“The Wolf and the Lion” came as quite a surprise to me – it has the first major scene from characters that never had a point of view in the book (ironically, neither a Wolf nor a Lion). Note that I’m not saying this was a change from the book, but it is very nice of the series (which had the benefit of hindsight, plus communication from George R. R. Martin) to give us these tidbits of things that were left between the (considerably numerous) lines of the five books.
I suppose I had ought to confront the elephant in the room head-on, if I’m going to make such a claim. At first watching the episode, I was shocked that Littlefinger insinuated that Renly and Loras were gay. Not that I took it as particularly insulting, but I wouldn’t be shocked if a homosexual relationship were punishable by death in Westeros, and if so the claim would be particularly grievous. Imagine my surprise not long afterward when the episode cut to a scene in which the two exchanged pillow talk and culminated in Loras pleasuring Renly orally. While I had no clue of this character trait before watching the episode, afterward, it was all too clear.
A lot of things made sense after reading this. No character could understand why Renly would make a bid for the crown when his brother was next in line. This episode makes it abundantly clear; people will do strange things when their lover assures them that it is within their grasp. That makes two Baratheons going to war for the one they loved. This also makes it clear why Martin would have Renly use a flag that had so many connotations outside of the Song of Ice and Fire universe. Speaking of Renly, I do find it odd that as yet I haven’t seen a character that I can clearly identify as Stannis.
Loras also seemed to have less of an encounter with Sansa than I remembered, but I have a feeling that this may have been from the girl’s point of view and her mind may have embellished the scene. Loras also jousts against the Mountain, which is notable because while the Mountain doesn’t seem all that big when there is no one to compare him to, once he is off his horse and face to face with another knight it’s clear that he’s taller than the average. Whether he’s as tall as he is in the books is another question; that will probably require some particular camerawork, if the creators are so inclined to bother. The character is about a foot taller than any of his actors, which is certainly not insurmountable.
Meanwhile, Arya was off training, which leads to another bit that is much clearer with visuals than it was in the novels. Knowing more about the characters than I did on reading A Game of Thrones, I have no idea if there were enough cues to make them out in the novel (and for this series, I’m not inclined to go back and search for such things), but in this episode the conspiring pair that Arya overhears are very clearly Varys and Illyrio. It’s not until quite later that Varys’s sympathies are made transparent in the books, so this being clear so early came as a bit of a surprise.
Speaking of Varys, my favorite moment this episode came of the “duel” between him and Littlefinger. If it wasn’t clear before, it’s abundantly clear when these two have a moment alone that they are two sides of the same coin, both taunting the other with secrets they’ve discovered and what they can reveal about the other. It was actually this scene that prompted me to rewind and rewatch the scene that turned out to be Varys and Illyrio, looking closely for faces seen out of the shadow. I also find it interesting that this scene prominently displays the Iron Throne even though it has nothing to do with the discussion; clearly someone wants to make good on their investment, though whether it’s the marketing team or the budget team is another question.
A few remaining small notes about this episode. Ned Stark maintains his rage at “speaking of murdering a child” despite the change of the timeline. This may seem a small thing, but in Westeros the age of majority is 15, and in the television continuity, the war which claimed Dany’s parents happened 17 years ago, meaning that she is an adult however you look at it here. My final note is that I mentioned in the previous episode that Theon’s backstory was brought up. This episode is where he really gets some development, having an encounter with a prostitute in which they discuss the Greyjoy rebellion (which is mentioned at least two other times throughout the episode, in one scene with Theon and in another scene in which King Robert discusses the last time he fought) and she manages to strike a chord with Ned Stark’s ward.