Saying that s**t in Westeros (and Qarth) has officially hit the fan is a massive understatement. All Ned Stark executions aside, at the end of last season, most of our main characters seemed to be on the up and up. Jon Snow and his brothers in black were headed for adventure beyond The Wall. Daenerys had a khalasar and three dragons on her side. Tyrion would maintain order as the Hand of the King. Arya was headed back to safety, Bran and Rickon were safe at Winterfell, and Joffrey ruled Westeros with an obnoxious velvet-gloved fist.
By the end of tonight's episode, all of these characters were struggling to hold on to any remaining semblance of stability. Winterfell was in shambles, King's Landing was rioting, Arya was seconds away from certain death, and Dany LOST HER FREAKING DRAGONS. That's right: The Dragon Queen is now just a regular sort-of-Queen, with almost no subjects to speak of. (More on that later.)
There was a silver lining in tonight's episode, in that we officially learned that Jon Snow has no game. Also, Joffrey was slapped in the face by both Tyrion and a steaming pile of cow dung. Let the gifs begin.
Winterfell: Even though he's an idiot, Theon's plan to take Winterfell went off without a hitch, since there was no one there to defend it. Way to go, buddy! You defeated a bunch of peasants and a crippled kid. Only one tiny problem still remained: He had to convince Bran to publicly hand over the reigns. Theon burst into the sleeping lordlings room, high on power (and Adderall?). "I've taken Winterfell," he said. "I took it. I am occupying it. I sent men over the walls with grappling claws, and ropes."
"Why?" Bran asked, as he stared at the "man" who had saved him from wildlings only months before. Oh it's simple, Bran: Theon hates himself. Theon pushed and prodded until he got his way, stressing that he be called Prince Theon whenever Bran called him by his name. Alfie Allen and Isaac Hempstead were both brilliant in this scene, making the juxtaposition of the tragically deranged brat on a power trip with the stoic, physically-not-mentally broken child incredibly powerful. When Bran said, "Did you hate us the whole time?" it became clear just how much the boy has grown since we met him last season.
Down in the yard, Bran told his subjects that he had yielded Winterfell to Theon, with the agreement that Theon would not harm them. Of course, Theon's first command as Lord Winterfell was to have ravens sent out, informing his father and his sister that he had succeeded at a task that he was never given. A couple of Theon's men entered the yard, dragging an angry and bloodied Ser Rodrik. Theon demanded fealty from Winterfell's trusted knight, and Rodrik spit in his face. Theon's first response was classic Winterfell: He ordered that Rodrik be taken to the cells, to be reprimanded at a later date. But one of his men quickly convinced him that he would gain more respect if he did things the Iron way -- with a public execution.
The following sequence was both tragic and disturbing, and it quickly set the chaotic tone for the rest of the episode. Bran, Rickon, and the citizens of Winterfell screamed and cried in horror as Rodrik was sentenced to death by beheading. A good man to the end, Rodrik offered the Stark boys some comforting words in his last moments: "I'm off to see your father." Of course, since this was Winterfell, Theon had to honor Ned's custom of doing the deed himself -- but Theon Greyjoy is no Ned Stark, and his sword was definitely not made of Valyrian Steel. He asked the loyal and honorable Rodrik for his last words ("Gods help you, Threon Greyjoy. Now you are truly lost.") then delivered the most poorly executed execution since the guy who married Courtney Stodden messed up the electric chair scene in The Green Mile. It took several whacks for Rodrik to die, and the head just wouldn't come off. To finish the deed, Theon feverishly kicked it like it was a f***ing soccer ball. So, who do we hate more this week: Joffrey, or the newly self-crowned "Prince" of Winterfell?
Luckily, the brothers Stark wasted no time in getting away. That night, the slave Osha came to Theon's chambers, offering him her "service" in exchange for eventual freedom. She slowly and seductively disrobed, much like Margaery a few weeks back, showing off a gorgeous body that absolutely no one was expecting. They did the deed, sending Theon off to a blissful sleep. Osha made her exit in the dead of night, and managed to kill one of Theon's men before escaping with Bran, Rickon, Hodor, and the direwolves.
Phew. I think that was the most time we've spent in Winterfell all season.
Harrenhal: I'm noticing a trend where the scenes involving Arya are consistently the most awesome -- especially when they also include Lord Tywin. Someone get these two a spin-off, stat. Peter Baelish had arrived from the camp formerly known as Renly with news, and a proposition: Margaery Tyrell was just dying to be queen, and a marriage between she and Joffrey would unite two of the most powerful families in Westeros. Twyin agreed to nothing, but their exchange was not the most vital interaction happening in this scene. Arya struggled to avoid Baelish's gaze as he and Tywin schemed, yet his one true glimpse at her face suggested recognition. She was probably terrified, but I would argue that Baelish's love for Catelyn would dissuade him from screwing over one of her daughters.
But this little scare was nothing compared to the disaster she faced later. Arya noticed that a newly-arrived raven's note contained information about Robb, but Tywin stood in the way of its contents. He had already noticed that she knew how to read, and asked her about it as she performed her duties. She said she had learned from her father, who was a self-taught stone mason. Surprisingly, Twyin actually seemed interested. "You're a sharp little thing, aren't you?" he asked. Bravely, Arya used this rare, detailed exchange as an opportunity to seize the note. She asked Tywin about his own father, then snatched it behind his back and he answered.
She read its contents -- details of Robb's movements -- on the steps, then ran right smack into the vicious Amory Lorch. Amory tried to grab her to take her back to Tywin, but the Syrio-trained Arya darted away, cat-like, to find Jaqen H'ghar. She gave him her second name, and demanded a hasty delivery. "A man cannot make a thing happen before its time," Jaqen replied. But clearly a man can, because Amory dropped dead the second he entered Tywin's door.
Beyond The Wall: Beyond The Wall, it was still very cold. The famed ranger Qhorin Halfhand offered warm and fuzzy words of encouragement to Jon Snow, who was finally starting to feel at home in the hellish arctic tundra. "You will die a meaningless death, and no one will notice," he said, basically. Later, the rangers came across a gaggle of unsuspecting wildlings and slew them all -- except for the pretty one, of course. World, meet Ygritte! Ygritte is a major player in the books, and before she roamed the north as a sex-crazed wildling, she dreamt of becoming a secretary in the halls of Downton Abbey.
Ygritte told the rangers that hundreds of thousands of free folk were gathered in the mountains, and for her troubles she was sentenced to death. That's two so far this episode! Jon offered to do the deed himself, but despite Ygritte's taunting, ("Bastard! Do it!) he just couldn't pull the plug. Jon Snow is a lady-killer, just not in that way. She ran away, leading to an epic chase sequence that ultimately led to Jon's sword at her throat, again. It was basically the most adorable meet-cute ever.
But much to Ygritte's chagrin, there would be no romantic advancement between the two this week, unless you count some innocent spooning. Jon and Ygritte found themselves separated from the rangers, but Jon refused to call attention to themselves with a fire. To stay warm and alive, Ygritte suggested that they cuddle together on the snow. In a rapid role-reversal, Ygritte began grinding her behind against Jon's nether-regions -- but the super-virginal bastard was annoyed, and ordered her to stop. Obviously, Jon didn't hang out with Theon very much back at Winterfell.
King's Landing: Down in King's Landing, Cersei looked on as a crying Myrcella was finally whisked away to Dorne. She kept her cool in public, but kindly let Tyrion know that she was looking forward to taking someone he loved from him. Prince Tommen wept sweetly near Sansa and Joffrey, who perfectly and pettishly proclaimed that princes don't cry. Sansa bravely rebutted, saying that crying was normal, as her brothers cried when she left Winterfell. Surprisingly, she didn't get slapped in the face. "Is your little brother a prince?" Joffrey asked. "Not really relevant then, is it?" All kidding aside, I want to thank Jack Gleeson for giving the public someone fictional and therefore harmless to hate. He's the perfect combination of pathetic and pure evil, which is not an easy role to play, and he certainly doesn't have many fans.
On the walk back to the castle, it became shockingly clear that the Lannister family no longer held control of the public. Starving and war-torn, the peasants shouted cries of "bastard!" and "freak!" when Joffrey, Tyrion, Sansa and co. walked by. The danger built up slowly until one brave (and awesome) soul flung cow dung in Joffrey's face. Then, all hell broke loose. "Kill them all!" Joffrey proclaimed, and both sides responded with shocking violence. A mob of peasants surrounded one of Joffrey's men, and literally tore his arm off. (Is this Game of Thrones, or The Walking Dead?) Poor Sansa was whisked away by a group of hateful, vicious men, who moved her to a private location in order to properly gang-rape her.
"You blind, dirty fool," Tyrion said to Joffrey when they were out of harm's way. "We've had vicious kings, and we've had idiot kings, but I don't know if we've ever been cursed by a vicious idiot king." Tyrion had a good point: If Sansa didn't survive her attack, any peace with Cat would be gone, and they would never see Jaime again. Joffrey didn't seem to mind: "Let them have her!" he spat, in a voice reminiscent of Gollum's worse-half. So Joffrey didn't learn a thing from all of this chaos, but it was worth it to see Tyrion bitch-slap him in the face.
Thankfully, Sansa and her virginity remained intact. Right as the head raper got around to pulling it out, the Hound arrived to nonchalantly pull out the man's entrails, kill his cronies, and throw Sansa over his terrifying shoulders. Seriously, he did this with the blank facial expression of someone who is mindlessly cooking dinner, or watching TV. That's sort of terrifying. Tyrion thanked him for his troubles, and the Hound replied: "I didn't do it for you."Oh, it would seem that Joffrey's number one pet has a little crush on Sansa! It's doubtful that she'll reciprocate, but there's no denying that The Hound is a good one to have on your team.
Later that night, Sansa aired her grievances to another member of her team -- Tyrion's whore, Shea. She wondered why anyone would hate her like her would-be-rapers did, as she hated Joffrey more than anyone. Shea warned her not to say such things out loud, and Sansa asked her why -- as she could clearly trust her own handmaid. "Don't trust anybody," Shea replied, with a guilty look on her face. "Life is safer that way." So it's settled: Shea is spilling Sansa's beans to somebody, because nothing good ever happens to Sansa.
Camp Robb: There wasn't too much movement over on the Robb front, but his obvious flirtations with Lady Talisa had the returned Cat worried. She reminded her son of one of the downsides of being king -- he had no choice in his own love life. If you remember, last season Robb was promised to an unnamed daughter of Walder Frey, the crotchety old man who ruled over The Twins. To break that vow would make an enemy out of Frey, which is never a good time.
When word arrived of Winterfell's fall, Robb was in shock. How and why would a man he once called brother betray him so deeply? "Because the Greyjoys are treasonous whores," his man explained. Robb wanted to head to Winterfell immediately, but this would destroy their war effort. Lord Bolton -- one of Stark's bannermen -- would send his son in Robb's stead.
Qarth: In direct contrast to all of the violence in Westeros, Qarth seemed refreshingly calm at first glance. Xaro escorted Dany as she made her rounds, propositioning the wealthy men of The Thirteen for various riches. Unfortunately for Dany, Westerosi birthright meant nothing in Qarth, and no one was feeling particularly generous. Especially terrible was the Spice King -- the bald, vampy trader who taunted Dany and her starving khalasar in front of the gates. Dany came to him for ships, and he responded by verbally degrading her. "Retake?" he asked, when Dany explained her plans for the Iron Throne. "Did you once sit on the Iron Throne? If you did not sit on it yourself, would it not be correct to say 'take' the Iron Throne?" Ugh, grammar police. He went on: "Forgive me little Princess, but I cannot make an investment based on wishes and dreams."
Dany's behavior in this scene seemed a bit out of place -- she was almost Theon-esque in her ramblings about her birthright and her status as the mother-of-dragons. Her almost whiny arguments may have been appropriate for the weaker Dany of yesteryear, but not for the strong, sensible Khaleesi she has ultimately become. Yes, the Spice King was obviously gunning to humiliate her, but she shouldn't have made it so damn easy.
In the final moments of the episode, Xaro and a defeated Dany returned to his Qartheen McMansion -- only to find Dany's beloved khalasar in pieces in the front yard. In shock, Dany ran up to her chambers to find her handmaid, Irri, killed -- and her entire plan for seizing the throne missing. "WHERE ARE MY DRAGONS?" she screamed in despair. Well, someone has them -- but we didn't see his face, so that one will have to wait for next week.
Follow Shaunna on Twitter @HWShaunna
'Game of Thrones' Recap: The Ghost of Harrenhal
'Game of Thrones' Recap: Garden of Bones
TV's Craziest 'WTF' Moments of 2012 So Far