April 30th, 2012
09:35 AM ET
[This post contains spoilers for the April 29 episode of HBO's "Game of Thrones," as well as the George R.R. Martin "Song of Ice and Fire" novels upon which the series is based.]
You saw the note about spoilers, right? If you haven't seen Sunday's "Game of Thrones" and don't want a big plot point given away, flee to the hills now.
OK ... now that it's just us ...
One of the catchphrases of the series is simple and direct: "When you play the game of thrones, you win or you die." Ned Stark learned it last season, and with Sunday's episode we learned (as readers of the novels know) that main characters biting the dust is sometimes the rule, not the exception.
And the series creators didn't waste any time on Sunday. After last week's final scene, in which creepy witch Melisandre gave "birth" to a swirling shadow demon of some sort, we knew it didn't bode well for Renly - the dead king's brother who'd amassed the biggest army in his quest to take the throne.
And he seems on the brink of gaining even more support in a chat with Catelyn Stark, who considers some sort of alliance with son Robb's undefeated army in the north.
Enter the shadow.
With loyal (and very, very tall) guard Brienne looking on, the demon thing swirls into Renly's tent and with a ghostly stab, decreases the number of throne contenders by exactly one. Even worse for the gangly Brienne? When other guards arrive, they assume it was her who had delivered the killing blow - putting her and Catelyn on the run.
Just like that, older brother Stannis (Melisandre's chosen one) picks up most of Renly's army without so much as a fight (loyal followers, huh?) and suddenly seems like a more serious threat to rotten King Joffrey and his Lannister clan.
In King's Landing, part-time King's Hand, part-time imp Tyrion has other plans. His blackmail of cousin Lancel (who's doubling as Cersei's paramour while brother Jaime is away) uncovers that Joffrey is planning to greet Stannis' army with "wildfire" - a powerful and dangerous brew that will supposedly burn wood, iron and, disturbingly, people when flung at an opposing army.
If a jar doesn't break and burn down all of King's Landing first, that is.
He at first seems cool (get it?) to the idea. But after chatting with one of the shadowy alchemists making the stuff, he swerves and gives the go-ahead to continue.
Meanwhile, across the narrow sea, Daenerys Targaryen's fate appears to be changing. After wandering in the desert, she and her band of followers are now in the wealthy city of Qarth (where Daenerys feeds her baby dragons chunks of meat, which they're good enough to roast themselves), and are guests of Xaro, who just might be the richest man in the world.
Surprise, surprise ... he's not just taking them in out of the goodness of his heart. Turns out, Xaro wouldn't mind marrying Daeny (the daughter of the "Mad King" that Robert deposed) and becoming king of Westeros. He promises her ships, and soldiers to fill them. But long-suffering Ser Jorah reminds her that power isn't all about swords and spears. To rule Westeros, she needs support from armies in Westeros - not legions of foreign sell-swords.
And a one-sentence recap of Jon Snow and his fellow rangers' north of The Wall: It's really cold up there, and there's apparently a wildling army planning on killing them all, so they'd better go kill their leader first.
What did you think of Sunday's episode? Were you surprised Renly was killed so early in the game? (Also, did that shadow thing look familiar to you when it delivered the killing blow?) Let us know in the comments.
And, novel veterans, remember to be awesome and avoid spoilers for the folks just joining us.
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