The Longest Night — Game of Thrones: ‘The Pointy End (1x08)’
“I’ll not sit here and swallow insults from a boy so green he pisses grass.”
Writer(s): George R. R. Martin
Director: Daniel Minahan
Plot/Events: The Lannisters seize full control in King’s Landing, with Joffrey on the throne; Ned is in a dark cell, while Arya has gone on the run, and Sansa is ordered to write a letter to her brother Robb, asking him to kneel for Joffrey; Robb decides to ride off to war; Tyrion arrives at the Lannister camp in the Riverlands with the hill tribes of the Vale; Drogo is wounded during a fight with one of his bloodriders, as Daenerys begins to learn the truth about leading the Dothraki.
THREE-EYED-RAVEN’S WARNING: DO NOT READ THE FOLLOWING IF YOU HAVE NOT SEEN ALL SEVEN SEASONS OF HBO’S GAME OF THRONES.
And so, the reality of conflict sets in. The simmering tensions between the Starks and the Lannisters, which have insidiously crept towards us since the pilot, have now boiled over following the imprisonment of Ned Stark. Instead of flash points, there’s now all-out panic present in ‘The Pointy End,’ brought on by the extreme instability of the Westerosi political landscape. There’s a power vacuum that’s ready to consume everything in its proximity. The War of the Five Kings has begun, and it’s a point of no return for many of the folks we’ve come to sympathise with. Actual children are forced to confront situations that felt further than an entire world away when Robert was still king.
Some of these children are preparing to charge head first into battles they’re not emotionally or physically ready for (“Are you afraid?” Theon asks, as Robb’s hand visibly shakes at the prospect of war); some are forced to fend for themselves after being cut off from their families (Arya might have claimed her first kill but she’s in a terrified daze, with nowhere to go and nobody to call for help); and some of them, even outside of the political disputes of Westeros’ ruling houses, have witnessed threats so frightening that there’s no ignoring them (Jon battles his first wight, which doesn’t die until it’s burnt to a crisp). ‘The Pointy End’ is, simply put, an hour of watching children being thrown, voluntarily or otherwise, into the reality and intensity of war and conflict. And none of them are ready.
Robb is perhaps the most overt example this episode provides us of a child joining a fight that adults started themselves. “The Young Wolf” and soon-to-be-named King in the North has his authority severely questioned by Jon Umber, who refuses to take orders from a boy “so green he pisses grass.” But Robb’s direwolf Grey Wind leaps across the dinner table and removes two of Lord Umber’s fingers for him. Umber jokes his way out of execution, and Robb is certainly eager to ride south and rescue his father as he arguably comes into his own at the head of an army, but whether he’s ready for such an abrupt leap into adulthood is another question entirely, and Lord Umber might well be right. Robb has an adept mind, exploiting the poor counting abilities of a Lannister scout to trick Tywin Lannister into thinking he has bigger numbers, but there’s an overconfidence that grows whenever Catelyn isn’t around to reign him in and warn him of the consequences (“If you lose, your father dies, your sisters die, we die”).
Back at Winterfell, Bran assures his younger brother Rickon that Robb will rescue their father and return home, but Rickon is certain of the opposite. This might just be post-Red Wedding hindsight talking, but the youngest Stark’s insistence is arguably a window into the briefly explored possibility that he’s a warg.
Further south in the Vale, Tyrion Lannister is accompanied by Bronn. On their way to the Riverlands, they encounter many hill tribes of the Vale, specifically Shaga, son of Dolf, the leader of the Stone Crows. When Shaga asks Tyrion how he would like to die, the vision Tyrion expresses is perhaps shared by many of Westeros’ sexually active men: “In my own bed, at the age of eighty, with a belly full of wine and a girl’s mouth around my cock.” Sure, in the moment it’s a superb joke that displays Tyrion’s ability to manipulate the common tongue to his own ends, and when he offers them the Vale in return for his life, it shows how he can wriggle out of tight situations by using words alone. It buys him enough time to reach Tywin Lannister’s camp in the Riverlands. But once he’s there, Shaga demands that Tyrion fight with them in the imminent battle against Robb’s northern army, and his vision of dying of natural causes at a ripe old age suddenly disappears in a puff of smoke. Tyrion might be able to talk his way out of things, but that tactic won’t prove much use when he’s got thousands of armed men running towards him.
Across the Narrow Sea, now free from her brother Viserys, Daenerys has increased her influence when it comes to leading the Dothraki. It helps that Drogo is completely besotted with her (“Moon of my life”), but even when she freely admits to preventing his bloodrider Mago from “mounting a daughter of lamb men,” Drogo defends her from Mago’s wrath. Drogo kills him violently, ripping his tongue out through his neck, but a wound sustained in the fight will quickly leave Daenerys in a compromised position once Drogo succumbs to an infection. The truth is that, in the eyes of the Dothraki, she is, at most, Drogo’s deputy. Without Drogo, she’s just a “silver lady” who can be cast aside if anything happens to their true leader. She might have Drogo’s heart in her palm, but the majority of the Dothraki only respect her husband.
— Following his imprisonment at the end of the previous episode, Ned Stark is confined to a dark cell far beneath King’s Landing, with only Lord Varys for company. Ned confronts Varys about his allegiances, asking, “Tell me something, Lord Varys. Who do you truly serve?” only for Varys to reply: “The Realm, My Lord. Someone must.” It’s the first true window into Varys’ slippery nature, but it reveals much kinder intentions than many of us first thought.
— Arya’s list begins as Ser Meryn Trant kills Syrio Forel. I don’t care if it happened out of sight, Syrio’s dead and he’s not coming back.
— Considering the majority of this episode is concerned with children who aren’t quite ready to go to war or rule the land, Joffrey has jumped onto the Iron Throne immediately. There’s an aspect of the first season that many viewers would miss unless they were told, and that’s that Robert Baratheon was never seen on the Iron Throne. Probably because he never sat on it (“You’ll have to sit on the throne while I’m away. You’ll hate it more than I do”). Joffrey, on the other hand, is immediately in the chair, giving out commands.
— After trying to stab Thorne following deliberate provocation from his superior, Jon comes face to face with his first wight. Their design in the second, fifth, sixth and seventh seasons is much better, but the moment this one re-opens its eyes after Jon thrust a sword through its chest and out the other side is certainly memorable. The eventual death of this wight reveals two things: Jon can be burned by fire, and wights can only be killed by fire (at least until they discover dragonglass in season two).
— Catelyn is still in the Vale when she hears of Ned’s imprisonment. She demands usage of the Knights of the Vale from her sister Lysa, to join Robb and march south, but Lysa’s having none of it. She’s not ready for war, and she’s staying well out of it: “I will not risk Robin’s life to get caught up in another of your husband’s wars… The Knights of the Vale will stay in the Vale where they belong, to protect their Lord.”