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The Ultimate King of Westeros
Enormous twists, turns, and surprises this week as a new king settles on the Iron Throne. Ice zombies! Dragons! Man-eating unicorns. You might even call it the ultimate showdown.

Okay. I've killed enough time. Let's go inside.

We drop in on the denizens of King's Landing at new King Tommen's coronation. People seem genuinely excited, but then, after Joffrey, these people would probably cheer for plague.  

The big surprise in this opening scene is not that everyone welcomes Tommen, who really does seem like a major upgrade. Nope. The big surprise is Cersei is sane. She positions herself between Margaery and the new king, forcing Joffrey's erstwhile bride to wince in anticipation of a major slap-down. But when Cersei slides over to talk to Margaery, she admits to Joffrey's many faults, and to her own role in indulging the boy king. It's such an open and honest speech, that I kept waiting for the moment when Cersei would laugh, pull a dagger from her corset, and go ripper. It's actually Margaery who ends up lying to Cersei, covering up the secret rendezvous she's already held with Tommen.

Cersei's sanity continues in a conversation with Pappa Tywin, where we learn that the famously wealthy Lannisters of Casterly Rock are actually deeply in debt, that their gold mines have gone dry, dry, dry, and that Tywin is counting on bringing the Tyrells into the family in no small part so they can join him in being on the hook for the kingdom's debts. Cersei carries on being disturbingly serene in a conversation with Prince Oberyn, as they bond over lost relatives.

It's almost as if, relieved of the pressure of trying to pretend that Joffrey is anything but a monster, Cersei is free to be honest. The only place where she's still totally bugnuts--her absolute insistence on killing Tyrion. Honestly, I can't tell if she really believes he killed Joffrey, or if she just doesn't want to miss this opportunity to take care of old debts.

'Cross the water, Dany finds herself gifted a navy that's substantial enough to possibly take King's Landing, but not so large that she's a shoe-in to claim Westeros. Unfortunately, it turns out that the cities where Dany marched through as "liberator" have fallen into chaos, with slavery restored and cruel leaders coming to the fore. So she decides that the first thing on her agenda is to park in Slaver's Bay and "rule as queen" until... everyone is free.

It's just another piece of a whole storyline that really doesn't work. The biggest reason this is all so boring is that Dany has no actual opponents. Maybe it's a clever commentary on the ultimate futility of the war on drugs, or the war on terror, but a war on slavery, noble as it seems, where slavery is represented by a bunch of nameless, interchangeable leaders, is about as interesting as watching a war on wet paint.

I try to be a "good reader," not in the sense of reading carefully, but in the sense of not letting my knowledge of the books ruin my own enjoyment of the show or spill over too much into my writing about each episode. But two of the changes between book and television left me little short of frothing this week.

First, up in the chilly north, we stage the raid on Craster's Keep. As it turns out, this is all just a set up for yet another Jon and Bran come within a few feet of each other but are not re-united moment. And we've already had one of those. This freshly invented incident comes off as a tease and an excuse to shove a little pointless action into a talky episode. It's complete with characters introduced to no purpose and plots that evaporate as soon as they've begun. Blergh.

Second, on my ick list.  Littlefinger and Sansa arrive in the Aerie in record time. Sansa doesn't get quite the warm family welcome she expected as crazy Aunt Lysa unleashes her full-on crazy hose at the poor girl. Not only is Lyssa planning on marrying Sansa to her even nuttier offspring (continuing the tradition of treating Sansa as a pretty little prize to be tossed to whoever has control of her this week), but Lysa is convinced that Sansa has been sleeping with Petyr. Lysa is clearly beyond smitten with Littlefinger, and fesses up to childhood snu-snu. Her infatuation is so strong that within five minutes of his arrival, Lysa is not only giving the biggest "is that orgasm or is that torture?" scream fest in history, but she's chortling with Littlefinger about how together they poisoned John Arryn, then lied to Catelyn Stark, starting the whole sequence of events that triggered the war and led to the death of 90% of Lysa's own family. To steal from another series, holy frack!

It's a giant revelation, but how it's delivered robs it of almost all impact. Hustling this storyline along so quickly has turned Littlefinger from the kingdom's most subtle manipulator to an out and out, mustache-twirling villain. Blergh, also.

Not so blergh: Arya reciting her list, and not failing to include the Hound. It occurs to me that when Arya was caged up with Tywin, the conversations between the two of them became the best scenes in the show. Now that Arya is paired with the Hound, the conversations between the two of them are the best scenes in the show.  Which makes me wonder if Arya Stark gets all the best lines, if Maisie Williams is just that good an actress, or both.

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