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Recap: How last week’s shocking death made Game of Thrones interesting again

GAME OF THRONES Season 4: Nikolaj Coster-Waldau as Jamie Lannister.

Macall B. Polay/HBO

Spoiler alert: This recap contains spoilers about the third episode of the fourth season of Game of Thrones, as well as references to events that have occurred earlier in the series.

What did we learn this week on The Young and the Restless of Westeros? Not too much, though the episode is the strongest in the season so far. Mostly we are reminded that, like Mousetrap, the game of thrones takes a really, really long time to set up. We spun about lands of the Seven Kingdoms, catching up with everybody. In doing so, I was reminded of how interesting the characters are, which, under the ceaseless, one-dimensional tyranny of the now-dead Joffrey, has been easy to forget.

We begin with a shot of Joffrey's dead face, happily reminding us that last week's episode wasn't just a dream. Tyrion is arrested and Sansa escapes to a waiting boat where Petyr Baelish, whom we've not seen in quite some time, shoots the poor fool who helped Sansa escape with a crossbow. Baelish has devolved from the compelling, unpredictable maybe-villain of season one into a mewling, caricatured version of himself. He purrs a bit, and we move on.

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Back in town, Tywin gives Joffrey's little brother, Tommen, a lecture about what makes a good king, and points out that Joffrey was jerk while they stand talking next to his corpse in the Sept. After they leave, Jaime finds Cersei there, mourning. Jaime decides that now is the time to rekindle their affair. Cersei quite understandably isn't interested in having sex next to their son's dead body. Horrifically, he rapes her on the ground next to the funeral alter, dashing the empathy he created for himself through Season 3.

Arya and the Hound, that budding buddy comedy, take their talents to the home of another unsuspecting guy who lives near the road. There, they engage in a protracted debate about whether it's okay to kill someone who is hospitable to you. Unfortunately for the hospitable guy, the Hound thinks it's perfectly okay.

In the north, Sam takes Gilly to live in the nearby village, fearing for her safety at Castle Black. Their storyline is nearly as boring as Bran's, who, mercifully, does not appear in this episode in either boy or wolf form.

In a boudoir somewhere in the capital, the Red Viper of Dorne has a hot foursome and lectures a young man on the pleasures of bisexuality. The fun is interrupted by Tywin, who looks as though he's suffering severe digestive issues. He wants the Viper to join the jury for Tyrion's trial–and the small council that will rule the kingdom through the little puppet Tommen. Tywin seeks an alliance. The Viper, though, still seeks to kill Lannisters, so this should be interesting.

Pod visits Tyrion in jail and, like all good squires should, brings him some duck sausage. Tyrion releases Pod from any responsibility to defend him. In the North again, Jon Snow tries to rally the Night's Watch to head north of the wall and attack, lest they be overtaken by the approaching Wildlings.

And finally, across the sea, Daenerys and her huge army of freed slaves approach the gates of Meereen, an enormous city containing many more slaves she hopes to free and have join her forces. A literal pissing match takes place between the champion of Meereen and the recast (and much, much more effective) Daario Naharis, who wins by throwing a dagger into a horse's eye and then urinating on the ground. Business as usual!

Ultimately, it's an episode of plot advancement, the sort of hour that puts people in place for things to come. But despite that, it is largely a pleasure because the show, finally rid of its tyrant king, is free once again to revel in what makes it interesting in the first place: characters, almost all of whom are morally ambivalent, hard to predict, and, thus, psychologically interesting for the viewer.

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