Another week, another bit of laborious build-up. For as good as "Game of Thrones" can be even at its most boring, this week was the first time in a while that things got a bit… lofty. 

Next week, we'll finally see the long awaited Blackwater battle – combat! Tyrion yelling out hilarious, pun-laden commands! Stannis takes the wheel! – but until then, we have to deal with a little exposition. The theme of this week seemed to be love, be it a fledgling attraction finally culminated (i.e. Robb and Talisa hooked up, big time), the difficult love between long-lost siblings, the protective love between a master and his prostitute (probably unfair of me to reduce Tyrion and Shae's relationship to that, but I can't shake the feeling), the bitter love between a queen and her knight, even the mangled love between a mother and son.

Love, as it seems, is a fickle bitch. Robb and Talisa's burgeoning romance has been bittersweet, given the former's sworn hand to a still unseen Frey daughter. Their love making was soft and intimate, perhaps the first downright adorable sex scene the show has offered up thus far (minus a few Dany/Drogo scenes last year, if that's your thing). But this is "Game of Thornes" we're talking about – the second something feels comfortable, the second things are about to get ugly. And given Robb's sworn marriage to another, there's nothing this thing with Talisa can be but bad news.

Also bad news: Tyrion and Shae. Cersei, still bitter about losing her daughter, captures Tyrion's lover in some messed up display of power. You push me, I push you back, harder. Fortunately for Tyrion, Cersei captured the wrong girl: Ros, instead of Shae, who has been hiding (quite well) in Tyrion's quarters since his rearrival in King's Landing. This close encounter scares Tyrion, who lets Shae know she's his, forever, worry striking his face for perhaps the first time. It appears Cersei has found (and properly tickled) her brother's Achilles heel. For the sake of happy endings, let's hope she doesn't slice it once she figures out the truth.

Theon's relationship with his sister is another piece in the complicated love fable. She shows up at Winterfell with her men, more annoyed than impressed that Theon has seemingly killed the youngest Stark brothers. The power trip between these two is fascinating: here's a young woman, fully capable of spear-heading battles, and her runt of a brother, who just can't make his Lord of Winterfell title land. But there's affection in there, somewhere. Yara tells a story about young Theon, bawling in his crib, and how, upon seeing her face, he stopped crying and smiled up at her. It's a symbolic story in more way than one, and the first time I've been genuinely elicited by anything involving Theon. I'd like to see these two team up, if only so they can be crushed down together.  

This week also saw Arya finally escaping Harrenhal (thanks to Jaquen) with Gendry and Fat Kid Friend of Arya #2. I'm sad to see her leave, truth be told. Her scenes with Tywin have been a highlight of this season, a real acting and power showcase for the two. I'm happy it disbanded before either of them were killed (I know I should hate Tywin, but I can't seem to). 

And… surprise, surprise, it turns out Rickon and Bran are still alive, thanks to Asha, who's smuggling them bread as they hide out underneath their hideaway village. I never feared for their safety, but it's still good to be reminded that Theon's both a totally inept ass and just… well, an ass. He may not have killed the Stark boys, but he did kill a pair of village boys in their place. It's only a matter of time before Robb hears the news of his brothers' supposed deaths. I smell a bloody confrontation in the future.


Other things:

• Ygritte somehow convinces her Wildling family (?) to not kill Jon, which means sexy time is just around the corner, right?

• We get to see Stannis and Davos for five seconds, which is a bit of a let-down. For a character so important to the developments of this season, I still feel like I barely know anything about Stannis. Stephen Dillane is an awesome actor, and he's really blown life into the character, but it's not enough. I'm hoping next week's battle episode really cements him as a memorable player.

• Oh hey, Dany still hasn't gone to the House of the Undying. It's been, what? Three or four episodes now since it's been hinted. The House of the Undying better be pretty cool to justify all this foot-shuffling.

• Catelyn and Robb are on the outs since she exchanged Jaime Lannister for her daughters in King's Landing. Robb knows such an exchange will never work, and fears his mother cost him his only source of leverage. Tsk tsk, Mama Stark. 

• So who's in charge of taking Jaime to King's Landing? Brienne of Tarth, of course! Their exchanges were perfect. I'm really looking forward to some lighthearted comedy in the middle of all of this drab war talk.