Direwolves attack, Lannisters scheme and Dany is taught how to ride more than a horse
Credit: HBO

Was I right? Was was the second episode of Game of Thrones better than the first? Tonight’s story was only about 10 minutes shorter than last week’s premiere, yet felt half as long. With the heavy lifting of introducing the rival families out of the way, the producers started having fun with these characters and playing them off each other. It is known.

So much high drama to cover: Two direwolf attacks, Arya fights Joffrey, Bran’s fate revealed and, most intriguingly, a second sex position is introduced to the land of Westeros.

We start with shell-shocked newlywed Dany riding among the Dothraki calvary, having learned the hard way after her wedding that “No” in Dothraki apparently means “Yes.” She’s being reassured by Ser Jorah Mormont that “it will get easier.” Mormont is an exiled knight banished by Ned Stark for selling to a slave trader and has since fallen in step with the tribe, which is seemingly good for Dany as it gives her somebody to chat with aside from her breast-fondling crown-obsessed brother. As Dany dismounts, she needs help because she can barely walk. I guess they don’t call her new husband “the horse lord” for nothing.

Back at Winterfell, we get an excellent sequence centered on the Lannisters. The next few minutes may not contain any major action, but it was the first time watching Thrones that my uncertainty about whether producers were really pulling this off melted away and I thought “this show is going to work.”

Hungover Tyrion awakes in a dog pen to find his jerky nephew, Prince Joffrey. “Better looking bitches than you’re used to uncle,” Joffrey says, which is about as clever as he gets.

Tyrion orders Joffrey to give his sympathies to the Starks for the tragedy that’s befallen young Bran, then proceeds to start smacking the crap out him — presumably for his insolence, but really, any reason works. I could watch Tyrion whack Joffrey all day. Somebody needs to make a gif of that and post it on Reddit.

Tyrion enters the banquet hall to find his older brother and sister enjoying a post-treason-incest-child-murder-attempt breakfast. Tyrion orders the Westeros version of a Grand Slam — “bread and two of those little fish and a mug of dark beer to wash it all down and bacon burnt black.” Tyrion tells his siblings that Bran will live, but may be a cripple. How much Tyrion knows about what really happened to Bran is left deliberately unclear. We also get a sense that Cersei doesn’t much like Tyrion (it may be because their mother died giving birth to him, or perhaps having direwolf-style sex with her other brother uses up 100 percent of Cersei’s sibling affection). And then there’s this perfectly played exchange:

Jaime: “But even if the boy lives, he would be a cripple, a grotesque. Give me a good, clean death any day.”

Tyrion: “Speaking for the grotesques, I have to disagree. Death is so final, yet life is full of possibilities. I hope the boy does wake. I’d be very interested to hear what he has to say.”

Jaime: “My dear brother, there are times you make me wonder whose side you’re on.”

Tyrion: My dear brother, you wound me. You know how much I love my family.”

Tyrion’s lines seem contradictory and honest — just one reason this sequence rocked.

Cersei then does exactly what Tyrion ordered of Joffrey: pay bogus respects to the Starks. She tells Catelyn about losing her own child and her dewy-eyed earnestness muddies our feelings about her character. It’s not clear at this point if Cersei actually wanted Jamie to throw Bran out the window. Is there a smidgeon of real compassion for Catelyn? Or is she simply playing a role? And does it matter?

Meanwhile, Jaime takes a moment to give Jon Snow some grief about wanting to become a member of the Night’s Watch — you’re apparently cold all the time and don’t have any real enemies to fight. It’s a bit like joining the Coast Guard in Michigan. There’s an undercurrent here that Jaime, in his own arrogant blond way, is honestly trying to give Snow some advice. “It’s only for life,” he teases. We’re also reminded that joining the Nights Watch means Jon Snow will have to take a vow of celibacy — which means no sex with his sisters, ever!

NEXT: When direwolves attack!

Arya, Winterfell’s most adorable psychotic, is getting help packing from her direwolf Nymeria, and is interrupted by Jon Snow, who gives her a sword she’ll call Needle. “You can’t hack a man’s head off but you can poke him full of holes if you’re quick,” Snow says and Ayra excitedly replies, “I can be quick!” Snow also offers some fighting advice: “Stick them with the pointy end.”

Over in Bran’s room, Catelyn sits beside her comatose son, furiously making him Blair Witch Project dolls to totally freak him out if he wakes up. Snow tenderly says goodbye to Bran, but Catelyn just wants his bastardy face out of her sight. “I want you to leave,” she hisses, and no wonder — how dare he exist and love her family.

Two parties leave Winterfell: Ned, King Robert, most of the Lannisters and the girls are taking The Kingsroad south to the capital, Kings Landing; Jon Snow, Benjen and Tyrion the Tourist are going north to The Wall. A slightly choked up Ned says farewell to his bastard: “You may not have my name, but you have my blood.” And you really want them to hug. C’mon, hug! But they don’t. Would be awkward since they’re both sitting on horses and besides, dude, everybody is watching.

Later, Ned and Robert stop for a picnic while all the king’s horses and all the king’s men have to stand around and watch them eat. Here the Dothraki storyline starts to enter the Stark plot, with King Robert having just learned of Dany’s wedding to Drogo. As a “wedding gift,” the king suggests “a sharp knife and bold man to wield it” (still better than that box of snakes), but Ned is firmly against the idea.

Cut to the Dothraki where Dany is getting tearfully pounded by Drogo while she stares at another wedding gift — her fossilized dragon eggs. Last week, recap readers debated about the producers’ decision to change their relationship from the book. In George R.R. Martin’s novel, Drogo more-or-less seduced Dany on their wedding night. In HBO’s story, their first encounters are far more brutal and it bothered me the first time I saw it too. But if you have to tell this story visually, I can also understand why producers may have wanted to show Dany struggling to find her own power amid a difficult situation rather than appear, in this compressed version, to seemingly swoon for a murderous brute right after meeting him.

Back at Winterfell, Bran’s direwolf (whose name, btw, is Summer) has been howling outside ever since Bran fell. Robb Stark complains to Catelyn that she likewise hasn’t left Bran’s side, but then he has to rush away when a fire breaks out in the distance. Turns out the fire was a distraction. An assassin creeps into Bran’s room: “You’re not supposed to be here, no one’s supposed to be here,” he says but, hello, Catelyn hasn’t left the room in weeks! He lunges. Catelyn grabs the knife (and that looks super painful) and she’s knocked to the floor. Just when we think the boy is a goner–

Bran’s direwolf attacks! Summer rips out the assassins’ throat. Then the direwolf curls up next to Bran on his bed, laying on top of a massive heap of pelts that perfectly matches his own fur coat — Summer, it’s a trap!

Back with the Dothraki army, Dany is getting a mani-pedi and asking about dragons.

NEXT: Girl on top? It is known!

Since Dany married Khal Drogo, her title within the tribe is “Khaleesi.” She’s being pampered after a hard day of riding/being ridden and wants to know if any dragons still exist.

“Dragon gone, Khaleesi,” one handmaiden says. “Brave men killed them. It is known.”

“It is known,” chimes another.

Dany’s smartest slave — Doreah — says she heard the moon is an egg, that there were once two moons in the sky, and one drifted too close to the sun and burst open revealing a thousands dragons inside. Wait, did I really say she was the smartest?

The other slaves correct her: “Moon is no egg. Moon is goddess. Wife of sun. It is known. It is known.”

Dany dismisses the fabulous It Is Known backup singers. She learns Doreah used to have the job of “making men happy” after her mom sold her to The Pleasure House (a company whose name you’ll never be able to explain on your credit card). Furthermore, Doreah was sold when she was only nine years old.

“Nine!” exclaims Dany, looking not-quite-horrified enough.

“I did not touch a man for three years, Khaleesi,” Doreah laughingly reassures. “First, you must learn.”

Ohhh, so Doreah was only taught how to sexually pleasure men from age 9 to 12, and then was forced into prostitution. And that makes it better?

Dany eagerly eyes the girl like she’s a library full of back issues of Cosmo and asks to be taught the erotic arts. She wants to learn “how to make the Khal happy,” which is a tad confusing since we keep seeing Drogo slamming on Dany while she cries, so you don’t have to be Dr. Phil to think his happiness isn’t really the problem here. Dany also says she hopes learning such a valuable set of sex skills won’t take three years — and it won’t, of course (though it can take four years if you’re attending Arizona State).

A quick beat back with Catelyn: The grieving mother goes to the chamber where Jaime pushed Bran from the window. There she finds a blonde hair and suddenly Game of Thrones becomes CSI: Winterfell. She informs her staff she suspects the Lannisters are responsible for Bran’s fall and will ride to King’s Landing to tell Ned her suspicions.

Back to Dany, where something magical is happening: Doreah is demonstrating the summation of her many years of sex ed: girl-on-top. But Dany, darn it, is doing this strange, complex position all wrong, sheepishly looking away instead of making eye contact. Doreah tells Dany of a legendary escort who was so amazing in bed that she “could finish a man with nothing but her eyes,” a claim which impresses Dany, but sure sounds high risk for getting eye infections.

“Out there he is the mighty Khal, but in here he belongs to you,” Doreah advises.

The slave girl, having mounted Dany, holds her hands. Doreah begins writhing her lithe body on the Khaleesi, rolling and girding her hips as–

We interrupt this EW recap for a reminder: HBO aged Dany up from the novel, from 13 to 17, but she’s still underage, so you’re not permitted to find this hot, you perverts. And don’t blame HBO for entrapment, they’re simply telling a story based on a beloved novel, it’s not like the network is actually trying to turn on viewers by showing all these sexy scenes with a nude 17 year old character … right? (And while we’re at it, better card Doreah too).

NEXT: Prince Smirks-a-Lot gets schooled by a nine-year-old girl

Later, Dany’s husband returns to the tent and we get our first glimpse of male nudity with a shot of Drogo butt. Dany tells Drogo in Dothraki, “tonight i would look upon your face.” Drogo looks confused as Dany maneuvers him into this freakish supine position. It appears that men in Westeros are told no more about sex than Arya was told about swordfighting: “Stick them with the pointy end.” Dany demonstrates what she’s learned and Drogo seems pleased.

Back on the Kingsroad, Prince Joffrey rescues Sansa from having to converse with somebody who’s not attractive and takes her for a walk. Now we have a young handsome prince, his blushing young love, going for a stroll on a beautiful day — for a very brief moment, this looks like a traditional fairy tale. Joffrey gives her wine and, like a frat boy in training, pressures her to drink more.

“My princess can drink as much as she wants,” Joffrey says, which is the sort of thing people tend to regret telling their spouse later in life.

They come across Arya practicing sword fighting with Mycah, “the butcher’s boy.” Sensing a golden opportunity to be a jerkwad, Joffrey bullies the terrified peasant, and cuts his cheek. “I won’t hurt him … much,” Joffrey says.

In retrospect, everybody would have been better off if they just let Joffrey do it. But Arya isn’t the type to let this kid slice up her friend. She whacks Joffrey with a stick — which is an executable offense — and Joffrey swings his sword back at her.

“You’re spoiling it!” cries Sansa, “You’re spoiling everything!” And it’s so true. Sansa wants to be in a Disney story. Unfortunately for her, she’s in Thrones.

Joffrey knocks Arya to the ground. “I’ll gut you!” threatens Joffrey, and–

Another direwolf saves the day! Nymeria bites Joffrey’s arm, he drops the sword, Arya grabs the weapon and now she has the upper hand.

“No, no, please don’t,” begs Joffrey, and his assumption that she’d actually murder him suggests that he really intended to do that to her.

Arya chucks Joffrey’s sword in the river — fetch Joffrey! — and runs off with her wolf.

OK. There’s been this mounting tension between the Stark and Lannister grown ups, but having their kids get into a fight instead makes the story far more interesting. It whips everybody’s emotions into a frenzy and suddenly the balance of peace in the kingdom is riding on a playground fight.

Arya wisely chases off Nymeria with a rock before she’s brought before the King, her father and the Lannisters. Cersei claims Arya and the butcher’s boy attacked her son: “You and that boy beat him with clubs while you set your wolf on him,” she says, and you can tell she doesn’t really believe a word of it.

The king demands the truth from Sansa. She looks to her dad for some kind of help, but Ned, knowing what’s at stake here, maintains a poker face.

“I don’t know,” Sansa says, selling out her kid sister for Prince Charming. “I don’t remember. Everything happened so fast.”

“Liar! Liar! Liar!” screams Arya. And the king’s verdict is…

NEXT: And then there were five…

“Children fight, it’s over,” says the king, and sensibly decides to have both parents disciple their own kids. Stark is relieved, but Cersei still wants blood — kill a Stark direwolf. And if not Arya’s missing wolf, than Sansa’s pet Lady. Arya — and here’s why she’s awesome — comes to Sansa’s defense, saying her sister’s wolf “wasn’t there, you leave her alone,” despite Sansa having just betrayed her.

Ned, as always, is quick to volunteer to be an executioner. We also learn that the butcher’s boy was killed too after Joffrey’s bodyguard The Hound ran him down. “He ran,” says The Hound. “Not very fast.” Hahaha, murder humor.

What happens next is the kind of unexpected, yet harshly logical, story moves that sets Thrones apart from other fantasy stories. Twice this hour we’ve seen direwolves save the Starks from danger. So this seemed to be a show where the Stark kids will each have their own pet superwolf, and that they’ll all have adventures together in Westeros fighting the evil Lannisters. But that’s too neat, too cliche, and Martin loves to take fantasy storytelling conventions and kick the crap out of them. So Ayra had to chase her wolf away. And now here comes Ned Stark to execute his daughter’s pet Lady.

Will he really do it? Yup. And many miles away, Bran awakes. I suspect some of you will be more even disturbed by this ending than last week’s.

So what happens next? What will Bran say? How will Ned react to Catelyn’s suspicions about the Lannisters? And will Doreah now teach Dany how to perform Reverse Cowgirl, the Jack Hammer and the G-Spot Jiggy?

James the Blogger hereby turns this conversation over to you. My thanks to those who wrote kind comments about my first ever EW recap last week, and a big thanks for keeping the comment thread 100 percent spoiler free about what’s to come in future episodes, let’s be sure keep that going out of respect to those who have not read the books. Some business: You can follow me on Twitter here and/or bookmark EW’s Inside TV blog for news about your favorite shows. And if you missed EW’s recap of the first episode of Thrones, that’s here.


UPDATE: Somebody made the Tyrion-Joffrey smack-attack gif! Here:

Episode Recaps

Game of Thrones

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

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