You Win or You Die
|"You Win or You Die"|
|Game of Thrones|
|Original air date||May 29, 2011|
|Running time||58 minutes|
|Directed by||Daniel Minahan|
|List of episodes|
"You Win or You Die" is the seventh episode of the HBO medieval fantasy television series Game of Thrones, written by David Benioff and D. B. Weiss and directed by Daniel Minahan. Runtime is 56. minutes The episode, set to air May 29, 2011, was released in advance immediately following the conclusion of "A Golden Crown" to HBO customers able to access the HBO Go service. The episode furthers the story line of deterioration of the political balance of the Seven Kingdoms, with Eddard Stark revealing what he has discovered to Cersei Lannister while King Robert is still away on a hunt. The title of the episode is part of a quote Cersei Lannister says during the final confrontation with Eddard: "When you play the game of thrones, you win or you die. There is no middle ground." The catchphrase has been frequently used during the promotion of both the books and the TV series.
At the Lannister Camp
Lord Tywin Lannister (w:Charles Dance) has a talk with his son, Jaime Lannister (w:Nikolaj Coster-WaldauNikolaj Coster-Waldau). While Tywin chastises his children for causing the recent troubles with the Starks, he nevertheless believes this war is the perfect opportunity for the Lannisters to set up a dynasty as the new rulers of the Seven Kingdoms and gives half of his forces to Jaime to attack Riverrun, Lady Catelyn's childhood home.
The captured wildling Osha (Natalia Tena), now a servant of the Starks, is harassed by Theon Greyjoy (Alfie Allen) who warns her that if she had been arrested in his homeland the Iron Islands she would have suffered a worse fate. As Maester Luwin (Donald Sumpter) tells Theon to leave her alone, he asks Osha why she and other wildlings are coming south from the Wall. She reveals they are escaping from the White Walkers.
At The Wall
Benjen Stark's horse returns from north of the Wall without him much to the worry of his nephew, Jon Snow (Kit Harington). The new members of the Night's Watch are finally given their assignments on the Wall and take their oaths; however, much to Jon's disappointment and anger, he has been assigned as a steward to the Lord Commander instead of a ranger, like Benjen. Jon suspects Ser Alliser Thorne's involvement, as revenge for Jon defying him; however, his friend Samwell Tarly (John Bradley) assures Jon that being the Lord Commander's steward might mean being groomed to be the next Lord Commander. As Jon and Sam take their vows near a tree dedicated to the old gods north of the Wall, Jon's direwolf Ghost brings him a dismembered hand.
Across the Narrow Sea
Daenerys Targaryen (Emilia Clarke) tries to convince Khal Drogo (Jason Momoa) to return to her homeland and reclaim the throne of the Seven Kingdoms, but he is not interested. While Daenerys and her entourage go sightseeing at a market, Ser Jorah Mormont (Iain Glen|) receives a pardon for him to return to the Seven Kingdoms from an informant of Lord Varys (Conleth Hill). Jorah realizes this means the order to assassinate Danaerys has been officially issued and quickly saves her from a wine merchant who tries to poison her. His plot discovered, the merchant tries to escape only to be caught by Daenerys' bodyguards. Drogo, angered by the attempt on his wife's life, vows to his followers that he will lead his horde to cross the Narrow Sea to invade the Seven Kingdoms as revenge and reclaim the Iron Throne for his unborn son.
At King's Landing
Ned (Sean Bean) confronts Queen Cersei Lannister (Lena Headey) over her children, as he knows the truth: that Prince Joffrey and his siblings are not King Robert's (Mark Addy) children but Jaime's as a result of an incestuous affair. It was this secret that caused Jon Arryn to be killed, and the attempted murder of Ned's son Bran. Cersei defends her affair with Jaime, saying she tried to love Robert but he refused to love her as he was still in love with his late fiance, Ned's sister Lyanna Stark. Despite what they have done, Ned shows Cersei mercy and tells her to leave the capital with her children and get as far away as they can before he tells Robert the truth. However, Lord Renly Baratheon (Gethin Anthony) returns and informs Ned that Robert suffered a mortal wound by a boar on his hunt. On his deathbed, Robert dictates his will to Ned, in which Robert makes Ned the Lord Regent and Protector of the Realm until Joffrey Baratheon comes of age. Ned writes down Robert's words, but instead of using "Joffrey", Ned writes "my rightful heir", eliminating Joffrey from the line of succession and making it ambiguous over who is next in line. Robert signs the will without reading this change in wording and begs Ned to make Joffrey a better man. Fearing Cersei and the Lannisters will use this time to their advantage, Renly tries to convince Eddard they should raise an army and launch a coup d'état. However, Ned refuses to dishonor Robert in his final hours and wants to assure the crown passes to the rightful heir Stannis Baratheon, Robert's younger and Renly's older brother. Ignoring Renly's advice saying that they need a better leader to rule the Seven Kingdoms, Ned sends a letter to Stannis informing him of the situation. Ned also reveals to Petyr "Littlefinger" Baelish (Aidan Gillen) the truth of Joffrey's heritage, to which Littlefinger suggests they allow Joffrey and the Lannisters to take the throne, and if Joffrey proves to be an unfit ruler, they can use the truth to overthrow him and make Renly the King instead. Ned refuses, as such an act would be treasonous, but he manages to get Littlefinger to secure the support of the City Watch to overpower Cersei's men-at-arms if they attempt to seize the throne. By the time Robert finally dies, Renly has left the capital with his men and Joffrey has ordered his coronation take place within a fortnight. As Ned, his men, Littlefinger and the City Watch enter the throne room, Ned gives Ser Barristan Selmy (Ian McElhinney) of the Kingsguard Robert's will to read out aloud. However, Cersei refuses to follow Robert's will and tears it up, ordering Barristan to seize Ned. Ned orders his army to arrest Cersei and Joffrey, and not to harm Barristan. As both sides prepare to fight, the City Watch suddenly betrays Ned and slaughter his men while Littlefinger holds Ned at knife point, telling him he should have listened to his warning of not trusting him.
The episode was written by the showrunners David Benioff and D. B. Weiss, based on the original book by George R. R. Martin. The chapters included in "You Win or You Die" are 45, 47 to 49, and 54 (Eddard XII, Eddard XIII, Jon VI, Eddard XIV, and Daenerys VI), making it the episode that includes fewest chapters in the entire first season. Among the scenes created specifically for the show were a meeting between Tywin and Jaime Lannister (as Lord Tywin is field dressing a stag) and a "training" session between Littlefinger and two new female recruits for one of his brothels. 
"You Win or You Die" marks the first appearance of Charles Dance as Lord Tywin, the patriarch of the Lannister household. Dance, cast in the role shortly after the production began, had been the first choice of the producers and one of the fan favorites for the role. Author George R. R. Martin commented that "his commanding screen presence and steely charisma should make him the perfect Lord Tywin." The deer that is field dressed by Tywin in the opening scene was an actual dead stag.
- Donald Sumpter as Maester Luwin
- Conleth Hill as Lord Varys
- James Cosmo as Jeor Mormont
- Owen Teale as Ser Alliser Thorne
- Charles Dance as Tywin Lannister
- Ian McElhinney as Ser Barristan Selmy
- John Bradley as Samwell Tarly
- Peter Vaughan as Maester Aemon
- Peter Vaughan as Grand Maester Pycelle
- Gethin Anthony as Lord Renly Baratheon
- Dominic Carter as Janos Slynt
- Natalia Tena as Osha
- Esmé Bianco as Ros
- Mark Stanley as Grenn
- Josef Altin as Pyp
- Luke McEwan as Rast
- Amrita Acharia as Irri
- Roxanne McKee as Doreah
- Elyes Gabel as Rakharo
- Dar Salim as Qotho
- Robert Sterne as Small Council Steward
- Simon Lowe as Wine Merchant
- Sahara Knite as Armeca
- Graham Charles
- Brian Fortune as Night’s Watch Officer
- Jeffrey O'Brien
- Dennis McKeever
- Phil Dixon
- Tristan Mercieca as Boy at the Market
- Jason Momoa as Khal Drogo
Most of the episode was shot on set at the Irish studios of The Paint Hall. The exteriors of the entrance of Vaes Dothrak were filmed in the Sandy Brae area, and for the confrontation between Eddard and Cersei taking place in the Red Keep's gardens (identified as a godswood in the novels) the production used the cloister of the St Dominic Monastery in Rabat, in Malta.
"You Win or You Die"'s first airing was seen by 2.4 million viewers, stabilizing the show's ratings. These could be considered positive when taking into account that the episode had been offered in advance during all the preceding week in HBO's online service, and that it had been aired in a three-day holiday weekend which often results in lower viewership. When adding the results of the second airing, the total rating for the night amounted a total of 3.2 million viewers.
The episode had a very good reception among critics. Time's reviewer James Poniewozik called "You Win or You Die" the "most thrilling and thematically rich hour to date", AOL TV's Maureen Ryan found it an excellent outing that "saw the stakes raised in satisfying and suspenseful ways", and HitFix's Alan Sepinwall called it a terrific episode and commended how "it turned the spotlight on the characters who are villains in Ned Stark's version of the story"."The titular game of thrones (which gets namechecked in the line from Cersei that also provides the individual episode name) has moved past the opening gambit stage now. Major players are falling, alliances are being made and broken, and based on what we know is happening in the north with the White Walkers and to the east with the Dothraki, the game is bound to get a lot bloodier in a damn hurry. These people don't have time to be stressing about who sits on the Iron Throne, not when giant zombies and/or relentless master warriors are on their way.” |salign = right |source = — Alan Sepinwall, HitFix Poniewozik continues: "We knew this would be a significant episode if for no other reason than that it contains the scene--alluded to in the episode's title--that gives the series its name", a sentiment Sepinwall agrees with. Myles McNutt, writing for Cultural Learnings, also considered “You Win or You Die” a climatic moment in the series. The final showdown with the Lannisters seizing control out of Eddard's hands was much discussed, with many commentators criticizing Ned's ingenuity and his actions during the episode. In The Atlantic, Scott Meslow wrote that Eddard could never win the "game of thrones" because he is dedicated to play by the rules. In his opinion, "one can't afford to play fair" when the only outcomes are "win" or "die". McNutt felt that the climax at the episode's end "was really well handled by both the cast and the director (Dan Minahan)". Besides the final confrontation between Eddard and Cersei, other scenes were praised by the critics. The scene introducing of Charles Dance as Lord Tywin Lannister was considered "a beauty" by Todd VanDerWerff from the A.V. Club, admiring how a single scene depicted not only the relationship between Tywin and Jaime, but also all the dynamics of the Lannister clan. He also praises the work of Nikolaj Coster-Waldau in the scene, that despite having very few lines transmitted very well how much Jaime is cowed by his father.  Maureen Ryan agreed with that sentiment, and also lauded Natalia Tena's short apparition. David Sims (a second reviewer for the A.V. Club) highlighted to work of Mark Addy in his final scene, extending the praise to the work done by the actor during all the scenes. Critics agreed that the scenes with the Dothraki were very strong, with the storyline having improved significantly in relation to the first episodes. Poniewozik stated that "this was the first week for me that the Dothraki scenes were not just absorbing but felt like the characters were as well-imagined as those in Westeros", and McNutt felt the episode "finally allows Khal Drogo to become an actual character." Drogo's rant vowing to give his unborn son the Iron Throne lead to compliments to Jason Momoa's intensity and Emilia Clarke's calm and loving facial expressions. However, the scene where Littlefinger exposes his motivations while hiring two whores for his brothel was largely criticized. The scene was considered an example of the show's perceived abuse to the use of conversations with whores as an expository device, a situation for which Myles McNutt coined the term "sexposition". Littlefinger's monologue was consistently praised and the comparison between Littlefinger's actions and faking an orgasm was considered apt, but many agreed with Meslow's statement that it had been "annoyingly overshadowed by the series' most gratuitous sex scene to date". Among the criticisms were its excessive length, the repetition of the dramatic approach and the assumption that viewers were not going to pay attention when presented with a long exposition without including sex.
- Westeros episode Review and Recap
- "You Win or You Die" at the Internet Movie Database
- "You Win or You Die" at TV.com
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- Sims, David. ""You Win Or You Die" (for newbies)". A.V. Club. http://www.avclub.com/articles/you-win-or-you-die-for-newbies,56748/. Retrieved June 1, 2011.
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