The sixth episode of Game of Thrones, season two, titled The Old Gods and The New, opens on the chaotic invasion of Winterfell by Prince Theon Greyjoy (Alfie Allen). This chaos permeates through the entire episode. Riots breaking out in the streets of Kings Landing, violent betrayal rocks the supposed safety of Qarth, and John Snow (Kit Harington) is inadvertently separated from the Knight's Watch among the snowy wilderness beyond the wall.
The only place in George R.R. Martin's imagined world that doesn't seem to be hurtling out of control is Harrehal, where Tywin Lannister (Charles Dance) arrived last episode to restore order and continues to whip the melted castle into shape. The patriarch of the blonde-haired family known for their wealth (A Lannister always repays his debts) represents perhaps the only remaining member of a generation of leaders that has lost many members (Ned Stark, Robert Baratheon) since the show began, and commands an authority that few others do.
Arya Stark's (Maisie Williams) presence in Harrenhal provides some safety, as well as the opportunity to uncover the Lannister's secrets. But her position as Tywin's wine server means she is constantly on the verge of being exposed as a Stark. When Littlefinger (Aiden Gillen) visits Tywin he appears to recognize Arya, but says nothing (he may be holding the secret for himself until he can use it to his own advantage). She survives that encounter, but is quickly put in even more peril. Caught red-handed by a guard while holding a note she stole from Tywin, Arya has to call on her assassin friend to clean up the mess. Arya's identity is still a secret, for now.
Arya's sister Sansa Stark (Sophie Turner) fairs much worse. While walking through the capitol with King Joffrey (Jack Gleeson) and his guards, the citizens begin to riot, dismembering one guard and capturing Sansa in a barn where a group of men attempt to rape her. Joffrey orders his men to let her die, earning him yet another well-deserved slap from his dwarf-uncle Tyrion (Peter Dinklage). At the last minute The Hound, a badly scarred member of the King's guard who I am beginning to like more and more, saves Sansa and disembowels the would be rapists.
Back to Winterfell, where Bran is rudely disturbed in bed by his adopted older brother, Theon. The prince of the Iron Islands demands that the castle be yielded to him. Outside in the courtyard, Bran (Isaac Hempstead Wright) commands his people to accept defeat. Moments later Theon breaks his own promise to spare his captives' lives and decapitates Ser Rodrik in a nasty series of hacks with his sword finished with a kick that sends the head rolling as rain beats down on Theon and all of Winterfell.
That night, the captured wildling Osha seduces Theon, slits the throat of one of his men, and helps Bran and his brother escape into the forest, proving her loyalty to the Starks. At the same time a small army numbering in the hundreds is marching back to Winterfell to retake the castle and capture Theon. Robb Stark (Richard Madden) commands the men to bring him Theon still alive, so he can decapitate the betrayer himself.
Meanwhile the bastard Stark, Jon Snow, participates in a raid on a small group of wildlings during his adventure beyond the wall, and ends up trekking through the snow alone, save for a bound woman, after he is unable to kill her. So far Snow's story has been slow going, but the show continues to drop hints that something sinister is brewing beyond the wall. An enormous army numbering in the hundreds of thousands, according to Snow's captive, is ready to march on the Seven Kingdoms.
Across the sea in Qarth, Daenerys Targaryen (Emilia Clarke) is having considerable trouble convincing any one in the walled city to help her launch an invasion and claim the Iron Throne. Xaro, the richest man in Qarth, may be her best chance, but his price is marriage. Reeling from a rejection by the richest spice trader in the city, Dany returns to her chambers to find her people slaughtered and her dragons stolen. As the episode comes to a close a hooded character carries the dragons towards an ominous looking tower. It seems likely that the spice trader is behind this, but I wouldn't be surprised if we are introduced to a new character next week.
As season two rolls on it becomes more and more clear that Game of Thrones has no real heroes and villains (except of course for Joffrey). While season one starred the morally infallible Ned Stark, his death created a vacuum that cannot be filled. As each character vies for power and each Kingdom marches towards war it becomes increasingly hard to judge individual players based on their view of right and wrong and easier to base those judgments on their cunning and ability to command those around them. After all, to take the Iron Throne you have to win the game, but you don't have to play by the rules.