“Baelor” contains a mix of some of the most important plot points of the series and some of the most mundane. Naturally, let’s start with the mundane ones.
Shae is proving to be quite interesting. She indicates that she is not low-born and indeed has none of the characteristics that Tyrion assumes, based on the fact that most whores have a common background, and actively becomes angry thinking about her past. She also has some familiarity with rape, enough to casually dispense “should have knowns” about it. I have to ask the question of who is she…or is she Tysha, whose story is also told in this episode?
Perhaps even less consequential, but still of note to me, is the introduction of Longclaw, formerly “The Old Bear” Mormont’s sword and now Jon Snow’s. Particularly of interest, after having drawn the parallel between the family names of the Old Bear and Ser Jorah, Daenerys’s staunchest supporter, is the line, “it was meant for my son Jorah”. Also, it almost slips the mind that this is the episode that features the revelation of who Maester Aemon was before he became a Maester. Again, this is irrelevant now, but will be quite significant later on.
Moving on to the seemingly insubstantial but considerably more than the above, is Walder Frey. Our first visual of him is David Bradley fondling his fifteen year-old wife. Quite possibly enough information to tell you what sort of character this is – the only “good guy” role I’ve seen David Bradley in was an angry old racist in a biopic. I was very curious how this scene was going to be carried out: in the novel, it was done offscreen. So, naturally I was entranced when here in Game of Thrones…it was done offscreen as well.
The important events in this episode, of course, are Ned Stark and Khal Drogo. There are a lot of parallels here. Both were already marked for death by the plot: Drogo was never going to be allowed to rape and pillage his way through Westeros, and Ned was never going to be allowed to return to Winterfell. Drogo has the more dynamic story, by luck of not being the main character here. Drogo does not need to speak a word while Dany fights for his life, which means this can happen during a march, in a tent, outside of the tent, during a ritual in which Jorah of all people carries her into, assuring the death of the infant he intends to save. Meanwhile, Ned continues his role of chatting with Varys a few times, and having nothing interesting happen around him.
The consequences of each death are rather different as well. The consequences of Ned’s death is that both the audience and the other characters get to see how unstable, chauvinistic, and bloodthirsty Joffrey is. The consequences of Drogo’s death is the complete dissolution of Dany’s entire support system, save only for her handmaidens and Jorah. Interestingly, she somehow still does not have a tan. I guess “Daenerys the Unburnt” has another meaning I never anticipated…