Joffrey, Theon and Dany struggle to retain their power while Jon Snow chases a savage sexy Wildling

By James Hibberd
May 07, 2012 at 01:54 AM EDT
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“It’s starting to fall apart.” You know what great man said that? Cal Hockley, when panic hit the decks of Titanic.

The moment where characters start to lose control is an exciting point in every story. And on tonight’s Game of Thrones, some of our favorites battled to hold onto power in the face of naked rebellion. Theon struggled to control his captured Northerners, Joffrey struggled to control bitter mobs, Arya struggled to protect her identity and Jon Snow struggled to capture a hot Wildling prisoner. Perhaps most surprising, Dany will now have to struggle to keep her dragons (that last line is still echoing in my ears).

So let’s stay calm as we make our way to the lifeboats, breaking down “The Old Gods and the New.”

Winterfell: Theon bursts into Bran’s bedroom. He’s all puffed up and proud of himself for taking the castle with his modest number of  men.

Bran sleepily pulls himself up with his sad water-ski tow handle, then asks Theon the saddest word of all: “Why?”

In a smart bit of stage direction, Theon sits on Bran’s bed to explain the grown-up reality of the situation: The young prince must yield the castle or his people will die. It’s not dishonorable; it’s what you must do in this situation. “That’s what a good lord would do,” Theon says condescendingly.

“Did you hate us the whole time?” Bran asks, which is perfect for stirring up all of Theon’s ever-conflicted emotions.

In the courtyard, Bran officially turns his authority over to Theon. The scene is shot in a drizzling rain, adding a feeling of miserable pathetic-ness to Theon’s triumph. Just watching Bran sitting there, shivering and getting rained on, makes us really despise Theon here.

Theon declares himself prince “by right of conquest,” and adds, “betray me and you will wish you hadn’t!” — a nice bit of lame speechifying. No Braveheart this guy. Ros is more eloquent while she’s having sex than Theon when giving a public address.

The crowd glowers at him, reeking of contempt. Theon’s men present him with a captured prisoner — Ser Rodrik, Winterfell’s master-at-arms and three-time winner of the castle’s annual Best Facial Hair award.

Rodrik spits in Theon’s face. Theon wants to lock him up for this offense, but his first mate insists Rodrik must “pay the iron price.” The crowd begs Theon to spare Roderick’s life. Theon, as always, is torn: Which peer pressure should he listen to? (If Theon established a new House, his words might be: “Long May We Waffle.”)

Theon decides to execute Rodrik, who tells him “now you’re truly lost.”

Theon swings his sword down onto Rodrik’s neck. We know this isn’t going to be easy for Theon because nothing is easy for Theon. He hacks …hacks… hacks….hacks… then kicks.

Rodrik said he wished he never taught Theon how to use a sword. I’m betting he now wishes he taught Theon how to use a sword better.

NEXT: Jon Snow knows nothing about executing or humping prisoners

North of the Wall: Halfhand lectures Jon Snow as they scout around, trying to figure out what the Wildlings are up to. Halfhand is one of those Alpha Male guys who dominates every conversation while prodding you for responses. But nothing you say is ever the right answer. Even simply agreeing just gets you a response like, “You’re even dumber than you look.”

They attack a small camp of Wildlings. Jon is about to kill one of them and discovers he’s a–

Why heeello, flame-haired feisty woman. This is Ygritte the Wildling. Judging from her flawless skin, she’s probably descended from the Clarisonic tribe. Jon is reluctant to kill her. She’s reluctant to die. Actress Rose Leslie does a good job of pulling off scared and brave at the same time here.

The other men leave Jon alone to kill Ygritte, which is a little weird. Should they really be splitting up? And how long do they think it’s going to take him to accomplish this? (As it turns out, quite awhile). He lines up his sword to behead her. “Strike hard and true,” Ygritte helpfully advises. He winds back and strikes — but misses her head.

Jeez, Ser Rodrik didn’t teach these kids anything!

But wait — Jon missed on purpose. Ygritte takes off running. We get a chase scene. It was worth every penny taking a Thrones crew to Iceland, though I must admit I was paying more attention to the scenery here than the chase. This doesn’t look at all like a TV show, does it?

Jon ambushes Ygritte. She’s captured — again. But he still doesn’t know what to do with her.

Now Jon has a big problem. It’s getting dark. He’s separated from the other men. He’s alone with a beautiful sharp-witted woman who clearly kind-of likes him. And he’s …

Wait, did I really say Jon has a problem? Seems to me, this is the best thing that’s happened to him since he left Winterfell! But to noble, sworn virgin and black crow Jon Snow, this isn’t any fun.

As they huddle together for warmth, Ygritte starts grinding Jon through their 32 layers of thick clothing. He gets all annoyed and orders her to stop.

Poor frustrated Ygritte. Jon won’t kill her. He won’t f–k her. He won’t let her go. What good is this guy?

“Think they’re out looking for you?” she asks. “Yes,” Jon says. “Think they’ll find you?” she asks. “Yes,” Jon says.

The book readers lean forward …

But Thrones writers are just teasing us. Not yet.

NEXT: Arya’s second wish; Joffrey shows he can inspire a crowd

Harrenhal: Tywin is mad because one of his illiterate men sent a letter to the wrong place, potentially tipping off Robb Stark to his troop movements. He dismisses the guy and tells incognito cupbearer Arya that she should devise his next battle plan. This thought amuses her privately, but then she hears Littlefinger enter.

Littlefinger presumably saw Arya during her stay at King’s Landing, so she’s terrified of being identified. Since you probably barely paid attention to the conversation and were focused on Arya’s efforts to duck Littelefinger’s gaze, all you need to know is the brothel owner is pitching that somebody marry Renly’s widow Margaery to help forge an alliance with her family. Also: Anybody ever notice that Lord Tywin looks a lot like the sinister richest man in town from another TV show?

Later, Arya snags a message about Robb, but is caught with the note by the illiterate fool from earlier. She runs to Jaqen and asks him to kill her second victim right now this minute before he tells Tywin about the theft.

A man looks annoyed. A man finds this request a bit unreasonable. But a man manages to fulfill Arya’s Death Wish #2 on Tywin’s doorstep.

King’s Landing: Myrcella is sent away in the royal rowboat to safety and marriage in Dorne.

On the shore, Sansa gets into a tiff with Joffrey about whether it’s appropriate for a boy to cry. “Is your little brother a prince?” Joffrey asks her. “Not really relevant then is it?”

Putting this line on the page doesn’t really capture the force of Joffrey’s irritated petulant sarcasm; he made me laugh out loud. Saying it here and now: Jack Gleeson deserves a best supporting actor Emmy nomination for Game of Thrones. He just does. (Peter Dinklage will likely and deservedly win the category again).

The royal procession makes its way back to the Keep. The crowd is angry. Why they’re so upset has been explained in bits and pieces, but let’s spell it out: The war has reduced the availability of many basic supplies, including food, while Joffrey’s tyrannical ruthlessness is earning the royals an evil reputation. So the masses are protesting the .001 percent.

NEXT: “Kill them all!” … Love in the Wildling

Tyrion sees a man trembling with rage and tells the guards to get the prince back to the Keep. Interesting that his concern was for the young prince, not the “lost cause” king. (BTW: One of the best warning signs that somebody is about to attack you is flaring nostrils — it’s what a person does automatically right before he takes action to get more oxygen, according to the FBI-agent penned body language book, What Every Body is Saying).

The situation goes right to hell. I like that things fall apart in ways both quick and slow during this sequence — there’s an inevitability and momentum to what is happening, but it takes a few beats for the crowd to work itself into a frenzy.

Somebody throws crap at Joffrey. He loses his mind.

“Kill them!” Joffrey yells. “Kill them all!”

Which, to be fair, is something Joffrey has probably wanted to yell for a long time.

The crowd revolts. One nobleman is dragged off and they pull out … his severed arm? Are these King’s Landing peasants or zombies?

Joffrey, Cersei and Tyrion hurry to safety. Tyrion hates acts of stupidity, especially when they nearly get him killed, so he’s furious with Joffrey. “You’re talking to a king!” Joffrey says and Tyrion slaps him (and here I though we would never get another Joffrey slap — quick, to the gif-mobile!).

Joffrey refuses to send City Watch troops to help Sansa, who’s trapped outside the gate with the rape-y crowds. For the second time this season, she’s getting her dress torn off by savage men. The Hound comes to her rescue, killing her attackers. He reassures her, his voice all calm and mellow, like he’s been sitting on the couch watching Animal Planet rather than disemboweling would-be rapists.

Robb Stark’s Camp: A brief bit with Robb. He strolls through the camp, his wavy hair at Tousel Factor 10. He meets that field medic he flirted with earlier this season. He suspects she’s of noble birth, but she won’t reveal her identity. They banter. He starts to ask her out when they’re interrupted by his mother.

Catelyn C–kblock gently reminds her son that he’s sworn to marry one of Lord Frey’s homely daughters. After all, she haggled away his love life last season to pay for that bridge toll. So Robb better not get any funny ideas.

Later, Robb learns of Theon capturing Winterfell. He wants to race home, but can’t. Instead one of his bannerman, Lord Bolton, will send his son to the rescue. “He will die for this,” Robb swears.

Winterfell: Osha offers to be Theon’s sex partner in exchange for freedom. She strips, and all of us anonymously writing Harry Potter erotic fan fiction now have added material for our Tonks chapters. The showrunners teased we’d get a returning cast member naked for first time this season. Did they mean Osha?

Sounding like a North of the Wall edition of Cosmo, she tells Theon she knows savage Wildling sex secrets. Guess Jon doesn’t know what he’s missing. Naturally, since we’re actually kind of curious now what secrets she might be referring to, this is practically the only sex scene in the show we don’t get to watch.

Later, Osha takes advantage of her newfound freedom to sneak Bran, Rickon, their direwolves and Hodor out of the castle (it wasn’t in the show, but when told to leave the castle, Hodor said, “Hodor”).

So yay for Bran! As for Theon … what has he gotten himself into?

NEXT: They’re gone!

Qarth: Dany goes to meet the Spice King.

Can I, without inflaming every fan reading this, talk about how I did not like this scene? The Spice King was evil to Dany. He wanted her to die outside the gates. And here she is, demanding and begging him for help, for a second time, when she should know better. She’s living in a city full of potential wealthy benefactors, including Xaro, so her situation doesn’t feel this desperate yet. Also, Dany’s dragon rebirth was cool. But Dany declaring herself “no ordinary woman” who’s the “mother of dragons” and bragging about the magic-being-reborn event that we witnessed makes it less cool. In this scene, she almost sounds like Theon, who’s always trying to convince others he’s important.

Later, she goes back to her villa and–

Whoa! Dead khalasar! Dany runs upstairs. The dragons are gone! Somebody took them … and left her dragon baskets. Guess they brought their own dragon baskets? Yes, a thief is hauling waling dragons up to some tower somewhere.

Dany stands there and yells the episode’s final line.

It’s a line that we’ve all thought or said to ourselves at one time or another. I shouted it while stuck in traffic on the 405 freeway just the other day. So raise your clenched fist to the heavens and say it with me, recap readers. Say it loud, with righteous fury: “WHERE ARE MY DRAGONS?!”

[Note: Due to a one-time glitch, the comments below include the comments from last week’s recap. Select “Sort By Newest” to see the most recent comments for this episode. Sorry for the trouble]

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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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