The only thing lacking in the latest and best episode yet of Game of Thrones was the wonderful Peter Dinklage as Tyrion Lannister, who must be making his way back to King's Landing since his escape from Catelyn Stark and her sister last week. And what he will find there when he gets there ... Actually, there was another bum note. An extended "HBO After Dark" sequence with Petyr "Littlefinger" Baelish (Aidan Gillen) instructing two prostitutes on the finer arts of the act while telling his background love story. We get it, HBO, you can get sexier on cable, and we get the metaphor. We have already been told that Littlefinger still loves Catelyn. But the "screw them, before they screw you" lesson — did it have to be that literal and obvious?
But now on to what was really good, which was the rest of the episode. Most of “You Win or You Die” was seen from Ned Stark's (Sean Bean) perspective, and featured his attempts to do what he thinks is right, what is honorable. After spending all this time in King's Landing he still has no idea who he is dealing with. Many characters tried to tell him during the course of the episode the way the things work, but he just wasn't listening. He believes that right is right.
Ned is contrasted with Tywin Lannister (Charles Dance), head of the Lannisters, who dressed down son Jaime (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau) while working on a deer carcass, the animal the symbol of King Robert and the Baratheons. He wants the throne for the Lannisters and he wants it now.
In King's Landing Ned showed his King's Hand and tried his first power play — he summoned Queen Cersei (Lena Headey) to tell her what he learned from studying the family trees of the Baratheons last week — that she and Jaime were not only twins, but lovers, and that he knows they were behind his son Bran's death attempt. He tried to show mercy by giving her a head start — he ordered her to take her children and leave before he tells her husband King Robert (Mark Addy) what he knows. Cersei stayed cool as always and suggested that he should have seized the throne when he had a chance, "When you play the game of thrones you win or you die, there is no middle ground." Ned is so out of his league.
At Winterfell the Wilding woman Osha (Natalia Tena), who is a Stark hostage after trying to rob Bran while on horseback, is being hassled by Leon Greyjoy (Aidan Gillen), who tries to mess with her as well as make her call him "Lord." But she cleverly gets him off balance, questioning why he would be considered a Lord. He is a Stark hostage, just like herself. I still hate this guy. He's just annoying. Stark factotum Luwin (Donald Sumpter) stops Greyjoy before he makes a real move. Osha warns Luwin that there are more than animals to be concerned with out in the wild, that other creatures are stirring again. She's been trying to get south before the long night comes. She doesn't say "White Walkers," but she doesn't have to.