A Newbie’s Response to Ned Stark

Warning: If you haven’t watched last night’s Game of Thrones, you might not want to read ahead. MAD SPOILERS.

GAME OF THRONES: 1.09 “Baelor”

JC jumped in with the official review of last night’s episode of Game of Thrones, but he asked an interesting question:

Finally, it’s interesting that HBO made Sean Bean the face of their marketing efforts for this show. For anyone who hadn’t read the books, it’s clear he was pitched as the main character of the show. I’ve already read some comments and forum posts from non-readers who are really upset, and claim they’ll bail on the show because Bean’s no longer involved. Any thoughts on this? Was killing such a sympathetic, recognizable character this early on something that our American TV audience won’t stand for?

This is clearly for those who haven’t read Game of Thrones. You know, people like me, who don’t know what’s coming. Now, I had a clue that Ned wouldn’t have the best fate when I overheard my brother-in-law someone* say, “Poor Ned,” a few hours before the show aired. That didn’t mean I knew what would happen. In fact, it had crossed my mind not only that perhaps Ned would die, but I also considered that he’d be in the dungeon forever, or left beyond the Wall, or possibly, having both his legs chopped off so he would end up reflecting something similar to what his son Bran is left with, just more grotesquely.

All that being said, anyone watching the show could guess these same things. At this point, there wasn’t really anything telling us what would happen next.

And you know, I’ve been rather annoyed with Ned. I did think that he was a primary figure from here on out — the main character as JC said. I didn’t think we’d be seeing the end of him any time soon, let alone before the end of the first season. But why annoyed? Well, he seems to have this clear view of the world, BUT he’s so blind to the repercussions. But at the same time, he’s not. Let me explain.

Ned is very aware of both the corruption and the dangers in King’s Landing. I mean, look at how he acted around his daughters, making sure they’re protected. But at the same time, he seems shocked and surprised any time someone turns that violence or corruption toward him. I mean, he’s noble — but noble to a fault. And that blindness and nobility basically made him do irrational things. It was a bit frustrating to watch, no matter how much I liked him.

But his death. I will say that I completely saw it coming, the moment he started to confess. I just had this feeling. Joffrey wasn’t going to let him go. But the scene that actually ensued after his declaration, now that was something. JC described it wonderfully, but part of me still hoped that someone would swoop in and save the old man. It was a heart-wrenching scene, one I won’t likely  be forgetting any time soon. And one that I probably want to watch again, to see the real reactions of some of those characters I wasn’t watching: Cersei, Joffrey. Anyone other than Ned, Arya, and Sanza.

Am I swearing off the series? No. How could I? What happens next? It’s the biggest shocks that elicit the biggest responses from viewers. That’s why so many shows kill characters off randomly during sweeps (but only a few do it successfully and strategically). I’m a Whedon fan; I understand that meaningful kill. Ned was one of those.

The story goes on. Sure, they set him up as a lead role (I even told JC just yesterday, “They can’t kill off Ned. They wouldn’t get rid of Sean Bean. He’s the only recognizable one, other than Tyrion.”). But would you be as shocked if they didn’t?

Two major quotes ring in my ear after last night’s episode:

From JC: Two major characters killed off in back to back weeks. If that hasn’t proven to you that no one is safe on this show, I don’t know what is.

From GoT: When you play the game of thrones, you win or you die.

Well, aren’t those true?


*UPDATE: It’s been brought to my attention that it was not, in fact, my brother-in-law who might’ve spoiled a negative fate for “poor Ned.” My apologies.


5 thoughts on “A Newbie’s Response to Ned Stark

  1. It’s okay — we all know you really just wanted to use to word “brother-in-law.” 🙂

    I am so looking forward to watching this once it hits Netflix. And I am so checking these books out of the library just as soon as other people stop beating me to it.

  2. The story goes, someone else said “Poor Ned” first, and the BIL repeated it. The question’s out who I “officially” heard.

    I think I’m going to hold off reading the books. I like going into these episodes blind.

  3. Ned is a good man and a good father, but he’s no saint. I think you’re right that he’s sort of “willfully blind” to the deceptions of King’s Landing. I think his moral code was more of an inflexible crutch that he used to shield him from making tough decisions. Instead of making the hard decision of supporting Renly, or perhaps capturing Joffrey and ruling for him, Ned immediately put aside both options and claimed he had no choice but to support Stannis because he was the rightful heir. Yet only 17 years ago, Ned himself rebelled against the crown! He couldn’t make the hard decision, and instead didn’t really make a choice, which seems like it will lead to a civil war.

    And you’re right; Ned was a meaningful kill. A lot of what happens from here on out will be because of his execution.

  4. Very very interesting. I didn’t think that it stemmed from his not making decisions. But you’re right. Even going back to why he became hand of the king. It wasn’t because he felt it was right or his duty. It’s because he thought it would be too difficult to say no, despite his wife’s pleading and his son’s dire condition.

    That being said, I still understand Ned’s point on not following Renly or Littlefinger. To Ned, he had the king’s declaration behind him. He had no idea that they would rip up his final declaration, so there was no reason to fear. Of course, his going to Stannis is what dirtied the water, but that’s another issue.

  5. Pingback: The 2011 Awards: Part 2 | Raked

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