In the most sex-obsessed episode yet, who has time to fight for the Iron Throne when everybody is so determined to get it on?

By James Hibberd
April 09, 2012 at 01:57 AM EDT
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Tonight’s Game of Thrones delivered more devious backstabbing intrigue, more exotic locations and gobs of explicit — and occasionally even necessary — sex (we’ll debate that later). So grab a hot slice of fish pie and let’s travel “The Night Lands”:

The Kingsroad: The credits tease a new location — Theon Greyjoy’s towering seaside home of Pyke, whose graphic includes bouncy bridges (be careful crossing those!). Then we pick up right where we left off, with Arya traveling incognito as a boy. She strolls by the cart of hardcore troublemakers who are heading to Castle Black. Here we meet a key character: Jaqen H’ghar, the long-haired guy politely asking Arya for water.

“A man has a thirst,” Jaqen says. “A man does not drink for a day and a night.” But the other prisoners are jerks, so Arya pokes them with a stick. “A man does not choose his companions,” Jaqen says. Now if you’re cool like Jaqen, you can get away with referring to yourself in the third person, but don’t go trying it at, like, the Olive Garden, you’ll just sound bizarre (“A man wants a refill on his salad and breadsticks…”).

They’re interrupted by a troop of Gold Cloaks questioning Night’s Watch brother Yoren. They’re looking for the blacksmith Gendry, because he’s one of King Robert’s bastards (but doesn’t know it). As we horrifically witnessed last week, all potential heirs to the Iron Throne are being murdered. If the king’s men knew Arya was also with this group, they’d jump at the potential two-for-one capture.

Yoren is a badass. He threatens to cut the Gold Cloak leader’s femoral artery. “I sharpened this blade before breakfast,” Yoren says, “I could shave a spider’s ass if I wanted too.” There are so many threats in that statement. You don’t want to mess with somebody who considers daily knife sharpening a bigger priority than getting his first cup of coffee. And you definitely don’t want to fight a member of the Night’s Watch whose life can be so dull that he’s actually contemplated shaving a spider’s butt.

The Gold Cloak leader announces he plans to capture Gendry. He also declares he’ll be back later to attack the group with more men. Clearly, this man has read Ned Stark’s Guide to Strategy. And speaking of spiders…

NEXT: Shae’s fish pie debated; Craster + 19

King’s Landing: Tyrion enters his quarters to find Vary’s chatting with his cocky concubine. Shea told the king’s adviser she met Tyrion while working in the kitchens.

Tyrion: You should taste her fish pie.

Shae: I don’t think Lord Vary’s likes fish pie.

Varys: How can you tell?

Shae: I can always tell.

Tyrion: Men like Lord Varys and I can’t let our disadvantages get the best of us. We’ll make a fisherman of him yet.  

Is this conversation actually happening? You don’t suppose they’re not actually talking about a baked pastry here do you?

Varys notes Tyrion’s father forbid Shae from coming to King’s Landing. Tyrion doesn’t like this indirect threat … so he very directly threatens Varys. “I’m not Ned Stark … I understand the way this game is played.”

Small Council Meeting: Cersei listens to Robb Stark’s peace terms. Then she tears up his proposal. Boy, that Cersei sure does–

“You’ve perfected the art of tearing up papers,” quips Tyrion.

Dammit Tyrion! [Recapper shakes fist]. Quit demonstrating meta-Thrones humor, it makes this harder.

So Cersei sends one of her cousins back to Robb Stark with their refusal. Cut to:

North of the Wall: We’re back to another exciting episode of TLC’s The Crasters.

We get a debate among the men about whether you fart when you die. Let’s not talk about this. One of the men drools over one of Craster’s daughter/wives, who’s wrapped up in so much clothing you can barely make out that she’s a vertical shape.

Jon Snow’s red-eyed direwolf Ghost (more convincing looking than Robb’s direwolf last week, yes?) is scaring one of the women — Gilly.

Sam shoos Ghost away, then says to her, “Sorry, I just wanted to make sure you weren’t hurt.”

Gilly looks at him like that’s the nicest thing anybody has said to her. She says, “You’re very brave.”

Which is probably the nicest thing anybody has ever said to him.

Sam brings her over to Jon Snow and asks if she can leave with them, like he’s found a stray that he really wants to keep. Jon says they can’t steal one of Craster’s women. “I can’t steal her, she’s a person,” Sam insists, which just makes us love him.

NEXT: Littlefinger’s most lewd brothel scene yet?

The Red Waste: A quick scene with Dany, establishing she’s still in the desert and miserable and waiting for her scouts to return. One of her favorite bloodriders, Rakharo, comes back — without his body. Sort of the opposite of a headless horseman. They vow to build him a funeral pyre. Presumably a small one.

Pyke: New location! Welcome to the cold, hard, wet, miserable land of the Iron Islands, the ancestral home of the Stark ward Theon Greyjoy.

A tiny bit of helpful backstory: Nine years ago, Lord Balon Greyjoy attempted to rebel against King Robert Baratheon and establish independence for Pyke and the Iron Islands. Robert defeated the rebellion and Balon was ordered to send his only surviving son, Theon, to the Starks as ward/hostage. You’ll recall last week Robb Stark agreed to send Theon home to ask his father to join the Starks’ fight against the Lannisters.

Now that you’ve taken your backstory medicine, you get sex. Swarthy ship cabin sex. Theon has been fooling around with the captain’s homely daughter during his sea voyage. He expects to have a glorious reception waiting for him at Pyke. The girl hopes to leave with Theon. Turns out they both have wildly inflated expectations.

“My father will punish me, he’ll call me a whore,” she says.

“I haven’t paid you,” he counters — ouch. Theon demonstrates his arrhythmic long stroke humping style which always seems to bore whoever he’s with. Sounds like she’s made a bad investment. And speaking of bad investments …

Littlefinger’s brothel: We might never get a sex scene more bizarre than Littlefinger’s infamous monologue / prostitute audition last year. But this definitely ranks up there.

I had to watch this sequence a couple times to figure out what was going on (tough way to earn a living, I know). Here it is: First we see Prostitute A happily riding Customer A. In an adjacent room, we see Prostitute B, who wears clanking impractical earrings, giving oral pleasure to Customer B. But Customer B is also watching Prostitute A and Customer A through a peephole. In yet another adjacent room, we have Littlefinger watching Prostitute B and Customer B through another peephole. And in a different room that haven’t yet seen, Top Prostitute Ros is meeting her customer.

Jeez, even the sex on Game of Thrones can be a complicated mix of characters and locations. We could use a pop-up map just for this scene.

This chain of voyeurism (which we are also a part of, if you want to get all college-film-class about it) is shattered when Ros’ Customer complains to Littlefinger that she was crying, which ruined the whole experience for him. Prostitute B, now finished with Customer B, stands there with you-know-what dribbling down her chin. Littlefinger wipes her mouth, and sends her to Ros’ Customer, and they share a ridiculous lusty kiss. Really? Ugh, this is the last time I watch Thrones while eating Greek yogurt.

NEXT: Hm, what forbidden sex act have we not seen in this episode yet?

Then Littlefinger goes to “comfort” Ros. Seems she’s not performing because she’s really sad about last week’s baby killing, just like we were. Littlefinger gives a gripping and sinister lecture about another prostitute he employed who dared to be depressed and how he sold her for some evil client’s experimentation. He then tells her she can have the night off to mourn the child. This is like when your boss gives you a vacation day, but kind of makes a big deal about it, so you don’t really enjoy your free time because he was such a dick about it.

Hand of the King’s chamber: Tyrion treats Janos Slynt to what might be his last decent meal, then questions him about murdering Robert’s bastards last week and killing Ned Stark’s men last season. “I’m not questioning your honor, I’m denying its existence,” Tyrion says to Slynt’s outrage.

Once again, Tyrion is trying to sidestep the mistakes of the previous Hand of the King. He sneaks Slynt onto a ship to join the Night’s Watch. He also appoints his own hired sword, Bronn, as the new leader of the City Watch/Gold Cloaks.

Tyrion asks Bronn if he’d follow orders to kill a baby. “I’d ask how much,” Bronn says, and it’s not clear what answer Tyrion wanted to hear.

The King’s Road: There’s a rather amusing argument between two of the kids bound for The Wall about the definition of a battle. It sort of sounds like a behind-the-scenes production debate on Thrones season one: “Two men fighting isn’t a battle” … “If they have armor on, it’s a battle…”

Gendy says he knows Arya is actually a girl and she confesses her true identity. Not much to say about this scene other than these two are likable here and it’s a rare sunny moment of Westeros happiness. So let’s end that with–

Pyke: Theon arrives, but nobody is waiting for him. There’s just a fisherman who looks like Sam Elliot. As always, the harder Theon tries to impress people, they less impressed they are. Behind him, a rowboat boat goes into the canal and a rope is pulled across behind it (book readers think: Oh, I see what you did there…).

A sassy young lass offers Theon a ride to his castle. On the way, he gropes her. She looks amused.

In the castle: Theon’s father Balon is cold (but his stone octopus fireplace is awesome). Balon criticizes his son’s fancy dress, accuses him of becoming a Stark, and rejects Robb’s request for help. While Theon can be a jerk, his cranky dad is being rather brutally unfair. Enter the girl who gave Theon a lift. We learn she’s Theon’s–

Sister Yara! Oh Thrones. You never fail to deliver. Welcome to the incest club, Theon, but you’re not a full member unless you sleep with Yara after realizing she’s your sister. (And yes, Yara’s name was changed from “Asha” in the books, presumably so viewers don’t confuse her with Ayra and Osha … though when you think about it, the name Yara is maybe 5 percent less potentially confusing than Asha. If the writers really wanted to help us out, they would have just called her Stephanie or something). Yara looks just like how I imagined her, and comes across like somebody you’d want to get a beer with.

Turns out Papa Greyjoy is impressed Yara, but thinks Theon is weak (which rhymes with meek). Balon says his daughter will lead his army. But to where?

King’s Landing: Cersei is furious Tyrion removed Janos Slynt from her game board. He tries to convince his sister that this shakeup is for her own benefit. We also learn Joffrey was the one who ordered Robert’s children killed.

This is news to fans of the book, where Cersei orders the kids killed because she, after all, knows Joffrey is not the real heir. The HBO version does make sense in terms of the TV characters, though. We can totally buy Jack Gleeson’s Joffrey is slaughtering babies, but Lena Headey and the writers have made Cersei at least somewhat sympathetic. (Also, I think I’m going to stop pointing out deviations from the book. There are a ton of changes this season and the show is already super complex without bringing up every switch from the novel).

Back in the scene, Cersei feels like she’s constantly under threat. “It’s all fallen on me,” she says. Tyrion snarks: “So has Jaime, repeatedly, according to Stannis Baratheon.”

FINALLY: Too much sex? Game of Thrones band name poll!

Unlike their last fight, Cersei is prepared for Tyrion and isn’t going to be hammered by his wit so easily. She says Tyrion has always been funny, like when their mother died giving birth to him. “There’s no bigger joke in the world than that,” she claims. One suspects Cersei isn’t going to be getting laughs at the comedy club open mike night anytime soon, but she does manage to strike one of Tyrion’s vulnerable spots.

Dragonstone: Hey is that… is that … a black guy on Game of Thrones? Yes we can have a diverse cast!

So Davos the smuggler and his son enlist the help of pirate Salladhor Saan for Stannis’ quest to conquer King’s Landing. Saan would like to include sex with Cersei as part of his pirate booty. He seems to think he could convince her to sleep with him, but we know Cersei wouldn’t consider anybody who doesn’t share her surname.

In the castle, Stannis examines his wartime map. He’s frustrated that he doesn’t have enough men to defeat his brother Renly in open war. His sorceress Melisandre says if he wants to win, he must give all of himself to her god. The sacrifice required is for Stannis to have sex with her. Ooookay, if that’s what it takes, I guess so…

He throws her naked onto the table. One hopes none of those battle figurines are under her.

North of the Wall: Jon Snow spies Craster carrying out a baby into the woods in the dead of night. He follows and finds … is that a Wildling? A White Walker? Something takes the child. And Craster sneaks up and clocks Jon.

Discussion time! If you read the DVD reviews of Thrones on Amazon.com, the amount of sex in the HBO series is probably the biggest point of debate among viewers. Last week’s premiere had just a fleeting glimpse of random brothel bopping. This week might have been the most sex-focused hour yet, with many scenes having either characters chatting about sex or practicing some form of it.

One of these scenes is very crucial to the plot (I’m not saying which one). Others (such as Theon’s caustic treatment of the captain’s daughter, and virginal Sam tentatively questioning his Night’s Watch brothers) helped illuminate the characters. And some (like the whole brothel peephole thing) seemed thrown in for shock value. What do you think? Did Thrones go overboard? Or did you like the way sex was woven into the storytelling? Sound off!

But before you do: Here’s last week’s premiere recap, for those who missed it. My season 1 recaps here. Follow me on Twitter here. Also, I’ve been pointing out potential Game of Thrones-inspired band names in the recaps since season one. Time for a vote! Which Thrones-ish band name do you like best?

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