A king is crowned. A queen questions her way. A true assassin is revealed.
While certainly not the most viscerally thrilling episode the series has ever seen, “First of His Name” was slyly stunning, filled with tiny moments that seemed to change everything. Whether it was Littlefinger whispering nefarious nothings into his bride-to-be’s ear or Arya Stark letting The Hound know that he’s still very much on her shit list, Episode Five of Season Four was all about the tense intimate moments that seem to bring characters together while still keeping them at arm’s length from both each other and the audience. We’re now halfway through what might be the most pivotal chapter in the HBO fantasy series’ history, and the proverbial pot seems to be just on the verge of boiling over.
Tommen Baratheon is now ruler of the Seven Kingdoms. Long may he reign. As royal subjects line-up to bow before their new king, Cersei and Margaery Tyrell come to an agreement about Margaery’s role in Tommen’s life. Both will have to speak with their respective elders, but it seems as if Cersei has just given Margaery her blessing to marry the newest boy king.
Across the sea, Daenerys‘ commitment to her campaign is faltering. In the cities she has already conquered, the ruling bodies she put into place before continuing on with her quest to free every slave she comes across are being overthrown. Men who cast away their shackles are finding themselves back in their irons. Is this what ruling is — constantly having to worry about keeping the peace in the realms she has already liberated? After a brief counsel, the Mother of Dragons decides not to sail for King’s Landing (using the new fleet of ships Daario has commandeered as a gift) despite learning that King Joffrey has died and that the Lannisters are weaker than ever. Instead, she vows to strengthen her own collective kingdoms. “I will do what queens do. I will rule,” she says.
Lord Petyr Baelish is reunited with Lady Lysa Arryn, whom he reluctantly agrees to marry. Baelish also reveals himself to not only be the mastermind of King Joffrey’s death at the Purple Wedding, but also the poisoner of Lysa Arryn’s previous husband (and father to her insane, “flight”-obsessed child). It seems that Baelish has quite a few notches under his belt, and is willing to kill just about anyone who gets in the way of him obtaining more land and power.
Behind closed doors, Arryn proves to be quite the jealous type in a private moment with Sansa Stark. After feeding her lemon cakes and joking about how “fat” Lady Catelyn used to get before she met Sansa’s father, Lysa interrogates the poor, tortured girl. She thinks (knows?) that Baelish has feelings for her, going as far as to accuse Sansa of already being pregnant with his child. But Sansa is able to convince the crazy woman with the truth, saying that she’s never been touched by any man, including Tyrion, whom she was forced to marry.
Cersei reflects during a walk with Prince Oberyn of House Martell. “What good is power if you can’t protect the ones you love?” Oberyn seems rather sympathetic toward the lady, and when she asks him about her daughter Myrcella, he says she is safe and promises to send a ship to her in Dorne. As for Tyrion’s upcoming trial, he steadfastly believes that the “truth” will come out during the proceedings, despite Cersei’s insistance that he is undoubtedly the murderer of King Joffrey.
As they make their way across the plains, Arya learns a valuable lesson in swordplay from The Hound when she tries to stick him with the “pointy end” during a practice session. Just the night before, she revealed that his name was last on a long list of people she has vowed to kill for wronging (not to mention murdering) her family. But The Hound is not scared of little girls, and shows her that the only thing that matters at the end of a fight is who’s dead and who’s still standing.
The finale of the episode finds it changing pace from the talky, exposition-heavy first forty minutes and delivers yet another expertly shot and edited piece of hand-to-hand combat. The Night’s Watch storm Craster’s Keep, hoping to finally rid themselves of the mutineers once and for all. The battle climaxes with a duel between Jon Snow and Karl Tanner, which is capped by one of the show’s best instances of special effects — a stand-up and cheer moment for gorehounds as Snow drives his sword through the back of Karl’s skull.
Unfortunately, Snow fails to locate his brother Bran, who had been held hostage at Craster’s. Bran and his crew of Hodor, Jojen Reed, Meera Reed and Summer are able to escape after the young Stark boy uses his psychic powers to free them. Jojen Reed convinces him to flee without seeing his brother, confessing that he too has glimpsed the all-seeing raven in his dreams, and that Snow will never let them search for the mystical beast.
However, Jon is reunited with his direwolf Ghost, who gets to exercise his own impressive killing powers on the final mutineer. Without a moment of remorse, Craster’s Keep is burned to the ground, but Jon knows that he still must find Bran and keep him safe.