‘Game of Thrones’ Recap: Trial by Fire

The ability to deceive and manipulate means nothing when enemies are wielding dragons.

Emilia Clarke is Danerys Targaryen in HBO's "Game of Thrones."

Emilia Clarke is Danerys Targaryen in HBO's "Game of Thrones."

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For the majority of Sunday's episode of "Game of Thrones," those at the peak of power use their influence and intelligence to make moves in Westeros's political chess match. Yet in one fiery display, a key player may not only have called checkmate, but taken a sledgehammer to the entire board.

Before things go up in smoke, pieces are set in place to prevent a potential power grab. Varys, wielding his ability to hear, see and know all that happens in Westeros, uncovers Littlefinger's plan to take Sansa Stark to the Eyrie, granting her a form of asylum should Robb Stark and the Lannister family finally come to blows.

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Varys sees the power play Littlefinger is attempting and enlists the help of Olenna Tyrell. Wise to the web of deception Varys likes to spin ("There's a spider in the garden," she quips upon his arrival), the two enter a charming verbal fencing match before Varys lets it be known that Sansa's future husband would wield an enormous amount of power if Robb Stark loses his fight.

So Olenna turns to her granddaughter, Margaery, who goes on to pry Sansa away from a prayer session in order to plant the seed of marrying her brother, Loras, and spending the rest of her days in the Tyrell stronghold of Highgarden.

This is not the only showing of Margaery's manipulative ways, as she spends an earlier portion of the episode cozying up to King Joffrey while he gives her a grisly history lesson on Westeros's past wars. Upon hearing crowds in the streets of King's Landing, Margaery convinces an otherwise nervous Joffrey to make an appearance, telling him, "If you give them your love, they will return it a thousandfold." Standing by Joffrey's side, the royal couple emerges, and a once-seething population has been turned to a fawning mass.

Knowing a thing or two about manipulation, Cersei Lannister grows increasingly wary of Margaery's relationship with Joffrey. She relays her fear to her father, Tywin, who uses Cersei's concerns to belittle her about her ability to control Joffrey up until this point. When Cersei presses on about her suspicions, Twyin again cuts her down, saying, "I don't distrust you because you're a woman. I distrust you because you're not as smart as you think you are."

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Cersei's concerns do not solely lie in the Tyrell's motives, as she also inquires about Jaime's whereabouts. While Tywin still has no knowledge, viewers find the downtrodden Kingslayer strung up on horseback with his newly-severed hand tied around his neck. Locke and his minions go onto subject Jaime to hordes of shame and ridicule, letting him wallow his own filth while also using him as a receptacle for horse urine.

With his will to live broken, Brienne of Tarth, who is also a hostage, hands Jaime a reality check, informing him that the brutality he's suffered is all too common in Westeros, and people with a lot less gravitas to their names have been dealt similar hands (or lack thereof) and still find the courage to carry on.

Suffering is an understatement for the Night's Watch, who are slowly starving to death in the bitter conditions at Craster's Keep. After a funeral pyre for one of their own, the watch confronts Craster about his gluttonous behavior, demanding more food or lethal consequences. Seething over this demand, Craster loses his cool, demanding that he be treated as a god, with death serving as a punishment for anyone that fails to do so.

It is here where a mix of hunger and hatred comes to a boiling point. A member of the watch continues to curse Craster's name, which sends him into a murderous rage. The scene descends further into chaos as rangers murder both Craster and their commander, Jeor Mormont. As the bloody fight unfolds, Samwell Tarly flees with Gilly and her newborn son.

As much as hatred was responsible for the Night's Watch's actions, justice is the driving force behind Arya Stark and the Brotherhood Without Banners. The brotherhood is in the midst of putting Sandor Clegane on trial for various war crimes when we are introduced to their leader, Beric Dondarrion.