|Game of Thrones|
|Original air date||June 12, 2011|
|Directed by||Alan Taylor|
|List of episodes|
"Baelor" is the ninth episode of the first season of the HBO medieval fantasy television series Game of Thrones, first aired on June 12, 2011. It was written by the show creators and executive producers David Benioff and D. B. Weiss, and directed by Alan Taylor.
The plot of the episode depicts how Eddard Stark, imprisoned and accused of high treason, takes a fateful decision. His wife Catelyn negotiates with slippery Lord Walder Frey, and his son Robb fights his first battle in the war against the Lannisters. Meanwhile, Jon Snow discovers a secret about Maester Aemon, and Daenerys Targaryen stands up against Qotho. The title of the episode refers to the Great Sept of Baelor, the main religious building in King's Landing where the episode's pivotal scene takes place. In the world created by George R. R. Martin, Baelor was a Targaryen king of old that is revered as a patron and supporter of the Faith of the Seven. See Also List of Game of Thrones episodes.
At the Lannister Camp
Lord Tywin Lannister (Charles Dance) tells Tyrion (Peter Dinklage) at dinner that he and his barbarian allies will fight in the vanguard of the army. Tyrion is less than pleased and leaves the table. He returns to his camp and finds the prostitute Shae (Sibel Kekilli) whom Bronn (Jerome Flynn) found for him at his request. As the three of them swap stories, Tyrion reveals that when he was sixteen, he had married a woman named Tysha that Jaime and he had rescued. When his father Tywin had discovered it, he had made Jaime confess that she was actually a hired prostitute and Tywin then made Tyrion watch as he gave her to his guards, paying her one silver for each man. Later, Tyrion is awakened by Bronn as a Stark force approaches. He leaves his tent dressed in armor and orders the hill tribes to combat, but is trampled by them as they rush to war. By the time he regains consciousness, the entire battle has been played out, and Lord Tywin reveals that the Stark host was only 2,000 men, leaving them to wonder where the other 18,000 went.
At the Twins
The Stark army arrives at The Twins, a fortified bridge controlled by the cranky Lord Walder Frey (David Bradley), a bannerman of Catelyn's (Michelle Fairley) father. However, Walder has sealed off the bridge and refuses to let the army cross, so Catelyn leaves to negotiate with Lord Walder personally. After some hard bargaining, Walder agrees to allow the Starks to enter The Twins and join them against the Lannisters, but in return he wants Robb (Richard Madden) and Arya Stark (Maisie Williams) to marry two of his children, to which Robb reluctantly agrees. After crossing the river, Robb divides his forces, sending the aforementioned 2,000 men to distract Lord Tywin's army while the remainder sneaks up on Jaime Lannister's (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau) army, defeating them and capturing Jaime himself.
At the Wall
Lord Commander Mormont (James Cosmo) gives Jon Snow(w:Kit Harington:Kit Harington) a sword of Valyrian steel named Longclaw, a sword originally meant for his son Ser Jorah Mormont (Iain Glen) before his exile, as a reward from saving his life from the dead ranger. However, Jon is upset when Sam (John Bradley) tells him about Robb's war against the Lannisters, feeling that he should be there to help Robb. Maester Aemon summons Jon and explains to him that the reason why members of the Night's Watch do not marry as it will only cause a rift which forces them to choose their loyalties between their duty or their loved ones. Aemon knows this very well as he is actually Aemon Targaryen, King Aerys II Targaryen's uncle and Daenerys Targaryen's (Emilia Clarke) granduncle, and dutifully and reluctantly stayed at the Wall while his family members were killed or exiled during Robert Baratheon's Rebellion. Aemon advises Jon that he must choose either his duty to the Night's Watch or his family.
Across the Narrow Sea
Khal Drogo (Jason Momoa), delirious from an infection caused by a wound on his chest, falls from his saddle. Daenerys takes Drogo into her tent and sends for Mirri Maz Duur (Mia Soteriou). When Daenerys pleads with her to do something, Drogo's bloodriders will not hear of it, and want the healer killed. Mirri tells Daenerys that there is a blood magic spell she knows, but insists that "death is cleaner". Daenerys orders her use the spell, and even when Mirri warns her that only death can pay for life, Daenerys is oblivious and commands Mirri to heal Drogo. They lead in the Khal's … horse and slit its throat, and then Mirri bids them all to leave the tent and not enter. Outside, Drogo's bloodriders come to put an end to Mirri's spell, and Ser Jorah Mormont fights and kills the rebellious bloodrider Qotho (Dar Salim), who earlier shoved Danaerys to the ground, bringing on premature labour. As the fight ends, Jorah carries Daenerys into Drogo's tent to seek Mirri's help as a midwife.
Jaime is captured by Robb's army.
At King's Landing
Varys (Conleth Hill) visits Eddard (Sean Bean) in the dungeons and tells him to make a false confession and swear loyalty to King Joffrey Baratheon (Jack Gleeson), Queen Cersei Lannister (Lena Headey) will spare him and let him serve the Night's Watch as his exile. Ned refuses but finally relents after Varys tells him that his daughter, Sansa Stark's (Sophie Turner) life is also at stake. Arya Stark, who has been living as a beggar in the streets of King's Landing since her escape from the Lannisters, learns a crowd is gathering at the Great Sept of Baelor, where her father will be judged before the gods. With Sansa, Cersei, Joffrey and the Small Council looking over him, Ned confesses to treason and swears fealty to Joffrey in front of the crowd. Satisfied, Sansa and Cersei ask Joffrey to spare Ned as promised, but Joffrey breaks his promise and orders Ned beheaded. As Sansa watches in grief, and Arya tries to rescue Ned only to be stopped by Yoren (Francis Magee) to prevent her from seeing her father's execution, Ned accepts his death peacefully.
The episode was written by the showrunners David Benioff and D. B. Weiss, based on the original book by George R. R. Martin. "Baelor" includes the content of the book's chapters Eddard XV, Catelyn IX, Jon VIII, Tyrion VIII, Catelyn X, Daenerys VIII and Arya V (58 to 60 and 62 to 65). The scene with the drinking game between Tyrion Lannister, Bronn and Shae was added to the plot, although the story of Tyrion's ill-fated marriage with Tysha was taken from a previous chapter of the books. Also, Shae's background was changed from Westerosi to foreign to accommodate Kekilli's accent. Other notable divergence from the books include the modification of the whole strategy of Robb Stark when dividing his forces, and a change to the Targaryen genealogy as explained by Maester Aemon: in the TV adaptation the Mad King is described as the son, rather than the grandson, of Aegon V Targaryen (thus eliminating Jaehaerys II Targaryen from the succession of kings).
"Baelor" marks the first appearance of the German actress Sibel Kekilli, in the role of the prostitute Shae. Executive producer George R. R. Martin commented that she was extraordinary in her audition, in which she read a scene included in this episode with Shae meeting Tyrion in a tent the night before the battle of the Green Fork. According to Martin, "a lot of beautiful young women read for Shae. [...] But there's another dimension to Shae as well. She's not as practiced and hardened at this as a more seasoned pro. There's still a girl next door quality to her, a sense of vulnerability, playfulness, and, yes, innocence.[...] All of our Shaes were hot as hell. But only a handful of them captured that other quality, maybe three out of twenty, and Sibel was the standout. [...] Watching those auditions, any red-blooded male would want to take every one of our Shae candidates to bed. But Sibel made you fall in love with her as well." Also introduced in this episode was the English actor David Bradley, playing the role of the Lord of the Crossing "Late" Walder Frey, a character twenty years his senior.
- Conleth Hill as Lord Varys
- Jerome Flynn as Bronn
- James Cosmo as Jeor Mormont
- Ron Donachie as Ser Rodrik Cassel
- Charles Dance as Tywin Lannister
- Francis Magee as Yoren
- John Bradley as Samwell Tarly
- Julian Glover as Grand Maester Pycelle
- Peter Vaughan as Maester Aemon
- Sibel Kekilli as Shae
- David Bradley as Walder Frey
- Clive Mantle as Jon "Greatjon" Umber
- Wilko Johnson as Ilyn Payne
- Mark Stanley as Grenn
- Josef Altin as Pyp
- Luke McEwan as Rast
- Mark Lewis Jones as Shagga
- Mia Soteriou as Mirri Maz Duur
- Amrita Acharia as Irri
- Roxanne McKee as Doreah
- Elyes Gabel as Rakharo
- Dar Salim as Qotho
- Ian Gelder as Kevan Lannister
- Edward Mercieca as Baker
- Marcus Lamb as Night Watchman
- Colin Carnegie
- Bryan McCaugherty
- Stephen Grech as Boy in King's Landing
The interiors of the episode were filmed at the Paint Hall studios, close to Belfast. The area of the Castle Ward estate, also in Northern Ireland, was used to film on location the Stark and Lannister camps, and the battlefields of the Green Fork and the Whispering Woods.
"Baelor" gathered 2.7 million viewers in its premiere telecast, keeping with the season's high reached with last week's episode. The total for the night, including the repeat, was slightly lower, with 3.4 million viewers.
The episode received great acclaim among the critics. Elio Garcia, writing for Suvudu, said Baelor had been "without a doubt, my favorite episode of the season so far. Everything came together in a glorious hour of television: great writing, exceptional acting, a score that suddenly came alive in a way it hadn't before, the consummate direction of one of television's best directors." From the reviewers of the A.V. Club, where it was rated with an A, Todd VanDerWerff called it "unquestionably the finest episode of Game Of Thrones yet", and David Sims found it "terrific" and with a conclusion "sure to blow the minds (and break the hearts)" of the watchers.
"...how masterfully directed—by Alan Taylor—that last scene was. The slow dolly in on Arya's face when Ned spots her. The careful establishment of the geography of the area. The way he lays out just who's where, so when shit hits the fan, you know what to expect. It's the biggest setpiece of book one, and he nails it, taking a scene that felt slightly distant and clinical on the page and making it visceral and real." —Todd VanDerWerff, The A.V. Club
The focus of most reviews was in the climactic final scene, whose directing and acting is universally acclaimed by critics. Writing for Cultural Learnings Myles McNutt from stated: "the final shot, with Arya looking to the sky as everything goes to silence and all she sees is the birds flying was just wonderfully haunting. Alan Taylor's direction sold both the chaos and the resignation of that moment". HitFix's Alan Sepinwall felt that "That final scene was so gorgeously shot, and the weariness of Bean's performance and the horror of Maisie Williams' so perfectly conveyed the emotions of it, even as things seemed so chaotic." The emotional charge of the scene hit home many reviewers: The Atlantic's Scott Meslow called it "an absolutely nightmarish scene" and labelled Eddard's death "horrific in its indignity". Both Jace Lacob from Televisionary and Maureen Ryan from AOL TV admitted having shed tears at the episode's dramatic conclusion. The latter found the scene "masterful" and felt that the visual medium and Alan Taylor's excellent work had made it more powerful than the book's original version. Besides the final scene, other aspects were discussed: Garcia noted the acting of Richard Madden and how the Freys had been introduced. Mo Ryan praised the wide range of emotions used by Emilia Clarke while playing Daenerys, and how Peter Dinklage played Tyrion's frustration and confusion during the episode Both she and McNutt were glad that the Imp's exposition scene in the tent with Bronn and Shae did not use sex to keep viewers as many past episodes have tried to do. There was a debate on the producer's decision to avoid depicting the two battles between Starks and Lannisters. Ryan criticized it and confessed being "a little disappointed that many of the major characters are caught up in a war and we're not seeing it." Sims regretted not seeing the fight, and although he claimed to understand the budget constrictions, he felt that "all this off-screen fighting is just getting my blood rushing for some on-screen fighting". Sepinwall concludes: "Ideally, we'd get a few epic, "Braveheart"-level battle scenes at some point, but I also respect the demands of time and budget here. Those kinds of sequences cost a fortune, and they eat up a lot of screen time, and I think ultimately I'd have rather had the time, say, that we spent in Tyrion's tent the night before the battle, with the mortifying story of his ex-wife, and then whatever it cost to make the execution sequence look as good as it did, than for the episode to have given us one or two long fight scenes."
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- Garcia, Elio. "Discussing Game of Thrones: Baelor". Suvudu. http://sf-fantasy.suvudu.com/2011/06/discussing-game-of-thrones-baelor.html. Retrieved June 13, 2011.
- VanDerWerff, Todd. ""Baelor" (for experts)". The A.V. Club. http://www.avclub.com/articles/baelor-for-experts,57424/. Retrieved June 13, 2011.
- Sims, David. ""Baelor" (for newbies)". The A.V. Club. http://www.avclub.com/articles/baelor-for-newbies,57425/. Retrieved June 13, 2011.
- McNutt, Myles. "Game of Thrones – "Baelor"". Cultural Learnings. http://cultural-learnings.com/2011/06/12/game-of-thrones-baelor/#more-7168. Retrieved June 13, 2011.
- Sepinwall, Alan. "Review: 'Game of Thrones' - 'Baelor': Get your head in the game". HitFix. http://www.hitfix.com/blogs/whats-alan-watching/posts/game-of-thrones-baelor-get-your-head-in-the-game. Retrieved June 13, 2011.
- Meslow, Scott. "'Game of Thrones': Death Be Not Proud". The Atlantic. http://www.theatlantic.com/entertainment/archive/2011/06/game-of-thrones-death-be-not-proud/240326/. Retrieved June 13, 2011.
- Ryan, Maureen. "'Game of Thrones' Season 1, Episode 9 Recap". AOL TV. http://www.aoltv.com/2011/06/13/game-of-thrones-season-1-episode-9-recap/. Retrieved June 13, 2011.
- Lacob, Jace. "Songs for the Dead: The Blade Falls on Game of Thrones". Televisionary. http://www.televisionaryblog.com/2011/06/songs-for-dead-blade-falls-on-game-of.html. Retrieved June 13, 2011.
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