This is the Game of Thrones that I’ve been waiting for. I’m already into the third book of the series the show is based off of and I know how high the stakes are going to become. I know the deaths, betrayals, battles, and twists that are coming. With the show’s first four episodes, you got a brief glimpse into the tones and themes of the show. It let you know that this was a dark and gritty deconstruction of the fantasy genre set in a fictional, yet moderately realistic setting where magic has long since ceased to exist (although it may be returning). The second young Bran Stark was thrown out a window, it let you know that this show was going to have a take no prisoners attitude, and when it turned out that young Crown Prince Joffrey was a cowardly bully, it let you know that even the show’s children could be evil. This episode really marks the beginning of Westeros’s quick descent into chaos and hell. All of the major players have been introduced. And the episode ended with the fight that sends it all into motion.

While there are two stories set outside of King’s Landing, a very minor bit of character development for Theon Greyjoy and more with Tyrion Lannister and Catelyn Stark that I’ll get to shortly, this episode took place almost entirely within the confines of the snake’s den that is King’s Landing. Ned Stark discovers that King Robert has decided to assassinate Daenarys Targaryen because she is with child, and he fears future war with the Dothraki. Because murdering children was the same thing that Robert and Ned fought the old Mad King Aerys for, Ned abdicates his position as Hand of the King rather than help Robert murder a child. There is a scene where the Hound, Sandor Clegane, rescues the Knight of Flowers, Ser Loras Tyrell, from the Hound’s brother, Gregor, that establishes perhaps the Hound isn’t quite the monster he appears. We get a defining bit of character for Renly Baratheon, King Robert’s brother that establishes he is a homosexual and in a relationship with Ser Loras. Arya overhears Varys and another man plotting against both the King and her father in the dungeons. While Ned is off discovering more of King Robert’s bastard children, Jaime Lannister confronts him, kills all of his men, and injures Ned because Ned’s wife has kidnapped Jaime’s brother, Tyrion.

As I mentioned, there are two other stories. We get to see Theon Greyjoy having sex with a whore up in Winterfell where we discover more about his past and background. This is a much needed bit of development for him since Theon is very important in the second season. The same could be said for Renly’s scene since although his part is more minor in the first book, by season 2, he is one of the most important characters. The scenes with Tyrion and Catelyn on their way to the Eyrie to place Tyrion in Catelyn’s sister Lysa’s custody are great. You got a good battle between Catelyn’s men and some mountain folk and our first glimpse at one of my favorite characters, Bronn. I was kind of disappointed with the actual first shot of the Eyrie itself which seemed cheaply done in contrast to the universally high production values the show normally employs. I was actually shocked they showed Lysa’s, well beyond the appropriate age son suckling from her breast, although I’m sure the breast was prosthetic. Kudos to the producers for having the balls for that, I guess.

This episode was just a perfect balance between the character development and scheming and backstabbing that makes this show great with the action and tension that makes it even better. There were three fights in this episode, two of which that ended with fairly significant amounts of bloodshed. From next week’s preview and what I know from the books, this season is never slowing back down. It is on, and this series won’t budge until it gives its draw-dropping conclusion. There are going to be some moments that will shock, anger, and upset viewers, but it’s going to make for fantastic television.

Winter is coming.

Episode Score: A