Note: Do not read on if you have not seen Season 3, Episode 7 of HBO's "Game of Thrones," titled "The Bear And The Maiden Fair."
"What happens to things that don't bend?" -- Danaerys Targaryen
If you didn't know that this week's episode, "The Bear and the Maiden Fair," had been written by George R.R. Martin, would you ever have guessed it?
Yes, it was an unusually drama-packed 60 minutes, with every storyline showcasing the series' signature mix of sex, violence and political intrigue. But the plot also deviated even further from the books than it did in "The Climb." And there were a couple notes -- Talisa's mother not knowing about her marriage, Melisandre being allowed to sail up to Blackwater Bay without being accosted by the Lannisters -- that strained credulity. And some of the most exciting scenes were terribly lurid.
Still, it was a strong episode, on balance. Like the recent few, it focused more on characters at the periphery of power than the center. That's not a bad thing for drama -- but it does mean our Power Rankings haven't shifted much in a while. Scroll down to find out why.
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 seventh episode of season three of "Game of Thrones," entitled "The Bear and the Maiden Fair."
1. Tywin Lannister (Last Episode: 1) Tywin taught us a new power move this week: When Joffrey complains from his seat on the Iron Throne that he would have to climb the stairs in the Tower of the Hand to get to his small council meetings, Tywin looks at his grandson with disgust and walks, silently, the 15-odd feet toward the King. Joffrey looks like he's on the verge of tears. Tywin finally breaks the deafening silence. "We could arrange to have you carried," he says. Never has a slavishly generous offer sounded so unappealing. Or so menacing. This hand is made for punching in the gut.
2. Margaery & Olenna Tyrell (Last Episode: 2) No Diana Rigg this episode, which makes us sad! And Margaery got just one scene, with Sansa. But it was a delicious one, in which the soon-to-be-queen shows Sansa the extent to which she (and, assumedly, her mother) is focusing on the long game. She knows full well that Joffrey will be a terrible husband -- but she plans to teach her son, who will be king, how to be a man in her image. She's an amateur educator, it seems -- this episode, she also reveals her saucy side by giving the young Lady Stark a lesson in conjugal pleasure.
3. Daenerys Targaryen (Last Episode: 3) Tywin, in his conversation with Joffrey, dismisses Daenaery's dragons as "curiosities on the other side of the world," comparing them to the stunted dragons that hatched and died a century before Robert's Rebellion. But we know better. Dany finally reaches Yunkai this episode, and she's determined to attack it in order to free the 200,000 slaves who live inside. She explains as much to the Master of Yunkai, despite his offer of ships and gold in exchange for peace. He's furious, and threatens to enslave Danaerys as well as all her followers once Yunkai wins the fight with the help of its "powerful friends." Her dragons react to this threat fiercely, scaring him and his slaves away without their gold. But afterwards, she shows that she's taken his threat seriously by asking Jorah Mormont to find out just who these "powerful friends" are. They could, after all, be anyone: Dany's crusade against slavery may be noble, but it's also economically disruptive. What happens in Slaver's Bay doesn't stay in Slaver's Bay.
4. Robb Stark (Last Episode: 5) After several grim episodes, Robb gets his mojo back this episode when he finds out that his beautiful wife Talisa is pregnant. With an heir on its way, he suddenly finds himself thinking about the future again. His restored energy may just be enough to overcome an ever-shrinking army and some actions, on Roose Bolton's part, that look awfully close to treason.
5. Joffrey Baratheon (Last Episode: 4) If Joffrey were the king anywhere else in the world -- Yunkai, say, or the North -- he'd probably have his sadistic way with everyone under his control. Alas, he's in King's Landing, so his every step is dogged by master manipulators Tywin and Margaery. They suck all the power out of the air, leaving him with barely enough to maintain his believability as the nominal ruler of the Seven Kingdoms.
These characters are important, but don't make it to the top five in our Power Rankings -- yet.
Brienne of Tarth & Jaime Lannister Jaime's free, but Brienne's been left behind with the asshole who cut off Jaime's hand. After learning that he's rejected her father's ransom, Jaime neatly forces his escort to go back to Harrenhal and discovers our fair maiden at the bottom of a pit with only an angry bear for company. Repaying his debt to her, he jumps into the pit and saves the girl.
Tyrion Lannister Just as Margaery tries to comfort Sansa, Bronn comforts Tyrion -- the sellsword knows that Tyrion wants to bed young Sansa, even if he claims he doesn't. Shae believes the same. Tyrion's gift of gold -- enough for a ship! -- and promises of stability are rejected out of hand. She's only his whore, and nothing he says will change the fact that she'll have to change his wife's chamberpot while he's enjoying his matrimonial bed.
Sansa Stark Tyrion's short stature has Sansa worried, but Margaery reassures her. Tyrion, after all, is much nicer than some of the other Lannisters roaming King's Landing. Besides, Tyrion has a lot of experience in bed (a good thing) and Sansa's children will one day rule both Casterly Rock and the North. As a woman, she counsels Sansa, you have to figure out what you like. How does Margaery know? Her mother told her (a stretch of the truth Sansa swallows up whole).
Arya Stark Still tagging along with the Brotherhood without Banners, Arya is displeased to find out that her captors plan to move away from Riverrun -- where they promised to take her. The god she worships, by the way, is Death (her prayers are the names of the men and women she wants to kill). She runs away into the forest and manages to escape, only to be caught by Sandor Clegane, who hoists her over a shoulder and carries her off. But where will he take her?
Jon Snow Has Jon really turned his back on the Night's Watch? Orell doesn't think so, and he tells Ygritte as much, counseling her to go for a real man, like him. She shrugs him off and goes back to her highborn lover, who delivers her a warning: The Wildlings will lose the war they want to wage. But no matter how passionately he tries to scare her into submission, she chooses to ignore what is so obviously a clue to Jon's real allegiances and declares that for now, she will live (and make out against the sides of boulders).
Gendry & Melisandre As the former blacksmith sails past King's Landing, Melisandre admits to having been a slave. But the Lord of Light lifted her up and saved her. And, by the way, King's Landing is Gendry's father's house -- Melisandre reveals something that most watchers probably already knew, but that Gendry seems not to have guessed. His body is full of king's blood, and that blood is useful.
Bran Stark Following Jojen's vision of Jon Snow, Bran decides that they will skip Castle Black and go straight to the other side of the Wall. He wants to get to that creepy three-eyed raven beckoning to him in his dreams. Osha is not pleased. She left her home for a reason, and lets Bran and the others in on what that reason is -- her ex-lover left her, returned as a wight, and made her burn her hut down, with him inside.
Theon Greyjoy Just when it seems like things may have turned around for Theon (although the women who come to strip him and ride him seem more sadistic than seductive), it becomes clear that the torture is not over yet. What is Theon's most precious part? It's the one between his legs, which his captor removes gleefully to the tune of Theon's screaming.
"Game of Thrones" airs Sundays at 9 p.m. ET on HBO.
CORRECTION: This post has been amended to change references to "Brave Companions" and "Other" to "Brotherhood without Banners" and "Wight."