“The Wolf and the Lion” continues the trend of Game of Thrones the series setting itself apart from A Game of Thrones, the novel. Characters that aren’t given heavy consideration until much later in George R. R. Martin’s massive saga are already taking center stage, and yet the framework of the story, and the motivation of the characters, remains true. As the series’ first season reaches its midway point, Game of Thrones is presenting both a panoramic view of an ever more elaborate world and an ever tightening conflict as two great houses – Stark and Lannister – move closer and closer to drawing blood. (Also, more jousting…this time with the Knight of Flowers)
SPOILER ALERT: The rest of this review will contain plot details from previous episodes. Proceed at your own risk.
“The Wolf and the Lion” moves away from events on the Wall and across the Narrow Sea completely, choosing instead to focus entirely on the rising tensions between the Lannisters and the Starks. In the North, Catelyn Stark (Michelle Fairley) has taken Tyrion Lannister (Peter Dinklage) as her prisoner, believing him to be the engineer behind both the near death of her son and the death of her brother in law (and former Hand of the King) Jon Arryn. Fearing retribution, she takes refuge at the near-impregnable mountain fortress called the Eyrie, where her sister Lysa (Kate Dickie) rules as regent.
In King’s Landing, while Arya Stark (Maisie Williams) explores the literal underbelly of the Westeros capital, her father Eddard (Sean Bean) is exploring the figurative one, and his inquiries into the secret activities of the king (Mark Addy) and the Lannister family may soon create more trouble than he’s prepared to withstand.
Series creators and writers David Benioff and D.B. Weiss also seek to add some sympathy to House Lannister with this episode, branching out to include a deeper look at their motives and concerns, particularly those of Cersei Lannister (Lena Headey) as she both faces the truth of what her marriage to King Robert means, and contemplates what she can do about it. This not only makes for a fuller experience of the Game of Thrones world, but also maintains the spirit of Martin’s source material. No one is without flaws, and (almost) no one is without some redeeming quality, even if it’s a greedy kind of love for one’s own.
After four early episodes that spread out across two continents and juggled dozens of characters, “The Wolf and the Lion” is a welcome honing in on a single, vital aspect of the Game of Thrones mythos. It’s not just a welcome episode with a nearly singular plot focus, but also a damn thrilling chapter in the saga.
By the way, if you’re interested in a deeper exploration of Westeros (you know, without reading the books), head over to HBO’s Viewers Guide section. The family trees are pretty badass.