Note: Do not read on if you have not seen Season 2, Episode 7 of HBO's "Game of Thrones," entitled "A Man Without Honor."
"Don't look so grim. It's all just a game!" -- Theon Greyjoy
Heroes don't win. They die.
That was the theme of this week's episode of "Game of Thrones," "A Man Without Honor." But is the honorless man Theon, the newly sadist Lord of Winterfell? Is it Jaime, slaying his kin to escape his cell? Is it Xaro, stealing the dragons from his own houseguest?
It's not Jon, or Bran, and it wasn't Ned Stark. But then again, look at where these men all stand. Is it the honorable who win? Or the scum? Does Ned Stark rule the kingdom? Or does his head lay rotting on a stick in front of King's Landing?
Lessons for surviving Westeros: Trust no one. Love no one. Be cruel, not kind. And remember, in the end, it's all just a game.
The Power Rankings
Using a complex algorithm that takes into account each player's wealth, military might and dominion over lands, along with a "bonus" factor that adjusts for unquantifiable assets that could influence events, we've surveyed the lay of the land to figure out who's winning the game of thrones at this point of Season 2.
1. Stannis Baratheon
Thanks to Tyrion's conversation with Cersei, we know know just how far away Stannis' army is from King's Landing: "five days, four if they have the wind." Cersei is confident that their stores of wildfire will suffice to beat Stannis' 200 ships back. But Tyrion is less sure. And wildfire will be less useful when it comes to fending off the land armies Stannis won from his brother Renly.
2. Tywin & Tyrion Lannister
All we see from Tyrion this episode, sadly, is a relatively brief conversation with Cersei, in which we learn that no one -- including Cersei -- can control King Joffrey. Tyrion gets some flak for sending the Shithead King "two whores to abuse," but ultimately, the two adult Lannisters seem something like allies -- a rarity for them.
Meanwhile, in Harrenhal, Tywin's close proximity to Arya Stark affords us more insight into the great lord's mind. Tywin is, as ever, concerned with posterity, and with the Lannisters' position in history. He believes that his ultimate legacy will be decided by the outcome of the War of the Five Kings. If he wins, he'll go down in history as a lion; if he loses, he'll be remembered as a lamb. You know who loves to eat sheep? Wolves. Especially when they are, like Arya, wearing sheep's clothing.
3. Robb & Catelyn Stark
Things aren't exactly ideal for the Starks these days -- their Northern homeland is being held by the Iron Islanders. But Robb continues to demonstrate real fierceness on the battlefield and a surprisingly mature sense of what it means to be king. In this episode, he rides west to accept the surrender of the Cragg, the ancestral castle of House Westerling, longtime bannermen to the Lannisters. (Though it's hard not to be disconcerted by the fact that he asks the comely Lady Talisa of Volantis to ride with him.)
While he's away, the Starks' prisoner Jaime Lannister kills the son of Lord Karstark, one of the foremost of the Stark bannermen, in an attempt to escape. Lord Karstark demands to be allowed to kill Jaime as revenge -- but Catelyn Stark refuses him, setting off dissension in the ranks. The last scene in Robb's camp this episode has Catelyn asking her gargantuan guard Brienne of Tarth to raise her sword against Jaime -- but will the strike kill him or set him free?
4. Cersei & Joffrey Lannister
Two hundred of Stannis' ships are sailing to King's Landing -- more than the King has. He'll be there in five days.
"It's just you, me and Joffrey," Tyrion says, when Cersei quotes their father. "The Lord of the Seven Kingdoms. And Protector of the Realm." Tyrion tells Cersei to control her son, but she tells him he doesn't listen to her. "It's hard to put a leash on a dog," he says. "Once you've put a crown on its head."
"I always hoped he'd be like Jaime," Cersei says. "He looks like him," she goes on, as Tyrion actually rolls his eyes. "In a certain light," she appends. "Sometimes I wonder," she goes on, "If this is the price for what we've done. For our sins." THEN CERSEI CRIES. The most shocking takeaway here is that Cersei realizes just how bad Joffrey has become. No one likes the Shithead King -- not even his own mother!
5. Theon Greyjoy
After waking alone, Theon berates his men for letting a "half-wit escape with a cripple" -- along with Rickon and a wildling woman, the one Theon was "fucking" (as one unfortunate subordinate interjects) only to feel the vicious, clumsy wrath of the Ironborn prince.
"I never ran away," Theon says of his time as a foster at Winterfell (the Maester's face seems to indicate that this speaks poorly of Theon, rather than of the Starks. "Don't look so grim. It's all just a game," Theon tells Maester Luwin, as they go forth with hounds to sniff out the boys. They reach the farm that the Stark kids passed by, and the Maester tries to calm Theon.
"I'm looking at being treated like a fool, and a eunuch, for the rest of my life by my own people," Theon bursts out. "Ask yourself: Is there anything I wouldn't do to stop that from happening?" Theon sends the Maester home and begins to beat the residents. But he's not done. As we pan in, Theon stands in front of what seems to be a large torch back in Winterfell.
"What are you doing?" the Maester asks. "What have you done?" Theon answers by unfurling two charred bodies -- child-sized bodies. He certainly lives up to his earlier statement: "It's better to be cruel than weak." We've expressed dubiousness before about Theon's ability to hold Winterfell amidst the extreme hostility of the Northerners, but he showed us this episode that he's willing to do anything to maintain power.
Dany's story gets really crazy this week. We found out last week that her dragons had been stolen -- and now we discover that the thief was her host, Xaro Xhoan Daxos. He made a deal with the warlock Pyat Pree to take the dragons to the House of the Undying in a gambit to become the King of Qarth. Daxos has Pree murder the other 11 members of the Thirteen, which had ruled Qarth as an oligarchy for centuries, in order to consolidate power for himself. Dany tries to run away, with the help of Jorah Mormont -- who'd been warned about the betrayal by the mysterious hooded woman Quaithe -- but Pree and Daxos aren't willing to let her escape. They insist that she come to the House of the Undying to care for her dragons -- "forever," according to Pree.
Petyr 'Littlefinger' Baelish
No word from Baelish this week. He's making the trek from Harrenhal to Highgarden to try and broker an alliance between the Lannisters and the Tyrells. This, by the way, is an absurdly long trip for him to be taking -- the equivalent of driving from Baltimore to Phoenix. (In the books, the Tyrells had retreated to Bitterbridge, a castle much closer to King's Landing and Harrenhal.)
Tywin thinks that Jaqen's dart was meant for him, and orders his men to find the culprit.
"We look like fools and they look like heroes," Tywin says, "That's how kings fall."
When Arya enters the room, he makes her eat his mutton (fearing assassination?)
"You think I'd be in my position if I'd lost before?" he asks, as Arya stares at his neck with knife in hand. Tywin goes on to explain the vagaries of power. "Dragons happened," Tywin says of the blackened walls of Harrenhal.
And it wasn't just Aegon on the dragons -- it was his sisters too. Arya waxes rhapsodic about these warrior ladies, before Tywin tells her she reminds him of Cersei. While Tywin seems to be fully aware that Arya is no low-born girl, it's just as clear he has no idea his little confidant is a Stark.
Sansa thanks the hound for his "bravery," but he corrects her. What he likes is killing. "Killing's the sweetest thing there is," Clegane tells her. She dreams of her rape, and when she wakes, blood soaks her sheets. She begins to panic, stabbing and tearing the mattress with a knife, when Shae walks in to find her whimpering. But as they try to turn it over, another handmaid enters the room and runs off to tell Cersei, before Shae goes after her and presses a blade to her neck to ensure her silence. But when she gets back, the Hound is standing over the bed.
"I thought it would be less messy," Sansa tells Cersei of her first period. Cersei, in turn, tells Sansa of Robert's habit of hunting while she labored in birth. Jaime, however, attended each one.
"The more people you love, the weaker you are," Cersei tells her. "You'll do things for them that you shouldn't do. You'll act the fool to make them happy, to keep them safe. Love no one but your children."
"Shouldn't I love Joffrey, your grace?" Sansa asks.
"You can try," Cersei responds.
As our ragtag crew makes their way to ... somewhere, they pass a friendly farm, but Bran passes, hoping to spare the people Theon's torture. This attempt, as we see, fails.
As his wildling lady continues to make sex jokes ("Did you pull a knife on me in the night?" "Don't you have sheep at the wall?"), the dour, sour, sexually frustrated Jon ignores her jabs as they continue to trudge through the arctic waste of the North.
"We've been here the whole time!" Ygritte tells him as they squabble over who has the right to the lands south of the wall. Unlike him, she says, she's free. And she makes him an offer: She'll teach him "how to do it." And was anything better this episode than Ygritte's recitation of the false sex story she'll tell the men when he takes her back?
He tells her he's Ned Stark's son -- and she tells Mance Rayder the same, once the wildings have him surrounded at the center of an ice pit.
Who Do You Think Is Winning The 'Game Of Thrones'?
Last week's Power Rankings got such a vocal reaction that we want to know who you think is winning... vote in the poll below (and write a comment to explain your decision!) if you have thoughts.
Differences From the Book
It's getting harder and harder to keep track of the differences, given that the plot of the show has swerved so far away from the text. (The butterfly effect means that entire scenes are bound to be new.) But we're also starting to see some of the changes pay off in dramatic intensity -- Arya's scenes with Tywin, for example, give Tywin a complexity that he lacks in the books. As ever, if you see things we missed, let us know in the comments!
- Cersei and Jaime are both extremely frank, with multiple parties, about their incest, in this episode; this never happens in the books. It always remains covert, because of the political and personal implications of honesty.
- Tywin implies that he suspects Arya is not really low-born; the only person to do that in the books is Gendry.
- Ygritte and Jon Snow's courtship proceeds completely differently in the books, but we were glad she finally said her signature line: "You know nothing, Jon Snow."
- Jon did not get abducted by wildlings in the book.
- Sansa wasn't almost raped in the book, so she didn't have any kind of PTSD.
- Shae wasn't especially protective of Sansa in the book; she probably wouldn't have pulled a knife on another handmaiden for Sansa's sake.
- Jaime does not kill Alton Lannister in the book -- though Alton does die.
- Danaerys's arrival does not fundamentally alter the political structure of Qarth in the books. Xaro Xhoan Daxos does not kill 11 of the Thirteen in the books. He most definitely does not make an alliance with the warlocks, whom he hates. And he definitely, definitely does not become king. He had hoped to gain control of her dragons, perhaps in order to become something like a king -- but he does not. This has major implications for later in Dany's story; it'll be interesting to see how Benioff and Weiss deal with that.
- The sequence that led to Theon's child-killing is different in the book. There, he is assisted by a henchman named "Reek," who finds the children in a place much like the farm in the TV show. And they're flayed and tarred, not burned.
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