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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 Greg Tito’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!

This week’s episode raised a lot of questions that it never really addressed – why is it so odd to see Direwolves this far south? What are White Walkers? What happened to Ned’s sister and why is Fat Bob still so angry about it? – but there’s no real need to try and keep them straight just at the moment. They’ll all come up again in the future. For now, let’s just learn the major players in this particular Game.

The episode begins with three soldiers, clad in black, riding out from THE WALL into the snowy countryside. These are members of the NIGHT’S WATCH, who guard the northernmost border of civilization against, among other things, WILDLINGS. These three guys are apparently meant to be looking into recent Wildling activities. After poking around a bit, one of them finds a campsite with several mutilated bodies arranged in a design on the forest floor, and a small girl impaled on a nearby tree. He collects his companions to show them, but when they return to the campsite, the bodies are gone. Now, anyone with a lick of sense would know that while hacked-to-bits bodies is bad, missing hacked-to-bits bodies is worse, and the guy who found the bodies proves that he’s the smartest of the bunch by suggesting they all get the hell outta Dodge. But these guys decide to do some more looking around, anyway, and it’s not long before a white creature with too-blue eyes arrives to kill them, which leads to the first beheading of the evening. Yes, this is the kind of show that has a “first beheading.”

We leave the final member of the Night’s Watch trio to his fate and nip over to the very muddy WINTERFELL, home of the STARK family. A young boy, BRAN STARK, is practicing his archery, while his parents, EDDARD (NED to his pals) and CATELYN look on affectionately from above. Bran kind of sucks at archery, but hey, he’s only 10, so give the kid a break. While the boys work on their bow and arrow skills, we see a group of girls, including the daintily demure SANSA STARK and her tomboy sister ARYA working on their stitchery. Sansa impresses her teacher with her skills while Arya nips outside to show up Bran with her bow-work. Sibling rivalry ensues and the grownups, including Bran’s older brother ROBB get a good “remember when we were that young?” chuckle out of it.

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Someone informs Ned that they’ve caught a deserter from the Night’s Watch – it’s our smart soldier from earlier! He legged it out of there as fast as he could, but decided that people needed to know that the WHITE WALKERS have returned. Ned, Robb and others ride out to pass judgment on him, bringing Bran along with them. The deserter must be beheaded for deserting – that’s the law- but Ned is a noble kind of ruler, and tells his son Bran that “the man who passes the sentence must swing the sword.” And it’s a big-ass sword, too. Guess Ned got some good upper body workouts while he was fighting those orcs in Middle Earth. So, deserter beheaded, rumors of White Walkers disputed, everyone heads back to Winterfell, but not before coming across a very dead deer and the equally dead Direwolf that killed it. This is apparently a Big Damn Deal, though it just seems like basic Wild Kingdom stuff to me. The Direwolf left behind 5 puppies – one for each of the Stark children – which clearly makes this a moment of great portent, duh! Oh, except there’s a sixth pup so that JON SNOW, Ned’s bastard son, can have one, too. Dawwwwwwwwwww!

We briefly leave the cold and muddy realm of Winterfell for the tidy and clean KING’S LANDING, where someone is being prepared for burial. Two lovely blonde siblings, CERSEI AND JAIME LANNISTER, argue briefly nearby about the recently departed, who we discover is JON ARRYN. He apparently Knew Something, which worries Cersei. But hey, he’s dead now, so who cares, counters Jaime. Dude’s got a point.

Back to Winterfell, where a raven shows up with word that Jon Arryn is dead. Not only was he like a father to Ned, he was also the HAND OF THE KING, which is basically the King’s second in command. The message also says that the King will be coming to Winterfell. Catelyn figures this means one thing: He’s going to offer the job of Hand to Ned. There is a distinct lack of rejoicing at this realization.

The King and his entourage do indeed show up, and the youngest Stark kids are all atwitter about it. Bran gets a scolding from Catelyn for climbing up the castle walls to get a better view, Arya wears a soldier’s helmet for no apparent reason other to emphasize that she’s a tomboy, and Sansa goos at Joffrey like she’s on the front row at a Justin Bieber concert. KING ROBERT BARATHEON dismounts, and obviously projecting his own insecurities, tells Ned that he’s gotten fat. Arya keeps demanding to know where THE IMP is – terribly rude of her, but see, she’s a tomboy, not like her perfectly mannered sister ok we get it already. The answer to her question, by the way, is “in the local whorehouse.” We meet TYRION LANNISTER, aka The Imp, enjoying the talents of a working girl and showing everyone else in the show how to act without looking like you’re acting. Seriously, if you have no interest in Game of Thrones at all, just tune in to watch Peter Dinklage wipe the floor with his cast mates. He’s effortlessly brilliant.

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Down in the crypts beneath the castle, we learn that King Robert was supposed to marry Ned’s sister, who died before that could happen. Fat Bob suggests, therefore, that it would make sense for Joffrey to marry Sansa. Ned’s about as thrilled with that idea as he is with becoming Hand.

Meanwhile, over in the sun-soaked land of PENTOS, we meet another brother and sister: VISERYS and DAENERYS TARGARYEN. In the books, they have silvery-white hair and purple eyes. In practice, the purple contacts were so problematic that they ended up getting scrapped, so both characters just look like a couple of washed out blondes. Lackluster hair aside, we learn pretty quickly that Daenerys is spineless and Viserys is a bastard. Not in the Jon Snow wrong side of the sheets way, but rather in a stripping off his sister’s dress and appraising her like a prize horse kind of way. Seems Viserys is trading his sister in an arranged marriage to KHAL DROGO, the leader of the horse warriors DOTHRAKI in exchange for their help reclaiming the throne. Daenerys isn’t exactly down with this plan, but Viserys tells her he’d let all 40,000 of Drogos men – and their horses – fuck her if that’s what it took to get what he wanted. This is how you know that Viserys is a Very Bad Man.

Back at Winterfell, the Starks are throwing a big ol’ bash in Fat King Bob’s honor. UNCLE BENJI of the Night Watch – Ned’s brother Benjen – shows up. Jon Snow, who isn’t at the feast because Catelyn thought the presence of the royal bastard might be seen as insulting to the King, begs to be allowed to join the Night Watch, but Benji cautions against it. Jon gets pretty bitter about it. Later that night, after the revelries, Ned and Cat are in bed discussing that being Hand would pretty much suck, and that Fat Bob is pretty fat. A servant arrives with a message from Cat’s sister, who also happens to be the ex-Mrs. King’s Hand. She claims that the Lannisters poisoned her husband and are conspiring to kill the King. So, naturally, Ned decides to accept the job as Hand.

Back to Pentos, where Daenerys’ wedding is in full swing. There are plenty of half naked women and heavy drum beats to remind you that the Dothraki Are Barbarians. They also are the only folks in the entire show so far who seem to be having any fun, so make of that what you will. Khal Drogo looks on, amused when two Dothraki get into a fight about who gets to hump one of the bridesmaids. (Happens at every wedding, doesn’t it?) SIR JORAH MORMONT arrives to present Daenerys with a wedding gift of books, and tells her that he had served her father. Daenerys receives three dragon eggs as another gift; they’ve long since turned to stone but are “still beautiful,” explains her host. Ok, party’s done, time to go consummate this marriage! Khal Drogo takes his Khaleesi to some lovely…rocks (seriously, dude, you couldn’t even put some leaves down, or something?) and gets his groove on while she cries. Before you think too ill of him, he did give her a very pretty horse first.

Bran is back to climbing the walls at Winterfell while the grownups get ready to go out and hunt them some boar. As he approaches the top, Bran hears some sexytime happening, but when he looks in he discovers it’s Jaime and Cersei getting all Flowers in the Attic. Cersei freaks out. Now, let’s review. Bran is 10. Cersei is queen. In the world of He Said/She Said, I’m pretty sure Queen trumps 10 year old kid, but Jaime decides that safe is better than sorry and shoves young Bran out the very high window. Aaaaaaand roll credits! We’re wrapped for the week.

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