we get closer to season one’s end.

What did you think of this episode? Tell us in the comments below.

Images: HBO

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