Game of Thrones Memory Lane 104: Cripples, Bastards, and Broken Things

Jon and Sam CBBT

“Cripples, Bastards, and Broken Things,” written by Bryan Cogman and directed by Brian Kirk, is very much about what it says on the tin. Jon Snow takes the lead at the Wall, Ned’s hunt for the truth brings him to another young bastard, and Bran has woken up to a world that’s now regarding him as ‘crippled’ without his legs.

The title refers to a quote from Tyrion, who has a tender spot in his heart for the lot. He’s been treated as something of a cripple and a broken thing himself, due to his stature. His bitter experience in hardening himself and his skills at adapting his physical environment lead Tyrion to offer advice and design plans so that Bran can hope to ride again.

The episode is an important beginning for the boy. Not only does he begin to shed his hopelessness, his mystical journey starts here with the Three-Eyed Raven’s first appearance in his dreams. Coming into season 6, with the return of Isaac Hempstead-Wright and the new casting of Max von Sydow as the Three-Eyed Raven, this arc is hugely important for the future of Game of Thrones.

AlliserThe episode is rich with establishing moments that are still bearing fruit years later. Jon earns even more loathing from Ser Alliser Thorne when he befriends a young man who seems broken himself initially. What many see as compassion in Jon, Thorne sees as a weakness that can hurt others. The philosophical difference will resurface when Jon tries to save the wildlings in season 5.

When the new recruits spar in the courtyard, Samwell Tarly lays down on the ground and turtles, long past trying to hit back. Jon and Sam bond later over growing up unwanted, no matter that Sam was his father’s heir. When the boys share personal stories about their (lack of) experience with women, it’s then that the new friendship cements, and we see John Bradley’s charm and humor break through.

Sam: Didn’t know where to put it?
Jon: I know where to put it.

Poor Jon. He never knows anything. And that fast, John Bradley won a spot on my favorites list. Cogman has always been great at writing Sam, from the first.

Interrupting the fun, Owen Teale as Thorne delivers a chilling monologue about ranging north of the Wall. His growling of  “Come the winter you will die like flies” still sends a chill up my spine. Teale is the perfect example of a performer who has elevated a character from the books. He’s more than simple bile; he has texture and he even has his heroic moments in later seasons. No one is black and white, in Game of Thrones.

(Maybe the Mountain. I won’t argue there.)

ViserysAnother actor who proved to me in this episode- and I recall being shocked at this realization back in season 1-  that his character had surpassed the book version is Harry Lloyd as Viserys Targaryen. Daenerys and her brother are at odds throughout the episode, with Viserys ultimately lashing out at Doreah before turning his rage to his sister.

Emilia Clarke matches Lloyd well in the scene where she fights back physically against the brother who has tormented Dany her entire life. It may seem trite to call it empowering but it doesn’t feel cliched. It feels like the truth- Daenerys strikes him down, and it’s magnificent, from her rage to the wounded and baffled look in Viserys’s eyes. He was a selfish monster but a complex one, played by a gifted actor.

Viserys was never more than an annoyance I wanted to see gone in the book A Game of Thrones. Watching the TV series, I began to think, “Wow, I’m really going to miss this performance and I’m sort of sad we’re only getting a couple more episodes until that one suspiciously titled ‘A Golden Crown.'”

There’s another dispossessed child who gets a lot of play in “Cripples, Bastards, and Broken Things”- the Starks’ ward, Theon Greyjoy. As Tyrion points out, he’s really a hostage paying courtesies to the people who put down the Greyjoy Rebellion, killed his older brothers, and are keeping him hostage for his father’s good behavior. Many have condemned Theon’s later choice to side with his birth family, but the Lannisters are accurate in that he isn’t truly one of the Starks.

George R.R. Martin discusses the reality of Theon’s situation as a hostage living among his father’s enemies in Winterfell.

It’s interesting that the Lannister sons have Theon’s number this early- both Jaime and Tyrion spot that he is a problem. “It was like seeing a shark on a mountaintop,” Jaime says to Jory Cassel. Though Tyrion is considered the smart one, Jaime shows his cunning often enough.

Elsewhere in Westeros, Littlefinger’s manipulations bear fruit, and Catelyn makes a mistake with long-reaching repercussions when she arrests Tyrion. (Hey it’s Bronn at the inn! Remember when everyone lost their shit because they hired the guy from Robson & Jerome, only he turned out to be everyone’s favorite character on the show! Good times.) This is what happens when we trust anything Littlefinger says.

In King’s Landing, Ned’s CSI investigation about Jon Arryn’s death leads him to suspect that something isn’t quite right. Littlefinger provides some useful info pertaining to Arryn’s former squire (Hugh, very suddenly knighted) and an armorer Ned may want to check out. He also warns him that not trusting anyone is the right call. (A good rule of thumb: never trust anyone who dresses like a Star Trek villain. Which would cover Littlefinger in this scene.)

Following up on the info leads Ned to a young man he realizes is one of Robert’s bastards. Black of hair and strong like his father. Definitely does not look like those skinny blond kids sitting in the castle with crowns.

The Tourney of the Hand opens and we’re treated to a gory death- it’s the newly knighted Ser Hugh of the Vale, with a chunk of wood in his throat, taking any information about his lord Jon Arryn to the grave with him.

At least Littlefinger had fun at the Tourney anyway.

View post on

Is that not what actually happened? I could’ve sworn. God he makes me uncomfortable in that scene.


Introductions: Samwell Tarly joins the Night’s Watch. Bronn takes Tyrion’s coin from the first moment. Hey, it’s Not-Rowing-Yet Gendry! We also meet Gregor Clegane #1, in the form of Conan Stevens. This is our first sighting of the weaselly Janos Slynt. Marillion the singer and the armorer Tobho Mott make their first appearances here as well.

Deaths: Hugh of the Vale, we hardly knew ya.  You think they used enough blood in that scene? Nahhh. The actor who played Hugh, Jefferson Hall, went on to do a longer stint on Vikings, and appeared recently in Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens.

ASOIAF Freak-out: Baelish tells the story of the Hound’s burning, instead of Clegane himself telling it. It was one of the book-reading fandom’s early major outrages. You know, after Chair-gate, after Nikolaj’s-Nose-gate, after…never mind.

Creative Fandom:

It was just after the airing of this episode that one of my favorite tumblrs came into being: ArrestedWesteros. Crossing Arrested Development with Game of Thrones turned out to be more fitting than anyone could have guessed. They both put the fun in dysfunctional families, after all.

Their take on Jon & Arya:

Jon and Arya

Some of the most recent entries might be a bit dark. Good.


The episode inspired a rather apt use of Viserys’s question from the bath scene:

make me sad


You can appreciate how wonderful the music of the show’s main theme is in this cover version. A fan-created performance strips the rousing symphonic arrangement down to an elegant, quieter piano version.

About Dothraki: grown men who really love horses. Reminds me of something….



Ser Hugh of the Vale’s salute, courtesy of BeautifulDeath and artist Robert M. Ball:


Yesterday: Game of Thrones Memory Lane 103: Lord Snow

Tomorrow:  Oz will take you through the twists of “The Wolf and the Lion,” with the Tourney of the Hand continuing and Tyrion and Catelyn arriving in the Vale. With Lysa’s debut, everything gets weird. Which for Game of Thrones is saying a lot.

45 responses

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    1. Jack Bauer 24,

      A drama over an ugly chair that popped up in a season 1 teaser/trailer. It was reallllly super silly.

      Google the term plus Game of Thrones for the whole story. I’m not linking to that site.

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    2. Snow/Tarly 2016

      Ok real talk. In my opinion you really start to see here how powerful/influential Jon can become. I think someone mentioned in the previous post that in ep 3 you start noticing the first signs of his charisma, and I think in ep 4 you see it confirmed.

      It’s easy to see just how much the Wall storyline is important for character building in Jon’s case. This will provide him with the tools to lead and it will give him the experience that Robb sadly never had in certain areas. It makes me wonder if by this point Thorne has noticed Jon’s potential and if he feels that Jon is a threat (especially based on how Jon can relate with some of the other recruits and the influence he has over them – like how Pyp and Grenn welcomed Sam into their group). You really get the sense of how much of a natural leader he is.

      Littlefinger remains creepy. Looking back at these episodes makes me realize how much I miss Harry Lloyd on this show. Fantastic actor!

      I also forgot to ask this during the last post, but does anyone believe that Bran had somehow warged into Lady when he was unconscious? And that Lady’s death allowed him to wake up? Idk but I’ve always had that impression because of the show.

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    3. I really like the old fan creations that appear in these memory lane posts. Since I wasn’t actively following the fan community back in the S1 and S2 days, most of them are totally new to me. Thanks for this series of posts, again. They’re lovely.

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    4. Another fine episode that builds a lot of tension and contains a few good moments that were pointed out higher up in the story.

      The Jory-and-Jaime dialogue doesn’t reference the main point Jaime makes:

      JAIME: “It was like seeing a shark on a mountaintop.”
      JORY: “Theon? He’s a good lad.”
      JAIME: “I doubt it.”

      Tyrion also mentions his “uncles,” and the “stupid rebellion,” and I imagine we’ll get some flashbacks to that scene at some point in the coming season.

      And Owen Teale’s speech also gives him a solid moment that gets replicated when he gets more depth in season 4. His line, “You don’t know cold,” is a chilling one.

      The introduction of the Mountain really does highlight how well Nina Gold cast him the first time through, and how he unfortunately becomes one of the most notable characters to suffer from the translation to screen – not by fault of the creators, but because of the re-cast. Conan Stevens had the exact amount of menace, not to mention hulk, to play Gregor. In just a few moments in this episode and the next, you’re made well aware that he’s awful and unstable, not just big and strong. Unfortunately his leaving undid that, as Ian Whyte, a great contributor to the show, was the wrong build for GOT, and they ended up having to leave him offscreen for as long as they could, and as a result, bringing him back with Hafthor Bjornssen is a bit awkward; he’s plenty gigantic enough, but isn’t an actor, clearly, and so he lacks the fury that Stevens projected in about seven seconds when beheading his own horse.

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    5. O.M.G it is glorious!!!!!! I was not expecting the trailer. My heart is racing.

      I can’t make out what Davos says at the very end when he unsheathes Longclaw.

      Does Ghost look dead to anyone else?! Gods, please don’t take Ghost. 🙁

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    6. That trailer. My God, that trailer. My heart is racing. I can barely freaking type.

      “Order your man to step aside or there will be violence.”
      “I choose violence.”


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    7. Deesensfan,

      I think most of the scenes are from early in the season. No big spoilers. You see where most of the major characters are after the end of last season. But some of the scenes are pretty cool 🙂

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    8. BunBunStark:
      I can’t make out what Davos says at the very end when he unsheathes Longclaw.

      “I’ve never been much of a fighter. I apologize for what you’re about to see.”

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    9. A great trailer. It mostly shows us where the characters were left off at the end of season five. Though there’s some late season stuff in there too, of course.

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    10. Okay, I’ve slowed it down and re-watched, things I noticed:

      Theon does appear to run into a Bolton soldier and one of Ramsay’s hounds. A few seconds later, Brienne appears to take out said soldier.

      Euron appears to be standing in the rain on a rope bridge. Look out, Balon!

      The mutineers are breaking down a door. I pray to the Seven that’s not a scene of them trying to get to a locked up Ghost.

      2 shots of Ned and his companions fighting the Kingsguard at the Tower of Joy. The guy playing Ned looks so much like Sean Bean.

      Things don’t look so good for Tormund and the wildlings at the Battle of the Bastards. 🙁

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    11. Holy shit! Ser Hugh is in Vikings?! I never noticed that. Granted, he looks quite different in Vikings, but still. Cool.

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    12. Don’t forget Cat’s citizen’s arrest of Tyrion, another standout ending episode scene – Michelle was so great. That scene was Michelle’s audition too.

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    13. With all the excitement over the trailer, this particular stroll down memory lane kind of got lost in the shuffle, didn’t it? Justifiably so, of course! 🙂

      I’ll just say that I really appreciate how this episode humanizes several of its villainous characters, Viserys and Alliser Thorne. According to the commentaries, both the scene in which Viserys tells Doreah about the Targaryen dragons and the scene in which Alliser harshly educates Jon and Sam about the horrors of Winter were late additions to the script. But they work wonders in terms of deepening our understanding of these characters – both of whom otherwise appear to be unrelentingly bitter and miserable – by shedding light on some key experiences that might have helped shape them into the people they are.

      The scene with Doreah in the bath is perhaps the one time in the series during which we see Viserys relatively happy and at ease. Consequently, it’s the only time we see some of the charm and wit that he possesses, which may have been allowed to flourish if he wasn’t so deliriously obsessed with regaining the Iron Throne. Of course, it doesn’t last, and we see the worst of him later in the episode – a key moment in which Dany harnesses her newfound strength and finally shatters his fragile illusion of control.

      Alliser’s speech about spending winter north of the Wall is perhaps my favorite scene in the entire episode. Every beat of the Wall’s storyline leading up to that moment has been geared toward fostering our empathy for Sam and Jon’s desire to protect him from Alliser’s harsh treatment. Yet while that empathy doesn’t evaporate after hearing Alliser’s story, important questions are raised and we gain a better sense of why Alliser’s philosophy might be effective, or even necessary. The way Thorne’s voice softens and his eyes become distant as he recalls the experience of eating his brothers’ flesh is just great acting on Teale’s part.

      Apparently, the scene was added because the writers realized just how damn great Owen Teale was, and they worried that they weren’t giving him enough to do. Good on them! If I were to make a list of characters who I personally feel the show has enriched and improved from the novels, there would be a good number of candidates, but Alliser would rank near the very top of that list.

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    14. In the scene where Doreah mentions some of the things she’s seen in her life, obviously the man who could change faces is either Jaquen or a random faceless man and the pirate is probably Salvador San. But who is the man with the dagger created from dragon class? Is that Euron?

      Also, I noticed Sansa mentioned Jeyne Poole. I’m not a book reader, but I wonder if at any point they considered using her in later seasons? I’m sure at that point they probably had no clue what season 5 would look like.

      This episode was a slow one but still good. I remember Dave and Dan mentioning that when they finished shooting season 1, their episodes were coming in short (HBO requires hour long dramas to be in between 50 minutes and an a hour). So they had to go back and write a bunch of new scenes so make certain episodes were longer. They did a good job, but you can sort of pick these scenes out. Most of them serve to add more back story and don’t really move the story forward (and are with non point of view characters). So far I pick out:

      -The scene with Jaime and Jon when he’s picking up needle
      -Robert, Jaime, and Barristan telling war stories
      -Jaime and Jory conversation
      -The Doreah and Viserys bathtub scene
      -Tyrion and Theon conversation

      I believe there are a couple of more to come. They are all great scenes but probably serve to slow season 1 down quite a bit for the more casual fan.

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    15. Greatjon of Slumber: Conan Stevens had the exact amount of menace, not to mention hulk, to play Gregor. In just a few moments in this episode and the next, you’re made well aware that he’s awful and unstable, not just big and strong.

      Yeah I agree, it is such a shame because Conan was absolutely the perfect Mountain. He scared the beejeezus out of me. But, what’s done is done. I am still intrigued about the reasons even after all this time, but I don’t suppose we’ll ever hear the true story.

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