Tyrion and Sansa's wedding is as painfully awkward as you imagined, while Melisandre ensnares Gendry

By James Hibberd
May 20, 2013 at 02:30 AM EDT
HBO
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Home stretch. Tonight’s Game of Thrones is the most focused episode we’ve seen since Blackwater. The vast majority of the hour was spent in only three locations: Yunkai, Dragonstone and, of course, King’s Landing, where Tyrion tied the knot with Sansa in one of the most awkward shotgun crossbow-weddings ever. No Robb, Jaime, Brienne, Bran, Jon or Ygritte this week. But at least we get a little time with…

Woods: Arya wakes. Her nails are really gross. Stunt nails? She grabs a rock and goes to bash her sleeping captor The Hound and finally cross one name off her death wish list. But then: “I’ll give you one try, girl. Kill me and you’re free. But if I live, I’ll break both your hands.” Ayra wisely decides to let the sleeping dog lie.

Later, The Hound rides his horse with Arya awkwardly sitting in front of him. She thinks he’s the worst person ever, which we know is not true. But he’s a convenient person to hate. He reveals he’s actually taking her to meet her brother Robb and her mom at her uncle’s wedding at The Twins. He figures the Starks will pay him a finder’s fee. The way this season is going, we half expect these two to be forced to marry each other.

Yunkai: Daenerys of Arabia peers down at the walled city of Yunkai. The city has hired a sellsword company called the Second Sons, which Ser Barristan agrees could be “enough to make a difference” in a fight. Dany wants to meet their leader, who like every Thrones character has a cool nickname — Titan’s Bastard. She’s confident he’ll agree to a meeting: “A man who fights for gold can’t afford to lose to a girl.”

Titan’s Bastard arrives in Dany’s tent. Pretty much from the moment he sits down chummily next to Dany we know he won’t survive this episode and we’re counting the minutes until he gets killed. He says Dany reminds him of a booty-licking prostitute and demands to see her naked to know if she’s worth fighting for (Thrones fans have already seen Dany naked and can vouch). If Dany’s dragons were in the tent, they would have roasted this guy without prompting (and they should be in the tent, logically, since she’s meeting with three dangerous rivals, but let’s just say the dragons were busy saving the producers some coin).

One of the Titan’s lieutenants  — Daario — makes moony eyes at Dany. He looks like Brad Pitt in Legends of the Fall, all blond and smirky and ready for his cover shoot for a trashy romance novel. (Sorry George R.R. Martin fans, no blue beard for Daario, but are you complaining?).

The Second Sons argue they must uphold their contract to the city of Yunkai. “Ride with me and you’ll never need another contract,” Dany counters. “A fortnight ago I had no army. A year ago I had no dragons.” She gives them a couple days to make up their minds and some wine to help think it over.

Back at the Second Sons camp, Daario and the others discuss the merits of whores vs. no-whores. Daario is too proud to pay for sex. He says he fights “for beauty,” which I’m assuming means a quality bronzer and volumizing hair products.

Titan’s Bastard decides one of them should sneak into Dany’s camp and assassinate The Dragon Queen. Sound strategy. He tells the girl to pass out three coins — no peeking! — and whoever draws a certain coin must do the deed. I like that the girl keeps her eyes closed and lamely stumbles around instead simply not looking at her hand. Daario draws the fated coin.

NEXT: Melisandre ties up Gendry

Dragonstone: Gendry is brought before Stannis, who quickly sizes him up like a farm animal: Half Robert Baratheon, half lowborn. He doesn’t check his teeth but might as well have. Yet Stannis is uncomfortable sacrificing the boy to his mistresses’ creepy fire god to gain some vague military advantage. He goes and visits his conscience, Davos. It’s probably too easy of a metaphor to point out that Stannis has literally locked his conscience in a dungeon.

“What’s one bastard boy against a kingdom?” Stannis asks, trying to convince himself. Stannis offers to free Davos if he promises to never harm Melisandre. That’s an easy promise, especially since killing her may be impossible. Davos does not promise, however, to speak out against her murderous ideas. That’s why he’s a good chief-of-staff and why Stannis needs him around.

Stannis gives us a hint at the prophecy that Melisandre showed him in the flames last season — “a great battle in the snow.” He challenges Davos: Given what they’ve both witnessed of the Red Woman’s power, “How can you deny her god is real?”

It’s a great question with no easy answer. It’s one that I hope Thrones handles someday because it speaks to the larger issue of religion on the show. So far we’ve only seen apparent divine intervention from one of the gods worshiped in the series — the Lord of Light. But this god seems like a total jerk. So what are we, as viewers, supposed to believe? That there is only one true Thrones god and he’s an a–hole? Though … you know … if we’re being honest … I guess some make the same argument in our world too.

Later, Melisandre plots to seduce the hot younger man. She gives Gendry a luxurious ocean-view room (Dragonstone is an island, so they’re probably all ocean-view rooms). She feeds him hearty stew, which is far better than the “bowls of brown” of pretend-chicken he ate as a kid. She gives him fancy wine and praises the “power inside you that you can’t begin to understand.” Gendry tries to resist Stannis’ magic cougar, but can’t. She then says her seduction line: “Come fight death with me.” Would that work in a bar? Too creepy, right?

Once again, Thrones is elevating the sex scene this season. This is creepy and uncomfortable and we know something isn’t right. So when Melisandre starts tying Gendry to the bed with her sneaky leather straps, we know she’s not just wanting a little light bondage.

She gets a bowl of leeches. OK, that’s not so bad.

“Not there!” Gendry cries.

Oh, so it’s kind of bad.

Stannis and Davos enter to find Melisandre naked and Gendry tied to the bed with leeches on his chest and genitals. Awkward, sure, but we’ve all been there.

She takes the leeches, now engorged with the king’s bastard’s blood. Stannis throws them, one by one, into the fire, while saying the names of his rival “usurpers” to the Iron Throne — Robb Stark, Balon Greyjoy (Theon’s cruel dad) and Joffrey Baratheon. She calls this a “demonstration.” If Stannis getting Melisandre pregnant gives birth to a murderous smoke-monster, what will these leech-curses do? And if you’re Gendry, aren’t you still wondering if she’s still going to have sex with you?

NEXT: Tyrion and Sansa: For better or for worse

King’s Landing: Tyrion visits Sansa, whose puffy wedding dress makes her hips look a mile wide. Tyrion has Podrick take out his grouchy mistress Shae for a walk so they can have privacy (oh Shae, if only you knew what you were missing with Podrick!).

Tyrion desperately wants to make this experience less painful for Sansa. “I didn’t ask for this … you won’t be a prisoner after today, you will be my wife.” Then he adds: “I suppose that’s a different kind of prison.” But Sansa is beyond comfort, especially from him.

Over in the Great Sept of Baelor, Cersei and Margaery take a stroll. “We’ll be sisters, you and I, we should be friends,” Margaery says, taking Cersei’s arm. She’s trying the same charm she uses on Sansa and Joffrey. But Cersei utterly resents Margaery and hates to be touched. Cersei reminds her of the story behind the Lannister theme song, “The Rains of Castamere.” She details of her father’s destruction of the rebellious House Reyne which, like Margaery’s house, was once the second wealthiest in the land. “You ever call me sister again, I’ll have you strangled in your sleep,” Cersei concludes, and walks away.

For the first time, Margaery loses her composure, looking like she was punched in the gut.

Sansa readies to walk down the aisle. How could this get any worse? Say hello to Joffrey! He’s literally bouncing on his heels in delight. We’ve rarely seen him so cheerful. He’s taking the role of Sansa’s murdered father and gives her away to Tyrion, relishing her discomfort. Margaery is the only supportive face in the crowd. While Tywin is dressed even more leather-daddy than usual.

At the altar, Joffrey swipes Tyrion’s stool. The groom is supposed to symbolically put his bride under a cloak of protection. But Tyrion’s too short. What follows is awkward for all involved as he asks Sansa to kneel. She’s so spaced out she doesn’t even realize what’s going on. Tyrion looks very handsome and deeply pissed off.

Later, Tyrion gets property wasted. We hear a lot of talk about Tyrion being a drunkard, but don’t see it much. And Peter Dinklage is awfully entertaining as a drunk. His father is annoyed, as always, at any display of indulgence. “Your wife needs a child,” Tywin scolds. “If you’re going to give her one you need to perform.” I’m not sure what Tywin hopes to accomplish by looming over his son and giving him performance anxiety. I suspect nothing works better for withholding your orgasm than thinking of an angry Tywin Lannister (let’s all try it sometime!).

Tyrion says, “I’m the god of tits and wine,” which sounds like a line from Starz’ Spartacus, then raises a salute to miserable-looking Loras — Your turn next, bro!

Loras attempts to find solace with his bride-to-be. Unfortunately, that’s Cersei. “My father once told me–” he beings.”Nobody cares what your father once told you,” she snaps and walks away. Remember Tyrion’s hypothetical question about which of the four people who are being forced to marry has it the worst? I’m now thinking Loras.

Nearby, Joffrey takes extra time to make Sansa extra miserable. He threatens to pop into her chamber for a little honeymoon rape. I suspect this is an empty threat mainly because I don’t think Joffrey is interested in doing anything that remotely resembles sex. Still, it has the desired effect on Sansa.

Joffrey then tries to cajole Tyrion and the crowd into starting the “bedding ceremony.” This is a Westeros tradition where the clothes are stripped from the bride and groom (the bride by men in the wedding party and the groom by women) and they’re jovially taken to their bedroom to have sex. According to some utterly non-authoritative online sources, this is apparently a more bawdy version of an actual Middle Ages custom (that was presumably done to help ensure the marriage is consummated). In any case, we don’t see it because Tyrion strongly objects to the bedding ceremony. He’s been humiliated all night. He can’t take any more of it — even if his objection costs his life.

He pulls a knife and pounds it into the table and threatens Joffrey: “Then you’ll be f–king your own bride with a wooden c–k.”

That shuts everybody up.

NEXT: Daario interrupts Dany’s bath time

Joffrey is comically flabbergasted.

Tywin deftly defuses the potentially lethal confrontation, giving Tyrion an exit that his son wisely takes: “I’m sure Tyrion did not mean to threaten the king.” Tyrion plays along, calling it a “bad joke,” and mocks the size of his own member. You get the feeling that Tyrion has seldom been made to feel less adequate about his height in his adult life than on this night. And there’s a level of discomfort for us viewers, too, because we love and respect Dinklage and his stature isn’t a wig or a costume or prosthetic, but a part of his life.

In their bedchamber, Tyrion asks Sansa her age. She says 14, which surprises us even more than it does Tyrion since she seems older than that on the show (actress Sophie Turner is 17). “Talk won’t make you any older,” he quips, and she gulps some wine. She starts to get undressed for him and… Tyrion tells her to stop. He can’t go through with it. “I won’t share your bed … not until you want me to,” Tyrion says. Then Sansa replies, “And what if I never want you to?”

Oh, poor Tyrion. And poor Sansa! Now were you disappointed or relieved Tyrion stopped her? Did you want to see Tyrion and Sansa fool around? If so, isn’t there something wrong with that? We’re all going to be in therapy by the time this show is over.

The next morning, Shae storms into their room with a hearty plate of eggs and hate. Then she goes to get their sheets and sees that they’re … clean? She’s shocked: They had sex standing up!? Oh, wait — no. They didn’t have sex at all. At least there’s one person happy with Tyrion today.

Yunkai: Dany is taking a bath and being groomed by her translator Missandei. They’re interrupted by Daario with a big knife. He explains that instead of assassinating her like he was ordered, he killed the two Second Sons captains, brought her their heads and wants to pledge his men to her. And why did he do all this? Is it her claim to the Iron Throne? Her persuasive arguments? Her leadership skills and comfy sofa and rad dragons? Nope. She’s just smoking hot.

“I’m the simplest man you’ll ever meet,” he says.

So Dany gives Daario the full frontal that Titan’s Bastard requested and he heroically maintains eye contact. “My sword is yours, my life is yours, my heart is yours,” Daario says. I think he left one thing out.

North of the Wall: Sam and Gilly find a cabin in the woods. He can’t build a fire and they debate the difference between a wink and a blink. I yell from the couch that a wink is only with one eye, but the TV people don’t listen. She has a lot of terrible ideas for naming her son, mainly because she’s only met terrible men. How about Sam Jr.?

Outside there’s loud squawking. Sam goes to look and finds an inbound White Walker. He’s totally shocked because this episode isn’t a season premiere or finale. He tries fighting with his sword and the demon shatters it. Then he tries one of those shards of “dragonglass” (obsidian) that he found buried way up north. He stabs the White Walker and it dies in a spectacularly icy fashion. Those glass things might come in handy. And how about that — Sam was useful! I want him to tell Gilly: Yeah I can’t build a fire but I just killed a freakin’ White Walker so how do you like me now?

Best Scene: It’s not one scene, but the entire King’s Landing wedding sequence was highly entertaining and it’s tough to pick out one moment as above the rest: Awkward, sad, witty, scary, fun.

Best Line: “Come fight death with me” is great. Also love: “You ever call me sister again, I’ll have you strangled in your sleep.”

Another shorter-than-usual recap this week, but I have big plans for the final two episodes. First, next week, HBO is not airing Thrones due to Memorial Day weekend (presumably because holiday weekends have lower viewership levels). You can bet there’s going to be some wailing Thrones fans when they turn on HBO at 9 p.m. and the network is airing Behind the Candelabra.

But the Sunday after that HBO airs a new episode titled “The Rains of Castamere.” Fans know that the ninth episode is always a biggie, and this year is no exception. In fact, you better just stay off the Internet entirely until after watching Thrones on June 2. Then come to EW.com, where I’ll be live-blogging the Thrones recap starting at 9 p.m. ET, plus posting a few items in the Inside TV blog throughout the evening that I promise you will not want to miss. Until then, let’s fight death as much as possible!

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