Footnotes of Ice and Fire: Here's the Backstory on 'First of His Name'

Confused about what happened on Game of Thrones? Here's a book reader-aided explainer on Littlefinger's long-term plotting, Hodor's mental state, Myrcella Lannister, and the adventures of Brienne and Podrick.

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Confused about what happened on Game of Thrones? A dive into online searches will be fraught with spoilers, so we're here to dole out some book-reader background and finer details in the latest episode "First of His Name." Here's a book-aided explainer on Littlefinger's long-term plotting, Hodor's mental state, Myrcella Lannister, and the adventures of Brienne and Podrick.

Littlefinger and Lysa's secret poisoning

When Littlefinger meets up with his now-wedded Lysa Arryn, she drops a stunning nugget on the home audience (if not Littlefinger himself): she was the one who poisoned her ex-husband Jon Arryn, the former Hand of the King, and it was Littlefinger who was the brains behind that murder. "You gave me those drops and told me to pour them into Jon's wine, my husband's wine. And you told me to write a letter to Cat telling her it was the Lannisters—" Lysa says before Littlefinger aggressively makes out with her to get her stop talking (castle walls have ears, after all; even fearsome, impenetrable mountain castles).

To appreciate the importance of this admission, think back to the first season. The Hand of the King Jon Arryn suddenly dies in the first episode, so King Robert comes to Winterfell to ask Ned Stark to come to King's Landing. The Starks then get a letter from Lysa Arryn saying that the Lannisters poisoned Jon, making Ned suspicious. Ned becomes Hand, begins looking into the circumstances of the former Hand's death, and discovers the truth of Jaime and Cersei's incest. He calls out Cersei for being illegitimate, and gets his head chopped off in the attempt. Quite literally every single thing in Westeros is set into motion from the death of Jon Arryn. A death that, we now learn, was masterminded by Littlefinger.

Bran's mental takeover of Hodor

During the fight at Craster's Keep, Bran uses his mind-bending powers to enter Hodor's body and mind and save the day in this episode, the second time he has "warged" into the gentle giant to control him. After killing Locke, Bran leaves Hodor's mind and each returns to his own body. Hodor is traumatized by the experience, and stares at his blood-covered hands in disbelief and a bit of horror.

In the books, Bran's mind control of Hodor has a far more powerful and disturbing effect on Hodor. The books imply that the mind control is abusive and chilling, as in this line from Bran's point of view.

The big stableboy no longer fought him as he had the first time, back in the lake tower during the storm. Like a dog who has had all the fight whipped out of him, Hodor would curl up and hide whenever Bran reached out for him. His hiding place was somewhere deep within him, a pit where not even Bran could touch him.

That doesn't really seem okay, morally speaking. While there's reason to cheer a Bran-controlled Hodor saving the gang from Locke, Bran crosses some line here. "It’s really terrifying — more so for Hodor, because Bran has effectively forced him to commit murder," said Isaac Hempstead Wright, the actor playing Bran, in an interview with Vulture. "It’s a very serious thing for Bran to do, to take another human being’s life in his hands and take full responsibility of it." Poor Hodor never wanted to kill anybody, and he isn't a big fan of having his mind taken over.

Myrcella Lannister and Dorne

In trying to get on the good side of Prince Oberyn Martell, Cersei invokes her motherly affection for her daughter Myrcella, who currently resides down in Oberyn's home of Dorne. Oberyn assures her not to worry about Myrcella. "The last time I saw her," Oberyn says, "she was swimming with two of my girls in the Water Gardens, laughing in the sun." Think of the Water Gardens as an oasis in the desert of Dorne.

So how did Myrcella get down to Dorne, again? Back in the second season, Tyrion sent Myrcella away to Dorne in a marriage pact in order to 1) get her out of King's Landing in advance of what would end up being the Battle of Blackwater and 2) try to get the Martells of Dorne on the same side as the Lannisters. Myrcella, then, is under the protection of Oberyn's family. That means although she is technically a ward, she can easily become a hostage if something goes wrong. (It's worth noting that this was the position Theon Greyjoy was in with the Starks as the series began; Theon was taken on after a Stark military victory over the Greyjoys previous to the events of the first book, protected but also with an unspoken threat to his lord father should things go sour again.) Cersei is, understandably, worried about the Martell family as it pertains to her daughter.

Brienne and Podrick go the wrong way

The hero Brienne and squire Podrick Payne began their buddy-comedy mission to find and save Sansa by venturing in the wrong direction. "It could take weeks to get to the Wall depending on the weather," Brienne says. "Lady Sansa's brother is at Castle Black. If I were her, that's where I'd go." Except, of course, we know that Sansa is actually over in the Vale with Littlefinger, which is in the eastern part of Westeros. The Wall, meanwhile, is in the far North. So, um, yeah, this mission is fraught from the beginning. But hey, we get more of Brienne and Podrick, so it could always be worse.

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.