Game of Thrones Recap: Westeros in Love

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The Prince of Winterfell

Season 2 | Episode 08

Ever since James Poniewozik wrote in a Game of Thrones recap that he'd love to see a bottle episode starring just Arya and Twyin Lannister, I've been thinking about structure on the show. The things that make the series so impressive as a screen adaptation — its geographic sprawl and huge cast of characters — are precisely what can make it tedious at times. As a viewer, you often get caught between a plot rock and a narrative hard place, either dawdling on a picaresque journey through B-plots that seem to digress ever further from the show's center (pouty Jon Snow beyond the Wall, poor Daenerys in Qarth) or else waiting for the chess pieces to arrange themselves ahead of next week's big, breathlessly anticipated Battle of Blackwater, an episode important enough that George R.R. Martin wrote it himself.

This week, we didn't quite get an hour of undiluted Arya-Tywin time. (One can only pray for a DVD extra.) But we did get a number of great scenes, most of them two-handers, that deepened the characters' emotional lives as well as their core relationships. Yes, there was quite a bit of manipulatively swelling music as, one by one, the tough men of Westeros swore their devotion to their lady loves — or th 01;ir onion knights, as the case may be. But sweeping romance is one of the great pleasures high fantasy can offer, and if I'm a sucker for feeling like we haven't had nearly enough of it so far, so be it.

Robb and Talisa's long-teased smooshfest in his war tent provided the biggest swoon and also holds the greatest disruptive potential. Practically speaking, the love affair may mean breaking the betrothal between Robb and Walder Frey's daughter, which was set last season when Walder allowed Robb's forces to cross a bridge on Frey territory. This could prove a less-than-savvy political move that will weaken Robb's standing with his allies. But even more striking is the way it represents a definitive break with Robb's childhood .

Just as Robb is telling Talisa what an amazing leader and man his father was, news comes that his mother has released Jaime Lannister — Robb's most important bargaining chip — in the hopes that it will save Sansa and Arya, whom she believes are both being held at King's Landing. Robb's relationship with Catelyn has been the one constant in his long journey from lord's son to King in the North, and when he names her a traitor and puts h 01;r under house arrest, that bond is severed.

Let's just get all Freudian about it and note that in "Prince of Winterfell," Robb switches his allegiance and identification from his mother to his new lover. Robb has always drawn strength from Catelyn's staunchness, and it's clearly that quality, as demonstrated by Talisa's speech about the slave who saved her younger brother from drowning (which in turn echoed Yara's story about mewling baby Theon), that clinched the attraction for him. Catelyn, of course, saw this coming , because she is very wise. I fear this new relationship does not bode well, though it was a refreshing change of pace to see a hot-n-sweaty sex scene in GoT that was driven by passion and love as opposed to some kind of power play.

Tyrion also got a big loverman moment in this episode, which was surely a dear happiness to the many viewers who have been crushing on him hard since episode one. It also emphasized a truth about Tyrion that's been developing all season. While he may be conniving — he loves the game, as Varys put it, where more upstanding men like Jon Arryn and Ned Stark did not — he's also motivated by nobler things: honor, compassio n (for "odd little boys" and captive young girls), and love.

The power of romantic love hasn't been explored much in Game of Thrones, but those who remember their Westerosi history will recall how Robert Baratheon helped overthrow the Targaryen dynasty for the love of one Lyanna Stark, a woman whose ghost haunted his .

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