That ending! The chopping. The butchery. The hand. The scream. That crazy song! It all happened so fast. So awful. You’re jarred and disorientated as the credits roll — and that’s exactly how you were supposed to feel.
After the first two episodes set the stage, our season 3 story is now rolling. Non-book readers just got their first reveal of why this year is so eagerly anticipated. The stakes are high. The game is changing. So drag up a chair veeeery sloooowly and enjoy our recap that hopefully won’t read like a “Walk of Punishment.” We start with some Westeros funeral comedy.
Riverrun: Sometimes on a show where a lot of characters do fantastic things, it’s smart to show somebody totally clumsy with the devices that are so skillfully used by everybody else — like Catelyn’s poor brother Edmure trying to fire an arrow into a funeral pyre floating down the river. Robb, proving he’s not entirely a grim barbarian, cannot help but smirk. Catelyn, who is every stand-up comic’s nightmare audience, glares. Then again, this is her father in that canoe (which looks like it might have been crafted in Rivendell instead of Riverrun). Catelyn’s bad-ass uncle, Brynden the Blackfish, steps up and fires off an expert shot.
Inside the castle, Robb rips Edmure for mucking up his war plans. This exchange is a tad confusing for casual viewers since Robb refers to the Lannister leader he was trying to ensnare as a “mad dog.” He’s talking about the ginormous evil knight The Mountain, not his estranged and also-very-large brother, The Hound. “I could have had that head on a spike by now, instead I have a mill,” Robb laments. Personally, I would rather have a nice mill than a decapitated head on a spike, which is why it’s easier to shop for my birthday than Robb Stark’s.
King’s Landing: Tywin is waiting at the head of the table for the Small Council and…
Okay now Thrones producers are just showing off. It’s like they made a bet with themselves: If we have all six major characters in one room, can we create nearly two minutes of action that’s awesomely entertaining without relying on any dialogue, sex or fighting?
Here’s what happens: All the chairs except Tywin’s are lined up along the left side of the table (I wonder if Tywin purposely arranged them that way?). Varys, Littlefinger and Pycelle pause — they’re terrified of Tywin. Littlefinger leaps in front of Varys to get the chair to the master’s left. Varys takes the next one. And Pycelle, doing his fragile old man act, is content to have the third (pretending to be agreeable and nonthreatening is how Pycelle has survived all these regimes). Now Cersei’s turn. Instead of sitting several seats down from her father, she picks up a chair and carries it around the table and places it at her father’s right hand side — check.
Finally, Tyrion’s move. The remaining chair is the farthest from Tywin on the left. This seems to present a problem for Tyrion, both strategically and perhaps even physically given the weight of that chair if he is to retain his dignity.
What happens next is perfect. Tyrion tilts back the empty chair and slowly and obnoxiously drags it across the floor — sarcastically mocking the jockeying for position that has just transpired — and then places his chair at the opposing end of the table from Tywin, facing his father as an equal. Tyrion manages to ridicule what the others did while beating them at their own game — checkmate.
Hey, what’s another name for the ceremonial chair used by a head of state or a high dignitary?
These six characters just literally played a game of thrones. (I should now point out this episode is the directorial debut of one of the Thrones showrunners, David Benioff).
NEXT: Brienne and Jaime, bound for trouble