'Game of Thrones' Recap: Family Matters

A king's power pales in comparison to that of a family's bond.

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In Westeros, no one person can rise to the Iron Throne by his or her lonesome. Some may need legions of armed men, some may need dragons and some may need favors from the gods. However, as the Season 3 finale of "Game of Thrones" shows, family is the strongest asset one can hold on the path to power in the Seven Kingdoms.

[READ: 'Game of Thrones' Season 3, Episode 9: 'Til Death Do Us Part]

The hostility among the Lannister family still lingers after Tyrion's wedding to Sansa Stark. Before Robb Stark's army could finish dying, news of The Red Wedding travels back to King's Landing. The report sends King Joffrey into fits of delight, and he announces to the Small council that he will serve Robb's head to Sansa at his upcoming wedding.

With Sansa now a Lannister in name, the council tries to protect Sansa, but Joffrey grows indignant, hurling insults and reminding his elders that "everyone is mine to torment" and he will do as he pleases.

Tyrion —  maybe protective of his new wife, maybe tired of being routinely belittled — tosses a thinly veiled threat on Joffrey's life, which sends the diabolical little despot into a conniption where he reminds the whole room of the power he wields. Tywin Lannister — also seemingly tired of Joffrey's juvenile insanity — advises his grandson that any king who has to remind people of his power really holds no power at all.

This sends Joffrey into a tantrum, where he reminds his grandfather that his Baratheon bloodline spent more time winning wars and holding crowns than any Lannister to date. Clearly repressing a visceral reaction, he commands Joffrey be removed from the room and sent to bed without his supper.

With Joffrey sent to bed, Tywin picks a different thread of family infighting, keeping Tyrion around for a post-council rap session. Tyrion wisely breaks down how his father constructed the events that led to the Red Wedding, but admonishes him for the means by which the events played out.

[READ: 'Game of Thrones' Season 3, Episode 8: A Different Kind of Prison]

Apathetic to the brutality, Tywin's justification comes with a Machiavellian twist: The ends will always justify the means if the Lannisters' livelihood is at stake. "A good man does everything in his power to better his family's position," Tywin tells Tyrion, even if that means putting selfish desires aside.

Bewildered by this display of altruism, Tyrion calls out his father, asking how this sentiment is possible despite the mountain of evidence to the contrary. Tywin points to Tyrion's own existence as a shining example of his compassion, confessing that he wanted to kill him shortly after his birth, but couldn't bring himself to do so because he still bore the family name.

Tywin Lannister looks like "Father of the Year" compared to Balon Greyjoy. The lord of the Iron Islands is alerted to the whereabouts of his son, Theon, in a manner that can best be described as a depraved version of a popular Saturday Night Live skit.

Despite the clear threat Ramsay Snow sends Balon, he has no interest in rescuing Theon, brushing the note aside like a piece of junk mail. When Theon's sister, Yara, objects, she takes matters into her own hands, pledging to search every corner of the Seven Kingdoms in order to free her brother from Ramsay Snow.

In one of those dark corners, Davos Seaworth and Gendry are left to rot in Dragonstone's dungeons, commiserating about how the Westeros elite — "the Highborns" — are just the worst. As they lament their fates, they realize they share a common bond: Both grew up in slums of King's Landing, left to fend for themselves among the sewage of the Red Keep.

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When later summoned by Stannis Baratheon, Davos implores Stannis not to sacrifice the boy in the name of Melisandre's fire gods. Yet Stannis, convinced of Melisandre's power after her leech ritual led to Robb Stark's demise, remains confident that the only way to capture the Iron Throne is through "dragons and magic." Gendry may be his nephew, but a family sacrifice is the only way Stannis can become the "one, true king."