|Game of Thrones episode|
Ser Ilyn Payne draws Eddard Stark's sword, preparing to execute him at the Sept of Baelor.
|Directed by||Alan Taylor|
|Featured music||Ramin Djawadi|
|Cinematography by||Alik Sakharov|
|Editing by||Frances Parker|
|Original air date||June 12, 2011|
|Running time||57 minutes|
"Baelor" is the ninth and penultimate 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's creators and executive producers David Benioff and D. B. Weiss, and directed by Alan Taylor, his directorial debut for the series.
The plot depicts Eddard Stark, imprisoned and accused of high treason, struggling with the decision whether to falsely confess to save his daughters, and he is ultimately beheaded by King Joffrey. His wife Catelyn negotiates with Lord Walder Frey for the use of a strategic river crossing 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 stands up to Qotho and challenges Dothraki traditions to care for Khal Drogo.
The episode received great acclaim among critics, who cited the final scene with Eddard Stark's beheading as a highlight for the series, calling it a "daring, tragic finish." In the United States, the episode achieved a viewership of 2.66 million in its initial broadcast. The episode was nominated for an Emmy Award for Outstanding Writing for a Drama Series and Peter Dinklage won the award for Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Drama Series for his performance.
At the Lannister camp
At dinner, Lord Tywin tells his son Tyrion that Tyrion and his barbarian allies will fight in the vanguard of the army. Tyrion suspects his father is trying to get him killed. Tyrion returns to his camp and finds the prostitute Shae whom Bronn found for him at Tyrion's request. As the three of them swap stories, Tyrion reveals that, when he was 16, he married a woman named Tysha whom Jaime and he had rescued. When his father Tywin learned of this, he made Jaime confess that Tysha was actually a hired prostitute. Tywin then made Tyrion watch as Lannister guardsmen all had sex with her, each paying her one silver coin provided by Lord Tywin.
Later, Tyrion is awakened by Bronn as a Stark force approaches. Tyrion leaves his tent dressed in armor and orders the hill tribes to combat, but he is trampled as they rush to war. By the time he regains consciousness, the battle has been played out. 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 stronghold controlled by the cranky Lord Walder Frey, who is nominally sworn to Catelyn's father Hoster Tully. However, Lord Frey has sealed off the bridge and refuses to let the army cross, so Catelyn negotiates on her son Robb's behalf. After some hard bargaining, Frey agrees to allow the Stark army to cross through The Twins and to commit some of his troops to the conflict with the Lannisters, but, in return, he wants Robb and his sister Arya 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. Due to the false information Robb gave to the captured Lannister scout, Lord Tywin's force believes it is the whole Stark army. The remainder of Robb's men sneak up on Jaime Lannister's army, defeating them and capturing Jaime. When captured, Jaime challenges Robb to a one-on-one duel to settle the matter, which Robb declines.
At the Wall
Lord Commander Mormont gives Jon Snow House Mormont's ancestral Valyrian steel sword Longclaw, which was originally meant for his son Ser Jorah before Jorah's exile, as a reward for saving his life from the undead ranger. Jon is upset, however, when Sam 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 the reason why members of the Night's Watch do not marry: it would force them to choose between their duty to the order or loyalty to their loved ones. Aemon knows this very well because he is actually Aemon Targaryen, the Mad King Aerys Targaryen's uncle and Daenerys's great-uncle, who dutifully and reluctantly stayed at the Wall while his family members were killed or exiled when the Targaryens were overthrown. Aemon advises Jon that he must choose either his duty to the Night's Watch or his family, but also warns that the consequences of his choice will haunt him for the rest of his life.
Khal Drogo, delirious from an infection caused by the chest wound inflicted by Mago, falls from his saddle, a sign of weakness among the Dothraki. Daenerys takes Drogo into her tent and sends for Mirri Maz Duur to help him. However, Ser Jorah Mormont advises Daenerys that they should leave now because the Dothraki only respect the physically strong. He explains that, if Drogo dies, Qotho and the other bloodriders will fight amongst themselves to be his successor; whoever wins will kill her and her unborn child to prevent Drogo's son from growing up to be a rival. Daenerys refuses to abandon her husband, even when Mirri tells Daenerys that she cannot save him and instead advises giving Drogo a quick, clean death. In desperation, Daenerys encourages Mirri to use blood magic despite Mirri's warning about the consequences of such a spell, that only death can pay for life. Mirri brings Drogo's horse into the tent, slits its throat, orders everyone to leave, and warns that none must enter during the spell. Qotho, shocked at what Daenerys has done, tries to stop the spell, but Mormont kills him to prevent interference. Daenerys then goes into premature labor, but none of the Dothraki midwives help her, owing to their belief that she is cursed. In desperation, Mormont carries Daenerys into Drogo's tent to seek Mirri's help.
In King's Landing
Varys visits Ned in the dungeons and tells Ned that if he makes a false confession and swears loyalty to King Joffrey, Cersei will spare Ned and let him serve the Night's Watch as his exile. Ned initially refuses but relents after Varys tells him that his daughter Sansa's life is also at stake.
Arya, 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, and in order to see over the crowd, climbs onto the statue of Baelor the Blessed. As he is dragged through the crowd, Ned notices Arya on the statue, and alerts the Night's Watch recruiter Yoren to her location. 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 Joffrey promised, but Joffrey breaks his promise and orders Ned to be executed. As Sansa watches in horror, Cersei, Varys and the Small Council attempt to intervene, and Arya tries to rescue Ned, only to be stopped by Yoren, who prevents her from seeing her father's execution. When he sees that Arya has been rescued, Ned accepts his fate and is beheaded by Ser Ilyn Payne.
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 I Targaryen was a king during a previous century, revered as a patron and supporter of the Faith of the Seven. "Baelor" includes the content of the book's chapters Eddard XV, Catelyn IX, Jon VIII, Tyrion VIII, Catelyn X, Daenerys VIII and Arya V (59–61 and 63–66).
The scene with the drinking game between Tyrion, Bronn and Shae was written specifically for the episode, but the story of Tyrion's ill-fated marriage to Tysha was taken from a previous chapter of the books. 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 (thus eliminating Jaehaerys II 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 the scene where Shae meets 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."
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, the Crossing, and the battlefields of the Green Fork and the Whispering Woods.
Years later, showrunner D. B. Weiss commented that the explicit style of the execution scene was selected in part to make it clear to the viewers that Eddard Stark, despite being the arguable protagonist of season one, actually was dead: "It’s that rule: 'If you don't see the body then they’re not really dead.' Like when we cut Ned’s head off, we didn’t want a gory Monty Python geyser of blood, but we needed to see the blade enter his neck and cut out on the frame where the blade was mid-neck. [...] we needed Ned's death to be totally unambiguous."
"Baelor" gathered 2.7 million viewers in its premiere telecast in the United States, equaling the season high reached with the previous week's episode. The total for the night, including the repeat, was slightly lower, with 3.4 million viewers. In the United Kingdom, the episode was viewed by 1.043 million viewers, making it the highest-rated broadcast that week.
The episode received great acclaim among the critics. 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 that would be "sure to blow the minds (and break the hearts)" of the watchers Matt Fowler of IGN TV gave the episode a perfect "10" saying that it was a "clean and epic entry with a daring, tragic finish" that had "an admirable undercurrent of audience contempt."
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 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 for many reviewers: Scott Meslow of The Atlantic called it "an absolutely nightmarish scene" and labelled Eddard's death "horrific in its indignity." 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. 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 Tyrion's exposition scene in the tent with Bronn and Shae did not use sex to keep viewers, as was done in past episodes.
There was debate about the merits of the producer's decision to avoid depicting the two battles between the 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,[clarification needed] 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."
Peter Dinklage chose this episode as his submission named in his candidacy for the 2011 Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Drama Series. Spenser Davis, writing for entertainment industry awards website GoldDerby, noted that the choice was curious because while the episode itself was nominated for a Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Writing for a Drama Series (which it lost to Friday Night Lights' "Always"), Dinklage's screen time in the episode was rather limited. Davis noted that Dinklage's nomination was the only acting Emmy nomination among the 13 received by the show, and opined that "A Golden Crown" better showcased Dinklage's contributions to the series. Dinklage's win was the only major award received by the series and the first Emmy of his career.
Awards and nominations
|2011||63rd Primetime Emmy Awards||Outstanding Writing for a Drama Series||David Benioff and D. B. Weiss||Nominated|
|Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Drama Series||Peter Dinklage as Tyrion Lannister||Won|
|IGN Awards||Best TV Episode||Won|
|Best TV Twist||Won|
|IGN People's Choice Awards||Best TV Episode||Nominated|
|Best TV Twist||Won|
|2012||American Cinema Editors||Best Edited One-Hour Series for Non-Commercial Television||Frances Parker||Nominated|
|Cinema Audio Society Awards||Outstanding Achievement in Sound Mixing – Television Series – One Hour||Ronan Hill, Mark Taylor||Nominated|
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