"You win or you die?" Sounds like soccer in Colombia.
Hear me out, because last night, Ned Stark - on again/off again Hand of the King and essentially the one good man in a bad kingdom - scored the medieval equivalent of an own goal by doing "the honorable thing" and giving Queen Cersei the heads-up that he's uncovered the awful truth.
You know, the fact that her three kids (Joffrey, Myrcella and Tommen) are not Robert's, but rather the product of her incestuous affair with brother Jaime. A matter of some import, as the King will soon be dying from a mortal wound. To quote Scar from The Lion King, "we're talking kings and succession," here.
And to quote just about everyone else with regard to the kids: "Ew."
Last night also introduced us to the patriarch of House Lannister, Tywin (Charles Dance). In the middle of chiding Jaime and urging him to become something other than a "glorified bodyguard," he also grants Jaime command of half their forces. His mission: march on Catelyn Stark's childhood home of Riverrun to "encourage" Tyrion's release.
That he does all this while cleaning and dressing a dead stag - symbol of King Robert's house - may be overly obvious, but it gets the point across.
Cersei's response to Ned's revelation that he knows about her, Jaime, and their children gives us this week's title. Victory or death are the only outcomes when playing the game of thrones, with the implication being Ned might just have fumbled on the goal line.
We also learn more of Littlefinger's background. It was losing a duel to Brandon Stark, Catelyn's original intended (before he died and Ned, ever dutiful, stepped in), that set him upon the path of intrigue and duplicity. David Benioff and D.B. Weiss apparently took a refresher course on metaphor this week, as this information comes out while Littlefinger is instructing some new prostitutes (including Theon's favorite, Ros) how best to fake their pleasure.
Speaking of Theon, he puts his creepy moves on Osha (Natalia Tena...Tonks from the Harry Potter movies), the wildling woman captured by Robb. Maester Luwin asks her why she and her band were fleeing south. To escape the white walkers, duh.
It would appear Tywin's elk had voodoo qualities, because Robert suffers a mortal wound while hunting. On his deathbed, he commands Ned to serve as Lord Protector in his absence, until Joffrey comes of age. Ned, who hasn't yet gone public with his findings, changes the words "Prince Joffrey" to read "my rightful heir." Certainly no trouble whatsoever will result from this.
He also orders Ned to stop the assassination of Danaerys, but that horse has left that particular barn, which leads us to...
Jorah steps in to prevent Danaerys' poisoning at the hands of a Westerosi wine seller. What can explain his change of heart? He was just handed a royal pardon for services rendered, all he has to do is sit by while Danaerys has a drink. What caused him to intervene? Could it be...love? Time will tell, all I can say after seeing Drogo's vow to take the Seven Kingdoms is I wouldn't want to wake Jason Momoa from a nap.
Who knows? Maybe the Conan remake won't suck after all.
And after two weeks, we finally return to the Wall, where Jon has completed his training and is assigned to...the stewards? Not the rangers? An outrage! At least, until Sam points out his assignment as Lord Commander Mormont's personal assistant puts him in direct line for eventual command. Their oath taking ceremony at the weirwood north of the Wall, however, is interrupted when Ghost brings him a frozen hand.
Nice to see a direwolf again. I'd almost forgotten they were still around.
We could all see where Ned's honorable actions were going to lead. He brushes off Renly's offer of a hundred swords because it would install him as king over Robert's brother, and likewise rebuffs Littlefinger's suggestion that he make his peace with Cersei and let Sansa marry Joffrey. The result: Cersei does an end-around, installing Joffrey on the Iron Throne and paying off the city watch to kill Ned's men. The last shot is of Littlefinger with his knife at Ned's throat. Ain't that a bitch?
Next week: the fallout from the events in King's Landing reaches Winterfell and beyond.