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Fans of George R. R. Martin’s book series probably have no trouble following along with the lavish Game of Thrones series, but those new to the material might have had a hard time telling Westeros from Winterfell. If you’re a longtime fan, you’ll definitely want to check out The Escapist’s commentary on the series, but if you’re a confused newbie, fear not! We’ll be here with your weekly recap to help you keep it all straight. Or at least as straight as we can keep anything involving the Lannisters, anyway. We’ll be doing these recaps each week. Let’s go!

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There were times when it looked like perhaps the conflict between the Lannisters and the Starks might be resolved, but they passed the metaphorical Rubicon this week and barreled head on into the war that’s been brewing ever since Cat captured Tyrion.

Things are not going very well for Daenerys and her beloved Khal Drogo. The wound Drogo received defending his bride’s decision to protect several women from being raped by horse lords has begun to fester. The infection makes him so ill that he actually falls from his horse, which starts his tribe rumbling that they need a new Khal. Mirri Maz Duur has used her best medicine, but Drogo’s hours appear to be numbered. Ser Jorah urges Daenerys to run away with him, because once Drogo is dead, she is no longer Khaleesi, and whoever claims position as the new Khal will probably kill her and most definitely kill her son before he takes his first breath. Dany refuses to leave her husband, and instead begs Mirri to do whatever it takes to save Drogo’s life. Mirri does know some blood magic that might just do the trick, but it will require a sacrifice – only life can be exchanged for death. She slashes Drogo’s horse’s throat and warns that no-one may enter the tent while she works the spell. Ser Jorah ignores that warning, carrying Dany into the tent after she suddenly goes into labor and the Dothraki midwives refuse to treat her.

Things are equally sticky for Sansa, who is stuck at King’s Landing and utterly on her own. The Stark retainers are all dead, her sister Arya is missing, and her father is locked up in the dungeon and being called a traitor. Cersei tells Sansa that she knows the girl is innocent of any wrong doing, but that she can’t possibly marry her off to Joffrey after what Ned has done. Sansa begs her to reconsider, and promises that she’ll be the most perfect queen ever, and Cersei decides to take her at her word – if she sends a letter home to Winterfell persuading her brother Robb to come to King’s Landing and pledge fealty to Joffrey, that is.

Robb is more than happy to accept the invitation, as it turns out, but makes a horrible breach of manners by bringing along some uninvited guests – 20,000 soldiers. His bannermen are a bit unsure of his ability to lead at first, but Robb is his father’s son and takes no shit from anyone – a fact Lord Umber discovers at the cost of two of his fingers. Robb and his army run into Catelyn as she makes her way back to Winterfell. She left the Eyrie after her sister informed her that she wouldn’t be sending any knights in support of Robb’s cause. Cat isn’t exactly thrilled to see her baby boy at the head of an army, but recognizes that there’s no other choice. If Tywin Lannister wins this conflict, he will kill Robb, Cat, Arya, Bran, all of them, so the Northerners are just going to have to put their heads down and do the best they can, despite being horribly outnumbered.

Things get a bit sticky at The Trident, a whopping great river in between the Stark and Lannister armies. The only way across is through The Crossing, Lord Frey’s holding. Catelyn goes to Lord Frey to negotiate for use of the bridge, and after making it clear that he couldn’t give a rat’s ass about the Lannisters, Starks, Baratheons, or Tullys, he demands a very steep price for passage over the bridge: Robb will marry one of his daughters, Arya will marry one of his sons when they both come of age, and his kid Oliver must become Robb’s squire. Robb chokes that one down, crosses the bridge, and catches Jaime’s army off guard with a simple trick. Robb decided to show mercy on a Lannister spy that was caught counting Northern soldiers and let him go. Even his mother thought that was a dumb thing to do, but it was all part of his plan to send Tywin’s forces off in the wrong direction. Tywin thought he’d be encountering all 20,000 of Robb’s men, but instead only got 2,000; the rest were beating the snot out of Jaime’s crew and capturing the Kingslayer himself.

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Up at The Wall, Jon Snow is man of the hour for saving the Lord Commander’s life, but that doesn’t prevent him from wishing he could join his brother Robb in battle, or at least go to King’s Landing to protect his sisters. Maester Aemon reminds him that his duty is to his new family, the men of the Night’s Watch, and assures Jon that he understands how he feels. Turns out that the good Maester is the brother of the Mad King, and was forced to wrestle with his own conscience during the dust-up that left his family dead.

Things are going a bit sideways for Tyrion, too. He and Bron are ambushed by Shagga and other tribesmen of the Vale, but Tyrion trades their lives for a promise that he’ll provide the brutes with better weapons and armor, as well as turn over the Vale to their control. The tribesmen escort Tyrion to his father’s camp, and the elder Lannister is less than thrilled to see his diminutive son. He’s somewhat more enthusiastic about the tribesmen who he figures will be helpful in battle, provided they can stop squabbling amongst themselves long enough to attack some of the Stark forces. Shagga demands that Tyrion fight alongside them, and Tywin assigns all of them to positions in the vanguard, which Tyrion figures is pretty much equivalent to a death sentence. In an attempt to take the edge off his impending doom, Tyrion hires an enigmatic woman named Shae to be his companion and bed partner for the duration of the campaign. She’s happy to comply, so long as he never asks about her parents.

One evening, as Tyrion, Shae, and Bron are playing drinking games, we learn just how cruel Tywin can be. When Tyrion was 16, he and Jaime came across a young girl fleeing her would-be rapists. While Jaime dealt with the thugs, Tyrion took care of the girl. One thing led to another and they both quite drunk, rolled into bed together, he fell in love and asked her to marry him. Turns out it was all a set up because Jaime thought it was about time Tyrion popped his cherry, so he hired a whore to play the part of damsel in distress. To add to the humiliation, Tywin made Tyrion watch as she shagged his guardsmen for a silver a pop – and wound up with so much money that she couldn’t hold it all. Delightful family, those Lannisters. Tyrion finally gets a stroke of luck, sort of, when he’s trampled by Vale tribesmen and gets knocked unconscious on the way to the fight with Robb’s army. He misses the entire thing, but does at least get wounded enough to almost earn Tywin’s approval. Almost.

Back at King’s Landing, Sansa begs Joffrey for mercy on her father’s behalf. He agrees, saying Ned can be allowed to take the black and live out his days with the Night’s Watch, on one condition: he must first confess his treason. Varys pops down to the dungeon to relay this news to Ned, who isn’t willing to trade his honor for his life. That’s all fine and dandy, says Varys, but what does Ned think will happen to Sansa once he’s pushing up daisies? Arya might’ve managed to escape, but Sansa is alone and defenseless. Ned takes this to heart, and when he’s hauled in front of the public of King’s Landing, he does indeed confess his crimes and declare Joffrey as rightful heir. Much to Sansa and Cersei’s horror, Joffrey goes back on his word, and one swipe of the sword later, Sansa and Arya – who’d been hiding in the crowd – are mourning their late father.

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