Game of Thrones Memory Lane 109: Baelor

Ned's execution

We’ve hit the episode in our season 6 countdown. The episode that rewrote the rules and heralded Game of Thrones as not just another TV show. “Baelor” was written by David Benioff and D.B. Weiss and directed by Alan Taylor. It was a tense, emotional and shocking (for the Unsullied anyway) episode.

Obviously this episode is best remembered for what happened at the end, but the episode also had a number of other moments that would shape the course of the story going forward. We first meet Shae, who will play a pivotal role in Tyrion’s storyline. We also are introduced to the devious Walder Frey, when Catelyn treats with him for passage through his castle/bridge, The Twins. She is able to secure passage, but in exchange has to give up her son Robb’s hand in marriage. But in so doing, Robb is able to decisively win his first battle, when he successfully defeats Jaime Lannister’s host and captures the Kingslayer himself.

Across the Narrow Sea, Daenerys is desperate to save Khal Drogo from his festering wound, so she enlists the black magic of Mirri Maz Duur to attempt to save him. Up at the Wall, Jon is struggling between doing his duty or dishonoring himself and going south to fight alongside his half-brother. Maester Aemon reveals that he once had a similar choice, in a wonderfully delivered monologue by Peter Vaughan.

Ned Stark is faced with a similar decision, when he is trotted out onto the steps of the Sept of Baelor to pay for his supposed treason. He can choose to betray his honor and confess to his “crimes” and spare his life and potentially the lives of his children. Or he can continue to remain steadfast about his claims and die. He chooses the former and everyone watching is certain that Ned will be shipped to the Wall to meet up with his bastard son and come back to exact vengeance on House Lannister. But King Joffrey (and George R. R. Martin) have other ideas. Despite Ned’s confession, Joffrey orders his execution anyway. Ilyn Payne swings the sword and the audience gasps.

This was of course a big moment for the show and it was executed (no pun intended) perfectly by director Alan Taylor. In fact, the whole episode was expertly shot by Taylor. Taylor’s style was much more cinematic than the directors before him and this style of filming the show carried over into later seasons and became a Thrones staple. (Of course, the increased budgets in later seasons helped as well.) It’s no surprise that Taylor went on to direct big-budget Hollywood films after his work on Game of Thrones, but he left his legacy with the show in his episodes.

Ned’s execution also led to something else that seems to be wholly unique to Game of Thrones: reaction videos! Larry Williams of OtakuASSEMBLE had the most notable reaction to Ned Stark’s death.

Of course, the moment led to some memes as well. Arrested Westeros, as they so often do, pretty much nailed it.

Ned Stark makes a mistake

But the truth is this episode was an emotional one. Even for someone like me who knew what was coming. The little bit where Ned sees Arya in the crowd was heart-wrenching and really drove home the drama of the moment. The whole episode was good, but the final scene was truly great and helped catapult Game of Thrones into the phenomenon it is today.


Introductions: The slimy Walder Frey and the sultry Shae both make their first appearance in this episode. We also see Jon’s sword Longclaw for the first time, as Lord Commander Mormont gifts it to him for saving his life. We learn the sword is Valyrian steel which may not mean much to the uninitiated viewers at the time, but that fact comes into play in season 5’s epic “Hardhome” where we see Longclaw absolutely destroy a White Walker.

Deaths: Qotho is killed by Jorah after he attempts to stop the black magic ritual being performed on Drogo. And, of course, poor Ned Stark dies at King Joffrey’s command.

Big Moments: Maester Aemon reveals that he is a Targaryen. Tyrion manages to survive his first battle. Robb Stark captures Jaime Lannister. Ned Stark dies.

Notable Quotes:

“Stark, Tully, Lannister, Baratheon. Give me one good reason why I should waste a single thought on any of you?” – Walder Frey

“We’re all human. Oh, we all do our duty when there’s no cost to it. Honor comes easy then. Yet sooner or later in every man’s life there comes a day when it’s not easy. A day when he must choose.” – Maester Aemon

Beautiful Death ep 109

Baelor, Artwork by Robert Ball from his “Beautiful Death” collection

80 responses

Jump to (and Always Support) the Bottom

    1. My favorite episode of the whole series. Never has an hour so thoroughly encapsulated unrelenting despair with such perfection.

      Oh, and Taylor left after season two, where he directed The North Remembers, The Night Lands, The Prince of Winterfell, and Valar Morghulis.

        Quote  Reply

    2. Ah, Ned really was the classic faux protagonist, wasn’t he? I remember how surprising this was to read: but after I read the next book, I remember thinking that the overall series could not have worked if he had still been around. This was the “good” kind of feint by an author: set up the general story with a range of characters, but then make it clear by the end of the first that several of them were “booster stage” protagonists meant to get the story into the space, but never intended to get to space themselves.

        Quote  Reply

    3. Hi WinterPhil – glad you returned for this guest writeup of an epic episode. Loved Maester Aemon and the fabulous acting by Peter Vaughn really did the character justice!

        Quote  Reply

    4. I never understood why people say “we don’t need another Stark to die”, or “too many have been killed off”…we’ve had 3 Stark deaths (Ned, Robb, Catelyn). We’ve had 3 Lannister deaths as well (Joffrey, Tywin, Myrcella) and loads of Baratheon deaths (Robert, Renly, Shireen, Selyse, and Stannis).

        Quote  Reply

    5. braun ford,

      It also come from the fact that, as even the author has said, the Starks are basically the heroes of the story, and they’ve more or less been losing since the first book, whereas people like the Lannisters have been winning (until recently, though they’re still in power).

      Of course, in purely literary terms the Starks have been whittled down to only characters whose deaths at this juncture (before the climax, anyway) would render their existence in the story rather pointless — and Rickon.

        Quote  Reply

    6. This whole episode, not just the ending, is absolutely fantastic, and remains one of the series’ best accomplishments, along with Blackwater and Hardhome. The momentum and flow from scene to scene is perfect; so many great moments. I especially love the cut from the Lannisters on the battlefield to Robb’s victory over Jaime:

      “He wasn’t here.”
      “Where was he?”
      “With his other eighteen thousand men.”
      “…And where are they?”

      And of course, the final scene remains one of most well-executed (sorry) in the series.

        Quote  Reply

    7. “Love is the death of duty. If the day should ever come when your lord father was forced to choose between honor on the one hand and those he loves on the other, what would he do? […] What is honor compared to a woman’s love? And what is duty against the feel of a newborn son in your arms?”

      I’m just going to leave that quote here. Brilliant scene. Maester Aemon was great in this.

      The scene where Cat is waiting for Robb to come back from his first battle is one of my favorites on the show (and her reaction when she sees him gives me goosebumps). I had not read the first book when that episode aired, so when Robb brought Jaime with him I was pleasantly surprised.

      S6 speculation:

      I’m hoping for a similar scene in season 6 with 2/3 other characters (if you’ve followed filming news, you can probably guess who they are), but I’m not that lucky. It probably won’t happen. 🙁

      .

      Poor Ned. Poor Sansa and Arya. It’s interesting looking at everyone’s reactions. Cersei and Varys were freaking out, but nothing from Littlefinger. Makes me wonder if he got to Joffrey and convinced him to go through with the execution.

        Quote  Reply

    8. Must admit, when I saw that episode back in 2011 I didn’t expect Ned to be executed. Certainly one of the reasons I enjoy GOT so much is you don’t know whose going to survive to the end 😉

      The Red Wedding was also a shocker – I never saw that coming either! I was well pissed off when that happened, but that’s GOT all over? Some great moments (like when Drogon toasted that slave master in Astapor) intermingled with tragic moments… Bring on Season 6 😀

        Quote  Reply

    9. Sean C.:
      Boromir,

      Tyrion getting knocked out before the battle starts is a self-admitted budget-saving measure, but it’s very funny.

      I wish we had seen Robb fighting at least one time. It was all off screen. Budgetary reasons again most likely.

        Quote  Reply

    10. Jack Bauer 24:
      I never understood why people say “we don’t need another Stark to die”, or “too many have been killed off”…we’ve had 3 Stark deaths (Ned, Robb, Catelyn). We’ve had 3 Lannister deaths as well (Joffrey, Tywin, Myrcella) and loads of Baratheon deaths (Robert, Renly, Shireen, Selyse, and Stannis).

      The three Starks you mentioned were very important characters, especially when compared to the likes of Myrcella and Selyse. They also lost their family seat in the early seasons (so no home to go to or an army), whereas Storm’s End and Casterly Rock are still standing. And we’ve been seeing a lot of the action through their eyes (and we’re more likely to support the Starks). It also helps that the Lannisters were in power for most of the show and only now have started to go down, and most of those Baratheon deaths were caused by Stannis himself. The Starks who are also alive at the end of season 5 are also kids/teens and in no position to strike back at the moment.

        Quote  Reply

    11. Jack Bauer 24: I wish we had seen Robb fighting at least one time. It was all off screen. Budgetary reasons again most likely.

      I would have liked that as well. And more Grey Wind in action. The direwolves have been shafted on the show.

        Quote  Reply

    12. I was a show watcher up until this episode. I started reading the books because Ned’s death was shocking. I remember reading GoT wiki to see if Ned was truly dead. I immersed myself in the books and now I lurk. Just had to respond to this episode that made me a fan

        Quote  Reply

    13. When I first watched season 1 and this episode I had not yet read the books. However, them killing Ned did not come as a surprise. The moment I saw Sean Bean in medieval attire and a sword I pretty much guessed Ned going to be the first to die, so I was more shocked that Viserys and Robert died first. But the scene in itself was beautifully shot, Sansa’s cry of despair, Yoren protecting Arya, Joffrey’s smirk…

        Quote  Reply

    14. Interesting that Arya gets dragged away by Yoren to protect her and spare her some pain during the frenzy following her father’s beheading, much like the Hound dragged her away to protect her and spare her some pain during the frenzy following her mother and brother’s assassination.

      I doubt revenge will ever be sweet for her or if her tale will ever rise from darkness, but I cheered loudly as Arya’s daggers pierced Trant’s skull and body repeatedly.

        Quote  Reply

    15. Good write up, though I disagree that Alan Taylor was the first director in season 1 to give it a cinematic style. Really thought Daniel Minahan, Timothy Van Patten, and Brian Kirk all did spectacular work.

      The guy who played Qotho did a really nice job. They’ve not only knocked it out of the park with the lead cast, but with all the secondary actors as well.

      I wish Clive Mantle could’ve returned to play Jon Umber. Part of me is hoping that he shows up in season 6 if Rickon and Asha appear and if they did indeed end up going to The Last Hearth (I haven’t followed any season 6 spoilers).

        Quote  Reply

    16. The bells ringing up at Baelor as Aria catches the bird down in the alley………. so ominous. What an episode.

        Quote  Reply

    17. Ack… Yoren protecting Arya from witnessing the execution scene always chokes me up. Poor Ned. 🙁 I have to say though I do think Cersei genuinely wanted to stop Joffrey.

        Quote  Reply

    18. Jack Bauer 24,

      The Starks were good people who were unlucky, Ned was a good man who didn’t deserve to be killed that way. Joffrey deserved what he got and more.
      Robb and Cat also. Yes Robb broke an oath but I don’t think he deserves that massacre. Tywins death was different, killed by his own son. But Tywin wanted to have him killed so….
      Stannis was a bad man who burned people for no reason. It was coming.

        Quote  Reply

    19. Ah, this episode.
      Ouch 🙁
      Watched this during a season 1 and 2 binge watch right before season 3 aired. I was shocked. Confused. Hurt. And angry

        Quote  Reply

    20. Ned’s death still gets to me. Why, George, why?!

      Anyway, at this point I still hadn’t read the books but I had spoiled myself by reading the Wiki, so I was dreading watching Ned lose his head. But it was beautifully filmed. My love for Yoren was cemented when he shielded Arya from seeing Ned’s final moments. Too bad no one thought to treat Sansa with a similar kindness.

      The part that hurts me the most is seeing the bloodthirsty crowd throwing things and jeering at Ned. Those fuckers. Unlike Cersei, Ned had never done them any wrong. They just wanted a noble’s head to roll.

      Re-watching this reminds me that I really wouldn’t mind it if King’s Landing burns to the ground with all those terrible people in it.

      Jon Snow's Curling Iron:
      “Love is the death of duty. If the day should ever come when your lord father was forced to choose between honor on the one hand and those he loves on the other, what would he do? […] What is honor compared to a woman’s love? And what is duty against the feel of a newborn son in your arms?”

      I’m just going to leave that quote here. Brilliant scene. Maester Aemon was great in this.

      The scene where Cat is waiting for Robb to come back from his first battle is one of my favorites on the show (and her reaction when she sees him gives me goosebumps). I had not read the first book when that episode aired, so when Robb brought Jaime with him I was pleasantly surprised.

      S6 speculation:

      .

      It wasn’t until recently that I realized that Maester Aemon’s quote also unknowingly refers to another event in Ned’s past. Get’s me right in the feels. As does the falling anvil.

      As to your hope of seeing a similar scene to the one of Cat watching and waiting for Robb to return from battle: yes, I too want to see it play out in S6 with either

      Sansa or Rickon waiting for Jon’s safe return after defeating the Boltons. I’d be a blubbering mess if that were to happen. But I think that would veer to much towards fanfic territory, so I don’t expect it to happen. But a girl can dream.

        Quote  Reply

    21. I saw S1 before I read AGoT. When I read Ned’s execution in the book, I wasn’t sure what had actually happened. It was described from Arya’s POV, and to me it had a surreal, dreamlike quality to it – it didn’t even sound like Ned had died.

      The TV series was very clear about what happened, and even more shocking than its book counterpart. Yoren telling Arya not to look, then the cut to the flock of birds at Ned’s death, was chilling and perfect. You knew things would never be the same once Ned was gone – he was the one thing holding chaos at bay, and now the gates were open.

      Jon Snow's Curling Iron:

      It’s interesting looking at everyone’s reactions. Cersei and Varys were freaking out, but nothing from Littlefinger. Makes me wonder if he got to Joffrey and convinced him to go through with the execution.

      I hadn’t thought of that, it does sound like something LF would do.

      Aemon’s reveal of himself as a Targaryen to Jon Snow is the other great scene in this episode.

        Quote  Reply

    22. Jack Bauer 24: I wish we had seen Robb fighting at least one time. It was all off screen. Budgetary reasons again most likely.

      Also, they did not go with the decision to elevate Robb to a protagonist until the second series. As such, we don’t get the camera set on Robb as much as you would expect given how much he gets in the 2nd and 3rd series. When people talk about deviations from the books, they usually focus on plot details: but making Robb a protagonist instead of a supporting character might be the single biggest Book-TV difference concerning the story that the show has made.

        Quote  Reply

    23. Deesensfan: The Starks were good people who were unlucky, Ned was a good man who didn’t deserve to be killed that way. …. Stannis was a bad man who burned people for no reason. It was coming.

      But in the end, Ned and Stannis die for the exact same reason: both are too rigid morally to do the “immoral” thing when they needed to do so, even if greater “good” could be achieved from being “bad” now. Ned had to know that Stannis would be a terrible king, and that it would be much better for Westeros to either try to use Joffery as a puppet in the way that Littlefinger proposes, or expose Joffery as a bastard but then support Renly who probably would have been a very good king. Instead, because “honor” demanded that Ned follow a particular moral code (primogeniture), he dooms himself.

      Ditto that for Stannis: because he follows the same moral code and even more rigidly. Thus, he “must” fight for the Kingship, and he must do whatever is necessary to claim that. In his mind, to do otherwise would be dishonorable, and thus immoral. In other words, Stannis would tell you that someone in his position who did not do whatever he could was being a “bad” person: and then you are left with the subjective “no, my moral is good, your moral is evil” argument that’s caused so much pain and misery in real human history: because, like, a god would give a rats ass about when you have your easter egg hunt!

      But it does come down to a constant pattern in Martin’s stories: amoral people tend to do better than do moral people because they are more flexible. That written, ethical-but-amoral people like Daeny and Jon create problems for themselves when strict adherents to the “old” moralities (the Nationalists on the Wall or the Slavers in Meereen) cannot abandon their unethical moralities for ethical immoralities.

        Quote  Reply

    24. This was definately my first WTH moment. Lady’s death was my first heartbreak. Up until this point I’d never read the books. I honestly kept thinking up till the very last minute someone or something was going to stop Ned’s execution!
      I couldn’t believe they were going to kill my favorite man in the show!! Oh boy my hatred for Joffrey couldn’t get any worse!!
      The chaos that erupted from the minute he said “bring me his head” got me up from my couch and yell at the tv lol.
      Welcome to Game of Thrones ?
      From that moment on I knew I was in for quite the ride, and not get too attached to any character. But it happened again anyway and I got hooked on Jon!??
      At least he will come back!!?

        Quote  Reply

    25. On the one hand, this was one of the most defining moments of TV history, when people’s expectations of a main protagonist’s invincibility were shattered, and Game of Thrones catapulted from being a fairly cool new show, to a ‘water-cooler moment’ event, deeply ingrained within the public consciousness.

      On the other hand, it’s just tits and dragons.

        Quote  Reply

    26. My boyfriend was not a book reader in season 1 and I had to keep mum on so much. When “the” scene started, I got really choked up and tried to hold it in the whole time so I didn’t spoil him. It was really hard with the Arya stuff – Ned searching the crowd for her. I hope that when he saw her missing from the Baelor statue that he at least had a moment of peace before his death. Yes, I realize he’s fictional 🙂

      This episode is what convinced my BF he had to read all the books so I had to hold in a lot of spoilers for a few months while he read. I remember he came out to the living room after reading the Red Wedding, so upset. “I can’t believe they killed Cat and Robb!” and I replied “And Grey Wind, too 🙁 ” He just looked at me and said “They killed Grey Wind too???” I was all “Uhh, yeah, sorry.” I wasn’t allowed to discuss the books with him anymore after than until he was done.

        Quote  Reply

    27. Wimsey,

      I would disagree a bit with your Ned analysis. I believe he was really doomed the minute he abandoned his morals and agreed to lie about trying to take the throne for himself (from Joffrey) in order to save Sansa. If he held on without speaking a bit longer, there was a possibility Robb could have taken KL or a Jaime/Ned trade could have been brokered through Tywin.

      I do agree that Ned would have been much smarter to either tell King Robert about the bastards before he died or seize Joffrey and hold him prisoner to bring the Lannisters under control. But he was never going to do those things. Ah and so it goes – unexpected consequences.

        Quote  Reply

    28. Wimsey:
      or expose Joffery as a bastard but then support Renly who probably would have been a very good king.Instead, because “honor” demanded that Ned follow a particular moral code (primogeniture), he dooms himself.

      GRRM goes out of his way to show that Renly is all style, no substance. He would have been a poor king. Indeed, if you look at his battle dispositions prior to his murder he was doing his best to lose to a majorly inferior force. And primogeniture is a vital part of the feudal system. That’s one of the ways GRRM shows how irresponsible Renly is, by doing away with the main method for determining succession purely because he decided that he wants to be king.

        Quote  Reply

    29. Sean C.: purely because he decided that he wants to be king.

      It wasn’t because he wanted to be king. It was because he believed he would be the best king.

        Quote  Reply

    30. Big Mac,

      Yes, it was most definitely because he wanted to be king. Of course he fancies that he’d be best for it. But GRRM shows that he’s an empty suit.

        Quote  Reply

    31. Sean C.: GRRM goes out of his way to show that Renly is all style, no substance.He would have been a poor king.Indeed, if you look at his battle dispositions prior to his murder he was doing his best to lose to a majorly inferior force.And primogeniture is a vital part of the feudal system.That’s one of the ways GRRM shows how irresponsible Renly is, by doing away with the main method for determining succession purely because he decided that he wants to be king.

      huh? How exactly was Renly planning to lose to an inferior force? Stannis had no natural defenses and was besieging Storm’s End. Renly’s cavalry was enough to crush Stannis, in fact, it would have been just like Ramsay destroying Stannis on the show.

      By moving his troops slowly, Renly made sure that there was turmoil in King’s Landing and he would be seen as a savior for bringing food from Highgarden. Remember, in the books, people were chanting the names of Stannis, Renly and Robb for taking the throne.

      Diplomatically, he got the support of most of Stormlands, Tyrells, and possibly would have got the Starks and Martells. In no way, was Renly a “weak” king.

        Quote  Reply

    32. Sean C.:
      Big Mac,

      Yes, it was most definitely because he wanted to be king.Of course he fancies that he’d be best for it.But GRRM shows that he’s an empty suit.

      I really think you take Donal Noye’s quote way too seriously. The man left Storm’s End after Robert’s rebellion when Renly was just six years old.

      Sean C.: GRRM goes out of his way to show that Renly is all style, no substance.He would have been a poor king.Indeed, if you look at his battle dispositions prior to his murder he was doing his best to lose to a majorly inferior force.And primogeniture is a vital part of the feudal system.That’s one of the ways GRRM shows how irresponsible Renly is, by doing away with the main method for determining succession purely because he decided that he wants to be king.

      huh? How exactly was Renly planning to lose to an inferior force? Stannis had no natural defenses and was besieging Storm’s End. Renly’s cavalry was enough to crush Stannis, in fact, it would have been just like Ramsay destroying Stannis on the show.

      By moving his troops slowly, Renly made sure that there was turmoil in King’s Landing and he would be seen as a savior for bringing food from Highgarden. Remember, in the books, people were chanting the names of Stannis, Renly and Robb for taking the throne.

      Diplomatically, he got the support of most of Stormlands, Tyrells, and possibly would have got the Starks and Martells. In no way, was Renly a “weak” king.

        Quote  Reply

    33. Icewalker,

      He moves so rapidly to Storm’s End that he has outrun his supplies, meaning his window to act his narrow. He assigns leadership of the vanguard to Loras, who has no experience at all, over Randyl Tarly, his most experienced commander, who isn’t assigned any command at all. And when Tarly and Mathis Rowan, both veteran soldiers, advise him that his plan will have his men charging into the rising sun and leave them “half-blind” (and that Stannis wants this), he ignores them because charging at sunrise will make for better optics (pardon the pun). It’s also wrong to state the cavalry will just mow down infantry and archers.

      This isn’t to say that Renly wouldn’t still have won, given weight of numbers. But his handling of his men shows a complete lack of military acumen, and a very cavalier attitude toward his soldiers.

        Quote  Reply

    34. Cersei’s Brain: I believe he was really doomed the minute he abandoned his morals and agreed to lie about trying to take the throne for himself (from Joffrey) in order to save Sansa. If he held on without speaking a bit longer, there was a possibility Robb could have taken KL or a Jaime/Ned trade could have been brokered through Tywin.

      That was not possible: no matter what Ned does, he is abandoning one of his morals. Ned firmly believes that good men do everything that they can to defend their family: and by not recanting his claim about Joffery, he is endangering Sansa and possibly Arya. Remember, that is the story of Game of Thrones: all of the main characters are stuck in position where they can obey one “Thou Shalt Always Do X” moral or another “Thou Shalt Always Do Y” moral: but doing Y means not doing X or vice versa.

      So, Ned Not Speaking is Ned Not Holding To His Values and Ned Speaking is Ned Not Holding To His Values.

      Cersei’s Brain: I do agree that Ned would have been much smarter to either tell King Robert about the bastards before he died or seize Joffrey and hold him prisoner to bring the Lannisters under control.

      Again, this was Ned’s morality getting in the way: and leading him to his doom just as it leads Stannis to his. Both show and book go out of their way to show that Ned will not condone harm to people that he considers to be “children”: and he knows that Robert will order their deaths if he accepts this.

        Quote  Reply

    35. Sean C.: GRRM goes out of his way to show that Renly is all style, no substance. He would have been a poor king.

      No, GRRM goes out of his way to show that he would have been a good king. What you dismiss as style – presumably Renly’s affection for arts that Stannis dismisses, his easy going charm and empathy that cause Brienne to fall in love with him, his recognition that ruling a country should be nothing like running an army – are what would have made Renly a capable King. And, let’s face it: his homosexuality probably would have helped. Being a semi-closeted gay, Renly could have gone two routes: over-compensating by being a real Seven-Star-thumper, or by basically favoring pragmatism over

      Sean C.: over Randyl Tarly, his most experienced commander, who isn’t assigned any command at all.

      “Experienced” but also “demonstrated incompetence.” It comes up in the books that Randyl is a pretty bad field commander: yes, he’s had experience, but it’s been experience at not winning. Going with Loras over Randyl is no different from a sports team going with a potentially very good rookie over a washed up veteran who never was great in the first place.

      And, let’s face it: even if Renly is not the best Field General in the world, then that takes away points against him: he is absolutely right that good generals usually are awful executives.

        Quote  Reply

    36. Wimsey:
      No, GRRM goes out of his way to show that he would have been a good king.

      No, Renly looks like the sort of person who should be king, but he has no substance. He wants power for its own sake, and he shows a cavalier lack of interest in actual ruling, and the realm, in particular, which is the stuff of a good king, as GRRM himself has said. Renly thinks of nothing but his own ambition, which is the biggest toxin plaguing Westeros in the War of Five Kings. And for that ambition, he’s willing to endanger the stability of the feudal system.

      “Experienced” but also “demonstrated incompetence.”It comes up in the books that Randyl is a pretty bad field commander: yes, he’s had experience, but it’s been experience at not winning.Going with Loras over Randyl is no different from a sports team going with a potentially very good rookie over a washed up veteran who never was great in the first place.

      I have no idea who you’re thinking of there. Tarly is arguably the best general in Westeros at that point. He’s the only man to ever defeat Robert Baratheon in battle, and he did it with just the vanguard of the Tyrell army at Ashford. He has never lost a battle, that we’re aware of, and is regularly identified as a superb soldier.

        Quote  Reply

    37. Sean C.:
      Icewalker,

      He moves so rapidly to Storm’s End that he has outrun his supplies, meaning his window to act his narrow.He assigns leadership of the vanguard to Loras, who has no experience at all, over Randyl Tarly, his most experienced commander, who isn’t assigned any command at all.And when Tarly and Mathis Rowan, both veteran soldiers, advise him that his plan will have his men charging into the rising sun and leave them “half-blind” (and that Stannis wants this), he ignores them because charging at sunrise will make for better optics (pardon the pun).It’s also wrong to state the cavalry will just mow down infantry and archers.

      First of all, Renly moves fast(as in mostly, cavalry) to Storm’s end which is in Stormlands. Storm’s End was already well provisioned as well. Where do you get the idea that his supply or supply chain is in any way affected? All Stannis had was a really good naval fleet.

      Ned led the vanguard and the entire rebel army onto King’s Landing when Jon Arryn & the Tully brothers were more “experienced”. Does that make Robert a poor battle commander? Anyhow, Mathis Rowan was placed to command the center of the army.

      You are basing everything on Donal Noye’s one comment about Renly. The man who left Storm’s End when Renly was just 6 years old.

        Quote  Reply

    38. Icewalker:

      Ned led the vanguard and the entire rebel army onto King’s Landing when Jon Arryn & the Tully brothers were more “experienced”.

      Ned was at that point very experienced, and besides which, a great lord who has to lead his men. That is very different from Loras, who has no experience and no equivalent position.

      You are basing everything on Donal Noye’s one comment about Renly.

      No, I’m not (Noye’s assessments are dubious in other matters; Robert wasn’t particularly “true steel”, and Stannis shows greater adaptability than Noye attributes to him). I’m basing it on the totality of his actions.

      Renly has some obvious skill as a politician. But being a good politician doesn’t make you a good king. It’s one of the tools necessary (one that, for instance, Stannis doesn’t have), but not sufficient of itself. The terrible nature of Westerosi feudal politics is one of GRRM’s regular themes, and how lords squander lives in pursuit of selfish ambitions; Renly typefies that — in some ways, uniquely among the initial five kings.

        Quote  Reply

    39. Sean C.: No, Renly looks like the sort of person who should be king, but he has no substance.He wants power for its own sake, and he shows a cavalier lack of interest in actual ruling, and the realm, in particular, which is the stuff of a good king, as GRRM himself has said.Renly thinks of nothing but his own ambition, which is the biggest toxin plaguing Westeros in the War of Five Kings.And for that ambition, he’s willing to endanger the stability of the feudal system.

      Please do explain how Renly doesn’t have any substance. Ruling the seven kingdoms is keeping the nobles & the general populace happy. Renly was practical enough to allow Robb to have his own “iron crown” but he was clear to not allow the North to secede from the seven kingdoms. The other “Kings” had very little idea on how to run a kingdom. Tywin was probably the best leader though.

        Quote  Reply

    40. Icewalker,

      I went into more detail in the post above yours, but as well, what are Renly’s accomplishments? He has no military success (and, as I laid out, is a bad general), he’s had a cabinet portfolio for years but no record to speak of (not even he claims otherwise). He’s adept at using feudal pageantry, which is certainly useful (as we see in other characters’ storylines, such as Sansa and the Tyrells), but there’s nothing beneath that. He embodies many of the worst aspects of feudalism and the selfishness that drives the War of Five Kings.

        Quote  Reply

    41. Sean C.: Ned was at that point very experienced, and besides which, a great lord who has to lead his men.That is very different from Loras, who has no experience and no equivalent position.

      No, I’m not (Noye’s assessments are dubious in other matters; Robert wasn’t particularly “true steel”, and Stannis shows greater adaptability than Noye attributes to him).I’m basing it on the totality of his actions.

      Renly has some obvious skill as a politician.But being a good politician doesn’t make you a good king.It’s one of the tools necessary (one that, for instance, Stannis doesn’t have), but not sufficient of itself.The terrible nature of Westerosi feudal politics is one of GRRM’s regular themes, and how lords squander lives in pursuit of selfish ambitions; Renly typefies that — in some ways, uniquely among the initial five kings.

      Ned wasn’t leading his Northern troops. He was leading the entire rebel army when there were far more experienced leaders. Garlan Tyrell who has had no battle experience led the Tyrell-Lannister vanguard at the Battle of Blackwater. By your logic, Tywin Lannister was a poor battle commander.

      If there had been a great council to choose a King(as Cat suggested), most of the lords would have chosen Renly over Stannis. The feudal system would have continued like it always had in Westeros.

      Again, please tell me in what fronts did Renly was bad at being a King. Other than finding it hard to impregnate Margaery.

        Quote  Reply

    42. Icewalker:
      Ned wasn’t leading his Northern troops. He was leading the entire rebel army when there were far more experienced leaders. Garlan Tyrell who has had no battle experience led the Tyrell-Lannister vanguard at the Battle of Blackwater. By your logic, Tywin Lannister was a poor battle commander.

      I didn’t say Ned was only leading his own men; but by the nature of his position, he kind of has to take a leadership role of some sort. And, as I said, there is a difference between “not the most experienced” and “no experience”. Also, Tywin was commanding his own army on the north bank of the river; the Tyrells were in charge of their own dispositions.

      If there had been a great council to choose a King(as Cat suggested), most of the lords would have chosen Renly over Stannis.

      Indeed, that’s a reasonable bet. So why does GRRM have Catelyn propose it and then Renly turn it down? It’s all part of deconstructing the image Renly presents, a rather significant theme in Catelyn’s time at his camp. Much like how the last military decision Renly is shown making is to ignore his most experienced commanders and order his men to charge into the blinding sun. Renly is irresponsible; that pervades the whole enterprise.

        Quote  Reply

    43. Sean C.:
      Icewalker,

      I went into more detail in the post above yours, but as well, what are Renly’s accomplishments?He has no military success (and, as I laid out, is a bad general), he’s had a cabinet portfolio for years but no record to speak of (not even he claims otherwise).

      Talking about Renly’s accomplishments is like talking about Robert’s/Stannis’ accomplishments before the rebellion. Renly was well on his way to decimate one of the seasoned battle commanders in Westeros and “possibly” the greatest one(Tywin) as well.

        Quote  Reply

    44. Sean C.: Indeed, that’s a reasonable bet.So why does GRRM have Catelyn propose it and then Renly turn it down?

      1. Stannis will never accept to the council or its result
      2. Renly’s victory was already guaranteed

        Quote  Reply

    45. Icewalker,

      Renly declines it even in respect of Robb. And regardless, he could have made the proposal, if he wanted to avoid bloodshed. But that goes to my point, I was speaking to the question of why the author put it there. GRRM is writing a story that asks, among other things, what makes a good king, often by showing bad ones. The War of Five Kings is an atrocity on the continent brought on by schemes and ambitions, horrible for the smallfolk even if it wasn’t wreaking havoc on the continent when they were unknowingly on the verge of invasion by ice zombies. Renly’s selfish ambition, upsetting the feudal system purely because he wants to be king, the repeated signs of his poor generalship, declining the council, all of these are things the author is putting in there because they tell us what kind of man Renly is, and what kind of king he’d be.

      Also, Tywin is never shown to be anything more than an average general, for the record. He’s certainly not in the class of Tarly or Robb Stark.

        Quote  Reply

    46. Ah, “Baelor”. It’s the episode that launched Game of Thrones into the cultural stratosphere, and it’s worthy of every bit of that acclaim. To this day, it remains one of the very best hours that the show has ever done.

      This episode is most notable for what happens to Ned Stark, but for the majority of the runtime, it’s Tyrion who dominates the proceedings. This is the episode that won Peter Dinklage his first Emmy, and it’s easy to see why. He gets to be funny, vulnerable, and heroic. His monologue about Tyrion’s first wife and the brutal lesson that Tywin taught him is just spellbinding.

      Speaking of great monologues, Aemon revealing himself as a Targaryen and speaking to Jon about the perils of love and duty is just wonderful. Peter Vaughn is truly one of the most underappreciated gems that Game of Thrones has to offer. I feel like the diehard fans all adore him, but for the larger audience, he gets somewhat lost in the shuffle. That’s understandable – it’s a huge cast, after all, and Aemon is by nature a very quiet, understated presence. But he’s such a great character, and I couldn’t imagine any actor doing a better job with the role than Vaughn did.

      I’m splitting this up, because I can already tell I’m going to go long (surprise, surprise). But hey, if any episode warrants it, this one does.

        Quote  Reply

    47. Jared,

      I second the praise of Vaughan. He was great in every scene he appeared in, and it was sad to see him go in Season 5 (though I also always had the macabre worry that he would pass away before they could finish Aemon’s story, given that Vaughn was 91 by the time he wrapped up his role; I couldn’t imagine recasting that part).

        Quote  Reply

    48. As much as I love Season 1, I will admit that there are times when my awareness of its (relatively) limited budget pulls me out of the scene a bit. That’s not meant to be a criticism of the way things were handled at the time – merely recognition of how lavish and amazing the show’s production values have become since (In other words, I’ve been spoiled). Storywise, the most obvious casualty of that financial shortfall is the Battle of the Green Fork, but I actually think that the show handles that situation rather deftly. Tyrion being knocked out immediately and then waking up at the end to discover he’s alive is very funny … and helps keep the character’s awesomeness somewhat in check.

      On a similar note, I love the way that the show shoots Robb’s victory in the Whispering Wood (though that battle happens off-screen in the book as well). Cutting from the Lannisters’ hollow victory at the Green Fork to Catelyn waiting with Rodrick on the ridge for any sign of her son. Waiting. Waiting. Then the epic music swells, and we see Robb riding out of the woods and up the hill towards her, smiling and flushed with victory. The way Cat’s stoicism breaks and a tearful look of relief washes over her face … it gets me Every. Single. Damn. Time. Michelle Fairley is so, so good.

      In a perfect world, it would have been great to see the battle so that we could see Robb’s military genius in action. But everything about that entire sequence – the way that it’s structured, shot, and edited, culminating with a defeated Jaime being thrown down at Robb and Catelyn’s feet – is perfect. Sometimes, having a relatively limited budget can be a blessing.

        Quote  Reply

    49. Sean C.,

      Yeah, I’m extremely glad that Vaughn was able to see Aemon through to the character’s natural end. I hate dwelling on the prospective fitness of older actors for all the reasons that you would expect (Vaughn seems to be in relatively good health, thankfully). Had Vaughn been forced to drop out of Game of Thrones for any reason, however, I think that I would have preferred that the show took the option they did with Old Nan when Margaret John passed away and had Aemon pass away off-screen – even if it meant that we lost the many wonderful scenes that the character gave us in his later seasons. Like you, I’m not sure I how I’d have felt about another actor taking the role.

      Thankfully, it will never come to that! 🙂 Here’s to many more years of happiness and health for Peter Vaughn! He deserves it!

        Quote  Reply

    50. Finally … Ned’s execution.

      Everyone knows about the big-picture significance that this death holds for the rest of the series, so I won’t talk about that. But it’s the little moments that help make the scene such a resounding success. For some reason, I’ve always liked that very brief shot that we get of Petyr Baelish as the bells toll and Ned is brought on to the dais. He played a major role in facilitating Ned’s downfall, but if he’s feeling in anyway triumphant, he doesn’t really show it. Usually, he has that perpetual smirk on his face, but we’ve seldom seen him look more inscrutable than he does here. I’d love to know what he’s thinking in that moment. Is he enjoying his rival’s disgrace, or is he just coldly satisfied that this particular move was successful, and his long game continues to move forward?

      All of the performances are note-perfect here. Sansa’s small, encouraging smile as her father meets her gaze, and how quickly it’s washed away by horror. Joffrey’s gleeful reveling in the crowd’s bloodlust and his newfound power (It’s worth noting that the way that Joffrey theatrically plays off the crowd is actually one of the few times that we see the character exhibit competence in his public role. Of course, he employs that nascent skill in service of a short-sighted and horribly destructive end). Cersei’s panic as she realizes that the situation is about to spiral out of control. The way Maisie Williams plays Arya’s increasing fear and ultimate surrender to Yoren’s protective embrace. The way the ambient sound drops out and all we’re left with is Ned’s labored breathing and heartbeat as the crowd silently jeers. That long, lingering shot on the back of Ned’s head and neck – how helpless and defeated he looks. The way the sword sings as it slices through the air and the dull, wet sound it makes when it meets Ned’s neck. And the birds. The birds.

      It’s a spectacularly well-directed sequence. I sincerely hope that Alan Taylor will return to helm at least one more episode before the series ends.

        Quote  Reply

    51. Jared,

      He said during the publicity for the much-maligned Terminator: Genisys that he wanted to return for Season 6, but it couldn’t be scheduled, so take heart — particularly since, after Genisys, one imagines he’s not especially high on studio lists for new franchise pictures.

        Quote  Reply

    52. Wimsey-

      “So, Ned Not Speaking is Ned Not Holding To His Values and Ned Speaking is Ned Not Holding To His Values.” OR

      Ned Not Speaking is Ned Holding to His Values and Ned Speaking is Ned Holding to His Values.

      Poor Ned

        Quote  Reply

    53. fan “fact”: I have never seen that pop up anywhere, apart from myself posting it years ago when the episode aired, so maybe I’m just crazy (hey, I wear monday morning war paint and shit, who knows, right?!), but I’m pretty sure you can make out Neds last words right before he gets “Iced” if you turn the volume level to 11, and they’re

      “I promise.”

        Quote  Reply

    54. Deesensfan,

      Upon re-watch i realized that Robb had a bit of an attitude, especially to Theon when he was only trying to be helpful. I was rooting for him of course, but I cant say he was a favorite character.

        Quote  Reply

    55. Sean C.,

      Yeah, I do believe that Taylor will return, especially if we’re getting two more seasons. After his tremendous work on the first two seasons of Game of Thrones, I’m glad that he got a chance to direct major features, and I genuinely hoped that he would be successful enough that he could stay there if he wanted (I always root for GOT stars and alums to do well in their off-season/post-show projects).

      Alas, Thor: The Dark World was merely OK (Taylor’s direction isn’t the problem, but it’s in the lower tier of Marvel films). Terminator: Genisys was … less than that, although I do think Emilia Clarke acquitted herself reasonably well as Sarah Connor (the less said about Jai Courtney as Kyle Reese, the better). At this point, returning for an episode or two GOT could be a smart sabbatical for Taylor, as well as a treat for us as fans of the show.

      Hopefully, Clarke at least will get another chance to make her mark on the big screen. Me Before You isn’t a film that I would ordinarily go out of my way to see, but I’ll see it for her.

      Abyss,

      I’ll have to go and look for that! That would be amazing if it’s the case. 🙂

        Quote  Reply

    56. Seeing ottaku assemble reaction made me remind that there was a time actually i liked that guy ..

      and then season 4 happened ..anyone who watched his reviews and small council meetings will know what i speak of.

        Quote  Reply

    57. Can anyone read the lips of Ned right before he’s beheaded? I think in the Spanish translation he said “Protege a mi familia” (Protect my family)

        Quote  Reply

    58. My main impressions during this season were ‘aaah, fast forward, fast forward, please, I want to see what happens after the last book’, because, even though I have come to the fandom with the show, I already suspected there would be no more books forthcoming.

      Welp. Here we are.

      I’m looking forward to the examination of Stannis’ arc starting from Season 2.

        Quote  Reply

    59. Abyss,

      Can you actually hear him say that? I re-watched that scene with the volume turned to maximum, I could not make out anything. Nor could I lip-read what he said. But he seems to have said more words than

      I Promise

      . It would be cool if he did though.

        Quote  Reply

    60. Jaemi:
      Yep he’s the Archduke Franz Ferdinand of the story, to kick the wars off

      Well, in a way, Tyrion is more that character!

      What Ned really represents is the first casualty of the story: he gets trapped between three conflicting moral absolutes and because of his lack of flexibility (i.e., being unable to endanger children and being unable to get over primogeniture), he dies.

      Cat winds up being very much the second: her inability to put find a way out of her “daughters or sons” dilemma without hurting one of them winds up costing her son and her own life. (Yes, officially it was because of Robb stiffing the Freys: but had she not cost them the Karstarks, this would have been less of an issue.)

        Quote  Reply

    61. Yaga: I’m looking forward to the examination of Stannis’ arc starting from Season 2.

      I don’t think that Stannis really has an arc himself, at least until Season 5. Instead, he’s a major part of Davos’ arc. Stannis himself is simply too inflexible a character to have an arc: character arcs always involve exploring shades of gray in some way, and someone for whom everything is black or white just does not provide a good tool for doing that.

      (That written, they did punch it up a bit for Stannis last year, giving him a figurative and literal “kill the Child, let the man be born” moment: but it culminates in a stillbirth as Stannis had even less of a soul afterwards than before.)

        Quote  Reply

    62. Abyss,

      I hear nothing 🙂 . If there really is something in this, somebody might clarify it in the next season after the reveal.

        Quote  Reply

    63. I knew this was going to happen (I first watched the show right after season 3 so there was no way this wasn’t getting spoiled) but I still cried like a little baby when it happened. I just rewatched it for the fourth time today and I cried just as much. Arya and Sansa’s reactions always get to me.

        Quote  Reply

    Jump to the Top

    Leave a Reply

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