Game of Thrones Memory Lane 108: The Pointy End

got0108-3477

Today’s trip down memory lane features the first episode penned by A Song of Ice and Fire author George R.R. Martin: “The Pointy End,” directed by Daniel Minahan. The episode features the iconic last scene with Syrio Forel, the Lannisters’ capture of Sansa and Jon facing off with a strange new enemy. With Martin writing the episode, characters are bound to be pulled in all sorts of directions so as the audience, we sat back and enjoyed the chaos.

The episode opens with bloodshed galore as House Lannister is purging King’s Landing of all things Stark. Ned is locked away in the dungeons, Sansa is taken to be Joffrey’s, and Arya slips away with a little help.

A lot of really memorable scenes in this episode. First was the exit out of the Braavosi swordmaster Syrio Forel.

Here’s some behind the scenes rehearsal footage:

Miltos Yerolemou brought Syrio to life with the same level of finesse as his character’s fighting skills. With ease, Forel incapacitates the Kingsguard (with only a wooden sword, I might add) until only he and the infamous Meryn Trant are left. Trant snaps Syrio’s training sword as Arya flees, after begging her master to join her. He responds with words to the God of Death: “Not today” and Arya adds the first name to her list. It’s really satisfying to go back and watch this scene after “Mother’s Mercy” when Arya puts a line through the name of Meryn Trant.

Arya finds her blade and runs it through the stable boy who tries to capture her. She contrasts her sister in this moment as she refuses to comply. Sansa does as she’s told and she endures. From here, the Stark sisters go their separate ways.

Ned and Varys is an interesting pair up we don’t see too much of. He brings him water, news, and some clarity. He observes Ned’s foolishness trusting Littlefinger over him and in showing mercy to the Lannisters ultimately killed Robert. He tries to persuade Ned to dishonor himself, bury the truth, and take the black. He also shares the news of Tyrion’s freedom and Ned knows he’s condemned. He was raised by soldiers and learned how to die long ago. In a final moment he asks Varys who he truly serves:d0599ead6fda6e428c5dbf106e7161fa

The realm, my lord. Someone must. – Varys

Reading this quote after his actions in Season 5, we can see he’s actually being truthful. I’ve always preferred Varys to Littlefinger and scenes like this really bring out the differences between the characters. Littlefinger deliberately manipulated Ned whereas Varys sought to help him. Sadly, no one ever trusts a eunuch. I may be biased based on my loyalties to House Targaryen but he seems to be playing the more moral game compared to Littlefinger. We don’t know what realm he serves but it isn’t the one of chaos Littlefinger does.

The lioness Cersei begins digging her claws into Sansa as she forces her to write to Catelyn and Robb. The North must bend the knee to Joffrey or there will be war. At the Eyrie, Lysa refuses to lend the Knights of the Vale (to protect Robin) even though her letter set this chain of events into motion. It drives a wedge between the Tully sisters and we see that the characters in this world aren’t simply black and white, no matter who they’re related to. Robb raises the Northern banners and the war between the wolves and lions begins.

At Castle Black, Jon receives the news of his father and is taunted by Ser Alliser. He sneers he’s not only a bastard but a “traitor’s bastard.” The word seems to be a favorite of his when describing Jon as it too comes full circle in “Mother’s Mercy.” Against Lord Commander Mormont’s advice, Jon does something stupid.

Jon also encounters a new enemy of sorts as a Castle Black’s ranger corpse pays him a visit. He’s shocked to find the cadaver unaffected by his attacks when Mormont arrives at the scene. Jon grabs his lantern and heaves it as the body erupts in flames and we learn how to kill wights.

This was a big moment for any first Game of Thrones watch. It answered some questions about the wights but ignited a thousand more.

In the Vale, Tyrion and Bronn make new friends and head towards the Lannister army while the Khal and Khaleesi are challenged in Essos. Daenerys rescues a maegi as the Khal defends her against one of his own. He is cut in the exchange though he dismisses it as a scratch.

DrogoThe fight between Drogo and Mago demonstrates why the Khal has never had his braid cut. He dodges the arakh with ease and slaughters his opponent with his bare hands. Jason Momoa is another extremely talented actor who left Westeros too soon and his presence will surely be missed. See you soon, Aquaman!

As the Starks prepare for war, Tywin grudgingly accepts his son and new comrades. Arrested Westeros has a solid interpretation of just how well that exchange went:

tumblr_lpuoheLZxn1qk2t5co1_r1_500

Another set of characters that are always fun to see onscreen together: Charles Dance (Tywin) is a surefire scene stealer but when paired up with the equally theatrical Peter Dinklage, you don’t know who to watch. Dance conveys the sheer hatred Tywin has for his deformed son where Dinklage conveys Tyrion’s sense of uncaring and witty deflection with perfection. Martin’s episodes are saturated with characterization and with such fine actors as these, we have an exceptionally vivid glance into Westeros.

Lastly, we have Ser Barristan’s removal from the Kingsguard. Joffrey blames him for the death of King Robert and commands him to leave. Refusing to accept humiliation, he throws down his sword and states he will “die a knight.” After season 5, these words cut through us like carving a cake.

yTMoXOVSer Barristan showing Joffrey the pointy end.


Introductions: The notorious Ser Meryn Trant, the maegi Mirri Maz Duur, Tywin’s younger brother Ser Kevan Lannister, Tyrion’s new companions Shagga, Timett, and Chella.

Deaths:  Sansa’s Septa Mordane, Syrio Forel, the stable boy who serves as Arya’s first kill, the Dothraki Mago, and Night’s Watch rangers Jafer Flowers and Othor.

Notable Quotes:

“The White Walkers sleep beneath the ice for thousands of years. And when they wake up…” – Samwell Tarly
“And when they wake up…what?” – Pyp
“… I hope the Wall is high enough.” – Samwell

“The dragon feeds on horse and lamb alike.” – Daenerys Targaryen


Creative Fandom:

tpe

 

The Pointy End, Artwork by Robert Ball from his “Beautiful Death” collection

The episode’s title quickly became a phrase that was synonymous with Game of Thrones and inspired fan art across the internet:

game_of_thrones___stick__em_with_the_pointy_end_by_mnrjansen-d7frz5a.png

Deviantart by MnrJansen

The episode also inspired a wave of propaganda posters from Olivia Desianti over at Society6:

716e9ea8c6f3ea0767f306461620ee54

got2

got1

Drogo’s fight was very gif-able:

come at me bro

From the episode, Ramin Djawadi’s brilliant score:

Tomorrow: WinterPhil tackles the series’ 9th episode, the one that broke all the rules for television. It’s time for “Baelor.”

30 responses

Jump to (and Always Support) the Bottom

    1. One of the most iconic line in the entire show here:”what do we say to the god of death?”, it’s perfect.

      Drogo is a beast. Loved Jason’s interpretation of the character.

        Quote  Reply

    2. Loved Syrio! I really hope he pops up again in the future. I really don’t believe Meryn Fucking Trant could have killed him…

        Quote  Reply

    3. The various theories about Syrio’s survival almost invariably involve him being a Faceless Man, and I’ve never understood why people who love Syrio would be so eager to have him “survive” by revealing that he never really existed to begin with.

      The visual of all the ravens being sent out to call the Northern banners is a great visual (even if, on reflection, how did Luwin write all those messages that quickly?).

        Quote  Reply

    4. Sean C.: The visual of all the ravens being sent out to call the Northern banners is a great visual (even if, on reflection, how did Luwin write all those messages that quickly?).

      It is not a “quickly” issue: sometimes days pass between adjacent scenes, after all. The fact that it would take time to write the notes should be used as an indication that this happened some time later.

      Instead, the issue is: “why release them all at once and not one at a time”? And, of course, the answer to that is: cinema!

      Aryamad: I really don’t believe Meryn Fucking Trant could have killed him…

      Syrio was unarmed and for all of the Hound’s disparaging of Trant, we have no reason to think that he was not a capable killer.

        Quote  Reply

    5. The picture above the cut makes me so sad 🙁

      Varys > Littlefinger

      Littlefinger has started overplaying his hand in season 5 and for that reason I think Varys (who works in more abstract concepts and is nowhere near as thirsty for land and titles) will outlive him. Littlefinger’s greed (among others) will be his undoing.

      Poor Jon. This is only the beginning of how his journey will, in some way, mirror Maester Aemon’s. They will both be constrained by their vows and forced to witness the destruction of their family. I like how love vs. duty is a running theme in the series. We’ll also see that with Robb later.

      Btw, I think Syrio = Jaqen. I’ve always wondered how the latter ended up in KL.

        Quote  Reply

    6. I don’t agree at all about Littlefinger vs Varys. I tend to think LF was initially sincere in trying to ally with Ned and take control of Joffrey (which really was Ned’s best option at that point). It was only when Ned stubbornly insisted that Stannis must be given the throne, which would probably spell the end of LF, that LF made the decision to betray him. Not that LF had any affection for Ned, but as we know from Season 4, LF prefers to have simple and predictable allies (at least temporarily). Ned is the archetype of simplicity and predictability. The idea that an ice-cold smooth operator like LF was seeking revenge against Ned for what his brother did 20 years ago is ridiculous.

      Also Varys is not being altruistic or moral in the slightest with his dungeon visits to Ned and his advice to confess. He’s merely trying to delay the war between Stark and Lannister until a more opportune time for his purposes, at which time he won’t give a rat’s behind what happens to Ned or his house.

        Quote  Reply

    7. crimethink,

      Littlefinger arranged the whole scenario to draw Ned south. I don’t see any reason to believe that offer was genuine. And Littlefinger is most definitely driven by personal grievance; heck, that silly monologue from the previous episode drives that home.

      Varys in the books is one of the most sinister characters, and in no way better than Littlefinger. So far, the TV version has been presented as much more of a good guy (certainly, his confrontations with Littlefinger have been played that way); whether that will continue, we’ll see.

        Quote  Reply

    8. Overall, “The Pointy End” largely serves as an episode that bridges the gap between the chaotic political upheaval of “You Win or You Die” and the massive, series-defining events to come “Baleor”. However, George R.R. Martin’s first script for the show does feature some truly great writing (who knew, right?) and some excellent fight scenes, as well. Syrio Forel’s last stand against Meryn Trant is beloved for obvious reasons, all the more so because the ripple effects last all the way through to the finale of Season 5. “What do we say to the God of Death?”/”Not today” truly is one of the most memorable exchanges in the series.

      I always enjoy Khal Drogo’s utter decimation of Mago. First, he eschews weapons. Then, he tears him down verbally and basically condemns him to eternity in purgatory. Then he rips his goddamn tongue out through his throat. We’ve seen Drogo kill before, but we’ve also seen the softening influence that Dany has had on him. This sequence of events reinforces just how fearsome and brutal he can be, and why Robert would have been right to fear him in the event that he had crossed the Narrow Sea. I’m glad that we got to see Jason Momoa in action at least once before Drogo died.

      Of course, the scene is also notable for being the first significant case of a character who still alive in the books being killed off in the show … although I use the word ‘significant’ somewhat in jest. Mago’s death is the first time I remember Martin talking about ‘the butterfly effect’, a topic that he loves to revisit whenever the show and the books diverge. In the larger context, his point is both valid and well-supported. In the specific case of Mago, however, the character would have to play an enormous role in TWOW to justify all of the discussion that he’s generated. Suffice it to say, I’m skeptical.

      Robb Stark takes his first step into the limelight in this episode, and he quickly starts demonstrating the charisma and steely leadership qualities that will serve him well as becomes the Young Wolf and eventually the King in the North. Richard Madden does strong work here, and he has a great foil to play against in Clive Mantle as Greatjon Umber. Ah, the Greatjon! Out of the few actors and characters that Game of Thrones has lost for reasons outside the narrative demands of the story, I miss Mantle’s Greatjon the most. I know there were conflicts that prevented Mantle’s return, but it’s such a damn shame that he didn’t come back for Seasons 2 and 3. I’m glad that the Umbers will be returning in Season 6 … however, that could turn out to be a mixed blessing, as I fear they may not side with the Starks this time.

      Finally, Barristan Selmy FTW. Ian McElhinney nails his dismissal scene.

        Quote  Reply

    9. Another great episode in the roller coaster that is the back half of Season 1. I have only two quibbles with this one on the directorial side. The introductory sequence where Lannister soldiers kill off the entire Stark household in King’s Landing is rather clumsily directed: notice the silly swordfighting in the courtyard, even sillier skewering of that older guy by the cart, and after the memorable scene with Meryn and Syrio very badly directed Arya’s first kill.

      Also, later in the episode, when Jon Snow saves LC Mormont from the wight, once again we have some problematic directorial choices and iffy “acting” by the wight. The guy’s facial expressions almost look as if he’s in a horror comedy.

        Quote  Reply

    10. Oooh, no mention of the final scene of this episode, which is one of the most beautifully eerie and dark they’ve ever done: Sansa on her knees pleading for mercy for her father, so small and alone in the center of the great hall, petulant Joffrey demanding that Eddard confess and recant his treason… She meekly says “He will” as the camera drops behind the throne, the low, dark music ominously quiet. I think that’s just splendid. This whole episode struck me as much better-written than the previous one; Martin’s personal screenwriting contribution kicks everything up a notch, and I think is keenly felt in that wonderful final page.

        Quote  Reply

    11. “Littlefinger deliberately manipulated Ned whereas Varys sought to help him.”

      Actually, Littlefinger did try to help Ned. He told him exactly what to do – seize the Lannister kids and take power for himself. It’s not Petyr’s fault that Ned was too honorable to listen.

      Petyr only manipulated Ned with the Gold Cloaks deception after he realized Ned was a lost cause. He tried to tell Cat in season 2 that he tried to help Ned, but she wouldn’t listen, either.

      And Varys was certainly manipulating Ned. We know from his secret discussion with Illyrio that Arya overheard that Varys thought it was too soon for war between the Starks and Lannisters. Dany/Aegon (?) weren’t ready yet.

      Varys by trying to convince Ned to take the black was just trying to postpone war and buy time. Varys doesn’t do things out of goodness or to help Ned. He has his own selfish agenda.

      Love Varys, but the idea that he’s a good guy and Littlefiner is a straight-up villain is wrong, in my opinion.

        Quote  Reply

    12. Red Nightmare:
      He tried to tell Cat in season 2 that he tried to help Ned, but she wouldn’t listen, either.

      And if you believe that, he has a lovely bridge you might be interested in.

        Quote  Reply

    13. Mr Fixit: Also, later in the episode, when Jon Snow saves LC Mormont from the wight, once again we have some problematic directorial choices and iffy “acting” by the wight. The guy’s facial expressions almost look as if he’s in a horror comedy

      Ah, but what sort of facial expressions should a wight even have? It seems to me that almost anything would go. My suspicion is that, once you got over the horror of it, zombies would look pretty frickin’ funny. At any rate, this is something where people seem to have so many different preconceptions and where there is no really good reason for any one of them (as there are no such thing as zombies!) that I just don’t “expect” anything anymore.

      Sean C.: Varys in the books is one of the most sinister characters, and in no way better than Littlefinger.

      I do not think that is true. Varys does seem to have some larger cause in mind, and it does seem that he has some genuine concern for the general citizenry. LF has none of that. LF really is the much more dangerous in that he has an almost truly psychopathic aspect to his behavior that makes him very unpredictable. And that is what makes them so different: we know what Varys wants and we have a general idea of why he wants it; what LF wants is entirely opaque (as the huge disparity in fan conjectures about those motives indicates), even if we have a more specific idea of why (something to do with Cat and/or not being taken seriously and/or whatever).

      Jared: Robb Stark takes his first step into the limelight in this episode, and he quickly starts demonstrating the charisma and steely leadership qualities that will serve him well as becomes the Young Wolf and eventually the King in the North.

      I wonder if Madden’s performance in these scenes and others is what inspired them to elevate Robb up to a full-fledged protagonist rather than leaving him a secondary character as in the books. At any rate, they did a good job using him for the Clash and Storm stories, and his performances rose to the occasions thereafter.

        Quote  Reply

    14. Sean C.: And if you believe that, he has a lovely bridge you might be interested in.

      Had LF simply played along with Ned and never offered Baelishish advice, then I would agree with you. However, LF told Ned to do something that LF himself would have done. Moreover, he did so knowing that it was not the sort of advice that Ned would want to hear: but LF still offered it to him. (If there were an obvious alternative where there was some compromise between Joffery and Stannis that was acceptable to both, then one could see LF as manipulating Nedd: but Stark was so hung up on primogeniture being “right” that there would have been no other candidate that LF could offer.)

      As such, I think that in LF’s mind, he was trying to help Ned Stark: but Stark was “too honorable” (read: “too stupid”) to take good advice. Someone like LF would have zero problem rationalizing this as “you cannot help someone who will not help himself.”

        Quote  Reply

    15. Jared,

      Finally, Barristan Selmy FTW. Ian McElhinney nails his dismissal scene.

      I just rewatched the episode and his acting is really one of the highlights. You can really sense his disbelief at the lack of honor and respect in the king’s court. I’m sure he had been feeling this way since the time of the Mad King but to see it finally explode is so great.

        Quote  Reply

    16. Wimsey: Varys does seem to have some larger cause in mind, and it does seem that he has some genuine concern for the general citizenry.

      It’s fairly obvious that Varys respected aspects of the Targ reign and despises the current “Baratheon” rule, but he seems to genuinely want to “serve the realm.” Interestingly, he has learned some of the methods of Bloodraven, especially with his network of little birds, and relays information quite efficiently, but at the same time he seems to despise the use of magic (which was used during his disfigurement). He is sort of an interesting conundrum, imho.

      I wouldn’t be surprised if BR knew of his ultimate agenda to reinstall a Targ…or a Blackfyre…as well.

        Quote  Reply

    17. Sean C.: And if you believe that, he has a lovely bridge you might be interested in.

      But Littlefinger actually DID give Ned good advice that would have put Ned in power as regent. That’s a fact, Jack!

      Ned called it treason, which prompted one of my favorite lines in the show when Littlefinger replied “only if we lose”. So I’ll buy that bridge.

        Quote  Reply

    18. LF really is the much more dangerous in that he has an almost truly psychopathic aspect to his behavior that makes him very unpredictable.

      He’s not a psychopath. He has very little moral compunction, but that’s just as true of nearly all the power players in Westeros. Also his unpredictability is intentional, at least for book LF and show LF through season 4. His Season 5 miscues are mostly a result of being forced to carry the Idiot Ball for the showrunners’ deviations from the book story.

      It amazes me that people call Littlefinger a psychopath and Tywin Lannister a master strategist when Tywin was just as amoral as LF. The only reason Tywin had more power than LF was that he was born the heir of Casterly Rock rather than a few acres of wasteland. LF outwitted Tywin every time their interests came in conflict. (Which isn’t saying much considering Tywin got outwitted by Robb Stark too!)

      Show Varys has his own problems — for example, the fact that his Dany assassination plot came within seconds of succeeding, yet they paint him as a Dany supporter all along. Probably due to the decision to cut the Young Griff storyline being made after the show already began.

        Quote  Reply

    19. Wimsey:
      I do not think that is true.Varys does seem to have some larger cause in mind, and it does seem that he has some genuine concern for the general citizenry.

      The general citizenry he has deliberately unleashed a catastrophic war on. Having a “larger cause” doesn’t make him better than Littlefinger; ISIS has a larger cause. Whereas Littlefinger has turned Westeros upside-down in pursuit of his own advancement, Varys has done it in service to ideology. They’re equally bad, but in opposite ways.

      Had LF simply played along with Ned and never offered Baelishish advice, then I would agree with you. However, LF told Ned to do something that LF himself would have done.

      Which he knew Ned wouldn’t take. If you look at the larger context for what Baelish has been doing, it makes no sense for that offer to be genuine. He has gone out of his way to enmesh all the people and houses that he views as having done him wrong as a child in a destructive war. Nothing he’s done regarding drawing Ned south really has any other explanation; he could have just helped Jon Arryn take down Cersei and the Lannisters otherwise.

        Quote  Reply

    20. George R.R. Martin does the DVD commentary for this episode by himself I believe, and he is completely silent as Arya runs away and Syrio is left to face off against Trant with a broken wooden sword.

        Quote  Reply

    21. darkgreenblue:
      Oooh, no mention of the final scene of this episode, which is one of the most beautifully eerie and dark they’ve ever done:Sansa on her knees pleading for mercy for her father, so small and alone in the center of the great hall, petulant Joffrey demanding that Eddard confess and recant his treason…She meekly says “He will” as the camera drops behind the throne, the low, dark music ominously quiet.I think that’s just splendid.This whole episode struck me as much better-written than the previous one; Martin’s personal screenwriting contribution kicks everything up a notch, and I think is keenly felt in that wonderful final page.

      Totally agree with you – it is a stunning end to the episode – Sansa’s plea, the camera panning behind the throne and the absolutely spine-chilling score. Brilliant.

      And Barristan… he became my favourite secondary character in this episode, absolute legend. It is a shame his character got lost in Essos, but I do understand why.

        Quote  Reply

    22. It’s always bothered me that Syrio didn’t pick up one of the swords from the Lannister soldiers he knocked senseless. I always want to yell at the TV: “pick up a real fucking sword, man, it’s now a matter of life & death”. I don’t care how talented he was, his wooden sword was no match for a steel sword. Sigh.

        Quote  Reply

    23. All began in Season One…..Previously known is that Jaqen was in KL. Why? Was he hired by someone to get Robert? or Joffrey for that matter dependent on timing? He was also in the dungeons at the same time Ned was since Yoren took his picks for the NW. Varys had access to those dungeons in his own way. As a Faceless man and hired hit man how was he captured? Was the face he changed into after giving Arya the coin who he really was or just another? If he was able to change at that time why didn’t he change while at Harrenhal and escape? He just blended in. I know, I know what beats this down was why not reveal his identity when giving her the coin? By that time Ned was on to the next thing and that Jaqen was another Jaqen?

      Always seems to be where Arya is…whether KL, a captive in a rolling cage or Braavos. Don’t know if he’s around when we aren’t seeing him and still protecting her.

      May be off base with these questions but this “protector” tag leads me to believe that Ned was not the one beheaded. Varys established a switch with the Dungeon Ned for someone else. Jaqen (in some form) = Ned and Ned is still pulling strings as a Faceless Man. The price associated to the hiring of a Faceless man is so exorbitant that only nobles can hire.

      Varys pulling strings along with Ned. Varys knows (because he knows everything via his whisperers or in talks with Ned in the dungeon) Jon is an actual Targ and the motivation to bring Danaerys back to the throne has to involve the Starks now. One can’t think that every aspect of the conversations held in the dungeons between Ned and Varys was shown on camera? That would be very unlike the GOT way.

      Oh and Varys knows that Tyrion is really a Targ because of the whole bedding enjoyment Aerys imposed on Tywin’s wife.

      Of note: There are several storylines we aren’t privy too with Varys. Did we know with the exception of Jorah feeding him information for some time, what he was coordinating on the Targ front?

      Varys is the watchdog for Sansa. Ned is the watchdog for Arya.
      Sean Bean re-casted in the final season only to be killed by the Night’s King in a GRRM way.

      Varys is blending three main cogs in the process…the only sensible Lannister (Tyrion), Stark (Ned) and Targ (Danaerys)…..for the good of the realm.

      Shoot…insane theory(ies) just written but open to feedback? I’m open to an “Igritte arrow” if anyone wants to shoot this down?

        Quote  Reply

    Jump to the Top

    Leave a Reply

    Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *