"Game of Thrones," Season 1, Episode 3

Season 1, Episode 3


  • Courtesy of HBO
  • IT'S 'HO, HA-HA, DODGE, TURN, PARRY, SPIN, THRUST.' Milos Yeromelou and Maisie Williams

You have to wonder if HBO planned for “Game of Thrones’” early episodes to coincide with England’s Royal Wedding. This week, after the world press swooned over William and Kate’s nuptials, the latest episode “Jon Snow” offered some behind-the-scenes glimpses of Westeros’ engagement-of-convenience between naïve Sansa and nasty Joffrey. While I doubt Queen Elizabeth engaged in much murderous skullduggery in arranging Prince William’s marriage, the royal weddings of a few centuries ago probably had more in common the ceremonial alliance of the Starks and the Lannisters.

Plus, right after the British citizenry complained to the press about bankrolling a kingly wedding at a time of government austerity, Ned discovers that the crown can’t afford King Robert’s festive plans. “You telling me the crown is three million in debt?” Ned asks. “I’m telling you the crown is six million in debt,” his advisers reply. Ned may live at a time of swords and messages delivered by birds, but as the newly Hand of the King, he’s in the same position of any official installed in a cash-strapped government. “What’s the line? The King shits and the Hand wipes?” Jamie asks.

Speaking of cash-poor governments, one of Ned’s advisers has a familiar face. Petyr “Littlefinger” Baelish, the Master of Coin, is played by Aidan Gillen, a.k.a. “The Wire’s” Tommy Carcetti, whose ambitions as mayor of Baltimore foundered against the city’s deficits. Like “The Wire,” “Game of Thrones” pits powerful institutions at odds, but while “The Wire” concerned city organizations (police, elected officials, unions, drug gangs), “Game of Thrones” concerns feudal houses, kingdoms and supposedly nonpartisan groups like the Night’s Watch. And in “Jon Snow,” the rival players characteristics and conflicts feel like they’ve snapped into focus. The game's afoot.