Considering how most conversations in Game of Thrones revolve around past wars, present wars and future wars, one would think the prospect of additional conflict and bloodshed would create excitement for the people of Westeros. Instead, as Stannis Baratheon (Stephen Dillane) and his immense fleet sail ever closer to the shores of King's Landing, arrogance in the face of an unseen threat morphs into legitimate worry for those capable of comprehending its magnitude. Needless to say, Joffrey (Jack Gleeson) remains unburdened with concern or comprehension.
In 'The Prince of Winterfell,' there is the sense that the war being fought between Robb Stark (Richard Madden) and Tywin Lannister (Charles Dance) is but a mere skirmish in comparison to the tidal wave of violence Stannis is preparing to unleash on King's Landing. It will likely upset the balance of power, as far as Tyrion (Peter Dinklage) can tell – a power he has learned to enjoy and value, even though it comes with the unenviable task of dealing with threats from Cersei (Lena Headey) and her psychotic spawn. There is little optimism that the city will withstand the impending assault, and even if it doesn't fall immediately, King's Landing will simply consume itself from the inside out – which is probably why, when Varys (Conleth Hill) speaks of Daenerys (Emilia Clarke) and her dragons, it's met with little more than a shrug from Tyrion. Conflict, is as inevitable as the setting sun.
And since in most conflicts there is a winner and a loser, such strife typically breeds ambition, even in the minds of those who lack the ability to understand their role and their purpose. As such, it's a horrible time to be anyone in Winterfell – especially Theon Greyjoy (Alfie Allen). After going out on a limb and taking such a risk to prove himself worthy of his name, he is met with disapproval by his older sister Yara (Gemma Whelan), who tells him the ironborn take only what they need, and Winterfell's distance from the sea makes it quite unattractive to their people. Theon's ambition is going to be the death of him, and his sister knows that. So in a moment that can only be described as "iron love," she reminds Theon that their childhood under Balon (Patrick Malahide) was something to be endured, and although the Starks may have made his easier in some respects, they are survivors, not subjugators. Yara leaves hoping her brother won't die so far from the sea.
The hole Theon has dug for himself gets deeper as it's made clear the charred remains hung at the gate were not Bran (Isaac Hempstead Wright) and Rickon (Art Parkinson), but the children of a nearby farmer. Theon wants to pay the man off, failing to understand he's likely already joined his sons. Despite his desire to belong, Theon cannot bring himself to act like a Stark, or think like a Greyjoy.
Theon's not the only one making poor decisions, however. Given how much Game of Thrones revels in killing off main characters with spectacle, added to the clear motivations of said characters, it was plain to anyone that the meeting between Catelyn Stark (Michelle Fairley) and Jaime Lannister (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau) at the end of 'A Man Without Honor' would end only in her setting him free. The act is treason, though little will probably come of it, aside from sparking a little rebellious streak in Robb.
With his mother safely put away where she can't make every situation more difficult than it has to be, Robb takes the time to find he has a great deal in common with Talisa (Oona Chaplin); and although he's betrothed to another, gives in to the romantic feelings that were last interrupted when his mother showed up earlier than expected.
Any sense of joy will be short-lived, however, since Tywin Lannister plans to lead an assault on the Northerners, and Robb Stark in particular. Overhearing this, Arya (Maisie Williams) tries to cash in her last death wish with Jaqen H'ghar (Tom Wlaschiha) to get rid of Tywin, but Jaqen can't deliver in the kind of time that would benefit her brother. Naming Jaqen as the next on her death wish, however, earns Arya, Gendry and the plump kid a ticket out of Harrenhal, as long as Arya promises to unmark Jaqen for death.
Up north, Jon Snow (Kit Harrington) manages to stave off death, too, despite landing in the clutches of the Wildlings along with Qhorin Halfhand (Simon Armstrong) and coming face to face with Rattleshirt (Edward Dogliani). Repaying Jon's kindness for not cutting her head off, Ygritte (Rose Leslie) manages to sell the idea that Jon would be of interest to Mance Rayder, earning him a few more days to live and contemplate Halfhand's plan to undermine the Wildlings from within their ranks.
Finally, in Qarth, despite the worry of Jorah (Iain Glen) Daenerys is determined not to leave without her dragons – which means a trip to the House of the Undying is in order.
Game of Thrones continues next Sunday @9pm with 'Blackwater' on HBO. Check out the preparation for war in the preview below:
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