You can finally stop chugging the dreamwine — HBO’s Game of Thrones is officially back for its second season, and you’ll want to be as clearheaded as possible for everything that’s going down in the Seven Kingdoms. In last week’s episode, Tyrion proved that he wasn’t going to be pushed around as the King’s Hand, sending Lord Janos off to the Wall, and installing his sellsword pal Bronn as the new commander of the City Watch. Things were looking up for Arya, who revealed her true identity to Gendry, and Stannis and Melisandre got it on — on a map of Westeros, no less. Meanwhile, things didn’t go so well for Cersei, who found out that Joffrey was slaughtering babies on the sly; Daenerys, whose rider came back from a scouting mission sans body; and Theon Greyjoy, whose real family hates him way more than his fake family did.
As Cersei Lannister once said, “When you play the game of thrones you win, or you die. There is no middle ground.” In that spirit, each week we’ll be ranking the show’s major characters’ performance in these high stakes power games, and declaring winners and losers. Let us know if you agree with our assessment of tonight’s episode in the comments.
Brienne of Tarth: A victory over the Knight of Flowers earns “Brienne the Beauty” a spot on her beloved King Renly’s Kingsguard.
Tyrion Lannister: Tyrion decides to suss out who can really trust by giving three of the King’s Landing’s most notorious big mouths different versions of a similar story about Princess Myrcella. When he discovers that Grand Maester Pycelle has betrayed him to Cersei, he cuts off his beard and has him thrown into one of the black cells. Given Pycelle’s years of devotion to the Lannister family and their interests, it remains to be seen whether this bold move will later bite him in the ass.
Lord Petyr Baelish: He was rightfully pissed off about being an unknowing pawn in Tyrion’s three-way deception, but the fact that he passed the honesty test looks like it will result in him getting to see his childhood crush Catelyn Stark. Goody!
Gendry: Now that the King’s men believe that they’ve already killed him, maybe he can relax a little.
Jon Snow: Not only does his snooping get the Night’s Watch kicked out of Craster’s Keep, it also leads him to the disturbing realization that his mentor, Lord Commander Mormont, knew about the baby sacrifices and did nothing about it.
Renly Baratheon: He might have 100,000 men at his disposal, but as Catelyn Stark points out, they are the knights of summer, more interested in playing at war than actually engaging in battles, and (say it with us) winter is coming. Things in his personal life are no better off; sleeping with his wife’s brother probably isn’t going to get them that son that she so desperately wants.
Theon Greyjoy: His father is deciding to attack the North rather than joining forces with the Starks, as Theon proposed. And to really rub salt in the wound, he’s putting Theon’s sister in charge of 30 ships, and only giving him one — and it’s called The Sea Bitch. “You gave me away,” Theon screams when dear old dad slaps him. “Your boy. Your last boy. You gave me away like I was some dog you didn’t want anymore, and now you curse me because I’ve come home.” We’d almost feel sorry for the guy if he wasn’t so freaking annoying.
Cersei Lannister: Between bullying poor Sansa at dinner and losing one of her best informants in Pycelle, this wasn’t the best episode for Cersei. Plus, she totally loses it over Tyrion’s plans to ship Princess Myrcella off to Dorne. “You won’t get away with this,” she petulantly threatens him. “You think the piece of paper that father gave you keeps you safe? Ned Stark had a piece of paper, too.”
Grand Maester Pycelle: You saw what happened to Ned. You don’t want to end up in the infamous black cells.
Arya Stark: Yoren is dead, Needle is gone, and Arya has been captured by Lannister men and is being shipped off to Harrenhal. At least they have no idea who she really is.