It’s not hard to sleuth out what this week’s episode title means. In “First of His Name,” we begin in King’s Landing as young Tommen Baratheon is crowned the new king. Amidst a large crowd in the throne room – notably without the pomp, circumstance and absurdity of Joffery’s wedding – lords, ladies and hangers-on congratulate each other and themselves over living through yet another official event in the capitol.
Tween King Tommen may be the First of His Name this week, but several characters show new sides of their personalities for the first time, and multiple throwbacks to Game of Thrones’ first season rear their heads with major implications for the future.
Cersei, still in mourning over Joffrey, shares a surprising amount of vulnerability and (gasp) possibly even honesty with the audience. Speaking to Margery Tyrell, who had spent last week sneaking into Tommen’s bedroom for a slightly creepy older-sister-later-wife role playing, Cersei admits that Joffrey was a terrible son, and hurt everyone around him. Tommen, though, is different, and his mother knows that she may even need Margery to help protect him from whatever regicidal plots come his way.
This doesn’t stop the two from verbally sniping at each other of course; last season, Cersei threatened to have Marge strangled for suggesting they’ll be sisters. Now with a possible marriage to Tommen and planned marriage between Cersei and Ser Loras, she doesn’t know whether to refer to Cersei as sister or mother. How’s that got to sting?
We also see Cersei speak plainly to Oberyn Martell, since if you’ll remember Tyrion sent Cersei’s only daughter Myrcella to Dorne back in Season Two. After admitting that despite all her power, she could not protect her son, she says she misses her daughter and asks Oberyn to send a (typically ostentatious) birthday gift in the form of a ship on her behalf.
It’s easy to shrug off these two scenes as more politicking from Cersei – as she and Oberyn walk in the gardens, her guards are in full view, following their every step. But if there’s one thing about Cersei that’s been pounded into the viewers’ psyche until now, it’s that her one redeeming quality remains her love for her children. We’re not sure if this will lead to anything important in the future.
She also holds her own during a private meeting with her father Tywin, something neither of her brothers seemed to have pulled off. More notable is that even Tywin swigs some wine, as he reveals that the gold mines that feeds the Lannisters’ great wealth dried up three years ago, and the Iron Bank of Braavos has every reason to test their family’s motto about paying debts.
“First of His Name” might also refer to Jon Arryn, whose death, if you remember way back in Season One, Episode One, started this whole mess. Indeed, we learn a great deal about one of the biggest unsolved mysteries of the show, and surprise of surprises, we can trace it back to Petyr Baelish.
Littlefinger and Sansa return to The Eyrie, where Sansa’s aunt Lysa Tully rules alongside her not-quite-right son Robin. We get a cheerful meeting between Sansa and Lysa, and a genuine moment of relief before the curtain is pulled back and we’re reminded of just how crazy Catelyn’s spurned sister really is.
In case you were wondering, she’s crazy enough to make Littlefinger uneasy. Lysa’s Stealth Minister marries the two immediately upon Baelish’s arrival, but not before spilling the beans to the viewers that she was the one who poisoned Jon Arryn, and sent the letter to Ned and Catelyn that pointed the finger at the Lannisters – all at Baelish’s request.
The revelation that just about everything we’ve seen so far spiralled, in one way or another, out of Littlefinger’s plots, reminds us just how dangerous and unpredictable the once-modest heir to the Fingers really is.
Meanwhile, Sansa’s moment of security is broken down like a pile of old lemoncakes as Lysa’s jealousy for the late Catelyn rears its ugly head, with Lysa going so far as to suspect that Petyr may have impregnated Sansa on the way here. It’s out of the frying pan and into the Eyrie for Poor Sansa Stark.
Arya fares little better, save a short training session with her reclaimed sword Needle in a luscious shot of the Riverlands – before The Hound slaps her to the ground in her weekly lessons of Why The World Is Shit, after hearing about how Ser Meryn Trant killed the Braavosi Syrio Forel in Season One:
“Your friend is dead. And Meryn Trant is not, because Trant had armour and a big fuckin’ sword.”
Elsewhere, Brienne grimaces at her buddy cop sequel being downgraded, replacing the Kingslayer Jaime with a glorified cupbearer in Podrick Payne – until Pod reminds us that he killed Tyrion’s would-be murderer by literally shoving a spearhead through the man’s face. I don’t expect the alleged Sexual Dynamo Tri-Pod to be of much consequence in this quest, but then again I don’t know where this is going at all, so anything’s possible.
Danerys’s seasons-long trek to who-knows-where takes a breather in Mereen, where she holds a Small Council meeting of her own. Daario non-chalantly reports the capture of 93 ships, while Jorah and Barristan Selmy debate how credible a threat they might be if they were to attack King’s Landing with their full military might. Long story short? It’s a stretch.
After hearing that her steamrolling of the cities in Slaver’s Bay have not seeded freedom and happiness in her wake – usurpers and tyrants have taken up Astapor and Yunkai after she left – she puts The Iron Throne on hold, with one of the show’s most marketable lines: “I will do what queens do. I will rule.”
And so Danerys’s storyline both progresses and stops in its tracks in a single segment.
THE LEGEND OF GIN ALLEY
As readers of the dozens of Game of Thrones recaps and analyses online probably know by now, we’re in uncharted territory north of The Wall right now. Jon’s expedition to eliminate the mutineers who’ve holed up at Craster’s Keep, Locke’s infiltration of the Night’s Watch, and Bran and company’s capture are all entirely invented with no basis in George R. R. Martin’s books.
Because of this, we might expect several of these threads to resolve themselves in tidier fashion that usual, and most of it plays out this week. After about two thirds of an episode devoted to more walky talky than usual, the action ramps up respectably for what is essentially a DVD extra of a storyline.
After some not-great sneaking by Locke (he wouldn’t be the best Ghost in Splinter Cell: Blacklist), Jon and the rest of the rangers mop up the mutineers who have presumably tired themselves out by eating rotten food and raping Craster’s wives. After a few wide shots of the melee with far less flourish than the more bombastic scene at The Blackwater, Jon goes one-on-one with Karl Tanner, the Fookin’ Legend of Gin Alley ™ last seen drinking out of the Lord Commander’s skull. It’s an exciting to see an honest-to-god duel in a series rife with poisons and politicking, but even Karl is eventually felled after being distracted by one of the battered women, who knifes him in the back making the way for Jon to pull a Podrick Payne through his own skull.
Locke tries to kidnap Bran and somehow carry the crippled boy all the way back to Dreadfort (nice planning there), but our little warg possesses Hodor who then snaps Locke’s collarbone like a fortune cookie. We’re denied a reunion between the Stark boys, but get a consolation prize as Jon’s direwolf Ghost is freed from the mutineer’s captivity, to Jon’s shock and delight.
So, several loose ends are tied up this week, only for new threads to begin and leave us even less sure about what’s to come next. Tyrion’s trial looms, as do the Wildling army and the White Walkers as well. But Sansa’s immediate future, Tommen’s reign and Danerys’s next move remain a mystery.
Even so, with a plot as complicated and multi-layered as Game of Thrones, any resolution is welcome, be it Craster’s Keep or the years-old mystery of Jon Arryn’s murder.
Chin up, Tommen. Things aren’t so bad quite yet.