Game of Thrones – “You Win or You Die”: The men who would be king

Two weeks in a row that I’m late with the Game of Thrones recap?  I’d like to say that this isn’t the start of a trend, that both weeks I had legitimate excuses for the delay… but I think we all know that I’m just lazy.  So again, apologies for my tardiness, and on to the recap.  Big events this week, what with a major character introduction, a major character death and a cliffhanger twist that surprised absolutely no one

Let’s start with the introduction of the new character, Tywin Lannister.  The paterfamilias of our favorite blonde-coiffed clan has been mentioned on several occasions, but this was the first time we got to see him on screen… and what an introduction it was.  Skinning a stag (*cough symbolism *cough) while he berates Jaime about needing to be the man he was always meant to be?  Tywin is clearly a very capable, very scary man, who has no qualms about getting his own hands dirty.  Having Charles Dance in this role might be the best bit of casting the show has done so far, better even than Sean Bean as Ned.  This is quite literally how I pictured Tywin as I read the books.  Aside from effectively establishing Tywin, this was a great scene for some other small details.  Jaime is back in his Lannister armor, having removed his Kingsguard whites, a visible representation of where his loyalties ultimately lie.  Jaime’s personality too seems different in this scene, very deferential and less brash in the presence of his father.

The other big event this week was the mortal wounding of King Robert while on his boar hunt.  It’s going to be a shame to see Mark Addy leave the show, as he did a fantastic job playing the king, no more so than in his bedside scene with Ned.  We saw the core of the man here; he almost seemed relieved to be dying, to be putting aside the burden of rule that he never really wanted or enjoyed.  I did quite enjoy Ned’s editorial choice to change “Joffrey” to “rightful heir” (honestly, I wasn’t sure that Ned had the quick wits to do something like that, good for him).  As in when I read the book, I found myself wanting to shout at Ned to tell the king about his “kids”, but I suppose Ned thought he was doing his friend a kindness by letting him pass away without knowing that terrible truth.

So the king will shortly be dead, which means that it’s time for Westeros’ favorite game show, Maneuvering for Power!  Varys strongly implies that the Lannisters had some hand in poisoning Robert (making him too impaired to effectively defend himself against the boar), Renly wants Ned to move swiftly to detain Cersei and the kids and install Renly himself on the throne, Ned wants Stannis to come to the capital as he is the rightful heir (and it is so Ned that every time he mentions this to someone they groan and roll their eyes.  Stannis must be a blast at parties), Cersei wants Joffrey recognized immediately, and Littlefinger wants to keep everyone running around in the dark crashing into each other.

On that last point, this episode did give us one of the series’ trademarked “a character delivers exposition while the viewer is distracted by bouncing titties” scenes, this time with our favorite red-headed whore Ros auditioning for a slot at Littlefinger’s brothel (and it seems she got it!  congrats?  I’m sorry?).  It was an important scene in that it finally established some more of Littlefinger’s background with the Starks and Tullys (namely that he still carries a torch for Catelyn), but I do wish they’d give us viewers enough credit to one day deliver material like this sans-naked women.  On the other hand, watching Mayor Carcetti off-handedly say “play with her arse” in the middle of an unrelated sentence was itself worth the price of admission.

After two weeks away, we get back to Jon and the crew at the Wall.  I thought the visuals of Jon taking his oath in front of the heart tree were beautiful, and I continue to enjoy how the writers are presenting Sam.  Obviously Ghost bringing back the hand of a dead man is something we’ll be getting into next week.

Across the Narrow Sea things are starting to jump off as well.  Drogo begins the episode by telling Dany she/he/they have no need for a big iron chair (and it’s a touching scene between the two of them, she brushing his braid, he correcting her grammar, with nary a bloddy horse heart in sight), but after the attempt on Dany’s life (it seems that Jorah has decided he doesn’t want his pardon anymore and fully throws in with Dany’s cause) Drogo completely reverses course and decides that a big iron chair would make the best baptism gift for his son EVER.  Great scene by Jason Momoa, delivering all that dialogue in Dohraki (a language invented just for this show) with such fire and passion.

Finally, our big showdown in the throne room.  Ned believes Littlefinger has delivered to him the loyalty of the goldcloaks of the City Watch, so he appears before the Iron Throne with documentation of Robert’s dying orders- for Ned to be Lord Protector.  Cersei, dialing the evil bitch meter up to 11, tears up the writ (to the abject horror of old, honorable Ser Barristan) and tells Ned that she don’t need no stinking badges.  Her son is the king now, dammit.  When Ned tries to get the goldcloaks to back his play, it turns out that Littlefinger hadn’t been totally honest.  He did actually bribe the goldcloaks… just not on Ned’s behalf.  Our episode ends with Littlefinger’s knife at Ned’s throat (I can’t remember… did Littlefinger actually pull a knife on Ned in the book?), reminding him that he warned Ned he really shouldn’t have trusted him.

Just a great, great episode and I certainly can’t wait to see what transpires over our final three weeks.

(photo credit, HBO)

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