Note: Do not read on if you have not seen Season 3, Episode 2 of HBO's "Game of Thrones," titled "Dark Wings, Dark Words."
"Everyone hates the cave people." -- Mance Rayder
This week, in the second episode of Season 3, "Dark Wings, Dark Words," we visited some characters who were missing in last week's premiere, namely, Arya, Bran, Jaime and Brienne, and Theon (eek!). This week's episode was less about brute power than it was about the subtleties of influence. Some players were skilled manipulators, while others remained oblivious to the way the current runs.
Read on to see how the power rankings stand this week.
The Power Rankings
Using a complex algorithm that takes into account each player's wealth, military might and dominion over lands, along with a "bonus" factor that adjusts for unquantifiable assets that could influence events, we've surveyed the lay of the land to figure out who is winning the game of thrones after the second episode of season three of "Game of Thrones," entitled "Dark Wings, Dark Words."
1. Tywin Lannister (Last Episode: 1) No Tywin this week, though Tyrion seems pretty convinced of his threat to kill his whore. He's probably busy running the Seven Kingdoms.
2. Margaery Tyrell (Last Episode: 3) We see where Margaery gets her gumption when we meet her grandmother, Olenna, who is feistier than Arya and more cutting than Cersei (her take on Renly: "Gallant, charming and very clean"). Olenna and Margaery manage to get Sansa to admit her feelings about who Joffrey really is. She calls him a monster, recalling the story of how he forced her to look at her dead father's head after promising he would spare his life. Margaery later uses the information to charm Joffrey by indulging his violent side, proving that her harlot dresses are working in her favor.
3. Robb Stark (Last Episode: 2) It's not the best week for the "the king of the grim bearded stinking barbarians" (as Talia dubs him). Roose Bolton shows up with two envelopes -- one from Riverrun and one from Winterfell. The bad news? Catelyn's father is dead. The worse news? Everyone at Winterfell was massacred, the castle's been burnt down, and no one's seen Bran or Rickon.
"You don't think we can win," Robb tells one of his followers, during a grim conversation that's still less grim than Catelyn's dark confession of having hated Jon Snow. She prayed for his death, he caught the pox, she felt guilty, so she prayed for him to live, promising that she'd try to love him if he lived. He lived, she didn't keep her promise, and now three of her children are missing.
4. Cersei & Joffrey Lannister (Last Episode: 4) Joffrey, the angsty teen dream/sadistic ruler of the Seven Kingdoms, is getting more and more defiant every day. While getting fitted for some shiny clothes, Joffrey ignores his mother's warnings about Margaery's cunning ("She dresses like a harlot for a reason!"), and her point that Margaery had married a traitor (Renly).
His response: "That's what intelligent women do. What they're told."
Still, he seems to remember the warning later when Margaery shows up while he's holding a two-foot crossbow in his hands. He grills her about her time spent in the "bed of a traitor," but Margaery manages to convince him that Renly (the little tulip) was gay by telling Joffrey that Renly wanted to do something that sounded "very painful and couldn't possibly result in children." He goes back to flirting by showing her how to shoot his crossbow -- and Margaery is more than game.
"Do you want to hold it?" he asks.
"May I, please!" she replies.
Then she asks him if he'd like to watch her kill something, which gets him a little too excited. Margaery: 1. Cersei: 0.
5. Daenerys Targaryen (Last Episode: 5) No Daenerys this week. We assume she's playing with the dragons, and taking pleasant walks in beautiful Astapor.
These characters are important, but don't make it to the top five in our Power Rankings -- yet.
Bran Stark The return of Bran this season may be pop culture's best illustration of the power of puberty since "The Prisoner of Azkaban." Isaac Hempstead Wright, who plays him, has shot up about six inches in stature and down a couple octaves in vocal range since the end of Season 2. His cheeks have hollowed out and his eyebrows have thickened. That's not the only change, though: In this episode, Bran makes a new friend, Jojen Reed, who's played by Thomas Brodie-Singer of "Love Actually" fame. (Another exemplar of the impact of hormones.) Jojen and his fierce sister Meera meet up with Bran, Hodor, Osha and Rickon in the heath north of Winterfell, having traveled from their home castle of Greywater Watch in the Neck, hundreds of miles south. Jojen validates Bran's belief in old, occult forces, showing him that if he harnesses his prescient dreams, he could be hugely influential.
Arya Stark This episode, fan favorite Arya and her buddies Gendry and Hot Pie discover that their escape from Harrenhall -- facilitated by the Faceless Man Jaqen H'ghar -- didn't exactly lead to the promised land. They're wandering aimlessly through the war-torn Riverlands, without money or directions to Riverrun, where Arya knows she can get help from her grandfather Hoster Tully. While walking through the woods, Gendry needles Arya about her (vaguely implausible) decision to ask Jaqen to kill several random figures rather than blood enemies, such as King Joffrey or Tywin Lannister, one of several in-jokes at the books' expense in the first few episodes. But the joking comes to an abrupt end when the band of fugitives encounters the ragtag Brotherhood Without Banners, led by the redheaded Thoros of Myr, a knife with Falstaff's love of wine and Hotspur's prowess in battle. The Brotherhood takes them to the Inn at the Crossroads -- along, soon afterwards, with Sandor Clegane, the Hound, who instantly recognizes Arya. Uh-oh.
Sansa Stark This episode, Sansa meets the formidable, endlessly fascinating Olenna Tyrell (Diana Rigg), one of the most charming characters on the show. She bristles with energy and Sansa, in her presence ... melts. She's too scared and dim to keep up with the Dowager Lady of Highgarden. But she's not completely cowed. After Olenna dismisses her servants, leaving her alone with Margaery and Sansa, the latter admits that Joffrey is a "monster," a daring admission after months of diplomatic smiles.
Jon Snow Jon goes in deeper with the Wildlings this episode. He meets his first "warg" -- basically a New Age-y Animorph -- Orell, who can inhabit the body of an eagle the way Bran can inhabit his direwolf. But other than that, there's not much movement here.
Brienne of Tarth & Jaime Lannister These two fine swordsmen are rapidly gaining on Bronn and Tyrion as the best buddy-comedy pair in the series, with Brienne's seriousness playing off Jaime's jocularity to great effect. Too bad they got caught by Roose Bolton's "best hunter" at the end of the episode.
Tyrion Lannister Very little Tyrion this episode. (No pun intended!) Shae jealously, semi-jokingly confronts him about his past relations with Roz the Redhead. We're bored.
Theon Greyjoy Theon's screwed. (Pun intended!) He's strapped to a sort of slanted crucifix while vile torturers of vague extraction drill screws into his feet. He screams in pain and delivers semi-false confessions. It's all sort of like the opposite of "Zero Dark Thirty," and would be vicious to watch had Theon not so wantonly betrayed the Starks.
"Game of Thrones" airs Sundays at 9 p.m. ET on HBO.