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June 20, 2011 at 03:01 AM EDT

In Game of Thrones, mercy is a four-letter word.

Last week, Ned Stark got beheaded thanks to “the madness of mercy” in his dealings with the Lannisters. Now Dany’s “tender heart,” trying to save poor villagers, resulted in the Khaleesi losing her unborn child’s life and likely Drogo’s as well. There’s no easy messages in Sunday’s season finale of Thrones, but there sure was plenty of high drama that set the stage for a Game-changing season two.

We’re going to recap the episode, then present our first annual Game of Thrones Awards (should I call them The Thronies? The Golden Crowns?), listing my picks for the best and worst episodes, performances, fights, sex scenes and other high and low points from the first season.

We start right back in the middle of last week’s Horror. Just when you’d about settled down from Ned Stark being killed in front of his daughters, Thrones shoves you back into the scene for a closer and way more gory look — the bloody sword, the severed head, Sansa collapsing, the decapitated body. Yoren grabs Arya, slices off her hair and calling her “boy.” “You want to live boy?” he yells, full of mock anger helpfulness.

Were some of these shots gross and disturbing? Sure. But the scene serves to reignite our emotion from last week before pushing us back into the story, as we launch into how each major character is handling Ned Stark’s death:

Winterfell: Bran is telling that Wildling woman Osha (who mercifully has her hair pulled back from her face today) that he dreamt his father was down in the family crypt. They take a stroll down there despite Osha’s reluctance (given the way the dead sometimes come back to life north of The Wall, it’s not surprising she’s not eager to hang out around dead people).

In the crypts, Rickon’s direwolf (named Shaggydog) runs out and scares the hell out of them. Once again Rickon walks all creepily into a scene; I keep expecting him to start curling his finger and saying “Redrum.” Turns out Rickon shared the same premonition as Bran.

King’s Landing: Joffrey is hard at work making lives miserable, forcing a minstrel to perform a song in front of the court. Seems the singer was overheard performing a tune mocking King Robert and Cersei in a tavern, was arrested and brought before Joffrey. American Idol would be so much more interesting if these were the stakes. The minstrel promises to never-ever perform the song again, but Joffrey wants to make certain of it.

“Tell me, which do you favor, your fingers or your tongue?” Joffrey asks, all curious. The singer makes the tough choice, saying every man needs his hands. Joffrey is pleased. “Good, tongue it is! I’m done for the day.” Yes, it’s all in a day’s work for King Joffrey.

NEXT: Joffrey reunites Sansa with her dad; Cersie keeps it in the family

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