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 with 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 5: “The Wolf and the Lion”
Original Air Date: May 15, 2011
Director: Brian Kirk
Written by: David Benioff and D.B. Weiss
This is it. This is when the war between the Starks and the Lannisters really began. It was inevitable, sure, the second Catelyn Stark believed they had tried to kill her son Bran—twice—but following her arrest of Tyrion last week it was only a matter of time before it all came to a head. And boy did it, in one of the season’s best scenes (in an episode full of them). Before that explosive final moment though, the show’s fifth episode, “The Lion and the Wolf,” offered up plenty of world-building, plot movement, phenomenal moments that turned out to be far more prophetic than we realized at the time. And a whole lot of the Spider.
The episode opens with Ned going to see the body of Ser Hugh of the Vale, who was “shish kebab’eb” by The Mountain last week. Lord Commander of the Kingsguard Ser Barristan Selmy has honorably been standing guard over his body, since no one came to claim him. After they leave the tent he says to Ned, “Life is strange. Not so many years ago we fought as enemies at the Trident,” in reference to when he fought alongside Rhaegar Targaryen during Robert’s Rebellion (the Trident is where Robert killed Rhaegar).
Ned responds that he is grateful, since his wife would not have liked being a widow, but Selmy, who Ned’s father said was the best swordsman he had ever seen, tells Ned he is “too modest” because he is also a great warrior. This is all foreshadowing for what is to come at the end of the episode.
We then join poor, stupid Lancel trying (and failing) to strap King Robert into his armor, but the king is too fat. Ned says as much when he comes to see him—Robert laughs, because only Ned can speak to him like that—and explains that Robert can’t fight because no one would dare to actually fight back against him. “There’s not a man in the Seven Kingdoms would risk hurting you,” says Ned, unaware that the man who just left the tent, Lancel, would soon conspire to kill him.
Robert really was awful to Lancel, so it is not surprising that he had no issue in plotting against the king. If anything it’s more an indictment on Robert’s judgment that he would allow his wife to choose a relative stranger to be his closest servant, rather than choosing someone close to his family. Still, later this episode we will see that Robert acts the fool, but is much smarter than people may realize.
Robert also manages to succinctly sum up the real truth of what it means to be in power when he says, “I thought being king meant I could do whatever I wanted.” Since this whole show is about what it takes to rule, it’s a particularly poignant line.
We then get back to the Hand’s Tourney, this time with the Hand present (though Cersei is absent from the proceedings). Baelish and Renly make a wager on the upcoming bout between The Mountain and new character, the Knight of the Flowers Ser Loras Tyrell. Talk about a contrast in appearance. Ser Loras gives a rose to Sansa (the two would be promised to each other one day, but that marriage would never take place).
Baelish wonders what he will do with his winnings, and Renly says, “You could even buy a friend.” After Loras wins and Renly gloats, Baelish not so subtly asks Renly, “And tell me, Lord Renly, when will you be having your friend?” There are no secrets in King’s Landing: a constant theme throughout this episode.
This is when a furious Mountain gets up, beheads(!) his horse in a single freaking stroke, and attacks Loras. The Hound, who actually smirked when his brother lost, comes to his rescue and the (first?) Cleganebowl commences! But it is brief, because after a few seconds of watching in disbelief, Robert calls for it to stop. Loras thanks The Hound, who points out he is no ser, a common misconception The Hound always corrects.
Away from King’s Landing, Tyrion realizes that Catelyn has been very loudly lying about taking him to Winterfell, since word of his arrest would quickly spread and people would go looking for them. Instead they are headed to the Vale to see her sister Lysa, who she hasn’t seen in five years. Tyrion says, “She’s changed. She was always a bit touched, but now? You might as well kill me here.” He’s not wrong. He also points out how only an “imbecile” would send an assassin to kill her son with his own dagger, and his claims of innocence ring a lot truer when he then helps save Catelyn from an attack by a hill tribe. It is the first time he kills a man.
At Winterfell Bran is getting a lesson on the geography and great houses of Westeros from Maester Luwin, but he is upset and confused by his mother leaving him, citing the words of House Tully: “Family. Duty. Honor.” He doesn’t understand why she left (remember, he woke up after she went to King’s Landing). We know that he will never see his mother again, which makes this scene even sadder.
That’s followed by a sex scene between Theon and Ros, which primarily establishes who Theon is as a character (insecure, jealous, ambitious, torn between being a Greyjoy and a ward/captive of the Starks.) Ros says something that really gets at Theon’s core, and also helps explain why he would one day turn on Robb and capture Winterfell: “I thought you were supposed to be an important person around here.” Obviously he is not now, but he will try (and fail) to be later.
Take note that Theon points out the necklace Tyrion gave her, because this necklace will cause her huge problems in King’s Landing when she is taken by Cersei who believes she is Tyrion’s secret whore lover. This leads to Tyrion threatening Cersei, and when Joffrey dies she immediately believes it was Tyrion because of that threat. This necklace, mentioned in what appears to be a throwaway line, ends up being important to the future story.
This is when Game of Thrones, intentionally, gets very complicated and murky, because we had no idea who Varys was as a person yet. The Master of Whisperers, from across the Narrow Sea, with his robes and soft voice, appeared to be the shadiest character of all in King’s Landing, so remember that as you are re-watching these scenes and try to recall how little you trusted him at the time.
He goes to see Ned and tells him that he has been watching him closely, just like the queen has, to determine what kind of man he is. “There are few men of honor in the capital. You are one of them. I would like to believe I am another, strange as that may seem,” he tells Ned. He wasn’t lying, though Varys’s honor is a different kind than Ned’s. Ned believes in absolute honor, moment-to-moment, whereas Varys believes in a more pragmatic, universal adherence, where your actions should work towards a greater good, and that sometimes means you act without honor. One of them will be dead soon and the other is currently on a boat standing besides the world’s only dragon owner, so you can see where those different world views got them.
Varys then shows he really does trust Ned, because he tells him Jon Arryn was killed, most likely by someone close to him that he trusted, because he was poisoned with the very expensive Tears of Lys, an undetectable and rare substance. Besides wanting to know who paid Ser Hugh to betray Jon (and learning this information was just as personal for Ned as it was about duty, Ned had been Jon Arryn’s ward and he loved him like a father), he wants to know why Jon Arryn was killed?”
He started asking questions,” says Varys.
That scene is then followed by another Varys scene, deep in the dungeons of the Red Keep, where the dragon skulls are kept. (One of the worst shots on the show sadly. I know it is a dungeon and therefore dark, but if you have amazing, huge, awesome dragon skulls please give us a decent look at them. It’s not like we’re used to seeing those and can easily paint that image in our head. You can stare at this image and make them out, but not as you watch the scene.)
Arya has ended up there chasing cats, and she hears (though she can’t see or identify either speaker) Varys and Illyrio Mopatis (who protected Viserys and Daenerys, and helped arrange the marriage to Khal Drogo) talking about dead Hands of the King and coming wars. Here’s the full transcript with notations.
Varys: “He’s found one bastard already. He has the book. The rest will come.” (Ned is on the verge of learning the secret of Cersei’s children.)
Illyrio: “And when he knows the truth, what will he do?” (He will tell Cersei, like a dolt.)
Varys: “The gods alone know. The fools tried to kill his son. What’s worse, they botched it. The wolf and the lion will be at each others’ throats. We will be at war soon, my friend.” (By episode’s end.)
Illyrio: “What good is war now? We’re not ready. (We know Illyrio is supporting Viserys and his attempts to reclaim the Iron Throne, but now we know Varys himself is plotting to put a Targaryen back in charge of Westeros.) If one Hand can die, why not a second?” (Originally this called into question if it was Varys who killed Jon Arryn.)
Varys: “This Hand is not the other.” (Turns out they kind of were.)
Illyrio Mopatis: “We need time. Khal Drogo will not make his move until his son is born. You know how these savages are.”
Varys: “‘Delay,’ you say. ‘Move fast,’ I reply. This is no longer a game for two players.”
Illyrio: It never was. (The “game” is going to have even more players sooner than later.)
I remember these scenes. Played back-to-back, they made my head spin (in a good way). Varys was plotting to put Viserys back on the Iron Throne, but he was losing control of events in Westeros, which was causing him to change the plan on the fly. He thought the coming unrest between Stark and Lannister meant they should act soon, but Illyrio said Drogo would wait until the time was ready. Illyrio would ultimately get his way because Daenerys would decide to stay in Slaver’s Bay FOR-FREAK-ING-EV-ER.
This is followed by yet another scene with Varys, this time with Baelish in the throne room, which includes this ominous and brilliant shot of Littlefinger staring at Aegon’s chair.
The two have a loaded discussion about secrets (there seem to be none between them, including Varys’s meeting with Illyrio, and really, there are few secrets in all of the realm apparently, like sexual desires), and the two realize they are equally a danger to the other, so they reach an uneasy alliance of silence. It’s an unusually long conversation, and what it accomplishes could have been done in half the time, but it doesn’t matter. It’s great, like every scene between these two in the show’s history.
They are interrupted by Renly who says Robert is actually coming to the Small Council meeting. Baelish doesn’t know why, but Varys tells him it’s about “disturbing news from far away,” giving him a plausible out for meeting with Illyrio.
Before that we see Arya, who had been accidentally locked in the dungeons, escape through the bottom of the city (her learning how to covertly hide in Westeros will pay huge dividends when her father is arrested). When she tries to get back in to the Red Keep she confidently threatens a guard who thinks she is a boy. She is brought to her father where she tells him all about the confusing and scary conversation she heard.
They are interrupted by Yoren of the Night’s Watch, who has come to the city to find recruits in the dungeons, but has specifically come to visit Ned to tell him about his wife’s arrest of Tyrion (citing a sort of kinship with Lord Stark since Ned is Benjen’s brother, and Benjen is Yoren’s brother on The Wall). Yoren also misidentifies Arya as a boy, and this foreshadows him hiding her as a boy in his retinue of Night’s Watch recruits he’ll try to take to The Wall next season.
As Jory escorts Arya to her room, she asks about how many guards her father has, and if Jory will make sure no one kills Ned. “No fear on that count, little Lady,” says the man who is about to be brutally killed on the streets of King’s Landing.
We then get our first look at the gorgeous Eyrie, when Catelyn arrives and is greeted by Knight of the Vale Ser Vardis Egen, the man Bronn will defeat and toss through the Moon Door in Tyrion’s Trial by Combat.
There’s also a brief but wonderful exchange between Tyrion and Bronn that presages their relationship to come.
Tyrion: “The Eyrie. They say it’s impregnable.”
Bronn: “Give me 10 good men and some climbing spikes—I’ll impregnate the bitch.”
Tyrion: “I like you.”
But seriously, look at this castle.
Back at the Small Council Ned resigns after Robert and the rest of the members insist on killing Daenerys and her unborn child, which they have learned about from their spy, her close adviser Jorah Mormont. (Ser Jorah will make up for this, okay?! He’s the best! Don’t you dare badmouth him!) This is a powerful scene with lots of great small moments, from Varys’ shocked reaction to Robert’s plan (which he then vocally supports, even though we know that’s not what he wants), to Ned saying this makes them no better than the Mad King, to Robert accurately (and sadly) calling Ned an “honorable fool.” When the king won’t relent Ned resigns as Hand, which ends up being a huge deal shortly, because an attack on the Hand would be an attack on the king, whereas an attack on Ned Stark is just an attack on Ned Stark.
In fairness, Ned isn’t wrong, but Robert is still right. That might make me sound like a monster, but a Targaryen leading a Dothraki army would be a threat so great to Robert’s rule he almost certainly couldn’t survive it (he will articulate why later) and it would cost tens of thousands of lives. Being as honorable as Ned might make you the best man that ever lived, but it doesn’t lend itself well to leading. Being in power in this specific world (please, I promise I’m talking about Westeros and not the real world) means doing unseemly things in the name of the greater good. Hell, look at the mercy Robert showed Lord Balon Greyjoy after his rebellion. Where did that get the realm a decade later?
It’s impossible to capture how good this entire scene is, but what’s really amazing is this is probably only the third best scene of the episode. The second half of “The Wolf and the Lion” is incredible.
Ned tries to flee quickly, but Baelish offers to bring him to see the last person Jon Arryn spoke with (delaying his departure allows for more potential chaos, Littlefinger’s bread and butter, and sure enough it works), and Ned goes, where he finds another dark-haired bastard of Robert’s.
We then meet Lysa Arryn for the first time AND OH SEVEN BLOODY HELLS.
Uh…well….anyway, Cat realizes her sister is nuts, and Lysa tosses Tyrion into a sky cell, which gives us more amazing visuals of this place (I think the Eyrie, as much as The Wall, helped to establish early on just how fantastic this world is.)
Back in King’s Landing that strongly hinted at relationship between Renly and Loras is confirmed, as Loras shaves Renly’s body. This is when Renly’s real ambition to be king begins, because Loras tells him what a wonderful king he would be, and how no one wants Stannis as ruler. What a disaster this ends up being, as it splits the Baratheon forces after Robert dies and they challenge Joffrey’s claim, leads to Renly being killed by a shadow baby, and ends with Loras siding with the Lannisters, which ends up with him his father, and his sister dead.
It all started here, when Loras convinced the untested Renly, who had no claim over Stannis, that he should be king. If Robert hadn’t died it wouldn’t have mattered, but these poor decisions start somewhere.
That is followed by one of the best scenes in the show’s history, where Cersei and Robert talk about Ned, their relationship, Lyanna Stark, war, Targaryens and Dothrakis, ruling, power, and… you know what? Just watch this scene a couple of times to get everything.
Really, there is so much here, I’m going bullet points to get them all.
- Cersei admits Jaime isn’t serious enough to be the new Hand.
- Robert recognizes the threat of a Targaryen/Dothraki invasion, saying only a fool would meet them in open combat (which Jorah said he would), but that hiding in their castles would mean losing support of the common people, and therefore that’s no option either.
- Cersei says they’d outnumber 40,000 Dothraki five to one, which leads to this great image of Robert explaining how one is greater than five when people are united by a common purpos
- Which is exactly what Cersei has created currently in Westeros all these years later, with her pushing the mortal enemies House Tyrell and House Martell into an alliance with Daenerys, and the North into open revolt. Robert perfectly explains why Cersei’s reign as Queen of Westeros will be a short one. (He also has this great line: “Now we’ve got as many armies as there are men with gold in their purse. And everybody wants something different. Your father wants to own the world. Ned Stark wants to run away and bury his head in the snow.”)
- Them genuinely laughing together about how their awful marriage is the only thing holding the Seven Kingdoms together.
- Followed by her asking, for the first time in 17 (long) years, about Lyanna (“What harm could Lyanna Stark’s ghost do to either of us that we haven’t done to each other a hundred times over?” Her hidden son Jon Snow might unseat you, for one.)
- That leads to Robert solemnly discussing how important Lyanna was to him. “You want to know the horrible truth? I can’t even remember what she looked like. I only know she was the one thing I ever wanted. Someone took her away from me, and Seven Kingdoms couldn’t fill the hole she left behind.”) Mark Addy might not have looked like the giant of a man Robert was in the books, but he was one of the best actors the show ever had, and that’s saying something.
- Cersei, after admitting once upon a time she did care for him, asks if there was ever a chance for him to love her, and he says no. This might have been the moment she decided to have him killed, or she might have already decided that, but either way it feels like a seminal moment.
Seriously, this is unbelievable. Almost an impossible scene to follow.
And then Jaime attacks Ned on the streets of King’s Landing because of Tyrion’s arrest and the two have a sword fight.
Jory, who had just been admiring the female form inside Baelish’s brothel, gets a knife in the eye, and every member of House Stark is killed (Jaime wants Ned—who lied and said he had Tyrion arrested, to protect his wife—to be taken alive to ensure his brother’s safety). Needless to say, Jaime enjoys this chance for bloodshed.
A great fight tells a great story, and the Wolf and the Lion both display who they are during the fight. Jaime is brash and attacks, but is too smug. Ned is less skilled, but more focused. Jaime is so sure of his superiority he is caught off guard when the battle begins to turn against him, as Ned starts to impose his will when they lock up. (Remember, Selmy said at the start Ned is a better swordsman than most think. Maybe Jaime hasn’t picked his opponent as wisely as Ned accused him of doing before.)
Before we can get a real winner, though, a guard of House Lannister stabs Ned in the calf with a spear, an act that gets him knocked out by an angry Jaime. The Kingslayer demands his brother be released immediately, and the war between the two noble houses is officially on.
We know we never did get a winner, but man did “The Wolf and the Lion” (and The Spider) provide a lot of great moments, including Robert possibly predicting why Daenerys will be successful when she lands in Westeros.
What did you think of this episode? Talk about it with us in the comments below.