The kingdoms of Nunziata, Miller and Rappe have gathered to melee on “The Wolf and the Lion.”

Josh: Well, well, well. After the mostly uneventful breather the show took during “Cripples, Bastards, and Broken Things” shit really started hitting the fan in “The Wolf and the Lion.” This was an ep of clashing titans, so to speak. Ned first clashed with King Robert over a hit-job on the Targaryens, then he finally broke the sexual battle tension between himself and Jamie Lannister. The two Clegane brothers duked it out in front of the tournie crowd. The King and Queen finally “had it out” on the topic of King Robert’s true love, Ned’s dead sister. And the two smarmiest schemers in the realm, Littlefinger and The Spider, had the most passive-aggressively ambiguous throw down ever. Plus, we finally got to see some dragon skulls in a scene that began linking this “game of thrones” we’ve been hearing so much about in Westeros more officially with the events across the Narrow Sea. And Tyrion finally took a life in battle before finding himself at the mercy of a creepy breast-feeding crazy person.

Wow. What an episode. “The Wolf and the Lion” made me feel like we were being a bit impatient last week. At least Rappe and I. ‘The Mountain That Rides’ got his due set-up, and Sansa found a reason to smile. What is making me continue to fall deeper into love with this show is how it handles its small things. Even amongst the exciting fights and battles found in this ep, the most winning moments continue to be purely conversational. Mark Addy is doing some truly wonderful things with King Robert, who continues to surprise us with just what an asshole he is beneath his beerhall charm. I think the scene between him and the Queen may be my favorite moment with the actor thus far. And I was about to slobber all over Dinklage too, but I know Nick will want in on that, so I’ll pass things off here.

Elisabeth: I dug this episode a lot. When you behead a horse in the opening scenes (surely one of the most horrific things I’ve seen on television), you set a bar you’re going to have to meet.  “Lion” didn’t really drop the ball from that point on, it was all sex and violence, and how intertwined they are in this bored, postwar kingdom.

I will say that I think I’m right about Sansa being miscast.  She held her own in “Kingsroad” but that had to be the most unconvincing “Yay!” and “Oh. Oh no. Oh Father, do. not. let. him. die” acting this side of The Phantom Menace. I realize that next to spunky little Maisie Williams (who owns every scene Arya appears in with humor and bravado) a lot of child actors are going to suffer, but come on.  If I’m wrong later on, I’ll be happy to admit it (and pleased to be wrong!) but I really think this is why they’re limiting her interactions with every character she’s supposed to be dealing with. Either that, or they really didn’t expect to have a season two, so they just went “Eh. She can just sit there.” And poor Ms. Turner didn’t have anything to work with *but* “Oh. No. Don’t let them!”

I loved the fight between Sandor and the Mountain.  I’m sorry I expressed any disappointment with Sandor’s casting because that guy can deliver a lot of character acting just in the way he holds himself, and swings a sword. I like that this simmering violence is beginning to just explode everywhere in little fits and starts, and right as Robert is lamenting what a kingdom becomes in times of prosperity. Much has been made of men of winter versus men of summer, and we’re seeing just what happens when you keep men of winter and war in peacetime a little too long. Jaime was practically drooling at the thought of having an excuse to chop at Ned.

And while this was an episode of lots of tension and action, I just don’t think you can say enough about the performances.  Petyr versus Varys, Sandor, the look in Ned’s eyes as Jaime trotted off, Tyrion’s terror, Catelyn’s guilt, Lysa’s madness, Cersei’s coldness, and Robert’s bombast. (They’re matching the book page for page — this is exactly the point I was fed up with him, and the show has matched it perfectly in action and Mark Addy’s performance.)  This is why I come down so hard on the one character that doesn’t work for me, particularly as I know she’s got to step up if this saga is going to play out as it needs to.

Nick: Well, I finally know what a penis looks like.

This was a terrific episode. It moved, shit it practically flew past with all the moments where all this tension and hate was able to manifest itself in dialogue and violence. I think it’s safe to say that a lot of the complaints of the first several episodes are beginning to fade.

Also, it’s nice to see these supporting characters getting their due. The King and his Wife was a great scene as was the sparring of Ned with his old friend and his old enemy, but it was just as fun seeing tbe schemers get a little more two-dimensional.

Elisabeth: I’m no expert (really, that’s not sarcasm), but I think it was a fake breast.  But it’s still a bizarre day at work, and not something I’d be happy to talk about during a school event. “Yes, he was cast in Game of Thrones — oh, you didn’t see him? He was the boob-sucking kid!”

It’s funny, I recap the show for another site where there are a lot of really dedicated GoT fans, and I said “Well, they certainly threw Loras and Renly out of the closet!” and received a lot of emails insisting it had always been really clear cut, and the love between Loras and Renly was deep and well-documented. I remember a lot of whispers and snide remarks, but nothing concrete, and certainly nothing on the level that implied they plotted together.  It’s not the first time I’ve gotten a “No, you were wrong, it was there all along!” response.  It appears  that even “off-script” scenes are still moments that are canon among Martin’s fans. It’s curious. I’ve never seen a fandom this supportive of explicit (in a non-sexual sense) character information.  Are they pulling stuff from Martin’s deep and exhausting fan forums?  I’m beginning to wonder.

Josh: I watched the episode on a fairly small TV, so it was impossible to tell how real that boob looked. Though, given the questionable legality of under-aged titty sucking, I think the presence of a prosthetic breast is likely. But a twisted writer can dream can’t he?!

And — pft! Fanboys. I’ve only read the books once, but I certainly don’t think Renly being gay was ever expressly addressed. But it does kind of seem like the writers are culling from fan forums in a sense, as we’re getting a lot of stuff presented upfront and in the open here (in these first five episodes) that a reader had to piece together (largely on conjecture) over the course of many books. In the case of backstory, I think this is a savvy move for the show.

Nick: The big question for me here now is “what do we need accomplished by the end of the season?”. We’re around the halfway mark now and I don’t know how far into book one we are, but I am concerned that there’s a balance issue at risk here. We’ve made good progress with the King and Ned and the intrigue regarding bastards and murder plots. What we lack is the global threat at hand. What we lack is a revisit on the creepy dudes from the beginning of episode one. What we lack is any real weight to the men on the wall. If I see another scene where the Bastard does something noble and is scoffed at by the rabble or his superiors I’ll be a sad man. Looking at this episode on its own showcases a bloody good time but is it an appetizer or something to keep us sated as things meander for a few episodes. Audiences taste blood now. Can’t let them down after this.

Josh: Rappe or I could of course answer many of those questions (presuming that season one will neatly follow book one to the end), but obviously won’t spoil anything for anyone. I’ll frankly be very curious to see how the non-reader audience responds to the arcs of the full season. Going to be interesting.

We know Rappe isn’t loving Sansa. I’m curious, Nick, is there any particular character that’s chappin’ your ass currently?

Nick: Not really. I’m not a fan of pretty man Lannister because he’s never seemed faceted in any way. Sure, he’s a sisterfucker but that hardly qualifies as much. I live in the South. I need more that a mustache-less mustache twirler, though I did enjoy him being pissed that his soldier interfered with his fight. I’m in the show’s thrall, but so far most of the plots regarding the women seem to be tacked on, the Queen excepted. Also, Mrs. Stark. I get that she’s a strong woman because she took matters into her own hands but without knowing where the story is headed I’m more concerned with this season capitalizing on the growing tension. Even if it means taking a break from the “A” characters. I just got the book so in theory it’ll all compute soon enough.