I hope you have strong stomachs, dear readers, because last night’s Game of Thrones was the bleakest, grimiest yet. Spoilers, profanity, and a strong warning about sexual and physical abuse below.

Outside Camp Lannister, two soldiers sit in the pouring rain and make bets on who would win in a fight – a lion or a bull (metaphorically speaking): Jaime would be a strong bet, but he’s currently incarcerated at Camp Stark. Loras Tyrell is the best with a sword, but according to one, “he’s prettier than the queen.” And also “He’s been stabbin’ Renly Baratheon for years and he ain’t killed him yet.” Renly and Loras’ relationship seems to be the worst kept secret in Westeros. The horses seem to be a little spooked and after a practical joke including a pretty righteous fart, the two soldiers realize that yeah, there actually is something coming. They look up to see a growling direwolf right in their face. The direwolf dispatches the both of them while Robb Stark grins on. All fades to black as you hear men cry ‘THE KING IN THE NORTH’ before the sounds of battle and bloodshed.

At daybreak, we open on a lovely disembowled corpse and the screaming of the wounded. Robb did well, five Lannister men dead for every Stark soldier, but there seems to be an excess of prisoners of war and Robb refuses to execute them. He also refuses to torture them, because his father had outlawed flaying and he doesn’t want to give the Lannisters any excuses to abuse his sisters. Robb looks on at two female battlefield medics, who uncover a soldier’s gangrenous foot. The soldier begs one of the women not to cut it off and Robb kneels beside him and tries to get him to lay back and close his eyes while she amputates. She does it quickly and quietly and Robb seems to be quite taken with her composure. Later on, he asks the woman her name and she is hesitant, thinking that all Robb cares about is what side she’s on. “They killed my father,” he says. “That boy did?”, referring to the Lannister soldier who just lost his foot. She questions his contingency plan after Robb kills Joffrey and wins the war, because Robb says he has no desire to sit on the Iron Throne. He finally learns where she’s from and it’s somewhere very far from here. She goes to help more men and in a last ditch effort to win her over, he calls, “The boy was lucky you were here.” She calls back “He’s unlucky that you were.” Despite this, there’s a look on Robb’s face and we all know what that look means.

Speaking of the Iron Throne, Satan incarnate aka Joffrey, is punishing Sansa for Robb’s latest victory. He has her kneeling on the floor while he points a crossbow at her. Sansa tries to protest that she has nothing to do with Robb’s insurrection and some prissy young man from the capital steps in, talking about how Robb and his men slaughtered everyone and then feasted on the flesh of the dead. Joffrey looks like he’s about to shoot her, but he says that Cersei insists on keeping Sansa alive and asks her to stand. “We’ll have to send your brother a message some other way.” He has one of his knights strip her before violently beating her. Joffrey asks the knight to draw his sword on her before Tyrion intervenes. “What kind of a knight beats a helpless girl?” he asks. He honestly seems very put off by this. “She is to be your wife! Have you no respect for her honor? She fights none of her brother’s battles.” He lashes at Joffrey. “The king can do as he likes!” Joffrey says and Tyrion reminds him of what happened to Aerys Targaryen, aka “The Mad King.” “He did what he liked. Why don’t you ask your uncle Jaime what happened to him?”  (If you need a reminder, Aerys caused Ned Stark and Robert Baratheon to rise up against him and Jaime killed him) He tells Bronn to kill Joffrey’s knight if he says another word, and demands that someone find something to clothe Sansa. He offers her a hand and leads her out of the throne room. He asks her if she wants him to dissolve their marriage. Sansa, knowing this would put her in even more danger, responds “I am loyal to king Joffrey. My one true love.” The look on her face is astonishing, not cowed or frightened, but the hardened look of someone who is willing to do what it takes to get through this. “Lady Stark, you may survive us yet.” Tyrion says, awed.

Bronn suggests that Joffrey’s problem may be that he’s way undersexed. “You think dipping his wick will cure what ails him?” Tyrion asks. “There’s no cure for being a cunt.” Bronn says, because Bronn is the best, but says that Joffrey’s a teen, he’s bored and it couldn’t hurt. (Bronn, have you seen this kid? Of course it could hurt.) Joffrey arrives in his chambers to see that his uncle has given him a “name day present”, aka Ros and another prostitute from Littlefinger’s brothel. He refuses to let Ros touch him, but tells her to touch the other woman. Ros complies and as soon as we think we’re headed for what HBO does best, Joffrey asks Ros to hit her and hands her his belt. Ros does what he says, still trying to be gentle but Joffrey grabs her jaw and threatens her until she begins to hit the girl harder and harder, until she begins to bruise. Joffrey goes to a table and picks up a thick Barathon scepter with a stag’s head on top and hands it to Ros with a devious look. “Too much pain will spoil the pleasure,” she says fearfully, but Joffrey is already cranking up his crossbow. He tells Ros that she’ll do as he says and then bring the girl to Tyrion to show him what she’s done. He holds the crossbow up and tells her to begin. The girl gets on her hands and knees and Ros looks like she’s going to be sick before carrying out the deed as the girl screams. “HARDER.” Joffrey yells.

At Camp Baratheon: Renly edition, Renly and his kings guard, including Brienne, meet with Petyr Baelish, or as Renly calls him, “my favorite whoremonger!” Renly is naturally questioning Littlefinger’s loyalty, seeing as he seemed to side with the Lannisters as soon as Robert Baratheon died, to which he responds “I’m a practical man.” Renly knows he’s come to see him because Renly’s supporters are growing and Littlefinger wishes to keep his position and his head once Renly takes control of King’s Landing. “I would give priority to my head.” Later in the evening, Littlefinger lurks around when he sees Loras and Margaery walking. He tells Margaery that he’s lost track of which tent is his and walks with her. He begins poking into her marriage, making note that Loras entered Renly’s tent just then and Margaery can already see where he’s going with this. “My husband is my king and my king is my husband.” she says with a calm, coy smile before showing him to his tent.

We finally meet up with Team Daenerys in the Red Waste as one of her riders finally returns, albeit not on his own horse. He tells her that he came upon the Thirteen, from the city of Qarth. He says that they would be honored to receive the Mother of Dragons. Daenerys asks Ser Jorah what he knows of Qarth and all he says is that the desert surrounding the city is called “the garden of bones.”

A new location tonight: Harrenhal, the castle where Arya, Gendry and the rest of their group have been taken as prisoners. It’s a really unpleasant looking joint, the smell of corpses everywhere. The tops of the castle have been now destroyed, but melted. Arya muses that it was dragon fire, even though Gendry reminds everyone that the dragons are all dead. Harrenhal seems to be a POW camp, and we linger on everyone’s faces as they listen to a man get tortured to death. Apparently at Harrenhal, someone is taken to be tortured every day. No one lives. Sitting in a miserable, rain-soaked cage, Arya goes over her “kill list” repeatedly, trying to distract herself. Her list includes Joffrey and Cersei, as well as the Hound.

We fade on her voice to see Catelyn sitting in Littlefinger’s tent, and she immediately attacks him for betraying Ned. He tries to cover up his lies, but she won’t hear him. In a last ditch effort to grab her attention, he once again confesses his love to her, saying that they’ve been given a second chance. Catelyn threatens him with a knife. He asks her if she wants to get Sansa and Arya back from the Lannisters, and lies about what’s become of them, Arya specifically. He also presents her with a chest, brought in by two veiled women. The chest is from Tyrion, who wants this trade to be handled in good faith. Catelyn already knows what it is and kneels beside it, opening it and staring deeply inside. We can’t see what she’s looking at, but we know what it is, by Littlefinger’s confirmation – Ned Stark’s remains. Littlefinger tries to go on about how honorable Ned was, but Catelyn tells him to get out. She looks into the box, very small for what it’s supposed to be holding before slamming it shut.

Dawn at Harrenhal and the prisoners are commanded to get up. A man in an impressive and scary helmet goes and looks through the crowd of prisoners to find the next person to be tortured. A young man is picked from the cage and taken out. He is strapped down and asked about things like the location of gold and silver throughout the region, to which he responds he doesn’t know. They have a very interesting and gross method of torture at Harrenhal; a man pulls a rat from a cage and puts it in a bucket, The bucket is then strapped to the man’s bare stomach. When the man doesn’t answer the question, a guard holds a flaming pole under the bucket, and the rat, desperate to get away, chews through the man’s stomach. Arya watches all of this in mute terror. Back in the cage, Arya repeats her kill list, trying to drown out all the moaning and the terror and the begging.

Finally – a clash of Baratheons! Renly and Catelyn meet up with Stannis and his crew, including Melisandre and Davos. Renly mocks Stannis’ new banner, but of course, agrees that he would have to change it. “The battle would get terribly confusing.” He asks why the  stag on the banner is on fire, which prompts Melisandre to tell Renly about Stannis’ new god. Renly sees right through Stannis. “I knew you were never a fanatic,” he teases. Catelyn scolds the both of them, trying to remind them that they’re brothers and if she were their mother, she’d smack them upside the head and lock them in a room together. Stannis reminds her that Ned Stark supported his claim to the Iron Throne, and believes it to be his by right. “No one wants you for their king,” Renly says. There is a tense stand-off, and Stannis tells Renly he has one night to reconsider his offer, promising him a seat in Stannis’ council. But if he doesn’t, it will be war between them. Stannis rides off and Melisandre tells Renly to look to his own sins. “The night is dark and full of terrors.”

Daenerys and her people finally arrive at the gates of Qarth and are recieved by the Thirteen, a multi-ethnic group of men, led by around, well-spoken man. He greets her and she makes awkward attempts to flatter them, mispronouncing “Karth” as “Quarth” (as most of us might). All they really want is to see her dragons and all she really wants is to get her people fed. When it seems like they might not be let in, she begins to threaten them. “Turn us away, and we will burn you first.” The man seems pretty unafraid, considering that they’ll all die soon if they’re not let in, but another man, a tall black man named Xaro Xhoan Daxos (had to look that one up) speaks up for her, calling their lack of hospitality unbecoming of the city’s greatness. He vouches for her, invoking a rite that makes him cut his hand open in front of the Thirteen. The gates open and Xaro welcomes them into the city.

At Harrenhal, a head is stuck on a pike. Arya and Gendry stand around in the cage, chained and awaiting their fate when Gendry is chosen and pulled out of the line. He is strapped down and about to be given the same torture as the last man, rats to the stomach, when they are interrupted by the arrival of Tywin Lannister. He asks why the prisoners are being disposed of when they could be used as soldiers or laborers. He stops Gendry’s torture, asking him if he has a trade. A guard yells at Arya to kneel, threatening to cut her throat out, and calling her “boy.” “This one’s a girl,” Tywin responds calmly. He asks her why she’s dressed as she is. “Safer to travel,” she tells him, to which he responds “Smart,” and not that unkindly. He names Arya his new cupbearer.

In Tyrion’s chambers, their cousin Lancel arrives with orders from Cersei for the release of Grand Maester Pycelle. Tyrion dances around the subject entirely, not quite believing the orders are from Cersei. He corners Lancel, having come to the definite conclusion, with a lot of fun innuendos in between, that Cersei and Lancel are sleeping together, probably because Lancel is a younger poorman’s version of Jaime. Tyrion threatens to tell Joffrey and the kid has a proper freakout, saying that he was ordered by Tywin to obey her every command. “Did he order you to fuck her?” he asks pointedly. He continues to threaten him until he agrees to spy on Cersei for him and tell him everything that she speaks of and does. He turns the conversation on a dime, cheerily agreeing to release Pycelle to Cersei in the morning. “I would say I hadn’t harmed a hair on his head but that would not strictly speaking be true.”

Aboard one of his ships, Stannis and Davos have a discussion on things such as faith, honor and that good old time Stannis cut Davos’ fingers off. “You were a hero and a smuggler. The good doesn’t wash out the bad, the bad doesn’t wash out the good.” Davos wants to convince Stannis that there are better, cleaner ways to take over the Iron Thrones. “Cleaner ways don’t win wars.” Davos and Melisandre row to the rocky shore in a rowboat. She asks him if he’s afraid and if he’s a good man. “If half an onion is black with rot, it’s a rotten onion. A man is good or he is evil,” she says. They go far into a cave, where Melisandre begins to disrobe, talking about shadows and how they are the servants of light. “Shadows cannot live in the light.” Melisandre turns to Davos to reveal that she is heavily pregnant. Davos is shocked as Melisandre lowers herself to the floor and begins panting. Something inside her stomach moves beneath the skin. From between her legs, dark smoke begins to curl out forming claw-like hands. A terrifying head emerges and a black, wraith-like creature flies out, forms a pair of tall-legs in front of Davos and Melisandre before billow into the darkness.

Well, that certainly just happened.

Things got dark on this week’s episode, from Joffrey’s terrifying sexual and physical abuse, to the horrors of war at both Camp Stark and Harrenhal. The plot also moved forward! And hooray for that! The Baratheons are now at each other’s throats, which is gonna be a help to no one, and Robb’s doing well in his war against the Lannisters. He also made a ladyfriend, namely a Jeyne Westerling (her name is as of yet un revealed but I know this by the casting announcement from months ago.) But as grim and bleak as things were this week, it also made for some excellent scenes. The one between Joffrey, Sansa, and Tyrion immediately comes to mind and I loved Tyrion’s awed look at her when he realizes that she’s playing the game just as well as anyone. He, as usual, got all the good lines tonight, but his decision to send Joffrey some prostitutes to “even him out” was really, really poorly thought out. And GOD, was that hard to watch, even harder than foot amputation and rat torture. This kid needs to be dealt with and fast. But you have to admit, Jack Gleeson is kind of brilliant as this Caligula-in-training. You really believe that Joffrey is messed up to his very core and his performance is commendable.

Okay, let’s also get this out of the way: Melisandre’s demon smoke baby. The CGI on that creature was excellent, and now I realize why we didn’t get any dragon action this week, they put all their CGI money into that horrific thing! How in the world is this gonna shake out for Team Stannis? I liked how the show managed to keep track of all the specific teams advantages and disadvantages: Renly’s got the numbers and the charm, Robb’s got the military victories, Daenerys has her command as the “Mother of Dragons” although that seems to come with limited mileage, and for awhile, you had to wonder, “what the hell does Stannis have?” Clearly Stannis has got some magic on his side, and the night really is dark and full of terrors, namely THE DEMON SHADOW BABY. Not over it. Not even close.

Still no update on the progress of winter, but that’s kind of hard to think about when you have shadow demons running around, brothers warring against each other, a Stark serving at the helm of Tywin Lannister, and a mad teenage king running the whole show with a crossbow pressed to the realm’s throat.

Miss an episode? Check out our recap of last week’s episode: ‘What is Dead May Never Die‘.