"Power is power," the Queen Regent Cersei told a chastened Littlefinger in the long-awaited Game of Thrones Season 2 premiere.
It's a lesson that the Lannister lady has passed down to her son. In Sunday's episode, both Cersei and Joffrey flex their monarchy muscles among their courtiers, but now that Westeros is embroiled in a civil war among more than one self-styled king, it remains to be seen who actually wields the most influence. Who made a play for power? Who succeeded? Who failed? Who just embarrassed him/herself? TVGuide.com breaks down the power shifts in "The North Remembers":
Joffrey Baratheon (Jack Gleeson): He may only be a teenager, but that kid is sitting on the Iron Throne. So far, he's used his power to hold tournaments, give the order to kill Ned Stark (Sean Bean), restore the throne room and threaten his own mother after she slaps him. "What you just did is punishable by death," he says. "You will never do it again. Never." Yikes! We would not want this tyrant deciding our fate.
Melisandre (Carice van Houten): This strange red priestess gives us the creeps. Not only did she use magic to make elderly Master Cressen bleed to death, but somehow, she's convinced Stannis Baratheon (Stephen Dillane) into accepting her one god and had him declared the legendary hero Azor Ahai reborn. If Stannis becomes king, her influence should not be underestimated.
Robb Stark (Richard Madden): The King of the North has three victories in the battlefield and has even taken "The Kingslayer" Jaime Lannister (Nicolaj Coster-Waldau) prisoner, who could become an important bargaining chip. He appears to have a good head for strategy as well, trying to win in the field and through diplomacy.
Tyrion Lannister (Peter Dinklage): We love The Imp! Now that's out of the way, it looks as if Tyrion is living the life this season. Not only does he arrive in King's Landing to serve as the temporary Hand of the King, but he's also brought his own whore, Shae (Sibel Kekilli), with him. But he's not just a pretty face. His understanding of and ability to deal with his wacky family may keep them from doing anything too foolish or extreme. Plus, he has a way with words! (See below for Tyrion's zingers.)
Honorable mentions: Sansa Stark (Sophie Turner) is learning to survive among the Lannister lions, and has exercised courtly duplicity and strategy, especially when she cajoles Joffrey into sparing Ser Dontos' life. Meanwhile, her brother Robb has chosen their mother Catelyn Stark (Michelle Fairley) to be his liaison with Renly Baratheon (Gethin Anthony) in the Storm Lands.
Daenerys Targaryen (Emilia Clarke): The khaleesi may own the only three dragons in the world and command her own khalasar, but they're all starving and looking pretty shabby. After her horse collapses, Dany makes a desperate decision to send three of her riders out to seek out help or better living conditions. We miss Khal Drogo!
Cersei Lannister (Lena Headey): As the Queen Regent, the blond beauty sits upon the small council and makes decisions that her son would rather avoid. After making a point to bully Littlefinger (Aidan Gillen) with her guards, she appears to be the one calling the shots, but as we see from her dealings with Tyrion and Joffrey, she eventually backs down in the face of superior logic or her son's wrath.
Jon Snow (Kit Harington): Ned Stark's bastard really is too pretty for his own good sometimes, and it's not too surprising that the crusty old wilding Craster sees him as a threat to his daughter-wives (ew!). And although we support Jon's ideals, he better learn to listen to Commander Mormont (James Cosmo) if he wants to stay alive.
Honorable mentions - Bastards! Someone is killing off all of the late king's illegitimate offspring around Westeros. Run, Gendry, run!
Bonus Episode Highlights
Spot the Whore! Whore count: 4. This week, we see that at least three prostitutes in Littlefinger's brothel get significant face time: the lead whore, Daisy the wide-eyed new whore and the poor whore who had her baby killed because it was King Robert's bastard child. More significantly, Shae is installed in Tyrion's Tower of the Hand, which means that she'll very likely become a player behind the scenes in court somehow.
To Cersei: "You love your children, it's your one redeeming quality... and your cheekbones."
To Cersei: "We had three Starks to trade. You chopped one's head off and let another escape!"
What did you think of the premiere? What was your favorite highlight? Who would you like to see die next?