You can finally stop chugging the dreamwine — HBO’s Game of Thrones is back for its second season, and you’ll want to be as clearheaded as possible for everything that’s going down in the Seven Kingdoms. Last week, a shadow baby that looked like Stannis Baratheon killed his younger brother Renly; Jon Snow volunteered to hunt down a group of wildlings with The Halfhand; Daenerys Targaryen briefly entertained Xaro Xhoan Daxos’s business-like proposal of marriage; Arya Stark discovered that Jaqen H’Ghar, one of the three prisoners who she saved a few episodes back, was offering her three assassinations as his way of saying thanks; and Tyrion Lannister co-opted his sister’s secret stash of wildfire.
As Cersei Lannister once said, “When you play the game of thrones you win, or you die. There is no middle ground.” In that spirit, each week we’ll be ranking the show’s major characters’ performance in these high stakes power games, and declaring winners and losers. Let us know if you agree with our assessment of tonight’s episode in the comments.
Theon Greyjoy: Theon has taken Winterfell from the family who raised him there, a total dick move (as Ser Rodrik says, “you have less honor than a back alley whore”), but one that’s likely to finally convince his father which side he’s really on.
The Hound: Admittedly, Joffrey’s “dog” has always been extremely rough around the edges, but watching him rip out the innards of several of the men who were trying to rape Sansa was extremely gratifying — regardless of why he did it — and it earned him some serious brownie points with Tyrion. If only he had left her betrothed to the angry hordes…
Sansa Stark: She manages to make it out of a violent riot virtually unscathed, and learns an important lesson from Shae in the process. “Don’t trust anyone,” she instructs her naive mistress. “Life is safer that way.”
Arya Stark: Thanks to her new buddy Jaqen H’Ghar, no one will ever know about that piece of paper that Arya swiped from Lord Tywin. May we suggest she whisper Lord Baelish’s name next? It seemed like he recognized her, and if his past behavior is any indication, is currently calculating how to best exploit this information to benefit himself.
Bran Stark: Does it get any worse than having to yield your home to “Prince” Theon? At least he and Rickon manage to escape with their lives thanks to Osha and Hodor.
Ser Rodrik: Winterfell’s Master-at-Arms probably wishes that he’d taught Theon how to take a man’s head off cleanly, in one blow. You know, instead of four swipes and an awkward kick.
Jon Snow: Of course the wildling who he’s supposed to kill would be a beautiful red-haired woman. Even tied up, Ygritte seems like she could be dangerous.
Cersei Lannister: To say that Cersei isn’t happy that Tyrion decided to ship her daughter Myrcella off to Dorne would be an understatement. “One day I pray you love someone,” she tells him. “I pray you love her so much that when you close your eyes you see her face. I want that for you. I want you to know what it’s like to love someone — to truly love someone — before I take her from you.” Dark.
King Joffrey: Just the sight of Joffrey walking through the streets of the King’s Landing is enough incite his people, who are starving and angry about it. Then he gets clocked in the face with cow shit, and the real riot breaks out. “Kill them! Kill them all!,” Joffrey shrieks, demanding the heads of everyone involved as The Hound carries him away to safety. Not exactly kingly behavior.
Tywin Lannister: Suffice it to say that he allowed himself to get played by a very sharp little girl.
Daenerys Targaryen: Forget her lack of an army, allies, or ships — Dany will never retake the Iron Throne without her dragons. It is known.
Robb Stark: First, he gets cock-blocked by his mom; then, he finds out that the pseudo brother that he loved and trusted has seized his castle… and possibly harmed his little brothers.