To usher in the final season of HBO’s epic series Game of Thrones, I’m going to revisit and review some of the most memorable battles in the show’s seven seasons. To start off, we have The Battle of Whispering Woods from Season 1 episode 9, “Baelor.”
Synopsis: As Joffrey Barratheon takes the crown, Ned Stark is incarcerated for charges of treason because he refuses to recognize Joffrey as king, knowing what he did about his scandalous parentage. From the North, Robb Stark marches his bannermen to King’s Landing to save his father and sister from the Lannisters. From Essos, Danenerys Targaryen tries to save the critically wounded Khal Drogo before they cross the Narrow Sea.
The mood has certainly changed from when I first watched this in 2011 to this point. I remember the time when I refused to believe up until the last minute that the show was going to kill off Lord Eddard “Ned” Stark, the lord of Winterfell in such a humiliating fashion. Sean Bean, after all, was the biggest actor connected to the series at this point. For the entire first season, Ned was built up to be the main protagonist in the series — an honorable father, friend and leader to his people. However, left with no choice but to admit a treason he did not commit to save his daughters, he mercilessly lost his head in the hands of an executioner, a tragic parallel to the first episode, where he was the one meting out a death sentence to a traitor. It was emotionally draining, to say the least, especially seeing Arya and Sansa as children.
It shouldn’t have been a surprise though, because Ned has made some pretty controversial and dangerous choices throughout the season as he tries to do right by his best friend Robert Barratheon. In addition to politics that he has had to weave through as Hand of the King, the tragedy was most assuredly a foregone conclusion for Lord Stark. It was tragic, nonetheless. RIP, Ned.
This episode marked the end of innocence for viewers of the show and cemented the series’ commitment to its motto “Valar Morghulis” which translates to “All Men Must Die.” It also provided the first glimpse at the extent of Joffrey’s ruthlessness and arrogance as he sits on the Iron Throne. Jack Gleeson deserves accolades for portraying this villain so well. Kudos to you Joffrey, you arrogant weasel, you.
Up North, Robb begins to show his mettle in battle by staging an epic double cross against Tywin Lannister and his men. As Tywin prepares his attack against Robb Stark’s 20,000-strong army, he only runs into a handful as Robb succesfully raids Jamie Lannister’s camp in Riverrun and captures the Kingslayer in an attempt to trade his life for that of the Starks. Robb has had to made some sacrifices in order to secure this first major victory as the young heir to Winterfell prepares to to fight for the honor of the northerners against the the greed of the Lannisters. This episode marked Robb’s transition to manhood as he leads his armies to victory.
Daenerys Targaryen, Khaleesi to the Dothrakis, at this point, is still struggling to come to terms with her role in battle for the throne. She is not even considered a contender in the War of the Five Kings since she is a woman, pregnant and still under the protection of her husband. However, this episode also serves as a turning point as she flexes her muscle and asserts her authority as Khaleesi.
All in all, the Battle of Whipsering Wood is not as action packed as many other battles of Westeros but the episode in itself packed a punch. It was a statement that Game of Thrones was not a series to be trifled with when it comes to delivering a multi faceted epic saga. Its marks the death of innocence and justice. Blood will be spilled, over and over until all contenders to the throne are lost. And its an uncertain battle that we are still wrestling with seven seasons after.