Thrones takes on love, lust and matrimonial duty in the show's most romance-focused episode ever. Plus, there's a bear pit

By James Hibberd
May 13, 2013 at 02:36 AM EDT
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We’re so in love with Game of Thrones this season and the characters are so in love with each other.

Ygritte and Jon are in love. Sansa loves Loras. Tyrion loves Shae. Jaime and Brienne love each other, but like siblings (but not, you know, Lannister-style siblings). And Robb, oh, Robb definitely loves Talisa. You hear me? He loves her butt so much. Heck, even bony warg Orell is in love. Practically the only major adult characters who aren’t loving anybody this week are Tywin and Dany, so no wonder they’re the only ones actually getting stuff done. So let’s attack-attack with all our heart (or at least our duty-bound loins) this week’s Thrones:

Robb’s Tent: Robb’s procession to his uncle’s wedding at the Freys is slowed by bad weather. His mom frets about the Freys being annoyed, while The Blackfish contemplates the merits of his poop vs. Lord Walder Frey.

Finally Robb says, “We should all get some sleep.” This is Robb-code for: Get out of my damn tent I want to hump Talisa and, no, I don’t care if her name sounds like a trendy nightclub or a line of overpriced teas from Whole Foods. His mom steals an inappropriate look back as she exits the tent just to confirm that, yup, her son really is that horny.

Later, they snuggle. She delights as Robb bites her lip — grrr, you savage wolf-boy you! We get a shot of Robb butt. We also get Talisa butt and sexy Talisa toe-flexing. Lot of tush this season. [Note to self: Pitch EW.com on Game of Thrones Butt-Shot Gallery — a million page views for sure!].

“How am I supposed to sit here planning a war when you’re over there looking like that,” Robb says. Talisa’s writing a letter to her mother and says she’ll someday tell her about her marriage to Robb and about their child. Robb nods. Takes a beat. Whaaaaa? She’s pregnant! He’s ecstatic and surprised. Unsure why he’s shocked given the extent of their lovemaking (perhaps Robb had been using protection? You’d think there would be a market in Westeros for, say, Kingsguard-brand condoms — “Bastard Protection You Can Trust”).

Talisa says: “I have your little prince or princess inside me.” Well, they better make some room because here comes Robb again!

South of the Wall: Ygritte is engaging in her favorite pastime of mocking Jon Show as they make their way to Castle Black. She mocks his Southie stiff demeanor and his marching armies, drums and roads. But then she sees a windmill and loses her mind, like she just stumbled onto the Great Pyramid. She also doesn’t know what the words “swoon” or fainting” mean. In fact, the further South they explore, the more apparent it becomes she’s like the simple country girl who’s headed toward the big city and won’t know which fork to use when Jon takes her to dinner. You get the impression she’d probably fall to her knees in awe at the sight of a chamber pot — Why didn’t we think of that?!

Meanwhile the other Wildings have taken an interest in their coupling. Giantsbane gives sex tips (“slick as a baby seal,” check). But Orell the Bitter Warg is jealous and wants Ygritte for himself and warns her about Jon. “You won’t love him so much when you find out what he really is,” Ortell says ominously. Uh, what’s that? Uncircumcised? I think she knows.

Later, Jon Snow gets tired of being told he knows nothing and gently tries to explain to Ygritte about the Westeros warfare. “You won’t win,” he says flatly, noting the Wildlings haven’t got the training or the tactics. In fact, he reveals the Wildlings have invaded south of the wall six times before and have never won. This is a double newsflash to Ygritte. Apparently the Wildlings aren’t taught their own history. So Ygritte is like Morpheus and believes Mance is like Neo, The One who can bring about revolution. While Jon is like The Architect pointing out that if there’s actually been six previous Ones who have tried and failed to overthrow The Matrix. Ergo, they’ll die if they attack The Wall.

But then Jon will die too, because he’s with them. “You’re mine and I’m yours,” Ygritte says. “And if we die, we die. But first we’ll live.” Translation: Yeah, this situation is f–ked and our love is probably doomed but at least we can have sex a lot first. It’s a metaphor for life, really.

NEXT: Sansa convinces us she’s stupid

King’s Landing. Sansa is convinced she’s stupid. “I’m stupid … stupid little girl with stupid dreams who never learns.” She tells Margaery she was all excited to see King’s Landing and all the painted armor and “King’s Landing after dark.”

We think — and so does Margaery — that Sansa is being too hard on herself. Margaery tries to make her feel better about being engaged to Tyrion. Look at the bright side! He’s handsome and nice and powerful and “far from the worst Lannister.” That last line creates a bit of awkwardness since Margaery is, of course, marrying Joffrey, the worstest Lannister who ever was or will be. Perhaps “awkwardness” is the wrong word. Nobody can feel awkward around Margaery. She’s so sunny and accepting. Margaery points out how powerful Sansa and Tyrion’s son will be.

Sansa gags: “I’ll have to … we’ll have to…” Okay. Sansa might be totally stupid after all. She’s just now realizing she’ll have to have sex with her husband? How is that not zipping through your brain within seconds of learning this news?

Margaery spins, “Most women don’t know what they like before they’ve tried it,” and says Tyrion might impress her with his experience. “We’re complicated, you know, pleasing us takes practice.”

“How do yo know all this?” Sansa asks, confused. “Did your mother teach you?”

At this point, we decide — and so does Margaery — that Sansa is pretty stupid after all. She gives up. “Yes, sweet girl, my mother taught me.”  Also: I totally want HBO to greenlight the Game of Thrones reality series spin-off King’s Landing After Dark.

Elsewhere: Tyrion is grousing about marrying Sansa to Bronn. Only protests are less convincing. Bronn doesn’t see the problem. Then again, Bronn never sees problems. That’s what we like about Bronn. His house sigil should be The Shrugging Man. It also helps explain why Tyrion enjoys his company so much. Tyrion sees all the angles, all the plots, and Bronn helps balance him out.

“You’ll have two women and a whole kingdom,” Bronn says.

“Two women to despise me and a whole kingdom to join them,” Tyrion counters doubtfully.

Somehow I suspect Bronn will outlive Tyrion.

Later, Tyrion meets with his mistress, Shae. Except Shae the Funny Whore has become Shae the Bitter Entitled Whore. She’s gone from having sex with soldiers in battlefield tents to five-star King’s Landing accommodations but feels Tyrion should run off with her.

She hates the solid-gold necklace he gave her. And what’s she supposed to do with it, anyway? She can’t wear something that extravagant in public. She also rejects the idea of quietly having Tyrion’s kids, because she rightly points out that his father would kill any offspring if discovered. “I’m your whore. And when you’re tired of f–king me, I will be nothing.”

And she has a point. Because if Tyrion loved her, if he really loved Shae more than anything, he wouldn’t marry Sansa and would instead run away with her. He wouldn’t have to work as a juggler. He’s a Lannister and the Master of Coin, he could easily snatch enough gold for them to live on before taking off.

In fact: Robb Stark, Jon Snow and Tyrion Lannister are all men facing the choice of love vs. duty. Robb made his choice — he wants the right wife for him and to win the war rather than wed a homely Frey daughter like he promised. Tyion has chosen the opposite — duty to his family over Shae. And Jon, well, we’re not quite sure what he’s going to do yet. But based on what he’s saying to Ygritte, he’s leaning toward honoring his commitment to the Night’s Watch.

Throne Room: Tywin walks through the throne room like a man who knows how to walk through a throne room. Tywin is flanked by members of the Gold Cloaks, whose portly armor almost makes me think they’re fat.

NEXT: For once, Joffrey is right

Joffrey has summoned him. He’s sitting on the Iron Throne, chilling in the massive ceremonial room all by himself. If he’s going to confront his fearsome grandfather, he feels he must be in the realm’s single most powerful seat to do it. This could be considered a call-back to the awesome Small Council chair-game from earlier this season. Joffrey is showing Tywin: I’ve got the most important chair of all.

Joffrey is irritated he’s not being kept informed of Small Council business. Of course he hasn’t actually attended any meetings, but that’s because he’s been busy mortifying Margaery, going on hunts and murdering Ros. Besides, Tywin moved the meetings into his the Hand of the King tower and that’s a lot of stairs to climb.

Tywin walks up to Joffrey so he can tower over his turd of a grandkid. Joffrey shrinks into his throne. Bristling with barely contained impatience, Tywin explains that he’s more productive working from home. And if Joff wants to go the meetings, “We could arrange to have you carried.” Tywin doesn’t add: If you’re going to be a total p–sy about it.

Joff then asks about — Dany and her dragons! Why, Dany might be part of the rest of this show after all. Tywin explains that as the dragons gradually went extinct they got smaller and weaker, so therefore any existing dragons are not likely to post a threat. “Curiosities on the far side of the world are no threat to us,” Tywin says.

“I should be consulted about such things,” Joffrey whines.

What’s great about this scene: We all love-to-hate Joffrey right? And we all agree Tywin is a scary-brilliant badass tactician, right? Yet Joffrey is right about everything! As the king, he should be kept informed. Sure, his proposed solutions will likely be terrible, but it’s his duty to know what’s going on and he must start learning this stuff. He shouldn’t have to go out of his way to attend those meetings, either — he’s the king, they should come to him. And Dany could be a serious threat. For once, Joffrey is correct, yet Tywin still whipped him.

Outside Yunkai: Ser Jorah and Dany gaze down at distant metropolis. Yunkai, he intones, the Yellow City, a wretched hive of scum and villainy. Weak soldiers, strong walls — they can outlast a siege. But Dany is undeterred. She has a purpose now. Yunkai has 200,000 slaves so that’s “200,000 reasons to take the city.” This isn’t just altruism. She could potentially add those freed slaves to her own army like she did with the Unsullied.

An emissary of the city approaches. He’s rocking some guyliner and rides to the beat of his own drummer. You know you’re a success when you have somebody following you to play your own theme music. As he’s riding up, and we see Dany’s tents and Unsullied lining the cliffs. Thrones‘ score kicks in. I swoon. That’s right, Ygritte, I f–king swoon. There’s just something about this moment that sent me into a Thrones high. I’m sure it’s partly having read the books and I love this Yunkai sequence (of which this week’s scene is only the beginning). But it’s also this season in general. I’m calling it right now, midway through Episode 7. It’s the best one. By far.

The emissary enters Dany’s tent. I’m shocked we’re getting a shot with all three semi-grown dragons. Every dragon means CGI money. This isn’t the most pivotal of scenes this season, but I’m glad the producers sprang for it. Because this is something we want to see: Dany on her throne  flanked by her dragons and advisers. Instead of a stiff ceremonial chair she has an Oprah-like couch. Except instead of giving away cars, Dany’s favorite things are freed slaves and death by dragonfire. In Astapor we saw Dany act like a ruler. This is the first time we’ve seen Dany looking like a queen.

In addition to her previous titles such as “Khaleesi of the Great Grass Sea” and “The Mother of Dragons,” Dany has now earned an extra post-Astapor title to her credits: “The Breaker of Chains.” Nice. The emissary actually slips one in a good one too: “The Silver Queen.”

The emissary’s nervous. He offers her a chest full of gold and a fleet of ships just to leave their city alone. That’s a great offer. She could take it and get to Westeros, maybe in time for the season finale. Notice that her advisers don’t say a word this time. They’ve learned their lesson.

Dany counters that she will spare his life if his city releases every slave with restitution and supplies. “Reject this gift and I shall show you no mercy.” Oh, and she keeps his gold anyway.

NEXT: Bearly legal

Dungeon: Here’s another way this is the best season of Thrones: The nudity and/or sex scenes have felt less like fulfilling HBO’s adult content quota and more integral to the plot and revealing character.

Two devilish servant girls take Theon down from his cross beams, give him some drink and start seducing him. Bewildered Theon knows this is a trap. He knows The Boy told them to do this.  The scene reminds me of Jonathan Harker being tempted by Dracula’s undead vixens. “Let us see it,” the girls say. “Everybody talks about it.” Uh oh. The scene is erotic and tense.

The Boy interrupts, as we knew he would. He’s holding a knife that’s so complicated and wicked looking that I ordered my brain not to try and figure out how it’s used. The Boy speculates that Theon’s penis is his “most precious part” and proposes “making a few alterations.” Theon screams and, thankfully, the scene fades away.

Harrenhal: Jaime has an uncomfortable goodbye with Brienne. It doesn’t feel right to leave her behind, but he seemingly has no choice. She says if he keeps his promise to return the Stark girls, she’ll consider his debt paid. Jaime swears he’ll do it. That’s going to be tough to pull off, however, with Sansa engaged to Tyrion and Arya off in the forest.

Later on a hilltop, Jaime chats the Qyburn and learns the former Maester lost his doctor’s license by performing horrific experiments on people. He also learns Brienne’s father’s ransom offer was rejected because of the lie Jaime told to save her from getting raped — that her father was extremely wealthy from his island having an abundance of sapphires. It still doesn’t make sense to kill Brienne but, as Qyburn points out, these are not sensible men — they’re not long-term thinkers. Some people just want to watch the world burn, etc.

Jaime decides to go back for Brienne and manipulates Bolton’s guard to return him to Harrenhal. There he hears Locke’s men singing that tavern hit, “The Bear and Maiden Fair,” and finds Brienne subject to a horrifying and quite lteral version of the tune: She’s in a pit with a ferocious grizzly. Jaime incredulously points out to Locke that he only gave her a wooden sword to defend herself, and Locke’s answer is priceless: “We only got one bear!”

So Jaime does something unspeakably dangerous and romantic: He jumps into the bear pit with her. Now there’s a metaphor for love. He’s unarmed (literally!) except for his value to Bolton’s men charged with returning him to his father. Jaime won’t come out until Bolton’s men pull Brienne safely out of the pit. Then he scrambles up after her in a nick of time.

Must say: Great acting from the bear. Really! He’s angry and mauls Brienne and swipes the ground and roars and beats on the wall. I want the bear to go back to King’s Landing so it can have some one-on-one chat scenes with Tyrion and Lady Olenna.

Also this week: Arya ran away from the Brotherhood and was captured by the Hound, Bran talked about the (gasp!) three-eyed raven, and Melisandre revealed to Gendry he’s Robert Baratheon’s bastard. Sorry, this the busiest week of the year for us TV reporters — I’m in NYC covering the broadcast upfronts. So as The Boy might say, I made “a few alterations” to my usual format.

Best Scene: I loved Dany’s negotiation with the Yunkai emissary the most. But I think I have to give it to the bear scene on points because I’ve never seen a wild animal action sequence like that on TV before.

Best Line: “You’re mine and I’m yours. And if we die, we die. But first, we’ll live.” You know this is going to be solemnly quoted at Thrones fans’ weddings for years to come.

Now I, James, The Recapper of Thrones, Blogger of News, Drinker of Sierra Nevada and Eater of Kit-Kat, will turn the conversation over to you, my friends. Until next Sunday, I think we’re okay. The story is going well. I’m sure all these arranged marriages and romances will work out just fine and these duos will end up happily ever after. Because Thrones isn’t the type of show that would break our hearts. Right? You love us too much for that Thrones. Right Thrones? …Thrones?

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