A major shakeup this week as Dany faces an assassin, Ros auditions for Brothel Idol and a new king seizes the Iron Throne

By James Hibberd
Updated May 30, 2011 at 03:09 AM EDT

Game of Thrones

S1 E7
  • TV Show

Nothing in Sunday night’s tense episode of Game of Thrones went according to plan. Jon Snow becoming a ranger? King Robert assassinating Dany? Ned Stark kicking out the Lannisters? Nope, nada, forget it. If Thrones is a roller coaster, Episode 7 was the first (but not the last) hairpin turn, with the game board overturned and a new king taking the Iron Throne.

Let’s start by watching an animal getting butchered, shall we? If any of my fellow bachelors out there like to eat dinner while watching Thrones, this probably wasn’t the best episode for you, unless the sight of Tywin Lannister gutting and skinning an elk/stag/whatever (Shadowdeer?) is your idea of a juicy appetizer. Killing animals has been a recurring element in this show, one that’s been met with a lot of debate on the boards. It made the scene extremely graphic and doubtless caused many to turn away, but also added a whole other level of brutal intensity to the scene.

This is our first time meeting the Lannister patriarch. Isn’t he as stern and fearsome as you expected?

“You spend too much time worrying about what other people think of you,” Tywin lectures his son, Jaime.

“I could care less what other people think of me,” Jaime lies.

Tywin says the next few months will decide their family’s legacy. He wants Jaime to take charge of an army instead of being a “glorified bodyguard” for the king.

“I need you to become the man you were always meant to be,” Tywin says, and we see Jaime looking struck and humbled for the first time. You get the sense this might be one the most flattering things his father has ever said to him.

At King’s Landing, we cut to the equally carnivorous Cersei, whom Ned has summoned to the garden for a chat.

Ned has figured out the Big Secret and now we can all say it: Joffrey is not the true heir to the Iron Throne, he’s the incestuous bastard son of Cersei and Jaime. Whew, feels good to finally type that. Ned has also realized that the twins tried to murder Bran to keep their secret safe and he’s in no mood to bargain with her.

“Jaime and I are more than brother and sister,” Cersei explains. “We shared a womb. We belong together.”

Here’s what’s really strange about this … well, here’s what else is strange: Nearly every union on this show was arranged for power and profit — Dany and Drogo, Cersei and King Robert, Joffrey and Sansa. Even Ned and Catelyn originally wed to more for politics than anything else. Jaime and Cersei came together out of love. When Jaime pushed Bran out the window and said, “The things I do for love,” he actually meant it.

In other words: The most “romantic,” traditional fairy tale love story in Thrones — where a couple is driven by passion for each other and join together even though the cost can destroy them both — are the evil incest wonder twins. Messed up, huh?

So how did Cersei pull off deceiving Robert all these years?

NEXT: The most bizarre Thrones sex scene yet

Cersei explains that when Robert gets in bed with her all drunk, she will “finish him off in other ways.” That line naturally sends the our minds thinking about all the possible ways she can accomplish this. And in every scenario, Cersei looks grim and humorless.

“In the morning, he doesn’t remember,” she adds, and most of us think: “Um, I’d remember!”

“Your sister was a corpse and I was a living girl and [Robert] loved her more than me,” she says. Though in Robert’s defense, both probably offered about the same amount of warmth.

Ned is unswayed by Cersei playing the victim card.

“When the king returns from his hunt, I’ll tell him the truth,” he says. “You must be gone by then. You and your children.”

Gah, okay. If Ned Stark ever invites to you to play in his weekly poker game, say “Yes.” (“You should raise because I have a weak hand,” Ned would say — and mean it).

“When you play the game of thrones, you win or you die,” Cersei states, tossing off the show’s title (and this episode’s title) like it’s not big thing. “There is no middle ground.”

At Littlefinger’s brothel: I’ve often noted that Thrones loves to set exposition scenes in brothels (and it sure beats watching Tywin gut a shadowdeer), but the series really outdid itself this time in what has to be the most over-the-top sex+backstory segment we’ve had yet: Littlefinger’s girl-on-girl auditions!

First up is Ros, the sassy Northerner who has made it all the way down the King’s Road to the big-time Hollywood rounds. An unnamed female partner is performing an oral act on her. But Ros’ high moaning notes are too pitchy, and Littlefinger is displeased with her performance.

“Do you have any idea how ridiculous you sound?” he asks, like the Simon Cowell of brothel owners.

Littlefinger decides to give the girls a second chance, and forces them to listen to his lengthy analysis of hooker-client psychological subtext while they manually pleasure each other.

“Your job is to make [the clients] forget what they know,” lectures the Zen Pimp, while Ros works the other girl like she’s vigorously unclogging a storm drain.

Littlefinger’s speech continues, but I’m busy dialing the 800 number to vote for Ros and keep her around for another week. He tells the girls about losing Catelyn to Ned Stark’s brother, and then to Stark himself. One part of Littlefinger’s speech should be awarded the Best Non Sequitur in TV Dialog after Ros asks Littlefinger if he was ever in love: “For many years. For most of my life really. Play with her ass. And she loved me too.”

“I’m not going to fight them,” Littlefinger says of his enemies. “I’m going to f–k them. Only by admitting what we are can we get what we want.”

At the end of the scene, we get the vote results: They’re hired! Yay, Ros wins … sort of … not really.

NEXT: The return of the king; Dany goes to the mall

Back with Ned, huge news: We find out King Robert was mortally wounded while drunkenly hunting a wild boar. Adding to our suspicions, he was drinking wine given to him by his squire, who’s a Lannister. His gut wound reminds us of what Tywin Lannister was doing to that animal in the opening. In fact, if we really want to get geeky here, the sigil of Robert’s house is a stag — symbolism? Anyway, the king is dying. And even Joffrey looks, for once, like he’s feeling pity for another human being. If only Joffrey knew Robert was actually his stepdad.

Robert orders everybody to leave the room except Ned, who had planned to tell the king the Big Secret. But Ned can’t bring himself to tell his friend about his wife’s betrayal while he’s on his deathbed. Robert tells him to write up a document.

“I hereby command Eddard of House Stark to serve as Lord Regent and Protector of the realm until my son Joffrey comes of age,” Robert dictates, and Ned does some crafty copy editing — substituting “rightful heir” instead of “Joffrey.”

Robert signs it. OK. Good. Despite Robert dying, you feel relieved at this moment, yes? Ned will take charge, boot those evil Lannisters and rule the Seven Kingdoms righteously and everybody will live happily ever after.

And here’s even more good news: Robert even has a change of heart about killing Dany, and orders her assassination stopped. Only problem is you cannot recall an r-mail after it’s been sent…

Across the Narrow Sea: Dany braids her husband’s hair and tries to talk him into crossing the ocean and invading Westeros. Drogo knows a major hassle when he hears one and just isn’t buying it. He tells Dany all he needs is a horse, which can’t do much for Dany’s self esteem.

So to shake her blues, Dany goes shopping at the local mall. There’s no Sephora, but if you’re into the color beige there’s plenty of stuff to buy here. At the Post Office, Dany’s protector Ser Jorah gets a secret message that he’s earned a pardon for his crimes since he snuck information about Dany being pregnant to King’s Landing. He can now return home, but does he want to?

Dany meets a wine merchant who really should have stuck with just peddling drinks because he’s a terrible assassin, totally giving himself way by his nervousness. Is this really the best that Varys can hire? And given the amount of poison wine floating around this show, wouldn’t you just stick with water? The merchant gives Dany a special cask of wine. Ser Jorah is onto him and insists he drink the swill instead. Exposed, the loser is captured and he better hope Drogo doesn’t have another belt.

At Castle Black: Hey, Jon Snow is back! We see Uncle Benjen’s horse returned without a rider and Jon naturally wants to take off after him. Instead he has to sit through his graduation and a commencement speech with his fellow recruits. Each new member of the Night’s Watch is then assigned a position and everybody expects Jon to be a studly ranger. But Jon shocked and disappointed to learn he’s assigned to be a steward. It’s a bit like being a wizard and the Sorting Hat puts you in Hufflepuff.

But you know nothing, Jon Snow. Sam says the Lord Commander choose Jon to be his personal steward and this could be a good thing: “You’ll know everything, be a part of everything. He wants to groom you for command.”

NEXT: Schemes galore; Drogo gets really angry

King’s Landing: The next few scenes feel like when you’re watching Survivor and everybody is scrambling for alliances before the Tribal Council vote. King Robert’s brother, Renly, urges Ned to act quickly, to kick out the Lannisters and seize control before it’s too late. He even offers him some soldiers to get the job done — if Ned will support Renly’s bid for the Iron Throne in return.

Ned is put off by this — Renly’s older brother Stannis (whom we haven’t seen yet) is next in line of succession, not Renly, so why would he do that?

Besides, “I will not dishonor Robert’s last hours by shedding blood in his halls and dragging frightened children from their beds,” Ned says, and, frankly, his nobility makes me angry. The stakes are too high.

Next, Ned has a meeting with Littlefinger, which goes much the same way. Only Littlefinger’s pitch blows Ned’s mind.

“You would be wise to deny [Stannis] and make sure Joffrey succeeds,” Littlefinger says. “Make peace with the Lannisters, release the imp.”

“What you suggest is treason,” Ned says.

“Only if we lose,” replies Littlefinger, which is exactly right.

For the first time, Littlefinger is tipping his hand as to which side he’s on. Ned should not trust Littlefinger at this point, but he feels like he must. He needs the “gold cloaks,” the City Watch, sort of like the city’s law enforcement institution, to take control just in case his autographed parchment doesn’t convince the Lannisters to drop their claim to the throne. Littlefinger is Master of Coin (the treasurer) in King’s Landing, so he pays the City Watch and can help sway them to his cause. But if Littlefinger thinks Ned is making a dumb move that’s against their best interests, is lingering love for Catelyn really enough to convince him to go against the Lannisters and help her husband?

Across the Narrow Sea: Drogo is super pissed about the assassination attempt on Dany. We’ve never seen him this angry. He’s stomping around the fire as if performing some really awful interpretive dance, or slowly celebrating an end-zone touchdown.

Drogo pledges to take his horse army, cross the Narrow Sea and conquer the Seven Kingdoms as payback for this outrage.

Dany looks pleased, this is exactly what she wanted.

Drogo also promises that once in Westeros, he will kill the men, enslave their children and rape their women.

(Oh well, guess she can’t have everything).

Then Drogo offers Ser Jorah any horse he wants. Wait: Ser Jorah saved Dany’s life after he stops her from chugging wine from a stranger, so she gets the Seven Kingdoms and he just gets a horse? “Runner up gets a set of steak knives,” indeed.

Meanwhile, the wine merchant is tied to Dany’s horse and can stay alive as long as he can keep up with her, like the dog tied behind the station wagon in National Lampoon’s Vacation.

Finally, King’s Landing: Recaping this last scene is tough, it was actually hard to watch.

NEXT: “I did warn you not to trust me”

Littlefinger assures Ned that the City Watch is on his side. But when Ned asks about Renly, Varys says the king’s brother has fled the city — that’s not a good sign.

Ned is summoned to the throne room. There, Joffrey is sitting on the Iron Throne. I can’t think of another character who would be more scary on that thing.

Ned, backed by the City Watch, has a knight read Robert’s letter giving him control of the kingdom. But honey badger Cersei doesn’t care. She takes his decree and tears it up. “Those were the king’s words,” the knight says, outraged.

Cersei gives Ned one final chance to go home. But Ned seals his fate by declaring Joffrey has no right to the throne — though he doesn’t, curiously, spill the secret of his parentage.

Cersei says, ah-ha, Ned has just committed treason. Arrest him!

Ned commands the City Watch to put the Lannisters under arrest instead and–

The City Watch attacks Ned’s few remaining men.

Littlefinger puts a knife to Ned’s throat.

“I did warn you not to trust me,” he says.

And check … but is this checkmate?

Ned did not play the Game of Thrones very well tonight, did he? Now things are a mess. Drogo is all fired up to invade, evil smirking Joffrey is king, Ned is under arrest and Jon is stuck emptying bed chambers. Oh, and Bran still can’t walk. If you thought Catelyn seizing Tyrion had consequences, Cersei arresting Ned Stark for treason is going to have a major impact on our story. What did you think of Episode 7? I”ll post ratings on the Inside TV blog on Tuesday (they went down for the first time last week, so very curious to see what happens). Please once again, no spoilers on the boards. There’s only three more episodes to go…

Episode Recaps

Game of Thrones

HBO's epic fantasy drama based on George R.R. Martin's novel series 'A Song of Ice and Fire.'

  • TV Show
  • 8
  • 73
  • TV-MA
stream service