Game of Thrones recap: Return of the Kingslayer

Prepare for battle! Westeros braces for bloodshed as Robb Stark finds love and the Kingslayer slips away
Ep. 08 | Aired May 20, 2012

Breaking Bad showrunner Vince Gilligan once told me a season of TV is like a roller coaster. There are slower episodes that build the drama, and fast episodes that plummet the viewer into frightening drops and twists. This week's episode of Game of Thrones was a builder. Tyrion and Joffrey are preparing to fight Stannis and Davos; Tywin is riding out against Robb Stark; Theon will soon have to defend Winterfell, and Dany is steeling herself to brave the House of the Undying.

Next week, however, is an hour where you're going to want to ride in the front row, hands raised high, then buy a picture in the gift shop. Episode 9 is The Battle of Blackwater Bay. And EW.com has an exclusive and in-depth interview with Thrones showrunners David Benioff and Dan Weiss giving the behind-the-scenes story on how next week came together at the end of this week's recap.

But we're getting ahead of ourselves. First let's get to tonight's episode, "The Prince of...

...Winterfell:" Dead ravens are dumped at Theon's feet. His crew has killed the carrier birds to prevent Robb Stark from finding out about their hostile takeover of his castle (they're crashing Winterfell's r-mail servers, if you will). Little do they know that Maester Luwin secretly sent a message to Robb, who has dispatched one of his bannermen's sons to retake the castle (yes, book readers, The Bastard of Bolton, though I suspect we won't see him this season).

The gates open for Ironborn riders. Theon's smile fades. Where are his 500 men? And why is his spunky sister Yara here?

Yara says their father wants Theon to give up the castle since it's too far inland for him to successfully hold for long. "Father wants a word," she says with witty understatement. Then she rips him for apparently executing the valuable Stark boys, calling him weak and stupid.

Theon is like a guy who gives his girlfriend a Saint Bernard for her birthday without pausing to consider that she has a tiny apartment and is allergic to dogs. He can't understand why this gift isn't valued. He's finally achieved something -- something huge and impressive! -- and now everybody wants to take it away.

Yara gets him alone and, for the first time, speaks kindly to him. She pleads, "Don't die so far from the sea."

I remember reading this part of Theon's story in A Clash of Kings and loving this whole complication. We always hear about heroes and villains capturing castles and territories in stories like they're pieces on a game board. But we rarely get the details of what happens next -- the challenge of holding onto a property and maintaining public support when everybody thinks you're a jerk who's stolen their lord's home. It's a classic George R.R. Martin narrative move to take a standard fantasy point that we've seen many times and inject real-world complications.

North of the Wall: Captured Jon Snow is brought across a frozen lake to Ygritte's supervisor, the Lord of Bones. I wonder why he's called that. Could be the hundreds of bones he's decorated himself with? He sort of looks like a pudgy Skeletor.

NEXT: Mom, you're embarrassing me again!

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