Game of Thrones Memory Lane 103: Lord Snow

Ned Cat Lord Snow

A couple years ago, when I ranked the episodes of each Game of Thrones season for my own amusement (yes, I know I need a life), “Lord Snow” fell at the bottom of my season one list. And what’s strange about this is that the episode contains some of my favorite moments of the season and a thrilling array of character introductions. There are so many great scenes in “Lord Snow,” the third episode of the series, it seems absurd that it’s at the bottom of any list. But the first season was just that amazing.

Syrio Arya Lord SnowAfter establishing a host of characters in the premiere of Game of Thrones and then scattering them to new locations, it took another a couple episodes for the show and its players to re-establish itself. “Lord Snow” is part of this, with an episode packed full of character-developing moments. It’s a less cohesive presentation than the premiere or later episodes in the first season, but the value in “Lord Snow” is in the personal developments and the smaller plot building blocks that help lay the foundation in intriguing ways for the entire season. Catelyn’s childhood friend Petyr “Littlefinger” Baelish, using his now-familiar maneuvers, points the finger for the assassination attempt on Bran at Tyrion Lannister. The tension between the Lannisters and Starks will explode soon, as a result.

The episode is a new beginning for Ned Stark, who is quickly in over his head in the big city, surrounded by a sea of crafty manipulators who all have their own agendas and alliances. Starting over at the Wall, Jon is struggling to fit in, realizing that despite his tough times growing up, he had quite a few privileges compared to his common-folk crow brothers.

David Benioff and Dan Weiss on “Inside the Episode” for “Lord Snow” discuss Jon’s realization among his peers. They also cover Daenerys’s dawning feelings about slavery (feelings that will define her trajectory the rest of the series), and Ned’s choice to allow Arya to follow her own path and have a different sort of dancing master.

The introductions to characters we love from the novels are irresistible. Ned’s arrival in King’s Landing brings us a new batch of players: the Master of Whisperers Lord Varys, Grand Maester Pycelle, the king’s little brother Renly, and a sneaky bastard we’ll come to love/loathe called Littlefinger. With characters so well-known from the novels, of course there was a huge amount of debate after the episode aired. For some, Littlefinger was too obvious, or Renly not butch enough. We wouldn’t be the ASOIAF and Game of Thrones fandom if we didn’t argue over these things for years.

The danger in the far North is hinted at again, with Lord Commander Mormont troubled and asking for Tyrion’s help in getting more recruits sent to the Wall. The Night’s Watch is desperately lacking in men; this problem will almost cost them everything in season 4’s, “The Watchers on the Wall.”

Other juicy scenes from “Lord Snow” include Old Nan scaring the bejesus out of a child with her creepy Northern bedtime stories about White Walkers, and my personal favorite, Arya’s joyful first waterdancing lesson with her swordmaster teacher, Syrio Forel. Syrio is her first fighting mentor, but not the last in Arya’s long journey.

And as excited as Arya is, as Ned looks on the lessons, he hears the ominous ring of steel swords in his mind, and knows that real war is coming.

This is also the episode where we say goodbye to Benjen Stark, played by Joseph Mawle. Ned’s brother goes ranging beyond the Wall and is never seen again. His disappearance set off years of speculation, eventually leading to some quality crackpot theories about the missing Stark. IGN’s video nicely sums them up- book spoilers within.

The Benjen Naharis theory doesn’t hold a lot of water but it is fun. Fun for someone, anyway.

Benjen Naharis

Introductions: An overwhelming amount of new characters debuted in this episode, including: The Small Council members Petyr Baelish, Lord Varys, Grand Maester Pycelle, and Renly Baratheon; a murder of crows at the Wall: Lord Commander Jeor Mormont, ancient Maester Aemon, harsh trainer Ser Alliser Thorne, the affable recruiter Yoren, Jon’s fellow recruits Grenn and Pyp; Old Nan made her first appearance at Winterfell; we first meet the bloodrider Rakharo; Lancel Lannister and Ser Barristan Selmy help fill out King’s Landing; Syrio Forel, former First Sword of Braavos makes his debut.

Deaths: none but Margaret John (Old Nan) who died two months before the premiere of season 1.

Shockers: The knife that almost killed Bran apparently belonged to Tyrion Lannister. Bran is awake…but doesn’t remember anything he saw just before he fell, and he’s paralyzed now from the waist down. Tyrion wasn’t kidding about wanting to piss off the edge of the world.


Creative Fandom:

Littlefinger, Varys, and Grand Maester Pycelle of the Small Council, as depicted by coupleofkooks:

small Council

Syrio and Arya by NewMilky

syrio_and_arya_by_newmilky-d7mwc2x

Benjen by Tamiart on Deviantart

benjen_by_tamiart-d5etoam

From Seanzoz’s parody series:

 

Yesterday: Game of Thrones Memory Lane 102: The Kingsroad

Tomorrow: “Cripples, Bastards, and Broken Things:” Jon gets a new BFF, the Tourney of the Hand begins, and Bryan Cogman makes his GoT writing debut.

Sue the Fury
Susan Miller, Editor in Chief of WatchersOnTheWall.com

49 Comments

  1. When I first watched 103 I felt the show was sagging after an explosive start, but of course as you say it is necessary exposition, character introduction and set up, and there are some nice scenes, particularly Syrio / Arya and the lovely conversation between Robert, Barristan and Jaime about first kills / battles of the past. I still feel that the Wall content is a bit too ‘obvious’ for want of a better word and it’s not the most exciting hour in the show’s history, but if it came on TV right now I’d happily watch it.

  2. And as excited as Arya is, as Ned looks on the lessons, he hears the ominous ring of steel swords in his mind, and knows that real war is coming.

    Looking back, that sort of audio effect is quite a common stylistic approach in media, but it’s something the show has pretty much never done subsequently.

  3. Man, that ending scene with Ned observing Arya and Syrio is beyond perfect. I miss the time when episode endings were this subtle and simple, now it’s just OH MY GOD A CHARACTER DIED OH MY GOD HE HAS GREYSCALE OH MY GOD A BIG FIGHT OH NO OH MY GOD RAPE OH MY GOD HOW SHOCKING OH GOD

  4. I love this episode sfm, precisely because of the character development and the Jon/Tyrion relationship. It makes you hope they’ll meet again (especially with how the characters have developed throughout the season). The dynamics would be fascinating. I’d watch a whole season with just the politics at the Wall and Jon’s journey tbh.

    Loved the introduction to Syrio and ugh Littlefinger is so smarmy. They really picked the perfect actors for this show. I can’t imagine anyone else in the roles.

  5. Very well-done table-setting episode and the ending is one of my absolute favorites (I would have to disagree that the subtle endings have entirely gone away, however).

  6. Dragonmcmx:
    Man, that ending scene with Ned observing Arya and Syrio is beyond perfect. I miss the time when episode endings were this subtle and simple, now it’s just OH MY GOD A CHARACTER DIED OH MY GOD HE HAS GREYSCALE OH MY GOD A BIG FIGHT OH NO OH MY GOD RAPE OH MY GOD HOW SHOCKING OH GOD

    I agree. I hope we return to something like this in season 6, but based on the actors’ interviews it seems like it will be one shocking moment after the other.

    Jack Bauer 24:
    Join the Hall of Faces!

    https://twitter.com/GameOfThrones/status/706936856957431811

    Give us the trailer, HBO!

  7. Jon Snow’s Curling Iron: I agree. I hope we return to something like this in season 6, but based on the actors’ interviews it seems like it will be one shocking moment after the other.

    There is still hope. The shocking moments don’t always have to be the ending of the episode. Season 3 episode 5 is a great example of this, starting off with Beric vs The Hound, Robb executing Lord Karstark halfway through, and the ending simpy being the revelation that Tyrion has to marry Sansa.

    Either way, more shocking moments this season will mean an improvement either way, because it means the big things are properly spread out over the season, rather than having 7 slow episodes and then all the big stuff crammed into the final 3 (as it was in Season 5).

  8. A solid if unremarkable hour of TV. Tied with 1×02 as the weakest Season 1 episode in my view. Not that it’s bad, far from it, but I feel it doesn’t live up to the pilot or the subsequent episodes. 1×04 is where Season 1 really gets going. That said, the closing scene with Arya and Syrio is brilliant.

  9. Josh L.,

    No one died. The one for ep 3 is kinda meh. You can go look at BeautifulDeath.com if you really want to see it, but I don’t feel obligated to include them all the time if I don’t want to.

    I also won’t be the person writing these up every day. So people’s tastes and styles will vary.

  10. Dragonmcmx: There is still hope. The shocking moments don’t always have to be the ending of the episode. Season 3 episode 5 is a great example of this, starting off with Beric vs The Hound, Robb executing Lord Karstark halfway through, and the ending simpy being the revelation that Tyrion has to marry Sansa.

    Either way, more shocking moments this season will mean an improvement either way, because it means the big things are properly spread out over the season, rather than having 7 slow episodes and then all the big stuff crammed into the final 3 (as it was in Season 5).

    Now that they have an extra season, I hope they take advantage of it 🙂

  11. This is an underrated episode, honestly. It is a lower-rated episode of the series because Season 1 really did produce one episode that tended to keep improving on the previous all the way through the finale (I’d argue Kingsroad is the weakest of the season as a result). But that reputation is a bit unfair.

    The introduction of Pycelle/Baelish/Varys all at once is a smart one, as it tells you that they occupy the same type of space in the world of Westeros, political players who are likely not charismatic enough (Varys, Baelish) or ambitious enough (Pycelle, Varys) to rule, but smart and cunning to be part of a faction that pulls the strings. And Ned’s wary first looks at all of them is telling, either by reputation (with Varys) or with history (Baelish).

    By contrast, he greets Renly warmly, and that gives you a sense of how that character will be handled in future episodes.

    Separately, I’m a big fan of when minor players on the show get their “one big moment” and nail it, as Margaret John does in her frightening-as-hell story to Bran about the white walkers. We don’t get much of a glimpse of the actual walkers in season 1 – just in the cold open, and not much more (and then even in Season 2, I believe they’re gone again until Valar Morghulis), and so her story is that much more important for the information it imparts.

    I agree – to an extent – with the close, a great moment of Ned hearing swords and screaming, reminding him of the past, as his look at Arya goes from one to pride at his daughter’s pluck to worry about a dark future for her. But several subsequent episodes have ended on smart, quiet-yet-dark moments:

    3/5 – Kissed by Fire – one of the all-time great ends, when Tywin puts his children under his thumb again, and we cut away from the camera backing away from the miserable-looking Tyrion and Cersei;

    4/6 – Laws of Gods and Men ends on Tywin/Tyrion staring each other down in dramatic fashion.

    4/9 – Watchers on the Wall is all action but it ends quietly, with Jon saying, “Yeah, it’s a bad plan. What’s your plan?” and disappearing into the snow. It’s nicely done.

    4/10 The Children also ends quietly, but somewhat stirringly, with Arya on a voyage to a new world. Almost hopeful!

    5/1 – Wars to Come also ends relatively quietly. Yes, it’s the tough death of Mance, but Jon’s mercy is an important character beat.

    5/7 – The Gift – also ends quietly. Tyrion Lannister walks out and introduces himself to Daenarys Stormborn. What a great moment that is.

  12. I loved Jamie’s conversation with Robert and Barristan. That moment when he talked about the Mad King! Only after watching Season 3 I finally realized what he was trying to say and ever since I have been questioning myself how could I be so blind and deaf?! Amazing scene! One of my beloved.

  13. Jack Bauer 24: It’ll be pretty funny if we barely see the HoF this season.

    I’m afraid that this means the full trailer, when it finally comes, will just be Hall of Faces, as well. Yeah, it was less than thrilling the first time we saw the teaser, given the late date. The more they do, the less impressive all of this not new footage or even dialogue seems.

  14. Like Lonely Cat did for the previous episode, I took notes on my favorite reactions to “Lord Snow”:

    1. Previously, the butcher’s boy got butchered. Arya became my favorite in this episode because her reaction to Micah’s death is the only one I can relate to. Her sister is petulantly distraught over being given an expensive doll (as if!), more bothered by the gift than she ever was about Micah. Septa Mordane expects Arya to act like a lady. Fuck your lady! And so begins the list.
    2. Three-eyed crow. Dunk & Egg. Winter, and White Walkers, and Pale Spiders – oh my! Did you hear your shout out, Ice Spider?
    3. Lord Snow is such a badass. Except for possibly the eyeliner mucking up the badassery. https://www.dropbox.com/s/zmje2ulkrowjigi/SnowsEyeliner.jpg?dl=0
    4. Halfman knows all about Grenn and Pyp before Lord Snow does.
    5. “[LF]’s like a little brother to me, Ned. He would never betray my trust.” Um, yep.
    6. The Wall’s elevator has a bell and everything. Fucking Four Seasons. But only winter.
    7. “You know, my brother once told me, that nothing that comes before the word ‘but’ really counts.” Too true, last words of Benjen. Too true.
    8. Jorah’s off to betray Khaleesi and the colt who never kicked.
    9. Peeing off the top of the woooooooorrrrrllld! And now it is time for me to shake your hand.
    10. Syrio! Now we will begin the dance. Just so.

  15. Wow. 47 days till season 6, and 47 more episodes. (I’m slow to catch on.) Are you actually going to do these 50 days in a row? That’s impressive.

  16. The guyliner in the first few episodes is honestly out of control. I noticed it in with Jaime as well.
    Boromir,

    Yep! All the way up to the premiere. It’s our version of a countdown.

  17. I’m going to be honest with you and i know you won’t like it,but looking back at some of the episodes in middle of season 1 compared to the later seasons,they look quite poor and i’m often found to skipping lots of parts from the episodes,you can definitely see the rise in quality over the seasons no matter what the book purists would like to make you think .

  18. Phil,

    Everyone knows that Howland Reed is Euron. I mean, red. *catapult*

    Seriously, Howland Reed is almost certainly in his swamplands. He is not some disguised person somewhere. Did Howland Reed come up in this episode? I do not remember that. I first remember him being mentioned when Meera & Jojen appears in Season 3.

  19. Sue the Fury:
    The guyliner in the first few episodes is honestly out of control. I noticed it in with Jaime as well.
    Boromir,

    Yep! All the way up to the premiere. It’s our version of a countdown.

    Just curious…we’re you guys planning on doing this regardless if HBO was?

  20. Dragonmcmx: There is still hope. The shocking moments don’t always have to be the ending of the episode. Season 3 episode 5 is a great example of this, starting off with Beric vs The Hound, Robb executing Lord Karstark halfway through, and the ending simpy being the revelation that Tyrion has to marry Sansa.

    Well, for me and many other people that was a very shocking moment.

  21. I’ll echo the thoughts of those voicing their love for the final scene of this episode. Syrio teaching Arya how to water dance is such a joyful, optimistic moment – one of the few times in the entire series when everyone is genuinely happy. Miltos Yerolemou was absolutely perfect casting as Syrio, so much so that he unequivocally supplanted whatever image I had of the character in my mind. I completely forgot that Syrio was bald in the novels until I re-read AGOT a few years later. (Honestly, I don’t give two shits that they didn’t make Miltos shave his head. The man has a glorious head of hair. Leave it alone.).

    On the other hand, we have Maisie Williams learning how to fight left-handed because Arya is left-handed in the novels, and she wanted to match her character. That’s one of those minor details that I wouldn’t have cared if the show changed, but the fact that she did it is amazing and I love it! I also love the way her face lights up as she starts to get comfortable and trade parries with Syrio – for perhaps the first time in her life, she’s in her element. Ned’s small smile when he sees his daughter so happy is wonderful as well.

    Of course, that sense of hope and pride is deliberately undercut by the sound of wooden swords giving way to the sound of steel and battle just before the credits close. I’ll be honest – the first time I watched the scene, I completely missed it because I was so caught up in the exhilaration of the moment. When I saw someone mention it in the comment section, I went back to watch the scene again and said “Whoa.” Now, I love it even more.

    I’ve rambled on enough, but I should also mention that I absolutely adore the music that accompanies the scene. “The Pointy End” is the track’s name. One of Ramin Djawadi’s most underrated compositions, in my opinion.

    I don’t have too many more memories about the first time I watched “Lord Snow”, other than being happy and impressed that this episode brought in so many new characters so successfully. I particularly love Barristan’s introduction – the scene in which he, Robert, and Jaime reminisce about their first kills is just stellar. Old Nan’s speech is fantastic as well (RIP, Margaret John). And of course, there’s Owen Teale as Alliser Thorne … but I’ll say more about him tomorrow if I get the chance.

  22. There were no “Sad but True” moments for me this episode. At this point, I was beginning to remember things!

    One thing that really stands out in this episode is that the parallelisms between Jon and Daeny are apparent for the first time. Jon is the spoiled prince relative to his compatriots, and he initially reacts with contempt and arrogance. However, we see him start to get off of his high horse and we begin go get an idea of how charismatic he can be. Daeny is the prissy princess relative to her compatriots. However ,we see her start to get off of her high horse and start to act like a Dothraki. In both cases, by “lowering” him/herself to their immediate peers, both characters elevate themselves substantially.

  23. ive always found its harder to get people who havent read the books interested in the show with the first few episodes … id say episode 6 is where season 1 really starts turning into the amazing show we have today … its build up till that point

  24. Ginevra:

    3.Lord Snow is such a badass.Except for possibly the eyeliner mucking up the badassery.https://www.dropbox.com/s/zmje2ulkrowjigi/SnowsEyeliner.jpg?dl=0

    9.Peeing off the top of the woooooooorrrrrllld!And now it is time for me to shake your hand.

    The eyeliner on Jon in this episode is so damn distracting. WTH were they thinking??

    As lovely as the scene atop of the Wall is, it is totally ruined for me when Tyrion doesn’t wipe his hand before shaking Jon’s hand.

  25. +1 to everyone who is saying this is their favorite, if not one of their favorite, episode endings.

    Did anyone notice how Arya excused The Hound from being at fault for the butcher boys death? I believe she said something like: “he was just following orders”. Was that in the book? It falls in line with my opinion that on the show that at the end of season 4

    when Arya leaves The Hound to die

    , that decision didn’t make sense to me. It seemed overly cruel of show Arya. I’ve heard in the book their relationship was different so it made more sense. On the show The Hound is a pretty sympathetic character and I believe there is some love between the two, that’s why I struggled with that a bit.

  26. Owen Teale’s delivery of Thorne’s speech to the boys really nailed Thorne’s bitterness and near insane jealousy of Jon’s ability to command respect among his peers so quickly. I think it was the longest chunk of dialog Thorne had, until his speech in Season 4, ep 9 where he kinda/sorta apologizes to Jon for not blocking the tunnel, as Jon had suggested. Teale’s spot-on portrayal of this jerk is yet another instance in this series of excellent casting.

    Every time I rewatch the series and see this episode with Arya, Syrio, and Ned looking on, I mutter at Ned “Getting Syrio to teach Arya was the best decision you made while you were there, dude. You saved the kid’s life.” I really believe that, too. If Arya hadn’t had the self-confidence and belief in survival that Syrio imparted to her with those few lessons, she would have been dead in the mud.

    Jared: Miltos Yerolemou was absolutely perfect casting as Syrio,

    You got that right. Amazing how Syrio was only in a couple of episodes, yet everyone remembers him and wants him to have survived somehow. I know I do.

  27. LatrineDiggerBrian:
    Did anyone notice how Arya excused The Hound from being at fault for the butcher boys death? I believe she said something like: “he was just following orders”. Was that in the book? It falls in line with my opinion that on the show that at the end of season 4.

    Even in the show, Arya isn’t excusing the Hound but simply focusing on the person who has earned the most blame in Micah’s death:

    Arya, doing her bladework: I’m practicing.
    Sansa: Practicing for what?
    Arya: The Prince.
    Septa Mordane: Arya, stop!
    Arya: He’s a liar and a coward and he killed my friend.
    Sansa: The Hound killed your friend.
    Arya: The Hound does whatever the Prince tells him to do.

    Eddard: No, sweet girl. You didn’t kill the butcher’s boy.
    Arya: I hate them! I hate all of them. The Hound, the Queen and the King and Joffrey and Sansa.

    The books don’t seem to have that first interaction – at least not where Arya goes off about getting the Prince in front of Sansa.

  28. Learnhowtocheckyourwork,

    Thanks for dropping by. Feel free to let the door hit you on your way out.

  29. Dragonmcmx,

    Utter nonsense. Only two episodes on Season 1 had quiet endings, all the others hace big shocking moments. Same as Season 3, 4 and 5. There is no trend.

  30. Learnhowtocheckyourwork:
    I swear WIC and WOTW have the same writers. EVERY article either has run on sentences os misspelled words. Spell check idiots. Perhaps you could double check once in a while. Forget what you thought. You will never move up from this. Do you not care what you post? Its just sad. Double check your work assholes. Measure twice. Cut once. Every person who puts “hodor” for the first post is stupid. I hate this site. Later.

    If you mean to call the writers “idiots” and “assholes,” then there should be a comma before each of these names. Otherwise, I love how you’ve specified that they are to check as their “work assholes” as opposed to their play assholes. I also love how you’ve given us plenty of examples of the writing you dislike, with your first sentence being run-on and the second containing a misspelled word.

  31. It’s amazing how many things were laid out early on season 1 that have now developed into big plot points.

  32. Episodes 1 through 3 were brilliant storytelling! Even being unsullied, I was able to tell from the very first opening shot, that: 1) this was a very high quality production, and 2) immense effort had gone into making sure that non-readers had visual cues, and dialog to guide them, but all done in a way that assumed intelligence and ability to observe. Re-watching deepened my appreciation for the skills of the cast and crew, and although there have been some disappointments since then *cough* Dorne *cough*, it’s still the only TV series that, overall, continues to exceed my expectations.

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