"Aren't you always so clever with your schemes and your plots?" Queen Cersei Lannister
"Schemes and plots are the same thing." -- Tyrion Lannister
It wouldn't be a stretch to argue that the second season of"Game of Thrones"has been a good deal duller than Season 1. Until tonight.
During the HBO show's first season, no less than four major characters (including several potential kings) were killed off: Protagonist Ned Stark, Khal Drogo, Viserys Targaryen and the king himself, Robert Baratheon.
Midway through Season 2, the death toll of major characters stood at zero.
That all changed in episode five, "The Ghost of Harrenhal," when Stannis Baratheon's strange shadow-demon son/double killed his younger brother, Renly. And just like that, the number of potential kings was reduced from five to four.
Renly's assassination set off a series of events: His guard, Brienne, who was attending to Renly at the time of his death, fled camp under suspicion and pledged herself to Catelyn Stark; Renly's widow, Margaery Tyrell, appeared to collude with Littlefinger to join the Lannisters ("Do you want to be queen?" Littlefinger asked her. "No," she replied: "I want to be the queen."); and many of Renly's men (except for the Tyrells) joined Stannis' army.
Many were grieving, including Davos Seaworth, but none more than Renly's lover, Loras Tyrell.
"He would have been a true king, a good king," Loras said, between tears.
Coldly, Stannis was less tearful about his brother's death.
"Fools love a fool," he said of those who mourn him.
With Renly dead and Daenerys Targaryen exiled, there are now really only three armies that matter: Joffrey's, Stannis' and Robb Stark's. And since Robb has no interest in the Iron Throne, that sets up a looming battle between Stannis and Joffrey's forces.
Davos counseled Stannis not to use Melisandre and her dark magic in his attack on King's Landing, arguing that people will worship her and not follow him.
"You won those bannermen from Renly. Don't lose them to her," he said. (Sound counsel, perhaps. But hasn't dark magic been, well, helpful to Stannis?)
But with Stannis plotting a naval attack via Blackwater Bay, Cersei Lannister was taking no such vows of celibacy from magic.
Tyrion Lannister, through his blackmailed cousin/spy, Lancel Lannister, learned Cersei has mobilized the city's pyromancers to create a substance called wildfire, which melts wood, stone, steel and, of course, flesh. The alchemists have made 7,811 jars of the substance and plan to fire them from catapults at Stannis' ships.
Bronn warned that this much wildfire (which is apparently insanely hot and hard to control) could burn up the Lannister army just as easily as Stannis' men.
"Men win wars. Not magic tricks," he said.
But Tyrion apparently sees some use for the pyromancers' substance.
"The contents of this room could lay King's Landing low," he told the alchemist. "You won't be making wildfire for my sister any longer. You'll be making it for me."